St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny just recently issued some words about the 2014 season on his website. I hoped he would address the final moments of October, but instead of offering any real insights (that only time and perspective could have provided), he left it at this:
"After an amazing upset in the Division Series, a strong Giants club simply beat us as we had to watch them celebrate once again in San Fran."
Oh, if only it were that simple. In case you've forgotten (you haven't), Michael Wacha had become the latest St. Louis Cardinals player to vanish once October arrives. He tried to return from an unusual injury but lousy results (5.40 ERA) and peripherals (14.5% K-rate and 9.2% BB-rate) in September left his status in question. Nevertheless, the Cardinals included him on the postseason roster and 20 days passed without a Michael Wacha appearance... until Matheny decided it was finally time to use him with the game and season on the line.
Here's what some of you and others were saying on the night the Cardinals were "simply beat" by the Giants:
seriously mike matheny is one of the worst managers I've ever seen manage— Rui Xu (@rui_xu) October 17, 2014
The leverage can hardly be higher, so let's go with a pitcher who hasn't pitched in a month. #MathenyLogic— Erik Manning (@Erik_Manning) October 17, 2014
Hate this for Wacha. Just strongly disagree with putting him in that kind of situation after so long. No hindsight involved.— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) October 17, 2014
I don't know how Matheny can explain not using Wacha for 8 games & then calling on him in the bottom of the 9th in a tie elimination game.— Ben (@b_g_h) October 17, 2014
I'll blame a hundred people for that loss before I'll blame Michael Wacha. What an unfair thing to do to your player.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) October 17, 2014
Wacha went 2 1/2 months without pitching. Has now gone 2 1/2 weeks without pitch. Season on the line. One run eliminates #Cardinals.— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) October 17, 2014
Does Matheny really think THIS is the moment to use Wacha? #STLcards— Andy Beard (@aswb83) October 17, 2014
As if that wasn't enough, Matheny had this to say when asked to explain his curious decision:
"That's on me... I don't know if anyone could expect him to be as sharp as he normally would be. I put a lot on him. I put him in a tough spot. That's on me."
Stop there and we'll accept your apology, Mike. Only he didn't. Will Leitch included the full quote in his piece at Sports On Earth (FYI: he appears to credit STL Today but I do not see the quote in the story he linked to):
"I put him in a tough spot. But you [saw] the first couple pitches come out of [his] hand and I think everybody in the baseball world asked why we had been waiting so long to let this kid throw. Just a tough spot for him to be in and not the spot we want him to be in but we'll put him out there again in a similar situation."
The collective response: "Umm... What?"
And then there was this:
Matheny, when asked about not using closer T. Rosenthal in 9th: "We can't bring him in, in a tie-game situation. We're on the road."— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) October 17, 2014
Now as angry as we all were, perspective was quickly found in the tragic death of Oscar Taveras. Matheny's statement in the wake of such terrible news was heartfelt and well-received by many, causing some of us to rethink our positions on the manager. By all accounts, Matheny is a wonderful person and an inspirational leader. There's even some research by Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus suggesting that #Mathenaging might not be all bad!
But still, that Michael Wacha thing happened and, well, I'm still not over it. Believe it or not, Matheny will release a book in February 2015 entitled The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager's Old School Views On Success In Sports And Life. The timing probably could have been better.