By Joe Messineo
The St. Louis Cardinals signed manager Mike Matheny to a five-year deal to replace legend Tony LaRussa who patrolled the dugout for 16 seasons. He retired in 2011 after having capped his career off with a World Series title. LaRussa guided the Cardinals to winning 23 out of their last 31 games to make it into the postseason and secure its second World Series title under LaRussa. Once he retired, the Cardinals made the move to hire Mike Matheny as their next manager.
With Matheny as manager, the Cardinals have been National League Central Division champions for the past three seasons running. In 2012, the Cardinals (88-74) advanced to the NLCS but lost to the San Francisco Giants (4-3). They worked their way to the World Series in 2013 (97-65), only to lose to the Boston Red Sox (4-2).
Once again, in 2014 (90-72), the Cardinals were handed a loss in the NLCS by the Giants (3-1); and, in 2015 topping all teams with a record of 100-62. Unfortunately, those 100 wins took their toll and the Cardinals were sent home early in the postseason with their NLDS loss (3-1) to the Chicago Cubs.
A pretty successful run for Matheny, but there are grumblings that his job may be in danger moving forward.
Many have argued that Matheny inherited a stacked roster from LaRussa. This was a very successful team for Matheny to come in and manage right off the bat. Many fans credit the past years’ success to the players because he was handed contenders and it wasn’t really “his” team. It may not be wholly accurate, but the stigma is fairly or unfairly attached to Matheny.
Matheny has been under fire since his 2015 season. The biggest complaint stems from his pitching decisions and mixing up the line-up. Matheny has, however, led the Cardinals to the postseason in all four years since his tenure began. Now, Matheny’s future is in the hands of management and of course the grumblings of the Cardinal faithful. The Cardinals are currently 13 games behind their NL Central rival Chicago Cubs, and unless there is a collapse for the ages by the Cubs, the only way to see the postseason is through the NL wildcard route.
Currently, Matheny’s team stands at 56-49 and are battling several clubs, including the Miami Marlins, who shellacked Cardinals’ pitching and took three out of four over the weekend. Those debacles stick out like a sore thumb, and post-game sports talk explodes. With crucial matchups and the dog days of August upon us, the pitching rotations need to be sound to make the charge like they have done in previous seasons.
If the Cardinals falter, many will point to Matheny’s errors and start to clamor for possible changes in the dugout. Truth be told, Matheny has been as solid as they come. His managerial record stands at (431-322) with one NL pennant. His winning percentage is higher than LaRussa’s but missing the rings. Matheny deserves to stay in St. Louis and hopefully Cardinal brass will see they have a talented manager for years to come.
Joe Messineo is a former Division I pitcher with experience writing for a number of different sports blogs including No Coast Bias, Last Word on Sports, Sports Distillery, and Sports Central.