St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny addressed the media today prior to tomorrow night’s start of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
Q. In the ALDS and ALCS defensive plays, both positive and negative of nature, swung a couple of games. How good is your team into turning batted balls into outs?
MIKE MATHENY: I think our team has improved very much this year. It’s one of the concentrations we had, one of the goals we had going in defensively. I think the guys did a great job, especially some guys in the infield that haven’t been in spots they’ve been in, that they were in all season.
Outfield‑wise, I think guys are better than what they’re given credit for. There’s always room for improvement. There’s going to be some challenges here. It’s been part of the conversation since we knew we were going to play Boston. Veteran guys who played in the American League and played in this park, talked about some of the nuances here and things to expect. There’s going to be a learning curve.
Q. We don’t want to throw the “dynasty” word around too much, but it is what it is. If the Red Sox win ’04, ’07, ’13, if you guys win, ’06, ’11, ’13. Pretty impressive runs for both teams already for both teams, and a pretty impressive run for whatever team wins this World Series. As a manager and a guy who played with the Cardinals also in ’04, how special is it to be a part of this? You have two flagship franchises battling for the World Series?
MIKE MATHENY: Two historic franchises with a lot of history and a lot of success. You know, we take a lot of pride in what has been able to kind of define the Cardinal way and how we go about our business. And part of that is the Hall of Famers we see around our park all the time, the people who remember all the great championships.
But we also realize what we’re about right now. We’ve got to focus on what we need to do, and not anything beyond that. And it’s one game at a time. We’ve been very consistent with that. But realizing, too, you give credit. You give credit where it’s due, and this team in Boston has done some amazing things to make this happen this year and in the past. Some of us have some pretty bad memories of being here in 2004, and we’re looking to kind of right that ship.
But the team in ’04 we played was as hot as any team in baseball. And they came in and played the kind of baseball that we needed to and we didn’t. It’s about execution, and that’s what we’re going to get focused on now.
Q. Standard usually is that a manager takes over a rebuilding job. You came into a championship team. I’m wondering if you could put into perspective what problems you faced with that and how you overcame it?
MIKE MATHENY: Problems on the first day or ‑‑
Q. No, just problems in general.
MIKE MATHENY: Every day there is, and still is. And we take a lot of pride in trying to do things right, and with that comes a high responsibility for living up to that. And I think in this position as manager there’s just going to be issues that come up every single day. And part of that is what I enjoy doing, it’s going through life with these guys. Because these guys are men, not machines, and life hits them. And you continue to try and push through and be able to be productive when you get to the field every day.
But as far as walking into a team that had just won the World Series, I don’t know if you could ask for a better situation. You have a group of guys, one, who are talented, obviously, but experienced, as well. And you’re able to walk in and put a lot of pressure on them to help pick up the slack. I didn’t come in expecting to ever replace a Hall of Fame‑caliber manager like Tony LaRussa. I came in to do what I could do and let these guys know that we’re going to do a lot of learning along the way. I need you guys to step up, just like I need the staff to step up. And both the guys and the staff were able to do so to address the problems as they came.
Q. Where do you see Allen Craig now being able to possibly play in the field when the series moves to St. Louis? And having him and Matt Adams, does that address the DH deficit that NL teams seem to have in the World Series?
MIKE MATHENY: First of all, we haven’t even announced that Allen is going to be active on that roster, but we’ll go ahead and do that. Allen ended up passing his last test today. He went out and ran the bases and has hit live. We’re anxious to have him back, even though we felt fortunate that Matt Adams has been able to do what he’s doing.
Yes, that gives us more depth. We have a couple of hitters that we’d love to have in the lineup, and actually all season long we were in that situation, where we had a Matt Adams and Allen Craig and sometimes a Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, that we were switching around, trying to find playing time for all those bats. But right now we feel comfortable with Allen as a DH. Once we get back to St. Louis we’ll reevaluate, but we anticipate him being able to pinch‑hit. But if he continues to progress and things look differently, we could make that change. But right now we’re pretty happy with Matt Adams at first base.
