With the Cardinals fighting for a postseason spot and only four games remaining in their season, some are questioning whether the team should keep manager Mike Matheny at the helm. Countering those voices though, are Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak according to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“Mike’s done a really good job for us,” Mr. DeWitt said. “There’s no thought that we’re going to go in any different direction.”
Matheny, 46, is 457-348 with one National League pennant and four playoff appearances since he became the Cardinals’ manager in 2012. He still has a chance to lead the Cardinals to their sixth consecutive playoff berth and the fifth in a row under his watch.”
While the Cardinals are just one game back of the second Wild Card spot, a record of 82-76 with four games remaining would be respectable to many fan bases. However, St. Louis has become accustomed to winning, making the postseason for five straight seasons while Matheny has been manager for the last four.
The NL Central was a long shot to boast as many playoff teams as last year. The Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates all made the postseason and finished with the three best records in all of baseball, showing how difficult it is to contend in that division. With the Cubs taking a significant step forward for the 2016 season, both the Cardinals and Pirates had their work cut out for them to repeat.
In some ways, it’s impressive that the Cardinals boast even a winning record this season. With substantial injuries to Lance Lynn, Jhonny Peralta, and Matt Holliday, the team relied on players like Aledmys Diaz and Jeremy Hazelbaker for portions of the season. Furthermore, the trade of Jon Jay in exchange for Jedd Gyorko ended up breaking the right way for the Cardinals, as Gyorko returned to his 2013 rookie form.
Matheny got a vote of confidence from the general manager of the organization as well:
“Mike takes a lot of heat, and I’ve defended him and I will continue to,” Mozeliak said. “I really feel like some of the things that we’re dealing with aren’t fair to put on the manager.
“I do feel like all of us are always held accountable for what we do here, so there’s nobody excluded from that. But having said that, I don’t look at him as someone that we are where we are because of that.”
Matheny isn’t particularly liked by the stathead community of baseball fans, and is believed to make tactical mistakes often ranging from small ball to allowing a reliever to hit:
Matheny lets Oh bat with bases loaded, 2 out, top 9, leading 5-4. Oh gets one out and gives up 3 in bottom 9th. #smrtbaseball— keithlaw (@keithlaw) August 3, 2016
It’s an interesting thought experiment to wonder how well the Cardinals would have done without Matheny over the past almost five seasons. After all, the roster is star-studded regardless of manager. However, if you believe in ‘character’ managers, Matheny may actually excel in other ways that are less tangible and ways that turn Diaz, Hazelbaker, and Gyorko into productive major leaguers during key moments of a season.
Regardless, it appears Matheny’s job is safe until at least mid-way through the 2017 season. And some of that may hinge on if the team makes this year’s postseason, and how far they go into October if they do happen to make it. According to FanGraphs’ Depth Charts, the Cardinals currently have a 33.7 percent chance of making it to the postseason.