CARDINALS MGR. MIKE MATHENY TALKS WORLD SERIES
October 23, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: Workout Day
Q. In the ALDS and ALCS defensive plays, both positive and negative of nature, swung a couple of games. How good is your team into turning batted balls into outs?
MIKE MATHENY: I think our team has improved very much this year. It's one of the concentrations we had, one of the goals we had going in defensively. I think the guys did a great job, especially some guys in the infield that haven't been in spots they've been in, that they were in all season.
Outfield?wise, I think guys are better than what they're given credit for. There's always room for improvement. There's going to be some challenges here. It's been part of the conversation since we knew we were going to play Boston. Veteran guys who played in the American League and played in this park, talked about some of the nuances here and things to expect. There's going to be a learning curve.
Q. We don't want to throw the "dynasty" word around too much, but it is what it is. If the Red Sox win '04, '07, '13, if you guys win, '06, '11, '13. Pretty impressive runs for both teams already for both teams, and a pretty impressive run for whatever team wins this World Series. As a manager and a guy who played with the Cardinals also in '04, how special is it to be a part of this? You have two flagship franchises battling for the World Series?
MIKE MATHENY: Two historic franchises with a lot of history and a lot of success. You know, we take a lot of pride in what has been able to kind of define the Cardinal way and how we go about our business. And part of that is the Hall of Famers we see around our park all the time, the people who remember all the great championships.
But we also realize what we're about right now. We've got to focus on what we need to do, and not anything beyond that. And it's one game at a time. We've been very consistent with that. But realizing, too, you give credit. You give credit where it's due, and this team in Boston has done some amazing things to make this happen this year and in the past. Some of us have some pretty bad memories of being here in 2004, and we're looking to kind of right that ship.
But the team in '04 we played was as hot as any team in baseball. And they came in and played the kind of baseball that we needed to and we didn't. It's about execution, and that's what we're going to get focused on now.
Q. Standard usually is that a manager takes over a rebuilding job. You came into a championship team. I'm wondering if you could put into perspective what problems you faced with that and how you overcame it?
MIKE MATHENY: Problems on the first day or ??
Q. No, just problems in general.
MIKE MATHENY: Every day there is, and still is. And we take a lot of pride in trying to do things right, and with that comes a high responsibility for living up to that. And I think in this position as manager there's just going to be issues that come up every single day. And part of that is what I enjoy doing, it's going through life with these guys. Because these guys are men, not machines, and life hits them. And you continue to try and push through and be able to be productive when you get to the field every day.
But as far as walking into a team that had just won the World Series, I don't know if you could ask for a better situation. You have a group of guys, one, who are talented, obviously, but experienced, as well. And you're able to walk in and put a lot of pressure on them to help pick up the slack. I didn't come in expecting to ever replace a Hall of Fame?caliber manager like Tony LaRussa. I came in to do what I could do and let these guys know that we're going to do a lot of learning along the way. I need you guys to step up, just like I need the staff to step up. And both the guys and the staff were able to do so to address the problems as they came.
Q. Where do you see Allen Craig now being able to possibly play in the field when the series moves to St. Louis? And having him and Matt Adams, does that address the DH deficit that NL teams seem to have in the World Series?
MIKE MATHENY: First of all, we haven't even announced that Allen is going to be active on that roster, but we'll go ahead and do that. Allen ended up passing his last test today. He went out and ran the bases and has hit live. We're anxious to have him back, even though we felt fortunate that Matt Adams has been able to do what he's doing.
Yes, that gives us more depth. We have a couple of hitters that we'd love to have in the lineup, and actually all season long we were in that situation, where we had a Matt Adams and Allen Craig and sometimes a Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, that we were switching around, trying to find playing time for all those bats. But right now we feel comfortable with Allen as a DH. Once we get back to St. Louis we'll reevaluate, but we anticipate him being able to pinch?hit. But if he continues to progress and things look differently, we could make that change. But right now we're pretty happy with Matt Adams at first base.
Q. When a team is successful year after year you pick lower and lower in the draft each year, and yet you guys, it doesn't seem to stop you at all from finding these great pitchers, a lot of them coming up in just the last several years. Could you give your thoughts on how you've been able to do that.
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, a lot of credit needs to go to our scouts, obviously, and our system. They have a plan in place of what they're looking for. And even to go a step further with that is to be able to bring the right kind of people, one that buys into our philosophy as a club. Kids that are ready. And Michael Wacha is a great example of that. How many kids are you able to pull out of college and 18 months later be able to throw them into a pennant rush and be there for the push and stand up and be ready to contribute.
