The next questionable decision Don Mattingly makes will be nothing more than a questionable decision. He'll be able to explain his thought process and move on without wondering if it will cost him his job.
Mattingly has agreed to a new three-year contract with the Dodgers to be their manager through the 2016 season, ending speculation about his future with the franchise. The new deal could be formally announced as early as Wednesday, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The agreement figures to temporarily eliminate the kind of distraction the Dodgers faced last season, when President Stan Kasten's evasiveness regarding the lame-duck manager's status created something of a sideshow.
Mattingly's previous deal was set to expire at the end of last season until the Dodgers reached the National League Championship Series to automatically extend the contract by another season. The new deal will replace the final year of the old contract and add two years.
Mattingly, 52, was the runner-up last season in voting for NL manager of the year and has a managerial record of 260-225. In each of Mattingly's three seasons, the Dodgers' record improved.
Some of the uncertainty Mattingly faced could be attributed to the fact he was hired by the previous owner, Frank McCourt. Mattingly came to the Dodgers as a hitting coach in 2008 under the assumption he would one day replace mentor Joe Torre.
When Mattingly took over as manager in 2011, his only previous managerial experience was in the Arizona Fall League, a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. But he led the then-bankrupt Dodgers to an 82-79 mark, which was better than expected.
The change in ownership the following season was accompanied by a significant shift in the club's philosophy, which raised questions about whether Mattingly would be replaced. The questions intensified last winter after the Dodgers declined to exercise his option for 2014.
Speculation continued to mount as the Dodgers were in last place more than a month into last season despite fielding a team with a $230-million payroll. Mattingly later revealed Kasten warned him he could be fired if the team didn't start winning.
The emergence of Yasiel Puig and return of Hanley Ramirez turned the Dodgers' season around, as the team went on a 42-8 run and won the NL West by 11 games.
Mattingly was widely credited with holding together a hastily assembled team that included players with troublesome pasts. But the absence of a long-term deal, combined with a couple of questionable managerial decisions in the playoffs, created the appearance that Mattingly's fate was unsettled.
Mattingly was criticized for his handling of the bullpen in a loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 2 of the NL division series. He was criticized for replacing Adrian Gonzalez with pinch-runner Dee Gordon in a defeat by the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
In an uncomfortable end-of-the-season news conference, Mattingly blindsided his superiors by practically demanding a contract extension. Shortly after, Kasten publicly voiced his support for Mattingly. By baseball's winter meetings last month, Mattingly said he was "comfortable" with his situation and sounded confident a long-term solution could be found.