Winter Meetings interview with Mike Matheny
Q. Can you just give some thoughts to really it's the first time since the moves that you've been in a situation like this, what it means to the team, how it offers a different look with Bourjos and Peralta in the mix?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, it does help to bring in the potential for some speed. The shortstop was such an area of focus in our club last year. And to give Pete credit defensively, what he's able to do as a young player, but what Jhonny brings to the table, it's a different look, I guess that is the best way to say it.
We have to do some manipulating with the loss of David to figure out how that looks moving forward, and giving some of the young guys once again opportunities.
But I'm happy with where we are, very happy, and excited about the guys we've got.
Q. How do you envision that centerfield situation in terms of playing time? Maybe spring competition? How do you see that playing out?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, it's tough. You've got to walk into it very carefully because you're talking about our guys thrive on competing, and we want them to do that. We talked about this last year and the year before as well. I think every one of these guys should walk in believing that they have to compete and fight for a job every single day. I believe our guys go about that. Even our best players go about it like that.
With that being said, that is just the nature of this business. It comes down to production and taking advantage of opportunities. We just have more options is what it comes down to.
I know Jon Jay has been looking forward to coming out and showing what he can do. I know Peter Bourjos is very excited about a new life and an opportunity to make an impact on the club. And the things that he brings are very exciting. So it will be an opportunity for everybody to come out and show what they can do.
Q. Have you reached out to Jay about that trade to clarify?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, he's a pro. He got it. He understands. I've been there myself. Sometimes you go through a season where it didn't go exactly how you wanted it to go. Realize that clubs are ‑‑ this is a big business and we've got to try to make improvements where you can, when you can. Most of the guys, what it's going to do is you're going to have them dig deeper and figure out what they've going to do. That's exactly what Jon said. He said all the right things and he's been working hard trying to figure out how to come into spring and help our club.
Q. Did you see some deficiencies defensively last year aside from the few obvious spots across the board? One of the reasons that Bourjos was attractive was the defensive upgrade?
MIKE MATHENY: I think when you have a player with experience such as Carlos and Matt as well, they'll be the first ones to let you know how important a centerfielder is. So there is some need, there is no question. I think defensively on the infielder, our club improved. That was one of the goals we had. We had a goal to improve all the way across the board. But we've had some pretty solid performances behind the plate, that's fair to say, and in the infield as well. We did a much better job. There is obviously much more room for improvement as well. The outfield is definitely a concern. It's something that we've paid close attention to is how we measure up and outs in the field that possibly could have been there.
So it's something that we watch and once again hope to improve on.
Q. Did you have a reason or did Jay give an explanation why it maybe drifted for him a little bit this year? I would imagine you describe him as a standout centerfielder hitting .212. He started strong and had moments that were uncharacteristic.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, to be fair, not that many moments that were uncharacteristic. He made so many dynamic plays that you saw in '12 covering a lot of ground, making the diving plays on the back, coming in, going to the sides. It might have been a step lost there. It's something that I know he works so hard, and you can see it at the beginning of last season he wanted to take it to another level. He was doing some things training‑wise that a lot of guys weren't doing, and I think he benefited from that as the season wore on.
It happens throughout the season. You have times when you're just not moving as well as you want. I think that started to happen a little bit later. But overall Jhonny did a nice job for us. I love a lot of the things that he brings to the table. His conscientiousness, his desire to lead in the outfield. It's a leadership position. Started talking about the middle, wherever it is. But he's very much in tune with the game, in tune with what the pitching plan is, in tune with the guys beside him and how they're feeling and moving. That's a lot of responsibility for somebody who plays centerfield for our club.
Q. One of the topics this winter has been the home plate collisions. Have you had additional conversations with Torre or anybody else here since we saw you?
MIKE MATHENY: I believe we're supposed to have some more conversations tomorrow. But there's been information handed back and forth. I'm proud of the League for taking a step forward. I don't know how it's all going to play out. But people who know me, know my stance on this. I just believe it's something that we can't turn a blind eye to what's going on in these other sports. Let's learn from what's going on there and see if we can make our sport better.
The way we do that is try to lessen the risk to all of our players. So it's exciting that it's on the docket and it's on the right page.
Q. Do you think your opinion that it was heard in the spring that you just wanted a chance to bend someone's ear about it?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I don't claim to have any kind of pull at the top. I think I was just another voice. This has been going on for a while. Once again, I don't think it's completely sparked by anything that's happened in baseball as much as what's happening outside of baseball and how it's impacting people and impacting the welfare of each sport. So I think that's something that we've got to take very, very seriously. I think my example is one that's probably a little more firsthand.
