Matheny was one of six candidates interviewed by the Cardinals, a pool that also included World Series winner Terry Francona, previously of the Boston Red Sox, and former Chicago Cubs star Ryne Sandberg.
Team GM John Mozeliak seems content to bank on Matheny's vast leadership ability. While critics of the hire will focus on Matheny's lack of Major League managerial experience, he has the potential to be a rising star for the Cardinals. Here are the reasons why:
1. He has the Cardinals background.
Mike Matheny was a catcher with the Cardinals from 2000-2004. He won three Gold Gloves with the squad, and went to the postseason in four of his five years with the club, appearing in the World Series in 2004. He also served as a special instructor for the past two seasons, and worked as an adviser to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak.
Matheny is still much loved in St. Louis. He was a fan favorite as a player, and understands what the team's performance means to a city that bleeds red. He still resides in the area and runs a charity, the Catch 22 Foundation, which built a "Catch 22 Miracle Field" that allows special-needs children to experience the joy of baseball.
2. He has the respect of the veterans.
Matheny, "The Toughest Man Alive," would have the support of key veterans in the clubhouse.
He served as a mentor to current catcher Yadier Molina, and was on the National League Championship squad with clubhouse leaders Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
He also played four seasons with Albert Pujols, who, you might have heard, just happens to be a free agent. Re-signing Pujols is the number one mission of the team's offseason, and will have a huge impact as to whether the Cardinals have a shot to repeat as World Series Champions in 2012. Matheny's signing could give the team a slight advantage over others in the talks with the slugger.
3. He can keep the coaching staff intact.
While Tony La Russa gets much of the credit for the the 2011 team's surprising World Series victory, no one can count out the contributions made by his staff.
Dave Duncan has long been considered a pitching guru, and is signed through 2012. He has already stated a willingness to return to the team, and considers Matheny to be the "ultimate leader." The two worked well together during Matheny's time as a player in St. Louis, and would have five veteran starters to work with next season, including former Cy Young Award winner Carpenter, and Wainwright, who will be returning from Tommy John surgery.
None of the other coaches are under contract. However, long-time third base coach Jose Oquendo has expressed a desire to stay, as has first base coach Dave McKay. Mark McGwire would also be a possibility to stay on as hitting coach. Matheny and McGwire were teammates for two seasons.
No one is doubting that Matheny will have huge shoes to fill. Retired manager Tony La Russa left behind a longtime legacy of winning in the Cardinals uniform, and the organization can also claim such Hall of Famers as Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre and Red Schoendienst as former managers. Nevertheless, with the support of the city and the team, no one expects anything but success.
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