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Question of the day: Is Don Mattingly ready to manage in the major leagues? [Updated]

September 21, 2010 |  9:42 am

Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the Dodgers' manager-in-waiting. Check back throughout the day for more responses, vote in the poll and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

The Dodgers are truly rolling the dice on Don Mattingly as their new manager. It’s a crapshoot as to whether he will be a success or, like legendary pitching coach Ray Miller, an embarrassing flop.

There’s no great way to know how anyone will do the first time they’re given a chance to run a major league baseball team, no matter how they have prepared for the job -– managing in the minors, coaching in the big leagues, all of the above, none of the above. The job makes some people smaller, some people larger. Don’t ask how it does it. Just know that it does.

Having watched Joe Torre operate in two different environments is a plus for Mattingly. So is starting with a knowledge of his players. The chance to manage in the Arizona Fall League can’t hurt. But is he ready? It’s going to be fun to find out, because nobody really knows.

[Updated at 12:52 p.m.:

Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times

Who knows? In the few times he’s filled in as manager, Mattingly has made some major gaffes, but the truth is that no one will know for sure if he’s qualified for this job until he actually does it.

The better question is: Does it matter? Mattingly will inherit a fourth-place team that figures to get worse over the winter, as three of its starting pitchers will be free agents, the bullpen is a mess, and the owner remains hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

The guess here is that if they don’t sign three starters, get Jonathan Broxton fixed and add a big bat to the lineup, it won’t matter who manages the team. I’m reminded of what former U.S. national soccer team member Eric Wynalda used to tell me: “Players win games, coaches lose them, and referees ruin them.”

Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

It has long been conventional thinking in baseball that great players don't make great managers, perhaps because they can't empathize with the average player, perhaps because they don't have the work ethic. Ted Williams was not a successful manager, neither was Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson. Babe Ruth coveted the chance but was never taken seriously.

Don Mattingly, though, is not your "average" great player, and I believe he will make a successful manager in Los Angeles. Mattingly was not a highly regarded prospect; he made himself into the best player in baseball for four years. Then he hurt his back, and the last few years of his career were a struggle.

After years out of the game, he came back as a hitting coach, as many do. But where others just want to get back with the boys and hang out, Mattingly has worked at it. He suffers with his hitters, arrives before they do and stays until the last one is tired of swinging. Although he'll never be as polished before the cameras as Joe Torre, Mattingly has seen enough of Torre's legendary people skills up close and has a sincerity that comes through. Players get that.

Don Mattingly will be a good manager, not because he was a great baseball player but because he is a good baseball man.

Steve Svekis, South Florida Sun Sentinel

It's a stretch, not unlike the ones Don Mattingly made regularly as a Yankees Gold Glover in the 1980s. I'm not understanding what his credentials are for keeping his current hitting-coach job, much less garnering such a major promotion.

Key homegrown cogs Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin have all seen their OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) decrease under his stewardship. Kemp's has dropped precipitously in 2010, while Loney's and Martin's have trended downward ever since Mattingly got the job at the 2008 All-Star break.

Also, there are embarrassing gaffes Mattingly has made while filling in for Joe Torre, botching a visit to the mound and turning in an incorrect lineup card. Seems like the heir apparent in Chavez Ravine should take some time as Donnie Minor League Baseball.]

Photo: Don Mattingly. Credit: Ben Liebenberg / US Presswire