Don Mattingly, Ned Colletti weigh in
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and incoming manager Don Mattingly held a final media send-off at a rainy Dodger Stadium on Monday -- although it was a send-off in name only, because what promises to be a busy winter for the organization figures to get started fairly quickly.
There wasn't much in the way of new information to be gleaned, but one of the more notable moments came at the end, when a reporter asked Mattingly what was the one thing he would wish for if he could sprinkle pixie dust on his team.
"If we could be one thing, it would be mentally tough," Mattingly said. "If I could throw one thing out there, I want this team to have mental toughness."
And then came the obvious follow-up question: Were this year's Dodgers, who finished two games south of the .500 mark, lacking in that area?
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"It was a lot of areas, really," Mattingly said. "It takes toughness to play this game. It's not football toughess, where you're banging heads, but you have to get ready to play 162 times, and that is a battle. It is a mental battle to try to get yourself ready every day."
It was a resounding statement, considering the Dodgers figure to bring back basically the same team in 2011, other than the usual offseason roster tweaks here or there, perhaps a notable addition or two and perhaps a notable subtraction or two.
"I don't see a major roster revision," Colletti said.
Mattingly, who before taking over as the team's manager was its hitting coach for the past 2½ seasons, had another interesting answer to another question. Asked if he was satisfied with the overall effort and energy level of the team this year, he again tried to give sort of a nonanswer. But again, his nonanswer spoke volumes.
"This year has been an interesting year," Mattingly said. "It seems like when everything goes bad, and it's nothing I haven't seen before, but I felt like we had some guys who are better than the way they played. It's a little different with young guys who have a couple of good years and then a flat year. Sometimes, they kind of lose sight of where they're going."
Mattingly, who takes over the Dodgers without any real major league managerial experience, is the man charged with changing that, with bringing that mental toughness to a team that all too often this season appeared mentally weak -- the man charged with getting the team back onto that forward track after the horrible derailment that was 2010.
The task already is under way. Even before meeting with the media, Colletti and Mattingly could be clearly seen through floor-to-ceiling, frosted windows as they sat in a board room with assistant GM Kim Ng and special assistants Lee Elia, Vance Lovelace and Rick Ragazzo. Those meetings figure to continue right up until Mattingly leaves on Wednesday for the Arizona Fall League, where he will manage the Phoenix Desert Dogs in keeping with a commitment he made long before he was officially announced as Joe Torre's successor with the Dodgers.
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Mattingly said the group already was going over the roster, player by player, to determine where each guy fits in for next year. One of the first orders of business, though, will be to finalize the coaching staff. Bench coach Bob Schaefer already has let it be known publicly that he doesn't plan to return next season.
There are an unusual number of managerial openings already this winter, and Colletti conceded that might hold up the Dodgers' process of assembling a staff because some of the candidates they are considering might also be under consideration for some of those jobs. One of them figures to be Tim Wallach, the Dodgers' Triple-A manager, who probably will be offered the hitting coach's job that Mattingly is vacating but who also could be a candidate for one of those managerial openings.
Colletti said once again what he said the day Torre announced he was stepping down, that there wouldn't be one coach on the staff that he and Mattingly aren't both comfortable with. And Colletti wouldn't put an exact timetable on assembling a staff.
"I don't know how long it's going to take," Colletti said. "But I can't tell you it's going to take a month."
He also didn't say it won't take a month, and considering managerial searches sometimes take that long, it's impossible to predict when the Dodgers will have a staff. Colletti did say he and Mattingly have had initial conversations with some members of the staff they hope to retain, but he didn't specify who those coaches are.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, bullpen coach Ken Howell, first-base coach Mariano Duncan and third-base coach Larry Bowa all would seem to be strong candidates to return, with Bowa possibly stepping into the bench coach's role.
Mattingly reiterated that he needs a bench coach with considerable major league managerial experience. That rules out Wallach, but it doesn't rule out Bowa, who previously managed the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies. Another possible candidate is Willie Randolph, Mattingly's former teammate with the New York Yankees, who previously managed the New York Mets and was Ken Macha's bench coach with the Milwaukee Brewers this season.
The Brewers announced on Monday that Macha won't return next season, which probably means his coaches are free to pursue other opportunities. However, Randolph has let it be known publicly that he hopes to manage again somewhere next season.
The Dodgers have four veteran players who are potential free agents in pitchers Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla and outfielder Reed Johnson. Players can't file for free agency until after the World Series, meaning the Dodgers have exclusive negotiating rights to those players until that time, and Colletti said the club will "probably" make at least one contract offer to at least one of those players during that time.
Colletti didn't specify which player or players he was talking about, but presumably, the team's first priority this winter will be to re-sign Lilly, who is at the end of a four-year, $40 million contract and will command at least a three-year deal, possibly in the $12 million to $15 million a year range.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.