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101ESPN’s Top 10 Stories of ’17: MLS Gets Voted Down and Matheny Can’t Catch a Break

Poor Mike Matheny. The Cardinals skipper can’t even catch a break deep in the offseason, three months removed from coaching a game. But that’s St. Louis for you and Cardinal Nation isn’t likely to ease up anytime soon judging by our most-read stories from 2017.

Granted, when the Cardinals aren’t cutting the mustard there will be columnists and talking heads writing and discussing what the problems are…And the buck often stops with the manager no matter what town you’re in.

A couple slips of the tongue didn’t help Matheny, but we live in an age where word spreads quickly and viciously no matter our words’ intent. This goes doubly for an embattled baseball skipper who speaks to the media literally almost everyday of the playing season.

But even with the Cards’ “meh” season encompassing so much of our local sports lives, it wasn’t enough to take the top spot on our list. That honor went to the proposed St. Louis MLS expansion and eventual city vote that killed it.

Without further ado, here be our top 10 stories of 2017 based on our loyal readers’ clicks:

10. Note to Mike Matheny From a ‘Bitter’ Fan: You Aren’t Managing the 2011 Cardinals

One of Matheny’s Freudian slips came in August when he said some Cards fans were “just so bitter” during a pregame presser.

“Just the general baseball fans, it’s a shame when they make up their mind and make strong statements about where our club’s going to go,” Matheny said at the time. “Because they don’t get to be really an active part of when something really cool happens.”

Well, nothing really cool happened and Bernie Miklasz wrote the above column to “The Beloved Leader of Men,” reminding him he wasn’t managing the 2011 miracle Cardinals.

Key Quote: “It’s funny how Matheny is always so positive, and thinks the Satan-controlled media is so negative — but he has no problem questioning the loyalty of fans who are grumbling over an uninspired, underachieving, self-tripping, self-defeating baseball team.”

9. Cardinals’ Young Hitters Must Go to Memphis for Help Because the Big-League Staff Can’t Fix Them

One unfortunate trend this past Cardinals season was that of young hitters struggling in St. Louis and thus being sent to Memphis to try and correct things. Aledmys Diaz, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Adams all took the STL-to-Memphis bus and Bernie couldn’t help but wonder why the MLB coaching staff wasn’t having any luck. His logic was sound.

Key Quote: “One would think that  big-league  hitting coaches would be able to get these guys right. They are paid like big-league coaches. They’re in the big leagues because they’re supposed to have the aptitude to effectively coach players. Especially young players, and/or struggling hitters.”

8. If Mike Matheny Loses Yadier Molina’s Loyalty, the Manager Is In Danger of Losing the Clubhouse

Freudian slip No. 2 came less than a week before Matheny’s “bitter fans” comment, but the skipper was in the right for sitting Yadier Molina in favor of Carson Kelly for a late-July game in Arizona. Matheny implied Yadi looked tired and was probably correct, but the catcher wasn’t thrilled and publicly rebutted his manager the next day.

Bernie sided with Matheny in his eventual write-up of the incident, but still warned of the danger involved with potentially losing Yadi’s loyalty.

Key Quote: “When Molina rips his manager in a public forum as the first option for communication, that tells me there’s a problem. It also leads me to believe that at least some of this players’ frustration with Matheny has been bubbling under the surface; Molina opened the steam valve.”

7. A Look at Mike Matheny’s Comical, Perplexing Use of Alternative Facts

Gotta love it when the current political lingo starts permeating sports headlines…In this case Bernie used the Trump White House’s “alternative facts” term in describing Matheny’s words during a preseason interview with 101ESPN guest host Mark Saxon.

Key Quote: “Mike Matheny. The same guy who unnecessarily generated the adversity. Young players don’t need adversity. They need playing time. They need a fair opportunity. They need a manager that won’t give up on them, a manager that doesn’t have double standards or a pro-veteran bias.”

6. Catcher Controversy? Molina Fires Back at Matheny’s Postgame Comments

While No. 8 on this list covered Mike Matheny’s part in his mini feud with Yadier Molina, this item covered part of the catcher’s public response: an Instagram capture of Matheny’s comments along with a non-subtle reply.

