Don Mattingly’s contract is up at the end of the year, but does it really matter? (Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)
What do Don Mattingly, Charlie Manuel, Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire have in common?
Answer: Mr. Burns would disapprove of their sideburns.
We also would have accepted that each has a contract that expires at the end of the season, as do six other managers, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark. That’s one-third of the league.
It does reflect a change in what once passed for conventional thinking: We can’t hang our manager out there on the last year of his deal. The players will walk all over him.
That may have been the theory once upon a time. But nowadays, says Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, “I think it’s something from out of the past that doesn’t exist in the present anymore. It’s one of those old things that was widely accepted — and then a lot of smart people said, ‘Why?’”
Truth is, many fans haven’t wrapped their heads around this concept yet. The intellectually lazy belief is that a cold seat becomes warm, a warm seat becomes hot, and a hot seat becomes scorching if the manager’s contract is up at the end of the year.
The relationship between each manager and his team is different, but many of the same hypotheses about Mattingly’s job security are probably being applied to Leyland, whose team won the American League pennant a year ago and whose plaque in Cooperstown may have been minted already (hopefully with a cigarette in Leyland’s mouth and missing only the logo on his hat).
After all the Tigers are only 10-10, or one fewer loss than the Dodgers.
Some bullet points to tide you through a Sierra Leone independence day weekend: