Considering the Legacy of Mike Matheny

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s contract extends through the 2020 season, but what sort of legacy has he built in his first six seasons as the Cardinals’ skipper?

His career .560 winning percentage among active managers is second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, who has a .600 winning percentage through three seasons as the skipper in Los Angeles.

Matheny’s postseason successes tell a slightly different story. Make no mistake, Matheny is the only manager in Major League Baseball history to lead his team to the postseason in his first four seasons at the helm. He did that from 2012-2015.

His win/loss record in the postseason is 21-22. He’s led the Cardinals to one National League pennant, in 2013, when they eventually lost to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. He’s appeared in two National League Championship Series, in 2012 and 2014. In 2015, his team lost to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series.

When the Cardinals finished in third place in the National League Central Division in 2017, it was the worst showing of Matheny’s career as manager. He’s guided the Cardinals to three division titles, from 2013-2015. In 2015, the Cardinals won 100 games.

In the game of baseball, it’s wins and losses that matter. Matheny has been a winning manager in his first six seasons at the helm. That should not be overlooked. At the same time, the teams he’s managed haven’t been able to quite get over the hump when they do make it to the playoffs. A World Series victory would do well to secure Matheny’s legacy as a successful manager for a high-calibur organization such as the St. Louis Cardinals.

A manager’s win/loss record, however, does not tell the entire story. Matheny often is criticized for his in-game managerial decisions as well as his clubhouse philosophies with veterans and young players.

Let’s be clear. Most fans, even most media members, don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in a major league clubhouse. So most of the speculation on the way Matheny runs his clubhouse is just that: speculation.

What goes on on the field, however, is fair game for critics to hound Matheny on. Bullpen management, lineup construction, double switches late in games, and other questionable moves often draw the ire of a particular portion of the Cardinals’ fan base.

Some of these complaints are warranted, while others are far-fetched. Matheny also deserves adulation for the moves he makes that are critical to the success of the team. So this season, watch with objective eyes the moves Matheny makes and decide for yourself the legacy of the Cardinals’ manager. I say his legacy is secure when he wins a World Series.

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