The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #7: Mo’s man Matheny

The changing of the managerial guard for the St. Louis Cardinals had not occurred in the last decade and a half and of course, never on the watch of general manager John Mozeliak.

That officially changed on October 31, following the club’s World Series celebration parade. Tony La Russa, the 16-year skipper of the Cardinals, stunned supporters of the team and the baseball world as a whole when he announced his retirement.

Mozeliak was not afforded a moment’s rest to smell the roses. Once the news was released externally, the decision, known by club executives since August, led to a two-week public search for the right man to try to fill La Russa’s shoes.

Many were likely considered for the managerial opening, though only six apparently received formal interviews. They were eventual winner Mike Matheny, third base coach Jose Oquendo, Triple-A Memphis manager Chris Maloney, Phillies Triple-A manager Ryne Sandberg, White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing and former Boston and Philadelphia manager Terry Francona. Of the six, only Francona had managed in the majors previously.

Matheny, 41, was a surprising choice to many. He had been a special assistant to  Mozeliak and an organizational catching instructor, but had no prior professional managerial experience.

Then again, was it really that surprising? After years of dealing with the strong-willed La Russa, who could cause headaches at times with his fiery demeanor, perhaps the Cardinals were looking for a different kind of personality.

Matheny had seemed like a longshot from a personal perspective as well as from the lack of experience angle. He previously expressed disinterest in taking a traditional coaching assignment that would keep him away from home and family. However, with his oldest children approaching college and perhaps with some personal financial setbacks contributing to his decision-making process, Matheny agreed to take the on-field reins of the Cardinals.

A 13-year major league veteran and four-time Gold Glove Award winner, Matheny was a strong leader and a very popular player with St. Louis from 2000-04. With Yadier Molina then ready to take over behind the plate, Matheny moved to San Francisco as a free agent. He was forced into early retirement in 2006 due to the effects of post-concussion syndrome.

To manage the Cardinals, Matheny received a two-year contract with a club option for 2014. A number of familiar faces will be among his coaches. Incumbent pitching guru Dave Duncan will remain for the final year of his own two-year contract.

Two of the men that competed against Matheny for the top job were announced as members of his staff. Oquendo will stay as third base coach while Maloney is the new first base coach. The latter replaces long-time La Russa staffer Dave McKay, since named to the same job for the Chicago Cubs.

Hitting coach Mark McGwire remains in his same role in 2012. Assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete was promoted to bench coach, Joe Pettini’s former assignment. Former Cardinals first baseman John Mabry takes Aldrete’s old job.

Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist returns for his second season in the role. He will be joined by a new bullpen catcher in Jamie Pogue. Previous bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy was not retained.

For so many reasons, the choice of Matheny and his staff has signaled the beginning of a new era in Cardinals baseball. Where it will lead remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. The epicenter of organizational power has shifted from La Russa to Mozeliak, the man who engineered these changes. As such, Matheny’s job performance may become a major element of his boss’ career legacy as well.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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27 Responses to “The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #7: Mo’s man Matheny”

  1. blingboy says:

    How to create offense out of nothing for free?

    A good way to create some offense out of nothing this season is to put Berkman in the #3 spot replacing Albert.

    Pujols hit into DPs 21.8% of the chances to do so, Berkman 6.8%.

    Add to that the almost 50 point increase in OBP in the #3 spot.

    Given the spot in the lineup, just ahead of the 4-5-6 guys, and by definition, with a runner already on base and less than two outs, that would lead to many more middle of the order rallies (crooked number rallies).

    Worth noting, Beltran’s GIDP rate is half of Albert’s. 12.5%.

  2. blingboy says:

    The leadoff spot is still a predicament, especially with Jay poised to ride the bench more. Not that he is a good choice, but that’s one less possibility.

    Furcal doesn’t have the speed or the OBP anymore, he’s here for D.

    So it is going to have to come from the 2nd base spot, that’s all there is to it. This will play a key part in the roster decisions.

    Of course, if Greene were to emerge post TLR as the player he is in Memphis, the problem goes away. He would quickly become good enough at 2nd base.

    Unless the ideal guy is obtained through trade, and unless Greene smokes everybody in ST, I forsee a platoon. A not devistatingly bad glove guy who can get on base and not clog up the basebath. And a solid reliable glove guy to bring in late, or shift to 2nd from another position as part of a late inning defensive alignment.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      At this point in time, I don’t think anyone can project what Matheny’s influence will be. Many things begin with the Front office relationship with Molina……………. just how much influence will they peddle………….. He isn’t going to re-up here anytime soon…….do they care? …….long ways to go to see what we have………….. Beltran can run……… Holiday can hit and run………. Berkman will hit 4th against RH pitching…5th against LF……… They have to bring Holiday into the real world……… he is best suited for 3rd…………… I said this before…they will take that order and adjust it to pitching……….2-3-4 against RH …3-4-5 against lefties……..Freese cannot hit up front in a running lineup……..he will bounce between 5 and 6………….. question is……..Molina will use all his leverage to get that 6th spot…… does he win?………………… Furcal will be either 1st or 7th………if he’s healthy, sometimes 2nd……….. it would be stupid..after the Pujols era…….to get caught up in a fixed lineup………. I bet he makes a big show of this in ST……….when the moneys down….. Reason will take hold………Holiday is the head case ………they have to pump him up…………

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      I wonder if Deidra thinks that is disrespectful?

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        Good one CC :-)

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          Questions are now, how will the As be able to afford a formidable team when the backloaded $ becomes due? Also, if he was willing to accept deferred $ (or the forces out of his control were okay with that ;-) ) something couldn’t have been worked out with St Louis? Hell, he could have been mayor once his contracr was done.

          • blingboy says:

            The Cards will be paying out deferred money from Albert’s just concluded contract. I wonder if that is any issue for Mo? Don’t know how much or when due.

          • crdswmn says:

            That’s the Angels’ problem.

            The more I hear about this contract, the more I think there are things that went on behind the scenes that we don’t know about and probably never will. It seems to me that Albert really did not want to stay in St. Louis.

            • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

              Ya think??????????????????………………. they will graduate Hunter and others clearing salary in the future……………..thats hardly the point……….the TV deal is still being negotiated………….Fox is heavily involved in this………Moreno has other debts that made him approachable in the first place…… he is keeping as much of that money for himself as he can……….. are they getting close to the luxury tax ceiling?…………………….. One of the highest Cardinal “proposals” to AP had so much “interest free- deferred money, that the total only amounted to 180…………… thats from a Lozano client……….I’m happy this is over………let it go…….. I glad Carp survived the Anaconda attack……..didn’t I predict that……Hahahahhahahahha

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