I will make this very simple. If you are looking for a post using words like “Mathenaging” and “the dugout lost the series” and, as my Facebook feed says, “Matheny is terrible and should be fired,” then you’ve come to the wrong place. Actually, lets take a look at the second one in that previous series of retorts hitting message boards, social media threads and baseball experts who hit .277 during American Legion ball in 1977. The dugout lost the series. I couldn’t agree more. The dugout occupied by the San Francisco Giants won the series, as a whole. Someone tell me what Bochy did that was so Earth-shattering and ground-breaking that he swung the pendulum in the Giants favor in a series that only lasted 5 games? Madison Bumgarner shoved in Game 1. Bumgarner then went 8 in game 5. Great managing there. Tough calls had to be made. Bochy is the best manager in the National League, I will give you that. Where were the Giants last year? Missed the playoffs by a few touchdowns, and a safety. Did anyone in San Francisco call for his head? Coming off a World Series sweep, your team finishes 76-86. I guess Bochy forgot how to manage that year.
I am not saying that I didn’t disagree with some of the strategical moves by Matheny, especially in Game 3 with Randy Choate. That was not a good decision. Actually, it was dreadfully awful. The team was also down 4-0 in the 1st inning and they clawed, scrapped and fought their way back in to game that they had no business being in after John Lackey was pulverized all over the field. Matheny stayed with Lackey and his loyalty was rewarded with 6 innings and the chance to comeback and win. Why is no credit given to Matheny for stabilizing the dugout and pulling the rope in the face of adversity? You know why? Because the spoiled BFIB only BLAME MATHENY. They never, and I mean ever, CREDIT MATHENY for anything at all. Matheny made some questionable decisions that didn’t turn out great, and the result of the play on the field made the decisions look worse in retrospect. Had Cruz went 0-4 with three strikeouts, the Armchair Army from St. Louis would have been pining for AJ Pierzynski after the game, and wondering why he didn’t catch. Oh, but Cruz hits a mammo off of Bumgarner and draws a crucial 9th inning walk to set up a possible winning rally. Where is the credit there?
Crickets. Had Matt Adams played 1st base in Game 4 like he did in Game 5, the series would be going back to St. Louis, certainly. When Adams put on a defensive clinic on what not to do, and the Giants score 2 runs without the benefit of a hit, Bochy is lauded for playing “small ball” and “putting pressure on the defense.” That’s play is made 999/1,000 by Adams. His cleat got stuck and he couldn’t get a grip on the ball. 1 run. Game tied. The next hitter wraps a sharp groundball that Adams backhands and then makes several fundamental mistakes, of which I do not need to detail. Runner scores, Giants lead. Bochy is lauded for his strategy, that should have produced 0 runs. Matheny is lambasted and criticized for not standing on the 3rd step of the dugout, but the 2nd. The Giants win a great game that was marred by shoddy defense by Adams.
The Cardinals’s fans think that you just show up, wear the uniform and then everyone just lays down and gives you everything and you just walk to the World Series every year. Matheny has been the Birds manager for 3 full seasons, including three playoffs. His regular season record is 275-211, a .566 winning percentage. He is 20-18 in the post season, including 3 NLDS Championships, an NL Pennant and 2 NL Central titles. He guided the Cardinals to a ‘play-in’ game win in 2012 during his first season on the road. Where is the credit for that? He was put in a good situation when he took over, that is not debatable. But, people fail to mention that the organization lost a Top 5 manger in the history of the game in Tony La Russa, arguably the best pitching coach in history in Dave Duncan and the best player on the planet the previous 11 seasons, Albert Pujols. He has done a magnificent job as the manger. He made some mistakes in this series, that is obvious. To blame him for the series in idiotic, illogical and insane. The spoiled BFIB can’t see the forest for the trees.
Let’s look a little more at the deciding Game 5 that was played tonight. We already looked at Cruz, who could not have played any better reasonably. But, I’m sure Pierzynski would have hit 2 HR and drove in 6 runners. Matt Adams was being ridiculed after his awful defense in Game 4, and somewhat rightly so. “Fat” Adams, as they call him in Cardinal Nation when he doesn’t play like a robot, showed up tonight and played as good as he did bad the previous game. This post season alone, Adams had a HR off of Clayton Kershaw on a breaking ball, the first time that Kershaw had EVER given up a HR on a curveball to a left handed batter. In his career. In roughly 1,069 PA. If Adams doesn’t do that, that game is over and the Cardinals are faced with Zach Grienke in LA Game 5. Short memory there. Tonight, he hits a HR off the 2nd toughest lefty in the NL, and possibly MLB, to tie the game. The Giants just got a HR from a guy, Joe Panik, that had 1 HR in his ENTIRE career before that AB, 269 PA in the regular season. He then hits another ball off of Bumgarner that goes about 400′ to right center that is caught for an out. That’s a HR in virtually any other park. He ranged left, right and forward all night and turned in good defensive performance. But, he is, afterall, Fat Adams.
