(BaseballStL) – On a day that saw one organizational figure say goodbye, another has been assured a future.
The Cardinals have granted Mike Matheny a three-year extension, which will keep him at the helm through 2017.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday, GM John Mozeliak said Cardinal management wanted the sophomore manager to enter his junior year- the last in his previous contract- without any distractions.
Matheny has presided over two playoff runs, the most recent ending in a World Series loss. Though the club was fresh off a World Series title when Matheny took the reins, Mozeliak said he had faith early on in his managerial skills.
“I remember back when he was playing, he was someone who commanded the clubhouse,” he said. “You could tell very early on he was someone who could embrace this role if he was given the opportunity.”
Matheny has embraced the role, and was thrilled when presented with the extension. He told reporters he would love to manage anywhere, but to get to do it in his home town is a dream come true.
“It’s all been kind of a blur,” he smiled. “I guess, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. I think you jump in, try to stay true to what you believe, and how you believe you should be doing your job. At that time you don’t really spend much time evaluating.”
After 185 wins in two years, two playoff appearances, an NL pennant and several individual awards and nominations, Matheny’s Cardinals have plenty of good things to evaluate. Even the stoic skipper, who praises an even keeled, every-day-is-the-same approach, has allowed himself to revel in the success.
“This window of opportunity in this game is so short. If you don’t stop and smell the roses a little bit when those roses come along... there’s so much failure in this game. The successes are huge and our guys have a lot to be proud of,” he said.
Apart from a few more playoff wins, the club couldn’t be in a better place in 2013. After losing legendary manager Tony La Russa and superstar Albert Pujols in the same year, there was doubt from some whether the club could handle such upheaval.
Management believed there was far less to worry about if the right pieces were brought in.
“When we were looking for someone to replace Tony La Russa, we knew we had to find someone who was their own person,” Mozeliak said.
The GM added that though the organization was in a state of change when the longtime manager left, he was confident in the direction the club was headed and wanted someone who would further that vision.
“The last thing we wanted someone to do was to come in here and try to recreate the wheel,” he said.
Instead, the Cardinals continued to focus on player development, and under Matheny those players have flourished on and off the field. Matheny has said his focus is not just on high talent and high effort, but on high character as well.
“For me that’s my job,” he after the press conference. “If I’m not helping pass that along, I’ve dropped the ball.”
Players have said all season the trust their young manager, with some saying he cares more about who they are off the field than on it.
Just as those under his instruction have put their faith in Matheny, those signing the checks are betting the future on him.
From Matheny’s perspective, that future is a bright one.
“I can’t wait to get to the yard every day,” he said. “This place, this fan base, this group of guys and this organization- It’s the best place you can be in the game.”