Persistent Matheny has strong MOY case
Skipper battles adversity to lead Cards to postseason for his fourth straight year
ST. LOUIS -- Mike Matheny has already done what no manager in baseball history had done before him by leading a team to the postseason in his first four full seasons on the job.
Over that period, the Cardinals not only boast the Majors' best winning percentage, but they have captured three division titles, one National League pennant and, most recently, attained a 100-win season. And yet, not only has Matheny been overlooked for the role he's played in that success, but he's also finished without a first-place vote in his first three years as a legitimate Manager of the Year candidate.
That should change now in year four.
Matheny has already been announced as a Baseball Writers' Association of America NL Manager of the Year Award finalist, along with the Cubs' Joe Maddon and the Mets' Terry Collins. The winner will be unveiled today, during a 5 p.m. CT program on MLB Network.
Even though all BBWAA Awards are voted upon before the postseason, both Maddon and Collins have strong cases. In his first year with the Cubs, Maddon jolted the club to a 24-win improvement, expediting its rise in the NL Central. Collins helped the Mets leapfrog the preseason-favorite Nationals while holding his club together amid some internal turmoil.
But with all due respect to their candidacies, the best managerial job was arguably done in St. Louis, where Matheny took a team decimated by injury and turned it into the ninth 100-win club in franchise history.
The Cardinals sat alone atop the NL Central over their final 154 games, enjoyed eight winning streaks of at least five games and had only one losing streak reach four. The results are impressive even without context, though the addition of some should only augment Matheny's credentials.
He navigated his club through steep adversity, first in overcoming the tragic death of a teammate, Oscar Taveras, then in rallying his players so that they remained unfazed by all the key players lost to injury. Consider that the Cardinals played large chunks of the season without ace Adam Wainwright, setup man Jordan Walden, three-hole hitter Matt Holliday, cleanup hitter Matt Adams, reliever Matt Belisle, outfielder Jon Jay and rookie standout Randal Grichuk. Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina each missed time, as well.
The Cardinals, with 722 days, did not lead the Majors in disabled-list days. That distinction belongs to the Rangers, whose players combined to sit on the DL for 1,701 days. But no club was more negatively impacted by injuries than St. Louis.
Per mangameslost.com, the Cardinals lost a projected WAR of 15.88 due to the DL time of their players. That was more than five wins above replacement more than the next-most hindered team, the Blue Jays (10.70). The Cardinals' ability to avoid slowing down amid it all speaks to how well they plugged holes as one key player after another was sidelined.
It also directly reflects Matheny's impact.
How closely the voters for this award consider the circumstances under which Matheny led, as opposed to the expectations the club had entering the season, will likely dictate his placement in the final award standings.