Snowed-in Mattingly gets three-year extension
Weather issue in Indiana keeps Dodgers skipper from attending news conference
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Don Mattingly's contract extension was an ordeal, right down to Wednesday's official announcement, which Mattingly missed because he was snowed in on his Indiana farm.
So while Mattingly was bailing water out of his basement after the pipes froze and burst, general manager Ned Colletti made the three-year deal official in a news conference at sunny Dodger Stadium.
"I think he's done a great job here," Colletti said of Mattingly, last year's runner-up for the National League Manager of the Year Award.
"The last three years in the organization have been historic in a lot of different ways," Colletti said. "We kept the baseball team steady and the credit goes to a lot of people, including the man who runs the dugout and the leader of the guys. This is well deserved. He gets better and better."
Colletti's announcement came in the same interview room where Mattingly surprised club officials during a season-ending news conference. Mattingly complained about managing the final season of his first three-year deal as a lame duck and aired his frustration at a lack of support by unnamed members of ownership. He had asked that the club pick up a 2014 option a year earlier, but was denied.
During the October news conference, Mattingly revealed that the 2014 option had vested because the Dodgers advanced to the NL Championship Series, but he implied that the club might not want him back anyway, which Mattingly concluded because the club never announced the option vesting.
"Looking back, coming out of the playoffs after a long season and the frustrations, one way or the other, things just come out of you," Mattingly said Wednesday on a conference call. "Looking back, I'd rather it stayed in-house, but it came out and I couldn't help it."
Mattingly said he was disappointed that the club didn't announce the option vesting, but he soon spoke to club president Stan Kasten and chairman Mark Walter and, "at that point, I knew we'd get something done and wasn't too worried about it."
"Nobody felt differently about Donnie after that [news conference]," Colletti said. "It just took time to get it done the right way."
Mattingly said the new deal will remove the worst part of lame-duck managing: questions about job security instead of the team's play.
"That takes away from the game and what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "You're dealing with things that have nothing to do with us winning games. With my experience playing in New York, we changed managers almost every year. You learn from other players the value of stability and knowing you'll be around. It's not necessarily leverage, but you want the guys to know the organization has confidence in you as a manager, that they trust [you] and believe in [you]. It makes the job easier."
Colletti said Mattingly, a Yankees legend hired to replace Joe Torre with only Arizona Fall League managerial experience, has grown into the role.
"Going in, I knew the traits of the man -- his work ethic and making sure he can be as successful as he can be and not leave anything to chance," Colletti said. "Now it's his experience and willingness to adjust to those experiences. Last year was an important step for him. Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke were hurt and the starting pitching started to take on water, and [Mattingly] kept it steady while everybody was saying he won't be back and won't survive another day."
By mid-June, with a record-setting payroll in last place and rumors of Mattingly's imminent dismissal, the Dodgers unleashed what became the greatest in-season comeback in franchise history and one of the greatest in baseball history.
The Dodgers finished the season with a 92-70 record and won the NL West title by 11 games -- the largest margin in Los Angeles history. They defeated Atlanta, 3-1, in the NL Division Series before falling to St. Louis in six games in the NLCS.
"[Mattingly] has the ability to understand how tough it is to play this game, the ins and outs, the peaks and valleys -- they're not lost on him," Colletti said. "The players respect that approach."
The Dodgers became the fourth club to finish in first place after being in last place on July 1 or later and the fourth team to win a division in a season in which they were at least 12 games below .500. They were the third team to rally from at least 9 1/2 games back to win by at least 10 games. Included in the comeback was the best 50-game stretch in franchise history, a 42-8 run that began on June 22.
No previous Los Angeles club had a first-place margin of 11 games or clinched the division as early as Sept. 19. According to Elias Sports Bureau, they joined the 1911 Philadelphia Athletics and '14 Boston Braves as the only clubs to trail by as many as 9 1/2 games and finish first by at least 10 games.
At one point, the Dodgers won 15 consecutive road games -- the first NL team to do that since 1957 -- and went unbeaten in 18 consecutive series. The Dodgers went from 12 games below .500 to finish 22 games above.