It's something that I probably haven't done a good enough job of really bringing to the forefront. I never did. I didn't want to be the poster child. But I started thinking about our players and their health. It's something that I want to be part of moving in the right direction.
Q. Joe Torre suggested a couple weeks ago that (no microphone) you're going to be the two guys that sort of lead the discussion tomorrow in the meeting. What do you hope to say in there and accomplish?
MIKE MATHENY: I think it's maybe just giving them another perspective and just bringing it to reality. We don't see baseball necessarily as a contact sport. But with how often we play, when those contacts do happen there is usually some pretty negative ramifications that come when you jump right back in the saddle. It's just something that we need to continue to be educated on, and some people's experiences will help move us in that direction.
Q. After being around the game as many years, do you see the difference between 88 and 94 wins is one game a month. You don't know where you're going to get it from. It might be a stolen base here, grabbing an extra base there. That fine line of seeing October and not seeing October?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, the talent gap is so small, first of all. Then coming from individuals, player to player and then team to team, everybody's always looking for that little edge. What's it going to be. Yeah, it comes down to not just a game of inches, but like you said, it comes down to the smallest thing can dictate whether you move forward.
To us we just try to stay the course. Don't focus on things that are outside of our control. But do the things that we know how to do and do them the right with a on a consistent basis. We believe that enhances our chances when we mix in high talent.
I think this is good for the game when you start talking about the competitive balance. We've seen good teams all over baseball right now, and that is something that's driving the fans into the stands.
Q. You made your upgrades, the Cardinals did, without parting with any of the pitching talent. How do you see that all shaking out at this point in terms of the rotation? There are a lot of decisions to be made, but how do you foresee it from this point?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we're in no position to really start making decisions on what the rotation or the bullpen will look like.
Last June we were bold enough to start talking about all of our depth and we were challenged by just how deep we were. So that's not an angle we're going to go this year. We find ourselves in a nice position, the fact that we have a lot of home grown talent which is part of the model that this organization tries to do. We believe in our development system. We believe in our draft and try to give these guys an opportunity. It just so happened that they were able to compete at the big league level much quicker than anybody anticipated. So that gives us some flexibility.
Some of these young players can still progress in Triple‑A, but many of them have proven that they're ready to help us at the big league level. We'll just see how our team comes together as a whole. But there are some exciting options. I know the Cardinal fans are excited to see how it plays out.
Q. Another change in the league could be expanded instant replay. I was wondering from your experience as a player‑manager, are you in favor of adding more than what's already in the current system?
MIKE MATHENY: I'm in favor of getting things right. I've got to be careful saying that because doesn't always work out for our benefit. As we saw in the World Series, sometimes things are changed to get it right, and it doesn't necessarily benefit you.
But in the end, I know that we have some very talented umpires. I know they're probably under more scrutiny now than they've ever been in the history of the game, and that's because of technology. So it should be something that I believe if we can take steps forward to efficiently, effectively get the call right.
Now, how that's implemented, that is a tough task. Who that comes down on sounds very likely to be a manager as much as anybody. But I think we're going to have to continue to take steps forward. I don't think it's going to be a perfect science right out of the box. But it's a step in the right direction trying to improve our game.
Q. Did you talk to Mike Shield about his experience playing in Arizona?
MIKE MATHENY: I actually talked with Mike Shield a lot. We talked briefly about it. We didn't have a lot of opportunities to use it. There was one game I know that he did. It was a pretty big part of the game, too. We didn't talk in details. It's still how they were using it compared to how we're going to use it to how it's going to be actually. It's going to be flying by the seat of our pants for a while.
Q. When you started looking at Jhonny, what did you like most about him?
MIKE MATHENY: I think the obvious. We made no secret about it with the right‑handed at‑bat, I think he can drive in runs. He's a guy that's also very effective defensively. Plus many other things that come along with a guy who has been around for a while. He's got a reputation of a teammate that we know fits into our clubhouse. So all those things together make him a good fit.
Q. Do I see him playing a little bit of third? Playing at all?
MIKE MATHENY: Right now we're preparing him and the conversations have all been about shortstop. But we know in the longer term, the potential is there that he could play third base for us. But right now we have to get ready for shortstop in spring training.
Q. You've probably had conversations with him, just your impressions with him personally?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, very impressed. He's just very soft spoken. Once again, talking ‑‑ the thing that we go off of more than anything else is really the reputation he has with his teammates. We could all get up here and say all the right things or do the right things or don't. But the people that are around you for 162 games straight typically have a good read on the kind of people that they're surrounding themselves with. He's had very good remarks from his teammates.
Q. You talk about development and the mindset of the organization. If there are gaps in talent, smarter, harder, I'm assuming that's something that's instilled pretty early in this organization? The way you have a better chance to move up is to play a little beyond what just your God‑given abilities are?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, that's a fine line to walk trying to ask people to work beyond what they're capable of doing. It might be setting them up for failure. But basically I think the strength of our organization is its continuity. They are taught a culture of what the organization stands for from the time they're drafted until the time they leave. They're constantly being almost force fed this idea of what it means to wear our jersey. And with that comes a high level of expectation of how you do prepare and how you do play. Also for the mechanics and how you playing your individual position, there are a lot of similarities in each step you take that makes transitions seamless. We got a lot of credit for how our young guys played at the big league level. A lot of that has to do with the fact that these guys didn't have any expectation on them that they didn't already have on them in the minor league system. Plus we had talent. So a lot of things go down to our scouting department and our development system for choosing the right kind of guys, the right kind of talent, and preparing them to be ready to help us out.
Q. Did you talk to Jhonny before the signing was official? Did you do any reconnaissance?
MIKE MATHENY: No, the process went pretty quick. Even before I was involved, obviously we were involved in all the conversations internally. But as it started moving, it happened pretty fast. It seems like one of those things that didn't need a delay. It was the right fit. Everything came together pretty quick.
Q. Given the decisions that came to the forefront in October about the Cardinal way, and playing the game the right way and what it means to wear that jersey, how was it for you? How could you reconcile a guy coming off a 50‑game suspension? What did you have to hear to be comfortable with that?
MIKE MATHENY: I didn't necessarily have to hear anything. The League set out a rule and The Players Association agreed to that. People make decisions every day. A lot of us have regrets for the decisions we make, but you pay the repercussions and you move on.
I believe Mo said it very well in the fact we don't claim to be the morality police. We also realize that we're dealing with people. People are faced with tough decisions every day. It might not match up with what we believe is right or wrong, but we're also not the ones that have the final authority on how those judgments come down.
Once again, our reconnaissance was more towards tell us about the kind of person we're talking about here. Is this the kind of person that's going to fit, not necessarily whether this guy measures up to somebody's level of, I guess, expectation.
But Jhonny has handled it extremely well. Been very proud just from the outside of him being part of our club now and watched how he's handled this. He's been very remorseful but taking it like a man. He made a mistake. This is what's happened. Now I'd like to move on. And I get that. I'd like to help him move on, but part of it is just sitting in stuff sometimes. Right now he's sitting in it. I think it's going to come out in the end with the kind of person he is. Hopefully he uses it in a positive way somehow. I think these trials in life sometimes present a great opportunity or a platform to make a great change.
Q. Do you think that's a fair question for your organization? You guys have spoken candidly about the level that you want your players to be at. Not just in the style of play, but in the style of person. Do you think that's a fair question that you kind of have to ask how Peralta fits into that?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and I think he knows now being a part of what we believe here, there is ‑‑ my opinion, I can't speak for every other organization, but for ours there is a high level of expectation that comes from our fan base and comes from the culture of our organization.
I think it's been written well here lately, as you put on the marquis of the club, Stan Musial, that's pretty tough to model.
But once again, you start bordering self‑righteousness when everybody sits up on a horse and starts looking down on people for the decisions they've made. But we'd all like to see the game cleaned up, absolutely. But also to realize once again we don't know the entire stories of people. I'm not one that's going to be standing up and pointing my finger beyond what the judgments are that have been put on him. I want to help him move past this. But once again, that is something that's going to have to happen in due time. But he's handled it perfectly.
I'm also proud to be part of an organization that doesn't necessarily sit on a high horse and throw judgment down on everybody else. There have been a lot of comments lately from even inside The Players Association. Some of those I understand where the guys have come from. They're being compared. Their salaries are going to be judged against some guys who did cheat.
I've played my career through the exact same thing, but I always took the angle and truly believed that it wasn't just the company line. People are going to make the decisions they make, and they're going to have to look at them. Just because it's not right for me, I can't point a finger or accusation to others beyond they pay the price. It's time to move on.
Q. Are you confident that those within your clubhouse are going to welcome him? Because there have been some, Holliday for instance, that have been very outspoken about this in the past.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and he had his voice and it was heard as far the union was concerned. How do we move forward with this. That's not what the union came out with.
Once again, I don't have all the details of Jhonny's life and none of us do around here, about Jhonny or anybody else that's been thrown in that mix.
