October 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) watches game action during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game three of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Matheny Must Learn

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Mike Matheny is still figuring out how to manage a baseball team.  Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny is the luckiest man in baseball but he still has no championship ring.

What Matheny has done during his first two seasons as manager is nothing more than what Terry Francona or Jose Oquendo could have done, but what he does next will dictate his coaching legacy.

Matheny has been treated with the same support in Saint Louis that Tony LaRussa was.  That is the same respect that was given to Joe Torre and Whitey Herzog because of the community’s permanent case of baseball influenza. But since MM starred for the Cards and won 6 gold gloves while making Missouri his home, he gets genuine hometown love like Nelly.

That same support helped Tony LaRussa get away with anything he wanted during his tenure as manager of the Cardinals.  There are loyal and true fans who will argue that TLR should have won two more titles for STL.  This unconditional love makes Matheny’s contract extension less surprising than Brandon Phillips 2013 tirade.

After being out-coached in the 2013 World Series, St. Louis’ manager and coaching staff had better learn from their mistakes.  In 2014 Mike Matheny has the opportunity to have a fresh start.  Cardinals fans however need to constantly remind themselves that 14′ will only be his third year managing a baseball team.

It is hard to focus when this kind of stuff is happening on top of your office’s roof. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Here are 5 keys to MM’s future triumphs.

1.  Not overusing young power arms:  In 2012 Matheny rode rookie Lance Lynn too hard and created an ugly situation.  Then in 2013, after not learning from the awful LL experience the year before, the sophomore manager repeated that mistake by riding rookie Shelby Miller out of a significant role in the post season.  Hopefully Miller’s shoulder has enjoyed the holidays.

2.  Treating Yadi like a human:  Matheny added years to STL’s quarterback-like catcher’s career by spearheading the destruction of the home plate collision, however Yadier Molina needs more time off during the year.  He has year old knees so 1, 100 innings is too many.  Similar to #1, but more of a need for caution because of the importance of Yadi’s indispensable presence both with the mit and stick.

3.  Being ready to attack:  With Peter Bourjos and  Kolten Wong in the lineup MM needs to be ready to push his new speedsters to steal.  This will be a foreign tactic seeing that the Cards have been in the cellar for larceny since Matheny took command.

4.  Using challenges wisely:  Like football coaches and tennis players, this upcoming season will feature baseball managers second guessing umpires.  However, just like ‘The Force’, this new power comes with great responsibility. Mike Matheny will have to use patience as well as aggression to get justice for his team.

5.  Taking advantage of pitching  depth:  This is somewhat related to #1 as well.  Once again in 2014 the Cardinals have too many high-quality arms.  If Mike Matheny can give Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and the other youthful wonders some time off with “blisters” and “family matters” during long parts of the season, then, their dominance should continue.

John Farrell is another lucky duck who showed how to properly manage a post season ballclub.  Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Matheny deserved his 3 year contract extension after helping the Cards find success in 2012 and 2013.  But that success was limited.  If Saint Louis’ middle aged manager improves he may experience ultimate baseball glory and have the chance to repeat in 2015.

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