Mike Matheny from the Winter Meetings

Mike Matheny from the Winter Meetings

In Dallas, the St. Louis Cardinals manager covered a wide range of topics, starting with the first baseman.

Q. Of course you've heard about all the rumors and speculations and reports about Albert and the Marlins. Your thoughts on the Cardinals' stance and how confident are you about the Cardinals getting something done?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, the one thing I am confident of is that this organization is committed to winning and doing the right thing, and I know the ownership group is putting their best foot forward and trying to do everything that they can to make this possible. But I also know it's a complicated decision on both sides. There's a lot going on, a lot that I'm not even involved in, but I think it's clear to say that St. Louis Cardinals would love to have Albert, and we'll see how it all plays out.

Q. How involved are you? Are you asking for updates or how much are you involved with what's going on?
MIKE MATHENY: Once again, I believe a manager's role is to give opinions when asked, and occasionally I'm asked an opinion, and I have those. But for the most part, this is a negotiation between the front office and Albert and his representation.

Q. Do you make any kind of personal appeal to him at all just based on having a relationship with him?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, we have in the past, but just having contact, saw him at his fundraising event this weekend, but the discussion never opened up. It's a different dynamic now, where before I was more of a friend and confidant. But this is a business decision that he and Dee Dee and his representation have put a lot of time into. So I think he -- I know how he goes about his decision making and I know in his mind and their minds collectively, they're going to do what's right.

Q. Do you get the sense that there's a plan in place if Albert goes elsewhere?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, plan in place is to put the best possible team on the field. As far as what that looks like, at this point I think it's too premature. I believe it'll be a good team regardless, and I think Bill DeWitt said it the best: It'll be a better team if you have Albert.

Q. Is it a no brainer to say that Lance Berkman would move to first base?
MIKE MATHENY: I think there's a lot of options, and you all have followed this teamed closely. The flexibility that's been afforded this team through multiple moves and very versatile players. You don't rule out anything, and obviously Lance has the ability to play first base, has the ability to play the outfield. It'll be fun to kind of move those pieces of the puzzle once that time does or does not come.

Q. What's your understanding of Allen Craig's situation?
MIKE MATHENY: My understanding is that he'll be ready when he's ready, and he's a very exciting player to watch. You can see a certain upside, and I believe on the big stage he took advantage of that opportunity to not just show what he can do in general but under pressure. Some people just have the knack of being able to do things in those situations, and he's certainly displayed that.

Q. Do you go into spring with different expectations of him? Sounds like he won't be full speed for a while.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and once again, we have a very talented medical staff that will deal with that, and we've been staying on top of it and keeping posted, and we'll figure that out as we get closer and find out exactly where he is in that process.

Q. You're a big supporter of Tyler Greene's. You've made that known. Do you think he's ready to be a starting shortstop in the Big Leagues?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, Tyler to me is a very interesting case in the fact that he brings a lot to the table. He's an incredible athlete that has the ability to play in a number of positions, and I think any manager would like to have a player like that, the ability to put him in different spots and put him in a situation where he's going to succeed. I think that having him ready in his mind to come to Spring Training and just put his best foot forward no matter where we put him really sets him up to develop as a player and as a big league player.

Q. Mo said if you guys tell him that he's the shortstop that would take some of the pressure off and let him just play and let the talent come out. Do you feel that would be beneficial to him if that would happen?
MIKE MATHENY: To answer the second part first, yes, I believe he's been pressing. But to go back, I believe this game is all about competition and showing up to Spring Training to compete and proving yourself to not just you and the fan base but also to his teammates and himself. That comes through competition. And he's going to have the opportunity to roll into Spring Training and put his best foot forward. We've already been in contact, and I'm excited to challenge him and let him know, yes, I do believe in him and this organization believes in him, but he also knows that nothing in this game comes easy and is given to you on a silver platter. We're excited to see him come out and compete.

Q. How open are you to playing young players and giving them the opportunity going into spring that, hey, you have a shot for making a Major League club?
MIKE MATHENY: I'm open to the best players and guys that bring to the table what's going to help this team win. That's what it's all about, finding the pieces that can put the best possible product on the field. You want to be smart and not over expose young players, but also if that's the best option to help us win now that's something you've got to jump on.

