Marlins manager Don Mattingly must push the right buttons in 2020

Does the layoff from preparing for the MLB season help Marlins manager Don Mattingly or hurt his ability to develop the team’s 2020 roster?

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has said on many occasions that baseball is a game of adjustments. As the sport waits for a chance to become whole again and take the field for the first time since the league office shut down operations due to the coronavirus, it is Miami’s skipper who continues to mentally prepare for the 2020 season.

This is supposed to be the best roster Mattingly and Marlins have had since 2016 when they finished 79- 82 that season. That is also the last time the Marlins were even close to a potential playoff berth. The team fell short in the final weeks of the season, which was affected by the death of Jose Fernandez.

Now, with a contract extension in hand, how does the 58-year-old plan to erase the Marlins demons of baseball’s past? And does the potential of a shortened season help his chances of getting Miami to the playoffs? Does the downtime he faces now hurt the opportunity for him to finally produced a winner for Derek Jeter and the team’s front office?

I have said all along that I agreed with Jeter‘s decision to extend Mattingly beyond last year. Having been through two monstrously bad seasons while the team has been torn down and built back up from the foundation, it would not have been fair to part ways with Mattingly and allow somebody else to come in and produce a winner.

There was criticism of the decision, which was made before the end of the 2019 season. While other names floated around for potential managerial jobs, Jeter stuck with what he knew – which is a manager who is well respected. He is also now the one who has the longest tenure of any skipper in Marlins history.

I believed that had Mattingly come out of the gate slowly, and these Marlins showed they could not produce runs or win games on the mound, his stay for the 2020 season would have been short-lived. But because of the pandemic in the situation MLB is facing right now, this could play well into Mattingly’s and the front office’s hands. What I mean by that, is that should this team fall short of expectations, a shorter schedule might give him a reprieve.

If the Marlins, baseball becomes official again and shows the same kind of intensity and hard work as they did in the first few weeks of spring training, there’s no reason to believe this organization will be better than most gave it credit for. Excuse me if I don’t jump on that bandwagon quite yet. I think there is still time and effort needed to build a winning a baseball product. It may take another year or two before Miami has a chance to compete for a playoff position.

And in that case, Mattingly may not be around to see the fruits of the franchise’s labor. Should he be able to turn this around in a shorter amount of time then another extension after 2021 may be possible. No one knows yet how teams are going to be affected by this work stoppage. You figure the teams with a veteran roster will adjust better than those with players fighting for a spot on the 26-man list.

Miami is a young team with too many questions left unanswered right now.

What Mattingly brings to Miami is a steady hand. He did make changes to his coaching staff this off-season which should prove to be beneficial. And the front office did their part to bring in veterans to help the lineup and bullpen.

Everything now it’s just a wait-and-see situation. While it’s difficult for the players who cannot prepare for the game they love by getting out on the field, Mattingly and his coaching staff cannot prepare for what might be.

Until players get back to practicing their craft, we won’t know how good this team will be in 2020. That means we won’t know whether or not the game plan Mattingly and his coaching staff have for the Marlins works until everybody gets back to playing baseball. And for the team’s skipper, showing what he can do to finally produce a winner.

Next: How has the Marlins narrative changed for 2020?