Most of the hot stove talk about the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason has focused on who they will acquire to upgrade the shortstop position. It’s anyone’s guess how that will turn out, but the Cardinals solidified an even more important position on the field by signing an extension through 2017 with manager Mike Matheny.
Matheny signed on with the Cardinals in November 2011 for two years with a mutual option for a third. St Louis exercised the option in February to keep Matheny through 2014. This extension will eliminate any distractions about Matheny’s status next season and keep the team’s focus on the field where it belongs.
When Tony LaRussa retired right after the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series win, many questioned how the Cardinals could even think about replacing the probable Hall-of -Famer with the neophyte Matheny, especially with experienced candidates such as Terry Francona available. The Cardinals felt they had their man in Matheny, and he has rewarded their faith in him by having the best start of any manager in Cardinals’ history.
Sure, he inherited a World Series Champion. Does anyone remember Albert Pujols? He left via free agency. Chris Carpenter was lost to injury. Adam Wainwright was back, but he was in that tricky first year following Tommy John surgery. Starting shortstop Rafael Furcal was injured toward the end of the season, yet the Cardinals still made it to the NLCS, losing to the San Francisco Giants. No WS hangover for that Cardinals team, unlike the one the Giants suffered this year in finishing close to the cellar in their division.
This past year, Matheny really began to put his own stamp on the Cardinals’ franchise as he led his team all the way to the World Series while playing 20 different rookies, most of them pitchers. Rookie pitchers threw over a third of the Cardinals’ regular-season innings. It is well known that LaRussa didn’t much like rookies, and Matheny is definitely not following in that path. Cardinals’ spring training with him at the helm features rookies playing side-by-side with veterans and sharing locker room space rather than being banished to the outer fields. This practice has helped better prepare the youngsters for their major league debuts and heightened their chances for success.
Cardinals fans think Matheny should’ve earned Manager of the Year honors either last year or this year. He has now been awarded with something much more valuable — a long-term contract, longer than any he had has a player.
Sara Lefebvre is a St Louis Cardinals writer for RantSports.com. Connect with her on Google.