Before the World Series could commence, John Mozeliak pulled the trigger on a much-needed move for the St. Louis Cardinals. No, he didn't fire Mike Matheny; Mozeliak outfitted the six-year managing "vet" with a new Kevlar vest.
The President of Baseball Operations brought Jose Oquendo, the third base maestro and coaching guru, back to the big-league club for 2018 duty and hired Willie McGee as well. There's no school like the old school, and this is the move that officially puts Matheny on notice.
Let's say Mozeliak hires Jim Hickey, the number one pitching coach on the market. Add that to the Secret Weapon return and the Cardinals bench is set. There's no more excuses for the "I'm new to this" manager who manages a bullpen like my son manages his toy collection in my house. This is Bill DeWitt Jr. and Mozeliak sending Matheny a telegram that plainly states, "win with this or get out of the house."
Here's the thing, the unbreakable support of Matheny by the ownership and management is a publicity stunt. He's not as safe as DeWitt Jr. says. The suits are making a lot of money despite back to back playoff misses, but they know that can change very quickly. Losing has never been a part of the DeWitt master plan, certainly not in Mozeliak's time. Finishing less than ten games over .500 is the lowest these Bird Bow Ties want to get.
If the Cardinals go out and spend money to improve the team and keep overhauling the coaching staff, the manager has to succeed or get out. The Chicago Cubs were officially labeled human this month, and their team needs a lot of change over the winter. Their roster may be shaken, if not smashed, so the Central Division is wide open. There's an opening and if Matheny keeps costing the team wins, there will be casualties.
You see, now the team has their lifeline back in Oquendo. The team leaders, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, love this guy. He's got the support from the youngsters like Kolten Wong as well. So, if a change had to be made, the resounding impact on the guys would be less.
Yes!!!! So stoked about cheo and willie coming on board! Two guys that bring a ton of knowledge and bleed #cardinalred— Kolten Wong (@KoltenWong) October 23, 2017
The support for Matheny is lessening by the day. If you can't read an article about his virtues without mentioning how good of a guy he is, the reality is the kettle has become hot. After the season, Matheny told a reporter he was new to this when questioned about strategy. He's not new.
Oquendo's desire to manage is clear. He applied for other team managing jobs and got passed over. The desire for the Secret Weapon to manage is not so secret. He was passed over when Tony La Russa retired, due to Mozeliak's guy getting the inside lane to the job. He's a magician when it comes to baserunning and defense, building his baseball IQ off the backs of La Russa and Whitey Herzog ideologies. The brains and know-how are there. There's one guy standing in the way.
Look, I'm not trying to toss bricks on Matheny, but the picture is HD clear. Oquendo's return, as well as McGee's arrival and Mike Shidt moving to bench coach, signifying a last stand developing in the Cardinals dugout.
Mozeliak started this shift by shaking the staff up in the middle of a season for the first time this past June. He didn't fire Matheny, because he didn't make any upgrades at the trading deadline to reinforce a weakening roster. Shidt wasn't going to hop into the manager's spot that easily, and Oquendo was rehabbing from knee surgery and unable to handle the rigors of the big-league grind. Plain and simple, it wasn't ideal.
If the Cardinals falter again next spring, the coaching shakeup will include a bigger fish this time.
And this time, a ready replacement will be waiting. His name is Jose. He's back.
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