MIAMI (AP) — Don Mattingly wants what’s best for the Miami Marlins, what’s best for him and what’s best for his family.
And he decided that means it’s time to move on.
Mattingly will not be back as manager of the Marlins next season, announcing Sunday that he and team officials have decided a new voice is needed to lead the club going forward.
Mattingly’s contract expires when the season ends. He said he met with Marlins principal owner Bruce Sherman and general manager Kim Ng to talk about the future, and “all parties agreed” it’s time for a change.
“I think always, you try to follow your heart,” Mattingly said Sunday. “And that’s what I do. Honestly, you know what’s inside of you and you try to be deliberate and let things work through, and you just follow your heart and you know when it’s the right thing.”
His short-term plan, after the season ends: Spending time with family at his home in Evansville, Indiana. After that, whatever happens happens.
“I am proud and honored to have served as manager of the Marlins for the past seven years and have enjoyed my experiences and relationships I’ve developed within the organization,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly, the club’s all-time leader in managerial wins by a wide margin, is finishing his seventh season with the Marlins. He’s 437-584 in Miami, with one winning season in those seven years — a 31-29 mark in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season when the team made its first playoff appearance since 2003.
“In general, the clubs I’ve had have always played hard,” Mattingly said. “I’ve always felt proud of that.”
His decision means a season that started with a big shakeup for Miami now ends with another. In February, Hall of Famer Derek Jeter — who had been Miami’s CEO, the first Black person in baseball history to hold that role with a franchise — announced a surprise departure after 4 1/2 mostly unsuccessful years that didn’t come remotely close to matching his success as a player for the New York Yankees.
Now comes the Mattingly move, which means someone else will be in charge when the team gathers for spring training.
“Donnie is one of my favorites,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said Sunday. “We go way back, played against him. He’s just a really good baseball man. I love him to death. I learned a lot from him, watching and competing against him for many years.”
The 61-year-old Mattingly has managed for 12 seasons, the first five with the Los Angeles Dodgers. All five of those Dodgers clubs had winning records, three of them making the playoffs.
The Marlins were hoping for similar success, but it didn’t happen as planned. Mattingly was the NL Manager of the Year in 2020 after getting Miami to the playoffs, but other than that, the franchise has been in a mode of constant rebuilding.
“We are fortunate to have had Don Mattingly leading our team on the field over the last seven years,” Sherman said. “He has represented the Marlins, our players, our fans, and the South Florida community with unmatched dignity and pride.”
Sunday’s news came on the sixth anniversary of the darkest day in team history, when Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and two other people died when their 32-foot boat slammed into a jetty off Miami Beach on Sept. 25, 2016.
The charismatic, exuberant Fernandez, who was beloved in Miami’s Latin community and touted as the future of the franchise, went 38-17 in his four seasons with the club, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2013 and being named a two-time All-Star.
Fernandez’s death, which came at the end of Mattingly’s first season, set the Marlins back. But Mattingly guided them through, ending what was a 17-year playoff drought in 2020.
“Donnie’s just the consummate professional and a tremendous person,” Ng said during Sunday’s game. “He’s led the organization through some pretty tough times, particularly early in his tenure, then in the last couple of years with the pandemic and the lockout.”
Ng said the decision came after a series of conversations between Mattingly and the front office, with the soon-to-be-former skipper deciding not to pursue a new contract and the team deciding it wouldn’t be offering one.
“This year was very disappointing,” Ng said. “We had a lot of bad luck in terms of injuries. The record is not indicative of the talent that we have. We have to do a lot of introspection in terms of our processes and operations on how we fix that. I’m still optimistic about what we’ve got here.”
The Marlins haven’t spent a day in first place since Aug. 16, 2020. Outside of a few random April days, they haven’t seen first place in a regular 162-game season since June 2014. And this season will mark the 12th time in the last 13 years that they’ll finish with a losing record.
“I don’t know what his plans are moving forward but he will be missed,” Martinez said. “I wish him all the best.”
This much is clear: Mattingly’s revelation on Sunday wasn’t a retirement announcement.
“I feel great,” Mattingly said. “My mind still works. Some of you guys might argue differently at times, but I feel like my mind works good. My body feels great, still feel good. So, I don’t want to go sit on the couch, that’s for sure.”
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