Tuesday is the day that pitchers and catchers report to spring training, officially marking the fact that Major League Baseball is back in business after a long, cold winter.
It should be a time for celebration.
So why did St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny mark the occasion by firing a shot Monday across the bow of the news media that provides free publicity for his ballclub by threatening to limit the access of reporters he thinks have a personal vendetta against the team?
It was a pretty depressing way to kick things off. And for what reason? Because a couple members of the press mildly questioned the performance of a Redbirds team that underachieved its way out of the playoff picture last season.
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St. Louis, when it comes to sports, is sort of the opposite of a major market like New York City: With a small and largely friendly media contingent and a sea of loyal season ticket holders eager to applaud for every accomplishment of the local nine, if you can’t make it here – you can’t make it anywhere.
If Matheny really wants to know what it’s like to have his feet put to the coals, maybe he should join fellow former Cardinals teammate Matt Holliday with the Yankees. Or he could try being the skipper of the Philadelphia Phillies if he’d like to stay in the National League.
Sure, there are plenty of social media pundits who make it well known that they don’t care for Matheny’s job of managing our beloved Cardinals. But there are always going to be critics, no matter what you do. And, if you’re any good at your job, you just have to tune that stuff out and go about your business as usual.
If you’ve ever been sitting in the stands at Busch Stadium and heard a heckler mouth off to an opposing player, you’ve probably noticed that the target almost never acknowledges the barbs being tossed his way. Why? Because if you let someone who’s shouting at you know that it’s getting under your skin, they’re never going to stop.
Matheny’s outburst is likely only going to embolden his critics. He’s done himself no favors by starting off the 2017 campaign on a sour note.
That’s remarkable because the ownership and front office of the Redbirds seem to be extremely loyal to Matheny. After an awfully disappointing and uneven 2016 season, the management of the club didn’t even entertain questions about whether the skipper should be retained. But now I’m afraid he’s put himself under the microscope and, if the Birds get off to a bad start, that the situation could prove to be a huge distraction.
There were rumors that the newest St. Louis player, outfielder Dexter Fowler was reluctant to come to St. Louis because the Cardinals clubhouse is rumored to have a tense atmosphere. Fowler took a leap of faith and signed to play on Matheny’s team. Then, his first day on the job, he shows up to find this nonsense going on.
The Cardinals need to cut it out and put the bull behind them. Otherwise Matheny’s negativity is going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he really wants to shut up the critics, get this team back in the playoffs and lead it to a deep run. Talk is cheap. But World Series rings are worth thousands – if not millions – of words.