I have known Ned Colletti for a long time, and while I don’t know him SO well that I can read his mind, I know he was hurting as he stood in the hallway of the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium late Friday night, talking to a handful of us. Despite that, though, he smiled and even laughed once or twice as he spoke glowingly about these 2013 Dodgers, whose season ended with a gigantic thud, leaving manager Don Mattingly to do the “interview of shame,” the traditional losing manager’s interview with TBS’s sartorially challenged Craig Sager that you see Mattingly doing in this photo.
The conversation with Colletti turned to Mattingly’s status, because, Colletti wasn’t going to have a conversation with reporters immediately after the Dodgers’ last game of the season without the conversation turning to that topic.
He wouldn’t say much.
“He and I will talk in the next couple of days,” said Colletti, who later acknowledged that team president Stan Kasten likely will be involved in that conversation, as well.
If you believe the various published reports that came out during this National League Championship Series — and there is no reason not to — Mattingly isn’t going anywhere. And really, despite the fact his game-management abilities came under national scrutiny a couple of times during this postseason, keeping him around by either picking up his 2014 option or extending his contract is probably the right thing to do at this point. Simply put, he has managed this team well enough to keep his job, even if he hasn’t managed it perfectly.
Of course, we would all like to see him get better at running a game, and some of us would like to see him be a little more of a disciplinarian at times. But it’s almost impossible to imagine Donnie Baseball won’t be managing what may be the best baseball team in all the land in 2014.
We often talk of how Mattingly’s managerial mentor was Joe Torre (who for all his success also had game-management issues). Well, I had a baseball-writing mentor, a guy who taught me how to cover this game, and it was Tracy Ringolsby, the cowboy hat-sporting member of the writers’ wing of the Hall of Fame who now works for MLB.com but whom I was fortunate enough to work alongside at the old Rocky Mountain News. After the game tonight, in the interview room, Tracy asked Donnie a question about how he has dealt with the distraction of his uncertain job status during the playoffs.
Donnie took his answer in a slightly different direction, and it seemed to suggest he might have come into these playoffs experiencing a little bit of self-doubt.
“The postseason … was good for me from the standpoint of just concentration and focus. It’s good to know that you can get in these games, and it doesn’t really change, didn’t speed up on me. That is a good feeling. You all can question this move or that move, but nothing really caught me by surprise. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. It was a really good feeling to know that you can get in there and basically slow it down and not get caught up in what game it is or anything else.
“From my standpoint, it was good just to have that feeling in the postseason.”
So maybe, just maybe, it will be a more comfortable, more confident, more secure Mattingly who guides the Dodgers into 2014, and perhaps even beyond. All disappointment aside, the Dodgers took a step forward this season, and so did Mattingly. And assuming he sticks around, that can only be a good thing down the road. Like any manager, he will continue to have the occasional hiccup, and we will continue to second-guess him at times. But for this team at this time, he is probably the right guy. And even if he isn’t, he is going to BE the guy.
On another note, the season may have ended, but this blog will continue. Maybe not at the pace it has been, but I plan to post at least SOMETHING almost every day this winter — although I may skip some weekend days if nothing is going on because web traffic tends to slow down on weekends anyway. I already received one request on Twitter tonight from loyal reader @dodgerslogedude for a particular post he would like to see this winter, and if anyone else has any requests, please pass them along on Twitter @dodgerscribe or via email at email@example.com, and I will do my best to accommodate.
I will be all over the hot stove just as I was in my newspaper days. I’ll be doing some Arizona Fall League stuff, which will be much easier this year because the Dodgers guys are part of a team that is playing at Camelback Ranch, an AFL first. I’ll probably be blogging about the rest of the postseason, especially the World Series, my favorite sporting event of the year (I always root for the National League team no matter who it is, done that since I was a kid).
So if you will try to keep checking this blog often, I will try to keep giving you plenty of reasons to do so.
But mostly, as we come to the close of our first season (it really was only about a third of a season, plus the playoffs, but anyway …), I want to thank all of you so much for your readership, your loyalty, your correspondence and your encouragement. I’m going to put up a longer thank-you post sometime in the next few days, when I have time to get home, time to get my life back in order after all this traveling and time to actually sit down and write it.
But I hope this will suffice for now. You guys are the greatest, and you make this blog what it is. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Good night from St. Louis.