Kudos to Mike Matheny for reaching 1,000 games as the Cardinals’ manager. This is no minor milestone. Making it to 1,000 is an achievement that should be noted and commended.
Professional baseball has been around since 1876, with Major League Baseball officially forming in 1903. Matheny is only the 134th manager to have 1,000 or more games next to his name.
I’d like to share some thoughts and facts on this; all games-managed totals are through May 1.
# I was surprised by the relatively large number of active managers that have the pass code to the 1,000 Club. There are 13 including Matheny. And we can make it 14 managers if we count Reds interim skipper Jim Riggleman (1,498 games.) The other 12 are Bruce Bochy (3,738 games), Mike Scioscia (2,945), Buck Showalter (2,936), Terry Francona (2,780), Clint Hurdle (2,323), Ned Yost (2,249), Ron Gardenhire (2,135), Bob Melvin (2,101), Joe Maddon (2,023), Bud Black (1,559), John Gibbons (1,449) and Don Mattingly (1,161.)
# The only three from that group that have managed all of their games with one team are Matheny, Scioscia (Angels), and Gibbons (Blue Jays). But Gibbons has been Toronto’s manager in two separate stints, from 2004-2008 and then 2013 to present day. Matheny and Gibbons are still trying to win their first World Series titles for the only team they’ve managed. Scioscia did that in 2002, leading the Angels over the Giants in a seven-game World Series.
# Longevity isn’t guaranteed to translate into high-level success. Far from it. Of the 134 men in baseball history with at least 1,000 games managed 75 never won a World Series … and of the 75 that didn’t a World Series, 46 never won a league pennant.
# Of the 14 active managers with 1,000 games on their managerial resumes, Matheny ranks No. 1 with a .560 winning percentage, followed by Francona (.539), Scioscia (.539), Maddon (.539), Mattingly (.528) and Showalter (.513.) Matheny deserves credit, of course. But this is also true: All situations are different and require context. Managers that have taken on rebuilding situations or who work for lower-payroll teams face a more difficult challenge in crafting an impressive winning percentage.
# Among the 14 active managers, here’s how they rank for career postseason victories: Bochy 44, Francona 40, Maddon 32, Yost 22, Scioscia 21 and Matheny 21. Bochy (3), Francona (2), Maddon (1), Yost (1) and Scoscia have won at least one World Series. This group has won 14 league pennants, with Bochy (4), Francona (3), Yost (2) and Maddon (2) leading the pack. Matheny, Hurdle and Scioscia each have one pennant.
# Just an opinion, not a fact: in my view the two managers that have the most similar job security because of loyal ownership support are … drum roll … Scoscia and Matheny. Both were distinguished catchers during their big-league careers. Both were hired as big-league managers (and by their current teams) at age 41. Both had early success on the job. Scioscia won the World Series in his third season and followed up by guiding the Halos into the playoffs in six of the next eight seasons. Matheny led the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first four years and won the NL pennant in his third season. Both have encountered difficulty in sustaining the success… especially Scioisia. His Angels missed making the playoffs in seven of the previous eight seasons (through 2017) and Matheny hasn’t made the postseason since 2015. More than anything, Scioscia have the firm backing of owners who adore them: Arte Moreno in Anaheim, and Bill DeWitt Jr. in St. Louis.
# For all of the praise he’s garnered through the years, Showalter hasn’t won a World Series or a pennant and has a postseason record of 9-14. Black and Riggleman have never won a postseason game. Gardenhire (who had some success with the Twins) hasn’t won a World Series or pennant and is 6-21 in the postseason.
# So many acclaimed managers, even Hall of Fame managers, never won a World Series despite managing more than 1,000 games. This isn’t meant as a complete list but some of the notables that jump out at me include Gene Mauch, Al Lopez, Charlie Grimm, Hughie Jennings, Paul Richards.
# On the flip side, you have to wonder why guys such as Jeff Torborg and Eric Wedge — and I could name quite a few others — kept getting enough jobs to roll past 1,000 career games as managers.
# Much has been made of Matheny’s superior winning percentage to Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa during each of their terms in office as Cards’ manager. Matheny’s success can stand on its own merits. It is a very good record, obviously. Matheny took over a team that had a .544 winning percentage (4th in MLB) won 50 postseason games (No. 2 MLB) and captured three NL pennants and two World Series flags between 1996-2011. Herzog took over a team that had a .488 winning percentage over a 12-season stretch, which ranked 12th among the 24 MLB franchises at the time. And the Cardinals went from 1969 through 1981 without competing in the postseason until winning the World Series in Herzog’s second full season as manager. And La Russa took over a team that was 20th in winning percentage (.489) among 26 franchises from 1988 and 1995, and no playoff appearances over that time.
Unless something truly drastic occurs, I firmly believe Matheny has many more years to go as the Cardinals’ manager. He’ll keep moving up the charts for games managed, games won.
Thanks for reading.