Winter Meetings interview with Don Mattingly

Winter Meetings interview with Don Mattingly

Q. Since you've been hired, how much have you looked at the roster and kind of assess what you have going forward?

DON MATTINGLY: I'm getting through it. This has been helpful here. Obviously, I knew a lost guys from what you see, more the player side. Obviously know Jose and some of the guys out of the bullpen, Capps and Ramos, Dunn. Some of the more established guys.

For me, the learning part has been the other guys. That's what -- we've had a lot of meetings going over players, going over just things like payroll going forward. What we're going to be able to do, what are our goals, what we're trying to accomplish, what we need right now. So that's been part of it.

And then here I've been able to do a lot of talking with different members of our organization, getting the feel for a little bit more of the subtle stuff. What kind of worker is this kid? What kind of teammate? The things that are kind of the intangibles that you're trying to put a team together and how that's all going to mold together.

So that's what I've been kind of trying to do while reaching out, texting a few guys, talking with a few guys to try to get the feel of what's been going on, what happened, and what they think about the club.

Q. And what impresses you most that you've learned about the team as it's composed right now?

DON MATTINGLY: I think there's a confidence, which kind of surprised me a little bit. There seems to be a confidence amongst the guys. I think they feel like they finished strong last year was a little bit of a rough year. There was a lot of turmoil, changing managers, Dan coming down things coming down, things like that. I think they feel like they accomplished something towards the end, hanging in there and played really well over the last month or so. So that kind of surprised me a little bit.

For me, just the talent level is what I really look at and say it puts a smile on your face looking at that lineup and that core group of players. You know you've got a shot if we can get this thing going the right direction. If we're healthy, we could be a team that could be one of those surprise teams that do a lot.

Q. If all else fails, just look inside the dugout and bring back a lot of all-stars with you and Bonds and Tim Wallach?

DON MATTINGLY: Barry could play, I bet. He looks like he could still play.

Putting the staff together has been interesting. We took our time with it and were able to talk to a lot of different people. The Barry component -- a couple of things were really important to me. Tim Wallach is a guy that I was really happy, kind of twofold. You want him to get the job in L.A. or wherever he -- he's going to be a big league manager someday, and you want that for him, but once that didn't happen, him coming is a key component, I think, because he knows me. We've worked together. We know how we both kind of go about it.

Barry, obviously, a key component. That's been interesting. The timing in life is kind of everything, and it feels like the right time for Barry to get back in. He's really excited about teaching. Everything he talks about is -- when I hear him say, I'm just a rookie coach at this point, and this is probably one of the best hitters that's ever played talking about he's just a rookie coach and talking about his job is just helping guys.

That's important for a coach to come in with that attitude because it's really what our job is, and especially in our situation in Miami, is to teach and develop. That's really what we'll be looking to do.

Q. Barry hasn't coached before. Sometimes it's difficult for players who were superstars to teach regular players. What convinces you that he's going to really be good in that role?

DON MATTINGLY: Just his attitude with it. The knowledge is there. You know he understands exactly, probably at a level that maybe not very many may understand, but also a guy that came through a pretty good teaching. His dad was a good teacher. Willie Mays was a pretty good teacher, he's his Godson. So he's from a good teaching background. And his attitude of wanting to be good. When Barry Bonds tells me he wants to be good at something, I think he's going to be good.

What also makes me comfortable in that, to be very honest, Frankie Menechino. I think that's a good combination for us. Frankie knows our hitters. Frankie has been a coach. He's been through preparing video, going through video. It gives us a good combination of guys on the hitting side that I'm comfortable with.

Q. Don, when you think of having Ichiro, who's going to be close to 3,000 hits, Bonds, you, like I was kind of thinking that would be kind of cool to have the three sit down and have a discussion about hitting. Has that thought kind of crossed your mind that I'm going to be with guys who might have completely different views? But it's going to be almost invigorating to kind of talk and learn hitting from these guys?

DON MATTINGLY: I haven't thought of it in those terms. I think more about how can this group get together for our young guys to have success.

