Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, left, and Manager Don Mattingly… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )
It was awkward and revealing, and fairly uncomfortable. And maybe gave a glimpse to the future, however it unfolds.
Manager Don Mattingly sat at the same table as General Manager Ned Colletti to address the media Monday for a postseason press conference, one of those annual look-back affairs.
The first question was fairly benign, inquiring about Mattingly returning next season. Asked if he thought he would be back, Mattingly revealed for the first time the option on his contract automatically kicked in after the Dodgers beat the Braves in the first round of the playoffs.
“My option vested once we beat Atlanta,” Mattingly said. “That doesn’t mean I’ll be back.”
Then seemingly out of nowhere, Mattingly went on about what a difficult position the club had placed him in by not extending him going into the season. And whether now under contract for next season or not, how little interest he has in returning under another one-year deal.
“It’s been a frustrating, tough year honestly,” Mattingly said. “Because I think when you … come in basically as a lame duck and with the ($230-million) payroll and the guys that you have, it puts you in a tough spot in the clubhouse.
“So we dealt with that all year long, and really what it does, it puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned. Because I’m basically trying out, auditioning to say, `Can you manage a team or not manage?’ It’s a tough spot. To me it gets to that point where, three years in you either know or you don’t.”
Colletti suddenly looked like he'd rather be anywhere else. Colletti hired Mattingly, but it’s believed team president Stan Kasten elected to put off extending Mattingly going into the season.
“I have tremendous confidence and faith in this guy,” Colletti said.
What could Colletti say? At this point, Mattingly is under contract to manage the Dodgers next season. There are other attractive managerial jobs currently open in Detroit, Cincinnati and Washington. For now, though, Mattingly is stuck. But clearly he has little interest in going through again what he did last season.
“When you’re put in this position, the organization basically says, `We don’t know if you can manage or not,’ ” Mattingly said. “That’s the position I’ve been in all year long. So that’s not a great position for me as a manager. That’s the way the organization wanted it last year. That’s fine. At this point it is, what it is.”
Colletti said the club has scheduled organizational meetings over the next few days.
“It’s going to be resolved very quickly,” Colletti said.
Mattingly said he wanted to manage, and preferably with the Dodgers.
“Yeah, I love it here,” he said. “I’ve always said that. I like being here, but I don’t want to be anywhere you’re not wanted.”
Mattingly clearly felt wounded by what the organization made him deal with last season. It may not have been the first time he revealed those thoughts, either. Kasten, who did attend this annual meet-the-press event last year, was not in attendance Monday.
Colletti said the difficulty of managing in the final year of a contract was mostly personal.
“There are people who have won a World Series in that situation, and people who haven’t,” he said. “There are people who’ve had three-year contracts and didn’t survive the first few weeks of them.”
Despite three years as the team manager – almost two under Kasten and the Guggenheim group – Mattingly said he was uncertain how the organization felt about him as a manager.
“I don’t know how everybody feels,” he said. “I know where I am. The confidence in myself to do a good job. If people don’t feel the same way, then it’s the way it is.”
Mattingly said he wants his entire coaching staff to return. Only now it’s clear, led by a manager with a multi-year contract.