Mattingly's '22 return part of pivotal week

July 8th, 2021

MIAMI -- The Marlins were unable to sweep the reigning World Series champion Dodgers -- no small feat -- in Thursday afternoon’s 6-1 loss at loanDepot park, but they made a pivotal decision geared toward their short-term and long-term future.

To supplement an encouraging series win, it was announced on Thursday that Don Mattingly will return to manage the Marlins in 2022, as both sides exercised his mutual option for the 2022 season. The club faced a July 15 deadline on his contract status. The organization will reevaluate Mattingly's future beyond the 2022 season sometime next year. As for his coaching staff, Miami will wait before deciding.

Though pundits picked the fifth-place Marlins (38-48) to finish there in the National League East, the organization expected more. The starting staff, which entered the series finale with 10.5 WAR (seventh best in MLB), is the main reason why. Though ace Sandy Alcantara was chased in a five-run fifth inning, he has a 2.34 ERA in 17 starts not against the Dodgers in 2021.

During the four-game series, Miami also started to form an identity with six homers, including Jazz Chisholm Jr.'s 10th of the season, and six stolen bases. Another piece of the club’s build -- outfield prospect Jesús Sánchez -- came up clutch in Wednesday's win and continues to look comfortable with everyday reps. This matchup showed Miami’s potential; there just needs to be more consistency on the offensive side, so it can regularly rattle off six of 10.

"I think what's emblematic and symbolic is if you look at the way that we have played the last several days against the World Champs, and his alma mater, I think what you have to recognize and acknowledge and understand is that Donnie is the same guy whether we're winning, whether we're losing, and his philosophies, and he tries to get each of those guys to be consistent on an everyday basis," general manager Kim Ng said. "You saw Monday night when we played, that was the type of game I think that we all envisioned coming into Spring Training. We were hitting and running. We were doing all the little things that you do to win ballgames."

The franchise's longest-tenured and winningest skipper, Mattingly entered the series finale against his former ballclub with a 345-446 (.436) record in six seasons. After consecutive last-place finishes from 2018-19, he was named '20 National League Manager of the Year for leading the underdog Marlins to their first postseason berth since '03. During that campaign, Miami dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak and 174 roster moves in a 60-game slate.

CEO Derek Jeter on Tuesday was asked about Mattingly, who has been with the organization since 2016 -- two seasons before the Hall of Famer's ownership group took over. In 1995, Jeter was a rookie when Mattingly was in his 14th and final season with the Yankees.

"Donnie has done a great job," Jeter said. "He won Manager of the Year last year, he continues to do a good job. Donnie has the perfect demeanor for our organization with the players in terms of patience, the young guys coming up. He understands you're going to struggle. I think he has patience with that. So Donnie's meant a lot, coaching staff the same way. We have to continue when our guys come up. They're still developing, so we have to have good teachers on our coaching staff, which I think we do."

Mattingly managed the Dodgers from 2011-15, compiling a 446-363 record, including three straight NL West Division titles. Ng recalled seeing how Mattingly maintained the same consistency and belief in up-and-coming stars like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier during their overlapping time with the organization in the 2000s.

It’s an experience unofficial captain Miguel Rojas, who made his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 2014, shares. Mattingly has been at the helm in seven of Rojas’ eight seasons. Rojas called Mattingly his “father in baseball.”

“For me, it's so important to have a guy like him that really cares about his players, really cares about the development of the players, and at the end of the day, that's what you want,” said Rojas, who has a vesting option for 2022 as well. “You want someone who cares about you, someone who's going to have your back at the bad moments and good moments, but like he always says, he's not going to have your back if you're not working your butt off.”

Following his tenure with the Dodgers, Mattingly became the 15th skipper in Marlins history by signing a four-deal deal in November 2015. Mattingly signed a two-year contract extension with the mutual option for '22 (it was his idea to have a deadline for it) in September '19. He has brought stability to a franchise that has lacked it for so long, and being part of Ng and Jeter’s vision provides reassurance.

His time in Miami has taught him to be patient, though he briefly dealt with a transition period in Los Angeles before perennial contention. Mattingly and the Marlins believe that is on the horizon.

“We want to win,” Mattingly said. “When you come to Miami, you come with the idea that you knew where the organization was at the time, and you wanted to be part of building something and growing something. That part I really like, got another year of this development, and I do like the teaching side of it, but obviously we want to get to the point where we're accomplishing what the goal is. And so that I think is the key. We feel like you're getting closer to that, what you're building and what we're building. How do we get there? And that's the challenging part that I like.”