Don Mattingly feeling secure with the Dodgers

first_imgDay 15 into spring training, he’s just about finished addressing his comfort level after working last season without the hammer of security and then expressing his reluctance of doing the same this year during his now infamous season-ending press conference.Soon after managing the Dodgers within two games of their first World Series since 1988, Mattingly expressed discomfort with working on only the one-year guaranteed contract that vested last October. It all came out in an awkward press conference in which Mattingly said he didn’t want to work where he wasn’t wanted. Meanwhile, an obviously uncomfortable Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti sat just a few feet away.A month later the Dodgers removed any uncertainty by awarding Mattingly with a new deal.Now he just wants to move on.“I’ve answered this way too many times,” Mattingly said. “I do feel comfortable, but honestly it’s really at a point where, can we talk about baseball and just get past that?”Perhaps.But it’s worth noting that in the overly captious eyes that observe him every day, a different Mattingly has been detected this spring.And whether Mattingly wishes to talk about it or not, his players certainly have picked up on it.“He expresses himself better,” relief pitcher J.P. Howell said. “It’s something he doesn’t know he’s doing. Not that he was forced, but it’s more natural.”Or, as studious catcher A.J. Ellis noticed during Mattingly’s season-opening team meeting two weeks ago, someone now at ease with being in control.“Just the confidence. You could feel it in that first meeting,” Ellis said. “He took complete control of the room, he controlled the conversation. He was really able to communicate the way that he wants us to go about the game.“You can tell that he did it with a conviction of ‘This is my team. I’m not going anywhere. This is the way I want the game to be played’ — and it’s the right way. That’s the way we should approach the game. He’s able to communicate that extremely well.”Whether the message is any different today than last spring really doesn’t matter. Nor is who’s delivering it.In the bottom-line world of professional sports, it’s who has the juice to enforce it.Mattingly, now armed with a a new contract, has it and the players know it.That isn’t to say they undercut him last year when his long-term future with the Dodgers was in doubt or disobeyed him.It’s just that now, all gray matter has been eliminated.This is unquestionably Mattingly’s Dodgers now.“It was kind of like, you could feel that he had the confidence and he can implement the way to play the game,” Ellis said. “The first time he had a three-year deal it was his first year as a manager. Now this is year four. He’s built up three years of managerial experience, now he has another three-year contract. He knows he’s going to be stable here, especially with the way we’re going to play. With the second three-year contract, he can really communicate the way the game should be played, the way that we should play it and the way that he’s going to manage it.”Or as Andre Ethier explained: “There was as little more ownership in him feeling like it really is his, coming from that perspective. He was, I guess, not too sure of where he stood. You could definitely see, I guess, him reflecting that in that talk right there.”Even if it’s just perceptually, that matters to players.Mattingly isn’t expressing anything different now than he always has with the Dodgers.Be prepared. Be ready to play. Be committed.Nor is he re-inventing the wheel.But what he’s saying is being received a little more attentively now that his future is secure.That’s the power of security. And that’s exactly why Mattingly was so reluctant to manage this year without it.“It’s the same thing with a player. You get an extension, you get some team to say ‘You’re their guy’ and all of a sudden people think you’re a better player because of that,” Ethier said. “Maybe that’s a part of that, where it’s more respect from outside people. A team’s committed to him longer, like with a player.“It’s nothing personal, it’s just across the board in baseball. A guy who’s an all right player, five or six years in the big leagues he’s a good player, then the team locks him up and everybody’s talking about him when he’s the same player he was before. Now just because a team committed to him in years and money, it opens up your eyes and he sees it that way. I think maybe it’s the same way with Donnie.”Not that he cares to talk about it.“To me, I’m just happy where I’m at,” Mattingly said.And that’s [email protected] @DailyNewsVinny on Twitter Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error GLENDALE, Ariz. — The steady rain pelting central Arizona on Saturday morning forced Dodgers manager Don Mattingly indoors to do his daily media session. A game against the Milwaukee Brewers loomed in a few hours, although mother nature didn’t appear to be cooperating. So for now about the only newsworthy items were injury updates on outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Zack Greinke, both of whom seem to be progressing well.Mattingly, on the cusp of his fourth year managing the Dodgers, delivered both reports comfortably and confidently. He was concise but informative. To the point, but still enlightening.It wasn’t necessarily in contrast to similar tasks he completed over his first three seasons leading the Dodgers. He’s always been cordial and informative.center_img But there is a definite ease to him that hasn’t always always been apparent in past years. Maybe it’s the result of the three-year contract extension the Dodgers gave him last winter, which provided him the security and peace of mind lacking all last season while working on an expiring contract.Maybe it’s just the familiarity of being in charge of the same team for four consecutive years, a virtual lifetime in the rapidly dwindling shelf life of modern-day managers.Whatever the case, Mattingly appears as comfortable as he’s ever been as the Dodgers skipper.Not that he’s real excited talking about it.last_img read more