A Conversation With Mike Matheny

Mike Matheny joined us on TheITDRoll.com Morning After today for a look back at 2012 and a look ahead to 2013.

The Cardinal manager spent about a half-hour with us, and he was quite candid on a number of topics.

On the Cardinals losing their 3-1 series lead on the Giants: Seeing the Giants blow through the World Series like that made it a little easier. We just ran into a team that got red hot. It reminded me of what happened with us when I was a player in 2004. The Red Sox just got hot. The Giants did that this year.

On Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals: It was the greatest game I’ve ever been a part of. It’s the one time I wish that we had cameras in the dugout to provide documentation of what went on. It was almost like once we fell behind 6-0, we were like, “All right. We’ve got them just where we want them.” We could sense a little blood in the water.

You can listen to the entire interview by clicking HERE.

However, there were a couple of parts I wanted Zac…better known as Saaaacccckkk…to transcribe in case you can’t listen right now.

We asked Matheny the adjustments of his first year managing…the surprises, the stress level, and going from a player who can do no wrong to a manager dealing with the criticism and second-guessing:

Jimmy “The Cat” Hayes: Mike, outside of forced media interaction, which I know is something you look forward to, you played a long time in the major leagues and you knew the deal, but I’m wondering if there was anything that you had to deal with day-to-day as manager that you weren’t expecting?

Mike Matheny: I wasn’t expecting to see you as often, Jim. There was something every day that I wasn’t ready for. That is part of the adjustment you have to make when you deal with people every day. That was the opportunity I was given was to impact people on a daily basis and the baseball stuff I knew was a completely different department, but I enjoyed doing both. We have a great group of people in this organization from top to bottom to help these guys go through life because we are together nine months more than we are with our family, life happens right alongside with baseball and they need to co-exist well. There were new challenges that popped up, I’d have guys in my office every day with the door closed and it went in directions I never thought would happen. But those to me are some of the more meaningful conversations we had throughout the year because if these guys trust me enough to go through life with me and let me try and help them get through some tough times then they are in a prime position to be more successful on the field as well. But just those conversations to me were invaluable to building that relationship with trust. So as we went through this there was a lot of stuff I really didn’t know how the guys would respond, but we made it through some tough times baseball-wise and some guys made it through some tough things personally.

Doug Vaughn: How does the stress level compare between being a player and being a manager? Harder to get over a decision that back fired rather than a physical play that didn’t work out for you?

Matheny: Yeah, they are drastically different and hard to compare. I do second-guess myself only in the fact that I want to improve. If it doesn’t work, I want to why to help make a better decision next time to put our guys in a better position, to make a decision that will work out in a positive way. There were some nights that were tougher than others, but I did give myself some time after the game and I would review some things with the staff, especially at home I would think about some things on the way home, but when I got home I’d put it away and usually slept pretty well. I take pride in what I do. You want to make sure that you cover your basis and that is the message I gave the guys early in the season, it will be a much easier to go about this if you put in the effort ahead of time and you’re prepared for whatever situation comes along, you make a decision and you know you went about it the right way. And, if it didn’t work out, that’s going to happen  a large percent of the time in this game, but you want to make sure that you all the things you could control moving up to that point.

Tim McKernan: You go from being one of the most beloved Cardinals that I can recall, to being a guy who gets second-guessed by a lot of people, did you pay any attention to that? Did you listen to it? Did you read it? And how did you respond to it?

Matheny: That’s an interesting question. That was part of the learning curve because I was given different information from the people that I sought out advice from heading into this. Some of them who had been in the manager’s seat before said to try and stay on top of everything that is going through the media to try and maintain the pulse of the clubhouse and I did that early on. I showed up every day in my office and wanted to strangle about four different people. You just want to defend the point of why you had to do what you did, which really isn’t in the best interest of our club. You don’t want to use a guy on a particular day, but you don’t want to open a hornet’s nest and say that this is bothering him so I had to shut him down. There’s a fine line to walk with the amount of information that you give. With that being said, it is also very easy to second guess. I do it to myself, so I know everyone else is doing too. i’m going to control the things that I can control. I’m going to put in the time to make sure I’m the most prepared guy out there, then trust my instincts and trust my gut to what I believe is going to give us a chance. About midway during the season, I realized that I’m driving myself crazy here trying to follow what everyone else is thinking and trying to please people. It came to a point where I felt like it wasn’t fair to the guys. I need to do what I know is right, they need to do what they know is right. And then we have to look at each other in the face and we have a sense of accountability to ourselves inside that clubhouse. That was a very big lesson I had to learn, I still kept on top and had other people stay on top of what was happening in the media that did make it more difficult inside our clubhouse. But I kept my mind and my eyes on what was right in front of me and what I needed to do. As far as the fan sites go, I get it, I get it. The manager is the easiest place to go when things start going in the wrong direction. That’s the place they should go, and to be honest I’m good with that because it takes the pressure and whatever feelings are going on out there off the players and puts it on me. And to me that makes it an easier environment for these guys to compete. But there was a learning curve on all of that to figure that out.

McKernan: Tony La Russa would let things get under his skin, I found that interesting for a guy who accomplished so much in his career, so I would imagine that for a first-year guy, naturally it would bother him, and it sounded like initially it did and by the end of the year you were cool with it. Is that a good way to describe it?

Matheny: No, I just understood my role better. It was kind of hard when as a player, you really could do no wrong even when you didn’t do anything right. And then as a manager, I show up to some charity events and I’ve got some old ladies walking up and giving me the dirty eye because I didn’t pinch-hit somebody the night before and they weren’t afraid to tell me about it. (laughter)

You can listen to all of our interview with Matheny by clicking HERE.

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