In the aftermath of Tony La Russa's retirement announcement a theme emerged that would guide the search for his successor: leadership. In interview after interview, owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak stressed that above all else the Cardinals were looking for a leader. The Cardinals believe they have found that leader in former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny.
In addition to leadership, Mozeliak reportedly seeks to implement a "top-down chain of command and philosophy" and an "[e]mphasis will be placed on a close working relationship with Mozeliak as well as player development." Matheny, a former player reportedly revered by current Cardinals players and coaches who has worked as a special assistant to Mozeliak and as a roving minor-league instructor in the Cardinals system, seems to check every box on Mozeliak's list.
In an interview with Bernie Miklasz on ESPN 101 Radio, Mozeliak offered two profiles the Cardinals would look at in their managergial search: a manager with established big-league success and an up-and-comer who could make a name for himself in the game. By hiring an up-and-comer with no managerial experience whatsoever, Mozeliak has made a bold move that firmly establishes himself as the primary decision-maker in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The transformation from Jockettyism to Mozeliakism is now complete. Mozeliak has hired his man as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and his man.
Derrick Goold tweeted that the Cardinals players he has "spoken to seem encouraged if not outright elated" at the hiring of Matheny as manager. The quotes in this Fox Sports Midwest article from David Freese and Daniel Descalso reinforce Goold's impression. For those worried about the effect on Albert Pujols re-signing with the club, Matthew Leach tweets that, while the effect is minimal, it is likely positive as Pujols "is a BIG Matheny fan." It appears that the hiring has and will go over very well amongst the players.
The hire of Matheny appears to make a shakeup of the World Series championship coaching staff less likely. Matheny honed his craft as a catcher under Duncan's tutelage. This appears to make Duncan's return in 2012 likely. It would also appear likely that hitting coach Mark McGwire, a former teammate of Matheny's and Spring Training colleague, would also return. Unknown is the fate of Jose Oquendo, who also interviewed for the job of manager. It seems possible that he could move on from the organization he has spent so many years with as a player and coach. Hopefully Matheny clears some of this up in tomorrow's press conference.
His lack of a track record makes Matheny an empty vessel into which fans can pour their hopes and concerns regarding Cardinals manager. His statements will be parsed like congressional testimony as scribes, bloggers, and fans attempt to glean how Matheny will approach the field manager job tactically, big-league roster construction, and player usage. There is much that we will not know until the regular season begins next year and it is important that we keep this in mind.
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