Is it time to question Don Mattingly?

Before I go into any writing rabbit hole, I have to say I totally respect Don Mattingly as a ball player and as a man who truly knows the game of baseball.  Mattingly  earned his moniker “Donnie Baseball” with his grit and hard work ethic while playing for the Yankees.  That being said, a great baseball player does not always make a great baseball manager.

When do we start openly questioning Dom Mattingly’s managerial decisions?

While the Marlins pulled  of a great walk-off win against the Phillies in dramatic fashion on Tuesday night, the real issue that no doubt is still sitting on every fan’s mind is Mattingly’s decision to pull his ace of ace Sandy Alcantara off the mound in the eighth inning Monday night. Yes, Alcantara was battling two walks in this frame and about to face lefty batter Didi Gregorius but sometimes a manager just has to trust his pitchers to get themselves out of a jam.

Managers and coaching staffs are always talking about pitch counts that seem to be half magical and half mythical to say the least. Sandy Alcantara was yanked off the mound and benched after he had thrown 113 pitches which is just a hair short of his personal career high. The gut instinct response is “so what?” Alcantara was dominant, methodical and just plain fierce all Monday night against the Phillies lineup and should have been allowed to at least work his way out of the mess and finish up the inning.  I guess I’m showing my age but I remember the day when relief pitchers usually came in the ninth inning to close out the game.

What was the result of Mattingly’s decision? Gregorius tagged reliever Steven Okert on his first pitch and picked up an RBI single. Goodbye to Alcantara’s and the Marlins win Monday night. Let’s be real in assessing the fact that Sandy Alcantara has thrown 1.320 pitches so far this season and made it through 91 1/3 innings – both statistics that are leading the majors right now. Alcantara was rightly hot and frustrated after the end to his outing but please next time don’t slam around your throwing hand against a helpless dugout bench – the Marlins organization cannot afford to lose you now or ever to a freak injury.

Was this call a wake up to Don Mattingly’s ineffectiveness as a manager?  I’m not drinking that type of Kool-Aid yet. I think Don Mattingly may get the Marlins  to .500 soon but they are facing a brutal road trip against their NL East rivals and as the Phillies and Braves are surging, the Mets just keep on winning.

Miami Marlins

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 16: Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during Game One of the doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park on July 16, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Marlins 5-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

For the Marlins to stay in the race – any race the rest of this season, Don Mattingly needs to find some magic formula in his bag of baseball knowledge and experience to keep the Marlins fired up and in the hunt for the postseason.