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Matheny Era Underway: New Skipper in Control?
- Updated: July 28, 2012
On May 31, 2006 catcher Mike Matheny played his last MLB game for the San Francisco Giants. Only 36 years old and leaving the game behind before he was ready.
On February 1, 2007, Matheny announced his retirement from Major League Baseball due to his on-going post-concussion issues.
Matheny noted he didn’t leave on his own/preferred terms.
Fast forward to the winter of 2011.
The World Series Champions found themselves without a Manager. Not just any Manager, but one of the most incredible baseball minds to ever manage the sport. Tony LaRussa cast a large strategic shadow over Cardinal nation for 16 years. Results included multiple NL Central titles and 2 World Championships. The downside included some soured relationships. A Hall of Fame Alum (Ozzie Smith) found himself stepping away from the franchises new age as a result of a lineup dispute. Stepping away, sadly, from the franchise that made him HOF material. A handful of players (Colby Rasmus and Scott Rolen to name two) couldn’t see eye to eye with the behemoth that ruled baseball heaven.
As soon as TLR announced his retirement, there was a mixed reaction– ranging from sighs of relief to sheer panic. “We just won the World Series! Why now?!”
A king was already in line to take the throne. Enter John Mozeliak–for all intensive purposes–the new Manager for the World Series Champions. Confusing and far fetched right? Not so much, if you examine the details.
Mozeliak is smart, very smart. Passing up on seasoned managers and coaches like Francona, Oquendo, and Valentine meant he was looking for someone he could mold. Someone that he could essentially allow to ride shotgun as he remained firmly in the drivers seat. Hopefully on the fast track to renewing some of those soured relationships and building a young team with a respected young manager.
Matheny was a controversial choice, but by most accounts a very smart one. Mozeliak, at it again. It brought back Ozzie. It softened the image of the team immediately. The shadow was gone and Matheny was a youthful light beaming towards the future.
But echoes of the past had to be haunting Matheny in his rookie season as the Cards skipper. Much like his exit from the game in 2006, was he entering his new role under his own stipulations? Free reign over a team? Or were others acting as puppeteer from within the organization?
Just as he exited under no control of his own, how much control, truly, does he have in his newly found baseball future? Only time will tell.
Poetic dynamics like these can’t be made up. That is why I love this game and continue to believe it is the purest professional sport to this day. (Writers biased opinion).
By most accounts the Cards GM was now in control.
As the season progressed the Cards enjoyed the momentum and confidence of 2011 and had a short stint in 1st place. Then…they started losing a series of close games. Between bullpen collapses and pinch hitting ineffectiveness–people started to doubt Matheny’s ability to manage late into games. Some late inning pitching choices came back to bite the skipper coupled with his novice ranking had analysts and bloggers alike questioning Mozeliaks ‘smart status’.
Had his choice to remain the puppeteer over the rookie skipper been a mistake?
As of the All Star break the GM’s choice was definitely questionable. Never more than 6 games back in the standings, the Red Birds started getting hot as of late, but this team has always been streaky instead of consistent. The Cards just finished a home stand that found them 5.5 back (3rd place) behind the Reds and Pirates…yes I said the Pirates. But with a glimmer of hope for the second half of the season. Wainwright has been increasingly effective, Lynn continues to dominate, and the starting rotation has gone 6 2/3 innings or better for a majority of the starts since the break.
So the roster (minus Pujols) has really kept them competitive.
A couple of questions to ask as we look to the 2nd half:
1. What happens in 3 days at the trade deadline? Do we look for a pinch hitting artist or bullpen help? Both?
2. Will the Cardinals have another run in them to come back like last years magical season?
3. The question most vital to Mathenys future– what happens when Matheny finally disagrees with Mozeliak?
It should be interesting.
Overall, this writers opinion is simple…Matheny and Mozeliak as a team have kept this club in contention, so far. So now that’s he’s taken the test drive–let’s see him open it up on the open road.
Should be an interesting run into October.
Written by theSPORTSfeast’s newest contributor - @Deathisvictory
Photo Courtesy of Ranken Jordan