Don Mattingly was never a showboat as a player. He was about as straight shooting, business-is-business kinds of guys out there. As a manager he still is. I mean, you don’t get the nickname Donnie Baseball for nothing. He’s the epitome of a “baseball guy,” which is a descriptor most people around the game use to describe people who take the game seriously and never ruffle people’s feathers.
But he has a supreme feather-ruffler playing for him in Yasiel Puig. And he’s well-aware of another feather-ruffler in Carlos Gomez. And over the weekend he said something which a lot of other baseball guys should probably listen to: relax, fellas:
“Guys play with emotion, and that can get on your nerves,” said Mattingly. “Gomez plays with a lot of fire, and it rubs people the wrong way. Every team has guys that bug you. It’s just the way it is. Puig is a guy on our team, he draws as much attention as anybody. But it’s a little silly. You can still be respectful of your opponent and carry yourself with class.
“I do think we have to loosen up a bit or there will be more and more times that guys take offense. I’m not talking about the Giants. It’s all around baseball.”
Sure, he’s obviously defending his own guy here, as these comments came the day after Puig and Madison Bumgarner jawed at each other when Bumgarner took offense at a Puig bat flip. But including Gomez in it too suggests that this is something Mattingly believes even when it doesn’t apply just to a Dodgers player.
And he’s right. Looking to take offense at even the most insignificant of deviations from baseball’s conventions of formality is “all around baseball.” I have no idea whether that strain of no-fun-allowed thinking has increased or if it has merely been flushed out into the open by a couple of flamboyant players, but it’s such a drag.
And if someone as conventional as Don Mattingly is saying it, it’s probably worth listening to.