Posted on: November 13, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:50 pm
The Cardinals on Sunday named former big league catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager and will formally introduce him in a news conference on Monday morning in St. Louis.
Presumably, they've already handed Matheny a guidebook blueprint for replacing an all-time legend (Tony La Russa), taking over a World Series champion as a rookie skipper and making a managerial debut in the big leagues -- not in the minor leagues.
The truth? The only way Matheny's debut job could be any more difficult is if the club loses icon Albert Pujols via free agency.
Wait, hold that thought!
While Pujols was being wined and dined by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Cardinals whittled their short list of La Russa replacements to a final one.
The contrast between him and La Russa could not be more stark:
La Russa managed more games than any manager in major-league history after Connie Mack.
Matheny, 40, spent part of last season as a roving minor-league instructor for the Cardinals, and part of it in the St. Louis broadcast booth. He has never been a manager.
He has, however, managed games from behind the plate as a catcher for 13 years in Milwaukee, Toronto, St. Louis and San Francisco. He spent five years behind the plate for La Russa's Cardinals, from 2000-2004, and during that time forged a solid relationship and earned a tremendous amount of respect from La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.
How much? As Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote earlier this month, La Russa once described Matheny "as the only big-league ballplayer he'd let one of his daughters marry." As Strauss noted then, the fact that the Cardinals would consider allowing Matheny to become their next manager might be nearly as impressive.
Matheny was said by industry sources to have been very impressive when he went through the Cardinal interview process earlier this month. That surely came as no surprise to general manager John Mozeliak and the club, given that Matheny was a clubhouse leader during his time in St. Louis whose leadership qualities were unquestioned.
That, and Matheny's familiarity with the Cardinals organization are the qualities that the club hopes make for a smooth transition. As a player, his attention to detail was evident, among many other areas, in the four Gold Gloves he won -- three of them while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He also helped mentor a young Yadier Molina, a relationship that should grow further and work as one of St. Louis' strengths in 2012.
One key for an inexperienced manager is his staff, and with Duncan expected to return, Matheny will have the game's most respected pitching coach at his right hand.
Another important hire will be Matheny's bench coach, presumably a veteran man with managerial experience. Colleague Danny Knobler is hearing that former Red Sox and Dodgers manager Grady Little is a possibility to join Matheny in St. Louis.
Matheny was chosen ahead of five other candidates: Terry Francona, who most recently managed the Red Sox; Chris Maloney, who managed St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate in Memphis last year; Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer and former Cubs star who managed Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate; Joe McEwing, who managed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, and Jose Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach.
Posted on: August 13, 2010 1:56 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2010 8:57 pm
The reconstruction of the Arizona Diamondbacks has a long way to go, but the club this month has begun to settle in enough that it's worth asking:
Have the D-backs shown enough under interim general manager Jerry DiPoto and interim field manager Kirk Gibson that those "interim" tags will be removed?
Quick answer: Probably still too early, but let's just say the jobs that both men are doing is not going unnoticed by key head honchos.
"They've done a tremendous job," Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall says. "They both have. I think Kirk Gibson has really changed the makeup and the environment around the team. They've really responded to him.
"I'm pulling publicly for both of these guys."
One thing Hall has certainly noticed: Entering the club's series opener in Washington on Friday night, the Diamondbacks had either won or tied their past four consecutive series. They won three of four games in Milwaukee this week, took two of three from first-place San Diego, split a four-game set with the Nationals and won two of three against the Mets dating back to July 30.
Since the trading deadline, right-hander Daniel Hudson, acquired from the White Sox in the Edwin Jackson trade, is 2-0 and has allowed just three earned runs in 14 2/3 innings. Hudson was one of six pitchers obtained in trades by DiPoto -- including three from the Angels for Dan Haren -- since July 25.
"There will be some candidates we'll talk to, with Jerry obviously being at the top of the list," Hall says. "After that, we'll look at managers."
Understandably, Hall wants a permanent general manager in place before the field manager so the GM can choose someone he's comfortable with.
As for Hall?
"If at the end of the day I end up with Jerry DiPoto as general manager and Kirk Gibson as manager, I'd be happy," he says based on how things are going now. "I'm thrilled with the work I've seen so far from both of them."
Likes: Wow, Jose Guillen and Pat Burrell now swinging it for the Giants. With them and the outspoken Aubrey Huff, the San Francisco clubhouse will not be dull. ... This weekend's Giants-Padres series will be great fun. The Padres won the first seven games against Bruce Bochy's club this year, but this is a different Giants' team now. ... Fine, fine acting performance by Derek Jeter in The Other Guys. He's got one line and he delivers it with the gravitas of ... well, OK. So I exaggerate. But the movie's funny, the plot entertaining, Will Ferrell is back on his 'A' game and in the aftermath of the Jeter shooting, the cops even get a line in ripping A-Rod. Good stuff. ... Tyler Kepner's excellent piece in the New York Times on Ryne Sandberg managing at Triple-A Iowa while hoping for a chance to do it with the Cubs. ... How entertaining was it when the Kings of Leon had to abort their concert in St. Louis a few weeks back because pigeons kept crapping on them? ... Puget Sound and Ferndale, Wash. ... A weekend at home with baseball on XM radio and on television with the MLB Extra Innings package.
Dislikes: When Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez unleashes his inner punk, it is not a pretty picture.
"It was 1989 my thoughts were short my hair was long
-- Kid Rock, All Summer Long