There is always going to be a cloud. It's part of the risk you take when you try to fight the system. It's not fun, it's not easy, and we're not going to try to cover up that that's not true. It is. There is negative that comes with those decisions.
But, once again, at some point people pay and then they move. That's where we are. We're in the process of moving forward. There are other people out there that may not like our stance on that and think of us as hypocritical. So be it. But for us, we see a guy who made a decision that he regrets. He didn't fight to pay the price. He paid it. Now we're part of his future.
Q. Tigers really liked Jhonny. He spoke up when he came back, he addressed the team. Do you anticipate him doing the same thing when he gets to spring camp? Do you think there will be questions from some of the teammates? Maybe that's one way he might address it in one way?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, you know, that's not really our club. I don't think our club's going to need that. If we start out in spring training ‑‑ I can also say I stay in contact with our players and especially our core group of leaders. This isn't an issue.
Now, if it gets to spring training and it becomes a distraction because of all the attention, we've had those almost every year. There is some kind of distraction. Typically what we do is we lock arms and figure out how to get through it together. I think that's probably what he's looking for. He's looking for a group of people that aren't necessarily looking down on him as much as understanding that he's going to get a fair shot. That's all I think anybody would want, and I know that's what our club will give him.
Q. Can you talk about how the loss of (inaudible) is going to affect the back end of your bullpen?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, he had a terrific stand with us. And it's very, very clear that we wouldn't have been in October if we hadn't had Edward do what we did when he did it, step in as our closer, let alone being the seventh inning guy who was so effective for us the year before in 2012.
We also knew that with the opportunity that we could get with a team like Boston that we may not have him back. So we wish him nothing but the best. And how that effects our team is yet to be seen. He had some success while he was with us and hopefully some of the guys took the things that Edward taught them and are able to push forward.
Q. What's your feel about second base? You guys have made moves here to clear the way for young (inaudible), do you see that as an opening for him, competition for him or still to be determined some moves ahead and how he might be going in that position?
MIKE MATHENY: I think I'll answer it really exactly how we're talking about Jon Jay. He's given an opportunity, and he's shown us that he's got the ability and it's just going to be a matter of coming out and competing and making the most of the opportunity.
How things will shake out the rest of this off‑season, and what it all looks like is yet to be determined. As of right now, the instructions we gave Kolten was to continue to work on a list of things that he needs to improve on, and show up to spring training ready to try to make our club.
I really have applauded our guys in the past, and hopefully we can do it again when we show up to spring training this year. But you can tell the guys showed up with the idea and the mindset once again of what we try to preach as a team. A lot of times that idea is harder to really put into play. But when guys buy into that and do show up with I'm going to do with whatever I can do to help our club. Whatever role that means it's one that I'm going to do the best job I can.
I have dreams and aspirations. I absolutely hope every one of these guys have dreams and aspirations of not just playing every day, but winning, also maximizing what they have. That's our job as coaches.
So to put them in positions where they can do that, and Kolten's ready for that opportunity. So we'll see how that translates. But right now, it doesn't necessarily mean one thing or another.
Q. Did you have to have Matt Carpenter play a position? Would you like to have him play a single position and kind of let him be in that spot and say you're going to be this guy for a while?
MIKE MATHENY: I think we need to be careful how we phrase that. Playing multiple positions isn't necessarily a downgrade or a backhanded slap. Matt has deserved all the things that he's been given as far as the accolades and the respect more than anything else in the clubhouse.
With that being said, that is one guy that's truly bought into this concept that I'm going to do what I can to help our team win.
Also after David went to Anaheim, we had the conversation to be prepared to play third base, which is something he's completely prepared to do. But also understand we don't know how all this plays out either. Who knows between now and spring training. So it's nice to have the flexibility of a player that can move around the field. He's prepared to do whatever he needs to do, and I think he's really taken that next step where he's a leader on this club now. He's a guy that people are leaning on. Part of that is because of the selfless nature that he is of I'll do what I need to do.
Q. What did you encourage Kolten to do these two months? Clearly the production wasn't there that he had hoped would be there and that brought some frustration from him. But what did he take from that to next year?
MIKE MATHENY: I think probably the clearest message was we put him in a situation that he'd never been in before in playing time. He's been as consistent you can be for the short minor league career that he's had. He's shown every indication and shown it to all of us too. We just didn't get to see it night after night of what kind of excitement he brings to the field. So the talent level, which isn't the question, it's just a matter of maturing. It's a matter of the minor little details on the day‑in, day‑out basis on the physical side and on the mental side. But everything's there. It's just a matter of him putting it into place.
