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Don Mattingly and NL Mgr of the Year, Reyes Negotiation Strategy, Rule V



By Mike Silva ~ September 17th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

I was extremely skeptical of Don Mattingly taking over as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former Yankees star didn’t have any minor league experience. He was given coaching jobs with the Yankees and Dodgers due to his name and relationship with Joe Torre. When he went up for the Yankees job against Girardi it was made to sound like Joe clobbered him in terms of preparation. General Joe had binders, broke down video, and even looked back at what he would have done with the ’07 playoff team. Mattingly had the name; Girardi had the experience and know how. The Yankees couldn’t afford to take a risk on someone that hadn’t spent a single day managing in the minor leagues. Even though Girardi was in a similar scenario, he led the Marlins to a surprising 78 wins in 2006. When you add in the fact that Mattingly went through a messy divorce; one that he admitted to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times left him depressed and shut in his apartment, you couldn’t feel good about him taking over the Dodgers.

Some compared Mattingly to the managerial equivalent of a “trust fund baby.” You have a guy like Ryne Sandberg riding buses in the minors, while Donnie Baseball was given a coaching position with historic franchises and next to an iconic manager. To his credit he went down to the Arizona Fall League last year, but it still begged the question what made him qualified? Players today don’t care if you were an MVP in the 80s. They don’t care if you were on the bench for the New York Yankees. Could he manage a pitching staff? What about the bullpen? What about the personalities in that clubhouse, namely star centerfielder Matt Kemp? Then there was the gaffe that everyone saw when he took over after a Torre ejection last season when visiting closer Jonathan Broxton. Mattingly stepped on the mound and off, then on again. That counted as two visits, requiring Broxton to be taken out of a game the Dodgers ended up losing.

The odds were long for Mattingly due to his lack of experience, but when Frank McCourt went bankrupt it got even harder. Managing a big league team is hard enough. Managing one in bankruptcy with a rogue owner is even tougher. Through most of the summer the Dodgers played in front of empty seats in LA and heard stories about what was going on off the field versus on it.

A funny thing happened in recent weeks – they started to play better. Mattingly was a great player in his days, but he wasn’t a bonus baby or top prospect. He had to work to become Donnie Baseball. He brings that grinder mentality to his Dodgers team. ”I knew who he was, what his demeanor would be and none of that changed,” said infielder Jamey Carroll to the Courier Press. “It’s fun to play for a hometown guy. He’s laid-back and on an even keel, but very passionate and disciplined about what he does. He gets you ready to play every day.” He expects them to come prepared and give max effort every day and for 27 outs. When you don’t you could end up like Dioner Navarro; a talented offensive catcher who was let go because of his work ethic. This despite his guaranteed million dollar salary. Not a big number in the world of baseball, but it is one for a team in financial turmoil. It sent the message that you won’t play for Mattingly and the Dodgers if you don’t put the time in to prepare and work.

After last night’s 7-2 win over Pittsburgh the Dodgers are 74-76 on the season. On August 21st they were 57-69 and have since gone 17-5. Even if they finish .500 or better Mattingly won’t win the NL Manager of the Year award. That probably will go to Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke who will win the NL Central or Arizona’s Kirk Gibson who has done a remarkable job with the D-Back in the NL West. Personally, I would vote for Mattingly because of what he’s done in the face of the franchise chaos and the more limited talent pool. Give Donnie Baseball the Brewers starting pitching and Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder and they may be leading the NL West.

If I had a vote for NL Manager of the Year today it would be to Mattingly.

***

I agree with the rumored Mets position in their upcoming negotiations with Jose Reyes. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, “The buzz coming out of Flushing is that the Mets have very little interest in waiting around this winter for Jose Reyes to decide whether to stay or bolt.” One source who’s tight with the Mets brass tells Stark they’re “either going to be in or out real quick.”

The five day period after the World Series might be the most critical point of the negotiations. It’s no secret that Sandy Alderson has a budget. From what I was told by someone close to that situation, Alderson is aware of the market value of all his potential free agents and is not about to go over it. There is a take it or leave it point and he does not mess around.

I suspect the Mets lay out their best offer to Jose before the free agency period. He won’t sign during those five days, but he and his agent can gauge the market for a short period of time. If they get an offer that is outside the Mets comfort level, then Reyes either will have to take less money to stay in New York or both sides’ part ways.

This will allow the Mets to begin Plan B early in the offseason. They can’t have the Reyes saga drag into the Winter Meetings or after January 1st.

I am starting to waver about bringing Reyes back on a long term deal. In a perfect world I would love to go just three years with him. That won’t happen as I think the floor is five years, and it could get to Carl Crawford money if a team, like Washington, gets crazy.

