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Mike Matheny will move a giant pile of dirt for you

Feb 13, 2012, 10:30 AM EDT

mike matheny getty Getty Images

In the NBC SportsTalk segment I linked earlier I said that the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny will have the biggest impact of all new managers this year. And, with all respect to Matheny’s skills and intellect, it would be a negative one.  No hate here, just acknowledging that he’s not Tony La Russa.  No one is, and I don’t think the Cardinals make the playoffs last year without La Russa at the helm.

But I always liked Matheny as a player — and as an Ohio dude with West Virgnia roots who spent some important time in Michigan — I have a distinct kinship with him — so I hope I’m very wrong about that.

Anyway, for far more than a kneejerk assessment of his chances, I highly recommend this story about Matheny from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  For those who don’t know him, it will provide a nice introduction to the kind of cat Matheny is.

For those who do know him, there’s a great anecdote in there from Matheny’s childhood involving crawdad hunting, his father, his brother and a giant pile of dirt.  I can’t decide if that scene could have been dropped into “Tree of Life” as-is and fit perfectly or if, rather, I should do exactly that same thing with my two kids the next time they piss me off.

Leaning the latter.

  1. brockohol - Feb 13, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    couldn’t disagree more…cards have apretty clear path to playoffs and having another auto 20 game winner (wainwright) in the mix will only make things better. I know the point of this article was not whether or not the cards have a good team but they do, and it seems to be a pretty easy team to manage. there are no young hotshots or huge ego guys and all the best players are vets with good character. I think he does well by default and potentially does great

  2. paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Craig, what makes you think that LaRussa’s “intellect” helped the Cardinals win baseball games? He regularly employs strategies that decades of data demonstrate reduce the changes of your team winning. Unless you think Matheny is going to do those things (e.g. sac bunts; playing lefty-righty matchups while ignoring platoon splits, especially when it comes to his hitters; playing players out of position; favoring grit and scrap over talent; IBBs; putting scrappy crappy players in the leadoff spot instead of good hitters, ensuring that the worst hitter on your team (Theriot) gets more ABs than anyone else) more than LaRussa did…there is no basis to think Matheny is a down grade.

    LaRussa was a good manager. He won a lot of games (3rd most). He lost a lot of games (2nd most). The dude just managed A LOT of games. His winning percentage (.536) was nothing special and he always had talented teams with big payrolls….never had to rebuild, never had rosters built on a shoe-string budget.

    • crookedstick - Feb 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      “LaRussa was a good manager. He won a lot of games (3rd most). He lost a lot of games (2nd most). The dude just managed A LOT of games. His winning percentage (.536) was nothing special and he always had talented teams with big payrolls….never had to rebuild, never had rosters built on a shoe-string budget.”

      It’s funny to watch Cardinal fans eat their own in regards to LaRussa and Pujols. When I posted this same thing last season, I was thumbed down by every Cardinal fan here–as I’m confident I will be again for pointing out their hypocrisy.

      • paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        If you ever paid attention to any of my posts about LaRussa, you would have seen these same arguments. I’ve been relentless about his over-managing for years…this was just a farewell diatribe, won’t have many more chances (until TLR is put in the HOF).

        Giving managers so much credit for team success is like putting emphasis on RBI or pitcher wins….you are giving someone credit for team achievements.

      • stex52 - Feb 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM

        I agree with Paper’s general assessment of LaRussa. He did seem to have the ability to keep the team’s emotional state right for the challenge at hand, but his game-to-game managing could border on the bizarre at times. Overall good, but he always worked with talent.

        I don’t know how this will translate to coaching, but I had a very great regard for Matheny. The catcher is usually the smartest guy on the field (unless you have Berkman on your team) and Matheny stood out as a good defensive catcher and game caller. You never know how a guy handles the #1 job until he has it. But I, for one, am optimistic.

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 13, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        Stick: You couldn’t be more wrong with regards to Paper’s opinion’s of TLR.
        Paper is a TRL hater from waaaaay back. He and I routinely disagree over the matter. When I saw the 1st half of his 1st sentence I cringed and thought…”I guess it is February so the inevitable TLR bashing has snuck up on me.” Although I thought it would subside a bit with his retirement. But I do expect it to pick up full steam just prior to the AS break.
        Paper has been “eating his own” with regards to TLR since I have been communicating with him. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions.
        Personally, I think his opinion on TLR isn’t worth the time it took him to post such nonsense.
        But the Man has every right to state said opinion none-the-less.
        Pujols: It’s pretty simple and has nothing to do with anyone “eating their own.”
        Do what you say you are going to do. Do not repeatedly lie to everyone then do an about face. Again…do not repeatedly lie. I wish Albert all the best. I am hoping that “best” results in ZERO playoff appearances however.

      • stex52 - Feb 13, 2012 at 2:07 PM

        “Hypocrisy” is a big word for it anyway. I don’t see any preaching or moralizing going on. If you want to say they “changed their story” that is one thing. Hypocrisy is a whole higher level of insult.

  3. shea801 - Feb 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    When I was 18 I started working for a landscaping company. One of our clients had several acres of wooded land that she liked to have maintained and free of ‘unnecessary growth’. We would brush cut the entire wooded area (which was situated on a hillside) several times a year. I used to think it was the worst thing in the world next to building a rock garden in 100 degree heat. Until we were told to pick up the sticks. We had to walk the entire area and rid it of fallen sticks, twigs, and limbs. We had to do this at least once a month or after any major storm. From that day forward I swore I would purchase a home near or in the woods, so that if I have children, and when they have done something that warrants punishment, the shall have to pick up sticks in the woods. Nothing shall orient you faster towards the right path in life than knowing if you screw up, this is the life that awaits you: picking up sticks in the woods for crotchety old people.

  4. okwhitefalcon - Feb 13, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Beyond whatever value one places on an manager to affect game outcome, it’s going to be interesting watching how the organization as a whole moves forward without their unquestioned

    Love him, hate him or indifferent to him – everyone always knew TLR was the man in charge.

    Let’s see if Matheny can earn that kind of identity and be an impactful personality, I sure hope so.

    • paperlions - Feb 13, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      FWIW, I didn’t/don’t hate TLR, it was cool watching him hop up and down when the final out was caught last year, you didn’t often see him show such raw emotion….his over-managing drove me nuts, but I didn’t let that affect my opinion of the man….he just get’s far too much credit from the media and fans…and to TLR’s credit he always makes a point to credit everyone in the organizations he’s worked for, and always said that he got too much credit (and probably too much blame).

      • okwhitefalcon - Feb 13, 2012 at 3:31 PM

        It’s definitely a new era in STL, I’ll miss TLR’s presence, gamesmanship and the loyalty he inspired from both star and fringe players who bought in to his way of doing things. I’ll also miss the discussions his decision making fostered.

        Moving on..

        I think we’ll know fairly quick if this is indeed Matheny’s team of if he’s a bi product of the owner’s extended arm. They as a group have to prove they can move forward from the massive amount of off season hits the organization took from FO to on field leadership and talent. So much turnover breeds alot of questions.

        The poswers that be deserve alot credit for stabilizing the organization after such techtonic shifts within although I’m still going to get pissy when I see #5 in a freakin’ Halo’s outfit.

        Nothing that another WS title won’t remedy though.

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