Mike Matheny has never served as a full-time coach at any level. Now he will become the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, succeeding Tony La Russa.
After the St. Louis Cardinals knocked off the Texas Rangers in a classic and improbable World Series (remember that?), manager Tony La Russa up and retired, going out as a champion. That left the Cardinals in the unexpected position of needing to find a replacement.
On Sunday, they've found that replacement. According to Jon Morosi and a ton of other people too, the Cardinals have hired former big league backstop Mike Matheny.
For a while, the Cardinals were conducting interviews with no clear front-runner. However, Bernie Miklasz just Saturday picked Matheny as the favorite, and now Matheny has won out. He beat Terry Francona, he beat Ryne Sandberg, he beat Joe McEwing, he beat some guy named Chris Maloney, and perhaps most significantly, he beat Jose Oquendo. Oquendo has been the Cardinals' third base coach, and there was a perception that he'd learned from La Russa, and that hiring him might make it more likely that Albert Pujols re-signs. The Cardinals opted for Matheny instead.
Why is this daring? Much like Robin Ventura, who was recently hired as the new manager of the Chicago White Sox, Matheny has never been a full-time coach at any level. He's been a special instructor at spring training, he's been an instructor in the minors, and he's been a TV analyst, and that's...that's pretty much his experience, aside from his own playing experience, as he had a 13-year Major League career that ended due to concussions in 2006. He's said to possess leadership qualities, and he's widely respected around the game, but he doesn't have a track record. The Cardinals don't know and can't know how he'll do as a manager.
But then, every situation is different, so the Cardinals couldn't really know how any of their candidates would do in St. Louis. Matheny, obviously, has minimal experience, but it's an open question as to how important experience really is. Matheny has the organization's trust, and he'll be supported by a veteran coaching staff that can have his back and help him out when necessary.
Matheny could flop, he could be a great success, or he could be somewhere in between. The Cardinals are gambling, here, but they probably don't see it that way, and given what they just accomplished a couple weeks ago, maybe we should just give them the benefit of the doubt. Or maybe we shouldn't. I don't know. Managers. Who really knows anything, right?
Matheny played five years with the Cardinals between 2000-2004, hitting poorly while allegedly playing good defense and calling an excellent game. He'll be formally introduced at a Monday press conference.