But a lot of that credit needs to go to our development system. We get these guys who are obviously talented, but there are very many talented players out there, but not many of them can handle all the distractions that come with being on a Big League team and pitching staff, let alone the pressure of being on one in the postseason.
But there's a lot of moving parts. And I credit our organization and it starts at the top with the level of expectation from our ownership, all down through our front office. By the time we get them, we're fortunate that we have kids that show up ready to go. And we're not afraid to put them in there. Fortunately for us we're able to have some openings towards the end of the season and these young guys stepped in. They're not just fillers, they took advantage of it and took control and said this is the job I want.
Q. Kind of building on that, and sort of a two?part question. You've got several young guys on your team now in key spots. What is it about them that allows them to maintain their composure. What are some of the pros and cons of youth versus veteran experience?
MIKE MATHENY: I'd say the first part of that, kind of answered already, I think it's just part of their makeup, one. I think that some kids have it, some don't. Some is developed over time and then they're ready.
I'd say the biggest piece of this really and what has been making these kids flourish at this level is the fact that we have a culture here with our veterans that's different from a lot of other teams I've seen. These kids, they're put in their place; they know they're rookies. I saw Michael Wacha out there shagging the bucket today. That's not a very dubious job, but he knows his place. But the guys are also real quick to take him in and talk to him, and show him and make him feel like when they show up here, they're ready to contribute. Not that they've got to earn their stripes out on the field. They put their time in, but it's a situation where guys are constantly teaching. That's a Carlos Beltran and Yadi Molina, and Wainwright and Carpenter and Westbrook and Holliday, where you constantly see these guys off to the side talking baseball. And they believe they have that responsibility to give back.
As far as a benefit, we always talk about the experience that we've had and how many guys have been able to be in this situation and not just be here, but have had success here. And that means a lot. But also realizing every time we get one of these young kids out there, it's for their betterment, personally, and also for our club down the road. But right now I think they've done a nice job of listening to the veterans to say, hey, stick with what we've done so far. We trust in each other. We trust in our stuff. We trust in our talent level. And we don't need to do any more than that. And that's a pretty comforting thought going into the postseason.
Q. Along those lines, Carlos Martinez seems to have come along at a fast pace, what are your thoughts on his progress and what has he meant to you guys?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we needed somebody to step up. We had a little bit of a change at the back end, and we needed Trevor Rosenthal to get to the 9th, and somebody has to be able to get the ball to him. It typically isn't something you expect a winning team to do in September, but we were in a spot. We needed somebody, just like we said earlier, here's an opportunity, who is going to run with it? We put Carlos in some pretty high leverage situations and he did well. Next thing you know a higher leverage position opened up, and we put him in there and he continued to do well. And I think that's typically how most of these guys get the opportunity, and it's a matter of what they do with it.
Carlos has electric stuff, there's no question about that. But he is an incredible advocate behind the plate. How this all started, it happened in Milwaukee where Carlos came in to close out a game and the first couple of pitches didn't look right. Yadi quickly went out there and had a couple of things to say, and had some force behind him. The next thing you know, there's no turning back. And that sort of advocate goes along with what we said earlier how our veterans are real quick to pick up the slack and figure out where these guys need help, where they need a kick and a pat on the back.
They've done a real nice job working together, and Carlos has taken advantage whenever he's been given an opportunity.
Q. How have you lined up your rotation behind Waino?
MIKE MATHENY: Right now we've talked about Waino going Game 1 and Michael Wacha is going Game 2.
Q. Can you talk about the Red Sox, what's their strengths, and what will be the key in defeating them?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, I think it's a team that's very similar to ours. They take a lot of pride in grinding at?bats. It's funny listening to their interviews, all the way through this?? we've paid attention to all these teams. It's been great baseball to watch for people that just love the game. But you hear some of the things that they say, and it's a lot of similar things that have been preached in our clubhouse about that it's about team; it's not about us individually. And grinding out at?bats and playing tough, playing hard, playing all the way through nine. Those are the things that I believe set good teams apart, and that's what they're all about.
We know this is a scrappy team that's going to come out, but they have every component they need to win. They've shown it all season long. They've been the best record in the American League for a reason. So we've got to very similar teams in my opinion. It's a matter of who goes out and jumps on the opportunity.
