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The Cardinals radically shift gears by hiring Mike Matheny

Nov 13, 2011, 6:57 PM EDT

Mike Matheny AP

Pop quiz, hot shot: your manager just retired following a World Series win.  He was the most experienced and successful and savvy guy to manage a major league baseball team in decades. You need someone to follow that act, somehow. Who do you hire? WHO DO YOU HIRE?!

Why, you hire a guy with absolutely no experience whatsoever.

Well, at least no managerial experience. Matheny did play 13 years in the bigs with four teams, five in St. Louis. During that entire time, there were people saying that he was managerial material. They say that about a lot of catchers, but they always seemed to say it more about Matheny than anyone.

Also in his favor: he’s not just coming into the organization cold.  He’s worked with the Cardinals for a while now, doing some minor league instruction.  According Ken Rosenthal’s report yesterday — in which he really disliked the idea of Matheny getting the job — he has forged a strong relationship with Dave Duncan. That’s pretty big considering that it probably means that Duncan is not going anyplace, which may not have been the case if a different manager was hired.  It will also give him some added credibility.

All of that said, yeah. No managerial experience. Not even any high-level coaching experience.  He’ll command respect because he always has, but there is not a long list of successful managers who came in this green.

With Matheny, and with Robin Ventura with the White Sox, we’ll see if that trend can change.

  1. cintiphil - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    I think this could be very good news for the central division. many people forget or never knew that the Dewitts are a Cincinnati family, and have some ties to St. Lou. I think the father of the CEO owned the St. Louis Browns and had quite a rep of being a cheapskate. In fact, they sold many of the good players for cash in the late forties, then sold the rest of the worthless team to a group in Baltimore, who built the O’s. My point here is that Jr. is probably just trying to save money by not paying for top notch talent at manager, and probably will not sign Albert. That is what gives us a little hope that they will not be a large factor in the next few years, giving the Reds and Cubs a chance to take over the division leadership. If this runs true, look for Dewitt to start selling or trading all high salaried people in order to improve the bottom line.

    I don’t care how much some say that Matheny is a great managerial prospect. Just as in the field, prospects are just that, and most do not make the grade. In my opinion, this is just another move by the Dewitts to “do it cheap”, and not improve the team. And, no one knows if Matheny is a great manager or not at this point!

    • 18thstreet - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:26 PM

      I stopped reading at “St. Louis Browns.” Could someone tell me how this comment ended?

      • cintiphil - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:31 PM

        It ends badly for you and the redbirds. When they refuse to pay for good talent and lose Albert, after signing a novice for a manager, you will be looking up at the Reds, Cubs and Brewers ahead of the Cards next year. Oh yes, Maybe the Astros will get past you on your way down to the basement.

      • 1historian - Nov 14, 2011 at 12:42 AM

        The wicked witch took Alice’s cookies when she (Alice) stopped on the way to the picnic to have a smoke and filled them with ex-lax and put them back in her picnic basket. Alice didn’t know that and she was heading to the picnic when she was (gently) mugged by Albert Pujols and Michael Jordan who sat down to share them.

        About 30 minutes after that the inevitable happened, but by then Yogi Berra had come on the scene and he called MSNBC.COM and they had the exclusive breaking story. President Obama sent V.P. Biden to see what was going on but by then Bill Belichik had stolen their signals and so they all lived happily ever after.

        Get it?

    • fearlessleader - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:37 PM

      Cintiphil, one might also read this hiring as a conscious effort not to pour cash into a big-name manager in order to have more to spend on top-level talent. The difference between Matheny’s price and Francona’s might also be the difference between a winning bid for Albert Pujols and a losing one.

      Reports from St. Louis say that the interview panel was immensely impressed with Matheny’s presentation (on top of his years of experience in various roles with the Cards), and left their meeting convinced that he was ready for the job.

      Needless to say, we won’t know till next season whether that assessment is accurate. As a Cardinal fan, I hope it is—and as an avid reader of this and other blogs, I’m delighted that the La Russa haters will have to completely retool their strategy for dissing the Cards’ skipper. :)

      • cintiphil - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM

        Yes, you can never read too much into any of these moves, but in total, Dewitt seems adverse to spending money, and if he hired Matheny just because he is new and comes cheap, that is a very bad reason. I expect the Pirates to do that, and that is why they haven’t had a winning season since 18th street was born. If Albert goes somewhere else for money, that is just another reason they are looking more at dollars spent than results.

      • cintiphil - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:48 PM

        By the way, I am a bigger supporter of Albert and LaRussa than some of the hair brains I see commenting from St. Lou. I always have said that I would trade Dusty and Votto or both of them. Some of the Cards fans have big doubts about TLR and Albert and don’t seem to like them very much.

      • fearlessleader - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:57 PM

        Cintiphil, after much brow-furrowing and re-reading, I’ve concluded that you’re not exactly sure what you’re arguing (they’re not spending enough? they’re spending too much for no results? what?). Thus I’m going to leave you alone and go watch videos of World Series highlights. :)

        P.S.—and I mean this—good luck to your Reds in 2012. With the exception of Johnny Cueto, I rather like your team.