Q. Between Tyler, Descalso, Skip, if he's back, you've got some guys that are versatile and can be used in different ways. Do you view that as strictly an opportunity as a manager? Do you view that as a challenge? Is that something you've watched other managers handle, and how do you anticipate using pieces like that?
MIKE MATHENY: It's too premature right now to really say that because you don't know what you're going to be dealt. But I thought they've been used very well in the past, and you could see the benefit of that when you have guys that are typically role players having a high number of at bats and games played when you get to the end of the season and they're sharp, and it's not easy to keep your bench that ready. And those guys came through in big situations and clutch opportunities all season long, and especially into the postseason. That's something to me that is important is keeping the guys in the utility role, keeping them fresh, keeping them active and keeping them sharp, and I believe that last year was probably one of the better examples I've seen.

Q. What does Albert bring to any team?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, you start with the intangibles, with leadership, and the experience and the comfort of having for the guys on that team and in that lineup having a stable person who's done what he's done and nobody else has done in the 11 years he's been in this league. That, plus the ability for the production, and that is the obvious. He's been more consistent, and that's why there's so much talk about this right now. We just haven't seen something that he's been able to put together, never seen anything like it before. So having that in the middle of the lineup is a stabilizing force. That why this game is so excited about this move regardless of where it ends up.

Q. Don't you think, though, that your club is capable of handling this?
MIKE MATHENY: I do have to say what the 2011 Cardinals were as resilient as any team I've ever seen. If you look at the number of DL moves and the number of key components that were in and out and the push down to the end, you saw something about the core character of that team that was extremely different. And these guys would almost thrive when adversity came. To me that's I think that's indicative of the personality of the team. I think they're going to handle things regardless of how it all turns out. I think they're going to come out swinging. That's what this team does.

Q. Have you been in touch with most of the guys since you got hired?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I've been in touch with all of them.

Q. Everybody in good shape, good spirits? Any surprises?
MIKE MATHENY: I'm sure Mo would have told you that.

Q. How long have you been at this?
MIKE MATHENY: I'll leave the surprises to him.

Q. Wainwright is okay, though?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, you guys know that. You know how big of a workhorse he is and just his work ethic and how tough he is. It's going to be fun to watch him. He'll be pushing the envelope, but Greg Hauck and the medical staff has a good handle on his personality and keeping the reins on him to keep him moving positively. Right now, he's extremely I was really impressed with Adam last year through that whole push. I don't think there's anybody more excited and more pulling for that team than Adam Wainwright, a guy who knew he would love to be a part of that but wasn't able to. I think that speaks to who he is as a person and a teammate.

Q. What are you expecting from him realistically after missing a whole year? Do you have any expectations or goals as to what he can provide next year?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, you just expect him to be Adam Wainwright, nothing more, nothing less. You'd like to be able to dream of him coming back without any hiccups, without any stumbles and jump right back into the style of pitcher that we've all seen and for me admired the way he goes about his business every fifth day. He wants to take the ball, and he's going to give you an opportunity to win. So that's what we're hoping for.

Q. Are you ready to call Jason Motte your closer?
MIKE MATHENY: I can't believe you guys waited this long for that.

Q. We're still waiting for an answer from Tony on that.
MIKE MATHENY: You still have his number, right? I'd say going into Spring Training, Jason has certainly positioned himself as we head into spring as the closer.

Q. What is your biggest challenge going into this the first time?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, that's probably the most frequent question I get, and I have to say I think they're just going to come daily. I think there are going to be challenges and things that continue to come, and to me that is one of the more exciting things as I sit here right now. They're going to continue to come throughout the season and probably as long as I'm in this position. I understand that that's how this thing works, and we'll take them as they come.

Q. Are you a guy that sort of managed along in games? Most catchers have that reputation.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and I think I wasn't good enough to just go out there and play. I had to do the little things to keep me ahead. I couldn't help but see who's up in the bullpen. I had to look and see what the idea was to try and think along with the manager so they didn't have to waste a trip out to the mound to know that we were two batters away from a lefty and we've got one up in the top, let's be let's be pretty smart until we get to that spot, trying to think ahead with bump plays and double steals, trying to manage the running game. So those sort of things for a catcher that's conscientious and once again, pretty aware of my skill set at the time that I had to do those things or I wouldn't have had a job, but that's really how I watch the game. I can't watch a game to this day as just an independent spectator. I'm constantly looking and learning and trying to dissect what the thought processes are, the game inside the game. For those of you who follow the game the same way, that's the enjoyment of it.

