When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Mike Matheny to manage a team fresh off of a World Series win, many in baseball scratched their heads.
The idea that general manager John Mozeliak would hire a person with no managerial experience outside of little league to lead one of the most storied MLB franchises made little sense.
As he has proven on plenty of occasions now, Mozeliak saw something the general public might not have noticed.
With Matheny, it was about knowing how to manage; it was about knowing how to lead.
Matheny, a man of strong moral standards with deep conviction in his faith, understands what it means to be both a leader and a St. Louis Cardinal.
Throughout his first two years, the “rookie” manager narrative has been a frequent story as writers and pundits questioned his decisions.
Quite a few of those decisions were, in fact, head-scratchers—but because he hasn’t been at the helm for a “sufficient” length of time, his lack of experience is commonly blamed.
Often, instead of giving credit to Matheny when it is deserved, it is pointed out that he was handed a winning team on day one.
He will be the first to agree.
After two postseasons that excuse will be tossed out the window. Aside from that, this World Series presents a valuable opportunity for Matheny.
A World Series win would likely put an end to that “new kid on the block” stigma.
Compared to the 2012 postseason, Matheny has shown a managerial style that is considerably more confident. On more than one occasion when facing the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 NLCS, he was simply out-managed by Bruce Bochy.
In 2013, Matheny has out-managed the competition. His use of a pinch hitter in the NLCS to get Don Mattingly to pull Clayton Kershaw is a prime example. The same can be said for his decision to bring in Lance Lynn for two innings late in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The disaster that was the first two innings of World Series Game 1 was no fault of Matheny’s. It was just a classic example of the domino effect in baseball.
The decision to come out in the bottom of the first inning and argue the call at second base on Pete Kozma’s catch was more a matter of posturing than arguing. Kozma botched the catch—that’s not even debatable.
Matheny was just firing up his players in an effort to get them back on track. They got back on track, but it was too little too late.
One could question the bullpen moves in the seventh inning, but in reality that appeared to be an opportunity to let a few young guys pitch in a game that wasn’t exactly a high-pressure situation. The pessimist, however, would question giving Boston an early look at so many of them.
Regardless of whether the Cardinals win or lose, Matheny can make his mark during this series.
It’s his chance to step out of the shadow of Tony La Russa and show that his “style” is worthy of respect, too.
He had enough to get him through the honeymoon period—now, he’s officially neck-deep in the Matheny era.
He’s had some hiccups along the way, but all in all it’s hard to argue with his overall record.
So far, so good.
Now he has a chance to show everyone in baseball what he can do with this team.