Amid front office turmoil, Mattingly has steered the Dodgers to a 31--36 record, 6½ games out of first place in the NL West.
Dan Patrick:How much fun are you having?
Don Mattingly: I love it. It's a challenge. Our guys are playing hard. We're in a division where it seems like no one is going to go off and hide. We have pretty good pitching, so we feel like we have a good chance to win.
DP:Has what's happening in the front office been a distraction?
DM: It hasn't been much of an issue for us at all. There was more of a soap opera last year.
DP:Did being in New York City and dealing with George Steinbrenner help you handle this?
DM: It helps. In New York there was always something going on. You really have to keep focused on what you can control.
DP:Best team you've seen so far?
DM: There are a lot of good clubs out there. Obviously one of the best teams is Philly, with the pitching. San Francisco's got that swagger that says, We think we can beat you, and we think we're better than you.
DP:As a hitter, would you have rather faced the Phillies' Roy Halladay or the Giants' Tim Lincecum?
DM: That's not a real great choice. I would rather have faced Halladay. Lincecum is a guy who gets you out without throwing strikes. Doc's a guy who says, "C'mon, let's go, you and me."
DP:Who has the biggest ego you've ever had to deal with?
DM: I felt like Randy Johnson had a big ego [when I was coaching] in New York. Not really in a bad way. He should have. He was a great pitcher for a long time. Those guys get [to a point] where they really believe in themselves.
DP:Do you want players with big egos?
DM: I don't mind if a guy's selfish because he wants to put up numbers. A guy who doesn't give up at bats and battles to get every out and never wants to give up a run... . I kind of like those guys.
DP:After Giants catcher Buster Posey's injury, what do you think the catcher's role should be on a play at the plate?
DM: I think the catcher is the one who really controls that. I know there's a way to block the plate where you position yourself so that you don't get hurt. The runner can't just come in and politely curtsy. If [Posey's agent] would have come out 30 days before Buster got hit and said, "Hey, I think we should do something about the catchers," [that's one thing], but not after his client gets hit. Then it gets into, "Hey, let's not slide hard into second because I've got a client who plays second or short."
DP:What if one of your players didn't run into the catcher in that situation?
DM: We want him to play the game the way we feel like the game is played. Trust me, we don't want to see anybody get hurt. A guy like Buster Posey, who's a great player and seems like a great kid... . You don't want to see guys get hurt.
DP:Did you ever have a hard collision at the plate?
DM: I did. With a kid from Australia named Dave Nilsson on Milwaukee. I came in and thought I smoked him. As I'm lying there, he looked down at me and said, "You all right, mate?"
DP:Which hurt worse, the collision or what he said?
DM: Him saying, "You all right?"
• Heat Check
Nearly 70% of the voters in a danpatrick.com poll think the Heat's season was a failure, but TNT analyst Steve Kerr said that people are focusing on false expectations created by LeBron James (above) and his teammates. "Given what they actually accomplished in the playoffs, if you cut through everything else, they had a pretty good year," Kerr said. "A lot of that was self-inflicted. If you look at it big picture, to do what they did in one year ... this is something they should be able to build on."
• Just Cause
BCS executive director Bill Hancock addressed the worst-case scenario for his organization when it meets with the Justice Department this summer. "I don't think a court would say you must create a playoff," Hancock told me. "If [the BCS] were declared illegal, then I think the conferences would likely return to the old bowl system where there's limited opportunity for Number 1 and Number 2 to meet." Hancock may be right, but the BCS shouldn't have to be forced to improve on a format that's not working.
• Line of the week
Brooklyn Decker on husband Andy Roddick: "He's a really good dancer. He's like Justin Timberlake. If he wanted to, he could be a backup dancer for 'N Sync."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com
1. Mark Jackson discusses taking over the Warriors.
2. Jason Whitlock on what the Heat need to do in the off-season.
THE FINE PRINT: Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith had a two-hour dinner in New York City. The meal was 30 minutes, and it took another 90 to divide the check.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
ALEX GALLARDO/AP (MATTINGLY)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JAMES)
JON KOPALOFF/FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES (DECKER)