clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mike Matheny "No Fun" narrative needs to end

Narratives can run hot in the spring before games have been played and one that appears to be gaining steam is the Matheny is not a fun manager and that it hurts during the grind of the season. This needs to end.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Matheny, like any manager and people in general, has both strengths and weaknesses. Depending on who you ask, his strengths deal mostly with leadership. His players play hard for him and he keeps a good clubhouse. As for his negatives, it probably is not necessary to go through everything as I wrote two pieces on potential improvements last Fall (Part IPart II). If you are looking for something more recent, in his preview for the season, Bernie Miklasz provides a solid summary at the end of his piece on the Cardinals' manager. Nowhere in any serious criticism of Matheny I have seen has his attitude come up as a negative, yet that narrative is being pushed this spring.

The criticisms of Matheny revolve around strategy, planning, and quick-thinking, but Matheny himself is pushing the story that he receives criticism for being no fun or stoic, and perhaps that is something he can work on. The odd part about this narrative is that it is not entirely inconsistent. From Benjamin Hochman's piece on not pleasing everyone:

"I know you guys (in the media) don't get to see it ... but I spend time around people in the real world, and it's different because I can be different there. Maybe someday I'll get better at combining the two, but I feel like I'm always on point when I'm doing this job, which is guarded, which is maybe combative, I don't know you guys can throw the adjectives on there. I just feel like that's what I'm supposed to do."

Here, he embraces his attitude, the attitude that garners him the most praise as a leader and consistent presence in a long, grinding season. In a piece by Jennifer Longosch, Matheny acknowledges the "no fun" reputation, but says he is going to take efforts to make sure players can let be themselves a bit.

"I want to encourage an atmosphere that we're going to get our work done and be serious, but I almost push that too far. So we're going to be a little more intentional on figuring how to lighten the mood and let guys be themselves."

Do the Cardinals really have a problem being themselves?

Does not seem like it there. Matheny goes on:

"They just can't let their guard down ever," Matheny said. "I think it's a different situation than we've ever had in the game before that they just can't separate what they do from who they are. I think it's a dangerous place to be, and it's something that I want to consciously create an atmosphere here where they can breathe a little bit."

It is important to breathe. Good hydration is also a must.

Were the Cardinals not able to be themselves in the dugout during games because of Matheny's stoic demeanor? You be the judge.

But that's just one piece of evidence. Surely the team was not loose in the dugout the entire season, right?

The team would not do anything really silly like wear as many hats as possible during a game?

Okay, fine, but that is just Carlos Martinez. The Cardinals might have one goofball, but the rest of the team probably doesn't even like it.

I doubt the whole team ever gets involved though, especially not a veteran like Matt Holliday.

They are probably pretty mean to newcomers though. It might be hard for new guys to fit in.

Although I have heard Kolten Wong can be pretty tough on himself.

Sure, maybe some of the new guys can have fun, but Adam Wainwright, the heir to foul-mouthed uber-serious Chris Carpenter would treat the game with a little more respect.

Okay, Wainwright, sure, but certainly Yadi would never make light of an unusual situation on the field.

I'm sure they've never danced together, though.

The Cardinals had a lot of fun playing baseball last year with Matheny's demeanor the way it is. When Tony La Russa was the manager, guys like Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Chris Carpenter embodied their manager's spirit and attitude. That is not the case for the current Cardinals. Fans of teams who are not the Cardinals likely view the team the same way they have for years, as a business-like "no fun" team that Matheny is worried about, but that is untrue for the current bunch with the birds on the bat.

If Mike Matheny wants to work on something, he should focus on his weaknesses, not his strengths. A loose manager is not going to help the grind of the season that much, but getting starters regular rest, not overdoing it with the bullpen, and making sure starting pitchers are in optimal health will greatly help as the Cardinals seek to defend their division title over the next 162 regular seasons games.

Special thanks to Dan Doelling (on twitter @daniel_doelling) who eagerly agreed to allow use of his tweets throughout the year to help create this post.