WILL LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE?

By:  Holly Horning

I can dream, can’t I?

Several weeks ago, I wrote a 5-part series on managerial candidates with the final installment focused on the top managers who may become available. https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/hit-by-a-bus/

One of those managers is Don Mattingly, who has finally escaped the drama and dysfunction known as the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you’re not familiar with their soap opera, this is a team MLB had to take over 5 years ago, resulting in its sale to a whopping 6 new owners (including Magic Johnson).

In their attempt to win an immediate World Series, they took payroll from $95 million to over $300 million in less than 3 years. They bought everyone in sight without regard to roles, personalities or team chemistry. Players were ditched just as quickly resulting in $100 million of their current payroll being paid to guys no longer wearing the Dodger uniform.

Despite all of this, Mattingly kept the team together despite constant Front Office turmoil and bad decisions. Last year, massive blood-letting found one of their Presidents and the GM fired. Yet, with all the changes and new bosses, Don stayed in his job. But now he’s had enough.

In the movie Operation Petticoat, Tony Curtis said ” In confusion, there is profit.” And the problems within the Dodger organization will be profitable to the team who lands Mattingly. Can we hope that team is the Tigers?

In a previous series of blogs (Managing Expectations – late September through early October), I presented multiple rationales for why the Tigers decided to keep Brad Ausmus. And none of them had to do with Brad’s actual skills but were based upon timing, expected timelines and specific situations.

One of the reasons focused on Al Avila not seeing the right managerial candidate to replace Brad. Combine that rationale with Ausmus’ remaining year under contract and the Tigers rebuilding in 2016, and we’ve got a reason to wait one more year for the right candidate to come along.

Could that time be now?

In 2013, Mattingly publicly expressed his disastisfaction with Dodger management and there was speculation he would leave. He was immediately linked with the Tigers to replace Jim Leyland. Unfortunately for us, the Dodgers convinced him to stay.

Last year, the Chicago press reported Jim Leyland’s trip to the Windy City one day after Joe Maddon resigned from the Tampa Bay Rays. The significance? Maddon’s agent works there and Leyland’s schedule had him solidly booked in Arizona.

It would appear that the Tigers have explored managerial opportunities when they’ve presented themselves and hopefully they are testing the waters again. It is the rare occasion when someone like a Maddon or Mattingly become available.

But of course, he needs to be a “fit” for the Tigers. Other than his .551 W/L stats and assorted Dodger records, what does he have to offer?

As a former Yankees Captain, it’s been said he’s big on leadership and team play. He pushes team concepts, emphasizes discipline at the plate and in the field, and is a stickler for fundamentals. And he knows how to deal with big egos. All concepts qualifying him for taking the helm of the Tigers. And personality-wise, he’s a fit with both Mr. I, Al Avila and the Tigers’ overall corporate culture.

But there are 4 other teams officially looking for a new manager. It’s been written that Don is not interested in the Nationals. And it’s unlikely he’ll want to move to the Padres after being with the Dodgers. The Marlins’ owner is determined to get him but will Don want to align himself again with another owner who is unpredictable and works with a very limited payroll?

Or would Mattingly welcome a chance with another big, but not overly huge, organization known for its professionalism and steady ownership? A team with a great track record and recent series of division titles? A team with another future Hall-of-Famer who plays first base, like Mattingly did?

This team has an impressive budget and a great solid core of players. And this team is located in the MidWest, where Mattingly was born and raised – and still lives. He also owns several business there which require the occasional visits. He hails from Evansville, Indiana which will ring a bell to many Tiger fans – and is only 400 miles from Detroit.

Thirty-five years ago, the Tigers traded in Les Moss for Sparky Anderson when he became available. It worked out pretty well. The Tigers should try it again, don’t you think?

13 thoughts on “WILL LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE?

  1. Let’s hope so..I still Like Mike scioscia but I will take DM as my second choice. Especially since he is available. I have no doubt BA can help teach the kids and steer them properly. so I would not mind letting him do that in the minors somewhere as an instructor.

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  2. If this team’s management thought outside of the box, they would have pushed harder for Maddon. The same is true for Mattingly. But there is thing called loyalty. These days that word trumps common sense.

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  3. The Tigers can come up with lightening in a bottle if Avila gets the arms this team needs to be competitive for a pennant next season. Mone of that will matter if Ausmus is still the skipper. Scratched my head when they announced Brad was staying. The only answer I could come up with was what Holly prescribed – a switch when someone became available. Well here he is, grab MATTINGLY NOW. Instant 2016 excitement!

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  4. Actually Sparky had been available for six months by the time the Tigers decided to fire Les Moss, just barely a month into the 1979 season. The timing seemed pretty strange, really.

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  5. Mattingly would not be an upgrade over Ausmus, based on the uniformly mediocre grades he received from fans and the media while manager of the Dodgers. On a recent PTI, Bob Ryan was astounded when Tony Kornheiser said he’d like to see Mattingly hired to manage in Washington. In my opinion, Ausmus and Mattingly are clones.

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  6. Hi, NImzovich – or should I say Dr. Strangelove…….. Actually, Mattingly has been embracing analytics and was working with it this past year to some degree now that Farhan Zaidi is the GM. Before this year, the Dodgers weren’t using it. He’s even been quoted as saying ““If you’re not using analytics as part of your decision-making process, you’re a fool.” Thanks for reading and your comment! – Holly

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    • That’s encouraging. But Avila’s faith in Brad for ’16 indicates a Mattingly option ain’t gonna happen, since I can’t imagine him still being available at mid-season if the Tigers flounder. Retaining BA leads me to believe brass doesn’t have a plan and are making it up as they go.

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