By Aaron Schonfeld, from Cardsblog.com
Most Cardinals fans want Mike Matheny to be fired as manager, but there are many reasons why he should not be let go right now. The Cardinals missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, and Matheny should not be blamed for it. No manager is perfect and Matheny has had six successful years in St. Louis.
To start his career, Matheny was given the 2011 World Championship winning team without some of its important players (Pujols). He had to replace Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa, which are big shoes to fill. He had four playoff years from 2012 until 2015 and managed the 2013 World Series team, but ever since 2016, the Cardinals have not made the playoffs.
Even with those two non playoff years he still has a strong .560 winning percentage and has never had a losing season. This season fans have complained about various calls during games or certain lineup moves, but overall there were other main factors that contributed to the Cardinals’ failed season.
One reason why the Cardinals struggled this year was because they did not have a true ace or reliable hitter. Many players on both sides of the ball played average but failed to out-perform expectations. For example, Carlos Martinez had a lot of strikeouts, but had a high Earned Run Average. Carpenter’s Batting Average was lower than normal, but his On Base Percentage was high. Neither had a good season across all categories.
In each of the Cardinals playoff runs in Matheny’s early years the Cardinals have had superstars to lead the team to the postseason. Players such as Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Carlos Martinez have been there for the Cardinals in the past and no one stepped up this year (especially with Wainwright's decline from being an ace to a fringe bullpen pitcher or fifth starter).
A largely disappointing 2017 season somehow found the Cardinals fighting for the final Wild Card spot heading into the last week of the season. A 2-5 home stand to close out the season was a fitting ending to a season full of frustration and disappointment for Cardinal fans.
A major reason why they did not have any more all-stars is because General Manger John Mozeliak was unable to get them any last offseason. Matheny was not given a team that could compete with the Cubs. They showed flashes of that team, but never stayed consistent enough.
The second major reason why the Cardinals struggled this year was the team's pitching. Throughout the season the bullpen (Brett Cecil and Seung hwan Oh) blew many games. Even though Matheny should receive some of the blame, they recently fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blake Ilsley. This shows that the Cardinals have faith in Matheny and what he can accomplish in the long run with the team.
The Cardinals did not really struggle overall offensively, but they did not have as good of an offensive season as they normally have. The year was not bad enough to point out one specific player, but no one except Pham and DeJong put up solid numbers.
This comes back to the idea of not having a true run producer. Mozeliak went out last offseason and got the Cardinals one big name player: Dexter Fowler. He hit a career high 18 home runs and had a .264 batting average with a .363 OBP. Fowler had a decent year but did not play well enough to be considered a game changing signing.
The Cardinals need that middle of the order man who can drive in runs. If Mozeliak can provide that for Matheny, then the offense can succeed in 2018. The problem this year was not with Matheny, it was with the team. They did not play well enough to win.
If Mozeliak can go out and get an all-star caliber player in the offseason, then Mike Matheny will go back to being a successful manager like he was earlier in his career. If he does not, then it will be time to send some blame his way.
The Cardinals 2017 season may be over, but the future looks bright in St. Louis. The Cardinals have several dependable rookies on their roster who, if they can keep up their hard work, all have the potential to be key players in future playoff runs.
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