The 2010 baseball season has seen its share of legends depart the field. In June, Ken Griffey Jr. retired. In August Lou Piniella stepped down as manager of the Cubs. All summer we've witnessed the Bobby Cox bon voyage tour. And as September enters its second half Joe Torre and the Dodgers have announced that he too will be shuffling off the stage to make room for former American League MVP Don Mattingly.
Mattingly becomes the ninth manager in Los Angeles Dodger history and 27th in franchise history while Torre is expected to take time to determine his plans for 2011. Torre's departure may be short-lived as his contract with the Dodgers expires at season's end. With the potential of numerous managerial openings, Torre may bring his four World Series titles and 2318 (and counting) wins to a new city, or perhaps an old haunt like Queens, Atlanta or St. Louis.
"Over the past three years, I've had the opportunity to work with Don closely and have gotten to know him both personally and professionally and I'm convinced that he’s the right person to lead the Dodgers," said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. "His work ethic is unparalleled, his baseball knowledge is vast and his leadership skills have been established during more than three decades in professional baseball.
"Donnie has also learned alongside the best in the business. Joe Torre has been a great friend, a strong leader and an incredible presence for this organization and I cannot thank him enough for his service to the Dodgers. I respect his decision to step aside and I look forward to the day where I can watch him take his rightful place in Cooperstown among baseball’s legends."
Mattingly is entering a situation fraught with difficulty and challenges, hardly an ideal position for his a managerial position, especially considering his first experience as manager will be at the season's conclusion in the Arizona Fall league. The Dodgers season has been plagued by under-performance on the field and the divorce of their principle owner Frank McCourt from his wife, former team President Jamie McCourt. The divorce may result in the eventual sale of the club.
Mattingly is completing his seventh season as a Major League coach (2004-10) following seven seasons as a special instructor during Spring Training for the Yankees (1997-2003). He is in his third season as the Dodgers’ hitting coach following one season as the bench coach under Torre in New York (2007) and three years as the Yankees' hitting coach (2004-06).
"The opportunity to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers is truly an honor," said Mattingly. "There are few organizations in the world with the history, tradition and track record of success as the Dodgers. I'm looking forward to continuing what I came here to accomplish with Joe and that’s to win a World Championship."
Mattingly becomes the eighth current Major League manager to pilot a big league club without previous managerial experience, joining Torre, Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen, Cito Gaston, Bud Black and Kirk Gibson. Lou Piniella, who began the year as the Cubs’ manager, also managed in the Major Leagues without any minor league experience. Guillen won the World Series in his second year, Gaston in his third full season and Piniella and Girardi in their fourth seasons as a big league skipper. Bob Brenly won the World Series in his first year as a big league manager.
Mattingly spent 14 seasons as a first baseman for New York, where he compiled a .307 lifetime average with 222 home runs and 1,099 RBI while earning MVP honors in 1985, nine Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and six All-Star appearances.
He becomes just the ninth manager in Los Angeles Dodger history, following Hall of Famers Walter Alston (1954-76) and Tommy Lasorda (1977-96), Bill Russell (1996-98), Glenn Hoffman (1998), Davey Johnson (1999-2000), Jim Tracy (2001-05), Grady Little (2006-07) and Torre (2008-10).
Torre guided the Dodgers to consecutive National League Championship Series appearances and reached the postseason in a record-tying 14 consecutive seasons from 1996-2009. The certain future Hall of Famer has more postseason victories than any other manager in Major League history, ranks fifth on the all-time regular season wins list and has posted a three-year record with the Dodgers of 251-220 (.533) through last night’s game. He finished third in 2009 NL Manager of the Year voting.
"It has been an incredible honor to wear the Dodger uniform and I will always carry with me some very special memories from the past three seasons," said Torre. "This was not a decision I took lightly but I believe it’s the right one for myself and my family and I’m truly thrilled that Donnie will be the one leading the Dodgers. It’s time that the Dodgers had a new voice and I have the utmost confidence in him. I know he’s ready for the challenge."
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
Follow Joe Tetreault on Twitter
Follow The Biz of Baseball on Twitter
Follow the Business of Sports Network on Facebook