What could have been a routine press conference to recap the end of the Dodgers’ season got interesting in a hurry Monday.
After sharing their thoughts about the 2013 campaign, which ended with a six-game National League Championship Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti were asked about Mattingly’s status for 2014.
“My option vested once we beat Atlanta,” Mattingly said. “That doesn’t mean I’ll be back.”
With that, the floodgates opened.
It seemed odd that Colletti didn’t announce that Mattingly’s contract option had been renewed for another year, either in his opening remarks or at any point over the previous two weeks. It was more telling that Mattingly said he might not be back — without prompt — even with a contract.
Why isn’t a one-year contract enough of an assurance from the Dodgers’ front office?
“I know my option vested. So from that standpoint I know a little bit. This has been a frustrating, tough year honestly, because I think when you come in — and some of the things I talked about last year with a club like this, you come in basically as a lame duck — and the payroll and the guys that you have, it puts you in a tough spot in the clubhouse.
“So we dealt with that all year long. What that does, it puts me in a spot that everything I do is questionable. Cause I’m basically trying out or auditioning to say, ‘can you manage or can you not manage?’ So it’s a tough spot. To me … three years in you either know or you don’t. Those are the things that we talked about and figure out, and go from there.”
In so many words, Mattingly all but confirmed that he won’t manage in 2014 without a deal beyond next year. And his reason is clear.
Asked if questions about his managerial ability came from within the Dodgers’ clubhouse, Mattingly said, “it’s everywhere. When you’re put in this position, the organization basically says, ‘we don’t know if you can manage or not.’
“That’s the position I’ve been in all year long. That’s not a great position for me as a manager. If that’s the way it is, that’s the way the organization wanted it last year, that’s fine. So at this point, it just is what it is.”
Formal talks about extending Mattingly’s contract might not have commenced, but Colletti said that there have been informal discussions in the Dodgers’ front office.
“We’re going to discuss everything internally before we discuss it externally,” he said. “We haven’t really had a chance to sit down and talk about anything. We met for 15 minutes in the office on Friday night, first 15 minutes after we all got back in there. Yesterday, everybody was on their own, so to speak.”
If Colletti’s voice prevails, the negotiations might not take long. He believes that Mattingly has passed the trial stage, and later added that “it should be resolved quickly.”
“I hired Donnie and I’ve been supportive of Donnie all the way through,” Colletti said. “He kept our team together. We won. I’ve been a supporter of his from the day he walked in here as a hitting coach.”
There are other voices involved. Team president Stan Kasten was not made available for comment Monday. Neither was Dodgers chairman Mark Walter.
What will they have to say on the matter? Stay tuned to find out.