The Cardinals are expected to announce at a Monday press conference that their former player, Mike Matheny, will replace Tony La Russa as manager.
It's a move that makes me scratch my head because, although I have a lot of respect for Matheny, I find it hard to believe he's getting the reigns to the defending World Series champions without managing first cutting his teeth in the minors or as a major league coach.
There are a lot more questions raised by the Matheny hiring than there are answered at this point, namely:
- Wouldn't the Cardinals have been wise to at least consider some more experienced candidates? Maybe Matheny really blew ownership and GM John Mozeliak away in the interview process. But would it have hurt to talk to Jim Riggleman and Joe Maddon? The lack of consideration of more experienced candidates sure makes it seem like the Redbirds wanted to hire someone would be cheap.
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- What made Matheny stand out over more experienced candidates? I hope it wasn't the fact that the front office thinks it can push around a guy that it seems wasn't on any other team's radar for a job. It's not lost on me that the bean counters and number crunchers overthrew Walt Jocketty after the 2006 World Series and that the Cardinals were sliding downhill before La Russa put his foot down and demanded some grittier, winning type players that didn't fit the Sabremetrics mold. The result? The 2011 championship? Without La Russa would the Cardinals have added Lance Berkman or traded Colby Rasmus? I doubt it.
- What about Jose Oquendo? We were led to believe for years that he was the heir apparent. This seemed to be his one chance and now he's lost it. Will he stick around as a coach? And, if he does, will there be hard feelings? And how does Albert Pujols feel about this? A lot of people feel Pujols wanted Oquendo to get the job. Will he be put off by the fact that the Redbirds went against his wishes?
I'm not sure it was doing Matheny a favor to give him the big league job with no experience. He's got a lot of pressure on him and if the Cardinals stumble badly out of the gate he could find himself in an embarrassing situation. He might fare better if he was given the chance to try his hand out of the spotlight in the minors. If Bill De Witt likes Matheny so much, it would be a shame to waste his potential by throwing him to the wolves before he was properly prepared.