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Don Mattingly and the Dodger Way

Don Mattingly
Don Mattingly
David Blumenkrantz/Arroyo Seco Journal

Don Mattingly needs to take a look in the mirror. The one by the bulletin board where the "help wanted" sign has just been taken down. For now.

Mattingly needs to look in the mirror next to the placard that says "the Dodgers don't air their dirty laundry in public." The one next to the sign that says "be respectful of your employers." The one next to the half-century-old industry manual on public relations, a chapter of which outlines press conference etiquette for those who should but for some reason don't understand it.

The purpose of a press conference -- often referred to as "presser" or "news conference" -- is to announce news; news which has been agreed upon in advance by the hosting organization, and news which is meant, if at all possible, to convey a message which presents that organization in a positive light.

The object of press conference is most certainly not for a participating individual to go off on his own agenda, while blindsiding and bad-mouthing his bosses in the process. While actually making news in the process, news which was not sanctioned by the organization in advance.

That's what Mattingly did, with his arms-folded, smirking, disrespectful-to-management display Monday morning at Dodger Stadium. And while the confrontational attempt for leverage may have been seen in some quarters to be the Yankee Way, or perhaps the Evansville, Indiana Way (doubtful in both cases), it does not resemble anything like the Dodger Way of which Mattingly spoke during the presser.

Neither does the continued refusal to take responsibility for results and the continued directing of blame at others in the organization. Mattingly threw both Andre Ethier and club management under the bus during a May slump which almost cost him his job, threw Yasiel Puig under the bus in the final National League Championship Series postgame October 18, and did so again in his diatribe Monday, while doubling down on his dissatisfaction with management, this time regarding a contract which he signed without a gun placed to his head three years ago.

Yes, the Dodger Way includes professional instruction and mentoring at the minor league level, and ideally prospects are promoted to the majors as polished players. And yes, that would have been wonderful in the case of Yasiel Puig, had he not been needed to rescue the 2013 season almost single-handedly.

But let's be clear, Puig had a chance to hone his skills for all of a month combined at Rookie League Arizona and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2012 before Mattingly got his hands on him in Spring Training of this year. A single month, in which he appeared in 23 games (nine with the Arizona League Dodgers and 14 with the R.C. Quakes).

Puig had a whopping two months in AA-Chattanooga this season before being rushed to Los Angeles, where Mattingly was his direct supervisor for the past four and a half months, or more than double the time anyone else in the organization had a chance to influence him.

I understand that Mattingly was responding to questions put to him during the press conference, but it looked to me like he'd come to the office on Monday expecting either a contract extension or a promise of one, and when he didn't have it come 11:00 a.m., he sulked his way through the event, which included a rather obvious ultimatum lobbed at management.

He was two hours into the first business day of the offseason, after the Dodgers had just finished two wins shy of the its first World Series in 25 years, and the point of the exercise was to talk about what had just transpired, with a look to the future. A positive look. We'll get better next year and here's how.

Instead, drama. And Mattingly has shown a striking similarity between his in-game managing skills and his instinct for business; the going rogue in the presser being akin to having Juan Uribe sacrifice with a runner at second and Skip Schumaker on deck.

For the latter he had bench coach since-fired Trey Hillman sitting beside him. For the former, presumably, Mattingly had agent Ray Schulte advising him. Schulte now goes into negotiations with high-road-taking Stan Kasten holding all the cards.

Kasten has said that Mattingly will return in 2014. We'll see about that. As a business owner, Kasten understands the axiom that "the last impression is the lasting impression," and maybe he gives the skipper a chance for a do-over on his.

If not, perhaps negotiations blow up, club officials go with their own (better) instincts and Mattingly is shown the door.

Old sign at Dodger Stadium
Old sign at Dodger Stadium
Mr Littlehand/Flickr

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