Why Mike Matheny is the Best Manager in Baseball


Lance Lynn and his fellow Cardinal starters led MLB in quality starts this year. Mike Matheny had a lot to do with that. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinal Way rightly gets credited for the long run of baseball success in St. Louis, but there’s an unfortunate side effect. The manager doesn’t get his due.

This is a media and fan thing more than anything else. Mike Matheny’s team certainly appreciates him. And on Sunday, general manager John Mozeliak talked on St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Derrick Goold’s podcast about how the organization’s staying power overshadows the skipper’s skill at managing the club. Mozeliak and the players know Matheny is one of the best at what he does.

They often cite the way Matheny has handled all the injuries this year, which is valid. But his excellence is evident elsewhere. Check out the clubhouse. Whether on the road or at home, a sense of purposefulness and calm pervade the room. There is no loud music. There is no shouting and carrying on. The business-like tone is set by veteran players such as Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. But it’s also influenced by Matheny, and it has helped the team ride out the ups and downs of a typical season with relatively little turbulence.

More proof is on the pitcher’s mound. Drawing on his experience as a big league catcher, Matheny studied his pitchers well enough to coax the most out of them without overtaxing their arms. Matheny, along with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and Yadier Molina, helped the Cardinal rotation lead all of baseball with 106 quality starts in 2015. (The much more heralded New York Mets staff was second with 101, by the way.)

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  • Matheny is equally adept at managing his bullpen. Despite a WHIP of 1.29, the Cardinal relief corps finished 2015 allowing the fewest runs in the Major Leagues. Things could have been much worse back in July, when closer Trevor Rosenthal’s agent popped off about how the Cardinals used the righthander.

    Matheny didn’t let the situation become a distraction for Rosenthal and the rest of the team. Just like he didn’t let injuries become an excuse for the team’s performance. All he’s done is put his players — whoever they may be — in position to succeed on the field. It’s certainly a credit to those players that they have this year. But it’s also a credit to their skipper.