Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hiring of Mike Matheny Signals Major Changes in Organizational Philosophy

If Tony La Russa were in charge of hiring the next manager for the St. Louis Cardinals, he would have picked Terry Francona.  No doubt about it in my mind.  Why?  Francona is a battle-tested veteran manager who has been there before.  He has the experience.

But Tony is not in charge anymore.  And this hire of unproven Mike Matheny is the first of many manifestations of that reality.  General Manager John Mozeliak is in charge now.  Back in 2007, when the Cardinals fired Walt Jocketty, they announced that the organization was moving to greater emphasize player development, and give young, home-grown players chances to become stars on the big league level.  Unfortunately, they failed to realize that Tony La Russa was still the sheriff in town.  And Tony had long preferred veteran players over rookies, even at times to a fault.  And so the full realization of the shift to the build from within model was put on hold.

But now, things have changed.  In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mozeliak made a few off-the-cuff comments to beat writer Joe Strauss.  He said that Daniel Descalso is projected as the team's starting second baseman, that he wouldn't mind seeing Tyler Greene as the starting shortstop, and that the backup catcher would be either Bryan Anderson or Tony Cruz.  Simple comments on the surface level, but let me make a few observations:

  • All four of these players Mozeliak is targeting for major roles on the team are home-grown players
  • None of them have ever been every-day starters on the Major League Level
  • There is no mention of a potential plan to bring in a proven veteran (like Clint Barmes or Jack Wilson) to "compete" for either of the starting middle infield jobs (though Mozeliak has expressed some interest in Rafael Furcal if the price is right)
  • Low-ceiling veteran players on the Cardinals roster (like Skip Schumacher or Ryan Theriot) aren't even mentioned as possibilities for the starting middle infield jobs.  In the article Schumacher is targeted for a utility role, and Theriot isn't even mentioned.    
  • Over the past number of years, the backup catcher has always been a crusty veteran (Gerald Laird, Jason LaRue).  This is changing.  
Somewhere, Tony La Russa is rolling over in his metaphorical grave (he's not really dead yet...), as these statement by Mozeliak go against everything the old manager believes in.  But he's not the manager anymore.  As of 11:00am CST, Mike Matheny will be.

By the way, here is the link to the Matheny press conference:

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