St. Louis Cardinals: Mike Matheny’s body language speaks volumes

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 4: Manager Mike Matheny
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 4: Manager Mike Matheny /

Something is afoot in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. We all hope this is a return to winning ways after the disappointment of 2017 but can we learn something from the manager’s body language?

The St. Louis Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, is not known as an expressive guy. He is often stoic and rarely shows exuberant emotions. We have irregularly seen Mike get angry and- by all reports- Matheny is not a man to swear, even when scolding an umpire about his pitiful eyes or questionable call (albeit these moments happen much less frequently than his manager counterparts).

Wearing and emoting are not the basic criteria for MLB managers and yet most managers maintain their cool but, when faced with opposition, will exit their corner and begin swinging.

Matheny’s predecessor was the often-stoic Tony La Russa. Matheny played under La Russa and watched him manage with a quiet but noted iron fist. This served La Russa well and Matheny seems to be embodying the stoicism to a T. He is lacking the fire and passion, however, that the media and umpires got to see from La Russa.

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Let me pause for a moment and state clearly that Tony La Russa is not the be-all-end-all of managers. Additionally, personality should not be the only defining characteristic of a great manager.  Those disclaimers out of the way (so you won’t come at me on Twitter), let me get back to the topic at hand.

I studied acting through my undergraduate college days and one thing we did often as actors was study the behaviors and body language of others such that we might duplicate these things on stage/tv/movies. I mention this to provide a basis for this analysis.

To the point, I have found Matheny’s body language to be of interest since Mozeliak dismissed so many of Matheny’s assistants and/or returned former assistants. Moreover, Mozeliak has installed the autonomous Mike Maddux to maintain the pitching aspect of the game.

How has Matheny responded? In my mind, his body language is the answer to that question.

I spoke of this last night during our weekly podcast. If you missed it, you can read more about it below and even listen to the ‘cast.

Related Story: Podcast episode 2.3

On the podcast, I noted that Matheny who has always been reserved seems more somber than he has in seasons past. I find myself wondering if this is due to his removal of power or if he sees the writing on the wall…?

Want an example? In a news piece I wrote yesterday, I embedded a tweet containing a video of an interview with Matheny. Matheny was discussing the re-assignment of Jordan Hicks to the Spring Training Early Program (STEP) camp. In the video, Matheny seems to be despondent more so than in charge of the operation.

To me, it appeared as though Matheny was told about Hicks’ reassignment rather than being a party in the room. I could be completely wrong but his body language and the way in which he relayed the message just seem awry to me.

Let’s take a side-by-side look. Below is the tweet from yesterday:

And this is a video from two seasons ago:

What you can see in these videos is Matheny’s usual deadpan delivery but if you look closely at the first video, you see what appears to be resignation in his tone and in his delivery. I tried to find two videos that were similar in nature but also for the second one to show Matheny’s joy (as if we can read such a thing).

When I watch the Hicks video it seems to me that Matheny is commenting that Hicks is being sent down in a way to say, I am being told what is happening instead of being asked my opinion. This certainly was the case when it came to bringing back Jose Oquendo– Matheny was likely told and not asked.

I think this is just one example of how things will be this season: Matheny is less and less likely to be involved in decisions and more and more likely to read the writing on the wall more clearly. To me, this writing is stating that the time has come for him to move on and his body language is telling me that he very much agrees.

Next: Pros and cons of a 6-man rotation

What do you think? Are you a Matheny apologist or do you believe he is showing signs of worry about lacking control over the happenings of the St. Louis Cardinals? Let us know on Twitter and thanks for reading!