Q. What's your take on Lester and how do you work against him with all the postseason experience he's had?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, we faced a lot of good pitching lately, just like they have. To get to this point in the season, you haven't had any half?steppers. So we know that he's going to come in and he's going to have his game ready and he's going to be on top of it. He's a big game pitcher. But once again we faced some really good ones so far, and been able to put together a good game plan. It's just a matter of guys making the needed adjustments and have a good plan as we head out there. We know this is the kind of guy that thrives in these situations. But we believe we have an offense that can thrive in it also.
Q. How much does Shelby Miller have in the tank? With Wacha, did his time in the bullpen totally prevent you from any concerns with him or was there some of that at any point?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, as far as Shelby, Shelby is ready to go. We threw a simulated game the other day, he looked very good. We're able to use him as needed.
As far as Michael Wacha goes, I really do give a lot of credit to our front office. They put a plan together early on. When I saw Michael early in spring, we had a couple of opportunities to put somebody in our pen, and I was ready to run with Michael right away. But a kid just out at that point, not even a year out of college, we had to be careful. So it was a plan that we stuck to and John Mozeliak and the staff did a great job of allowing us at times. We would push him, and then back him off. He went into a six?man rotation, he was in the bullpen. Not to the point that we were being arrogant thinking that we would be right here right now, but we wanted to be prepared. If we did bring Michael up at the end and he threw the ball well, and he deserved get a start, we wouldn't be concerned with innings, and right now we're happy where we are.
Q. With Allen on the roster, I wondered what that did for the makeup of the rest of it, if you stuck with the same number of pitchers and the same number of bats. And also when you look at tomorrow in your lineup, what consideration goes into centerfield, and how Shane Robinson is playing in the last series may impact that?
MIKE MATHENY: Well, our pitching roster will stay the same, which means we need to make one change, and that will be Adron Chambers will come out for Craig to come on.
As far as our lineup goes, we'll post that tomorrow. But we have a lot of confidence in all of our guys. Shane does a nice job in centerfield. Did a great job in that last game of the NLCS, and Jon Jay has been a staple for us all season long. We'll post that tomorrow. But we have faith in everybody.
Q. Can you think of that moment earlier this year when it was clear to you that the sharp, healthy Adam Wainwright was back, and what has his stability meant?
MIKE MATHENY: I think the point was Spring Training, and that really falls in line with the typical process for that rehab for that surgery. We threw him into a situation last year where he was much better than anybody anticipated and was able to throw more than what many people thought he would. But he was just a lot of times just trying to fight his way through it, even last year in the postseason. This year he showed up a little more crisp, a little more life on the ball, and that breaking ball had a completely different look to it than what it did last year.
It shouldn't have been a surprise. It takes time when you have that radical surgery to be able to get back to normal. And he has been very, very impressive to watch, CyYoung?caliber season. Had a couple of rough starts in the middle. But consistent as you could possibly be. Now that he's gone, I can talk nice about him. I'll tell you, there couldn't be a better ace for a club. The combination of he and a Chris Carpenter, who is still so valuable for us. When you start talking about all the young talent that we bring in the club, if you don't have a couple of guys standing at the top telling them and showing them how it's supposed to be done, you're set up for failure.
Hopefully these young guys, we've told them a lot, and I think they do get it, they should be grateful that they have the example of Adam Wainwright to lead this club.
Q. With nine years since the '04 World Series, what, if anything, stands out to you about that? Obviously the games weren't very competitive. But you did have a great season. What do you remember most about those four games?
MIKE MATHENY: I don't remember them not being competitive. But I do remember we had a very tough series against Houston, and went to Game 7 with a very good club. And it was a knock?down, drag?out fight. It was pretty much a whirlwind by the time we ended there and got here to Boston. And next thing you know, we're down two games and didn't even know what happened. And that was a team that didn't happen to very often. It was a very good team that walked on the field expecting to win. And next thing you know we ran into a buzz saw. You look at what that '04 Boston team did just to get there. It was an incredible run to get through the Yankees at the end, and we just couldn't stop them.
It was a lesson learned, not that you our team at that point was half?stepping or we weren't prepared, but we just hadn't been hit like that all season long. So it was a little bit of a shocker.
What that translates into now, a lot like how we talked about last year standing in San Francisco, Game 7 and watching those guys celebrate, realizing how quickly it can get away from you. I think that's the message we have again this year, is just the urgency, first pitch. This is a team that's going to fight us the whole way, too, so I expect a good heavyweight bout.