Luck is typically something that I do not look at when discussing a small sample size like a 5 game series. It’s worth noting that the Giants got basically every break that they could have conceivably gotten. Top of the 1st, runners on 1st and 2nd. Peralta absolutely scalds a ball that is hit right at Sandoval at 3rd base, on his glove side. Sandoval leaps and makes the catch and has an easy transfer for the double play at 2nd base. Jon Jay was out by literally a finger tip. Inning over. No runs. In the 9th inning, Kolten Wong chops a ball in Pablo Sandoval’s direction and he is only able to get a small piece of the ball, as he is diving. The ball caroms perfectly to SS Brandon Crawford, like it was done on purpose and the Giants get an out. Luckily for the Giants, Sandoval wasn’t about 10 pounds lights, because he would have gotten bigger piece of the ball and it would have ricocheted past Crawford. A run would have scored, and it would have been 1st and 3rd, 1 out. Way to go, Matheny.
The Giants played better in this series. Just face the facts. Matheny could take the ax in his spine for Game 3, but not any other game. What about Jhonny Peralta doing virutally nothing the entire series offensively? Nice job, Mike. Way to go. The lineup got out of control because Matheny double switched in order to protect a 1-run lead in the 8th inning. Bourjos was inserted for defense and Jon Jay moved to LF. After Michael Morse hits a game-tying homerun off of Pat Neshek to lead off the home half of the 8th, Jay races in and makes a spectacular diving catch for the 1st out. A ball that Matt Holliday wouln’t have been within car length of, if he got a good jump. BFIB doesn’t remember that. Shocker. Adam Wainwright pitched a great game tonight and deserved to win. This is speculation, but to me it looked like Matheny said “one more inning” to Wainwright and he nodded in agreement. Wainwright mentally approached that 7th inning like it was the last inning of his season and sat the Giants down. He comes out of the game and appears to be somewhat emotional as his teammates congratulate him on an Ace Worthy performance. This may come as a shock to some experts out there, but being a leader is doing what is best for the team and realizing when you are physically, emotionally and mentally fatigued. Wainwright knew that Neshek would retire the Giants in the 8th 1-2-3 and Trevor Rosenthal would shut the door in the 9th. He showed unbelievable leadership in the way he pitched, the way he came out and the way he battled through the obvious injury that he pitched with. That’s Mathenaging for you.
Matheny put all of his chips on the table in the 9th inning, managing like the inning literally meant the season. That’s because it did. Michael Wacha was inserted into the game, with the score tied, and the series and the season on the line. He hung a changeup to Sandoval, and it spiraled out of control from there. I’m sure the BFIB would have preferred to have Trevor Rosenthal in there. No, Carlos Martinez. No, Randy Choate. NO, I got it, Seth Maness. Or, basically anyone except who Matheny chose to go with. Oh, I forgot. 2nd and 3rd, 1 out. Matt Holliday misses a 1-0 cookie and eventually flies out to Gregor Blanco in short centerfield and doesn’t get the run home. Matheny must have not drank enough water before the AB, or, maybe he drank too much. It’s definitely his fault that the run didn’t score.
The Cardinals did a lot of great things this post season. The emergence of Kolten Wong and the continued excellence of Matt Carpenter. Jon Jay played literally as good as he could have. That is not hyperbole. Oscar Taveras hits a pinch hit HR. Grichuk hits HRs off of Clayton Kershaw and Tim Hudson. Adams with the bomb off of Kershaw and off of Bumgarner. Lance Lynn finished strong. Cruz with the game tonight. But, that’s all on the players natually.
One last thing, the best catcher in baseball the last how ever many decades was lost to an oblique strain half way through the series. The guy that had caught every inning of the last 83 St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff games was out, jut like that. But, that’s only making an excuse for Matheny, I guess. The Giants played better. They took advantage of the Cardinals’ defense in Game 4. The bullpen of the Giants gave up 0 runs over the last 2 games in 7 innings. C’mon Mike, make them get hits.
Face the facts. The Giants deserved it and the Cardinals did not. Plain and simple. They couldn’t get the timely hit, the lucky bounce or make the plays they needed to make.
Joe Buck hates you, too, BFIB. He hates you so much. He hopes the Cardinals never win another game. Ever. So do Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci. And, everyone at Fox Sports 1, ESPN, ESPN2, MLBN, Fox, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, Nickelodeon, TNT, TBS, OWN, A&E, HBO and all its affiliates, SHO and all its affiliates and, last but not least, how could I forget NFL Network? Take it like a man, or a wowan, or whatever gender that you assimilate yourself with. It is 2014.