ST. LOUIS — Almost always, Mike Matheny keeps his cool.
That’s what you might notice at first about Tony La Russa’s successor as St. Louis Cardinals manager, the inner fire without the bombast. It’s what you see right now in the glare of October, when the moves pay off big time or fail miserably, and are endlessly dissected either way.
There’s a difference in style, but winning is a given.
La Russa managed 2,728 regular-season wins in 33 seasons and trails only Connie Mack and John McGraw. He became the first manager to retire a winner after guiding a heavy underdog to the 2011 title, and is sure the Cardinals got the right guy.
“I’m in no position to compare,” La Russa said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just know that he was always an impressive leader type.
“I definitely know he has the ability. I think he’s already made his mark.”
Make no mistake, there’s plenty of fire.
In Game 4, Matheny took umpires to task over perceived shortcomings. Though every question gets a measured response, sometimes after tough losses the microphone picks up the sound of fingers impatiently tapping away on the lectern.
The manager declined to take it easy on Kolten Wong after the rookie was cut down in Game 4 for the first game-ending pickoff in World Series history, pointing out he knew about Koji Uehara’s move.
“He was reminded once he got on base, and also he was reminded that run didn’t mean much, be careful, shorten up,” Matheny said.
Matheny’s playing career as a light-hitting, strong fielding catcher peaked when he played for La Russa and won four Gold Gloves in five seasons.
His steady field leadership made an impression, and his resume jumped to the top of the pile for St. Louis without a single game of managing experience.