Donnie or Joe: Mike D on the Manager’s Spot

This missive comes to us from Michael DeMarco, an old college friend and diehard Yankees fan but more relevantly the esteemed author of "Ain’t No Sense Worryin’: the Wisdom of Mick "the Quick" Rivers and "Dugout Days: Untold Tales and Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Career of Billy Martin". Mike, an authority on both business management and the Bombers, weighs in on the current vacancy in the Yankee dugout.  Read it after the jump.

Don Mattingly.  Joe Girardi.  One of these two men most likely will take Joe Torre’s place in the Yankee dugout next year and seek to bring a World Series Championship back to the Bronx for the first time since 2000.

Most reporters believe Mattingly to be a slight favorite over Girardi with the Steinbrenner family, despite his lack of managerial experience.  After all, he’s Donnie Ballgame, one of the most popular Yankees of all time, and he’s been groomed by Torre for several seasons now to eventually take his place.  While Mattingly was a star of the highest calibre, he was also a gritty player and a worker, not unlike fellow Indiana native Larry Bird, who succeeded at the highest levels of his sport without any previous coaching experience.  In addition to his apprenticeship with Torre, he can point to his playing days with the fiery Lou Piniella and the even more fiery Billy Martin to answer any questions about the proverbial fire in the belly, though I don’t think any Yankee fans really doubt Mattingly’s desire to succeed.  Popular with the players and the fans, what’s not to like?

Furthermore, he may have some semi-recent Yankee history on his side.  Remember Billy IV?  Came between Billy III and Billy V, and as a matter of fact, coincides with Mattingly’s own MVP season of 1985.  When George Steinbrenner sacked another Yankee icon in Yogi Berra and brought Billy Martin back to manage the club for the fourth time, one of his stated reasons for doing so was to groom Sweet Lou Piniella to take over in the dugout in the not-too-distant future.  The very next season Lou did replace Billy — despite having no managerial experience at any level of professional baseball.  Piniella did a very respectable job in ’86 and ’87, only to be replaced by — and then replace — Billy Martin for the 1988 season.

Was Piniella ready?  In the following seasons he would win a World Championship in Cincinnati and turn the Mariners into perennial contenders before his ill-fated stint in Tampa.  Having finished his first season with the Cubbies, he’s without a doubt one of the most successful managers of the last 20 years.  Had George only had a little more patience with Lou — the kind he displayed with Joe Torre all these years — Piniella’s managerial star might have shone in the Bronx a heckuva lot longer than it did.  Hank and Hal Steinbrenner were there.  They no doubt know the story well.  Don Mattingly was there too.  Here’s guessing the new guard doesn’t want the same thing to happen to another even bigger Yankee icon.

Of course, Girardi has his own Yankee pedigree, though no one would argue that it ranks with Mattingly’s.  On the other hand, he also has that great season leading the kids from Florida in 2005 on his resume, along with his Northwestern degree and his reputation as an extremely bright, tough, and organized baseball man.  Then again, he clashed with his owners there, and who’s to say he won’t do the same in the Bronx.  Reminds me of a similar story.  In 1969, the first year of divisional play, the Minnesota Twins were led by a bright but brash rookie manager to a surprising first place finish, only to see him fired shortly after the season ended for clashing with the team owner.  Like Girardi, he spent the next year doing some media work while waiting for a second crack at managing.  That young manager went on to have a long, successful, and controversial career as a big league skipper.  If you hadn’t guessed by now, his name was Billy Martin, and Hank and Hal Steinbrenner know all about Battlin’ Billy.  I have no idea if these sorts of similarities work to Girardi’s advantage or disadvantage in his dealings with the new braintrust — that depends on Hank and Hal’s business and managerial philosophies.

Strong cases can no doubt be made for both Mattingly and Girardi, but here’s betting that Donnie Baseball gets the nod.  Mattingly believes he’s ready, and so do I.

13 comments… add one

  • It’s nice to think the Yankee braintrust is learning from history–or even remembering history–but I tend to doubt it’s much of a consideration. My guess is they’re thinking the following, and not necessarily in this order:
    1. Is one of these guys going to run the team substantially better than the other?
    2. Which one of these guys is going to give us the least trouble?
    3. If things go wrong, who’s the easiest to jettison?
    4. If we chose one, what happens to the other?
    In the face of this reality, I suggest philosophy:
    George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    Errol Morris: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it without a sense of ironic futility.”
    Your choice.

    YF October 24, 2007, 3:10 pm
  • It’s nice to think the Yankee braintrust is learning from history–or even remembering history — but I tend to doubt it’s much of a consideration
    Well, thank god you wrote this and not me, I can just imagine the accusations of bias if this had been uttered by one of us SFs.
    As for history, it would seem that Hank has a pretty firm interest in it, based on his recent comments.

