Buffa: Mike Matheny extension sets new stakes for Cardinals

With the Cubs World Series victory leaving St. Louis Cardinals fans in a collective stupor today, the hot stove can serve as a distraction. It didn't take long for John Mozeliak to make some moves; establishing his future dugout presence came first.

Before the clubhouses in Cleveland could be properly swept, Mike Matheny was given a three-year extension that runs through 2020. Its not a surprise for him to be extended and the term is a natural fit. He's a young, successful manager. He's entering the sixth year of his managerial career and the Birds have been to the playoffs in five of them. He's been a big part of that run and will be the head of the force that tries to bring down the Cubs and their new order of power. 

There were varied reactions on Twitter about the deal. Such as:

 

Others were more inspired:

This new deal doesn't mean Matheny can't be fired if the team continues to struggle and he doesn't keep improving as a manager. Those things have to occur for this team to get right and keep pace with the division.

A record is only the beginning of a manager's true skill set. The minute Joe Maddon was hired by Chicago, the challenge was levied toward Matheny. He has to keep improving his game and bullpen management. 

For example, a .170-hitting Brandon Moss can't keep playing every single day in a September playoff push. Jonathan Broxton can't keep pitching in close games. Trevor Rosenthal can only be pushed so hard to close baseball games.

Photos: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny

On the other hand, Matheny finally employed Seung Hwan Oh in late tie games, something he hadn't done in the past. He rode the Alex Reyes train and yanked the Jaime operation in multiple games. 

However, Matheny can't abandon Kolten Wong for two months moving forward. After Jedd Gyorko cooled off, Wong still couldn't find the playing field. He needs to get that time in 2017. 

Perspective is key here. It took Tony La Russa eight years to reach a World Series with the Cardinals. Matheny did it in his second season. La Russa didn't win one for ten years. Matheny can get the Cards back there, and he must improve as a tactician. 

The Cards weren't good enough in 2016 and Matheny's decision making couldn't cut the check on the difference in talent and execution like he did in previous seasons.  

Matheny has four seasons to regain control of the NL Central. It's a new day in the National League. A new king is on the throne and it's not a Giant. It's a Cub. Their grip won't loosen anytime soon. 

The extension was the right move for both sides. It would have made little sense to fire Matheny and even less sense to wait to extend him.

He's earned this contract, but can he reach the end of it? At the end of the new contract, he will have completed his ninth managerial season. 

By then, the Cards will have an idea of Matheny's ability to adapt. The 46-year-old has 461 wins as a manager and one pennant. The clout from that record will now be cleared from the table, and the new extension places new bets on the team and leader moving forward.

Without a World Series title, Cardinals fans will still call for his head. That's life for a manager in the game of baseball. 

I'm behind Mike Matheny...for now. 


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment