Breakfast With Mattingly's Agent

"He'll never agree to that," D.B.'s agent said as his lips held on to the cigarette. He sparked the match and took a deep breath.

We were sitting in a booth at a Denny's just off the 101, not too far from Dodger Stadium. Breakfast was over, but we were far away from an agreement.

"That's absurd," I said as I stirred another half-and-half into my third cup of coffee. "In any possible deal, he'd have to at least agree to cut down on those pointless double-switches. He's like a kid figuring out how to use a Transformer for the first time or something."

Codename: "D.B."
The agent shifted in his booth as he took another drag from the cigarette. He flicked ashes on his plate, slowly shook his head and looked up.

"D.B. won't agree to that," he said again.

"Then go tell Don Mattingly he's being a di--," I started to say.

"What did I tell you about calling him that?" He nervously looked around the half-empty dining room, trying to sell a calm smile. "He doesn't want anyone to know about this. He's D.B., as far as
you're concerned, and officially, he doesn't even care what you think about him, got it?"

The negotiations had started well. We quickly agreed upon D.B.'s top strength-- managing players and their egos. There was no public bellyaching by the players when the Dodgers were in the cellar, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well Andre Ethier responded to a light scolding back in May.

Ethier also works at this Denny's.
The "Moons Over My Hammy" he made me? Nailed it.
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
Amazingly, I learned D.B. was open to the idea of asking for a second opinion about any bunt call before the 8th inning. We had even worked out a tentative list of coaches and players who could provide that second opinion. That was a huge concession, but it wasn't enough.

The talks stalled on issues of grit and switchery. D.B. still wants more playing time from gritmakers Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston at the expense of making Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe everyday starters.

Exasperating the problem, many double-switches add a gritmaker by subtracting a guy whose bat you'd want in later innings, like Adrian Gonzalez or Hanley Ramirez. Unfortunately, the talks came to a halt after I suggested a cap of two double-switches per calendar week.

"Well, we're no better off now than before we got here," I said after taking a big sip. "I just can't support him as manager, long term, until I can evaluate what happens at the end of the season." The waitress walked up, looking concerned.

"Sir, you can't smoke inside the restaurant," she said to the agent.

He took another drag, hovered the butt over a glass of water for a moment and dropped it. It sizzled as he pulled a five-dollar bill from the inside of his leather jacket and unfolded it on the table below her.

"I know," he replied with the exact type of smugness you'd expect from a man wearing a leather jacket in Southern California in July. She rolled her eyes, topped off my coffee and started to walk away when he called her back.

"I forgot, I need to get a to-go order," he said as he turned back to me for the wink, smile and double-point trifecta. "It's for D.B." She started flipping through her pad.

Across the dining room, Uribe burst through the front doors, waving a hundred-dollar bill. He repeated the word "bacon" to anyone within earshot a few times, then grabbed two menus and seated himself while Yasiel Puig parked the car around back.

Yasiel Puig / Instagram
"OK, what do you want for the to-go order?" the waitress said hurriedly.

"He wants the Grand Slam, but said he wanted to double-switch the pancakes for grits, and then the eggs for pancakes."

She paused for a moment, then crossed out the last thing she wrote in her pad while glaring at him. I stopped stirring in another half-and-half and looked up.

"Look," he pleaded as he leaned forward. He took off his sunglasses for a brighter view of the two people who were looking at him like he's an idiot. "That's the way he wanted me to order it."

"The man needs help," I said as I took another sip and contemplated the fate of the 2013 season in Mattingly's meddling hands. "Check, please."

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Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
 

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