      • paperlions - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:59 PM

        This, I know:

        The Reds are paying more for their manager than the Cardinals are for theirs….and there is almost no way Matheny can be a worse manager than Baker.

      • spudchukar - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM

        It’s hare brained, hare brained.

    • ultimatecardinalwarrior - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:21 PM

      Booooooooooring!

    • cardsrepeat2012 - Nov 13, 2011 at 9:26 PM

      The notion that the Reds will overtake the Cardinals because of the latter team’s reticence to spend money on talent would hold a bit more water if the Cardinals weren’t outspending the Reds by $20+ million annually. Nice try though. Good talk.

  2. cintiphil - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    cintiphil – Nov 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I saw Matheny play many times, but not as a Red, so not too sure of what he is capable of doing. I seem to remember that he was good field and no hit, but maybe I am wrong. In any case, what he did as a player has nothing to do with what kind of manager he would be. If I had any criticism of this move or of him, I would think that with the resources the birds have, they certainly could afford to pay a guy who had a track record as a manager/coach, not just a player. The guy could be great on the bench, or a total bust. Who really knows? We had Rose manage here, and he was from nowhere as a manager, even though he was a great player. In fact, if he had not taken the managers job, probably would have been in the hall already, now he probably will never be there.

    Hey 18th. this is what I am talking about in case you missed it.I know you have trouble reading this, but try. The Dewitts are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP, and that is the ref. to the Browns you Buffoon!

  3. kappy32 - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    The Cardinals are a strong organization from top to bottom & they are an organizationally run team. A manager in baseball is probably the most irrelevant head coaching job in all the major sports. In order to succeed you need to come into a place that is set to win & the Cardinnals are set to win for a while.

    • cleareye1 - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:36 PM

      But does Pujols like this guy?

    • cintiphil - Nov 14, 2011 at 9:01 AM

      I know you people are too young to remember, but once upon a time, the redbirds had a pitcher named Carlton. I was thought in the sixties, that they redbirds wuld have a dynasty with guys like him playing, but were expensive. August Busch (in a very strong organization) was very angry that Mr. Carlton asked for another $65,000 in salary (per year) and so traded him to Philly. I think it was a request to get him to a Million dollar contract. After that, the birds did nothing, and the Phills did very well in the seventies.What did the cards do in that era? If you doubt me about this story, just ask Bing Devine, the GM at the time. He intimated that Busch told him get rid of Carlton, or you are fired. How smart is it to hire cheap? Tell me all about it, since all of you are sooooo smart.

      • cardsrepeat2012 - Nov 14, 2011 at 9:52 AM

        So . . . your proof that that Bill DeWitt is cheap stems from a half-century old deal that involved a previous set of owners? Rather than simply typing random words, let’s go with facts:

        - According to the Associated Press, the 2011 Opening Day payroll for the Cardinals was $105,433,572, placing them 11th among the existing 30 MLB teams. All 10 teams that spend more money on payroll are in larger markets than St. Louis. Your beloved Reds spent $29,252,207 LESS than the Cards.

        - When DeWitt and his ownership team took over in 1995, the Cardinals existing payroll was about $28.7 million. That’s about a quarter of what it is today. It ranked 20th out of the 28 teams then in existence. Hardly evidence that spending has contracted under DeWitt.

        - According to ESPN, the highest paid member of your precious Reds team in 2011 was Francisco Cordero who pulled in a cool $12,125,000. The Cardinals had FIVE players making more than that in 2011.

        - Most reports put the Cardinals’ most recent offer to Pujols at about $198 million dollars, blowing away any offer ever put forward by the St. Louis Cardinals (or most other teams for that matter).

        Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that MONEY = CHAMPIONSHIPS. (Need proof? I offer into evidence the Chicago Cubs). But the notion that Cardinals ownership is cheap is simply not borne out by the facts. Especially if you insist on using the Reds as your proof.

  4. lovesmesomeme - Nov 13, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Did you not feel like your mommy and daddy let you talk enough when you were a child? This is the perfect forum for dorks like you though, nobody can interupt you.

    • cintiphil - Nov 14, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      No one said that just throwing money away wins championships. Money refused to be spent when needed is the problem. If you don’t think that money has a lot to do with championships, just look what happened to the Bosox when they spent the money needed to build a great team. Throwing away money is your example of the Cubbies. And since when does money NOT matter? What rebuild the Yankees after a terrible decade or two? It is HOW the money is spent, not just spending it. I don’t consider spending money on one of the greatest players in history is throwing it away. And spending a little as you can just to save money is not good.

      • cardsrepeat2012 - Nov 14, 2011 at 12:47 PM

        The notion that the Cardinals are NOT willing to spend money on Pujols is clearly fallacy. They offered him roughly $200 million earlier this year. That’s the most amount of money ever offered to a baseball player not named Alex Rodriguez.

  5. okwhitefalcon - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    Early reports from ESPN101 in St Louis have Jose Oquendo remaining with the Cards as third base coach and AAA affiliate Memphis Redbirds manager Chris Maloney being promoted to the major league staff.

