Don Mattingly’s career in baseball has been personified by success. As a player, he was an All-Star six consecutive years as the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees, won the AL MVP in 1985, and snagged 9 Gold Gloves during his 14-year career.
As a manager, Mattingly was at the helm of a Dodgers’ franchise that kicked off a run of 8-consecutive NL West titles, winning the first three from 2013-2015. Mattingly and the Dodgers would part ways after elimination by the eventual pennant winning New York Mets in the 2015 NLDS.
Despite the successes Mattingly has experienced on the field and in the dugout, one thing that has eluded him is a World Series appearance. In his 40-plus years in professional baseball, Mattingly has yet to appear in his league’s equivalent to a Fall Classic.
Without a doubt, when he took the job to manage the Marlins before the 2016 season, there weren’t many expecting that drought to be snapped anytime soon.
A 79-win 2016, tragically concluding with the passing of rotation ace Jose Fernandez, was punctuated by an MVP-season for right fielder Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, who ended the year with a franchise-best 59 home runs. However, the team only managed 77-wins, despite a roster consisting of the aforementioned Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and J.T. Realmuto. Come Opening Day 2018, all four would find themselves in different uniforms, with that year’s team finishing with 98-losses.
Despite this and the ensuing 105-loss season that followed in 2019, the 2020 team would overcome a widespread COVID-19 outbreak en route to their first playoff appearance since 2003. And though the Marlins would concede defeat to the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, the team had begun to develop a new core destined to carry them in the next era of Marlins baseball, highlighted by third baseman Brian Anderson, and pitchers Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez.
The 2020 season would also see Mattingly collect Manager of the Year honors in the NL.
The question now, with Mattingly’s contract set to expire following the conclusion of the 2021 season, is whether or not he sees this rebuild through.
Were we to cross-compare his performance to other big league managers in terms of performance, one could point to longtime Oakland A’s skipper Bob Melvin. In parts of 18 seasons as at the helm of the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, and previously mentioned A’s, Melvin has finished in 1st place four times, along with six 2nd place finishes.
Melvin has been the recipient of three Manager of the Year awards, with his most recent honor coming in 2018. Like Mattingly, Melvin’s efforts have never resulted in a World Series appearance, which begs the question, “why does he remain employed?”
The point of the matter with these two merely sits as such; managers like Mattingly or Melvin will continue to get the most of out the pieces they’re given, but as is the case in baseball, none are immune to human error. However, this further poses the quandary of how much crucial human error do we allow these skippers before enough is enough?
Unlike his regime with the Dodgers, Mattingly had seen every aspect of this core of young players develop, good and bad, which couldn’t be said about the prior-mentioned core of Stanton and co. To bring in another name to manage the wealth of personalties here would almost serve against the plan in place.
That being said, even if the team isn’t expected to play for the NL East, continued growth from the core of young players could extend Mattingly’s tenure in Miami, as 2023 projects to be a realistic timeline for the team to contend on a consistent basis.