It has to be the easiest assignment in the major leagues to engage in a tactical battle with Matheny.
Game after game, it's the same thing over and over again. Matheny doesn't push buttons and pull levers based on instinct or gut feeling. Nor does he seem to make decisions based on spreadsheets filled with minute details about every opposing player's tendencies in certain game situations. He paints by numbers, coloring in the blank spot on the canvas by following the same simple instructions. Every. Single. Time.
I wish I had a dollar for every time Matheny sits there idly watching the St. Louis starter blow a substantial lead as if every game is a Grapefruit League exhibition contest. He doesn't take out starters because they seem tired or because they're ineffective against a certain opposing player. He only removes starting pitchers when the tying run reaches base. It's maddening. And it's one of the main reasons why fans don't feel safe when the Redbirds are up by five runs. Of course, the other reason is because Matheny has to have an eight-man bullpen — but he only uses five of the pitchers on a regular basis.
While the Cardinals have beat up on the lowly Cincinnati Reds by overwhelming them with raw talent, they were exposed by the less helpless New York Mets on Tuesday. The Mets took advantage of Matheny leaving starting pitcher Luke Weaver in after he'd obviously lost it, leaving the overmanned bullpen alone while Yoenis Cespedes was allowed to crank a three-run homer — one of the longest in the history of Busch Stadium III — to tie the game and erase a 4-1 lead.
The Cardinals are 7-0 against the worst team in baseball this year. But they're 6-9 against everyone else. Will the real St. Louis Cardinals please stand up?
Two days ago, it felt like the Cardinals were invincible. But on Tuesday, against a good team that is going to capitalize on mistakes, it was as if it was preordained that they would lose in the most frustrating way possible.
The Birds had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, getting the first two batters on base. But a first and second situation with no outs turned into two on with one out when Jose Martinez swung wildly at a ball in the dirt for a strikeout. Then Dexter Fowler grounded into an easy double play. I think it would absolutely kill Matheny to ever start the base runners to avoid a double play. You probably wouldn't want to do that with runners on first and second. But the runners shouldn't have been on first and second because Matt Carpenter failed to go from first to third on a flair that fell well in front of the New York outfield. They should have been on first and third with no one out and if Martinez or Fowler could have hit a lazy fly ball, St. Louis would have won the game.
But I guess there are a lot of factors we could point to and say if the Cardinals wouldn't have done that one thing, they would have won the game.
They struck out in double figures, again, racking up 10 whiffs.
They left a whopping 18 men on base — including 10 by just Martinez and Marcell Ozuna
It took five relief pitchers to bail out a starter who couldn't make it through the fifth inning.
St. Louis is home to Hall of Fame managers. Red Schoendienst could manage the supercharged egos of an immensely talented club and keep in on an even keel for 162 games. Whitey Herzog could drive the opposing manager batty with out of the box thinking and innovative tactics. Tony La Russa was as unpredictable as managers get. He did things by the seat of his pants against all odds — and became one of the winningest managers in history. But Matheny manages like he's the skipper of a tee ball club. Let's not bunt or steal or try to pick off a runner because it's not all about winning and losing. We're here to have some fun and maybe to learn a little something along the way.