OAKLAND, Calif. -- The minute the Los Angeles Dodgers changed third base coaches on Monday by adding former Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to their staff, conspiracy theorists and Don Mattingly detractors wondered if they had found their ready-made replacement if the new front office decides to fire Mattingly.
It may even have crossed Mattingly’s mind, but he said he’s not reading it as a bad omen. In fact, it was Mattingly who called Roenicke last Saturday to see if he was interested in the job.
“All I care about is winning. This is a pretty good job to have. I'm sure a lot of guys who would like it,” Mattingly said. “That's always the case. Those things are so far down the road, you just worry about winning games. We're in a pennant race.”
It’s a sensitive situation, of course, for a couple of reasons. The former third base coach, Lorenzo Bundy, remains on the staff as an outfield coordinator.
The impetus for the change clearly came from above Mattingly’s head. The front office run by Andrew Friedman has been frustrated with the Dodgers’ baserunning all season. Mattingly said Friedman presented him a list of available names to replace Bundy at third base. Mattingly said he chose Roenicke in part because he was aware of how well the Los Angeles Angels ran the bases when Roenicke was doing that job under Mike Scioscia.
One of the first things Roenicke said he asked Mattingly was whether he really wanted him.
“Is this coming from someone else or is it Donnie wanting me to do it?” Roenicke said. “I know from managing and coaching how important it is to have people that you want there. Whoever’s decision it was and I don’t know, because I’m obviously not in the conversation, but when I asked Donnie about whether he wanted me, he said, ‘Absolutely.’”
According to the Fangraphs baserunning metric, the Dodgers have been the worst baserunning team in baseball this season. Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said the move was all about making the Dodgers better this season and not about giving the front office a safety net if it changes managers.
“The baserunning has been a major issue with our team all season,” Zaidi said. “Some of that has to do with us not having a lot of team speed. That’s just not an area of strength for us as a roster. Some of it has to do with guys running the bases and picking up their coaches.
“So, I think the responsibility for the baserunning falls on all of us, really. But again, the chance to bring in somebody that has this as part of his pedigree and a real strength, it was more about that.”