2015 is Don Mattingly’s Make or Break Season

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Andrew Friedman spoke highly of Don Mattingly after they had a couple of discussions before the press conference last week from Dodger Stadium. Friedman didn’t answer many questions posed directly except one. Don Mattingly would “definitely” be back at the helm for the Dodgers in 2015. Friedman also said that he has the intention “of working with Donnie for a very long time.” While speculation surrounding Joe Maddon following Friedman to L.A. has swirled, it looks like the Dodgers are behind Donnie Baseball…for now.

Things could definitely change rapidly should Don have a bad first half to the 2015 season or he fails to reach the postseason. I’m sure Don knows that with Andrew

Don Mattingly doesn’t seem worried about front office changes. Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Friedman most likely wanting to bring in his own guys, Mattingly, a leftover from the McCourt and Torre era, could be easily sent packing. 2015 will be Don Mattingly’s make or break season for the Dodgers.

Some may argue that Donnie should have been let go after the disappointing early exit after the disastrous NLDS series versus St. Louis. Some wanted him canned long before this short October showing, yet it seemed as though his team took a step back this season after making it all the way to Game 6 of the NLCS the season prior. Mattingly’s in-game decisions were a part of the reason the team did not make it far this October. Of course, the biggest hurdle the Dodgers could never get over was the lack of bullpen depth and management’s stand pat attitude at the trade deadline. Someone had to be held accountable, and the Dodgers chose to reclassify Ned Colletti who did not make any big moves down the stretch to bolster the bullpen going into October knowing that it was such a weak part of the team.

"“L.A. is a big city, and if you don’t win or don’t move forward fast enough, there’s always someone that has to pay — the assumption is, somebody’s going,” Mattingly said by phone to Ken Gurnick."

Stan Kasten, Mark Walter and the rest of the Guggenheim owners seem to want Mattingly to succeed as the manager, and they believed in him enough to ink him to a three-year contract last year. Even so, Friedman could easily bring in his own manager and general manager whenever he pleases.

Perhaps it’s because he played for New York, but Don Mattingly has always seemed so cool like a cucumber while handling this big payroll and big roster of superstars in such a large market like Los Angeles. Of course, some of Mattingly’s game strategies need to be perfected, and I don’t like his love of bunting, double switches and his often head scratcher bullpen decisions. I have many times questioned his in-game management, but he has improved.

Don Mattingly has improved upon his managing since taking over from Joe Torre in 2011. He has a managerial record of 354-293 and finished second in voting for the 2013 N.L. Manager of the Year Award. Don can only play the players he is provided with, and I feel that he has done a commendable job and has led the Dodgers to two consecutive division titles which isn’t shabby.

The question is whether Mattingly is the right manager to lead the Dodgers to a World Championship. While a manager obviously has some influence on a team’s performance, it is not the overall riding factor to its success or failure. Ned Yost‘s Royals have made it all the way to the World Series by winning eight consecutive playoff games, so stranger things can happen. Don Mattingly’s Dodgers may be able to bridge that gap and finally get to the Fall Classic if a better roster is provided to him.

"“I’ve never been the guy that wants to run the whole thing,” he said. “That’s never been my style. I want to collaborate, to discuss back and forth. I feel like our staff has a lot to offer. Management, Andrew and Ned, also have a lot to offer. You have to be willing to continue to grow. To me, everything is continuing to change in this game — dealing with the players, their personalities, their likes and dislikes. If you’re not willing to deal with that change, you’ll be left behind.”"

Mattingly didn’t want to “get in the way” of management’s work this winter. He is at home in Indiana with his wife Lori who is expecting a child.

Don’t let the dimples fool you. Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mattingly insists he is not worried about his job security even after all the big changes.

"“For me, it’s not something I worry about,” he said. “It’s like I talk to the club, just take care of our business. I focus on putting the best club on the field as prepared as possible and just go about our business. This year is no different than any year. If the bosses don’t like the job you’re doing, they’ll look for someone else.”"

Cool as a cucumber.

Donnie Baseball has had his fired up moments. We have seen Mattingly express himself outwardly before calling his team “shitty” during a slump, and he’s butted heads with Andre Ethier more than once. Mattingly knows what expectations are upon him, and I really do believe he’s doing his best to adapt and improve his managerial skills since taking over the reins from his mentor Torre. I’m just not sure a Dodger Dynasty will include Mattingly in the long-run.

The consolation is that Friedman is now there to make the hard decisions. Friedman will be working on putting the 2015 club together and hiring himself a new GM while Donnie prepares to come back for 2015 for the new journey. Some may come and go while on this arduous journey, and if it gets bumpy there may be more shake ups to come.

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