St. Louis Cardinals: Autonomy for Maddux spells short leash

The St. Louis Cardinals have been on a gradual decline in performance and outcome during the Matheny tenure. In 2018, the front office is attempting to mitigate this slide by installing a new- and freed- pitching coach.

The St. Louis Cardinals dismissed Derek Lilliquist as their pitching coach at the end of 2017. While many fans would have preferred that the dismissal had befallen manager Mike Matheny who has allowed the team to slip further and further away from the grandeur that Cardinals Nation expects.

Enter the time of Mike Maddux. During the slumberous offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals- like almost all other clubs in MLB- made few moves but among the ones they did make, the addition of Mike Maddux as the new pitching coach may well ring the strongest of them all.

Maddux brings with him experience and a proven ability to coach pitchers. One only need look at his time with the Texas Rangers and his development of players such as the newly-signed Cub, Yu Darvish.

To further this strength of Maddux, John Mozeliak hired the mastermind at a time when the St. Louis Cardinals are facing a youth movement exemplified in their rising pitchers. Arms such as Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, etc. will benefit from the intelligence of Maddux.

But it doesn’t stop there. By all reports Maddux has been given complete control over the pitching aspect of the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals. This includes in-game decisions. While Matheny might be the figurehead to depart the dugout and signal to the pen, Maddux will have been the mind who decided the move.

While I applaud this move, I see your hand, Mozeliak. I am an avid follower of the political-speak of John Mozeliak and have made it my duty over these past two years to study his decision-making and the words that he crafts so eloquently. Here’s my take on the Maddux autonomy…

Autonomy is an interesting word and- in fact- was the word that Mozeliak used to describe the approach the organization was taking with Maddux. Autonomy is defined as the freedom from external control or influence. This was certainly a shot across Matheny’s bow.

To me, the granting of autonomy says the following:

  1. The St. Louis Cardinals scapegoated the 2017 season on the pitching side. Pitching may have owned a majority of the blame or this move may have been the easiest approach to subversively remove Matheny. In other words, the numbers for guys at the plate might have been strong enough to save the hitting aspect and/or a removal of John Mabry (albeit I argue that it is needed) may have forced Matheny to resign immediately or burn the team to the ground.
  2. Mozeliak is providing for an improvement in pitching. While desired anyway, I believe that an improvement in pitching will show the ineptitude of Matheny in regard to managing this aspect of the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but would illustrate a weakness in management.
  3. Mozeliak- to me- is showing Matheny an exit. Should Maddux come into the St. Louis Cardinals and make the pitchers shine (which I believe he will do), then Matheny’s time must be limited. This isn’t to say that Maddux would replace Matheny but simply reference number two above for justification for Matheny’s removal.
  4. To add insult to injury, Mozeliak has also returned Jose Oquendo to the mix. I see no accident in this reunion. By the way, many have speculated that Oquendo had not returned to the Cardinals staff because of Matheny. While we haven’t heard it explicitly stated, I wonder just how much autonomy Oquendo has been granted…

All said and done, I hope Matheny has a short leash and that the moves above illustrate this change. And, by the way, it seems to be resonating with Matheny who- in Joe Trezza’s article today- has been noted as being more passionate about the Cardinals and his leadership role than in previous seasons.

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What do you think? Has Mozeliak made a wise decision for the team or is this personality-based decision-making? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading!

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