Mike Matheny’s Maddening Methods

The Cardinals beat the Cubs last night and it was a weird way to win, in extra innings on a walk off hit by pitch of Greg Garcia. I’m glad to to get the win. However, as has been the case on many previous occasions, I believe Mike Matheny made things more difficult than they needed to be. I have been very unhappy with Matheny’s managing this year. The team has struggled offensively, no question about it, and that is on the players. However, in my opinion, Matheny has hindered the offense from recovering from the slow start both with his in game management strategy, and the management of his people.

In a previous post I set out in detail the events that occurred two weeks into the season. This is where I stated the trouble began, and I stick by that belief. The Cardinals were 4 games over .500 on April 15th and had won 4 games in a row. It was during this series against the Brewers that both Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos inexplicably stopped playing regularly. Wong eventually was sent down to Memphis, and Bourjos was sent to the bench. I have said it before and I still believe it to be true that Wong and Bourjos were scapegoated by Matheny for the offensive struggles of the entire team.  Since that 4 game winning streak in mid-April, the Cardinals have not won more than 2 games in a row, and that much only one time.

In panicking so early, and showing that he lost confidence not only in Wong and Bourjos, but in the entire starting offense’s ability to pull itself out of its slump, Matheny sent the wrong message.  Constant lineup tinkering became the norm.  In the guise of trying to “jump start” the offense, he instead made things more muddled and reinforced the message that he had no confidence in his team.  The banishment of Wong to Memphis and the loss of Bourjos’ starting job sent the signal to other players of what might happen if things didn’t turn around.  Lack of confidence by the manager leads to lack of confidence by the players.

What the long term effects of these actions would have on Wong and Bourjos were yet to be seen.  Wong has just been recalled from Memphis, we will soon see if his time there did not have any ill effects on his performance going forward. Initially, the effect on Bourjos was a plummeting batting average over the next few weeks of little use.  Though Bourjos has recently been restored to favor and has been given regular playing time (resulting in improvement in his hitting) there may still be lingering effects.  In last night’s game, Bourjos had an opportunity to steal a base, after getting on with a bunt base hit.  Bourjos was  tentative, getting leads but then not taking the opportunity.  Both of the FSMW announcers were complaining that Bourjos was “not being aggressive”,  Al Hrabosky was musing that Bourjos should “not be afraid to make a mistake”.  Really Al?  Why shouldn’t he be afraid?  After all, he lost his starting job two weeks into the season because he didn’t measure up in his manager’s eyes.  Was that the thought in Bourjos’ mind as he was hesitating to make the move to steal?

I realize I am doing an enormous amount of speculating here.   I am giving an opinion, and the thoughts and reasonings behind that opinion.  Unlike some bloggers, I don’t consider what I do here “journalism” in any sense of the word.  I have not been trained to be a journalist, nor do I seek to hold myself out as one.  This blog is for the expression of me about Cardinal baseball, with all my biases and flaws of reasoning.  I own what I say here and whatever mistakes or wild and out there thoughts I might express.

Back to my opinion of Mike Matheny.  In addition to what I see as his failings as a leader thus far, his in game management strategy has left me pulling my hair and wanting to throw hard objects at my television set.  Matheny has always had a method of bullpen management that to me seems inconsistent at best, schizophrenic at worst.  Overuse of some pitchers, misuse of others.  For example, Randy Choate, signed to be a lefty specialist, meaning he only pitches to left handed hitters.  He was used properly in this regard last season, but this season his use has evolved against both left and right handed hitters.  Choate was signed as a lefty specialist for a reason, pronounced lefty/righty splits that indicated his effectiveness against right handed hitters was poor. Nevertheless, Matheny has put Choate out there time and time again against righties.  He has been lucky in that Choate has managed to be relatively effective up to a point, but as is the case most times when luck is pushed, it pushes back. We saw that happening in Choate’s most recent starts.

The most annoying and downright incompetent use of Matheny’s strategizing is his propensity to double switch. He uses this tool to excess, in situations where it makes absolutely no sense to do it.  Last night, he double switched Matt Adams out of a one run game in order for Carlos Martinez to get 2 outs. Two.  What was the point of that? Did he think Martinez was going to give up the tying run, and thus possibly send the game into extra innings?  If that was his thought processes then why send Martinez out at all?  Why not just leave Seigrist out there?   Let him finish the inning, pinch hit for him in the bottom of the eighth, and bring Rosenthal in in the 9th, as he ended up doing anyway.   Even if Siegrist had given up the tying run, he could still pinch hit for him and bring in Martinez or any other pitcher in the 9th.

As it was, Adams was removed in a one run game. Adams, the guy who had two hits in the game, one that drove in a run.  Adams was replaced by Craig moving to 1B, and into RF went Joey Butler, a LEFT fielder, and one who is not a very good left fielder. This became significant in the 9th inning, when the tying run did score on a short fly ball to RF. Now, it is iffy whether Allen Craig would have been able to catch this ball had he remained in RF. Butler’s positioning was such that he had to run both to his left and forward.  However,  it was acknowledged by Matheny prior to the game that Butler was not a right fielder,  at least according to what we were informed by Dan and Al when Butler was put there.  I don’t expect Matheny to be clairvoyant,  but I do expect him to be smart about his defense in the last innings of a one run game. Double switching out Matt Adams and putting Butler in RF under those circumstances was not very smart.

The double switches have become what bunts were in prior seasons,  too excessive and and not in good sense.  They use more relievers than are necessary and remove valuable hitters from the lineup when hits and run scoring have been scarce.

This post has become too long already so I will end this rant here.  Suffice it to say I have many issues with Matheny’s managerial performance.  This season so far has been very frustrating and when a team is struggling,  a manager who doesn’t put his team in a position to succeed with his decisions is one that is not going to last long.


Thank you for reading.

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1 Comment

  1. baseballmania

     /  May 17, 2014

    While I believe much of what you say is true, he can only work with what the wonderful GM gives him to work with.



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