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Mike Matheny is sick of “people taking cheap shots” at Cardinals coaches

Aug 14, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

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For much of last season stat-heads pointed to the Cardinals’ amazing .330 batting average with runners in scoring position–the highest mark ever since the stat has been tracked–as unsustainable because it was based as much on good fortune as good hitting.

This season the Cardinals have hit just .243 with runners in scoring position, which has played a big part in St. Louis’ offense going from leading the league in runs last season by more than 10 percent over the second-place team to ranking 13th in runs per game this season.

Because of that dropoff fans and media members have been critical of the coaching staff, which in turn has manager Mike Matheny firing back at the critics. Here’s what Matheny told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

You’re putting as much work if not more now than what you did last year when things were going so well. You’ve got people taking cheap shots all the time. You’re human. You wear that. Plus you know that the [players] are not happy with where the guys are right now. If you have coaches who don’t care, then they’re just putting in their time and chalking it up to a number of issues. That’s not what we have.

When an entire team hits .331 with runners in scoring position for an entire season it’s going to make everyone involved look like genius. And when an entire team hits .243 with runners in scoring position it’s going to have the opposite effect. As usual the truth is probably somewhere in between, but if Matheny and the coaching staff were willing to accept the endless praise for last year’s remarkable RISP numbers then it seems like they should also be willing to accept some of the so-called “cheap shots” this time around.

  1. stex52 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Not sure about that Aaron. What were the coaches supposed to say last year? “Aw, we’re just lucky”? That would be widely mocked. I think the onus is on the media to make more intelligent assessments of the team.

    • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM

      No, the point is that if you take credit publicly, which they did by lauding the approach they preach, then you take the blame publicly as well.

      Who cares what MSM member write? And when have they ever made intelligent assessments of teams or players? They just parrot the same things over and over. All Matheny had to say was, “I understand. People are frustrated. Fans are frustrated, coaches are frustrated, players are frustrated. We are doing everything we can to get this thing turned around…blah blah blah.”

      Matheny has looked joyless and been thing skinned all year, while saying a crap ton of horribly stupid things in the press. Heck, I haven’t even seen many “intelligent assessments of the team” from Matheny. Pretty much every time he says something, people walk away shaking their heads.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:31 PM

        There are good writers out there, and tossing all of them together with the moniker “MSM” is lazy.

      • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        Of course there are….which doesn’t negate that fact that most baseball writers have been very slow to keep up with the sport they cover or to use evidence to mold their opinions rather than narrative.

      • stex52 - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        My point pretty much. We have new sportswriters and talk show guys who talk BABIP, OPS+ and that kind of modern analysis in Houston, so I know it can happen elsewhere.. Without laying any judgments on the coaching staff ( I am rather of the school that coaches at MLB are overrated for their effect on the game) I think they are in a bit of a lose-lose situation with talking about this stuff. It reminds me of the Oriole situation with one-run wins two years ago (Two, I think). When they regressed to a more normal distribution of win/loss, the coaches got savaged. But they weren’t really in a position to say “Hey, we’re lucky” to the press when they were winning. The analysis of the game by the media needs to be more realistic.

    • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      Matheny deserves the “shots” as much as anything. Most Cards fans, and certainly Post-Dispatch and other St. Louis sports reporters, know he doesn’t manage the bullpen well.

      Also, as runs continue to slip across baseball this year, Matheny needs to learn more about managing “speed” in particular and baserunning in general. The team got rid of its worst baserunner in Freese, but Carpenter and Jay could still stand improvement, and baserunning strategies, too.

      As for coaches? On baserunning, the aforementioned players, and sometimes others, need to listen to them more on the basepaths.

      • spudchukar - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        I’m with you on the bull pen management. But Matheny can’t hit for the players, and if he could it wouldn’t be any improvement. As for the “speed” thing, I don’t want Carpenter and Jay trying to steal bases on a regular basis. That would produce more outs than successful advancement.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Oh, I don’t want Carpenter and Jay stealing much, either. But, things like hit-and-run? Does Matheny even know that exists? Or, per the coaches, getting Jay and Carpenter to observe and honor “stop” signs and such?

        They’re not as bad as last year, but they’re still not great on stuff like that.

