Mattingly won't return to manage Marlins in '23

Manager, organization announce mutual decision to 'have a new voice'

September 26th, 2022

MIAMI -- Don Mattingly, the baseball legend with the moniker “Donnie Baseball,” knew what he was walking into when he parted ways with the Dodgers and signed a four-year deal in November 2015 to become the 15th manager in Marlins history. It was a challenge he looked forward to, relying less on a high payroll and more on player development.

His seven-year journey inside Miami’s dugout will end when the club wraps its 2022 season on Oct. 5, a mutual decision the team announced prior to Sunday afternoon’s 6-1 loss to the Nationals at loanDepot park.

“How do I characterize it?” Mattingly said. “I'm probably disappointed. I came here to build something, and something that was sustainable, that when you left here you felt like, ‘OK, the organization's in a great spot.’ I came here with loads of hitting and [a] stacked lineup, and then we've kind of flipped the script a little bit. We haven't swung the bats as well and produced hitters. We've been producing pitchers ever since, so it's kind of flipped a little bit.

“But that being said, I think the organization's in a good spot from the standpoint that it's hard to find these kinds of guys that can keep every game close and keep you in it. And now it'll be [general manager Kim Ng] and the organization's job to get into the winter and figure out, ‘How do we win with this, and what's the formula, and what's the style or whatever we think we need to do to be able to play better baseball consistently and compete?’”

The longest-tenured and winningest skipper in franchise history, Mattingly has a 437-584 record (.428 winning percentage). The 61-year-old brought continuity to a franchise that never had that from the managerial bench. After five years with the Dodgers from 2011-15, during which he led the club to three straight National League West titles, he came to a smaller baseball market in Miami, with a roster including the late José Fernández as well as future MVPs Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.

But a rebuilding stage began under the current ownership group, which took over following the 2017 season. Mattingly didn't reach the playoffs with the Marlins until the ‘20 COVID-19-shortened campaign, helping the franchise snap a 16-year postseason drought in its only winning season under his tutelage. He went on to capture NL Manager of the Year that season.

In September 2019, Mattingly signed a two-year contract extension with a mutual option for '22 (it was his idea to have a deadline for it) that was exercised in July ‘21, meaning he is not under contract for next season.

“It's been different than I kind of envisioned, just because of the changes,” Mattingly said. “I went through the ownership change in L.A., didn't envision it coming here. And then obviously this year, another big change [with CEO Derek Jeter leaving]. So it's been a little different. I thought we were turning the corner in '20. We kind of maybe overachieved just a touch in ‘20, but I thought we were starting to gain that confidence and that unity as the organization was moving forward that we were going to be able to turn the corner.

“Last year was disappointing, and then this year has really been kind of more of the same, and that's really kind of the conclusion I came to is, ‘It's time for a new voice.’ I think it's best for the organization, quite honestly, that we have a new voice and move forward.”

Originally expecting to contend in the competitive NL East, the Marlins instead hold a 63-90 record with nine games remaining thanks to a multitude of injuries to the likes of All-Star Jazz Chisholm Jr. and more, as well as the underperformance of marquee signing Avisaíl García. Since improving to one game under .500 on July 5, the Marlins have gone 24-50.

Asked whether the outcome might have been different had the season gone differently, Ng said it’s “always a consideration” because it’s an “outcomes-based industry.”

“When you have a season like this one, where everyone is really disappointed at the end of the year, the outcomes, I think you reflect quite a bit -- and a lot of self-reflection, I think, on everybody's part,” Ng said. “It was through [multiple] conversations we all just got to the same place, which is that Donnie wasn't going to pursue a contract for ‘23 and we were not going to pursue a contract for ‘23.”

"We are fortunate to have had Don Mattingly leading our team on the field over the last seven years," chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman said in a statement. "He has represented the Marlins, our players, our fans, and the South Florida community with unmatched dignity and pride. Over the course of our recent conversations with Don, we both agreed not to pursue a new contract for the 2023 season and that the time is right for a new voice to lead our clubhouse."

That fell in line with the message Mattingly told players and coaches pregame. Shortstop and unofficial captain Miguel Rojas, who played for Mattingly during his rookie season in 2014 with the Dodgers, is the only holdover from his first year in South Florida.

Whether it be Mattingly, Ng, Sherman or Rojas, everyone appeared on the same page. This was about bringing in someone new with the hope things would click. As of now, Mattingly plans on returning home to Evansville, Ind., following the season to spend time with his wife and kids.

“I feel like there's always an end to an era,” Rojas said. “We knew it was going to happen at some point, we as a unit, as a group, as a combo. I always try to be Donnie's right hand on the field and try to communicate with him and try to do everything that I can to actually facilitate his job in the dugout being the manager of this club and being the leader of this club. …

“I know Donnie as much as any other player that knows him. For me, he's like a father on the field and father in baseball for me. So I'm definitely going to miss him. But in regards of not just me, but the whole organization and all the players that have played for Donnie, we have to say thank you, because Donnie -- other than being a really good manager and a really good communicator, really good leader -- he's been having our backs. And he's a guy who always, when he talks to the media, when he talks to fans, when he talks to his family, when he talks to people, he always backs up his players.

“And he always talked to us about how he's going to have our back whenever we work hard and whenever we were playing the game the right way. So for me, that's something that I’m always going to keep in my thoughts for the rest of my life, and not just in baseball. But he taught me how to be a professional, how to be accountable for my actions.”