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Don Mattingly Managing the New York Mets Now a Distant Thought

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COMMENTARY | Just a few months ago, after reading an article in USA Today about lame-duck managers, I thought about what it would be like to have Don Mattingly manage the New York Mets.

Thirty games into the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the highest payroll in National League history, were 13-17. Mattingly, with only this year left on his contract, was on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, there have never been any guarantees for Terry Collins, either. In his third season managing the Mets, Collins, like Mattingly, does not have a contract for next year.

Therefore, I pondered how great of a fit Mattingly would be for the Mets. A New York legend -- albeit with the Yankees -- Mattingly would be a huge grab for the Mets, who would steal attention away from their crosstown rivals by hiring one of the greatest and most popular Yankees of all time.

Fast forward to the present, and the storyline has changed. There's no chance of that happening now. At 70-50, the Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball. They've won eight in a row and they're 40-8 since June 22. Los Angeles just completed a three-game sweep of the Mets, beating New York in every way possible.

The Dodgers now seem certain of making the playoffs, and with a payroll (already well over $200 million) that could actually increase going forward, the future appears bright for them.

The same cannot be said, at least not definitively, about the Mets. The money is not there right now, and neither is the talent. But the Mets have shown some improvement this year, and barring a late collapse, it's looking more and more like Collins will return in 2014.

These are two clubs at opposite ends of the baseball world. The Mets, 10 games below .500, can only dream of getting to where the Dodgers are. But you have to remember that it was just a few months ago that the two teams were separated by only payroll and expectations.

As the last three nights proved, the Mets have a lot of work to do if they want to be able to compete with the big boys. They tried their best during their stay in L.A., but that's not enough to beat these Dodgers. Last night, the Mets were up two runs and needed just three outs for a win. But the Dodgers came back to tie it in the bottom of the ninth inning, then won it in the 12th.

That's the magic the Mets had back in 1986 when they won it all. This season, and maybe for many more to come, it's the Dodgers' turn.

Charles Costello has followed the Mets closely since the rookie years of Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the Mets during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

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