You learn a lot about your blind date when the first thing your friend mentions is his or her personality.
You learn what they don’t have.
And that’s akin to what people aren’t saying when they quickly defend Mike Matheny’s managerial skills by referencing what a great leader he is.
Is he? That seems reasonable, but how would I know? How do you know?
It’s not that I find it hard to believe. It’s that I find it marginally relevant to a professional baseball team.
Were Yadi and Holliday wayward spirits in need of direction before Matheny took the reigns? Did Jhonny Peralta receive inspiring emails from Matheny when he starred in Cleveland and Detroit? What did Brandon Moss extract from Matheny’s leadership after having played a decade under Terry Francona, Clint Hurdle, Charlie Manuel, and Bob Melvin?
I certainly don’t blame Matheny for a lack of leadership when I see Carlos Martinez flipping the bird at the Rockies dugout like a petulant child, so it’s hard for me to credit him for Matt Carpenter’s daily professionalism.
I don’t think this clubhouse, sans Matheny, would morph into a drunken toga party.
We love to associate wins with leadership. “They did a lot of winning on his watch.” But association is not causation. Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals won pennants in ’82, ’85, and ’87, and were below .500 in ’83, ’86, and ’88. Are we to believe that his ability to lead fluctuated?
Is Terry Collins not a good leader? Joe Maddon? Buck Showalter of the sub-.500 Orioles? Is the list of MLB managers who aren’t “good leaders” a long one? It would have to be, for me to assume all of this suggested value from Matheny’s leadership.
I agree that Mike seems to be a good leader–we saw signs of that in his playing career.
But even his staunch defenders have made this much abundantly clear about his tactical managing: he’s a good leader.