Don Mattingly’s tenure as Miami Marlins manager is nearing its end.
The Marlins and Mattingly announced Sunday that this would be Mattingly’s final season as manager of the club. Mattingly’s contract was set to expire at the end of the season. Mattingly is not seeking an extension.
Mattingly, 61, informed players and staff of the decision Sunday prior to the Marlins’ 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals. Mattingly will manage the rest of the club’s games this season — Miami has a road trip that includes two games against the New York Mets and four against the Milwaukee Brewers before closing the season with a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves from Oct. 3-5 at loanDepot park.
“You try to follow your heart,” Mattingly said. “That’s what I do. You know what’s inside of you and you try to be deliberate and let things work through.”
General manager Kim Ng will hire the Marlins’ new manager, with chairman and principal owner Bruce Sherman expected to be part of the process.
“We are fortunate to have had Don Mattingly leading our team on the field over the last seven years,” Sherman said in a statement. “He has represented the Marlins, our players, our fans, and the South Florida community with unmatched dignity and pride.”
And so ends the run for the longest-tenured manager in Marlins history.
Mattingly has been the Marlins’ manager since 2016 and has a 437-584 record in Miami. This includes a 63-90 record so far this season, the fifth of the Marlins’ rebuild under the Sherman ownership group.
The Marlins entered the year expressing the importance of being competitive and in the playoff hunt and, early on, they were. Miami was one game under .500 and hovered on the periphery of the playoff race in early July before collapsing after the All-Star Break due to injuries to key players and underperformance from the offense.
But it’s also worth remembering Mattingly didn’t come to Miami with a rebuild on his mind. The team he inherited ahead of the 2016 season — at least at the MLB level — was filled with talent.
He had Jose Fernandez as his ace, Dee Gordon as his leadoff hitter, an outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich (with Ichiro Suzuki as his fourth outfielder) and J.T. Realmuto as his catcher.
“When I first came to Miami and looked at that team, I thought ‘Man, we’ve got a chance’ when you look at the names that we had put together,” Mattingly said previously.
That team went 79-82 — their most wins in a season since 2010 — and finished seven-and-a-half games out of the wild card.
And then things changed.
It started with Fernandez’s death on Sept. 25, 2016, when the 24-year-old crashed his boat with two friends on board into jetty rocks at Government Cut. The news Sunday of Mattingly’s tenure with the Marlins ending came on the six-year anniversary of that fateful day. Mattingly talked with shortstop Miguel Rojas, the only player on the current roster who was teammates with Fernandez, about Fernandez. Until that conversation, Mattingly said he had forgotten it was the anniversary.
“Miggy came in and was talking about it,” Mattingly said, “and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, that’s today? It had to be today?’”
And then the Sherman and Derek Jeter ownership group took over the club after the 2017 season. The roster teardown began.
Just about all of the franchise’s top players — Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Strange-Gordon and J.T. Realmuto the headliners — were traded with the intent of beefing up a barren minor-league system. Mattingly’s even-keeled demeanor and patience with a roster filled with up-and-coming players was viewed as a plus by the organization, which gave him a two-year contract extension with a mutual option for a third at the end of the 2019 season.
“For me, he was like a father on the field and a father in baseball for me,” said Rojas, who also played for Mattingly with the Los Angeles Dodgers before the two reunited in Miami.
The Marlins’ farm system improved in terms of prospects and potential, and there have been some success stories — Cy Young Award frontrunner Sandy Alcantara and second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. among the highlights — but the results still have yet to be seen consistently at the MLB level.
Miami had a winning record in just one of Mattingly’s seven years — the pandemic-shortened 2020 season when the Marlins overcame a COVID-19 outbreak at the start of the season to finish 31-29, reach the playoffs for just the third time in franchise history and sweep the Chicago Cubs in the best-of-3 wild card round before being swept by the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series.
“Donnie is just a consummate professional and a tremendous person,” said Ng, who also worked with Mattingly with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. “He’s led the organization through some pretty tough times, particularly early in his tenure and then with the last couple of years leading the club through a pandemic and the lockout.”
However, Ng was also quick to note that baseball is “an outcome-based industry.”
“There was a lot of reflection that went on the last couple months on everybody’s part,” Ng said.
Mattingly’s departure, however, is likely not the only shakeup that will happen with the Marlins. Sources told the Miami Herald earlier this month that there are expected to be some changes in the on-field coaching staff and elsewhere in the front office this offseason.
Sherman, in an email interview with the Miami Herald earlier this month, called the 2022 season “immensely frustrating” and that the organization has to “look in the mirror to understand what went wrong, what needs to improve and what we need to do this offseason to get back to the playoffs in 2023.”