So they announced it this morning. The newsy part of it was that Tim Wallach, as had been widely speculated, will move from third-base coach to bench coach, effectively a promotion that puts him in line to inherit the manager’s job if Don Mattingly is fired at some point, and that longtime Dodgers minor league manager Lorenzo Bundy is being promoted from manager at Triple-A Albuquerque to take over Wallach’s third-base coaching duties. Bundy, who managed the Isotopes for the past three seasons and also was the Dodgers’ Triple-A manager at Las Vegas in 2007-08, is bilingual, which I’m guessing was a factor in his promotion. He also has managed in the Mexican Winter League for more than two decades and presently is managing at Navajoa, I believe. Just a guess here, but it’s possible the front office sees Bundy’s ability to speak fluent Spanish as an asset in communicating with difficult-to-manage right fielder Yasiel Puig. But Puig doesn’t seem to listen to his Spanish-speaking teammates much more than he listens to management, so I’m skeptical that it will have much of an effect.
Anyhoo, on the subtler subtext of this morning’s announcement: the first line of the press release simply says “with manager Don Mattingly and his nine coaches returning.” Returning. Still doesn’t specify under what conditions Mattingly’s return will take place. Is he once again a lame-duck manager managing in his option year — a fact that would be made even more glaring given that heir apparent Wallach is now more heir-apparent than ever in his new role as Mattingly’s bench coach? Or will he get a new, multi-year deal? That announcement is yet to be made, of course, and if there ultimately isn’t a multi-year deal and Mattingly IS coming back as a lame duck, there may not even be an announcement. Meanwhile, Mattingly is a finalist for National League Manager of the Year, the winner of which will be announced on Tuesday. He isn’t likely to win it simply because Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle seems like the clear choice.
The rest of the coaching staff, by the way, is returning intact. The minor league staff will be announced later, and it isn’t clear who would replace Bundy as manager at the team’s top affiliate. Simple logic would suggest Double-A Chattanooga manager Jody Reed might simply inherit the position, but Double-A and Triple-A are different animals in this day and age, with different missions. Triple-A really isn’t about development anymore. Back in the day, Triple-A was viewed as a kind of finishing school for major league prospects. Nowadays, that is more the role of Double-A. Triple-A rosters tend to be dotted with older guys, most of whom have at least tasted the majors and some of whom are major league veterans trying to make it back. And frankly, a lot of those guys are ticked off that they aren’t in the majors now and make no effort to hide that discontent when they come to the park every day. Knowing that, a lot of organizations don’t like for their top prospects to spend much time in Triple-A being exposed to that. And I have heard many a coach say over the years that the biggest jump in the minors is between high Single-A and Double-A. This is why you see a lot of the game’s top prospects promoted directly from Double-A to the majors.
Anyway, I kind of went off on a tangent there in trying to make my original point. I’m just saying that while Reed may inherit Bundy’s old job, it wouldn’t shock me if he didn’t, and that is the reason.