You just can’t justify a 7 year deal for a player that hasn’t stayed healthy for three years. There is the benchmark of health from 2005-2008, but we are going on four years of leg issues. Perhaps the Mets could work a deal where the first three to four years are guaranteed, and the last two are vesting options based on DL days or games played. If he wants to get years six and seven from the Mets I would be shocked if it were guaranteed. It probably is moot since I don’t think they go that high.

I still think there is a 50/50 shot that Reyes is in a Mets uniform next season. It will be on the Mets terms, not his, and Reyes is going to have to decide how much he wants to play in New York. You can’t expect him to turn down guaranteed money, but I am willing to bet he doesn’t get Carl Crawford money this offseason. I bet the Red Sox wish they didn’t give Carl CrawfordCarl Crawford money.”

***

Speaking of Manager of the Year, I discussed yesterday why Joe Maddon deserved the award in the American League.

The Red Sox staved off the Rays for a night with their 4-3 victory. There are a lot of similarities between what we are seeing in Boston to what Mets fans experienced in September of 2007. You have a hot team charging behind that on paper is inferior. The favorite had a big lead, and maybe got complacent as the year went on. The bullpen is struggling and the starters seem to throw a dud every night. Last night, the Sox righted the ship as Josh Beckett gave them 7 strong innings and Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon shut down Tampa in the late innings.

Many people call the Mets the worst collapse ever because of blowing a 7 games lead with 17 left to play. That honor actually goes to the 1995 California Angels, who had a 10.5 game lead in the AL West on August 16th. Cool Standings runs daily playoff odds and that Angels team had a high water mark where there was a 99.9% chance of making the playoff on August 24th. The ’07 Mets high water mark was 99.5% on September 13th. The 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers had a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs on August 13th. That team was up by as many as 13 games in August.

The Red Sox not making the playoffs isn’t anywhere near those teams. The difference between the Mets and Brooklyn and California is their collapse started earlier while the Mets happened all at once. I think the latter is far more painful for a fan base.

***

Tim Bontemps of the NY Post talks about some decisions the Yankees and Mets have to make this offseason regarding the Rule V draft.

Just to remind you what the Rule V is, players are eligible for selection in the Rule V draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster, and were signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years; or were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years.

We have been talking about Moneyball a lot this week, and I believe one underused segment of the baseball market that is going to be tapped more is the Rule V draft. The Mets took two players on their 25 man roster this year. Second baseman Brad Emaus didn’t make it, but RHP Pedro Beato stuck around and can provide them value out of the bullpen for the next couple of years. There is actually talk of having him pitch as a starter down in winter ball since the organization lacks depth at the position. Other teams like the Phillies (Michael Martinez), Astros (Aneury Rodriguez), Royals (Nathan Adcock), and D-Backs (Joe Patersonhave used the Rule V to their advantage. 

The Yankees could potential lose LHP Jeremy Bleich, RHP David Phelps, 2b David Adams, switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, and RHP D.J. Mitchell if they aren’t added to the roster this offseason.The depth of Yankees arms has made them a prime candidate the last few years to have players plucked from their system. The Padres selected Ivan Nova in 2008 and George Kontos earlier this year. Lance Pendleton, who was recently plucked off waivers by the Astros, was in the Houston camp this spring as a Rule V guy.

The Yankees 40-man roster is a tough place to sometimes crack because of the large amount of high upside talent in the system. I definitely think they will protect Phelps and Mitchell, but I wonder about Venditte, Adams, and Bleich. Because of the fact that Bleich is lefty he may have a decent shot. The Yankees could find room for all five, but whether they want to is another question.

The Mets have decisions to make on 2b Reese Havens, RHP Brad Holt, and OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Expect them to add both Havens and Nieuwenhuis to the 40-man roster. I am not sure about Holt, but considering he was a first round pick and throws hard it might behoove an organization short on arms to keep him around. Last thing you want to see is Holt leave and make another clubs bullpen or rotation.

Some of these players will be in the Arizona Fall League. That could very well determine their fate whether they are placed on the roster or left exposed to the Rule V draft in December.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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1 Response to Don Mattingly and NL Mgr of the Year, Reyes Negotiation Strategy, Rule V

  1. Brien Jackson

    I hate the Manager of the Year award, if for no other reason than that it just about never gets awarded based on which manager actually did his job the best. And to be fair, that’s because it’s basically impossible to aggregate the minor tactical decisions managers make game to game and figure that out. And so it always winds up going to the surprise team of the year or the team that “hung on.” Which seems kind of silly to me. Does Gibson really deserve the MotY award because most of us drastically underestimated how much talent was on that roster, or how good of a season Ian Kennedy and Justin Upton were going to have?

    If we must vote on something like that, I’d rather see a General Manager of the Year award, or even a Worst Manager of the Year award. The latter would be fun; you just vote for the manager whose poor decisions cost his team the most. Dusty Baker and Mike Scoiscia can arm wrestle for the naming rights.

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