Don Mattingly, right, served as the Dodgers' hitting coach under… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)
The Dodgers should not give Don Mattingly a contract extension for Mattingly's benefit. The Dodgers should give their manager a contract extension for the Dodgers' benefit.
So said Joe Torre on Friday, with the Dodgers preparing for what might be the most anticipated season in team history. If the Dodgers were to give Mattingly an extension before opening day, Torre said, they could enhance their chances of winning by removing an element of uncertainty.
"I think it would give them an air of security," Torre said. "The more positive a team is, the better chance they have of doing things. I think it would help."
Torre, who preceded Mattingly as the Dodgers' manager and groomed him as the successor, admits he is not an unbiased observer. However, Torre can draw on his experiences as manager of the New York Yankees -- and the expectations that come with managing the team with baseball's highest payroll, a role Mattingly will fill this season.
Mattingly's contract expires after the season. When he asked the Dodgers to exercise their 2014 option, they declined. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti and co-owner Magic Johnson each have said Mattingly's contract situation would be addressed, but Johnson also has set the definition of success this season extremely high.
"We want to go to the World Series," Johnson said. "If we don't accomplish that, yes, it is not a good season for us."
Torre managed the Yankees for 12 seasons, with six World Series appearances and four championships. Before he and the Yankees parted ways, he proposed a new, two-year contract -- with the anticipation that he would walk away after one year, perhaps with a buyout.
"I just wanted one year to manage without the cloud hanging over your head," Torre said. "I just wanted the one year without having the distraction – not the fear, the distraction – of, 'Is he going to be here next week? Is he coming back from this road trip?'
"I've experienced it. It’s not fun for the players."
Torre said he believes Mattingly can minimize any such distractions for the players. Still, amid all the expectations, Torre said the Dodgers would do well to remove the potential distraction of any two-game losing streak prompting speculation about the manager's job status.
Torre said he sat next to Mark Walter, the Dodgers' controlling owner, at last month's owners' meetings.
"I know Mark Walter is excited," Torre said. "He says, 'Oh, we got ... '
"You’ve got a lot of ability. That doesn't guarantee you anything. I wasn’t trying to rain on his parade. Look at Miami last year, and Anaheim with the year that they had, and Detroit -- they almost didn’t make it. There’s a lot more to it than just putting ability at every base.
"I think they have the right man at the helm. Let's put it that way."
Torre spoke Friday at John Adams Middle School in Los Angeles, at the dedication of a "Margaret's Place" room that offers counseling, support and a safe place for students whose home life is marred by domestic violence. Torre's "Safe at Home" foundation has established such rooms at 10 schools in Los Angeles and New York. Each room carries the "Margaret's Place" name, in honor of Torre's mother.