Could Mike Matheny be the next Mike Scioscia

More catchers have been managers in MLB than any other position players.  I haven’t seen anyone bring this up yet, so I thought I would.  When you look back on their playing careers, both Mike Matheny and Mike Scioscia were common in a lot of ways.  As you can see from their stats as players, they are very similar.  It goes beyond the stats though.  Both were hard nosed, old school catchers who were never afraid to be run over at home plate.  Anyone who remembers watching Scioscia and Matheny knows what I’m talking about.  Now, another similar thing is happening.  Both of them have both been hired at age the age of 41 to manage at the major league level without ever managing in the minors.  Scioscia did coach in the Dodgers system for 4 years before taking over at manager for the Angels in 2000.  Since his first year as manager of the Angels, Scioscia has lead the Angels to the playoffs 6 times, winning it all in 2002.

Now I could throw out a lot of former catchers that were managers that didn’t fare so well as managers, but I’m not going to do it.  I’m also not going to say that Matheny is going to lead the Cardinals to a World Series Championship in his 3rd year as manager like Scioscia did.  However, I feel good about this hiring the more I hear about the reasons why Matheny was chosen, and hopefully you will as well.

Before I get into the qualities that I think Matheny will bring to the table, I want to state the things we all know.  It takes great players to win.  Scioscia didn’t take a bunch of scrubs to the World Series.  We all know that, and that’s fine.  However, Scioscia didn’t exactly have a team of stars either.  Take a look at the 2002 Anaheim Angels here.  No one on that team is going to the HOF.

What I got from the press conference for Matheny was that it was his job all along.  I really think the Cardinals were going through the motions with the other candidates, possibly looking for coaches for Matheny’s staff in Joe McEwing and Chris MaloneyJohn Mozeliak was asked directly about if he had been grooming Matheny for the position, and he said yes.  So what are the qualities that make Matheny a potentially good manager, and why did the Cardinals choose him over others who had more experience like Terry Francona

First, I think the Cardinals wanted to bring in someone who knew the Cardinal way, and has the same feeling about what it’s going to take to make this team a winner in the future.  Serving as special assistant to John Mozeliak, I think the future of the Cardinals was made clear to Matheny in that player development is the way to go.  I think the days of trading players like Danny Haren for Mark Mulder are over.  While the Colby Rasmus trade worked out in the end, let’s face it, it took a miracle and a historical collapse by the Braves to even give the Cardinals a shot at the title.  Even with the trade of Rasmus, if the Cards didn’t upgrade the infield defense with Rafael Furcal, there’s no playoffs in 2011.

I also can’t get through this part of the entry without bringing Tony LaRussa into it.  LaRussa did not like having to deal with young players most of the time.  He didn’t want to teach or watch players go through growing pains.  I will get a lot of arguments on this point, as I’m sure some of you will come back with examples like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.  Make sure you don’t forget that Pujols only got a shot because of Bobby Bonilla’s injury.  The 38 year old Bonilla was supposed to be the opening day third baseman.  Matheny was nearing the end when he groomed Molina, and Wainwright was only given the shot at closing games in 2006 when Jason Isringhausen’s hip finally became too much to overcome and he blew 11 saves. Braden Looper failed in the closers role before Wainwright got his shot.  We all remember how that turned out!

The only way for the Cardinals to compete in the future is to either spend like the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox; or draft and develop well.  Drafting and developing your own players is the future of the game for the teams that can spend the big dollars.  A trade will always be needed here and there to fill in season injuries and gaps, but the best option will be to have that player in waiting in the minors.

On to the next thing about Matheny, as Bernie said this morning, some players just have it in their DNA to be managers.  It’s yet to be determined if Matheny is one of those guys, but my gut tells me he is.  He was a tremendous team leader as a player, and like I said the other day, was really a manager on the field.  Matheny won 4 gold gloves, and he earned every one of them.  Matheny helped a lot of pitchers that had no business in the majors get by without having any good stuff on their pitches at all. As I mentioned the other day, Garrett Stephenson, Jason Simontacchi and Woody Williams were just a few.  The confidence that Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and other key players have with Matheny should go a long way.  Because of the type of leaders that those players are, it should trickle down to younger players.  A lot of players send Matheny congratulatory text messages yesterday which most people might just take as the obvious thing to do.  I have another viewpoint, and it’s in the form of ugly babies.  If you’ve ever had a friend that has had an ugly baby, what do you say to them?  Some would lie and say that he or she is the cutest thing they’ve ever seen, but I think most would keep their mouth shut and not say anything, something more along the lines from “Seinfield”.

