St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and pitcher Adam Wainwright preview the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. Matheny and Wainwright were joined at the Hyatt Regency Hotel by Honorary President of the American League Jackie Autry, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell, Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Henandez, Honorary President of the National League Bill Giles, and MLB Network’s Brian Kenny. Kenny served as moderator of the press conference.
THE MODERATOR: Now getting down to the National League and the Honorary President of the National League, the chairman of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bill Giles.
BILL GILES: Thank you. I would like to remind my friend Jackie the National League has won three of the last four All‑Star Games.
JACKIE AUTRY: I was nice.
BILL GILES: Overall the National League has won 43 and the American League won 39.
I am here not to kid my friend Jackie, but to introduce a very great human being and a great manager. Mike Matheny was born 43 years ago in Columbus, Ohio. He’s a graduate of the University of Michigan. He was signed in 1991 by the Milwaukee Brewers, played 13 years, some with Toronto, San Francisco and St. Louis. He won four Gold Gloves. He is in only his third time as a manager; in the first year he got the Cardinals to the playoffs in 2012, and won the National League pennant in 2013. The 19th time the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League pennant, which is a record.
So it’s my honor to introduce the National League manager, Mike Matheny.
MIKE MATHENY: Thank you, Mr.Giles. It is a great honor to be a part of this event.
And just trying to put this together and be actively involved in going through the selection process, I got to tell you, I had no idea what we were getting into. I went to some great resources. They tried to prepare me, but I guess it’s very similar to the millions of people all over this world that are playing fantasy baseball, except the fact I get to do it with real people. (Laughter.)
And just the talent that was available and so many guys having great seasons, you hate to slight anybody, but I do know that we are very well represented. And looking at this lineup, the fans did a terrific job selecting a team that’s going to represent our league well.
Leading off will be Andrew McCutchen, playing center field; Yasiel Puig, who is batting second, playing right field; Troy Tulowitzki batting third, playing shortstop; Paul Goldschmidt playing first base and batting cleanup; Giancarlo Stanton will be the DH, batting fifth; Aramis Ramirez playing third base, batting sixth; Chase Utley will be batting seventh and playing second base; Jonathan Lucroy catching and batting eighth; and batting ninth is Carlos Gomez and playing left field.
And it is also a great honor to be able to name the starting pitcher, which once again was not an easy task even though it may look that way. A lot of talent in our pitching in the National League right now, and very, very deserving pitchers out there. But I believe none more so than our starter, Adam Wainwright.
THE MODERATOR: Adam? What does this mean to you? Congratulations.
ADAM WAINWRIGHT: Thank you. Aside from having the ability to win two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals, I think this has to be one of the highlights of my baseball career to this point. One of the coolest things I can say I did is to start a big league All‑Star Game. And I am incredibly happy, fortunate to be placed in this situation. I can’t wait to go out and hopefully lead our National League squad to a victory.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Adam.
Select questions and answers from the press conference:
Q. So guys, both managers this would be for. The last five All‑Star Game winners have gone on to have their pennant winners win the World Series of that same year. How important is this game to get a victory?
JOHN FARRELL: I don’t think you can every underestimate the home‑field advantage in a postseason, certainly a 7‑game series. Typically you’re going to go up against an outstanding club, as we did last year in St. Louis. And to have that final game potentially in your home ballpark, that goes a long way to affecting the outcome.
MIKE MATHENY: Likewise. We headed into Boston last year realizing we had our hands full already with a very good team. Any time you get in front of that home fan base there’s an edge. Statistics show it, but you can sense it in the field, you can sense it as you compete. And that’s an advantage I think every team wants to have.
Q. The starting pitching decision, Wainwright your guy and Kershaw, can you talk a little bit about that and what went into that?
MIKE MATHENY: A tough decision, there is no question about it. (Laughter.) We have seen a lot of Clayton and it’s not just narrowed down to the two. We have quite a few guys who could absolutely be considered. And have the utmost respect for Clayton, as well as the others that were options. But to the degree of what we were able to see on a consistent basis from the leadership, right down to the execution and the day‑in/day‑out performance of what Adam has been able to do really is kind of an unfair advantage to the others.
The numbers line up, and it’s obvious that this is a high‑caliber pitcher who I believe to some degree has never even been given the amount of respect that he’s due. So I’m honored to be able to put this title on him and watch what he does. Not just with this, but with the remainder of our season.
Q. Mike, just wanted to follow‑up. You mentioned all of the qualities you see in Adam every day that maybe you wouldn’t see if he wasn’t on the Cardinals. If Adam had the same numbers he did for another team, would he be starting tomorrow?
