For Dodgers, in-season managerial change is rare
After his club's slow start, Mattingly now finds himself on hot seat
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have changed managers midseason because of poor team play just once in the past 111 years. That was in 1998, when the News Corp. ownership group that had traded Mike Piazza a month earlier swept out manager Bill Russell and general manager Fred Claire.
Russell, who had replaced Tommy Lasorda after the latter's 1996 heart attack, was replaced by Glenn Hoffman, triggering a very un-Dodgers-like revolving door of Davey Johnson, Jim Tracy, Grady Little, Joe Torre and now Don Mattingly.
Lasorda managed 20 years, after Walt Alston's 23-year reign. Now there have been seven managers since Lasorda, and only Tracy lasted more than three seasons. None took a team to a World Series.
Already on the hot seat because his 2014 option hasn't been guaranteed by his bosses, and further stressed by a first-place payroll for a team in last place in the National League West, Mattingly potentially turned the heat up himself on Wednesday by benching right fielder Andre Ethier and challenging the grit and toughness of his club.
Wednesday's drama came after Mattingly, general manager Ned Colletti and the coaching staff met into the early-morning hours in the clubhouse, trying to fix the club following Tuesday night's loss. Colletti later said he had no problem with Mattingly's comments critical of the players. Meanwhile, the media continues to speculate that Mattingly will soon lose his job.
Mattingly has been criticized by some for being too soft on his players, and he now is receiving some criticism for being too hard on them. When you don't win, you can't win.
Current Dodgers president Stan Kasten has operated three baseball teams (Atlanta, Washington and Los Angeles) over 24 seasons. On his watch, there have been three in-season managerial moves -- Chuck Tanner to Russ Nixon on the 1988 Braves, Nixon to Bobby Cox on the 1990 Braves, and Manny Acta to Jim Riggleman on the 2009 Nationals.
Neither Nixon nor Riggleman lasted more than two seasons. Cox became a fixture, but keep in mind that the general manager serving under Kasten -- the one that named Cox manager -- was Cox.
Colletti's supporting words for Mattingly earlier this week sounded like he would keep Mattingly if it's his call. But whose call is it if not his?
Kasten's track record is well documented and his management style is generally one of patience and stability. His verbal support of Mattingly lately, though, has been lukewarm.
Part-owner Magic Johnson? He coached the Lakers for 16 games in 1996 and saw he wanted no part of that job. Johnson isn't shy offering his opinion on NBA coaches, but his otherwise active Twitter account hasn't mentioned Mattingly's name since Spring Training.
Dodgers chairman Mark Walter, in his second season as owner of a baseball team, is a proven success in the investment world and is facing his first visible Major League management dilemma.
If Walter runs the Dodgers the stable way he runs Guggenheim Partners as founder and CEO, it should be noted that Todd Boehly, a Dodgers part-owner and Guggenheim president, joined the firm in 2001. Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer, joined Guggenheim in 1998.
And Walter, a fellow Midwesterner, has been one of Mattingly's biggest backers to this point.
While there was no quick housecleaning when Guggenheim took over last May -- compared to prior owner Frank McCourt, whose first move was to fire GM Dan Evans -- Kasten hired former GM Gerry Hunsicker and former manager Pat Corrales as senior advisors over the winter, giving the appearance of a contingency succession plan if needed.
The Dodgers also have on their current coaching staff former Major League managers Trey Hillman and Davey Lopes, plus well-regarded managerial candidate Tim Wallach.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.