During the last week of September, Don Mattingly accepted congratulations and gratitude from various New York media outlets on his upcoming retirement as manager of the Miami Marlins.
This was during a three-game streak against the Mets when the Marlins actually won a game, despite reliever Richard Bleier being charged with three suspensions in the same appearance. As excited as Mattingly and Bleier were about the absurdity of the bars, Mattingly seemed to have an air of finality about his baseball career in uniform.
It turns out Mattingly shouldn’t quit completely or retire to the largely stress-free life of a television analyst, covering 25 to 40 games a season on a rotation with other former players.
Mattingly was named the Toronto Blue Jays’ bench coach, prompting widespread reactions from Yankee fans on social media. After all, how can they applaud him for a career that’s the subject of a rabid Hall of Fame debate, possibly culminating on the basis of how he fares in the upcoming Hall of Fame contemporary era vote, and also over back problems ended too soon when he helps manager John Schneider find ways to beat the Yankees?
Either way, it’s good to see Mattingly staying in the game and returning to the AL East. especially after he was planning to take the next summer off until he got a call from Toronto general manager Ross Atkins that intrigued him immensely.
“Just the first call, it felt great, honestly,” Mattingly told reporters in a video call Wednesday. “That immediately piqued my interest.”
Mattingly joins a team that finished six games behind the Yankees in the AL East and contributed to their summer swoon with three wins that provided every type of frustration and even one loss that irked the Yankees.
It was a 5-2 loss on Aug. 20 that prompted Gerrit Cole to pound the clubhouse roof twice and Aaron Boone to pound the podium in the interview room after the manager was asked if he had six straight series in 1995 had lost. A day later, the Yankees dodged a sweep with a 4-2 win that saw Aaron Judge thrown inside by Alek Manoah and then hit in the top left top corner in the fifth, a move that saw Cole hurtling out of the dugout and after the Game was challenged by Manoah to meet him at the “Audi Shield” in front of the Yankee dugout.
So you can see why Mattingly would want to return to the game and with a team that seems to continue to flourish after his time in Miami.
Although some of that was spent with Derek Jeter being part of the ownership group before stepping aside, Mattingly always managed a young team that wasn’t quite ready to win, despite having some attractive plays like the Inning Eater and NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara had .
After going 446-263 from 2011 to 2015 after Joe Torre retired, Mattingly went 443-587 in seven seasons with the Marlins. He started for Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich in the last two seasons and achieved 79 and 77 win seasons. After those stars traded to save money, he lost 98, 105, 95, and 93 games, respectively, with the only outlier being the 31-29 mark in the pandemic season, offset by a postseason berth in an empty Yankee Stadium has been highlighted.
Over the course of Mattingly’s tenure at Miami, the Blue Jays transitioned from the veteran group who had back-to-back ALCS appearances to the young core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., augmented by the addition of George Springer as a free agent and other steps.
“You’re looking at the combination of youth and experience and an offense that can trigger runs in a hurry… just the whole package,” Mattingly told reporters.
After losing three seasons, the Blue Jays made the extended playoffs in 2020, narrowly missed a playoff berth in 2021 despite winning a four-game series in New York last month, and then heated up after manager Charlie Montoyo with Schneider in July .
“When I know the talent and see it, I know it’s a really good club,” said Mattingly. I’ve seen these guys over the past few years. They throw barrels in a hurry. I think all the ingredients are there to win.”
And now, after a few years of trying to get young talent to achieve better results, Mattingly is ready to help a team overtake the Yankees, much to the dismay of fans in New York and the delight of fans in Toronto and the front office types.
“Credibility and experience are achieved in many different ways, and Don’s is unique to our people,” Atkins told reporters. “Experience and credibility are words that are commonly used in professional sports, in life and in the corporate world. It’s hard to quantify exactly how valuable that is, but I think it’s something that will create that calming effect and impact and not only help with performance and lack of it, but also with accountability, which is huge will be.
Of course, the Yankees will face bigger problems than a former standout first baseman trying to beat them at opposing dugout, especially if a certain right fielder signs elsewhere.