Q. Mo talked yesterday about the left handed relief market is kind of thin this year and you guys obviously have a lot of right handers, as well. Would you like to have two lefties or is one an option there if that's all you have? How do you look at that?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think the two makes sense, but if you have a right hander that has the ability to consistently get out lefties, I think that needs to be part of the equation, as well. You just don't throw somebody in there that has a left handed throwing arm if he's not going to be as effective as a right hander. You just look over the market, and once again, those things are all still sort of premature as attention is elsewhere.

Q. How differently do you look at your club, A, if you have Albert, and B, if you don't? I know everybody says you make do regardless of what your roster is, but to have such a huge guy as a variable, how does that change the perception of the club?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, it's obvious, and I'm sure most of you have probably sat around and done the same thing, look at what the roster would be, could be, so it definitely has different faces. Certainly you put the lineup as it looked to end the season, and you're looking at a team that just won the world championship, there's not a whole lot of things you'd like to see done differently in a team that's done that offensively. But cliché, it's a business, and there's going to be business decisions made on both sides, and you deal with them accordingly. With those decisions, it could certainly change it could change the whole face of what that offense looks like. So it's just taking what comes and adjusting.

Q. How big of an adjustment is it for the manager, though? If you've got a dynamic offense like the team had last year, I'm not saying you throw him out there and watch them play, but you run it differently if you have to compensate for a three time MVP?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, once again, I believe it was said early on during the initial press conference, what kind of team are you looking for? One with speed? One that focuses on the fundamentals? Is this going to be a pitching team? And my answer was yes, and that's really we have to see what this looks like when we get into February and look at what pieces are there. You don't try and turn a team that doesn't have the ability to just go out and slug, you don't try and make them sluggers. You take what you're dealt, and then it's constantly as this game goes hot and cold, as we all know, you make adjustments on the fly. It's going to be fun, challenging, but it certainly could have a couple different looks.

Q. Have you talked to Kyle McClellan since you got the job to discuss what his role might be?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, I've contacted everybody, and the conversations at this point have not really been role. Once again, I believe it's too premature, too many moving components right now and too many things that could potentially happen. But the conversation has basically gone towards this is how you can get ahold of me, and Kyle already knew that, and I'm a resource to you guys, and if you have any questions, I'm going to be there to answer them as best I can. But for right now, I'm excited to be in this position, I'm excited that you're where you are right now, and we'll just kind of see how things play out in the offseason.

Q. How has the transition been for you? You went from Albert's confidant and one of the guys, and now you're the boss. How has that been?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, you know, fortunately with the superstar players, and we've got some guys that I'd put into that category on this team, with those guys I was fortunate enough with many of them to be in a role of a mentor as they came into the league, whether it's Carpenter over in Toronto or whether it was Yadi and Albert in St. Louis and even Wainwright when he came over from Atlanta early on, there was an opportunity for me to use the position that you have as a veteran player, and I think it's very similar in the fact that I am who I am, I'm not going to because of the office and the position really change that. I don't think that's fair to the organization that hired me; I don't think it's fair to the players or to myself. What I do is I invest in the people. I try to bring the best out of them and put them in a position where everyone can succeed individually, and if that happens individually then collectively we're going to be in a good spot. We've got the pieces in place, it's just a matter of trying to maximize each of them.

Q. When you talked about Tyler getting a shot at shortstop and creating that competition, does it become attractive to have kind of a veteran maybe with some experience there who can spell him or offer you guys some sort of insurance or fail safe there? Is that sort of how you would look at constructing the roster then?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think, first of all, you go and you look at what potentially could happen, and then afterwards you try and figure out how that works together. And for a young player, there's always an advantage to having an opportunity for them to watch a more seasoned veteran player. I'd say that happened this year for Tyler, and it's happened before when he's been in the Big Leagues. He's collecting data and really learning himself as a player. As far as him developing more into an everyday player, I think it's just the confidence that he needs to develop in himself and in his game, and every time he gets to watch, he's doing it with a purpose. Put him in positions, once again, where he's going to succeed and put him in positions that I know are going to, more importantly, help this team succeed. If he fills that role at any particular time, he's going to be in there playing. Otherwise it'll be a process for him to learn from.

