Let's ease up on celebrating Don Mattingly's NL Manager of the Year award

Dan Roche
·3 min read

Why Mattingly's Manager of the Year win comes with asterisk originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The year 2020 has seven weeks to go. At the rate it has seemingly transpired, with everything going on in the country and the world, these seven weeks will seem like a hundred.

By the same rationale, it’s easy to forget things that happened just a few weeks or months ago. Maybe we are overwhelmed by the sheer weight of what’s going on. Maybe we just want to put this entire year behind us, and forget it ever happened.

Last night, Marlins manager Don Mattingly was voted 2020 National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. 

The narrative some will share is that Mattingly led his team to the postseason, including a Wild Card series win over the Cubs, despite a COVID-19 outbreak that decimated his team.

All of that is true. What’s also true is that he could’ve done something to stem the outbreak, that ended up infecting 17 of his players.

Let’s take a walk down Memory Lane, shall we?

Mattingly’s club had their first positive test for the coronavirus on July 24th, the afternoon of the Marlins’ season opener against the Phillies. They played on.

36 hours later, Miami had three more players test positive on the morning of Sunday, the 26th. The manager said they “never really considered not playing from my standpoint.” Play ball. 

By July 28th, the Marlins had 17 members of their traveling party contract the disease, some of whom were on the field either prior to, or during, that Sunday’s game, or both.

Three-and-a-half months later, the on-field leader of the team that nearly destroyed the 2020 baseball season singlehandedly, was named Manager of the Year.

It’s understood that even in late July, four and a half months into this pandemic, there was still plenty that most of us didn’t know about the virus. But it’s really difficult to argue with the math here.

Your team had one positive test, then four, within a span of a day and a half. It’s awfully difficult to ignore. But Mattingly opted against caution. Against the safety of his team, of his opponents, the umpires, the Citizens Bank Park clubhouse personnel, and surely dozens of others, to keep playing.

He was the bandleader on the Titanic, if the band’s job on the Titanic was to smash holes in the vessel itself.

The outbreak led to five other teams changing their schedules due to the Marlins’ ham-handed response, including the Phillies, who had to sit out a week awaiting test results and disinfecting their home stadium. 

Mattingly did have to overcome quite a bit to lead his team to the postseason. But before you applaud his on-the-field efforts, remember that it’s what he didn’t do that could’ve cost his players dearly.

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