    SF October 24, 2007, 3:48 pm
  • Well, both are excellent managers. Each with a pretty extensive history of managing both winning and losing teams. To me, it’s a no lose situation when you really analyze what you’re getting. Both are hometown favorites as well, which goes a long way towards being a competent manager.
    Why not just name them Manager 1 and 1A? Have the best of both worlds at the helm of the ship!
    Both have proven throughout their respective managerial careers that they’re fully able to handle the pressure of playoff baseball, and they have never settled for anything less than a title.
    When you have that kind of experience, passion, and dedication, there really is no way to lose.
    On a side note, when I can afford my first Porche, I’m going to immediately lend it to my 16 year old cousin the month he gets that license.

    Brad October 24, 2007, 3:54 pm
  • Gee Brad, I wonder what you would have said about Torre when they hired him in Dec ’95?
    This perhaps:
    Joe has a pretty extensive history of managing both winning and losing teams. To me, it’s a no lose situation when you really analyze what you’re getting. He’s a hometown boy as well, which goes a long way towards being a competent manager.
    He’s proven throughout his managerial career that he’s fully able to handle the pressure of playoff baseball, and has never settled for anything less than a title.
    When you have that kind of experience, passion, and dedication, there really is no way to lose.
    On a side note, when I get my first two wheeler, I’m going to immediately lend it to my 5 year old cousin the month he can ride without training wheels. :)
    (Hey, it’s a drag getting old)

    Andrews October 24, 2007, 4:09 pm
  • I am having a hard time coming up with a scenario in which Mattingly doesn’t get the job, based on the reports of him having impressed the brass. What does Girardi have that Mattingly doesn’t? The year in Florida that ended in contentiousness? That could be looked at either way, particularly from a demanding and hands-on front office.
    Seems like Mattingly’s recent time with the club makes the transition that much easier, his intimacy with the players can only help — that’s got to be a big advantage for him considering the amount of transition with the youngsters that occurred this year.

    SF October 24, 2007, 4:13 pm
  • “a scenario in which Mattingly doesn’t get the job”
    I can see many. Girardi is more experienced, has worked with pitchers, and wouldn’t be too hard to fire. Mattingly may be your frontrunner, but Girardi’s in the picture. And who knows, I honestly would not be shocked if they chose Pena. He’s got the MOY on the resume, he’s done wonders for Jorge’s defense, people seem to like him, and having a Latino running the team would be a savvy acknowledgment of the demographic trend in the game, and a publicity coup–talk about upstaging the mets at their own game. Not that I see it as likely…..

    YF October 24, 2007, 4:24 pm
  • No small consideration in all this in my view is that Mattingly was brought back to the team with this job very much in mind. Passing him over now would likely lead to his departure. I could see them swallowing such a departure if they were passing him up for some veteran manager with a great post-season record but that’s not what they’d be doing in favoring either Girardi or Tony Pena.
    If Mattingly isn’t hired I’d be really shocked. Players and fans have as much respect for him as anyone in the game bar-none.

    IronHorse (yf) October 24, 2007, 5:18 pm
  • agreed, IH. I’d be shocked as well if Mattingly didn’t get the job.

    Nick-YF October 24, 2007, 5:38 pm
  • Put me on that list too – Mattingly will be the Yanks manager next year unless he turns the job down. Little chance of that.
    I’m very curious who they’ll hire as bench coach…

    Andrews October 24, 2007, 5:50 pm
  • jeez, Andrews. I was only making a joke, buddy.
    I’m sure it’s Mattingly, and I’m also sure that he’ll do fine, albeing no matter what anyone says, he’s being handed a pretty nice team, and especially if they happen to bring back Mo, Posada, A-Rod, and Pettitte in a rebuilding year.

    Brad October 24, 2007, 5:54 pm
  • Brad, I was joking too – hope you didn’t take it the wrong way. Just makes me feel as old as dirt when some of you guys talk about being in high school in the 90′s

    Andrews October 24, 2007, 7:30 pm
  • According to ESPN radio, the Mattingly interview went for *7 hours.*
    If I were Don, I’d be pissed. He obviously is getting the job, but the Yankees took him for 4-5 hours free work.

    Hudson October 24, 2007, 8:01 pm
  • God, Mattingly was my first idol way back when I was a kid in the 80s and this would make me happier than just about anything. Beyond that, it’s really tough to judge either candidate’s potential as skipper. Donnie has always seemed intelligent along with his innate bball instincts.
    The things that bothered me this season about Torre were more related to temperment than skill, i.e. being trigger-happy w/ mid-game struggles by starters.
    I suppose it’s a decent analogy to the Obama/Clinton debate…

    J (yf) October 25, 2007, 5:25 pm

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