Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has been the subject of intense rumors ever since the Dodgers hired General Manager Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays last week — a move predicted in The Inquisitr‘s previous Dodgers rumor story. The rumors, of course, say that Mattingly will be fired by Friedman as soon as the 37-year-old Friedman gets an opportunity.
In Friedman’s career, he has worked with only one manager, until now. That would be the maverick Rays skipper Joe Maddon. So Maddon seemed the logical choice to replace former Yankees batting champion Mattingly in the Dodger Stadium manager’s office, especially after Dodgers fans and many in the media blasted Mattingly’s in-game decision making in the National League Division Series.
The Dodgers were widely expected, especially by their fans and their own ownership, to finally get back to the World Series for the first time since 1988 — the longest World Series drought in franchise history, going back to the team’s days in Brooklyn. Instead, they didn’t even reach the NL Championship Series, bowing out of the NLDS in just four games, to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Mattingly had been criticized for his decisions all season, but he appeared to make several significant blunders in the fateful Game 4 that at the very least, contributed to the early Los Angeles exit, including his inexplicable benching of star Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig.”
The shockingly meek Dodgers surrender was especially humiliating after the new Los Angeles ownership group shelled out about $240 million in 2014 player salaries, nearly $30 million more than Major League Baseball’s usual financial goliath, the New York Yankees — and over $130 million more than their vanquishers, the Cardinals.
As detailed in Jonah Keri’s book about the Rays’ rise under Friedman, The Extra 2 Percent, the young GM moved into his Tampa Bay position from a job on Wall Street and brought an unconventional data-driven approach to running a baseball operation.
Joe Maddon, as Keri explains, took the same approach and was a perfect match for Friedman’s iconoclastic methods. However, Maddon waited less that 24 hours after Friedman’s hiring by the Dodgers before trashing rumors of his own move to Los Angeles, and Friedman reaffirmed that Mattingly would “definitely” keep his grip on the Los Angeles reins in 2015.
But perhaps Mattingly should update his resumé anyway because there may be another candidate who fits a similar bill to Joe Maddon — and maybe fits the job description even better.
Whether Friedman would reach out to Cleveland Indians Manager Terry “Tito” Francona is at this point a matter of pure speculation. But in many ways, Fracona was Joe Maddon before Joe Maddon.
When another young, data-driven GM, Theo Epstein, took over the Boston Red Sox in 2003, he kept old-school manager Grady Little aboard, only to see the Red Sox flame out of the ALCS as Little made a series of blunders culminating in his decision to send an overtired Pedro Martinez out to pitch the 8th inning of Game 7 against the Yankees.
Within weeks, Epstein replaced Little with Francona, a younger manager with an openness to baseball’s new analytic methods of decision-making. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004, and again in 2007 under Francona.
But Francona left the Red Sox on less than amiable terms after the 2011 season, signing a four-year contract with Cleveland in 2013 after a year in the ESPN broadcast booth. However, reportedly, Francona has an “out” clause in that contract.
And while some in the media have wondered if Friedman and Maddon’s approach, which worked wonders in small-market Tampa Bay, will prove effective on a big-payroll team, Francona managed a massive payroll roster every year in Boston.
For Friedman and the Dodgers to lure Francona to Los Angeles would require sending compensation — probably a mid-level package of prospects — to the Indians. But for the Dodgers, that deal would be relatively painless.
Will Terry Francona manage the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015? Will Joe Maddon make the move west in 2016, after his contract expires in Tampa Bay? For now, only Andrew Friedman knows the answers, and he is saying only that Mattingly is the man for Los Angeles. For now.