In a way, it only makes sense that the two managers of the clubs that faced off for the 2013 National League pennant, Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals, now also have the longest contracts.
Mattingly, with a generous assist from the rookie phenom Yasiel Puig, led a most amazing transformation. His club was 12 games under .500 and in last place as recently as June 21. There was a daily firing watch in place with the buzzards circling in ever-tighter formation.
Four months later, Mattingly not only survived, he thrived. His club fought back until being eliminated in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
It is amazing how much matters changed in a few short months.
Even though a one-year extension clause in Mattingly’s contract that covered 2014 kicked in when the Dodgers beat the Braves in the NLDS, it was not enough.
Having been able to capture the high ground due to his team’s dramatic turnaround, Mattingly moved swiftly and strongly to secure it. In his season-closing remarks to the media, the manager openly expressed concern about spending another season as a “lame duck” manager.
To that end, the Dodgers gave Mattingly a new three-year contract running through the 2016 season, announced Wednesday. The deal supersedes his 2014 extension.
I found a few related factors interesting, as indicators of the very fine line between being a managerial hero and an unemployed goat.
In a few short months, Mattingly evolved from being the least secure MLB skipper to being tied with several others for having the second-longest contract in the NL.
My second observation is about manager Mike Matheny’s extension received in November. How many realized that as a result, the 43-year-old alone has the longest contract of any manager in the league?
Instead of tearing up the third year of Matheny’s current deal as did the Dodgers with Mattingly, the Cards gave their skipper a full three-year contract extension for the years following his initial deal. In other words, Matheny is under contract through the 2017 season.
That makes Mattingly and Matheny the most unlikely bedfellows.