Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'He's a Winner.' Cardinals Players Reflect on Matheny's Tenure

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'He's a Winner.' Cardinals Players Reflect on Matheny's Tenure

Article excerpt

Kolten Wong never has known big-league baseball without Mike Matheny. In every game of Wong's six-season career, Matheny has penned the lineup cards, taken the podium at post-game news conferences and occupied the office next door to the Cardinals' clubhouse.

Wong credits Matheny with teaching him how to play the right way. The manager, whom the Cardinals fired Saturday night, took a hard-nosed approach during his playing career. He wanted his players to do the same.

"He was one of the last guys to try to keep this game old school," Wong said after the Cardinals' 6-4 win over the Reds on Sunday. "Everything is going to analytics and shifts and all this right now, but Mike was definitely one of those guys who loved the old-school aspect of playing."

The Cardinals hired Matheny before the 2012 season. He had a 591-474 record as the club's skipper.

Wong was surprised by his manager's dismissal. So was Yadier Molina, the only man on the Cardinals' roster who was a teammate with Matheny as players. The All-Star catcher saw news of the firing on television Saturday, and Matheny texted him shortly after.

Last year, Molina pushed back against Matheny on Instagram when the manager implied his catcher was tired, and they have had a complicated relationship. Still, Molina praised Matheny's leadership abilities. He said he hopes fans remember the manager as someone who won: Matheny led the team to four playoff berths and the National League pennant in 2013.

Multiple players said they felt a sense of responsibility after the coaching shift. Reliever Greg Holland wondered what he could have done to prevent the change. Infielder Jedd Gyorko said he felt guilty. First baseman-outfielder Jose Martinez questioned his own job security. The Cardinals executives left the team with a clear message: If performance is subpar, they are not afraid to make changes.

"When you're not playing good baseball, unfortunately things like this happen," Wong said. "We all know that could be us, so it's time for us to step up, start playing better baseball and start bringing it again. …

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