Cleat Geeks

Did Mike Matheny Deserve To Be Fired?

The Cardinals, one of baseball’s proudest and most prestigious franchises, winners of 11 World Series championships, with 12 playoff berths since 2000, are stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity.They are one game over .500 at 47-46 entering play on Sunday after a second straight loss at home to the last-place Cincinnati Reds. They are closer to those Reds who are 43-52  than they are the first-place Milwaukee Brewers at 55-42 they are only 4 games above the Reds yet they are 8 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. They are in danger of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, for the first time since 1996-99.

“That’s embarrassing,’’ says Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham, one of the Cardinals’ team leaders. “You never want to see something like that happen to this franchise. That’s on us.’’

They want someone to pay for this era of mediocrity. And right after the loss Saturday to the Cincinnati Reds, someone did pay, Matheny.

Hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller were also let go by the team. Bench coach Mike Shildt takes over as interim manager.

The Real Question; Does Matheny Deserve To Be Fired?

There is an old saying in baseball, it is easier to fire 1 than 25. And in my opinion, that is what happened in the case of the Cardinals firing of Mike Matheny. Let’s take a look at the team, not the manager, and see realistically who is to blame.

Dexter Fowler, their highest-paid player, is having the worst season of his career, hitting .171 with a .554 OPS – third worst of any player in baseball. That Pham, their MVP of a year ago, ended a zero-for-31 drought Sunday, and is hitting .245 with a .741 OPS compared to .306 with a .931 OPS of a year ago.

That closer Greg Holland, who signed for $14 million after the season started, had to use regular-season games as his spring training, and is yielding a 6.30 ERA with 39 baserunners in 20 innings. That electric rookie pitcher Alex Reyes’ season ended after four innings.

That Marcell Ozuna, with only 19 extra-base hits, is no Giancarlo Stanton. That first baseman/right fielder Jose Martinez is playing in the wrong league, committing seven of their major league-leading 69 errors.

“I’m not living in some fantasy world,’’ said Matheny, who has led his team to more postseason games than anyone in baseball his first six seasons. “We all have a job to do. I get it. The high expectations people have on us, I have higher on myself. Matheny continued, “Hey, we live in a city that just loves this team. In St. Louis, it’s the show. Everybody has a lot invested into it. We want the product to look right too. That creates an atmosphere, and with that, comes expectations. That’s what we signed up for. We signed up for those expectations. We care enough to put the blame on ourselves too. If the heat comes, it comes. Whether people believe it’s justified or not, is irrelevant.”

Another way to view the Cardinals’ record: They’re 9-3 against the Reds, including the back-to-back losses Friday and Saturday and 38-43 against everyone else.

“In a lot of ways, this feels very much the same way as it has the last couple of years,’’ Cardinals president John Mozeliak says. “There are times you get excited about the club. There are times you don’t. It’s just been tough for us to get going.’’Image result for john mozeliak cardinals

The Cardinals are caught in such a quagmire that they don’t know whether they’ll be buyers, sellers, or bystanders at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Certainly, Mozeliak was faced with his own predicament Monday when he ridiculed Fowler’s performance and effort on the Cardinals’ podcast, and had to , and apologize to Fowler, who was away on paternity leave. Fowler returns Thursday to a team that no longer has a starting job for him, a city that has turned on him, with a mutual parting expected this winter.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and energy level,’’ Mozeliak said on Cardinals’ TV broadcaster Dan McLaughlin’s podcast. “And those are things I can’t defend. I try to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of other players who are hustling and playing hard.”

Mozeliak, after reflecting on his comments a day later, said: “I hate that it come out wrong. I do think he’s at a level of frustration. But it came out that I was questioning his effort. It’s unfortunate. I talked to Dex. Everything is fine.’’

Fowler was inundated with calls and messages from his teammates and former teammates, with even Cubs manager Joe Maddon coming out and defending Fowler. The Cardinals will decide this winter whether they’ll trade him, or even if he wants out. He has a full no-trade clause, and is owed $49.5 million the next three years.

Maybe it’s all Stanton’s fault? I truly think more of the blame can be past to him than on Matheny. He’s the one the Cardinals wanted this winter, recruiting him to come to St. Louis, and even working out a trade with the Marlins. Stanton declined, and went for the bright lights of New York.

“Our team has just never been full throttle. The good news is there’s a lot of baseball left.’’

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