Cards take calculated risk with Matheny

As a player, Mike Matheny was a smart, heady catcher who studied the game. AP Photo/James A. Finley

As a player, Mike Matheny was known as a gutsy and heady catcher who played and studied the game as if he were a manager already. Though just a .239 career hitter, Matheny must have hit it out of the park in his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals, who will introduce the 41-year-old as their new manager Monday.

I mention the interview simply because what managing experience is there on which to judge Matheny’s hire? He has no managerial experience at any level, having only served as the Cardinals’ roving catching instructor the past two years. He beat out other candidates with extensive coaching and/or managing experience, including Terry Francona, Ryne Sandberg, Chris Maloney, Joe McEwing and Cards third-base coach Jose Oquendo.

Matheny is the second manager to be hired this season despite bringing no experience to the table, after the Chicago White Sox hired Robin Ventura last month. But like the White Sox, Matheny brings prior knowledge and rapport -- and most importantly, trust -- with team management.

What Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and general manager John Mozeliak have done is set up their team long-term and for that, Matheny works perfectly. The Cardinals can position Matheny for a long tenure. He is only the Cards’ second manager since 1996, when Tony La Russa took control. But with La Russa now gone, Mozeliak is clearly established as the team’s full authority figure.

Though in the short term there remain questions about Matheny's lack of experience.