Say what you want about Mike Matheny walking into a great situation as a first time manager in 2012. The Cardinals were coming off their 11th World Series in 2011 and many of those major pieces were coming back. However, making the post season was much harder than what Matheny has made it look.
For starters, he was coming into a 2012 season without Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Oh, then he had the injury to Chris Carpenter, losing one of his ace starting pitchers for most of 2012. Without two of the biggest faces of the franchise, Matheny managed the Cardinals into a Wild Card and NLCS appearance.
At the start of this season, Matheny lost Carpenter for the whole year. His closer Jason Motte was lost for the season as was another starter, Jaime Garcia. He couldn’t give the closer job to Mitchell Boggs , so he turned to Edward Mujica, who put together 37 saves. Now Matheny has leaned on Trevor Rosenthal, his fourth closer this season.
Allen Craig will miss at least the first round of the playoffs, David Freese took two months before he started swinging the bat and the Cardinals survived without Yadier Molina (most likely the N.L. MVP) for a 15 game stretch in early August when the Cardinals trailed Pittsburgh by four games. Yet the Cardinals caught and passed the Pirates and held off Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the division crown.
Mathney also had to rely on rookies and young arms to fill out a rotation that lost 60% of the projected starters (Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook)
Despite all the talent and potential from young players who have stepped up, Matheny has still had to gel this team together over the last two seasons and has managed to get the Cardinals into the post season each time. By doing so, Matheny has ascended into rare managerial air. Only eight other managers have led their teams to the post season in their first two years on the job. That’s nine out of 680. *The list:
–Hughie Jennings won three straight AL pennants from ’07 to ’09 with Detroit.
–Bucky Harris did it with the Washington Senators in ’24 and ’25.
–Mickey Cochrane ’33 and ’34 with Detroit, two A.L. pennants and a World Series
–Ralph Houck won two World Series and a pennant with the Yankees from ’61-’63.
–Dick Howser won two division titles with the Yankess in ’79 and ’80, then won the first half of the strike shortened ’81 season with the Royals.
–Larry Dierker won three division titles with Houston from ’97-’99
–Bob Brenly won division titles with Arizona in ’01 and ’02 including the World Series in ’01.
–Ron Gardenhire, three straight Division titles with the Twins from ’02-’04.
* According to Baseball-Reference.com