Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly confirmed the team has approached...

Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly confirmed the team has approached him about someday becoming manager Joe Torre's permanent replacement. (File photo, 2008) Credit: Getty Images

The fact that Joe Torre is stepping down from the Dodgers? Not surprising in the least.

The fact that Don Mattingly is replacing Torre as the Dodgers' manager in 2011? Quite surprising.

The funny part is, if you had asked me a year ago, "Will Mattingly replace Torre in L.A.?" I would've said, "Oh, absolutely. But Torre won't step down after 2010."

So what happened? There'll be an official news conference later this afternoon, but alas, I won't be in a position to incorporate those comments due to the Jewish holiday. The gist of it is that the Dodgers verbally promised Mattingly, after last season, that he would indeed replace Torre when the time came for Torre to leave the job.

But as the McCourts' divorce became increasingly ugly, and this 2010 Dodgers season followed in the same light, things changed. Torre didn't need a genius IQ to realize that he - and his large salary - were no longer wanted.

With Torre no longer in a position to name his successor, it seemed that GM Ned Colletti would appoint someone with actual managerial experience. But Colletti does have some job security, although it's not known the exact terms of the extension he signed about a year ago, so he apparently honored his word with Mattingly.

Will Mattingly be a good manager? I think he'll be good where it matters most - commanding the respect of a group of major-league players and getting them to sign on for the cause. His virtually complete lack of game managing, however - he'll get a sampling when he manages in the upcoming Arizona Fall League - has to be a cause for concern. Let's call this decision an interesting risk on the Dodgers' part.

As for Torre? He's leaving his options open, and it's too early in the game to say he's done. At this point, though, the signs don't look good for him to continue his managerial career. Teams are reluctant to pay him the sort of money to which he has become accustomed, and at age 70, he might find that many clubs are looking to go younger.

If this is it for him, it has been quite the run - not just as a manager, but as a baseball lifer. Even the tough Veterans Committee might admit him when it considers both his playing and managing career.

 

 

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