“I train to play 174 games because that what it takes to be Champion,” Molina rebutted. “I’m not tired and the day I feel tired I’ll express it myself,” he added along with the hashtag “#misinformation” for good measure.

Key Quote: “Don’t tell Yadier Molina he’s tired. He’ll tell you when he’s tired…At least that’s what one can glean from Yadi’s recent Instagram post.”

5. For the Fans Who Want Mike Matheny Fired: It Ain’t Going To Happen

Are you sensing a theme here? Mike Matheny is a polarizing fellow. He has his supporters, but he also has talk-backers calling for his head on just about every local sports outlets social media accounts.

Ours is no different, which is likely what prompted Bernie to write the above column reminding fans their skipper is under contract through 2020 and Bill DeWitt Jr. absolutely believes he’s got the right manager for his club.

Key Quote: “With Matheny, your blood pressure will not drop unless the Cardinals’ revenues drop…And with a $1 billion local-TV windfall coming his way in 2018, DeWitt will be under no financial pressure to give his manager the boot. Matheny will be DeWitt’s manager for a very long time.”

4. The Cardinals Do Nothing at the Deadline. My Stream Of Consciousness Reaction

Speaking of calling for heads,  most Cardinal fans weren’t thrilled the team stood pat at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, declining to add or subtract any pieces. Feelings were mixed all round and Bernie offered his thoughts straight from the brain as it became clear we’d see no new Cardinals at that time.

Key Quote: “I didn’t want to see the Cardinals do something, do anything in a phony display to appease critics. Again, the critics can howl. You’ll receive no pushback from me. But if you believe that owner Bill DeWitt Jr.,  baseball president John Mozeliak or Michael Girsch had to make something-anything happen just to do it, then I can’t agree with you there.”

3. Joe Maddon and the Cubs Have Successfully Intimidated Mike Matheny and the Cardinals

It’s no secret the Cards are no longer the NL Central standard. The dreaded Cubbies have taken the mantle and aren’t looking to let go anytime soon.

This trend began back in the 2015 NLDS between the two clubs and Bernie traced the rivalry with it’s slights through the media, hit batsmen and all back to present day.

It’s a both a well-written column and one which makes a Cardinal fan cringe looking back on the clubs’ position swap.

Key Quote: “Maddon worked on his players’ heads, getting the younger Cubs to believe they could triumph over the Cardinals.  And at the same time, it’s clear to me that Maddon found his way to get inside the Cardinals’ heads. That includes Matheny.”

2. Matheny Stands, Stares and Does Nothing as Wacha and the Cardinals’ Season Blow Up

And speaking of cringing, the Cubs cinched the 2017 NL Central crown at Busch Stadium after clubbing Michael Wacha for five unanswered runs…But don’t blame Wacha here. He pitched great through six innings and carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh before the floodgates opened and the Cards’ season was confirmed null and void.

Mike Matheny stood, stared and did nothing; Bernie wrote about it the next day and you all made it our No. 2 ranked article of 2017.

Key Quote: “Abundant patience can work in May or July. But patience must be discarded when it’s Sept. 27 and your team is up against the odds, battling to survive, and can’t take another hit that will all but snuff the one flickering chance at the playoffs.”

And finally…

1. St. Louis Voters Reject MLS For the Wrong Reasons. And Nothing Will Change In the City

Matheny and the Cardinals get a reprieve — and we were almost starting to feel sorry for them — and the city-wide MLS vote that essentially killed St. Louis’s chances for an expansion team lands the top spot.

It was a polarizing subject and while we may be biased because we’re a sports station, we also felt an MLS stadium and franchise in the Union Station area would have helped our town. Alas, most voters didn’t feel the same and wanted the money to go elsewhere, while those in favor felt another pro team would do nothing but improve St. Louis.

As an avid soccer fan and lover of his hometown, Bernie belonged to the supporters and wrote why those voting down the measure did so for all the wrong reasons.

Key Quote: “But the defeat of Proposition 2 will not prevent one crime, or save one life, or enhance unstable neighborhoods, or reshape public education…It may have made some of you feel good to swat down Prop 2 — but that’s all you did…You blocked our shot. Congratulations, I guess, but in denying Prop 2 you did absolutely nothing to improve city life.”

More: Our Top 17 STL Sports Stories of ’17: Matheny’s Performance and Rams’ Low Ratings