St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny underwent surgery for a ruptured disk in his back Monday and will be away from the team for at least a month. How, if at all, will this affect the Cardinals?
Matheny is coming off of his first season as manger of St. Louis after taking over for Tony LaRussa. LaRussa left Matheny with a tough act to follow as the Cardinals won a world’s championship in 2011 and went into 2012 without future hall of fame first baseman Albert Pujols. Pujols left St. Louis and signed on as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels.
Matheny was able to give St. Louis a chance to defend their title by earning the last playoff spot. In the post season, the Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals then let a 3-1 lead in games slip away while losing the NL Championship Series to the San Francisco Giants. All things considered, Matheny did a good job of even putting St. Louis in a position to play in the World Series.
This year, the Cardinals would like to get back on top and challenge San Francisco for their title. St. Louis can not afford to get off to a slow start as they have competition in their own division from the defending NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds. The Reds finished 97-65 in 2012 and won the division by nine games.
Back surgery of any kind takes a while to recover from. At 42 Matheny will have to heed his doctor’s advice and perform diligent rehab. Fortunately he is now managing not playing so getting back to the bench will happen much sooner. The problem will be how much discomfort will he have upon his return and will it cause Matheny to miss some games. At the moment, the Cardinals believe that he will be fine and ready to go a full season come opening day.
Whether the Matheny is on the bench or not, St. Louis should be okay. They are a veteran ball club that can handle change. Men like catcher Yadier Molina, left fielder Matt Holliday, right fielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal know how to deal with the long season and will help interim manager Mike Aldrete in the clubhouse. If the Cardinals were a young team then losing their manager would be more of an issue.
It helps that Matheny had the operation now instead of waiting until the regular season. This way if he suffers any setbacks, there will be more time to heal before the stretch run of August and September.
Losing their manager for a spell will present a challenge for St. Louis, but their veteran roster and championship experience should be enough to keep things afloat if Matheny has to miss any extended time