Despite five-straight seasons in which the Los Angeles Dodgers finished above .500, Don Mattingly and the club parted ways in mid-October, leaving the door open for him to test the waters elsewhere. According to multiple reports, Donnie Baseball is headed to South Beach to help lead a talented, albeit raw Miami Marlins team that features a nucleus that includes Jose Fernandez and slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
For my generation, Mattingly is a manager. Most don’t even know anything regarding his playing career, which spanned from 1982 to 1995 – all of which was spent in the Bronx with the New York Yankees. Without understanding just how talented Mattingly was as a player, it’s honestly quite difficult to wrap one’s mind around why he’s such a hot-button issue out west, where he became the first skipper to lead the Dodgers to three-straight division titles.
A 19th-round pick of the Yankees in the 1979 draft, it took just a handful of years in the minors before Mattingly made his way to the Big Apple, where he made his big-league debut on Sept. 8, 1982 as a defensive replacement for skipper Clyde King.
It was not until the next season, 1983, that Mattingly started to show promise. In just under 100 games, he batted .283/.333/.409 – which are solid numbers in and of themselves. But, from there, the story of Donnie Baseball changed forever.
From 1984 to 1989, the Yankees’ first baseman finished in the top seven of American League MVP voting five different times, earning an All-Star selection in each one of those campaigns. In 1985, just his third full season in the bigs, Mattingly won the AL MVP, to go along with his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards after posting a .939 OPS with 145 runs batted in, 48 doubles and 35 long-balls.
During a four-year stretch in the mid-1980s, Mattingly averaged 30 homers and 121 RBI for New York, but, despite his astounding play, the Yankees failed to make the postseason from the time the slugger was drafted until his final season in pinstripes, 1995.
By that point, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill took over carrying the offensive load, marking the beginning of George Steinbrenner’s historic 1990’s teams of Bombers that went on to win the Fall Classic five times from 1995 to 2001. But in Mattingly’s only postseason appearance, the team failed to advance past the NLDS – a trend that has continued into his managerial career.
For whatever reason, after working exclusively in the Yankees’ organization as a coach and special instructor for over a decade following his retirement, the front office decided to tap Joe Girardi as the next skipper of the storied franchise, setting up his eventual departure to the Dodgers, where he also worked as a coach until taking over the reins himself.
Yet, here we are. Another relationship between Donnie Baseball and a storied baseball franchise done and over. After not getting the job done in both Los Angeles and New York, could sunny South Beach be the place where Mattingly gets past that first round and finally gets a taste of the World Series?