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

A rookie manager and the media

This morning, I read an article in the Chicago Sun-Times that quoted deposed Cubs skipper Mike Quade on the major challenge in his former job. Despite having managed 17 years in the minors, he was still not completely prepared for one element of his Major League assignment – dealing with the media multiple times each and every day all season long.

You can read the details, but suffice it to say that Quade, basically a one-year-and-out skipper, is painted as the anti-Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny. The new on-field leaders of the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, have yet to manage a game at any level professionally. Though both are former long-time Major League players, their media engagement level will now increase exponentially.

I have to wonder how Matheny will evolve in this area. By all indications, including my first up-close opportunity with him in his new role during the recent Winter Warm-Up, the former catcher is open and at-ease with the scribes. A man of faith, Matheny appears balanced with his priorities seemingly where they should be.

On the other hand, no games have yet been played. No losing streaks have been encountered. As has already been well documented, the Cardinals no longer employ the man generally considered the best player in baseball as well as perhaps the top pitching coach of all time. Coming off a World Series victory with a stacked roster, there seemingly could be no more pressure than already exists on the rookie manager to keep his club on the winning path.

When times were tough, Matheny’s predecessor Tony La Russa could be notoriously prickly with the media. This became evident to any and all observers via the manager’s required televised post-game interviews. At Busch Stadium, they are held in a spacious media room in which cameras are pre-set. On the road, the print and broadcast media cram into the visiting manager’s office.

Often, La Russa was either just heading into or coming out of the shower with almost no time to decompress. Having to answer some uncomfortable or perhaps ridiculous questions even a first time, let alone hearing them re-asked in a slightly re-worded manner over and over, led to frustrations boiling over on occasion.

The difference with La Russa is that long ago, his future Hall of Fame portfolio of accomplishments had been cemented. He had established such a solid track record of results that his rough edges were accepted almost without question. After all, what choice was there?

Though St. Louis is hardly a tough media town, Matheny’s reservoir of good will is nowhere near the level of his predecessor’s. When the chips are down – and at some point they surely will be – it will be interesting to see how both sides react.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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7 Responses to “A rookie manager and the media”

  1. friendmouse says:

    Yes, Brian, watching to see how MM “handles things” is going to be one of many intriguing story lines with the Cardinals this year. I have every confidence that he’ll be more than adequate. If we can get off to a fast, winning start, that would help everything. As has oft been said, “There is no substitute for winning.” But I think it’s even more important for the Cardinals this year. It’s hard to even imagine how fantastic it would be if the Cards were to repeat as World’s Champs. Matheny would be the toast of the town, and don’t you know Mo and DeWitt would LOVE to be gloating and asking “Albert who? Who needs him? ” And I believe we can win it all again. This side of Spring Training, it would appear that we have the hitters and the pitchers to do it again.

    On another topic, what odds do you give that 2012 will see the introduction of 2 Wild Card teams from each league? I think it’s 65% favorable.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I think the expanded wild card may be less than 50 percent unless ownership can give on another point the union cares about. The x number of days to play y number of games has been the same all along and isn’t going to change.

    • T8Ball says:

      Matheny has the chips around him, it’s up to him now. Will he succeed? I don’t know. Like you said, Friend, we have the pitchers and hitters to do it, it’s all up to Matheny, and of course the players doing their part 😉

  2. blingboy says:

    MM would have a lot more trouble moving on from a ‘bullpen phone’ (ahem) fiasco. And every chancy move that doesn’t work out will be second guessed by some. By many.

    Hope he has a thick skin. I think he’ll do well.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      You guys have become so jaded in regards “managerial” expectations………………… I will make this statement, in a vain attempt at analogizing this topic………..

      Texas out managed the Cardinals in all facets of the game during the WS………..and lost…….. Tony stumbled through the world series on a wild hair……….in the end submitting to peer group oversight, just to conclude is obligations here……….. all decisions based purely on his own personal agenda, and sentiments………..and whose end he could not even foresee……………. and luck had little to do with it………………….. with all pretense washed away…………. Tony found his champions in Lance Berkman, David Freese, Allen Craig, and Chris Carpenter………….and of course the pen guys………. Texas found away to loose that game 6……. it was just in them………. and in truth, the recent travails of Josh Hamilton are a perfect illumination of that………… the kid is incapable of dealing with the BS surrounding front of interpretations of his “value” to the team …………… mini Albert in this regard…….. who know how that will end………

      Bottom line……………. Matheny’s biggest challenge will be dealing with front office interventions, and his teams recognition of that environment/fact……………

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Not to wory, Westie, old buddy, we will help you along and teach you some Braile and some inside baseball.

        By the way, you and I should go into business together. Open our own website about Pujols. You can post your insights and un-never Angels fans.

  3. blingboy says:

    I’ve got July 23 circled. Just waiting for single game tickets to go on sale.

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