St. Louis Cardinals: Mike Matheny is no longer in charge
In an effort to make improvements in 2018, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to be employing a new tactic for management of the ball club.
News released last night that St. Louis Cardinals‘ one-time GM John Mozeliak took a flight to Las Vegas to discuss a few things with Cardinals’ outfielder Dexter Fowler. This news was released by the great Derrick Goold via Twitter and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Here’s why this matters more than what meets the eye: this shows wholeheartedly who is in control now. In other words, Mozeliak seems to have taken ownership of the makeup of the team (finally) and is putting players (on the field and in the coaching categories) in place to find success in lieu of Mike Matheny.
Let’s pause for a moment and take a look at the proposed swap of Fowler and Tommy Pham. I have personally argued for this for a while now (well since the middle of the 2017 season). If you want to read my mid-season thoughts on the matter, jump over here.
At the conclusion of the 2017 season, Pham posted a 2.46 RF/9 in center while Fowler posted a 2.19. Additionally, Pham posted a 1.0 dWAR to Fowler’s -1.0 dWAR. Digging deeper into sabermetric numbers, Pham presented with a 52.5% held and 2.5% kill on center field opportunities from center while Fowler presented with a 44.4% held and 1.6% kill.
From these numbers alone, we must conclude as Mozeliak did that the St. Louis Cardinals would be better served with Pham in center over Fowler.
Let’s next move to the issue of Mozeliak flying to Vegas over Matheny:
From Goold’s article, he quotes Mo as stating:
"I wanted to meet with him face to face… First off, I enjoy his company. Secondly, I did not want him to be hearing or reading about things that may or may not happen with him. I wanted him to know that he was not someone we were looking to trade. I did want him to understand that we may ask him to play a different position."
Doesn’t this speak volumes for the management of the club? To me it certainly does. It seems to me that Mozeliak has put pieces in place this offseason already with the coaching additions/changes to remove any excuse for managerial failures in 2018. Combine that with his now-seemingly involvement with the players directly and you get a painted picture of the removal of power from Matheny.
I have often bemoaned the fact that I believe that Matheny is the reason that many players do not want to come to the St. Louis Cardinals and/or do not want to stay (e.g. Jason Heyward). Does Mozeliak’s conversation with Fowler make this argument even more prescient? To me it does.
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Based on this, then, I find the promotion of Mozeliak out of the GM spot even more important and full of sense. While I disliked it at the time, if the promotion now allows Mo the time to deal with players directly, then I am all for it. If Girsch is able to handle the “team” (as Goold quoted Mo saying in the article), then perhaps Mozeliak’s direct involvement with players will mitigate any negative influence that Matheny might impact.
The question remains then, how active will Mo be during the season when blunders occur or when player meetings are necessary. If, as Goold reported, everything went well with the Fowler discussions, then I hope with all my might that Mozeliak start making additional personal visits. Perhaps a good place to start would be a discussion with Giancarlo Stanton.
One minor aside: if Mozeliak was so interested in speaking with Fowler, why didn’t he speak with Matt Carpenter? Goold reports that Matheny was the one to speak with Carpenter about his playing multiple positions in 2018. Is this an indication that Matheny has the better relationship with Carpenter or perhaps that Mozeliak feels that Carpenter is expendable…? Time will tell on that one.
To me it all boils down to this: who Mozeliak chooses to speak with individually should- all things being equal- indicate importance and direction for the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals. Keep your eyes open then for these indications as the days progress.
What do you think? Would you have Matheny talk more or less? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading!