LOS ANGELES (AP) — Don Mattingly and the Los Angeles Dodgers stuck to their scripts Thursday, insisting they agreed to a mutual parting of the ways while never revealing the exact reason he won’t return as manager.
Like a publicist announcing the demise of a Hollywood marriage, the parties insisted the split was amicable. Mattingly even suggested he “will be friends like forever” with his former bosses.
“I don’t really want to get into details of our conversations. They were good conversations, they were open and they were honest,” Mattingly said by phone from his offseason home in Evansville, Indiana. “It just became evident that this was the best thing for both parties.”
At Dodger Stadium, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi parroted the same vacuous message.
“It was kind of organic,” Friedman said. “It just kind of crystalized that is something that potentially made a lot of sense.”
Before they came to that conclusion, the parties discussed extending Mattingly’s contract beyond next year, its final season.
“When we started on Friday we expected him to be our manager in 2016,” Friedman said. “I think that was his thought process, also.”
But something clearly changed as the discussions wore on. Exactly what it was neither side would specify.
“It came back to this was the right time and right thing,” Mattingly said. “Andrew, Farhan and Josh (Byrnes) are great guys and they’re going to do great things. The organization is in great shape.”
Mattingly said he felt wanted, his players backed him, and Friedman and Zaidi expressed their respect and admiration for him, making it all the more puzzling why he’s walking away from a storied organization that boasts baseball’s highest payroll.
Neither side shed any light to help the franchise’s longtime fans understand the move.
“If there is a reason that this happened we would share it,” Friedman said. “It’s not so black-and-white here. There’s a huge middle, and it’s gray there. We’re not hiding anything. It really is how things played out.”
Zaidi said a contract extension was discussed, but no official offer was made.
“I’ve had my own level of cynicism hearing about people mutually parting ways,” he said. “We can sit up here with all level of sincerity and say that’s how it came about.”
Los Angeles was 446-363 in five years under Mattingly, finishing with a winning record in every season and claiming the last three NL West titles. But the Dodgers have not reached the World Series since winning the championship in 1988.
The 54-year-old former Yankees star ranks sixth in wins among Dodgers managers.
Friedman said he expects to hire a manager by the start of baseball’s winter meetings that run Dec. 7-10 in Nashville, Tennessee. He and Zaidi began discussing possible candidates Wednesday, including those with and without previous managerial experience. They declined to reveal names.
“We expect to have a younger team going forward,” Zaidi said.
The contracts of Mattingly’s coaches are expiring, and they have been told they are free to look for new jobs, Friedman said.
Friedman called the circumstances of Mattingly’s departure “a little bit of an unusual situation.”
After the Dodgers lost 3-2 to the New York Mets in a decisive Game 5 of the NL Division Series, Mattingly met over the last week with Friedman, Zaidi and Josh Byrnes, senior vice president of baseball operations.
“I never appreciated hearing the way Game 5 developed was Don Mattingly’s fault,” Friedman said.
Los Angeles reached the postseason in three straight years for the first time but the Dodgers won just one series, beating Atlanta in the Division Series two years ago, while losing three.
Mattingly was a holdover from the previous front office regime, having been manager Joe Torre’s hand-picked successor in 2010 after he coached under the Hall of Famer for seven seasons in New York and Los Angeles.
Mattingly worked this season under the new tandem of Friedman and Zaidi, who had greater hands-on management than what Mattingly was used to under former GM Ned Colletti.
Between Zaidi’s expertise in advanced analytics and Friedman’s reputation for building a roster by crunching numbers, Mattingly had a plethora of data at his disposal this season.
He said he “loved” the increased information.
“Information is good, discussion is good, debating things back and forth is good,” Mattingly said. “I just look it as collaboration and us just working together. I feel like Andrew, Farhan and Josh will be friends like forever. That relationship is not strained in any way.”
Friedman said Mattingly had autonomy in making out the daily lineups, tamping down chatter that he and Zaidi regularly influenced such decisions.
“To boil it down to one thing, it just wasn’t that simple,” Zaidi said.
The laidback Mattingly was liked and respected by his players.
“He’s our guy and I believe in him,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said last week.
Mattingly said he still wants to manage. His name surfaced last month for the Miami Marlins’ opening. There also are openings in San Diego, Seattle and Washington.
“We agreed to part ways with a guy who is a tremendous baseball guy,” Friedman said. “We’re going to do everything we can to find a really good leader for us in 2016.”