St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s first year at the helm has definitely been a test for him. A test—that’s how his general manager John Mozeliak characterized the Cardinals' tumultuous season.
While the season isn't over yet - and if Matheny has his way it won't be for two more months - there is now a big enough sample size to look back and make at least a partial judgment.
At Sunday’s blogger event at Busch Stadium, Mozeliak spoke candidly about his take on the new manager in which he invested his club's future.
Given the vast number of injuries throughout the season, he says he’s quite impressed with how Matheny has handled all that has been thrown at him.
“I think he’s done an amazing job as manager,” Mozeliak said. “I think you can count on one hand the kind of moves where you just cringe or where I think you would be surprised someone made.”
Matheny, who worked as a special assistant to Mozeliak prior to taking on his new role, is viewed by Mozeliak as the ideal solution to fill an extremely tough spot.
“Going back, we understood that filling in the shoes of Tony LaRussa was not going to be an easy task for anybody,” he said. “One of the things we were thinking internally about this decision was ‘Who can command the respect of the players? Who would be respected by others in baseball, meaning the other 29 clubs?’”
After several interviews, Mozeliak said the answer became more and more clear to him.
What grade would you give Mike Matheny's first season as the Cardinals manager?
“The more we got down to it we realized this guy could command a room,” he said. “His leadership and the way he’s carried himself have been superb.”
The fact that he feels good so far, doesn’t necessarily mean Matheny is anywhere near the point of peaking. What Mozeliak thinks it means is that his new manager has the right tools to learn the job well and make it his own.
“I think he’s growing into this job every day,” Mozeliak continued. “He’s smart. He understands that he didn’t have all of the answers on day one and he’s really been a sponge. That’s a great compliment to him that I think also reflects of his intellect. He’s a very bright guy.”
It was also made quite clear that Matheny is not viewed as a short term fix – period.
When Mozeliak and President Bill Dewitt III, who also spoke at the function, were hunting for a replacement for LaRussa, they weren’t looking for a band-aid, they were looking for a cure.
“Our decision to go with Mike Matheny was a long term decision in the sense that we were hoping to invest in somebody that was going to be here a long time,” Mozeliak said. “I think we’re going to have that with him.”
The pair knew when they hired a rookie manager with zero management experience that there would be growing pains. Some of the adversity Matheny has faced this season would have been difficult for even the most seasoned manager.
Through it all he has kept his cool as he continues to adapt to his new role. Given the now season - possibly career - loss of Lance Berkman and a late season injury to Jake Westbrook, Matheny will continue to prove himself while under fire.
Mozeliak said he is still confident that Matheny is, and will continue to be, the right man for the job.
“So, my overall takeaway on him is that he has been very impressive,” Mozeliak concluded.