Just a few things to sprinkle on your lips this morning. Gauge your reaction to a few topics and see how they hold up in a court of non profit writing law. Follow me here as I will make this as quick as a trip to Mom’s Deli. In, out, and rewarded with the best sandwich in St. Louis. Notice the plug there? Alright, here we go.
Matheny Hire Additional Thoughts-As the boner of a hire finally eases up and comes down, let me allow another point of view to take the stage here. Whether you like him or not, STL PD writer Bernie Miklasz can drill home a point and back it up with legitimate fact. When you’ve already fired a healthy round of ammo on a subject, don’t be afraid to give the perspective of a paid set of hands.
Bernie’s Take on the Matheny Hire-
Here’s what I get out of his column and my additional thoughts on the hire.
1.)The question of experience. No one is an expert on the useful quantity of experience in the world of sports. Matheny is a brass balls hire by Mozelaik and if he fails, the cannon is pointed at Mo’s head for sure. That’s the nature of the business and the cutthroat payoff in this world. You make it a move and it doesn’t pay off and the emphasis falls on your head. Mo will accept that and take full blame. But here’s my point. There’s also no legitimate claim for experience paying off for a manager in the rugged history of sports. Look at Steve Spagnuolo in Rams park. Spags worked for many years as a defensive coordinator with the Eagles and Giants before he got the head coaching spot with the Rams. Spag is 10-33 as the Rams skipper. Is that a direct connection to Spags’ individual skill as a motivator/leader? Yes and no. My point is there is no exact scientific method to hiring a manager/head coach. Mo had plenty of time to think this through and made a decision. From La Russa’s August 25th meeting to the beginning of November, there was time taken there. I respect that more than anything. Wild thoughts need time to grow.
2.)Why Matheny? Let me respond with, “why not?” Matheny played in this organization, was a true leader, and has worked with Mozelaik for the past 3 years as an adviser. He also attends spring training and coaches the younger players. There’s a reason David Freese referred to Matheny as “Captain America” in Twitter last night. Players like the guy a lot and the Cards coaches all admire him. That is the start of a good friendship readers. Matheny has worked with Mozelaik since his retirement and only stayed away from a managing or coaching job until his kids left for college. Yesterday, both his kids signed letters of intent to play sports in college, so that gave Matheny the clarity to make a decision. The retirement of La Russa allowed Mozelaik to call on one of his own to take over the job but he did the right thing and interviews 5 other candidates, including Francona, Sandberg, McEwing, Maloney and Oquendo. This choice fits the organizations need for a different vibe in the dugout.
3.)Does this mean he will work out well as a manager? NO. As Bernie pointed out, theres no real history of gauge Matheny’s hire with. We are all going in blind here. He may be successful or he may be bad. Time will tell. My biggest question is how dugout mentality and attitude. How will Matheny look in the dugout? Matheny was an intense competitor and wasn’t afraid to shout and scream. Will that carry over into the managing days or is he more calm? That’s what I want to see. What will he compose his lineup cards with? How much will he tinker? Will he second guess himself and revolt against the media? Matheny has always had a relaxed give and go with the local media,so I expect no problems there. Will Matheny tell Molina and Albert to run harder to first? Who cares? That fake Charlie Hustle bullshit never bothers me because Pujols is playing on bad wheels and how mad would Cardinal Nation be if he blew out a hamstring running out a routine grounder? Ask yourselves that question Cardinal reader blowhards. Will Matheny be a by the book instructor or an unconventional leader? There’s so much to look for that I can’t put it all into one post. Expect more on later.
Let me copy and paste Bernie’s section on the affect of Matheny’s hiring on Pujols’ decision in free agency. It fits so well with my own words that I won’t bother adding to it.
“Folks keep asking: will this hiring help or hurt the team’s chances of keeping Albert Pujols? My opinion: it does not matter. Pujols and Matheny were teammates. Pujols certainly seems to like and respect Matheny. But so what? This will be a money deal for Pujols, as it should be. He’s entitled to do that. He’s earned the right to cash in as a free agent. Pujols has to do what’s best for Pujols and family. And if the Cardinals low-ball Pujols, the manager’s identity is irrelevant. If the Cardinals pay Pujols what he wants, he’ll come back, and the decision won’t have a thing to do with the manager. “
My easy addition-There is no connection. It comes down to Albert and his choice. No GOD involvement needed here.
Matheny has big shoes to step into here but my feeling is he can handle them. Will it turn into success? There’s no real clue but I’d like to think so. I don’t think he will get nervous or crumble under the weight of expectations. Matheny’s played and worked with La Russa. He’s played with Pujols and Molina. He’s been around the organization for years, lives here year round and is a maniac about taking new challenges. Also, another key ingredient is Matheny welcoming back coaches Duncan, McKay and Oquendo. A rookie manager has to surround himself with smart seasoned talent, like Kirk Gibson in Arizona and Ron Roeneke in Milwaukee. Matheny is off to a good start. For now, folks, let it be.
4th Down Attempts and Why I Don’t Agree with the Popular Method
On Sunday, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith made a gutsy call on fourth down in overtime with the Falcons tied with the Saints. Two teams fighting for a playoff spot and Smith went for the drive on 4th and inches. Bad call? That depends if it works out or not. As my good friend Rj told me, if the move works out, Smith is a genius. It didn’t work, so he is a controversial goat today, but I am here to debunk the myth of fourth down strategy. Let me start with a question. Why does it always have to be a running play? Fourth and a yard or fourth and a foot, it doesn’t matter to me but why does the play always come down to a running back getting the ball and running into a sea of defenders? To me, it doesn’t make sense. Let’s say its fourth and inches, like yesterday’s predicament. You only need inches to keep the drive alive. Matt Ryan, the quarterback, takes the handoff from center and since the play call was a run, needs to step back 3 yards in order to hand it off to the tailback, who lines up 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. WHY HAND IT OFF? The entire defense is crowding the line of scrimmage, begging for a run play. Why not have Ryan take the snap and dive to the left or right for the first down? All he has to do is fall forward and he gets it. How about this? Take the snap, fake the handoff and roll out on a play action and possibly connect for a big gain. Do a quick slant inside. Something other than a run. A week ago against Arizona, Spagnuolo and McDaniels went for it on 4th down and late in the game, and called a run straight up the gut. Steven Jackson could be made of pure metal and he still wouldn’t get through that line of meat. No way. It’s just a suggestion from the couch/sidelines here. I’m asking why the popular opinion is to run the ball when the entire defense is expecting it. Try something different, NFL so called wizards. It’s a game of inches, but those inches can be gained with a more creative brain power tactic.