November 21, 2011
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch story that we read over the weekend was one that has unfortunately been told too many times since the housing market collapsed a few years back.
But it was unique in that you don't often hear of a big-league manager moving into the home of his in-laws with his wife and his five children.
That's the situation that Mike Matheny faces as he enters his first days as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Hit hard by the economy and some bad business decisions, the 40-year-old former catcher was forced to sell his family's dream home as the result of a legal fight with a bank over his business debt.
The excellently sourced Post-Dispatch story is worth a read in itself, but the gist is this: In 2004, Matheny and his wife built a large and luxurious home in suburban St. Louis that included "an indoor batting cage, home theater, pool with a water slide and a treehouse wired for electricity" as well as a golf green in the middle of a private lake.
It sounds like the type of place you could hunker down for generations and ride out several bad markets, right? Well, Matheny also made several investments in commercial real estate that quickly went south. In doing so, he and his wife "personally guaranteed $4.2 million of the debt, and gave the bank a claim worth up to $1 million on their home."
You can imagine where it went from there. Well, actually maybe you can't. Again, the Post-Dispatch has all the financial gore in a story about a fight that's now headed to the Missouri Supreme Court. The case could affect Matheny's debt as well as set a precedent for future situations.
For the purposes of the baseball world, however, we're left to wonder — whether it's fair or not — how this will affect the Cardinals. The team told the Post-Dispatch that it was aware of Matheny's situation when they hired him, but that hasn't stopped some Cards fans from asking if it should have been a roadblock to the team's decision.
Aaron Hooks of Cards Diaspora, in particular, wonders if this is a reflection on Matheny's judgment skills.
It's easy to sweep this under the rug. I know that many people won't think that this has a iota of meaning to how he manages. And perhaps it doesn't. But as a dude that controlled himself during these crazy times, it's always unsettling to hear the stories of the people that didn't.
Just so happens that one of those guys is managing the Cardinals now. And frankly, we don't have anything else to go off of.
Hooks is, of course, referring to the fact that Matheny was hired to replace the retiring Tony La Russa with no managerial experience at any level of baseball.
In this case, I think Hooks' questions are are a bit unfair. The history of baseball is littered with examples of men who couldn't handle a buck as well as they could a baseball and I don't see how that's going to affect Matheny's decisions in the dugout.
At the same time, your personal financial situation can be a burden even when you have plenty of money to pay the bills and it's foolish to think that a legal fight that's reaching the upper levels of the court system won't have an impact on Mathney's mind from day to day. Replacing La Russa would be a challenge for anyone, but for someone facing such a struggle? Well, good luck to Matheny on both fronts.