Including their 4-3 loss on Saturday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals have a combined record of 410-305 since the start of the 2012 season. They have made the playoffs every season, won the National League Central four straight years, and also have made the 2013 World Series.
Despite that, the amount of criticism that their manager, former all-star catcher Mike Matheny (who played for the Cardinals from 2000-04) gets is insurmountable. Now, let’s make it clear that there’s a fine line between making professional, accurate criticisms, and just flat out whining about every little thing.
For the veteran Matheny, 45, it’s almost as if no matter what he does (or what the team does), there’s always something that will frustrate the fans… and even the “fans.”
Yes, there’s a difference between fans and “fans”.
One of the more frequent criticisms that seems to revolve around Matheny are the constant changes to the lineups and the rotation of positions. While it does seem as though they happen often, there’s two problems:
- First, as athletes, being able to adapt to different positions is absolutely important. Kolten Wong, for example, was a center fielder well before he became a second baseman. So to expect him to play center field once he was brought back up to the big league roster was not far fetched.
- Second, Matheny doesn’t have full power and decision over every move made. Some moves are also made by general manager John Mozeliak, who discusses with Matheny certain moves that can be made. It’s a team bond in the management department that helps the flow of a team.
Then comes the hardest aspect of Matheny’s management to defend… having Trevor Rosenthal as closer. After the 4-3 loss on Saturday, Rosenthal, who holds the Cardinals record for most saves in a season, expressed his thoughts.
“It’s been tough,” said Rosenthal. “But I’ve made some adjustments. I feel like today, I came out had my best stuff and I was competing. I was confident. I felt good today and I’m making the turn and making some good pitches. Come back out tomorrow and hopefully get another chance.”
Matheny’s comments also were full of disappoint and distaste.
“You look at what happened there, obviously, self-induced issue with the first one by not covering,” said Mike Matheny afterwards. “Just not an excuse. He knows that. Then you get a jam shot and just missed a spot as he’s trying to make a pitch inside. He wasn’t making as bad a pitch as the mess he was in and that seems to be how it happens when things are rolling.”
But Matheny did something not every manager does… he actually did blame himself for a missed opportunity.
“There’s a missed play that I’ve got to get right,” said Matheny. “That ball, there’s a swing on that and I just saw the ball go past. Knew it was a hit batsman, but didn’t necessarily want to give them the extra base and put the tying run on first base. That’s a missed call and that’s on me and that put everybody in a bad spot.”
The play in question is in the eighth inning, when there were two-outs, and two-runners on base for Texas. Seung-Hwan Oh was on the mound, and a passed ball led to a Rangers run.
Not every manager holds themselves accountable on plays they’re not even involved in, showcasing Matheny’s true devotion to the game. Rosenthal is a more effective closer than perceived to be, but Matheny’s judgement will always come into question whenever he steps foot onto the mound.
He is no Tony LaRussa, but there’s no reason for him to be. Especially since not all of LaRussa’s seasons were particularly successful. To manage right out of the gate in the footsteps of a Hall of Famer is no easy task, but Matheny has done so successful, despite what the critics say.
Of course he will (and has) made mistakes. Everyone does.
But like it or not, Matheny is the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and it looks to stay that way for a long time.