There’s a solid chance that the loudest ovation at Yankee Stadium tonight will be for the opposing manager.
“If Mo gets in the game, maybe he can overtake him,” Joe Girardi said.
Don Matthingly is back in town. It’s the first time the Dodgers have ever played a regular-season game at Yankee Stadium, and the matchup of two iconic franchises will be highlighted by the return of one iconic first baseman.
“Donnie is one of the greatest Yankees that has ever played, and one of the greatest teammates that has ever put on that uniform,” Girardi said. “I know that I’ve always loved him and appreciated what he’s done, and the fans have seen a lot more than I have. I think it will be a great day for him.”
The Yankees seem more than happy to relinquish the spotlight for a while.
“Donnie, himself, was and will always be a Yankee,” Brian Cashman said. “A tremendous Yankee. Fans obviously love him. When he left here and went to the Dodgers, the new stadium got built ,and I remember Donnie coming back on an off-day or earlier in the morning before a game at Citi Field. He came over here to get a tour of the facility on an off-day or the day of a game situation. He wanted to get a chance to look at the new Yankee Stadium. So I know he’s been here. … He’s coming back, obviously, as manager of the Dodgers and life-long Yankee who’ll always be a Yankee. I just hope we can beat him. I hope we take every game that we’re playing these guys, and I know that he feels the same way. Listen, Yankees fans haven’t gotten a chance to show him the love, so he’ll get it when they introduce his name.”
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Mattingly was almost managing in Yankee pinstripes rather than Dodger blue.
“It was extremely difficult; the process was difficult,” Cashman said. “There were extensive interviews. Our entire baseball operations team put these guys through a pretty extraordinary interview process. I had, obviously, three candidates (Mattingly, Girardi and Tony Pena). … Part of the criteria that was already set up was people who had worked with me, had worked here, understood the politics here, understood New York. Being the manager of the New York Yankees involves a lot more than just managing game strategy. It’s also trying to manage the press, trying to manage the expectations that come with being a Yankee, the pressures of winning, the politics of the front office.
“… I felt someone from that group was going to emerge from that group and be successful, and I believe I made the right selection. Joe Girardi has been a great asset for us. It was a very tough call. The only thing that, for Donnie, was difficult, was that at the time he had never managed before. That’s a hard hurdle to get over when you’re trying to put forward a team that’s trying to win now. We’re trying to win immediately, and that’s an area where Donnie — he knows the game inside out, he had the right personality and demeanor, he has the resume as a former player, he knows the ups and downs and the struggles and players can easily relate with him on that. The area that was a very difficult hurdle for him at the time — and obviously he doesn’t have that anymore to deal with — is obviously at the time, he hadn’t managed a game in the big leagues.
“So was I going to be in a position to be comfortable enough to turn over 200 million dollars worth of assets to someone who hadn’t done that before in game? That was obviously something he was going to have to overcome in the interview process compared to Joe and Tony. But he, without a doubt, was worthy. He was there for a reason. For the Dodgers, I think he was a great selection by tapping him. Now he’s a finished product and ready to go, and like every team in baseball, if he has all his assets going and healthy, they have a chance to run with a real strong, championship-caliber situation, and that’s what they’re trying to get when they get all their horses back.”
Associated Press photos