Cardinals choose new Manager

matheny1What kind of manager do you choose to replace an outgoing Hall-of-Fame caliber manager? Tony LaRussa ended his 33 year managing career three days after winning the World Series for the third time. He leaves the game in third place in career wins and as one of the most respected (and reviled, by some) managers in the history of the game.

So, how do you replace someone like that? Do you look to someone like Terry Francona who won two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox before their epic collapse this year? Maybe you try to pull away a successful manager from another team – someone like Tampa Bay’s Joe Madden. Or maybe you go with a guy like Jose Oquendo who has been on the bench with LaRussa for years and who has ties to the organization that go back to the last World Series championship. You could go with Ryne Sandberg – as odd as that feels, since Sandberg spent his entire HOF playing career with the arch rival Chicago Cubs. But Sandberg has been managing in the minor leagues and by all accounts has been doing a fabulous job.

If you are the decision makers for the St. Louis Cardinals, you choose none of these guys. Instead you go with a former player who has no managing experience on any level. Zero. According to news reports out of St. Louis, the Cardinals will announce tomorrow that they have chosen former catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager. It sounds like a crazy choice. But let me state a few reasons why I think the Cardinals went that direction, and why I think it might actually be a good decision.

1. Leadership – people in the know (and this isn’t me) say that Matheny has incredible leadership skills.

2. Relationship – He knows many of the players. His history in St. Louis as a player is recent enough that he has good relationships with many of the veteran players (he virtually coached Yadier Molina into being his replacement at catcher), and that could be a very important factor, especially for a non-big name manager.

3. Respect – Players respect him. The fans respect him. Would management respect him if he chose to do something contrary? Mmm…I don’t know. But reports that former teammates have called the front office urging them to hire Matheny speaks very highly for him.

4. Knowledge – I’m using this as a high level catch-all. He has intimate knowledge of the Cardinals organization on the major league and minor league levels. He also, I believe, has enough knowledge (or wisdom) to know the qualities of the current coaching staff.

I like Matheny, always have. And I think most fans will be happy with the announcement (assuming he doesn’t gut the coaching staff). But it will be interesting to see how much patience they have with him if (when) he makes managerial rookie mistakes that cost the Cardinals games.

November 13, 2011  Tags: , ,   Posted in: Sports, St. Louis Cardinals

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