(St. Louis, Mo) The St. Louis Cardinals have named Mike Matheny as the 49th manager in franchise history. In St. Louis, the Cardinals are loved to extent that they can do no wrong. Locally, many will praise them for hiring Matheny, while the national media will criticize this from every angle possible.
Meanwhile, I’d like to take a few moments of your time to quiet a few myths and misconceptions this move by the Cardinals front office.
First, I’d like to address the non-hiring of Jose Oquendo.
Oquendo was seemingly anointed as the heir apparent to Tony La Russa by the fans a long time ago. “The Secret Weapon” is a former player who became a coach on La Russa’s staff in 1999. He has a reputation with the club and is well regarded throughout baseball as well.
For some reason there has been a growing sentiment among Cardinal Nation that Oquendo is the key to resigning Albert Pujols. I personally don’t know where that notion comes from, but I think that it is a misconception; Oquendo has nothing to do with keeping Albert in the Cardinal uniform, his contract will come down to money.
While Oquendo does have previous managerial experience, he’s also been passed over by other teams who had openings in the past. So why should the Cardinals have been expected to automatically hand the job to him? I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with Oquendo. Rather just making the point that maybe he wasn’t the right man for the job.
I also don’t want to hear people bring up race when discussing this move. Oquendo wasn’t the only man passed over. Four other white guys, including one who has two World Series rings as a manager, weren’t given this opportunity. So this move has nothing to do with race.
Now on to the man of the hour, Mike Matheny.
Before jumping to any conclusions or trying to give you some type of indication that I can tell you how this will work out, I’m going to tell you that I don’t have a clue as to what will happen. I can’t promise success based on his playing career or failure simply because he doesn’t have any past experience, and frankly no one else can either.
Matheny brings with him a great reputation. He’s one of the most highly respected men in the Cardinals organization. In fact, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was the one who gave Matheny his first job after he retired. When the former Cardinal catcher retired and wasn’t sure that he wanted to be a coach, Mo’ talked him into a job with the Cardinals.
Baseball people will be fast to compare this move by the Cardinals to the Diamondbacks hire of A.J. Hinch, which is honestly a comparison that shouldn’t be made for a number of reasons. The biggest is that what determines the initial success of a new manager is the situation he inherits. The Cardinals are good. The Diamondbacks weren’t.
Secondly, Hinch wasn’t a former player. He was from the Diamondbacks front office, whose relationship with some of their players has been adversarial in recent years. Meanwhile, Matheny is a former player who has great relationships with current players. He mentored a young Yadier Molina, he’s seen the development of players like David Freese and Jon Jay, and he’s also previously played with Albert Pujols.
The other difference between the situations that Hinch and Matheny inherited are the coaching staffs that surrounded them. When Hinch took control of the reigns in Arizona he had new hitting and pitching coaches. Matheny on the other hand, looks very close to solidifying the same coaching staff that helped lead the Rebirds to a championship in 2011.
Make no mistakes about it, you can’t shy away from the fact that he has never managed before. However Matheny is a baseball guy. He played for 13 seasons and won four Gold Gloves. It isn’t like he is just a suit from the front office who was thrown into the mix just for fun. I can’t promise that he’ll deliver another title, but I also can’t tell you we won’t. All I can tell you is that this will be a team worth watching.