As this team is just starting to get into off-season mode, Mike Matheny is already looking toward 2013. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to get 2013 rolling,” said Matheny on Thursday morning.

I gotta tell ya, as frustrating as this collapse and the past few days have been, I’m still marveled at what Matheny was able to accomplish this season. With all the managerial troubles around the league from Ozzie Guillen to Bobby Valentine, you see so many teams not able provide the structure necessary to formulate a winning ball club. And without missing a beat, Matheny came in here, having to fill TLR’s shoes, and did an absolutely fantastic job. I know you can point to individual moments or plays and say “well he didn’t get it right there,” but no manager is perfect.

Here’s the reality: After the 2011 season, the Cardinals lost arguably the best manager in the Major Leagues, arguably the best pitching coach in the Major Leagues, arguably the best hitter in the Major Leagues (at least at the time), and one of the best pitchers in the National League until just a few weeks ago. Expectations were not high for this team. Matheny came into this job in an impossibly hard position, and he got this team within one game of their second straight NL pennant. For a first-year manager to accomplish what Matheny did is extremely difficult, and I’m not taking it for granted.

He immediately earned the respect of his players, and he actually got this team, statistically, to arguably outperform what they did in 2011 during the regular season. They scored more runs, collected more extra-base hits, and had virtually the same batting averages and on-base percentages.

I expect Mike Matheny to be here for many years to come, and if these were the results we got in his first year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a twelfth Cardinals championship sometime in the near future.