For Mattingly, could an LA firing lead to a National opportunity?

Remember when Fredi Gonzalez got fired by the Marlins?

Best thing that ever happened to him. He stepped out of a mess in Miami, and soon enough he stepped right into a great situation with the Braves.

There are already some in baseball who predict that something similar could happen to Don Mattingly.

Mattingly hasn't yet been fired by the Dodgers. He might not be fired.

But if he is, keep the Nationals in mind.

Mattingly wouldn't be as sure a bet to replace the retiring Davey Johnson as Gonzalez was to replace the retiring Bobby Cox in Atlanta three years back. But the connections are there.

People who know Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo say Rizzo is and has always been a Mattingly fan. The Nationals considered Mattingly as manager once before, according to sources, although they never officially interviewed him for the job at that point.

Rizzo, not surprisingly, didn't want to come anywhere near discussing Mattingly or the Nationals' succession plans for Johnson when colleague Jon Heyman spoke to him this week. Mattingly still has a job, and the Nationals still remain fully focused on 2013, not 2014.

Eventually, though, they will need someone to take over for Johnson, who has said that this will be his final year as manager. Both ownership and the front office are believed to strongly favor hiring a high-profile manager, rather than simply promote someone like Randy Knorr or Trent Jewett from Johnson's coaching staff.

There are some obvious differences from the Gonzalez situation. Gonzalez worked with the Braves before going to the Marlins, and he and Cox were and have remained close friends. And the Dodgers, for all their faults, are nowhere near the mess that the Marlins were then and still are now.

Still, it's easy to think that the Nationals job is a better one, given the young talent on the roster and the commitment of ownership. The clubhouse environment with the Dodgers is challenging enough that one friend of Mattingly's said this week that he was almost hoping that Mattingly would get fired.

"He might be better off going somewhere else," the friend said.

As Heyman wrote Wednesday, Mattingly does not seem to be hoping for that himself. If he does get fired by the Dodgers, it's not as if he would be guaranteed to get a job elsewhere, with the Nationals or with anyone else.

There's no guarantee that he would end up like Gonzalez.

It is, according to sources, a real possibility.

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