One thing is clear here, this is Mozeliaks team now.  He picked his guy.  He has a farm system on the rise.  Winning the World Series in 2011 will buy Mo and the Cardinals a couple of years of flexibility to try to do things the way they want.  If Furcal isn’t brought back, it might allow Tyler Greene to get a legitimate shot for an extended look in the majors.  Greene may very well end up being a AAAA player or a defensive sub, but he’s never had a long enough look in my opinion. 

What does the Matheny hiring do to the Pujols situation?  I don’t think it matters really.  I know some thought that if the Cardinals didn’t hire Jose Oquendo, Albert would leave.  I think Albert is going to go where the most money is, regardless.  The problem I have with that theory now is that I’m afraid Albert is going to remain a Cardinal.  For a long time now I thought that Albert would get the big money from someone other than the Cards.  However, if reports are true that the Cardinals put the same offer on the table in recent days that they had before the start of 2011 spring training, I find it hard to believe that another team is going to beat that.  Jon Heyman is reporting that the deal is worth 9 years and $210 million.  Matt Kemp is getting ready to be locked up by the Dodgers for 8 years and $160 million, so it appears the Dodgers will be out of play.  The Marlins have just offered Jose Reyes 6 years and $90 million.  It doesn’t seem like there’s any way they can afford both Reyes and Pujols.  My last hope lies with the Angels and Nationals.  I wish the fans of Pujols would realize that he is going to decline, and his body is going to break down.  Only time will tell if Pujols does break down, but I sure wouldn’t bet $210 million on it not happening.

I really believe the Cards will be back in the playoff mix with or without Pujols in 2012.  After 2012, the future looks even brighter.  Congratulations to Mike Matheny, who I expect to be around a lot longer than his 2 year contract.

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9 Responses to Could Mike Matheny be the next Mike Scioscia

  1. Jim G says:

    I hope this ends being the comparison we can talk about in the years to come. I’m with you on the Cards keeping it in-house. Matheny has always been a no nonsense type of guy, and he’s being handed the keys to a Porsche with or without Pujols. I’m not so sure about T.Green, but the Cards brass should have learned their lesson with how important infield defense is this year.

  2. TLRHOF says:

    Amazing, your comparing a guy who has yet to even sit on a big league bench as a coach of any kind to Mike Scoscia. What will you come up with next…your baseball IQ is below anybody I know. Matheny will fail. The Cardinals will fail without Pujols. This move was to save money, and that’s it. Anyone who thinks Matheny was the best choice is just an idiot.

    • April says:

      How do you know that MM will fail? I find it funny that someone who brings up anothers bball IQ is having trouble with the Cards w/ life after Tony. If you can’t see the potential in MM, you have some issues.

  3. WainwrightandMiller says:

    J.D.,

    Isn’t always nice to hear from TLRHOF? I think he had a very unhappy childhood. I guess he just doesn’t get that Mike Scioscia (not Scoscia) had to start somewhere as well. I guess he also thinks that the Cards front office doesn’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that told him we just won the WS. If he did, in his eyes, LaRussa and Pujols won us the WS. Nobody else mattered, and I’m sure he also thinks Pujols should have been given the MVP, or it should have been split between his two great lovers.

    Great read!!! I actually had no idea that Matheny was even as involved in the organization as he was. I also agree that Mo had his mind made up about Matheny a while back, or so it seems by his comments.

  4. 12in12 says:

    JD,

    Good points, except on Woody. He wasn’t as bad as the others you mentioned. Matheny will be fine, the Cardinals will be fine.

  5. TheWhiteRat says:

    I like Matheny as the choice. He may not have the glitter of T. Francona, but all managers have to start somewhere. Time will tell for sure, but I think the Cards are doing the right thing in bringing in someone they groomed for the job.

  6. TheMachine says:

    Why do most of you kiss the bloggers ass? This was a terrible hire. Please stop with the let Pujols walk, the Cardinals will be better without him, yada, yada, bullshit.

  7. StantheMan says:

    If those who want the Cards to re-sign Pujols can’t see he is on his last legs, I have news for you, you’ve never played or watched enough baseball. I’m guessing both. The contract will ruin the Cardinals. Please ease up the with name calling.

  8. TheWhiteRat says:

    The main thing here is that the most micromanaging manager in the game is gone. Matheny said he is going to put an emphasis on speed and pitching, I like that. I hope he is his own man and not a Tony clone.

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