The St. Louis Cardinals have had a run of success that is unparalleled in baseball the last 15 or so years. A lot of that came under the watchful eye of manager Tony La Russa, who retired after 2011 when he led the Cards to their second World Series since the turn of the century. But while they’ve had some regular season success in his wake, new manager — and former catcher — Mike Matheny has failed to lead the Cardinals to win another World Series, making plenty of mistakes along the way. In the midst of his fifth season at the helm, St. Louis has a mediocre record and has experienced several boneheaded mistakes by their manager. The time has come for Matheny to be removed, and we aren’t the only ones who think so. Here are the top five reasons for the Cardinals to move on from the mismanagement of Mike Matheny.
1. He’s old school to a fault
“Old school” isn’t necessarily a bad thing to find in a manager. While there is a new way of thinking in baseball that involves statistical analysis, we still find that old school managers can be successful — just look at Bruce Bochy. But Matheny is old school for the sake of being old school, using outdated metrics to define the moves he makes on the field, such as leaving a pitcher in to attempt to get him a “win.”
These situations will often blow up in his face, with a pitcher having thrown too many pitches or losing effectiveness. The fact is, Matheny is a slave to the way things have been done in the past. If a pitcher has lost effectiveness in the sixth inning but the game is still tied, does it make sense to stick with him to try to get three outs and a win if they can grab the lead the next time the team bats? Of course not; when he’s lost it, he’s lost it. This is just one example of Matheny’s old school mentality.
2. He hasn’t properly handled his young players
Back in 2014, the Cardinals called up one of the top prospects in the game, outfielder Oscar Taveras. Despite the immense talent of the young man and the need in the outfield, Matheny kept running dead-eyed veterans such as Allen Craig out on a daily basis. Eventually, Craig was dealt away and Taveras was given a slightly bigger role, but it was clear that the Cardinals wanted to get a player who they envisioned as a part of their future onto the field. Taveras died tragically that October.
It’s not just Taveras who Matheny has mishandled. Aledmys Diaz came up early this season when injuries decimated their roster. Matheny finally got him into the regular lineup, but left him down near the bottom of the order until the first week of May — finally moving Diaz up into the meat of the order after he’d played 25 games, hitting .388/.424/.700. The best you can say about Matheny in his handling of his young players is he’s cautious, but he’s way to slow to trust them.
3. He can’t handle a bullpen
This has long been a major knock on Matheny. Outside of the fact that he overuses his best relievers and doesn’t use specialists in proper situations — left-handed specialist Randy Choate spent an entire season being beat up by right-handed batters he was forced to face — Matheny makes boneheaded decisions that are completely illogical. Case in point, his use of Michael Wacha in the 2014 NLCS.
Wacha hadn’t pitched in weeks but was on the playoff roster as a long reliever. The Cardinals trailed the best-of-seven series 3-1 in San Francisco, with the game tied at three apiece and heading to the bottom of the ninth inning. With the Giants coming to bat with the opportunity to end the series by scoring a run, Matheny ignored his best available reliever — team closer Trevor Rosenthal — and sent Wacha out to the mound. Of course he gave up a three-run homer and the series ends. Matheny’s explanation for not bringing in Rosenthal? It wasn’t a “save” situation.
4. He can’t figure out how to double-switch
In a recent instance, the Cardinals’ manager made a double-switch that put reliever Jonathan Broxton batting in the clean-up spot in the lineup. Several other moves created a result that involved reliever Seung Hwan Oh batting with two outs and the bases loaded in a game in which St. Louis held a one-run lead. Oh struck out, then came back out to close out the game — and gave up a game-winning three-run homer.
There’s also the instance, back in 2014, where a double-switch executed by Matheny left Rosenthal to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning with two runners on and two outs, trying to get a hit to win the game. Rosenthal struck out, then gave up a go-ahead three-run homer to Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo in the top of the 11th. Too frequently the inability to maneuver his lineup costs Matheny.
5. The Cardinals badly need to move on
The Cardinals organization, as previously noted, has been on quite a run since the year 2000. They’ve made the playoffs 12 of the last 16 seasons, had four trips to the World Series, and took home two trophies. But the only regular players remaining from the 2011 team who won the World Series are Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, and the injured Adam Wainwright. Molina’s skills are in decline, and there’s no telling how long he’ll be around. Holliday and Garcia are both free agents after this season. Wainwright is still around, but like Molina is no longer young for a baseball player.
The point is, the organization — for better or for worse — is moving forward with a new generation of players. Carlos Martinez, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter, and young prospects like Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes are the future of this team. The group that played with Matheny and saw him as a leader despite having no previous managerial experience is largely gone. It’s time for the Cards to bring in a new manager — possibly one that understands proper in-game management and is willing to trust young players — to usher in a new period in Cardinals baseball.
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