LOS ANGELES – Don Mattingly is wearing Dodger blue instead of Yankee pinstripes, managing the hottest team in baseball almost 3,000 miles away from the Steinbrenner Empire and the New York tabloids.
Maybe Donnie Baseball could provide the road map for Ryno.
Ryne Sandberg will return to Wrigley Field on Friday as the Phillies interim manager, a franchise icon revered by Cubs fans and the Hall of Famer passed over by two very different front offices.
“It’s good to get out of your organization,” Mattingly said, “just because you meet more people. You just deal with different players and see how somebody else would do it. It’s not just having one perspective on something.”
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The Yankee captain had his No. 23 retired in The Bronx, where he worked as a hitting coach and bench coach for future Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre. But when the Yankees chose Joe Girardi as the successor in October 2007, Mattingly left the organization and ultimately followed Torre to the West Coast.
How long before the initial disappointment wore off?
“Not long,” Mattingly said. “It’s just kind of weird at first, because you’ve been somewhere your whole career. But that goes away. It’s baseball after that and you get over it.”
Mattingly made a statement by benching lightning rod Yasiel Puig in the middle of Wednesday’s 4-0 win over the Cubs. This is a star-studded team owned in part by Magic Johnson, expecting to win the World Series this year.
Also remember Mattingly was thisclose to getting fired after a slow start. The Dodgers were 12 games under .500 on June 21 but are now 78-55 and running away with the division.
“They’re the team that’s hot right now,” said Edwin Jackson, who gave up four runs in 6.2 innings and committed a costly error. “They’ve been playing real well lately. It’s no secret. They have the team chemistry and they’re riding a wave right now.”
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Sandberg managed four years in the Cubs system but was never a real candidate when Lou Piniella retired in August 2010 or Mike Quade got fired in November 2011.
Sandberg didn’t click with Jim Hendry or Theo Epstein and wound up returning to the Phillies organization, spending two seasons with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before getting called up as a third-base coach and taking over when manager Charlie Manuel got fired this month.
For this rebuild, Epstein went with Dale Sveum, who had spent six seasons on Milwaukee’s coaching staff and couldn’t keep the interim job in 2008 or beat out Ron Roenicke in November 2010.
“I don’t think it’s tough to get over because it’s just part of the game,” Sveum said. “You just understand the business part of it and how lucky it is to get one of these jobs.
“There’s only 30 of these jobs in the world. And for the newcomers to get one, it’s hard. You can see how management (thinks). It’s not easy to put $100 million, $200 million payrolls and organizations in the hands of somebody that’s never done it before. You understand all that. You just keep plugging along and doing your thing. If it happens, it happens. But you don’t get carried away with not getting jobs.
“On the other hand, with all these jobs, we’re going to be fired. (That’s) just the nature of the business, unfortunately.”
World Series or bust? The Dodgers still haven’t picked up the 2014 option on Mattingly’s contract.