Don Mattingly should be scared. Or at least concerned.
He has lost the top four players on his lineup card, including his entire outfield. He has lost 61 percent of his home run production and 88 percent of his stolen base output.
He has lost the National League’s reigning MVP.
He is in charge of a Marlins team that most are projecting to lose about 100 games.
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But to hear the manager’s comments Saturday at Marlins Park, where the remnants of the team’s thinning following turned out for FanFast, one might have been left wondering whether Mattingly has either lost his mind or spent the winter offseason in a cave.
“You probably think I’m crazy,” Mattingly said, “but I could look you right in the camera -- look you right in the eye -- and tell you how excited I am to be here.”
Excited? After watching new ownership take a wrecking ball to the roster by trading Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon?
Like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which the Black Knight responds “’Tis but a scratch” after having his arm chopped off, the Marlins’ third-year manager sounded pleased with it all.
A “coach’s dream,” he called it.
He was serious.
“You get to teach. You get to develop. You get to bring a guy’s career along and you actually get to be a part of building something that you think is going to be something special, and think is going to be sustainable,” Mattingly said.
And, with spring training set to begin on Wednesday, he was serious when he added this: “We’re going to prepare to win a championship.”
Barring the miracle of miracles, the Marlins will do no such thing.
But Mattingly is on board with the rebuild. Last year’s Marlins, he pointed out correctly, lost more than they won for the team’s eighth straight losing season.
“We knew that we had a good lineup,” Mattingly said of Marlins team that scored but couldn’t keep teams from scoring. “But we also know we were 10 games out of the Wild Card with those guys.”
So Mattingly has some holes to fill and, perhaps, a few hurt egos to stroke.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto, who has requested a trade, said all the right things Saturday. He said he would prepare for the season the same way, whether or not he starts the season with the Marlins or some other team.
“Once the season starts, all of this is going to be behind us,” Realmuto said.
The Marlins have spoken to a number of teams about Realmuto. But, as of Saturday, he was walking around the ballpark in a Marlins uniform.
New second baseman Starlin Castro, who had also expressed a desire to be traded so as not to suffer through what figures to be a painful rebuilding process, has apparently had a change of heart.
“I’m really happy here,” said Castro, adding that he no longer wished to be dealt. “They told me I’m going to be here. They’re happy to have me.”
Everyone sounded incredibly happy, most of all Mattingly.
The old way wasn’t working for him.
“We weren’t winning,” he said. “We had to do something different. I know some of the things have been unpopular. But, for me, it’s things that had to be done.”