Don’t hate. Mike Matheny getting an extension is the right move.
Cardinals fans really like to blame Mike Matheny.
To honor the new contract extension for Mike Matheny, the Cardinals have introduced a new home baseball cap for the 2017 season. pic.twitter.com/wc2LCHz7HD
— Baseball is Coming (@CardinalTales) November 3, 2016
The Cardsblog team has blamed him at points. But there is no reason to throw him out right now.
First, and most importantly
The Cardinals win under Mike Matheny. You can argue it all you want, but under Matheny, the Cardinals have made the playoffs 4 out of 5 years, and in this fifth year, the playoff chase went down to the final day of the season. And looking at the roster and injuries the Cardinals had this season, fans should be grateful they even made it that far. He dealt with a bullpen implosion, injuries to two of his best bats, Matt Holliday and Aledmys Diaz, and a starting rotation that had one reliable arm.
There are many who despise Matheny for his decision making, and it definitely can be questioned at points. He is extremely conservative on the basepaths, and has been repeatedly pressed on his bullpen management. His lineups often draw criticism. But, his teams win. Through his first 5 years, his winning % is .572. That’s better than Larussa’s career .532%, that’s better than all active managers. So while we might shame Matheny, he gets the job done. And if we’re going to blame him every time the Cardinals lose, we better give him some credit for when they win.
Now, there is also the mental aspect to it.
A team that is competing should not have a manager on a one year contract. Sitting duck managers have a second job on top of managing: fighting for their job. They are increasingly scapegoated and thus set a tense mood in a clubhouse. Rather than have Matheny constantly looking over his shoulder, the Cardinals will have a manager focused on bringing the Cardinals forward. The two teams in the World Series had managers that have been invested in by their teams. Confidence is priceless, both for players and managers.
And look, even if he were fired, who would be his replacement?
It is not like there are any incredible established managers searching for jobs right now. Walt Weiss, Bud Black? Or would the Cardinals like an unproven manager, such as Eddie Perez, the Braves’ first base coach who has drawn interest from other teams. Compare any of them to Matheny and his 4 playoff appearances, I would take Matheny any day of the week.
Fans act like managers are the deal-breakers in their team’s success, when that is simply not true. FiveThiryEight Sports did a great analysis in which they found “95 percent of all managers are worth somewhere between -2 and +2 wins per 162 games.” So while we hail certain managers for their successes, it seems that it is quite rare that a manager is truly game-changing.
As long as the sun shines, fans will continue to blame and berate their managers. However, one day, we will need to hold players accountable for their faults. Sorry Cards fans, Mike Matheny has done nothing to merit being fired. So while you’re sitting at home reflecting on this 2016 season, think about the fact that the Cardinals had one legit starting pitcher, half of a bullpen, and only two or three consistent bats in the lineup before you start thinking that you could have done a better job than Mike Matheny.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: Dennis Wierzbicki – USA TODAY Sports Images