Good Morning
Good Morning

Don Mattingly? Just call him Donnie Dodger

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly responds to

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly responds to questions during a news conference before a game against the New York Yankees. The game was later postponed due to rain. (June 18, 2013) Credit: AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The man who once played near the monuments of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio now walks past the encased jerseys of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella.

"Yes, I'm very aware of them," Don Mattingly said. "I love seeing the history of the organization."

He means the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team he has managed since 2011. He could have meant the Yankees, the team for which he played from 1982 through 1995 and later served as a coach to Joe Torre from 2004-07.

Two teams, one very much a part of New York, the other, as the Brooklyn Dodgers, once also very much a part of New York. And Mattingly, a batting champion and a Gold Glove winner with the Yankees, very much is a part of both -- although he's now concerned only with the Dodgers.

It's another spring training for Mattingly, the same as always -- "you're getting guys ready to play," he said -- but this year is not quite the same.

He is a new father at 53, having remarried. Wife Lori gave birth to Louis Riley Mattingly three months ago.

He has a new middle infield with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. He has two new bosses, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi.

And even though Friedman (from the Rays) and Zaidi (an MIT grad previously with the A's) are big into analytics, they understand the human element is no less important than the numbers.

"They wanted to meet every player in camp," Mattingly said. "It's been a nice process."

Mattingly conceded there were problems in the clubhouse last year, when the Dodgers had the best record in the National League West and quickly were dispatched from the playoffs by the Cardinals.

"At times there was a lack of professionalism," he said.

Asked if after a regular season of 96 wins and a postseason of one win, he could shrug off the disappointment, Mattingly insisted: "You just don't say, 'Oh, well, it's baseball.' You evaluate the club, see what you're missing, what could have been in the way last year."

The Dodgers finished six games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, but the wild-card Giants won the World Series.

"Knowing the team that wins over the long haul probably is the better club in that division is something," Mattingly said. "But you also know in a five-game or seven-game set, two guys with a hot hand can change things."

Mattingly wouldn't change what he sees in the Dodgers' modern clubhouse in Glendale, where the Chicago White Sox also have their complex.

On the walls are copies of remarks by Robinson, Reese and Leo Durocher, "The Lip," who said, "What are we out at the ballpark for, except to win?"

In the hallway leading to Mattingly's office are those jerseys, including those of Sandy Koufax, Walter Alston and Junior Gilliam.

"You want the younger players to know who was there before them," Mattingly said. "Historically, where the Dodgers are the greatest team in baseball, signing African-American players starting with Robinson, moving baseball west, scouting out of the country, one of the first in the Dominican Republic and Japan.

"It's nice to know you're a part of that organization."

The young players are everywhere, contrary to a few years ago, when the farm system was depleted.

"You start to reap the rewards of guys getting closer to the big leagues," Mattingly said, alluding to prospects Julio Urias, Joc Pederson and Corey Sager, "and it's fun to have them in camp."

And for them, it's enlightening to be managed by Don Mattingly.

New York Sports