Miami Marlins ST: Is this the final chapter for Don Mattingly?

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Manager Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins watches the game in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Manager Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins watches the game in the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
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Does the 2019 season present the biggest challenge for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly?

Don Mattingly walks into the 2019 season knowing this might be his last season as manager of the Miami Marlins.

It’s not because it’s his last year of age for your deal he signed in 2016. It’s more about taking what he has with his roster in this second year of a rebuilding plan and showing significant progress with young talent and older veterans who aren’t part of the team’s future.

At the end of last season, Derek Jeter, the team’s CEO and co-owner, announced Mattingly will be back in 2019 but that was all that was said. Now while he doesn’t openly discuss his future with the Marlins it’s quite possible this organization will move on from the ever-popular leader.

The last thing I want as a fan is seeing the 162nd game of the 2019 season knowing Mattingly, one of my idols as a teenager, leaving the dugout for the last time. There is a reality to it based on what he has to work with. And there is an unfair reality that potentially four losing seasons since taking over the job may not be enough for a contract extension.

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What Mattingly must decided over the course of the next few weeks will ultimately play a role in his future.

  • Who are his three outfielders? Does veteran Curtis Granderson hit leadoff?
  • Does he use an “opener” effectively this season with his pitching staff? What does this mean for Sergio Romo?
  • Can the team get past losing J.T. Realmuto, who was traded to Philadelphia?
  • Where will the power come from in the middle of the batting order?
  • Can the closer of this team, regardless of who it is, remain solid for an entire season?

As a writer, it’s hard to see this team being any better than the 63-98 record of last season. The organization is bracing itself for the 10th losing season in a row and the 16th straight year of not playing in the playoffs. Don Mattingly is not entirely at fault for the team’s lack of success.

He is however, part of the issues of not making the playoffs when he had a good core of star players who could not make it happen at the plate. Pitching has been the Marlins Achilles Heel for years. It has never been solved. Maybe these young arms we here at Marlin Maniac have talked about this offseason will surprise us and show they can carry this team to the seventh or eighth inning of games.

Don Mattingly is in a unique situation. Should he leave after this year, the next man up could reap the benefit of his work, where the Marlins are a contender in 2021. It the nature of this business, but still so unfair. We all love Donny Baseball. We also know if there is another 63 wins in 2019, he could be gone but not forgotten.

I would hope progress means something and Jeter and the front office add at least one year to his existing deal. Time will tell. So will the long, hot summer months. If Mattingly can get 70-75 wins out of this roster, it will be his greatest managerial job of his career. That might be what it takes to remain in South Florida.

We can hope it happens. Mattingly lets things fall into place and doesn’t talk about his future. That’s left up to us who cover him and the team. I hope we are talking about one of the more memorable seasons in team history. Not just for the players and franchise, but for Don Mattingly. A season in Marlins colors without him would be hard to watch for this baseball fan.

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