But you could say the same thing across the board of most of the guys on our club. When we come to spring training, it comes to putting eight position players out on that field. It comes down to production. It comes down to putting everything into play and figuring out a way to take it to the next level. He's got it in there, it's just a matter of how it transpires.
Q. Have you talked to Pete Kozma since the Peralta signing? What do you see his role in spring training or see for him?
MIKE MATHENY: I haven't had a phone conversation with Pete. We've had texts. But Pete's a lot like the other guys we've talked about today. He understands. He understands that you've got to continue to improve. There is not one guy on our club that sits there and thinks no matter what they've do they're going to have a starting position on our club. They've got to earn it on a daily basis. There is a whole list of guys that would love to be in their spot. Pete knows that. He also understands this is a business. The team has to be committed and continue to move forward.
So the guys that have been around this game and have been in his spot, to him, I hope what he sees, and the communication that's gotten to him is keep working. Don't let this keep you from moving forward because I still believe Pete is the kind of player that we saw at the end of the 2012 season. I think there is more than that. He just needs to continue to push himself to be the best that he can be regardless of the situation.
We've spent a lot of time in spring talking about things we can control and things we can't. You can control how you go about your business, your attitude and your effort, the way you concentrate every single pitch. These things that happen on the outside can be distractions to you moving forward. So hopefully he's not distracted and he continues to do the things that he needs ‑‑ that he knows he needs to do to improve and let his career play out.
Q. How deep do you expect to go with the guys you have coming in spring ready to start? How many can you realistically afford time on the mound for? How many guys benefit even if they're going (No microphone)?
MIKE MATHENY: We always have that challenge. It's not just trying to find time to figure out who our five starters are going to be. But you have the challenge of helping some of the younger pitchers that you want to continue to see prepare to be starters once the Triple‑A season starts or Double‑A season.
This isn't uncharted territory. We have got a large group of starters, and that's a great, great blessing to have this time of year. But we realize anything can happen, and it can happen in a hurry. So we'll have quite a few guys prepared, and give them an opportunity and just try to make good decisions that are best for them individually for our club over the long haul.
Q. Did you see like Tyler Lyons, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, they've all been starters in the past. Do you see them all as starters? On a guy like Siegrist, his role is pretty clear. Is it a little less of a mystery for him?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, what we did and the information we gave him is we're real happy with how things were for him through the season. We wanted him to prepare the exact same way. Are they going to get their innings and starters early in spring training or throwing the first inning? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that things couldn't change.
For the most part, we don't want them doing anything they've already been doing in their postseason regimens, because all three of the guys you listed came in in terrific shape. It's usually much easier to tone down on the back end.
Trevor is kind of the odd man out as far as not going down that path, because we wanted to make it clear to him what our expectations were. We're very happy with the kind of shape he came in too. So on the physical side, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to go ahead and prepare like he did for last year in the winter. But just on the mental side, I think he needs to know this is what we're thinking in the back of our minds.
Q. Could you have envisioned starting the year with the six‑man rotation? Could you do something like that to save Wacha to include Joe Kelly in the mix? Could you do something like that?
MIKE MATHENY: I guess we could do anything, right?
Q. Right, yeah.
MIKE MATHENY: The reality of that being the case early in the season, I'd say it's not very high. Now would that be the possibility at some point through our season? I could say yes. But I think from the start that doesn't lineup with off days typically early in the season. Guys are feeling pretty good at that point. But when you have the young arms like we have, it's going to be more of a touch and feel, really, start to start, where it's how does it look? What are they feeling? If we need to make adjustments, we'll do them on the fly, and it's nice to have a couple other options. But we have a long way to go until we get there.
Q. Is there a comparison to how Miller was used last year and how Wacha could be used this time of the year as far as you guys did give them breaks. But is Wacha, because he pitched last year, sort of out of the bubble wrap as a pitcher?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think we have a plan in place that allows kind of a ‑‑ it's a loose science. A lot of it has to do with being individualized and how the guys are feeling and reacting and responding to the workload that they're given. But we're learning just like everybody else what some of these young arms, what we have to do to try to increase their odds of it being productive not just for one season, but for many.
So with that being said, I don't want this to be misconstrued with Shelby not pitching much in the postseason and then the comparison because it didn't have anything to do with trying to save innings.
But with Michael, we definitely, it starts to show that we need to. And just looking at what numbers can be, and depending on how efficient he is in his starts. If he's going out every start and throwing five innings, that makes a big difference how it might look towards the end. If he comes out more efficient than that, those innings could end up in a hurry, and we'll have to be smart. That is just part of the juggling act.