You mentioned Ichiro. For me, I'm looking forward to that. I've always been a fan. Seen him in his early days in Seattle, when I was coaching with the Yankees. It was really fun to watch. I have a huge amount of respect for Ichiro down in South Beach. His work ethic, the way he goes about it. So I'm looking forward to that. I think he's going to be a key component for our club and our clubhouse and part of our development hopefully into playoff contending and playoff team.

I haven't thought of it in those terms, but let Barry and Ichiro talk. I'll just try to do the managing thing.

Q. Have you had a chance to talk to Ichiro?

DON MATTINGLY: I texted with Ichiro and just told him I was looking forward to managing him and excited about being with the Marlins and what I think we're capable of. Just looking forward to it.

Q. Is he funny in his texts? He's known for having a good sense of humor.

DON MATTINGLY: He didn't seem that funny, just a regular text. I was just happy that he texted me back. That's always good. That's a good start with a guy that he'll text you back.

Just looking forward to it. This time of year is the players' time of year. They've been there all year long. I know they're trying to get away. I didn't want to invade on that other than just reach out and let him know how excited I am. This is my number if you need it. Got any concerns, call me. I just opened the door for that communication.

Q. Don, you talk about coaching hitting. When you were in L.A., it seems like you guys got really good moments out of Hanley Ramirez. You guys were able to figure out exactly how to do that. What did you think the key was getting the best out of Hanley Ramirez when you were with him?

DON MATTINGLY: Nothing special. I just wanted to make Hanley a part of the team. Clean the slate for him as far as anything that happened in the past. Just going forward, just kind of laid out our expectations for him, what we needed. Just make sure he wanted to win. That's what we were there for, and I felt like he was a big part of that.

We were happy with Hanley. Just didn't work out contract-wise when I was there, and he was gone.

Q. Did his swing ever look long to you at times when he was in L.A.?

DON MATTINGLY: I think guys in general with their swing, you see different -- it depends when you see him. There's times they look a little bit long. There's other times you say take your hits and you think it's better, stay in the middle of the field. There's different times with every player that they look a little bit long, when they get tired or something's going on with their swing.

But Hanley could really hit. I don't know if he's healthy or not. I don't know what's going on with him. But I know he's capable of it.

Q. This team has not been to the postseason since 2003, which is the second longest drought in the majors, along with Seattle. They've gone through a lot of managers and a lot of change since then. What makes you think you can make a difference and end that drought, especially in a division that contains the Mets and the Nationals?

DON MATTINGLY: I don't so much worry about anything that's happened in the past and the drought. I really worry about our process and making sure we're doing our work, that we're prepared, taking care of our own business, turning us into the best club that we can be. Hopefully, that's going to be enough to get us there.

So I can't worry about can we do this or one thing or another. I just get it back to the simplicity of let's play solid baseball. Let's know what we're doing. Don't waste outs. Don't give outs away. All the things that you would talk about as far as trying to form a team, getting a team to play, all going in one direction, making sure we're preparing, making sure we're doing our homework, making sure we know what we're doing out there and we're ready to play.

So that's all, to me, process. So if we do that and we play our best baseball, I think we're capable.

Q. You think there's enough talent?

DON MATTINGLY: I do. Now, do our guys have to continue to step up? Yes. Are we going to have to have some luck? I think we'll have to stay healthy. I think, for us, it's important that we're able to keep our guys on the field. We're going to have to have some guys step up behind Jose and just continue to develop and get better.

I think the guys we have on the field will have to continue to get better. When you say you have a good young core, it's a scary thing because you know you've got talent. The battle for me and our staff and the organization will be to continue to help them get better.

Dee Gordon had a phenomenal year last year. Dee Gordon has to get better. He's got to continue to get better.

Marcell had a little bit of a struggle last year. He has to continue to get better. Christian, continue to get better. J.T. behind the plate, continue to get better. Jose, continue to get better.

So our challenge is to not let guys get satisfied with being in the big leagues. Our job is to say, I need to get better. We all need to get better. We can do this together. So we all have to continue to work and continue to just strive, not be happy with being in the big leagues. So that's our challenge.

