The Cardinals are in a free fall, with every phase of their game in a state of decline. When you’ve lost 15 of your last 20 games and get busted into pieces by Scooter Gennett and the Cincinnati Reds, the problems are deep-rooted.
The St. Louis offense has slipped to the No. 27 MLB ranking in runs per game, 4.04. In a power-crazy crazy season, the Cardinals are tied for 26th in homers per game. At the Great American Small Park, the Cards have belched out three runs, total, in two consecutive losses to the Reds. This, against one of the very worst starting-pitching staffs in the majors … this, against a Cincinnati team that had a 5.93 overall ERA and 7.65 rotation ERA while losing 15 of its previous 21 games coming into the series vs. St. Louis.
The defense … the base running … the bullpen … all remain liabilities.
And after putting up a stubborn resistance for nearly two months, the Cardinals’ rotation has a 5.74 ERA and only four quality starts over the last 13 games. This is distressing. It appears that the team’s singular strength is dissolving. We have to hope for a quick turnaround. If this rotation cracks you’ll have to send blood hounds and a search party to look for the Cardinals in the standings.
As is, the Cardinals have bumbled to a 26-30 record and have dipped to No. 20 among the 30 MLB teams with a .464 winning percentage on the season.
Something must change.
We can all agree on that.
OK, but what?
Will there be a massive shakeup?
Will GM John Mozeliak deviate from the organization’s conservative, cautious ways to engineer a foundation-jarring trade or two?
I do not know. This is one of those wait-and-see times.
And when I think of the way the Cardinals operate — on the field and up in the offices — the term URGENCY doesn’t fit.
But this is what I do know:
If you are wondering, waiting, hoping or pleading for a managerial change…and if you are fed up with Mike Matheny’s general malfeasance and his apparent inability to solve any of the problems that afflict the Cardinals … if you want Matheny fired…
Look, don’t put yourself through this. Don’t raise your stress and blood pressure and risk having a coronary episode.
Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. isn’t going to fire Mike Matheny.
We’ve been through some of this before, so let’s bull-rush with it again:
In a moment of inexplicably bad timing DeWitt awarded Matheny with a three-year contract extension the day after the Cubs — after curb-stomping the Cardinals in 2016 — won their first World Series championship since 1908.
The Cardinals failed to make the playoffs in ’16, and routinely exhibited the sloppy, low-IQ baseball that dogs them to this very day. But DeWitt couldn’t be more adamant in his confidence in Matheny.
The Beloved Leader of Men has contract security through the 2020 season. DeWitt won’t bail on Matheny and digest the cost of that long-term contract. And there’s more to it than that.
DeWitt absolutely believes that Matheny is the right manager for the Cardinals.
Even though Matheny had no prior managerial experience and had never coached at the professional team level (other than being a minor-league instructor for a time) DeWitt hired Matheny for multiple reasons:
Matheny’s leadership potential. He impressed everyone in the Cardinals organization during his time as the team’s top catcher. A blood-and-guts competitor, tough as they come, and respected by Cardinals pitchers (and all teammates) for his fierce attitude and team-first orthodoxy.
DeWitt and Mozeliak invested in Matheny’s likely growth, sincerely believing that Matheny would become a special manager. A great manager. And that he could be in place for a long time.
DeWitt and Mozeliak also believed that Matheny would greatly enhance the manager-media relationship. Fans don’t care about that, and I don’t blame you. I point this out only as a way to explain the owner-GM thinking at the time. And as much as the Cards’ bosses respected Tony La Russa, they tired of his “Tony TV” post-game sessions that could at times turn snarly and contentious. It wasn’t always a good look. It didn’t always project a friendly image; Cardinals management puts a premium on that. In retrospect, this is laughable, La Russa was significantly more skilled and accommodating and thoughtful at media relations than Matheny. Tony TV offered only a glimpse; it wasn’t an accurate representation of the whole picture.
Matheny’s longtime Cardinals affiliation, and popularity, made this a smart marketing move. by the franchise. Matheny was hired, in part, because he was deemed as good for business. His profile is a comfortable match with the fan base. As in the financial bottom line. DeWitt isn’t about to back away from that financial investment now. As long as 3.4 million fans are streaming into the ballpark each year, the Cardinals will be more tolerant of mediocre baseball, or even bad baseball — for a time, anyway.
I would imagine that from DeWitt’s perspective it’s ludicrous to even talk about sacking a manager who had the best record in the majors while guiding the Cardinals to the playoffs (and the 2013 NL pennant) during his first four seasons on the job.
The Cardinals are 112-106 since the start of the 2016 season. They are trending in the wrong direction. They’re transitioning. And this is no excuse for what we’re seeing on the field.. Yes the roster is flawed and that’s on the GM. But this shouldn’t exclude Matheny from responsibility and accountability. He did a lousy job in 2016. If anything he’s been worse in 2017. And this is his sixth season in the big boy’s chair. This is no apprentice.
It’s up to DeWitt and Mozeliak to decide on the balance that works for them … weighing the alarming downturn in the team’s on-field performance against the booming financial prosperity that for now remains unaffected.
Matheny is safe. His job security isn’t even a question.
With Matheny, your blood pressure will not drop unless the Cardinals’ revenues drop.
And with a $1 billion local-TV windfall coming his way in 2018, DeWitt will be under no financial pressure to give his manager the boot. Matheny will be DeWitt’s manager for a very long time.
You may not like it, but that’s the reality.
Thanks for reading …