As usual, when the Cardinals announce a “baseball operations” press conference, the rumor mill starts churning.
Chris Carpenter’s retiring? Matt Carpenter’s extension? The finalization of the purchase of the triple A team? The first off season trade?
Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Well, sort of.
Chris Carpenter is retiring. But, that was the secondary announcement of the presser.
The spotlight story was Mike Matheny, not Matt Carpenter, getting a three-year extension.
Bill DeWitt Jr. introduced the new deal by reiterating his belief that the best way to operate and maintain a franchise is to retain the “core pieces” of its success. Matheny, both he and John Mozeliak said, is an integral part of that success.
“Why now?” Mo said, anticipating the question before it was asked. The answer was simple: the organization knows now that they want Matheny for the long haul. There’s no sense in dragging out the inevitable or – more importantly – letting it be a distraction during the 2014 season.
As for Mike?
“I would love to do this anywhere, but to do it here, in the place that I call home is extremely special,” he said, acknowledging that the opportunity he’s been given to manage this team in the city of St. Louis is sometimes “hard to wrap my head around.”
“It would be hard to do anything that I’d enjoy more,” he added later.
Much has been made (among fans, at least) about Matheny’s weaknesses (Bunting. So. Much. Bunting.), but it’s evident that his strengths are far more evident to those inside the clubhouse and the front office.
There was perhaps no better comment in regards to Matheny’s managing strategy than Mike’s own answer in response to a question about playing vs. managing:
“[Managing] is less about me and more about the players… the more I can get out of the way and elevate them, the better.”
Tactics are important, but the ability to inspire is arguably even more valuable. A manager who pulls the best out of his players will take them further than logic would allow them to go. That is Mike’s mission for at least the next four years.
Matheny shared the trouble both he and the players had in getting over the loss to Boston in the World Series. They believe, wholeheartedly, that this was their year. Coming up short still stings, but it also provides more motivation for 2014.
If Matheny’s short two-year career has taught us anything thus far, he’ll be spending all winter finding ways to bridge the next gap. That quality and commitment to improvement certainly hasn’t gone overlooked.
As for Chris Carpenter, yes. He has officially informed the organization that he is retiring. Mo and DeWitt Jr. spoke with great gratitude for the impact Carp left on the organization, claiming “the Adam Wainwrights” of the organization are a direct result of #29’s leadership and example.
“He’ll go down as one of the greatest we ever had,” Mo said of Carp.
An entire fan base agrees.
Carpenter will speak to media directly “some time after Thanksgiving,” Mo said.
Until then, for both Chris and myself (though I’m sure she’ll have more to say at a later date!), thank you, Carp, for all the unforgettable memories.
Congrats to Matheny on the well-deserved extension.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.