When the Cardinals interviewed and eventually hired the
former catcher last offseason, he only had a shred of experience in his post-playing career and it was as
a special advisor. Nearly one year later, his lack of seasoning is
That's because the Cardinals have returned to the
National League Championship Series to face off against the Giants. It leaves
St. Louis just one step away from defending their World Series title.
The postseason push is a testament to Matheny's baseball
acumen. Moving forward, his example as well as Robin Ventura's successful
season –– without prior managing stints –– could alter the blueprint for hiring
But Matheny's performance has been especially
impressive, considering the situation he inherited.
When he took over the reigns, Matheny had to follow in legendary manager Tony La Russa's footsteps, an enormous task in itself. The
pressure mounted as Albert Pujols bolted the Cardinals for a lucrative contract
with the Angels.
St. Louis also lost Lance Berkman, an integral piece of
last year's run, for most of the season due to injury.
Without Pujols and Berkman, St. Louis hasn't missed a
beat. Matheny has squeezed every ounce of talent from his roster, starting with
Carlos Beltran's stunning resurgence.
In his first year with the club, Beltran sparked the
offense by blasting 32 home runs and 97 RBIs. This postseason, the 35-year-old
has emerged as a key cog, drilling two home runs and four RBIs all while
Down the stretch, Matheny also demonstrated an
excellent ability to manage the bullpen. Only 42 years old, the rookie headman
is gaining respect from the veteran skippers around him.
"I have the utmost respect for him," Tigers
manager Jim Leyland told reporters. "He's a class guy. He kind of got thrown
in the fire — he and Robin Ventura both — and certainly survived that. Both
did a great job."
It could change the way organizations select managers
down the road.