The second time's the charm for Don Mattingly.
One of the wider held assumptions in recent New York history was that Mattingly would take over in the Yankee dugout when Joe Torre's run as manager came to an end. It made sense on a couple of levels. Mattingly served as Torre's right hand for four seasons in the mid-2000s and, of course, he was an iconic Yankee player and captain during his playing days. Donnie Baseball as Yankee manager felt right, but it wasn't meant to be.
Torre's end was uglier than people anticipated, although in hindsight it seems odd that anyone thought it would wind up without ugliness, and Mattingly got passed over for Joe Girardi as the Yankees made a clean break from the Torre era and chose a guy with managerial experience. Mattingly went to Los Angeles with Torre and Friday brought the news that he will finally get his chance to manage in the big leagues.
Mattingly will take over when Torre leaves his post after the 2010 season and things don't feel nearly as right this time around. For one thing, it's still awfully jarring to see Mattingly wearing a Dodgers uniform but the real problem comes from the state of affairs in Dodgerland.
There isn't a Yankee fan alive who doesn't want to see Mattingly do well in the next phase of his career, but the deck seems stacked against him in Los Angeles right now. The nasty divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt, the Dodgers owners or Dodger owner and wife depending on who you believe, has handcuffed the team financially and there doesn't seem to be much reason to expect that there will be a quick resolution of their dispute. The franchise has quickly turned into a laughingstock and that status will continue until the team is sold to someone who plans to use it for something other than a way to finance their ludicrous lifestyle.
Maybe Mattingly can hold on long enough to see his way to a better situation in L.A., but it seems a lot more likely that a new owner will clean house and fire him before that has a chance to happen. Compare that to the kind of support that Mattingly would have gotten if he'd taken over the Yankees before the 2008 season and you'll see how timing hasn't exactly done Donnie Baseball a solid here.
Girardi's done a perfectly nice job during his three years in the Yankee dugout, but it is tough to give him too much credit for the 2009 World Series title without pointing out many of his foibles during the postseason and some curious managerial decisions this season. Mattingly's taken a lot of flak for some mistakes in his brief stints running the Dodgers in Torre's absence, yet no one can say that he wouldn't have wound up popping champagne last November.
Now, though, he's farther away than ever from having the job he once seemed born to fill which is a bit ironic since there's a chance, albeit a slim one, that Girardi jumps ship for the Cubs after this season. Mattingly would have had a shot at the job in that circumstance, but now he doesn't have one and might be damaged goods whenever the job actually comes open again in the future.
Then again, Torre was a failed manager with three teams when the Yanks hired him in 1996 so maybe this is just part of the narrative that allows Mattingly to shake his stigma as the greatest Yankee ever to never win a World Series ring.