MIKE MATHENY: I believe if the manager wasn’t a Dodger, then yeah. I think there’s a great opportunity. And once again, never to slight what these guys have been able to do. And there’s been some conversation that I had with some other players that are deserving just to be on this team. And they’re never fun conversations. You think making these decisions is just pretty cut and dry and black and white, but it never is because you’re impacting people, as well as impacting the game. And something we don’t take lightly, but something we have to be very honest with ourselves. I believe if you trust your heart and you trust your gut, you can’t go wrong.
Q. Mike, you as a former catcher, you picked Devin Mesoraco as one of your selections. What is it about his season that impressed you the most and a guy you wanted to add to the roster?
MIKE MATHENY: I think first of all, you can’t deny what kind of season Devin is having. And in the Central we get a close look, but outside of the division just in baseball we see that he’s putting up exemplary numbers all the way through. And I believe he has improved also on the defensive side, which I can’t help but watch pretty close. And I think that goes on to adding on to Miguel Montero, a very good defender.
As we put this club together, try to recognize the people that are having the kind of seasons that are worthy to be here and guys that put us in a position to compete well and try to win this game.
Q. For Mike. What led you to put Clippard up on team and how important was it on the team after Zimmermann was hurt to play?
MIKE MATHENY: Can you repeat part of that?
Q. Why did you put Clippard on the team?
MIKE MATHENY: Clippard is one of the Nationals that is having a good season obviously. And there were a couple of Nationals that were not available. But really wanted each team to be represented and Tyler was one of the pitchers who has had an outstanding season and should represent that team well.
Q. Mike, when you have two outstanding center fielders like Gomez and McCutchen, how do you pick who would play center and who would play left?
MIKE MATHENY: I think we’re just going off experience. We’re talking an M.V.P. player, and Andrew McCutchen is definitely one of those standout players defensively, as well as Carlos Gomez. Not an easy decision, realizing that you couldn’t go wrong either way, Tom, really.
Understanding that we’ve got a great opportunity to have not just a good offensive outfielder, but also very, very good defensive team as well.
Q. Mike, what drew you to Tony Watson?
MIKE MATHENY: I do believe that many times the middle relievers, like Tony Watson and Pat Neshek don’t receive the credit they are due. And sometimes they are coming in in roles that are as tough, if not tougher, than that of a closer that seems to get more attention.
And the opportunity to acknowledge what Tony has been able to do, what Pat has been able to do, and the level at which they have done it, to me is really easy, especially as we’re trying to put this together as to how we can compete in this game and have someone who can come in the middle innings and be comfortable with that role. More importantly, you look at the numbers, you look at what they have done, both Pat and Tony have had outstanding years. And they need to be acknowledged for that.
Q. Mike, watching Pat Neshek up close all season, what impressed you and is it fair to say you will get him in front of a game in his hometown?
MIKE MATHENY: That added to it, this being his home. But it comes down straight to numbers, production, what he has been able to do in this season. And what impressed us, we brought in a guy we expected to do a completely different role than what he’s doing right now. Right‑handed specialist as he has been used in the American League before. And watched him develop into a leader on our team. Watched him develop into one of the best setup men in the game that comes in for not just a right‑handed batter for an inning‑plus. And how he has been able to do it on a consistent basis and alter his repertoire of pitches to pitch in that role is absolutely amazing.
Just his story all together made it an honor, and keep using that word, “an honor,” but to watch Pat Neshek and watch his face when he made this club, probably the best memory without a doubt so far.
Q. Mike, obviously you had plenty of selection for the DH position. Why did you go with Stanton?
MIKE MATHENY: He is a pretty impressive guy. And I think anybody who has to deal with him and watch the impact that he has on the game, impact he has on that lineup, you have to give a great deal of respect to not just the power, but the average, the eye, the ability to get on base, and the ability that he has to turn a game around in one pitch.
I don’t think I’ve seen anybody maybe since McGwire that hits the ball as hard as Stanton does, and it’s nice to have him on our side for once.
Q. Adam, Derek Jeter moment, a lot of excitement about it. He is a special player on a special stage in his final All‑Star Game. He’s leading off and taking to the mound, you get to face him. That moment to you means what? (Laughter.)
SCHOOLTEACHER: Let him hit it.
THE MODERATOR: That was a teacher that said that. (Laughter.)
ADAM WAINWRIGHT: He has proved to be good enough you don’t have to let him hit anything. But you know what, I was telling my wife yesterday that this will be something I can always remember because I have never faced Derek in the regular season before. This will be the first time I ever face him.
Spring training, big leagues, I have been in the big leagues for nine years, I’ve never faced him. I’m very excited about it, just to say I faced the best. And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position. One of the greatest Yankees of all time. And I’m very fortunate and I feel very proud to be able to say I am going to face Derek Jeter.