Conspiracy theories abound at the timing of the firing and the Dodgers failure to reward Mattingly’s division winning season and first round playoff victory with more security than the one option year on his deal. Did they respond to Mattingly’s complaints by firing his two confidants in an effort to get him to quit? Was it a coincidence that they made two decisions they would have made anyway? Did Mattingly know it was coming and try to paint the Dodgers into a corner by making it appear to be a devious maneuver?
I doubt it was any of the above. I don't think the Dodgers care whether Mattingly quits or not; whether he's happy or not. As for the men fired, it's a shrug.
The one thing I remember about Taylor is that he was supposed to be part of the Yankees early 1990s renaissance. Much like the recent era of Yankees “young studs” who’ve failed to live up to the hype – Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances – the Taylor group included him, Scott Kamieniecki, Jeff Johnson and the “jewel” Sam Militello. Needless to say, Yankees hype has frequently surpassed competence.
How much an advance scout helps is up for debate. The argument could be made that they’re still around simply because they’ve always been around and no one has had the nerve to eliminate the position. If the Dodgers falter in 2014, it won’t be because they fired Taylor.
As for Hillman, he wasn’t a good manager with the Royals and judging by Mattingly’s strategic gaffes, it’s understandable that the Dodgers would want to bring in a bench coach with a better resume than Hillman. The days of a bench coach/pitching coach getting and keeping his job because he’s the manager’s friend are long gone. You won’t see an Art Fowler continually getting a job to be Billy Martin’s drinking buddy.
Mattingly had no leverage and no collateral to make any demands. Considering the fact that he was days away from being fired in June while the Dodgers were floundering amid the expectations that accompany a team with a $228 million payroll, he kept his job for one reason: because they started winning. Had they finished at 85-77 and missed the playoffs, the press conference the Dodgers held wouldn’t have been for Mattingly to vent. It would have been to announce the manager’s dismissal.
Perhaps Mattingly is one of the managers/coaches who doesn’t need the job for the money, the competition or because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself in retirement. There are many who can take it or leave it. In general, teams don’t want to deal with a manager whom they can’t threaten. Mattingly’s behavior indicates that he doesn’t really care whether the Dodgers fire him or not. In fact, he dared them to do it. They didn’t. They’ll let him manage the team to start the 2014 season and there will be a quick trigger if they get off to another poor start.
Much has been said about the “unfairness” of the way Mattingly has been treated. He got the job with zero managerial experience and has a loaded roster. Yes, the players play for him and seem to like him, but they’re not going to refuse to go out on the field if a change is made. There won’t be protests and demands of justice for Donnie Baseball.
What appears to be happening is a conciliatory, “well we can’t fire him” response from the Dodgers. In truth, if they don’t think he’s the right manager for the team, that’s exactly what they should do. They don’t need to give a reason, but considering Mattingly essentially placing his own head on the chopping block, grabbing the axe in the executioner’s hand and placing the cold, sharp steel against his own neck, the Dodgers are well within their rights to chop it off if that’s the ultimatum he’s giving them.
Mattingly might think he’d get another managerial chance. I doubt he would. He'd more likely be trapped in the limbo of Willie Randolph and Bob Brenly as managers who had good records but didn't impress others enough to warrant another managerial shot. If he thought this strategy was going to force the Dodgers to bow to his wishes, the firings of Taylor and Hillman – intentionally or not – showed him exactly what they thought of his demands. He was dealing from a position of zero strength. The Dodgers knew it and acted accordingly, doing what they wanted safe in the knowledge that Mattingly wouldn't quit and not being all that bothered if he did.