Don Mattingly & taking the fall

Scott Cunningham

Three straight losses, eight games under .500, and the second-worst run differential in the National League have the Dodgers reeling. Will that cost manager Don Mattingly his job?

The Dodgers are a mess right now, and it's not hard to realize that Don Mattingly is on the hottest of seats in the final year of his contract, manager of a $230 million team sitting in last place at 17-25. The Dodgers are coming off a crushing sweep in Atlanta, when a lifeless offense and a tired bullpen conspired to blow three late leads.

Firing the manager isn't always fair, but neither is life. Sometimes a team desperate to shake things up has to do something, and it can't fire the players. Mattingly is aware of this, as he played under 10 different managers in his playing career with the Yankees under the meddling hands of owner George Steinbrenner. That doesn't take into account the numerous changes at pitching coach and hitting coach in New York as well.

I am reminded of a quote from Mattingly from spring training in 2012, 14 months ago. Mattingly was reflecting on his first year as manager and said it was tough to fire hitting coach Jeff Pentland, midseason in 2011.

"Somebody's going to go if something's going really bad, and you can't get rid of the players. It happened a lot in New York where they would fire the manager or fire the pitching coach, or whoever it would be," Mattingly said. "I always knew in those situations, as a player, that we failed as players. We let somebody down, we didn't do the job, and they got the blame. When somebody goes, it's not necessarily that guy's fault."

The Dodgers also dismissed another hitting coach at the end of 2012, when Dave Hansen, the man who took over for Pentland, wasn't brought back. The hitting coach gambit has happened twice in two years, so its unlikely Mark McGwire would be the first to fall in 2013.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports speculated that Mattingly could be fired as soon as this week, especially if the Dodgers drop their series in Milwaukee. It's important to note that Rosenthal wasn't reporting any news, but rather offering his opinion, one shared by the easily accessible unnamed rival scout quoted throughout Rosenthal's column.

" I’ve seen the Dodgers twice in person this season, and both times came away thinking that the team would be OK, that manager Don Mattingly would survive. Now I’m convinced that Mattingly is going to get fired. And the sooner it happens, the better," Rosenthal wrote. " There is no obvious replacement for Mattingly, but Colletti, club president Stan Kasten and the club’s ownership know that they can’t allow the team to struggle like this for much longer. Barring a sudden turnaround, Mattingly will lose his job."

Again, this is just Rosenthal's opinion. But it's not hard to see it coming true, and soon. Mattingly knows.

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