    No word yet on any other staff specifics.

  6. spudchukar - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    Still wish the nod would have gone to Oquendo, but great second choice. Of course Matheny has a great rapport with Duncan, who was a catcher, and who worked with him during his tenure as St. Louis’ backstop. It makes great political sense, cause he has played with Pujols, and has recently toured Latin America with him. He also tutored Molina, and has close connections there. It makes it difficult for either to complain too ardently that their friend and fellow Latino Oquendo wasn’t chosen.

    Any notion that Matheny will manage in a manner that is diametrically opposed to TLR is foolish. Maybe he will be more “personable”, but he adheres to many of the same principles as LaRussa. Too much is made of former Cards skippers’ unnecessary changes. Hopefully, Matheny recognizes that the usage of the bench, not only gives rest to the regulars, but by incorporating the role players it not only keeps them sharp for those tight games when their contributions are important, it also creates a cohesiveness, and egalitarian atmosphere that is vital to team chemistry.

    • paperlions - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:16 PM

      I have no doubt that Matheny will be his own manager, and make his own decisions…if he goes through games thinking “what would TLR do?”, then he was the wrong choice.

      Great news that Oquendo will remain on the staff.

      • spudchukar - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:20 PM

        Agree on both statements, but do not be surprised if he doesn’t wander far from the TLR philo.

      • okwhitefalcon - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:25 PM

        It’s not “officially” confirmed yet on Oquendo but sounding like it’s indeed the case according to those allegedly in the know within the STL media/ESPN101.

        The same who are unofficially reporting this seem to think Duncan is a lock to stay along with McGwire – no word on bench coach Joe Pettini, assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete or Derek Lilliquist.

      • paperlions - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:41 PM

        What I meant by the “what would TLR do” comment was….if you are in a position of leadership, and you do not trust your own judgement, and resort to mental exercises like “what would whoever do”, then you are not suited for the position.

        I would be surprised if Matheny manages like TLR simply because no one else manages like TLR…who was around forever and it isn’t like any manager mimics his style…because it takes huge balls to make all those moves….most managers would prefer to leave the best players on the field and leave the game entirely up to them.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Nov 13, 2011 at 10:31 PM

        Paper,
        The answer to the question what would TLR do, is always double switch.

  7. paperlions - Nov 13, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    With respect to hiring managers with little or no experience.

    Tony LaRussa played minor league baseball in 1977. He was hired to manage the White Sox in 1979, after managing minor league clubs for exactly 1.5 yrs.

  8. okwhitefalcon - Nov 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    The Post Dispatch is reporting Matheny’s deal is 2 years guarranteed with a club option for 2014.

    Mozeilak puts his stamp on the organization post TLR with this hiring, now it’s time to give his guy
    a chance.

    1 contract down, one to go.

  9. okwhitefalcon - Nov 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    Much more on the Matheny hire can be read below, it sounds as though Dave McKay will be returning as well.

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/cardinal-beat/cards-hire-matheny-as-manager/article_59a7b250-0e4c-11e1-a0d3-0019bb30f31a.html

  10. spudchukar - Nov 14, 2011 at 2:22 AM

    If McKay chooses to return, great, his presence can do nothing but be a positive influence. Because he was so close to retiring before the 2011 season, I figured he would most likely exit with TLR. Happy to hear he could be on board with the new regime. In whatever capacity, it might be prudent to bring on board another Latino coach. Sure this sounds like political correctiveness, and while it would be just criticism, one should admit this is becoming a Latin predominant sport, so why not begin to acknowledge that reality and bring in another Latino mind, which would help assuage the Matheny over Oquendo choice, and enhance the collective input that many non-white baseball perspectives that has far too long been neglected.

  11. thefalcon123 - Nov 14, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Is there any hope his post-concussion syndrome has abated and he can come back as a player-manager? He never could hit a lick, but 8 years later, every breaking ball in the dirt gets past Molina (which isn’t often) I think “Matheny would have blocked that”.

    I am much, much more pleased with this than Francona or, god help me, Sandberg (14 years later and I can harbor resentment to the man simply for playing well for the Cubs). It’s nice to see a familiar face in the dugout. With Matheny at manager and Mcgwire as the hitting coach, the Cardinals are well on their way into turning the 2000 team into their coaching staff.

  12. dickclydesdale - Nov 14, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Hired the insecure white guy with the hair plugs.. what else is new?
    He will get canned quickly.

  13. saralivermore - Nov 15, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Hey, CC! I totally expected the Cards to hire Oquendo (ok, I really really *wanted* them to hire Oquendo), but the more I read about Matheny’s relationship with Moz and the current players, the more I understand what the rationale was. So here’s a bit of speculation for the future of my favorite Redbird of all time…

    Dave Duncan has no more than two years left as pitching coach, we can safely assume. He has worked closely with Oquendo over the years, as they must coordinate the defense with the “pitch-to-contact” philosophy. Is it totally out of the realm of possibility that Oquendo could take over for former-catcher Duncan in a few years?

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