On January 13, 2013, the public became aware just how scary Mike Matheny‘s financials were. The news broke just a few months after his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, which resulted in an 88-win season and a playoff appearance. After signing an extension with the Cards, the 41-year-old Matheny had some financial security, despite owing over $4 million after failed real estate ventures.
For Matheny, losing his dream house in the midst of all the financial chaos could have set him back as he stepped up to manage a team losing Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa. In 2015, could Matheny inspire the “comeback Cards” to win the National League pennant without the help of their injured ace, Adam Wainwright, and lead the team to what is already a 90-win season with 18 games still left on the schedule? The dominant 2015 season has come without stars Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and Matt Adams for most of the season.
Matheny’s record speaks for itself. Former catchers getting back into to the game to manage seems to be a popular trend, but not all have had the same success as Matheny. The Detroit Tigers tried and failed with Brad Ausmus. It has been smooth sailing for Matheny, however. This is now his third consecutive season of over 90 wins as manager of the Cardinals.
Why does Matheny have so much success? The Cardinals organization has given him great teams to work with, and an incredible farm system that seems to have hit its peak the past two seasons, producing several big league stars in Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, and Matt Carpenter.
That being said, the right manager at the right time can be key, and Matheny has been just that. His book, “The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old School Views On Success and Sports,” not only shows you how well-spoken he is, but how thoughtful. He is cool, calm, collected, and one of the best leaders on the battlefield. He is deeply religious and uses his faith to inspire, to give deeper meaning to the game. Matheny is a great leader of men. None of that is quantifiable, but should that matter? The role of the manager is changing dramatically. As baseball becomes more specialized, the importance of the manager as the face and leader of a team rather than just a strategist has become critical to success.
Matheny has managed his team into the playoffs every year since becoming manager, with three straight years of 90+ wins. The 2015 Cardinals have been without Wainwright, Jordan Walden, Holliday, Jon Jay, and Adams for most of the year. As much as I respect what Joe Maddon has done with the much-improved Chicago Cubs, I think it’s time that Matheny gets credit and not just the farm system. With all the injuries this team has faced, the rookies it has relied on, and still having the best record in baseball, gives you only one choice: Mike Matheny for NL Manager of the Year.