In your mind’s eye, when you think about the Miami Marlins in the seventh game of the World Series, who do you see walking out to the mound to send one pitcher to the dugout and summon another from the bullpen to close out the win? If you’ve been on board since Day One, you might picture Jim Leyland. Other fans might think back to Jack McKeon. But is anyone picturing the future? And if you are, is it Don Mattingly you see?
And that’s really the question, isn’t it? Because I think we can all agree that Derek Jeter has no reason to send Donnie Baseball back into the market. In fact, Mattingly has a career .534 win percentage, which would be good enough for a playoff spot in the NL or AL this year. Which leads to the next question…
Is Mattingly a difference maker? Has he won more than he’s lost because his teams were good, or because he was a good manager? With this year’s team, it seems he has done as well as anyone could expect when you factor in the hangover of losing wunderkind Jose Fernandez at the end of last season, navigating through the season not knowing who will own and run the team the next day, and countless injuries to key players.
All valid points, but I’m still not satisfied. The 2017 Miami Marlins have been a circus, but when it has really meant something, they haven’t come through. In fact, in the ten games prior to last night’s game in Atlanta, the Marlins have one win and averaged 2.3 runs per game, which becomes 1.4 per game when you remove the single victory that required 10 runs scored. Going into that abysmal stretch, the Fish were only five games out of a playoff spot.
You could say that a ten game sample isn’t enough to pass judgment. And with two series against the Nationals, things certainly weren’t in their favor. But as the saying goes, “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.” However, when the time came to pick up a few easy wins, Miami could only steal one win against the Phillies, who haven’t exactly been the gold standard of excellence in 2017.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure I have the answer. Nothing in the metrics would suggest that Mattingly has done anything to hurt the team. You can read Fish Stripes game recaps day after day, and there isn’t anything condemning our skipper. But the fact remains, the Marlins were in the hunt and nobody rallied the troops. There was no smelling blood in the water or attacking the mission with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Mattingly will be back in 2018, and he should be, but we’ll all be waiting to see what he does with a better team. It’s not enough to have a baseball guy at the helm: Miami deserves a winner.