Now they can say it: Dodgers told Mattingly he could get fired

Don Mattingly can laugh today, but in May, he and Stan Kasten knew he was on shaky ground.
Don Mattingly can laugh today, but in May, he and Stan Kasten knew he was on shaky ground. (USATSI)

ST. LOUIS -- We may never know exactly how close Don Mattingly came to getting fired as manager of the Dodgers.

We do know now that it was a lot closer than the team ever admitted -- because Mattingly himself said so Tuesday night. At one point in late May, Mattingly said, team president Stan Kasten actually discussed the subject with him.

"Stan was really honest," Mattingly said. "He said, 'Donnie, I don't want to do anything, but at some point I would have to.' "

Kasten had always publicly maintained that Mattingly's job wasn't an issue, but you would hardly have expected him to say anything different. As it turned out, Hanley Ramirez got healthy, Yasiel Puig came to the big leagues, the Dodgers started winning and there was no more talk about firing the manager.

Now, if anything, the question is why the Dodgers have waited to extend Mattingly's contract.

Back when speculation about the manager's job was a daily topic, Mattingly dealt with it well. He said he understood why people were asking, and he said Tuesday he also understood why Kasten brought it up directly.

"At some point, a team needs a different voice," Mattingly said. "I get it."

Dodger players and coaches praise Mattingly for the way he handled the team's early-season struggles, avoiding any sign of panic and simply telling the players repeatedly that he expected the team to play better.

The Dodgers entered play Tuesday having won 32 of their past 39 overall, and 15 straight on the road. They've more than justified the decision to stick with Mattingly, no matter whether they ever really came close to firing him or not.

Even now, Mattingly says, it doesn't bother him that Kasten admitted the organization thought of making a change.

"He didn't threaten me," Mattingly said. "He was just telling the truth."

The truth is they were thinking about firing him. But the truth also is that they didn't do it.

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