Q. When a team is successful year after year you pick lower and lower in the draft each year, and yet you guys, it doesn’t seem to stop you at all from finding these great pitchers, a lot of them coming up in just the last several years. Could you give your thoughts on how you’ve been able to do that?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, a lot of credit needs to go to our scouts, obviously, and our system. They have a plan in place of what they’re looking for. And even to go a step further with that is to be able to bring the right kind of people, one that buys into our philosophy as a club. Kids that are ready. And Michael Wacha is a great example of that. How many kids are you able to pull out of college and 18 months later be able to throw them into a pennant rush and be there for the push and stand up and be ready to contribute.
But a lot of that credit needs to go to our development system. We get these guys who are obviously talented, but there are very many talented players out there, but not many of them can handle all the distractions that come with being on a Big League team and pitching staff, let alone the pressure of being on one in the postseason.
But there’s a lot of moving parts. And I credit our organization and it starts at the top with the level of expectation from our ownership, all down through our front office. By the time we get them, we’re fortunate that we have kids that show up ready to go. And we’re not afraid to put them in there. Fortunately for us we’re able to have some openings towards the end of the season and these young guys stepped in. They’re not just fillers, they took advantage of it and took control and said this is the job I want.
Q. Kind of building on that, and sort of a two‑part question. You’ve got several young guys on your team now in key spots. What is it about them that allows them to maintain their composure. What are some of the pros and cons of youth versus veteran experience?
MIKE MATHENY: I’d say the first part of that, kind of answered already, I think it’s just part of their makeup, one. I think that some kids have it, some don’t. Some is developed over time and then they’re ready.
I’d say the biggest piece of this really and what has been making these kids flourish at this level is the fact that we have a culture here with our veterans that’s different from a lot of other teams I’ve seen. These kids, they’re put in their place; they know they’re rookies. I saw Michael Wacha out there shagging the bucket today. That’s not a very dubious job, but he knows his place. But the guys are also real quick to take him in and talk to him, and show him and make him feel like when they show up here, they’re ready to contribute. Not that they’ve got to earn their stripes out on the field. They put their time in, but it’s a situation where guys are constantly teaching. That’s a Carlos Beltran and Yadi Molina, and Wainwright and Carpenter and Westbrook and Holliday, where you constantly see these guys off to the side talking baseball. And they believe they have that responsibility to give back.
As far as a benefit, we always talk about the experience that we’ve had and how many guys have been able to be in this situation and not just be here, but have had success here. And that means a lot. But also realizing every time we get one of these young kids out there, it’s for their betterment, personally, and also for our club down the road. But right now I think they’ve done a nice job of listening to the veterans to say, hey, stick with what we’ve done so far. We trust in each other. We trust in our stuff. We trust in our talent level. And we don’t need to do any more than that. And that’s a pretty comforting thought going into the postseason.
Q. Along those lines, Carlos Martinez seems to have come along at a fast pace, what are your thoughts on his progress and what has he meant to you guys?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we needed somebody to step up. We had a little bit of a change at the back end, and we needed Trevor Rosenthal to get to the 9th, and somebody has to be able to get the ball to him. It typically isn’t something you expect a winning team to do in September, but we were in a spot. We needed somebody, just like we said earlier, here’s an opportunity, who is going to run with it? We put Carlos in some pretty high leverage situations and he did well. Next thing you know a higher leverage position opened up, and we put him in there and he continued to do well. And I think that’s typically how most of these guys get the opportunity, and it’s a matter of what they do with it.
Carlos has electric stuff, there’s no question about that. But he is an incredible advocate behind the plate. How this all started, it happened in Milwaukee where Carlos came in to close out a game and the first couple of pitches didn’t look right. Yadi quickly went out there and had a couple of things to say, and had some force behind him. The next thing you know, there’s no turning back. And that sort of advocate goes along with what we said earlier how our veterans are real quick to pick up the slack and figure out where these guys need help, where they need a kick and a pat on the back.
They’ve done a real nice job working together, and Carlos has taken advantage whenever he’s been given an opportunity.