As the Dodgers have hit a bit of a rough patch — since peaking at 22-10 on May 10, they’re just 9-14 since, though they still have a half-game lead in the NL West — you can feel complaints start to rise about Don Mattingly from the fanbase. That’s not unexpected. Disliking the manager is a sport unto itself, even if overall he’s shown improvement during his tenure. Chad’s written a few recaps in the last week questioning in-game decisions. Last night, I couldn’t tell you why Jimmy Rollins was back up to second, for example, and why Alex Guerrero was out of the lineup in favor of rookie Scott Schebler. (No, Guerrero shouldn’t have been at third, not with groundballer Brett Anderson on the mound.)
So that’s fine, but there’s an oddly specific line of unhappiness that’s totally unfounded, and I think it’s worth taking a quick moment to clear it up. I’ve heard from a few people, in the comments and on Twitter and in our mailbag (thedodgersdigest at gmail!) who think that the manager doesn’t only make in-game decisions, that he makes the roster moves. People have been unhappy that Mattingly didn’t call up Joe Wieland or Scott Baker or someone to start rather than go with the bullpen game in Denver the other day. Others want to know why he’s not calling up Corey Seager, given Rollins’ continued struggles.
It’s not just Dodger fans, either. Here, for example, is an exchange from Jeff Sullivan’s chat at FanGraphs on Friday:
Comment From Houzer
Farrell calls up Dombrowski and says … Betts and Joe Kelly for Gose and Price. And Dombrowski says …
Jeff Sullivan: Farrell calls?
So I guess it’s important to clarify something that I had assumed was known to everyone but is apparently not: The manager doesn’t make the roster moves. The general manager does. And in the case of the Dodgers, who have Andrew Friedman above the general manager, Farhan Zaidi, the manager is especially not making the roster moves.
That’s not to say Mattingly has zero input whatsoever. Certainly, the front office and manager work as some kind of a unit; it’s not entirely “here’s players, deal with them.” But in no way is the manager the first say or the second say or the final say on who’s on the roster. It’s not his job to understand service time and contractual obligations and option rules, or to see who’s available on the wire. He can certainly say “I’d really like to have this player,” and then hear the several valid reasons why that’s not ideal.
It’s a team, and this isn’t unique to the Dodgers. In some situations the manager probably has more or less say — setting aside Miami, because who knows what’s going on there — but it’s almost always the front office making the roster moves. Mattingly isn’t blameless in everything; again, bunts, Rollins, etc. But let’s at least blame him for the things he’s actually doing. Setting the roster isn’t one of them.