Q. We've seen that Freese can play for a couple years, but when you see a guy have a month like that under the lights he had, what kind of a spring board or jumping off point do you think that is? Do you anticipate that leading to him maybe what do you see out of him or expect out of him?
MIKE MATHENY: One of the first things I see is natural leadership skills. You see a guy that other players want to follow, and those don't come around every day, especially from a guy that hasn't been around that long. So you see that he has those skills, and then he takes advantage of an opportunity that really puts him in the limelight, and it could be a spring board. I know that with the humble person/player that he is, all the attention really was not what he was hoping for because he realizes he still has a lot to prove in this game, and not necessarily to us but to himself. I think he knows that he wants to be a better defensive player. I know that he wants to put together a more consistent season, and he wants his body to do what it will allow him to be out there as much as possible. There's still a lot of things out there that it's not as if David Freese is content with what has happened and now he's just going to cash in his chips. He's very motivated. He's been in the gym consistently. I've seen him a couple times. He looks great. And he was on a whirlwind tour there for a while, but you know what, those things don't happen very often, and for him to jump out there and enjoy that is not a bad thing. But I think he's rerouted his attention, and he's excited about 2012.

Q. Did you talk to him about that, about concern for doing everything that you want him to do here, there and everywhere?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, we had some talks about that, and I think he knew it. He had been talking to people that are close to him. He and Matt Holliday have a very close relationship, and Matt is a very grounded guy. I believe Matt and I were sharing kind of the same thing. It was really just kind of being available to, David, what do you need, and you're probably going to need people around you or looking out for your best now more than any other time in your life, and fortunately I feel I'm one of those people, and I know Matt is, as well, so now you're just trying to help him sift through some of the opportunities and some of the things that might become pitfalls for him. He's got a pretty good idea, and I'm excited about him heading into Spring Training with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum.

Q. That's an interesting point because I wonder what happened in the World Series and the LCS happened, given his kind of life's path for the last few years, to what degree might he have been vulnerable, for lack of a better term? You talked about people looking after him. I just didn't know, is there any greater emphasis on that now perhaps than there would have been if it would have just been an ordinary month for him?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and it's a complex question, and I think probably only he can answer that. But I think anybody that cares about people when they get put into a position like that, you've got to just speak the obvious truth of there's going to be more coming at you than you've ever dreamed right now, and these are all opportunities that could potentially be good. But it also, if not harnessed and really kept under wraps, could potentially lead you in a couple directions. One would be distracted, and distracted from what's ahead. And I know that he felt distracted for a while, but it was during that period that it was all right. These guys, it's a long season for them to play as long as they did, and they need that time to wind down. Now, was he absolutely resting? I don't know. That really probably doesn't work because he was flying all over the place and he was on the big stage wherever. But he was also letting his body heal at the same time. So it was during that period that he enjoyed it, and now I know he's given himself a timeline that now it's time to get serious about baseball like most of the guys all over the game are doing right now.

Q. Philosophical question: How do you view the relationship between a manager and the front office regarding lineups and game strategy? And to what extent do you expect to use statistical analysis and projection in your decision making?
MIKE MATHENY: You know, baseball people don't handle philosophical questions. (Laughter). Philosophically, the front office has been great. They've been very open, and I believe that there are quite a few people in that front office, including the people in statistical analysis, who bring an asset to the table. For me I believe one of the biggest jobs I have and the biggest opportunities is to present resources to these guys. They're going to play the game. So what can I do? What can I put in front of them that's going to give them a competitive edge through their season and through their career and help each of them on an individual basis? Some guys, I think it would probably be paralysis by analysis if I brought everything down that the statisticians have upstairs. I'm pretty sure we'd have some guys that had really gone numb thinking too much. Other guys, they love the data. So you look at it on a case by case situation and present that to them as they need or as they want. Fortunately, again, this organization goes above and beyond in my opinion providing whatever resources are necessary for these guys, and that's just one of them.

Q. What about when the front office brings it to you? Do you have a good idea how to utilize data whether or not you pass it on to the players?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I know Bill James, and I've done my share of research and realize that there's an advantage to it. Now, I believe it's also a sifting process, and I've made it very clear to those guys, overwhelm me at first, bring me what you think is pertinent, and I will be able to sift through it and tell you that a lot of this doesn't matter to me but this is what makes sense. And I want them to have a voice to say this is what's important and this is why, and if I can filter that through, at least for me, and maybe it can be something that's passed on to certain guys. But once again, to blanket that over the entire team, I think you'd be setting some guys up for failure.

