November 13, 2011
It had become apparent over the past few days that the St. Louis Cardinals brass was buying what Mike Matheny was selling as a potential big league manager. They confirmed that belief on Sunday, announcing the 41-year-old former big league catcher as Tony La Russa's successor in the Redbirds dugout.
Matheny will be officially announced at a press conference on Monday morning. Other candidates interviewed by St. Louis included former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A manager Ryne Sandberg, and their own third base coach Jose Oquendo.
Even a week ago Matheny would have looked like the real long shot on that list, but he gets the nod anyway despite having no managerial experience. The Chicago White Sox went the same route in announcing Robin Ventura as their new skipper last month. However, unlike Ventura, Matheny has no coaching experience at any level, so on the surface this looks like even more of a reach. He did serve as a minor league instructor in the Cardinals organization, but this is obviously a giant leap from that role.
You're definitely going to hear about the risk involved in this hiring by the Cardinals several times over the next 24-48 hours. Usually I would bat around the idea there's not a better time to take such a gamble than after winning a World Series and while replacing an all-time great like La Russa. To me that's as much built up goodwill as you can hope to establish with sports fans these days, coupled with the understanding it would be impossible to replace what you're losing in La Russa.
Fans should be willing to show more patience with Matheny under these circumstances. But when you're also trying to re-sign your franchise player, who may have actually preferred Oquendo, I'm not so sure these exact circumstances would back that thought up. If it's even a sound thought to begin with.
I still think Albert Pujols(notes) re-signs with the Cardinals. That's even if they do refuse to increase their offer from March. But this offseason is already off to a very unconventional and unpredictable start, so all bets are off.
For now, we'll deal with what we know. We know Mike Matheny had a solid 13-year big league career a defensive-minded catcher and field general. Five of those seasons were spent with the Cardinals (2000-04), which included four playoff appearances. From all accounts he's knowledgeable and well respected within the game. Basic stuff, but not unimportant.
The rest, much like Matheny himself, we'll just learn on the fly.
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