The reaction to Andrew Friedman’s arrival in Los Angeles has been generally positive, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want to see what one of the brightest young executives in baseball can do without the payroll restrictions he suffered in Tampa Bay?
If there’s been any complaint that I’ve heard, it’s some minor grumbling about the fact that Friedman seems inclined to retain Don Mattingly as his manager. For one thing, I didn’t really put much thought into that comment, because just because Friedman may not have been prepared to make a change on day one — potentially, as some have already speculated, needing first to work out a deal with the Rays to get Joe Maddon, who maintains a home in Long Beach, out of the final year of his contract — doesn’t mean that he won’t over the next few weeks. Maybe he wants his future GM to have a say. The point is, nothing is certain as far as the manager goes.
As I’ve long said about Mattingly, I’m relatively indifferent to whether he stays or goes. I certainly have my problems with his in-game decisions, particularly the bunting, but I just can’t stand to listen any longer to those who insist that he alone blew the NLDS. Mattingly stayed with the best pitcher in baseball, and it didn’t work. He went to an unproven rookie in Pedro Baez, and it didn’t work. He went to a very proven veteran, J.P. Howell, and it didn’t work. He went to something of a hybrid between the two, Scott Elbert, who is among the longest-tenured Dodgers but had barely pitched in two years, and it didn’t work. I found every single one of those moves defensible in some way, and for the one I didn’t, benching Yasiel Puig in the final game, I have to believe there’s more to that decision than we can know publicly.
So keep Mattingly, or don’t. It probably doesn’t matter that much, just that it’s important to remember that he’s no better or worse than 80% of other managers. Just look at this postseason, where Matt Williams, Brad Ausmus, Mike Matheny, and Ned Yost have all been killed for their decisions (which somehow, inexplicably, keep working for Yost.) It just goes to show that fans hate pretty much every manager, and don’t forget that even Maddon likes to bunt.
But let’s say that the new regime wants to make a change, either because that’s always been the plan or because Mattingly doesn’t seem like he’s going to get on board with the new direction. Maddon would be the obvious replacement, but there’s a big question about whether he’d want to leave Tampa Bay, whether waiting a year for his contract is up is tenable, or whether paying to extract him from it now is worthwhile.
So, what about the next Maddon? What about Dave Martinez?
Martinez, who turned 50 last month, has been Maddon’s bench coach since 2008. If you like what Maddon brings, it’s going to be hard to find someone to replicate it better than the man who has sat right next to him for seven years. Martinez played in parts of 16 seasons for nine teams as an outfielder between 1986-2001, and even collected the first hit in Devil Rays history:
Over the last few years, Martinez has interviewed for managerial jobs with the Cubs, Astros, Indians and Blue Jays.
So why should the Dodgers be interested? Beyond the obvious Friedman ties, if you want Maddon and can’t get him, this is the closest you’ll get, as told to David Laurila at FanGraphs in 2012:
DL: What is your primary role as the Rays’ bench coach?
DM: I do everything Joe does, except I don’t have to deal with the media and I don’t get credit for anything. I help manage the game the way I see fit. I’m very opinionated and give Joe my opinions. Ultimately, he makes the final decisions, but I do the best I can to manage the games alongside him.
DL: Do you and Maddon differ on anything philosophically?
DM: I’d have to say no. We pretty much hit it on the nail. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the last five years with the way Joe thinks, and the way he does things. He’s opened my eyes to a lot of different things. From what I know from playing, from dealing with players, and from what he knows about basically everything in the game, we do a great job together.
“He’s upbeat all the time,” Rays outfielder Sam Fuld said. “I’m surprised he hasn’t left yet, as much as we love having him here. We’re all a little surprised he hasn’t gotten a managerial job.”
Although all smiles with the Rays, Martinez envisions a future as a manager.
“It will happen in due time,” Martinez said. “Everyone keeps telling me how young I am, but if the right opportunity comes up, I’m ready to manage.”
Unsurprisingly, a man who learned next to Maddon and has interviewed with the Cubs and Astros is a believer in sabermetrics, which would be a welcome change.
Again, who knows if Mattingly even gets let go, and if he does, I’m sure there will be no shortage of candidates. You’d have to think that simply given Martinez’ relationship to Friedman, he’d be on the list. It’d be a fascinating direction to go in.