Q. Is there any concern with the amount of innings Carpenter threw last year especially late in the year? I know he had the elbow thing and then he pitched a month later than usual. Is there anything you do differently in the spring with Carpenter to limit his innings or make sure he's 100 percent fresh?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, I think that's a good question because he did have a heavy workload this year and kept answering the bell, but those of you who know him know that that's his MO and that's part of what makes him so great. But the one thing that really differentiates him is nobody is going to outwork this guy, and he's going to be prepared. But you do only have so many bullets and it's going to be a situation where Carp is in his career, you're going to need to hold the reins a little bit, but he has a pretty good feel, and he has a pretty good sense of his body, of his arm, and I think it's going to have to be just kind of going back and forth and obviously using Dave Duncan and his expertise. But collectively for us to come together with a game plan to make Chris Carpenter as successful as he can be at this stage of his career, and obviously he's throwing the ball better than ever.

Q. When Adam Wainwright had the issue everything was fine we thought and then he blew out his elbow in Spring Training. From your stance you're fully convinced that he's 100 percent healthy going into the season?
MIKE MATHENY: Wainwright?

Q. No, Carpenter.
MIKE MATHENY: From my standpoint, yes. Carp and I have had a couple conversations. I know he's been out doing some traveling, as well. But he feels great. This guy, he just works. He is going to be and he's to have himself as ready as he physically possibly can be. Once again, how things ended, there's really nothing that would throw up any alarms.

Q. You guys have made a few adjustments even since announcing the coaching staff. Some of us know Mabry, but what does he bring, what does Conroy bring and how does that change the training staff and what are you looking for in a bullpen coach?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, and I made it clear from the start that's going to be the first priority is to take care of the staff while the front office handles player personnel. John Mabry to me is a game changer, and I think he's going to be a great extension of Mark McGwire and they're going to work hand in hand very well. They'll be there and be available with different personalities, which is nice. And I think you saw the same thing with Mike Aldrete who will continue to be a resource to these guys, as well, but in a different role. But John has a great knack for really individualizing swings and helping guys through the mental side of the game. At the big league level if you're that involved with the mechanical side, a lot of times that leads to some things that aren't necessarily favorable. But he's got an understanding of the mechanics that Mark is trying to teach and they're on the same page, and then it's about trying to get in the head of every guy and having that eye to see, hey, this is what you're doing when you're going really well, this is kind of where you are and this is a plan to get you back to where you were very much on the page that you wanted to be on. John has a great eye for that. And as far as Chris Conroy, a guy that's been in the organization for 13 years and has been in Triple A, I believe, six or seven, it's neat to have that conversation with him. He's always wanted to be in the Big Leagues, just like we all did as players. And to have that opportunity now and to have that conversation with him is something that was very rewarding. He's talented, and he's very talented, and he's going to bring an extra component to that training staff.

Q. You obviously have the Xs and Os of this managing thing down pretty well, but is there anything going into Spring Training that you want to work on like a rookie would work on?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, once again, I believe it's more on an individual basis, and that's really more than anything else, the development of the relationships with the players and reading them and keeping them in a position where they're going to excel. Xs and Os, I've always believed that you go to every game trying to learn something new, whether you're a player, whether you're a coach, even whether you're a spectator in my opinion. There's always something new that happens in this game and that's one of the beauties of this. I have my radar up and put a great support staff around me that has the same concept and idealogy of we're going to get better every day we're out there. Some of it will come from trial and some will come from successes, and I think you put everything together and Spring Training will just be the launching board.

Q. How have you found the winter meetings your first go around? Have you sat in on discussions with the front office or have you been milling around talking to other managers?
MIKE MATHENY: No, I haven't been out of the suite since I've been here. I know there's a lot going on. I know it's a crucial time of the negotiation process. I've been available and really spending a lot of time with the large group of contingencies we brought here, learning faces and names and some of the people that are behind the scenes and in the front office that make some of the decisions, and for me it's been a learning experience about what they bring to the table, what their roles and expectations are and how they can be a resource for us down in the clubhouse and trying to take the extra piece they all bring and collectively try and see how that comes together in the bigger picture. There's been a lot of conversations, but I've kind of stayed away from down here and stayed up where I could be accessible and available and asking questions.





Scout.com's Winter Meeting coverage: Catch all the news from our three reporters working baseball's Winter Meetings on site in Dallas.

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