Insights into Don Mattingly’s choice to join Blue Jays instead of Yankees

Don Mattingly in the Yankees' pinstripes and in the Blue Jays' uniform.

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Yankees fans cherish the legendary exploits of Don Mattingly while he was playing pinstripes. The Hit Man’s 14 seasons in the Bronx included an MVP award and nine Gold Gloves amid great adoration by the team and its followers. The Yankees retired his No. 23 too. However, today, Don Mattingly is donning the opponent’s jersey when the Yankees need him the most.

In November 2022, Don Mattingly took over as the bench coach of the Toronto Blue Jays. He was previously with the Dodgers as hitting coach from 2008 to 2015 and managed the Merlins between 2016 and 2022.

After his retirement, the Yankees hired Don Mattingly first as a special instructor. He became the team’s hitting coach in 2004. That season, the Yankees established a historic franchise record by hitting 242 home runs. Following the 2006 season, he was transitioned to the position of bench coach. He was among the finalists to manage the Yankees in 2007 but lost out to Joe Girardi.

Don Mattingly in Toronto

It is weird for many Yankees fans to see Don Mattingly wearing a Blue Jays outfit. The former Yankees skipper claims that it is perfectly understandable. He is still adjusting to life in enemy territory. Not that Mattingly doesn’t like his position as bench coach for manager John Schneider. Actually, it’s the ideal suit for an antiquated grunt who personified Yankees baseball in the 1980s.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to imagine Don Mattingly didn’t return to the Pinstripes last autumn after spending seven years as the Marlins’ manager. While he acknowledged of having discussions with Yankees management, he said that “nothing (discussed) pulled me out of (my home in) Indiana.”

While Don Mattingly declined to say what function the Yankees had in mind, it was clearly not to take the position of Aaron Boone. It wasn’t even a job as a dugout coach. The Blue Jays saw the opening and pounced.

“Toronto got me,” Don Mattingly said, emphasizing its proposal was “just different” than the Yankees’ position.

“I’m getting the opportunity to do what I like,” he said. “I have a chance to be another set of eyes for (Schneider). And I have a chance to have conversations with hitters, the young guys like Vlad (Guerrero Jr.), who are talented and growing.

“I’m getting a chance to coach … really coach. That’s what excited me. If I was going to leave home, it was going to be with a good team that had a real chance to win.”

No ill feelings toward the Yankees

Don Mattingly describes his new universe without a trace of bitterness or even disappointment toward the Yankees. The imprint from an organization, where he spent his career and collected so many awards, is still strong to this day.

“There’s no negativity towards the Yankees. Why would there be?” Mattingly said. “I look back at Yogi (Berra). He went everywhere in his career (Houston and the Mets), but he ended up coming back to the Yankees.

“And I think that’s how people are going to remember me, not managing the Marlins or the Dodgers. But as a Yankee.”

Does Mattingly still believe that he will eventually return to the Yankees, perhaps to take over for Boone? It should come as no surprise that Mattingly refused to engage in a conversation when asked this question.

“I’ve never been one to worry about the next thing,” Don Mattingly said. “I’ve always tried to stay in the moment. I truly enjoy where I am right now.”

Don Mattingly was a smart choice for the history lesson. After all, he is a living embodiment of the George Steinbrenner era and a walking time machine. Particularly in 1985, when he was perhaps the best player in the American League, Mattingly was a shining example.

No Yankees expert needs to be reminded of the strong competition with Keith Hernandez over who was the greatest first baseman for New York. However, Don Mattingly never won a championship with the Yankees, unlike the skipper of the Mets. In addition, despite managing for 12 years in Miami and Los Angeles, he never won a ring.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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3 thoughts on “Insights into Don Mattingly’s choice to join Blue Jays instead of Yankees

  1. You wrote: “No Yankees expert needs to be reminded of the strong competition with Keith Hernandez over who was the greatest first baseman for New York.”

    The greatest first basemen for New York was Lou Gehrig.

    1. Hope someday he comes back to the Yankees in some capacity and finally wins a World Series with them. My favorite player of all time.

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