Q. Don, with a guy like Stanton, when you see that skill set and you see the numbers he can post, when you're managing a guy like that, what are kind of some of the things you see of what the ceiling could be or what is in there?

DON MATTINGLY: Well, with Giancarlo, it's frightening. Things that he's capable of doing, that's part of -- and he's really lived up to that when he's playing. I think any time you talk about Giancarlo, you don't ever say, well, he's not doing this or he's not doing that. You basically say, he's missed time, and that's really not his fault. You can't ever really blame a guy for getting hurt. That stuff happens.

So with Giancarlo, you help him to continue to develop, just like the other guys we talked about. Can he get better? Can he cut strikeouts down a little bit? Can he do this or that? Can he be a little better defender? Does he have to continue to understand what he has to do to give himself the best chance to stay healthy? His work, is he running too much? Is he hitting too much? Is he not hitting -- whatever that is. How do we help his process to give him the best chance of staying healthy and having success.

Q. What was your reaction to hitting the ball at Dodger Stadium?

DON MATTINGLY: It's funny because you can't really tell in the dugout. As soon as you hit it, you know it's gone. It's not one of those where you say it's the fartherest ball I've ever seen him hit. He hit some balls in Miami against us that you just go -- there's so many times you see him hit balls, and it's just incredible.

He hit a ball against us, I remember one game, I was like, oh, good, it's too low to go out. He ends up hitting a sign back there somewhere. I'm like, oh, maybe it wasn't too low. He brings a different dimension to your team. He's going to change the way they pitch the guy in front of him.

You want your guy behind him to be able to protect him, to be a guy that can drive in runs because you know he has to understand when they're not pitching to him, what they're trying to do to him. That's where Barry may be really, really important for him because Barry obviously has been that guy who has been pitched around and not been feared and how do you approach that? That could be an interesting dynamic between him and Barry.

Q. Giancarlo, not many can understand his hitting, but a guy who's hit as many as Barry -- what do you think some of those subtleties are?

DON MATTINGLY: It's not so much the hitting, because hitting is hitting, and a guy that can hit home runs hits home runs. I think what pitchers try to do or try to stay away from with Giancarlo, probably a lot of the same things they would do with Barry. How they're pitching him, how they think about pitching him.

Understand when teams say, he won't beat us. He's not getting a ball to hit. So if you know that and you see that, how they pitch you, you have to be able to take your walk. That's why the club has to be good enough to be the guy behind him and make them pay.

Again, that's the thing that could be really interesting between Giancarlo and Barry is that relationship. How does that help him?

Q. How much of a chance have you actually had to talk to Barry? And when you talk to him, is it more like, hey, at some point we'll get together and talk hitting philosophy? Or here's what -- as a manager, what do you want your hitting coach to do. How do you sort of give him his space but maybe have him ingrain the philosophies that you like? I'm not sure what that dynamic works like.

DON MATTINGLY: Part of our discussions in New York with him was talking a lot of the things. What are we talking about here? What are you teaching? What are you going to do with this or that? Obviously, I'm not a micro-manager from the standpoint I'm not going to get -- I don't try to get in the cage and get involved with the hitting. If I see certain things, I would be more like, hey, Barry, I'm seeing this with this guy. What do you see? So that's the way I approach that.

So Barry and I have had a chance to talk about that, and as we do the interview process, he understands that -- what I love about what Barry's saying is he knows he's part of a team. He's part of our coaches. He's one of our coaches. And his job is to help guys. Again, that's why I go back to timing is everything. I think it's a perfect time for Barry to step in.

Jeffrey was interested in talking with Barry. When I talked to Barry, I pretty much knew instantly that this guy could do it. But then my only concerns were more of the bread and butter stuff. He hasn't done it before. I wanted to have an experienced guy with him, that type of thing that just helps the process. He'll learn that stuff so fast. It won't take him any time to get into that.

But it was important for me to know that we have a guy that's like Frankie there that's done the bread and butter day in and day out, understands that whole process.

