The Royals officially introduced Mike Matheny as the 17th full-time manager in club history and the new skipper expressed humility and a willingness to learn from his mistakes in his first managerial job since he was dismissed by the Cardinals in the middle of the 2018 season.
“I feel there are people that either grow or are stuck,” said the 49-year old Matheny. “I talked with Dayton a lot about blind spots, I need to identify blind spots so I don’t make the same mistake twice whether that’s tactically or relationally.”
Matheny was the first manager to make the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as manager of the Cardinals, but he was fired amid clubhouse tension and a disappointing 47-46 record in his last season. On Thursday in Kansas City, he stressed building relationships and developing a strong culture. He also expressed an openness to analytics that stood in contrast to criticism he received in St. Louis for not being receptive to them.
“I’m fascinated by it. What are we missing? How can we potentially think outside the box to help these players have an edge?” replied Matheny when asked about his stance on analytics. “Anyone that is turning a blind eye to the information, they’re going to become fossils.”
Matheny praised the intellectual firepower of the Royals analytical department, which he said he had spent some time learning from. He said he also took an analytics course to learn more about the game as well as instruction from a consultant on how to deal with the media.
Congratulations to new @Royals Manager Mike Matheny who proves everyone should continue to learn and grow! Mike recently completed our Baseball Analytics online course with @AriKaplan1 to give himself an edge with new methodologies in baseball!— SMWW (@SMWW) October 31, 2019
Good Luck Mike! #SMWWsuccess! pic.twitter.com/XVgnIgut9I
In post-news conference session with Matheny and group of writers who cover Royals regularly, he spoke at length of regrets about how he dealt with media before and how he’s worked to get better. Found him to be sincere. Joked after a while that he probably should be on a couch.— Vahe Gregorian (@vgregorian) October 31, 2019
Matheny was impressed with the level of enthusiasm from the young team, saying he saw “fight in this team” and a “passion for the game”, although he emphasized he kept his distance to not get in anyone’s way. He emphasized building a sustainable winner, but much like Dayton Moore, he refused to say the Royals were going through a rebuild.
“You won’t hear me call it that. I’m going to be managing people. I’ve got high expectations of what we’re going to do. All I see is an opportunity and I truly can’t wait to start talking about the psychology of today. How are we going to win today? And don’t tell me we can’t.”
Matheny praised the culture of the Royals as the reason he was drawn to the organization, a theme that Royals General Manager Dayton Moore also highlighted.
“This position represents each and every one of you in this room. It represents your families. It represents our families. Baseball is not going to remain strong and be the game we enjoy unless we have leaders like Mike Matheny in this game.”
Moore said that potential new owner John Sherman had been involved in the hiring process, with the opportunity to meet with candidates and talk with Matheny several times. Sherman did comment on the hiring in a prepared statement.
“I’ve been well-informed by Dayton and the leadership team about the material activities underway with the club, and have been impressed with the thoughtful, strategic process Dayton has run to get to this important decision.”
Moore also said he hoped the coaching staff would be worked out “rather quickly” with Matheny sitting down with current coaches. Bench coach Dale Sveum had already agreed to a position elsewhere in the organization, and while Moore would not commit to an internal candidate to replace him, he said the team had “very strong candidates internally” Quality control coach Pedro Grifol and bullpen coach Vance Wilson, who were both considered for the managerial position, would seem likely to be candidates for the bench coach role.
Matheny ended his tenure in St. Louis on a sour note, but he continually brought up how much he had learned from his mistakes with a self-reflective tone. “I just want to be better,” he said. “I think complacency is the ultimate killer in this game, and I don’t ever want to fall into that trap.”
“When you’re through learning, you’re through.”