Matheny hired as Royals skipper


Jeff Roberson, AP Images

Mike Matheny, Royals manager, talks about pitching with Daniel Ponce de Leon, pitcher, during his time with the St. Louis Cardinals. Matheny was hired as the 20th manager in Royals history.

Alex Burbidge, Reporter

The Kansas City Royals announced that they had finalized their decision for who would replace Ned Yost’s position as manager on Nov. 1. In a press conference, Mike Matheny was hired and signed his contract, much to the dismay of fans across the city.

Many fans came into the 2019-2020 offseason in fear that this would be the move the club made; after having been fired as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals for six and half years, many disturbing stories surfaced concerning the conduct in his clubhouse, including cases of veterans bullying rookies, Yadier Molina, Cardinals catcher, being called “tired,” and Dexter Fowler, Cardinals outfielder, completely ignoring text messages from his manager. This lack of respect that was seen towards Matheny at the time of his departure from St. Louis should have been a major red flag for the Royals front office, and yet it seemed that they were willing to either look past or simply ignore the past troubles when they hired him as a special advisor to Dayton Moore, Royals general manager.

Hired toward the end of the 2018 season, many saw this as the beginning steps toward Matheny eventually taking over Yost’s post whenever the Royals’ all-time winningest manager decided to retire or leave the organization. When he submits his Opening Day lineup card on March 26 of next year, he will become the 17th full-time manager in franchise history, and the first to take over at the beginning of a new season since Trey Hillman took the reigns, relieving Buddy Bell at the start of the 2008 campaign. Counting interim managers, Matheny will be the 20th manager all-time.

The concerns that arise with his hiring stems from reports that came out of the Cardinals clubhouse near the end of his stay in St. Louis. Bud Norris, former pitcher, mercilessly bullied Jordan Hicks, who was then a rookie, and repeatedly outed him to the media. When questioned about it, Matheny said with a chuckle, “Bud’s going to continue to do what he thinks is right as a veteran, so you respect that.”

Additionally, Matheny came under fire by Molina, a probable Hall-of-Fame catcher, when he hinted that he wasn’t playing as much because he couldn’t handle the heavy workload. Molina harshly criticized him in a since-deleted Instagram post that stated that the backstop was “not tired and the day [he] feels tired, [he will] express it himself.”

Matheny was seemingly shocked that the Royals gave him a chance, despite already being employed by the club; at his introductory press conference at Kauffman Stadium, he joked that he “should be on a couch” instead of being introduced as the manager of a Major League Baseball team.

His style of management with the Cardinals is also a blaring cause for concern for Royals fans; the trademark of Royals baseball is a fast-paced game with many stolen base opportunities and fundamentals down to a tee. Though the Cardinals were regarded as one of the best-bunting teams in the National League, they attempted to steal second base in only 5.4% of their chances, and had a mere 1.1% rate in regard to stealing third during his tenure. Comparatively, Yost had rates of 8.3% and 2.2% as the Royals’ skipper.

Matheny ranks fourth all-time on the Cardinals’ games managed list out of 64 in franchise history with 1074, as well as fifth on their wins list with 591. This success, however, can be attributed to the team that was handed to him by Tony La Russa, former manager. La Russa retired immediately after building one of the most talented rosters in recent memory, culminating with a World Series championship in 2011. Since Matheny took over in 2012, they seemingly were on a steady decline, as in 2013, 2014, and 2015, they lost in the World Series, National League Championship Series, and National League Division Series, respectively, and did not qualify for postseason play in his three final seasons.