Q. Just to make sure I got it right, so the interviews were in New York, I guess?

DON MATTINGLY: Yes.

Q. Was there one interview, I guess?

DON MATTINGLY: Yes.

Q. Do you know how long you talked to him?

DON MATTINGLY: Probably an hour and a half or so. A while, yes.

Q. How long did it take you to get a feel like this might be the guy kind of thing?

DON MATTINGLY: I didn't have any thought process that Barry wouldn't understand hitting. It was more of the things I'm asking Barry is just about do you understand how much time it takes and make sure that he's engaged in, does he really, really know what he's getting involved with and wants to get involved with it.

Q. Like hitting coaches that I've talked to, Jeff Bagwell or Dante Bichette, who went back to do it, said, I didn't understand how much time you have to spend in the cage flipping balls to guys and stuff. Is that one thing you needed to know, Barry, you're going to be in the cage with these guys for hours.

DON MATTINGLY: That was part of the interview, making sure he knew how much time it was. You're in the ballpark at noon, not showing up at 5:00 for a 7:00 game. Coaches are there longer than when you played, and you're preparing, and you're getting guys ready.

So those are things that we talked with Barry about. Barry understood completely. He's been around the game. He knew that coaches get there early. So I don't think we surprised him with anything. I just wanted to make sure he was prepared for that time. Barry's very excited about being part of our staff. I'm looking forward to watching him work and him being part of it.

Q. You mentioned Dee Gordon earlier. How excited are you to inherit him now as a batting champ and a mainstay in your lineup?

DON MATTINGLY: Dee's part of that whole core group of guys that you're excited about and makes you think that you can do some special things there. Dee had a tremendous year just kind of continues to grow and get better on both sides of the ball. So to be able to watch that, you know what he does to your team. You know what he does to the opponent. You know what he does to the opposite pitcher who has to deal with him when he gets on base, and you know what he can do for your club. He can steal a run.

In today's game where we're having trouble finding offense, this guy is instant offense. If he gets on base, you know he's got a good chance of stealing second, possibly third. Now a single scores a guy if you walk him or he gets on some way.

Q. You managed there, obviously, against the Marlins. They told us they're going to move the fences in, shorten them. Any thoughts on that? Opinion on what effect that might have on the lineup as you see it or the pitching staff?

DON MATTINGLY: I don't think we're talking about making it a band box. We're really just talking about making it a little bit more dimension friendly, the walls coming down a little bit. Giancarlo is not worried the fences coming in. He's hitting them out to the Grand Canyon. Bour is not worried about the fences coming in.

I think you adjust to your ballpark and play with it. We're a big -- we should be a doubles gap type of offense. Again, back to the Kansas City formula, what they've been able to do is you put the ball in play. I think that's one of our battles is we've got to have more guys putting the ball in play, have an offensive approach to moving runners and getting guys in from third, all the things that everybody will be talking about in Spring Training, we've got to be able to execute to put runs on the board.

Q. Can you talk about, in L.A., you had the Kershaw-Greinke tandem. This rotation might not have 200-inning candidates. You hope they do. But the importance of a staff kind of giving you whether it's a strong bullpen or how do you kind of bridge that to be effective?

DON MATTINGLY: That's part of our challenges. We're like every other club in baseball. If I've heard anybody talk on TV, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is pitching. Everybody's looking forward to it. Everybody wants it. You see the formulas. You try to build your bullpen really strong or have a bunch of starters going deep.

I think we don't have the luxury of saying this is what we want and we're going to go get it. This is what we have, and how do we turn that into a path that is competitive.

Q. Is the role of the bullpen more important or as important as ever as you're seeing?

DON MATTINGLY: I think so. It's kind of cyclical because you've seen different bullpens over the year. You see the combination of Wetteland and Mariano, what the Yankees did those championship years. See what Kansas City has done with their bullpen. See what Boch does with his bullpen in San Francisco. When you're winning, those guys are coming in and getting big outs. So they're going to be a big part of your club.

