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Turns out Don Mattingly had signed to succeed Joe Torre in the offseason

September 18, 2010 |  8:58 am

A done deal. Quietly, without announcement. Without a single other candidate. All very secretly.

Don Mattingly was going to be the next Dodgers manager before a single pitch was thrown this season, before the first player reported to spring training.

Major League Baseball knew, gave the Dodgers its stamp of approval, wished them all the best.

Tim Wallach never had a chance, but then neither did anyone else.

General Manager Ned Colletti said he told Joe Torre when he hired him, he wanted someone on his staff who could be his successor. And Torre pointed to Mattingly.

"Prior to last season we decided, 'OK, he would be the guy,'" Colletti said. "Cleveland has asked permission and Washington was asking permission, so there was somewhat of a clamor for him and it pushed us a little faster to come to a conclusion.

"He was somebody we had in mind since he first came here. I thought continuity was going to be important to us as an organization for a long time."

Of course, that was before the Dodgers morphed from a team on the cusp of the World Series to a team with a sub .500 record. And Mattingly, the hitting coach, saw his team become inept at the plate.

But none of that mattered, because they had their super-secret agreement signed and in place.

The Dodgers kept baseball apprised of their plans and of how they were grooming Mattingly. And baseball knew the Dodgers had a strong record in hiring minorities.

So when it came time to sign Mattingly, the Dodgers called MLB and were granted an exception to the rule requiring them to interview a minority candidate. A dog-and-pony show that would have served no one was avoided.

"We talked to Major League Baseball and told them what our thoughts were, and they gave us their blessing," Colletti said.

Mattingly said the contract was signed shortly before spring training.

"It was for hitting coach next year, just with language that eluded to if Joe stepped down," Mattingly said.

Which he did Friday, on to places unknown.

Earlier this month, Colletti told The Times that Mattingly was the leading candidate to succeed Torre. Guess so, since he already had a contract.

The Dodgers could have just told everyone what the deal was when the contract was signed. It’s hardly unheard of. What exactly would be the downside?

Instead, there was a lot of suspense for nothing. Well, maybe not a lot of suspense. It was always presumed Mattingly would be next. It just wasn’t presumed to have already happened.

-- Steve Dilbeck