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A decision about the future of the Marlins manager job is “coming sooner rather than later,” CEO Derek Jeter told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game.
It’s one of the more unique situations anywhere in Major League Baseball. The incumbent, Don Mattingly, is the longest-tenured skipper in Marlins history with an outside shot of also becoming their winningest one (he’s 18 wins behind Jack McKeon with 43 games remaining on the regular season schedule). An elite former major leaguer and New York Yankees captain, Mattingly is remarkably humble and cordial with the media, and he has presided over a mostly drama-free clubhouse in Miami. He keeps his composure in most competitive situations yet understands when it’s appropriate to have his players’ backs.
Miguel Rojas and Don Mattingly get ejected, a breakdown pic.twitter.com/S2SqRNbxeq— Jomboy (@Jomboy_) June 26, 2019
Despite his staying power, Mattingly owns a poor .436 winning percentage overall. Following their latest blowout loss, the Marlins are on pace to see their record decline for the third straight season under his leadership. Prior to this campaign, Jeter stressed the importance of seeing “progress” at the major league level in year two of the rebuild, but with only a few individual exceptions, that goal hasn’t been achieved.
Since the start of the Wild Card era (1995-present), it’s been rare to see a manager begin a new job with four straight sub-.500 seasons—as Mattingly is on the verge of doing—and return for a fifth season. The only example I could find was Terry Collins, whose Mets posted 77, 74, 74 and 79 wins from 2011-14 before making a run to the World Series in 2015.
At age 58 and with his contract set to expire this winter, it would be hardly a surprise to anybody if Mattingly and the Marlins parted ways. That’s been the trend across the industry—an influx of younger, cheaper managers who are well-versed in sabermetrics and willing to abdicate most decision-making authority to the front office.
Personal connections complicate this, however. Jeter has known Mattingly for most of his life, first as a fellow player on the 1995 Yankees and later as his hitting coach in The Bronx from 2004-07. It’s also worth noting that the new administration might not consider the Jeffrey Loria era results in their calculus; Mattingly was being pressured to contend with a talented yet flawed roster, then devastated by the in-season death of icon José Fernández.
Many recent changes throughout the Marlins organization have been driven by fan feedback. Although I see the community endorsing candidates like Jorge Posada, Carlos Beltrán and Mark DeRosa, they aren’t necessarily dissatisfied with Mattingly.
He had 86% approval in our initial FanPulse survey prior to Opening Day. That plummeted when the Marlins struggled during the first quarter of the season (low point was 39%), but then rebounded. Mattingly has spent 11 consecutive weeks at 60% or higher, including 77% in the most recent survey.
Echoing the sentiments of FNTSY Sports Radio host Craig Mish, I think it’s important to set a different tone here than Loria did with his constant managerial turnover. Mattingly has handled himself with dignity throughout, even as he was stripped of quality players in 2018 and 2019. This can be a transition without any hurt feelings or bitterness.
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