  2. jeffbbf - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Headline is misleading, too. Matheney never said he was “sick” of the cheap shots. He merely stated that those things do wear on people, and that his coaches are working harder than ever to try to make it better. He goes on in the article to state that he thinks the best offense lies ahead for the Cards because, normally, stats will even out over a long year (I think the quote was something like “things come out in the wash”).

  3. jrod2go - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    I agree with you, Stex. If someone pays you a compliment, the appropriate response is to thank them and move on. But if someone publicly humiliates you, you don’t have to take that. The media is not the judge and jury for the public at large.

  4. Eutaw's Finest - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    Okay this is like the 5th or 6th article posted today. It’s 10am EST. And there has yet to be any reference to ATH. Or settling the score. Or anything resembling a scoreboard. Does this give us free reign to loot and hold protests? But more importantly loot?

    • Eutaw's Finest - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:06 AM

      btw- not making light of the situation in Ferguson, outside of the looting of course. And now the word sounds ridiculous… loot…

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Is this supposed to be funny?

      • Eutaw's Finest - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:13 AM

        Again- not making light of the situation. I just think the looting is absolutely idiotic. Which is what I mock. I’ll refrain from my opinion on the rest of it other than saying that it’s a very unfortunate situation going on, and one that cannot be solved, helped, or bettered by looting.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        A few people looted a couple nights ago, but what does that have to do with the gross overreach of gov’t power last night?

        Let’s not forget there’s an entire political party based on the looting and destruction of gov’t property…

  5. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Is ESPN right? Are the Cards ranked 29th in total runs scored this season?

    • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      Yes, they’ve been 29th in runs for about a month now….and they haven’t been higher than maybe 25th at any point the last 3 months.

  6. realgone2 - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    So if I get a compliment I’m supposed to be like “sorry I can’t accept this because when someone tries to blame me I wanna be able to retort”? That’s just moronic.

    • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      No, the point is that you accept both credit and blame equally….otherwise, you are just a politician or administrator…..willing to take credit but not willing to accept blame when things go wrong, with demonstrates both poor leadership and a lack of accountability.

  7. perryt200 - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Sure I would love the RiSP numbers back where they were last year. What fan wouldn’t? And while run production has been a bit poor this year, you also have to understand that there are only two teams this year that haven’t been swept on a three game series.

    St Louis is one of them.

    Two games back, 43 to play, Padres at home, right there with Pittsburgh in the wild card; I would say things still look ok.

  8. westcoastredbird - Aug 14, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Can’t wait until Joe Maddon is a free agent. Masterson was abducted by aliens. His alien double pitched a six inning shutout. The Matt Adams shock collar appears to have promise. Every time he swings at low inside pitch he gets zapped. The Taveras shock collar may need more voltage.

    • indaburg - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Hands off Joe!

  9. adouglass28 - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    John Mabry needs to go! When a team like this is 29th in run production there is a big problem.

    • marshkins01 - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      That is a normal deduction…. JM coches the hitters, who are not producing! It ought to draw attention to the job that Mark McGuire did for the Cardinals before heading out west!

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        That’s it! Big Mac, bring back some roids! (ducking now)

        Otherwise, more seriously, Lions is right. Wong’s OBP could easily be 20-30 points higher with more plate discipline and more walks. And, per Stex, Bernie wrote about that in the P-D earlier this week on Adams. He said that maybe teams were now decreasing their shifts again. If that’s the case, a batter has to have awareness of the field.

    • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:06 PM

      I don’t know that he’s part of the problem and there isn’t much evidence that hitting coaches at the MLB level have much of an effect….but he also doesn’t seem like part of the solution. It could be coincidence, but since McGwire left, the plate approach of the team has steadily declined…and plate approach was his primary emphasis.

      BB rate

      2011 – 8.7% (8th)
      2012 – 8.4% (8th)
      2013 – 7.8% (14th)
      2014 – 7.6% (25th)

      This suggests that as a group, they are being less selective….combine that with their hard hit ball rate, which is among the worst in the majors, and it seems like they are being aggressive swinging at pitches that can’t be hit hard…as they make a lot of weak contact.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        Wow. “Hard hit ball rate.” It seems everyday another stat pops up that I wasn’t previously aware of. The difference is…this stat is one I dig. And for what it’s worth, I agree wholeheartedly with their plate discipline being nowhere near where it was when Big Mac was the hitting coach. Say what you want about the impact (or lack thereof) of MLB hitting coaches. The difference between their approach today and where it was when McGwire was on board is night and day.

