If there was such a thing as “Comeback Manager of the Year,” Don Mattingly would be a shoe in for it. He’s a survivor as he rode out this early season rough ride into this unbelievable impossible dream of a second half run that many of us believe will result in a championship Dodger team. It’s a bit premature to be crowning the team with the title, but regardless of how things turn out, there is little doubt that Don Mattingly has performed admirably this season.
|(photo by Barry Gutierrez/AP)|
He has allowed young and inexperienced players the opportunity to grow and learn on the job. Chris Withrow arrived on the major league level and Mattingly effectively used him, placing him initially in games that weren’t crucial and pressure packed and as he excelled, ramping up his game time action to games that were more tense. It would be safe to say that Withrow’s confidence level is off the charts now and he can be used in critical situations. Mattingly did the same with Paco Rodriguez earlier in his career.
Early in the season, as a manager that was hamstrung with team injuries like no other team I'd ever witnessed, he held things together until enough pieces returned to place, and then simply let his guys excel. He understood the 162 game process and exercised patience. If you look at the participants in the 2013 season, 43 players have stepped between the lines at some point this season with most having contributed valuably at least once this year.
That might be Mattingly's strongest trait: getting his entire roster to contribute. From Scott Van Slyke to Clayton Kershaw, Jose Dominguez to Justin Sellers. The range of players from various levels of talent and effort is quite dynamic, and Mattingly has effectively plugged them into the lineup to the benefit of a .583 winnign percentage. Now looking at a 70-50 record and 7.5 game lead in the N.L. West, it's hard to argue that the Dodger manager hasn't made a difference in turning this season around with his clubhouse management and team chemistry development. Nearly everyone is looking at this Dodger team in a positive light and that has everything to do with Don Mattingly. The thing is, he'll never acknowledge that because it isn't in his nature. Another sign of leadership greatness. The Dodgers really have a gem as their field general.