Mike Matheny won’t be the only one managing his first-ever game this year. Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox also will be as well.
There are similarities between the two situations. Both are replacing well known, World Series winning managers, and both were definitely fan favorites in their playing days (Ventura was the Sox third baseman from 1989 to 1998).
The other day, I was listening to Chicago sports radio station The Score and the morning hosts were taking calls about the White Sox. And hearing several callers share their opinions on Ventura struck me — they were such a complete contrast to what Cardinals fans have been saying about Matheny these days.
The Sox fans were universal in their like of Ventura but still very skeptical of the hire, general manager Kenny Williams’ motives, and the chances of success by both Ventura and the Sox this season. One caller said Williams hired Ventura because he knew he could control him, while another lamented still why an experienced manager wasn’t hired.
When it comes to Cards fans, I have yet to hear or read anything critical of Matheny as manager — reactions range from over-the-top giddiness about him in the position to just trust that he will succeed. Even the beat writers covering the team in Jupiter seem enthralled with him. Look how many were reporting his now-not-made-public quotes of the day.
Granted, these are generalizations for both sets of fans. There are probably Sox fans thrilled with Ventura and the fact Williams hired him, as there are likely Cardinals fans not liking Matheny as manager or John Mozeliak’s decision to put him on that position.
To get a better read on the Sox fan perspective, I asked Cheryl Norman, Aerys White Sox reporter, for her thoughts.
Except for the few meatheads on talk radio who just think Robin is just a nice guy and that is it, most fans that I can tell aren’t too concerned about him. They are more focused on certain players (Dunn, Rios, Beckham) will do this season. I don’t think anyone is expecting much from the team. Maybe if everything goes right for everyone at the same time all season and the other division teams falter, then they have a chance.
Fans are also still quite angry with GM Ken Williams. Personally, if Robin doesn’t do well, I will be holding KW responsible as Robin is/was my favorite player and I have not been happy with how KW has run the team the past few years. Most fans really love and adore Robin from when he was a player. We’re curious to see how he will do, but the focus is more on others than him this season. Everyone pretty much expects change, but it is a “wait and see what kind it will be” for sure.
Cheryl brings up an interesting point — expectations.
On The Score this week, host Mike Mulligan — the Mully of the Mully and Hanley morning show — said Matheny has it easy, since he can skate by on the fact the Cards are World Series champions and expectations are thus low. Since the Sox are coming off such a disappointing 2011, he said it’s a tougher job for Ventura. Of course, as Cheryl just said, fans really aren’t expecting much from the 2012 Sox.
And I completely disagree with what Mully said. Expectations for the 2012 Cardinals as I see it are very high. Yes, of course they just won the World Series. But a couple things have changed since October, and this team has a lot to prove — mainly that it’s far more than That Guy Who Used to Play First Base Show, and that they can succeed even with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan too.
It will be interesting to see how both team’s seasons play out, and especially how Matheny and Ventura do on the job. They’ll even face off against each other, as the White Sox visit Busch Stadium June 12-14.
At that point, two-and-a-half months into the season, what will the tale of the two new managers be?
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.
Interesting to hear the Sox fans’ take on their new guy. It’s a bit surprising to me to see the mass popularity of Matheny, but then again, who doesn’t love him already? I think the way he’s handled himself thus far certainly helps people feel confident in him, but none of that matters once the regular season starts. I’m curious to see how both of these guys grow into their new roles.
As a CWS fan with STL in my backpocket, the fanbase for the two teams is totally different. I think that each MLB fanbase has a unique group personality. It’s like when STL residents ask you what high school you went to, everything you need to know is right there. I’m Pattonville, for those wondering.
CWS fans don’t have any interest in intentions, we want actions – good baseball preferred but we will take ugly wins without complaint. We are likely to “boo” our own team before you do. Chicago fans with patience for losses (and an attention span for less than 9 innings) cheer for the other side IMO. Ventura knows all this.
The STL team has enough goodwill, rings, and history built up that may allow Matheny the luxury of a longer leash and more time to adjust to his role. Plus, which of you is going to ask him to pick up the pace? Oh, no – you go first; no, you.; no, I insist. Just sayin’.
And I’ll be at Busch Stadium in June. Look for the family group with both black and red shirts, arguing loudly with each other. I may be yelling at an old lady in a wheelchair; my grandmother, who has been a Cardinals fan for 80+ years, will be yelling back so don’t give me a hard time.