      • Paper Lions - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        I hope the hit data become public at some point. Fangraphs has been doing some stuff with the data (for both pitchers and hitters), but the data itself isn’t public.

        I am usually one to down play the significance of hitting coaches…but the difference in plate approach has been dramatic. McGwires whole deal was trying to work at bats to make the pitcher throw you a pitch you could hit hard and to be aggressive when you got those pitches….guys now seem to often have no plan at all (except for Carpenter). OT, Adams, Holliday, Wong, and Jay seem to get into modes where once they swing at a pitch in an AB, they swing at everything until the AB is over.

      • stex52 - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Start with Matt Adams. After about three weeks of red hot coming off the DL, he has regressed back to the platoon player who can’t take a walk. With Holiday’s power down and Carpenter really never having been a power hitter, they are dying for slugging. And like you say, Carpenter seems to be the only one who knows how to consistently work the count.

  10. gibbyfan - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Not a big fan of MM,but the problem this year is largely the inability to hit and score. They have little power and the running game is lacking. It’s a difficulat problem because other than right filed it’s not obvious where the fix is needed…………..I don’t think there is a lot MM can do about that, although, I could see him batting JJ a little further up in the order. I mean he is hitting close to 300 and has relatively good speed.

    • spudchukar - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      While I do not believe Matheny is as bad a manager as some have indicated here, however his line-ups this past month deserve scrutiny. It is hard to see how Pierzinski hits higher than Jay. Plus I believe we have a better chance of winning with either Bourjos or Robinson in the line-up. Taveras isn’t ready.

      • SocraticGadfly - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        I’m with you, and now that Allen Craig is gone, the Matheny-haters on this part of his management have lost their last excuse.

        Again, fellow Cards fans, I’m sorry, but there is this word called “P-H-E-N-O-M.” They still exist.

      • ud1951 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Bourjos, maybe, but Shane over OT? I don’t think so.

  11. ud1951 - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Okay so they weren’t going to duplicate the high RISP from last year, could they be closer to the team OBP than 15 points or the team slugging than 28 points and the team OPS than 43 points from last year?

    They led the league with a 733 OPS last year and are eight in the NL with a 690 this year. The lack of runs scoring is not just about not getting RBIs when folks are in scoring position, it is also about getting more guys on base. Their walks per game are down from last year and strikeouts per game are up. This offensive weakness is not about runners in scoring position, this is about getting on base and hitting for power.

    Not sure the hitting coaches are the problem, but we are beginning to get an inkling that Oscar Taveras is being ostracized in the club house because certain members of the team don’t think he earned the RF spot over Craig. If that’s actually true, then the problem is not the hitting coach, it is Matheny himself for letting that happen and affect the team. If it is true, Matheny has to fix it now or he should be fired.

    • spudchukar - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      I agree totally with your first two paragraphs. However, not sure about the ostracized explanation. He hasn’t played well in any facet of the game. Perhaps Taveras’ promotion is scrutinized because his teammates are realizing he isn’t helping them win games.

      • ud1951 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        The reports of that tension are all over the St Louis press. I’m not sure they are true, just saying that if they are and it is affecting the team, Matheny has to fix it.

  12. janessa31888 - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    It kills me to see Justin pitching well for another team. /sobs

  13. charlescub80 - Aug 14, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Come on guys. Stop hurting his feelings!

  14. yourcubreporter - Aug 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Actually, he’s taking a page straight out of Tony LaRussa’s playbook…

    Fans and press taking his team to task for poor performance, take on fans and press, make yourself the target. Now you change the dialog, players think that you have their backs, and (hopefully) are willing to run through walls for you. Sprinkle with the “us-versus-the-world” and “no-one-outside-this-locker-room” speeches and you’re primed for a late season surge.

    Not quite a panic button move, but the end of the season is coming. It has worked in the past here in STL…

  15. bigmeechy74 - Aug 14, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    I’m sure the cardinal fans will be ok with this article. They tend to take things in stride and never overreact

  16. blarry21 - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    What a whiner

  17. coryfor3 - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    The absolute most defensive and humorless team (and fans) in baseball.

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