(Baseball StL) -- The Cardinals had won six games straight, reclaimed the best record in the NL and were on pace to perhaps build a cushion in the Central heading into the break.
This division continues to prove a challenge, however, and the Cardinals are beginning to demonstrate an inability of late to win on the road. In six of the last eight road games, the Birds have come away with a loss.
Worse, losses have come against terrible teams in the Astros (32-59), the Angels (44-46) and the Cubs (41-49). (Oakland also dinged the Cards for two more losses, but the A’s are at least a quality team).
When Thursday’s game ended with fireworks from Mike Matheny, perhaps it was an attempt to wake the Cardinals from their road stupor. The umpire’s dismissive attitude toward Matt Adams certainly warranted comment from the skipper, but the eruption of emotion that followed was perhaps meant to do more than just defend a young player.
Managers have many duties, but the most important among them is understanding what makes their players tick. If a leader knows their personnel thoroughly, they know how to motivate and inspire them to take charge.
In flying into a passionate defense of his player, Matheny sent a message to his club that he will not tolerate disrespect. He believes this team has earned the right to be treated with deference, not derision, and they should accept nothing less.
A manager showing that level of pride and zeal can have a tremendous effect on a team. To do it when the game had ended made it even more potent. Matheny was telling his players that even though it won’t impact the outcome, he won’t let them stand undefended.
St. Louis has a long organizational history of instilling respect and pride in its members. When there came a moment that those values were tested, the leader of the flagship team stood up to defend them. For a player, those moments are inspiring and intensely motivational.
Matheny sent a message of ‘You must not know who you’re talking to,’ and now the players are charged with reminding everyone. Few things get a team going like a little chest beating and an us-against-the-world climate. A former player knows that better than anyone.
If the Cards respond with the same passion, it couldn’t come at a better time.