Prior to Friday’s series opener in Philadelphia, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stepped back and talked about the 2014 season to date.
With respect to his team’s March-April, during which the Cardinals played just one game over .500 and fell as much as 6 ½ games behind the fast-starting Milwaukee Brewers, Matheny feels his team had been set up with elevated expectations.
“We were tested right out of the gates with everybody expecting us to take off in the National League and especially in our division,” Matheny said. “That is not a fair assumption to make and we made that very clear in spring training. We’ve got to go out regardless of what people expect. That can be a distraction.
“We’ve just got to go out and play the game and don't discredit these other teams. Talk about the Reds, talk about Pittsburgh, talk about Milwaukee. We knew coming in that they were going to be very good teams and we were going to go 162 and fight our way through this,” he said.
The Cards skipper noted the relative inexperience in his starting eight as a factor possibly not fully considered in those elevated expectations.
“Also, let’s be realistic,” the manager continued. “In left field, we’ve got a veteran. We’ve got a fairly young centerfielder. A rookie in right. A guy in his second year at first. A rookie at second base. You’ve got a veteran (at shortstop) and a guy who is really coming off his first year as an established guy at third base. And when everything is right, we have a veteran behind the plate. That is a lot of young players.”
While Matheny did not go through his pitchers man by man, he noted that late season success in 2013 should not be assumed in 2014.
“Then you go into our pitching staff as well,” he said. “A lot of guys, yes, had success last year in October. But that is not where a lot of people put them. That doesn’t necessarily translate into success the next year because they had a good September-October.”
“In the mix of it, we had a lot of people jump off our ship… People writing us off. That is something that a good team thrives on." - Mike Matheny
The manager implies some of his players may have felt the expectations, but believes it can be a learning and growth opportunity.
“I think a lot of undue pressure is put on these guys,” Matheny noted. “Once again, I think is a way for you define yourself as a club and we are still growing. Young guys are learning. Veterans are leading.”
Using criticism directed at his club as a positive motivator, Matheny sees a unified team coming from it.
“In the mix of it, we had a lot of people jump off our ship…,” he observed. “People writing us off. That is something that a good team thrives on. This team has been very resilient, locked arms. I think that is what they do in tough times.”
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