Sometimes you're seeing teams try to close off those last three innings. That's the way to try to do it. Again, we don't have the luxury of saying, hey, we're going to go do this and this and this. These are our guys. How we're going to make the best use out of them.

You talk about Kershaw and Greinke, we got one of them. You put Jose up with anybody, and he's going to be competitive. We have guys we feel like have that kind of stuff, but can develop into those type of guys. That's not easy. But that's our job here in Miami is to be able to take our young guys and develop and help them get better.

How do we get there to find that next guy to tandem up with Jose or two guys? Because you really need -- you need guys that give you innings, but you need guys that keep you in the game. If you have a bunch of guys going five, then you'd better have a bunch of bullpen guys too. So we're going to need to find a way with the guys that we have.

Q. What's your opinion about Dave Roberts as a new manager?

DON MATTINGLY: I wish him well. Dave's a very nice man. I met him over the years a few different times. He's a great guy, and I'm sure he'll do great.

Q. I've got a Nashville question. You spent your time here, some time here. The new ballpark set some attendance records last year. Do you think in the future there could be a major league team in Nashville?

DON MATTINGLY: Sure, why not? They were talking about that when I played here, about being a major league team. I don't understand the dynamic of Atlanta and all that, the proximity of teams always changes things. I don't know how it works.

This was a great place to play. It's a great city. I really enjoyed my time here in Nashville. It would be a good place to come. Hit music row for a night or two.

Q. Don, when you got hired, you probably got asked, you were with a team that had a huge payroll and maybe got a little bit more national attention. They've had a little drama in Miami, obviously, with some things, in Los Angeles too. But not having the sort of surrounding attention, does that maybe give you a little bit more time to sort of focus on the nuts and bolts and maybe not some other things that that entails with being in a place where the Dodgers are just round the clock attention? Does it make any difference?

DON MATTINGLY: It really doesn't. Like I told the guys in Miami at the press conference, I expect to win coming here. I expect to win. I expected to win in L.A. I expected us to win when I was coaching in New York. I expect to win every day we play, to be quite honest with you.

To me, that's just the noise that goes outside of what we do. So I get all the way back to the question of how do we get there? It's back to the process. So all the stuff that goes on, maybe we don't get as much attention. Maybe we don't have the same payroll. Maybe this, that, whatever.

I'm getting back to how do we win games? How do we take care of our business? Make sure we're getting prepared. Make sure our coaches are prepared. I'm prepared. Our players are prepared. Giving us the best opportunity to win and compete every night, period.

I've always done that as a player. Take care of my business. Everything else, we'll try to handle it. I'll try to handle everything else around it. I can take care of this. That's the one thing we can do as players and coaches. Be ready. Get prepared, do your work. If we can do all that, then either we're good enough or we're not. If we're not, then we make decisions. What do we need? How do we get there within our structure? Whatever that is, we don't have payroll, we have to make trades, we have to do whatever.

But you keep trying to figure ways. Can't just sit back, oh, we don't have this or that. You know what, that's a roadblock. I'm going around it. I'm going over there. I don't know how I'm getting there, but I'm going over there. I'm going over it. I'm going under it. I'm going around it. And that's where we're going. I'm not listening to any other noise than that. So you can tell me whatever. I say we're going over there.

Q. On Miami, it's kind of a market, and I know the league thinks it could be a sleeping giant. How do you kind of view it?

DON MATTINGLY: I look at it, Miami, what a city. To me, it's a place that, if I'm playing and I'm raising a family, sounds pretty good to me. I've got great weather. I get a lot of stuff going on. I get to eat. I've got Dolphins. It's a great city to be in. Why not want to go there as a player?

But we have to create the environment that says, I want to be there. I want to play with those guys. I want to play on a team like that. Hopefully, we can create some excitement and get some people in the stands and draw some energy in like that. But we have to create the environment that says, I want to be there. Miami's a great city.

I've been fortunate. I went from New York City to L.A. and now South Beach. Next stop is Cuba, I guess. I'm going warmer. I'm not going colder.