Don Mattingly was officially introduced as the Yankees' new hitting coach yesterday. After spending the last eight years on his farm in Indiana, it was time to return to baseball. Just ask his wife Kim, who got Boss George on the phone last week:
A booming voice said, "Big Man."
Kim answered, "It's Big Woman."
"He's at the farm."
"I want to talk to him Kimmy, I really want him up here."
"Then it just kind of flew out of my mouth," Kim Mattingly related yesterday at Yankee Stadium. "Before I could stop myself, I said, 'You know what, I think it's time he comes back your way. I'm glad I got you on the phone, I want to tell you that.'
"So then when I get hold of Donnie, I say, 'You need to come home right away and call Mr. Steinbrenner.'
"He asked, 'Why?' And I just said, 'You just need to come home and talk to him. I just told him you need to go back to coaching. And Donnie said, 'What?!' "
(Kernan: New York Post)
With his wife giving her blessings, Mattingly returns to New York, where he will presumably start the second part of his career in baseball. John Harper has a good take on Mattingly in the Daily News today and suggests that Donnie Baseball's much-publicized humility and work ethic are anything but phoney.
Mattingly wasn't born yesterday either. He understands how things work in Boss George's Universe:
"You don't get out of here alive...Everybody talks to me about 'It's great to have you back' and whatever. I am not naive in the fact that if the ballclub isn't swinging the bat after a month that I am going to be on the hot seat. That's the way it is here, and you relate that to guys and hopefully help them out."
..."There is pressure to play here and do the job," Mattingly said. "You can't be a guy who comes to New York afraid of performing. I think the same thing is expected as a coach. You have a job to do and I am not afraid of that. I feel I can help guys. I am not a savior or anything else, but I bring something to the table."
As expected, Willie Randolph will replace Don Zimmer as Joe Torre's bench coach and Luis Sojo will become the first base coach. Lee Mazzilli will coach third unless he is hired to manage the Orioles.
In other Yankee news, Andy Pettitte will become a free agent and test the market. This doesn't mean that the Yankees won't still sign him. In fact, it would come as a surprise if Pettitte didn't return to the Bronx next year. The Yankees declined to pick up Boomer Wells' option, making the hefty lefty a free agent. There is still a possibility that he could return as well. Felix Heredia also filed for free agency--declining a player option for 2004---but Yankee GM, Brian Cashman maintains that the Yankees are interested in signing both Heredia and Gabe White. Allen Barra thnks bringing the two lefty relievers back is the right move.
Lastly, Mike Mussina won the gold glove for the best fielding pitcher in the American League. Four Seattle Mariners were awarded Gold Gloves, and the M's made their fans happy yesterday by signing Edgar Martinez to a one-year deal. Somewhere, Derek Zumsteg is smiling.