This recent period of dominance has come with a manager, Mike Matheny, who can sometimes cause the fans to go into cardiac arrest.
So far, throughout a little more than 4 seasons, Mike Matheny has a 395-292 record as the Cardinals’ skipper and has made it to the postseason the past 4 years (the sub .500 record in the postseason is an article for a different day). Despite this success, there are still some head scratching decisions being made. The double switches, relief pitchers, and lineups he throws out on a daily basis can be a bit perplexing at times.
One just has to look at his handling of Aledmys Diaz. Diaz is currently hitting .376 on the season. The ball is simply jumping off of his bat. Put there is one problem: he has been hitting eighth for the majority of the season. Diaz is arguably your best hitter in terms of on base percentage, slugging percentage, as well as batting average. In a lineup that lacks consistency, having a stable presence in the middle of the lineup is crucial, but Matheny believe the added “pressure” will get to Diaz. GM John Mozeliak said pretty much the same thing at a recent blogger event but I believe that this is just a show of organizational unity, not agreement.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) May 17, 2016
Do not get me started on his Mathanagement (trademark pending) when it comes to the bullpen. It took sending Maness down to the AAA to stop Matheny from putting him in. At times, Matheny manages the bullpen on his gut and more times than not, it works out. But those times that a run scores or a lead is blown, his managing practices come under fire. This is especially true during the postseason. Pulling players early to preserve leads is commonplace during this time of the year but Matheny doesn’t operate under this parameter. He treats players with respect and wants them to succeed so he shows them his faith.
It’s too bad that faith does not keep balls in the ball park.
What sparked this article was Matheny’s absurd double switch in last nights game. Coming into the 7th inning, Wainwright had not given up a run but had runners at the corners with two outs. Matheny, rightfully so, went to his bullpen to get out of the inning. But with taking out Waino, he also had to put a player into his spot in the lineup. Enter Ruben Tejada. Now, Tejada has not seen the light of day for quite some time so he was due for some action at some point but not during a 2 run game. Worst of all, he offered downgrades in both offense and defense when it came to the player he replaced, Kolten Wong.
Wong is the only logical person to execute a double switch with at that point in the game unless you take out Brandon Moss and put in Hazelbaker or Adams. But to sub in Tejada to show him faith is simply wrong. With every game counting more than ever, making little mistakes like that can lead to some undeserving losses.
This is not a bash Matheny piece even though it reads as one. Matheny has dealt with some seriously talented teams over the years and this talent saved the team and its record from him for multiple seasons. The 2016 team is different. They are simply average. And when you are dealing with an average team, the room for error is marginally smaller.
Matheny can help this team navigate the division or can help into an early October. The choice is his.
Photo captured by Kim Klement- USA Today Sports