Q. Why has Trevor Rosenthal made a pretty seamless transition from set?up man to closer the last few weeks?
MIKE MATHENY: I think more than anything he trusts his stuff. And he's got quite a few guys around here who have been able to do both, as a set?up man, as a closer, as a previous starter, to give them an idea of what he needs to do, and what he needs to do is throw the 9th exactly like he's throwing the 8th. There really shouldn't be more put on it. Trevor is a smart kid, he's been able to put that and translate that and then go out and not try to do anything more. Just like when we come here, there's a message we're talking to the guys about: Play the game the exact the same way. You don't try to turn it up another notch for the World Series. We've been playing as hard as we could since the first game they've let us play, and we're going to play that way all the way until they take it away.
But we know that it's consistent with what we've been talking about all season long. Just do what you know how to do, nothing more.
Q. Speaking of 2004 I was wondering how your accommodations are this time around?
MIKE MATHENY: I think we were staying in Connecticut last time. Boston is a beautiful city, especially this time of year. And I think we're all very happy to stay nice and close this time. It was about an $80 cab ride in '04.
It's a great city we're looking forward to coming to. It's kind of fun watching a lot of these young players that have never seen Fenway Park. So much nostalgia and history here. Watching them to go about it the first time. They all went out early, just like a bunch of kids, as soon as they got off the bus or the cab, they went straight out in the stands and looked around. It's a great experience.
The atmosphere here, we know it's going to be wild and loud, and that's exactly what we want. That's exactly what you would hope for in a World Series setting. I know everybody is looking forward to it.
Q. Two questions for you: First, to what lengths will you go to make sure that David Ortiz doesn't beat you? Second of all, you do a good job shaving, I was going to ask you what you think about the beards and whether your guys might be intimidated by the beards?
MIKE MATHENY: If they're intimidated by the beards, we're in trouble.
As far as their players, we have the most respect for anybody that gets to this level, let alone ones who have had long careers and great success, and then great success this time of year and on the big stage in a big situation. So we're prepared for every one of their guys to have a good game plan, and hopefully we can execute the pitches when we need to. And we don't slight any of them. And we know that anybody can come up big this time of year. Some of them do it on a little more consistent basis, and you've got to play pretty close attention.
Q. Koji Uehara strike percentage was 74 percent and is 79 percent in the postseason. What do you think of guy that's throwing 8 of 10 pitches for strikes with that plus splitter?
MIKE MATHENY: If he's coming into the zone, then you've probably got something to hit, as long as you stay within yourself and are able to adapt. But you're watching some very good players take some awkward swings, so there's more deception than what it appears, especially watching it on film or on TV live.
So you start looking at the matchups, there's very few players on either club who have seen a lot of the other. It's going to be adjusting on the fly. And you're going to go up there and the first time see a pitch that looks a little different to you. This game is about making adjustments and adapting. The good players do it quickly. The great ones do it even quicker. So hopefully our guys are able to get a look, stay with the plan, stick with it and trust themselves. It's happened to us, once again. All season long, we've run into guys who have had a lot of success, and who have had a lot of different successes as far as being able to get swing and misses. We have to be able to stay on top of it.
Q. A lot has been made of an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar venue. The Red Sox seem to play the game at a little slower pace. Hitters tend to step out. Is that an adjustment in any way for you guys or something that you have to deal with or is it just another part of the game?
MIKE MATHENY: Yeah, just every team we play it seems to be a little bit different philosophy. But once again, right now I think one of the biggest things for our club is to eliminate distractions. And keep away from getting away from what we're good at. What we're good at is staying within ourselves, regardless of what the other club does, and stick with our strengths. And the guys have done a nice job. We've had plenty of opportunities to have distractions, and the guys have done a real nice job of staying the course.
So this is going to be another test. And hopefully they're ready for it.
Q. What do you like about the way John Farrell goes about his business? You guys are sort of both low?key guys. Do you see a little bit of yourself in John Farrell?
MIKE MATHENY: I don't want to insult him (laughter).
No, I have used that word "respect", but I don't throw it out loosely. We watch the way a team goes about their business. We watch the way the managers and how the team carries themselves, an extension of the manager.
Just listening, once again, to some of the interviews of the guys that are with him every day, you can get your opinions as a fan or even as the media, but the guys who see him all spring, all season long, to hear some of the things that they're saying about him, you can tell he's made an impact. He's made an impact obviously not just on the wins and losses, but on the guys individually. If you have an opportunity as a leader and as a manager to step in and influence them not just professionally, but personally, as well, and put these guys in a situation where they can succeed, and they buy into the selflessness, which is so contradictory to how this game operates with stats, numbers and salaries, he's done that. I don't know what more you can ask from a guy, especially coming off a season that Boston had last year, to be able to turn things around that quickly, just nothing but compliments.