In his rookie season as a manager, the plain-spoken former Yankees star led the Dodgers past a shaky start to a third-place finish in the National League West and has the club looking sharp again this spring.
DAN PATRICK:What did you learn in your first year as a manager?
March 26, 2012
DON MATTINGLY: The biggest thing [I got out of it] was experience. I'm pretty laid back for the most part. There are times with guys you have to step out and say, Hey, this is not the way we're going to do it. You want everybody to like you, but you can't worry about that.
DP:What do you think of adding a wild-card-playoff team in each league?
DM: I kind of like it. The one wild card puts that team in the same situation as any other team. When you go to two, you might have to use your best pitcher [in the elimination game] to get to the next round. If it's us, and we're a wild card, and [Clayton] Kershaw is available, I have to use him. Now I'm going into the playoffs against the team that won a division starting off with my Number 2 guy. And it could even be my Number 3 if I used Kershaw to get to that [elimination] game.
DP:What was your reaction when Albert Pujols signed across town with the Angels?
DM: I was surprised. I'm from the Midwest, and I didn't really think he would leave. I didn't think they would allow him to leave.
DP:Pujols signed a 10-year contract. Can he be effective even five years from now?
DM: It's kind of hard to doubt him [with the way] he keeps putting up the numbers. The last couple of years, you see a little less flexibility in his movements, and that's [a sign he] might be slowing down a little bit. I know Albert and consider him a friend. This guy's a leader, a great person.
DP:Did your guys talk about Ryan Braun's situation in the clubhouse?
DM: Not too much. [MVP runner-up] Matt Kemp's comments settled it when he said he was glad nothing happened.
DP:Did you ever take anything that may be illegal under the current drug policy?
DM: I don't think so. I never got to the point of even [using] Creatine. I kind of missed that era. I retired after the '95 season. It must have been coming before that, [but] I was kind of out when it boomed. I'm glad I wasn't part of that because I would have had to answer questions and deal with a lot of it.
DP:Would you have been tempted to use anything?
DM: I think so. I hate to say it. You want to do the right thing, [but] I went through injuries—back problems—and I struggled. If someone said this is going to make you stronger ... I don't think you look at the ramifications when you're young. You think you're bulletproof. I think I would have been tempted.
DP:If everyone in baseball was doing it, what is to stop someone?
DM: The thought of being caught would have been the biggest deterrent for me. People say you could cork your bat or do something illegal. I never want anybody to come back and say that year I had of driving in 145 runs, it wasn't really me.
"The perception is that we have this locker room full of hit men. That's not the case at all. I would say, for a lot of us, this was as shocking as it was embarrassing, because it seems like there were some things going on [we] had no idea about."
—Drew Brees, Saints quarterback, on the NFL's investigation into the team's bounty system
GUEST SHOTS SAY WHAT?
Indiana coach Tom Crean isn't touching any of the recent hype about his Hoosiers as they head into their Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky. "We haven't bought into anyone's expectations, or lack thereof, or we wouldn't be in this position," Crean told me. "The Big Ten media had us ninth [before the season]." ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks refutes critics who claim Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook is selfish. "I talk to Russell every day," Brooks said. "He's coachable. He has to score for us to win." ... CBS Sports Network college basketball analyst Wally Szczerbiak isn't surprised that Big East teams are having success in the NCAAs this year, even though the conference has two fewer teams in the tournament than in 2011: "Last year a lot of teams were kind of 'eh.' It was just all hype about the Big East." ... Turner/CBS studio analyst Steve Smith can't be objective about his alma mater Michigan State. "I don't mind calling them us," the former Spartans star told me. I asked Smith how he refers to Michigan. "Them."