Job security is a starkly different thing for Don Mattingly than the typical person. The three-year contract extension Mattingly signed to remain Dodgers manager through 2016 is about job security, of course, but it is not about financial security, it is not about a strong retirement, and it is not about concern for supporting his children, as such decisions would be for the typical person. But there are only 30 major league managing positions in the entire world, and one can understand why Mattingly, coming off an NL West championship and an NLCS trip with his Dodgers, was willing to negotiate hard in the name of job security -- and respect.
Last season, Mattingly was managing in the final year of his first contract with the Dodgers. As the team floundered in the early months without the injured Hanley Ramirez and before Yasiel Puig was recalled, the insecurity inherent with managing on a one-year deal was apparent. On May 22nd, the Dodgers sat in last place at 18-26, seven games behind Arizona in the NL West. That day, Mattingly told reporters:
"If we don't win, and we're healthy, they really should look at it. This team has a lot of talent. My job, and my coaches' job, is to get them to play the game right. If we can't get them to play the game right, they may have the wrong voice."
The lede on Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Shaikin's report from that day says it all:
"If the Dodgers' owners have not already decided to fire Don Mattingly, the manager all but fired himself on Wednesday."
And Shaikin certainly wasn't alone -- a vast majority of the media was convinced Mattingly's time was running out swiftly, myself included. But within the next month, Yasiel Puig arrived, Hanley Ramirez healed up, and the Dodgers went on to outplay the rest of the National League by 4.5 games from May 22nd on.
Mattingly's contract initially held an option year for 2014, an option that would be a no-brainer. But Mattingly, unsurprisingly, is not keen on managing another year under the stress of lame duck status. As he said in October, referring to that same lame duck status he experienced in 2013:
"Really what it does, it puts me in a spot where everything that I do is questioned because I'm basically trying out or auditioning to say, 'Can he manage or can he not manage?' To me, it's at that point where, three years in, you either know or you don't."
Here it becomes apparent why it's not necessarily about a packet of papers that says Don Mattingly will be the Dodgers manager through 2016. Dodgers ownership is more than rich enough to swallow Mattingly's guaranteed contract and fire him tomorrow, should they see fit. The extension makes it tougher -- just beyond the financials, it's just a bad look to eat multiple years of salary on a manager -- but it should be clear neither money nor years is what Mattingly was negotiating for, nor why he all but threatened to quit if he didn't get the extension.
These negotiations -- for managers, players, and anybody else who wants something from their boss -- are about respect. Show me you trust me. Show me you really believe I'm important. Show me you think you need me to win.
Mattingly happens to be lucky enough to be in a position where he can demand those things, and where his threat to quit if his demands aren't recognized is a plausible one. He's lucky enough because he is set for life, and because he already has a life with more accomplishments in his field than most of us can imagine. The money -- contractual terms were not disclosed as of Tuesday night, but rest assured it is plenty -- will be nice. But what Don Mattingly needed from these negotiations was the belief he was wanted and respected by the front office and those above, and in this industry, there's no better expression of respect than a shiny new contract.