Mike Matheny is the new Royals skipper, with the club introducing him to the media last Thursday. While hiring was predicted by many for weeks - even months going back to when Matheny was first hired by the Royals as a special advisor - his remarks gave some media members more to digest as Matheny takes on his first managerial job since being dismissed after six and a half seasons with the Cardinals. Here is a round-up of reactions.
Jeffrey Flanagan got the reaction from several players on the hire, including Danny Duffy.
“I really look forward to working with him,” Duffy said by phone. “The things I’ve heard about him are good, that he sticks up for his players.
“And the bottom line is if Dayton is for him, we’re for him. Dayton isn’t going to bring anyone in that isn’t the right guy. I have faith in that.”
Vahe Gregorian sees the potential for growth in Matheny.
“You want them living in that tension” to perform, he said, though qualifying that by saying, “It comes back to trying to build trust. And it’s easier sometimes than others.”
For that matter, he said, “There’s a fight in me, too, that I can’t get rid of.”
But it’s a spirit that by all indications he’s willing to try to harness and direct in a fresh way as someone who believes one of his greatest gifts is how much he cares about people and relationships.
And if we can’t believe in growth and new beginnings and learning and development, at least unless proven otherwise, geez, what’s life all about, anyway?
Alec Lewis at The Athletic talked to Matheny’s predecessor Tony LaRussa about how Matheny learned on the job in St. Louis.
“When he started managing — and I think it’s happened to a lot of guys after Mike — he didn’t really have experience pulling the trigger,” La Russa said. “And that is a big disadvantage because no matter how much you’ve paid attention, when you’re the guy in the end that said, ‘I’m going to make that move, I’m going to make this move,’ rather than saying, ‘If it’s me, I’d do that,’there’s an art to that. And you have to learn how not to get distracted, how to keep your focus and so forth. To all of us, if you look at his record (591-474), including me at this point, I’d take his winning percentage right now.
“I think he came in there with a lot of leadership as a team, a lot of respect points. And he learned on the job as far as being the final decision-maker.”
Sam Mellinger dismisses many of the criticisms of Mike Matheny, but does see one potential issue.
The general summary could be paraphrased that Matheny is a good baseball man with deep passion and the chance to be really good if he cleans up some rough edges after being fired from a job he was too young and inexperienced for in the first place.
For the last year, the Royals have lived with Matheny, and they now have an intimate view of his growth and weaknesses and strengths. Again, that can be great.
The potential problem — and this came from that same group of baseball people — is if Moore felt such a deep connection with Matheny that he simply saw what he wanted and ignored all red flags.
Clint Scoles at Royals Academy isn’t too worried about clubhouse issues under Matheny.
Many others will also point to the Bud Norris/Jordan Hicks story again and that a manager shouldn’t foster that type of environment in a clubhouse for young players. Especially a team like the Royals who will be embarking on a youth movement in the coming years. This is a good point but I feel Dayton Moore pays pretty good attention to the clubhouse and will have his finger on the pulse as much as Matheny in those terms. Additionally, Danny Duffy as one of the final veterans, if Alex Gordon should retire, will have quite a bit of control over the clubhouse and he won’t allow that type of behavior. As the game evolves more into a younger game I would expect a lot of that activity to subside on its own.
Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if we’ll see a different Matheny than they saw in St. Louis.
During some close games, he’d make double-switches to take key sluggers out of the lineup; and other times, he’d keep a struggling slugger in the lineup, for long stretches, hoping the guy could get a hold of one (most famously – or infamously – Brandon Moss in September 2016).
In the end, things didn’t end well. Managers are hired to be fired. Very rarely do you have a Tony La Russa situation, in which a skipper’s final game is a World Series win. Matheny was let go in the middle of the 2018 season, and one figured he’d end up in a dugout again, but not one of a team that’s rebuilding like the Royals.
But he’ll have his chance to mold men and make men. Maybe that aspect of managing, which he didn’t have as much in St. Louis, with a club coming off the 2011 title, will bring out parts of Matheny we didn’t always see.
Bernie Miklasz of 101 ESPN in St. Louis, was critical of Matheny, but thinks he can work in Kansas City if he adjusts.
Even though St. Louis is a famously soft sports-media market, the pressure of having to win wasn’t easy for Matheny. His 2016 and 2017 teams didn’t make the playoffs. The 2018 team was wallowing before his dismissal. And after the rival Cubs hired Joe Maddon as manager, Maddon took on the alpha dog persona and intimidated Matheny. All of this made Matheny a very uncomfortable skipper.
I assume Matheny will have more patience and tolerance for the Royals’ young players, and the KC-bound prospects that will soon graduate to the majors. He has no choice, right?
In his second chance as a big-league manager, I assume and hope that Matheny will be more diligent and honest about examining his own work, recognizing his flaws, and learning from past mistakes. The necessity of conducting a thorough self-inspection didn’t hold much interest for Matheny during his final two or three years in St. Louis.
Michael Huckins at Kings of Kauffman thinks the hire may not be as bad as people may think.
Today we can only hope that Matheny has learned from his mistakes as a manager. That he is humble enough and smart enough to understand what he needs to do differently this time around. He has certainly suggested that he was responsible for the team’s failures during his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ultimately, the success of this team will be decided more by Dayton Moore’s decisions in player personnel than by his choice of manager.
The takes on Twitter were a bit more critical.
It appears that Mike Matheny is such an unpopular hire that my "I'd like to hear him talk and even see him work before making a call" take is controversial.— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) October 31, 2019
It's great that Matheny admits he needs to improve when it comes to media relations and analytics. But those were not his biggest weaknesses.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) November 1, 2019
My biggest worry is simply, can he nurture and develop young players? Yost was great at that. Matheny was not.https://t.co/lPDYe8G9ZV
Matheny really is the perfect fit for the Royals. Everything will be done blandly by-the-book, in generic 1982 GM style, and there won't be any dangerous imagination or creativity to thwart Moore's mediocre plans.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) October 31, 2019
Royals fans get the biggest scare of all on Halloween.— Chris Cwik (@Chris_Cwik) October 31, 2019
Lot of responses to Mike Matheny being hired as the #Royals manager. Ned Yost wasn't exactly a popular choice. He was fired in a playoff race in Milwaukee. Matheny made serious mistakes in STL. We all grow and learn in our lives and try to get better. I'm willing to wait and see.— Brad Porter (@bradkporter) October 31, 2019
Pete Grathoff has a round-up of fan reactions. Here are a few more:
Mike Matheny was named Royals' Manager. https://t.co/WfqCdxf1xe— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) October 31, 2019
I really don’t like the Royals hiring Mike Matheny at all, but I am more than happy to be proven wrong. pic.twitter.com/oNGEZ1PFPl— Jeremy Scheuch (@jeremyscheuch) October 31, 2019
Contrarian opinion: Mike Matheny might be a pretty good manager for the Royals. Sometimes managing is as much about the team you're running as it is about the skills a manager has or doesn't have.— Chris H (@ChrisHornb) October 31, 2019
Very excited for this next chapter of #Royals baseball. Welcome, Mike Matheny!— Clubhouse Convo (@royalsclubhouse) October 31, 2019
Mike Matheny will be a better manager for the Royals than Carlos Beltran will be for the Mets.— Nate Cosby (@natecosby) November 1, 2019
Now that you’ve had some time to digest the Matheny hire, what do you think?