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Books for the Birds: The Matheny Manifesto

51ra6cljqjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Recently, on a road trip from LA to Albuquerque to visit friends and attend the amazing Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, I listened to the Audible audio book of The Matheny Manifesto. I can’t say it really satisfied my thirst for knowledge in the desert, but it was diverting enough to help pass the time.

The book is mostly devoted to Matheny’s philosophies on coaching youth sports, rather than on his professional career. The titular manifesto refers to a letter he wrote to the parents who asked him to coach a team. The letter laid out his rules and the conditions under which he’d accept the job – the main one being that parents had to keep quiet at the games, no criticizing the kids or questioning the coaches, not even any cheering. He makes it clear that he didn’t call the letter a manifesto – the parents pronounced it thus, and it eventually went viral under that name. However, reading the book, you do get the feeling that Matheny has absolute beliefs and doesn’t want to be questioned on anything.

I felt the parts about coaching kids had good insights, but the chapters just went on too long and got very repetitive. The passages about his own childhood and growth as a ballplayer and manager were more interesting to me. I thought he could have gone deeper into his feelings about the concussion that ended his career. The book doesn’t go deep in general when it comes to discussing his relationships with other players or family.  It’s a very surfacey book. It almost reads more like the book proposal than an actual book. And given his strong Christian faith, it’s not surprising that the book often comes across as preachy.

The later chapters that concern Matheny getting the job as Cardinals manager got to be somewhat irritating when he talked about how he had assembled his “personal board of directors” that he consults when he has to make important decisions or needs coaching for big events like his interview with the Cardinals. Everyone on the board is male, not surprisingly. It just seemed kind of egotistical to refer to a “personal board” – why not just say “my friends”? You don’t get the feeling from reading the book that he has friends, other than John Mabry (who helped him coach the youth team before helping him coach the Cardinals). Calling people “my personal board of directors” just makes it seem like a one-way relationship where they are mentoring him.

I was really struck by this passage in Chapter 3, where Matheny talks about “conditional love,” warning that it’s important to treat players well even when they are in a slump.

“What hurts is when an everyday, journeyman player goes on a hot streak or even has an all star half season, suddenly he’s looked at in a different light…maybe he’s developed a fan club or a cheering section, the press has taken a liking to him…for a time, everyone wants a piece of him…then comes the inevitable slump or the player just settles back into his realistic performance level. He’s still a quality ball player, still a big leaguer, still a professional player but because he’s not the standout he was last week, he doesn’t get the same attention from anyone anymore including his manager. Manager, boss, parent, whoever treats a player, a subordinate or a kid that way is exhibiting a simple, shallow personality trait: conditional love. And I don’t know one recipient of it who can’t see right through it.”

Listening to this, I could only think about Brandon Moss, and Matheny’s insistence on keeping him in the lineup during his historic slump in the second half of this season. Now I guess I understand why he did it, but I still don’t think it helped Moss, and it definitely didn’t help the team.

In Chapter 8, Matheny talks about being a kid and being frustrated about lack of playing time one Summer.  He complained to his parents who told him: “Sometimes life isn’t fair, but the coach is the coach and he’s always right, even when he’s wrong.” While first baffled and angry about the comment, Matheny decided to just train harder and ended up getting back in the lineup. Cardinals fans can see this stubbornness in Matheny today, and this year many of us felt frustrated by it. Unfortunately we can’t train harder to change things. All we can do is vent on Twitter.

He talks a lot about his Christian faith and his drive to be kind, never swear, drink or fight. That’s all admirable in life, but there have been times when I think more fire from the manager might have sparked the Cardinals. Matheny lacks the aggressiveness to challenge an umpire to the point of getting tossed and doesn’t seem to want to retaliate when his players get hit by the pitcher (resulting in some key injuries this season). I wouldn’t say nice guys finish last in baseball, but it does seem that having a bit of an edge might be the difference between just contending and winning. La Russa rescued puppies, but he still had the edge!

The audiobook is not read by Mike, but the guy who reads it conveys the appropriate tone of humblebrag. Overall, I found there were enough insights into baseball and anecdotes about managers such as Phil Garner and Tony La Russa and many Cardinals greats like Molina, Pujols, Wainwright to make the book a must-read for Cardinals fans.  It definitely gave me a better undestanding of why Matheny does the sometimes inexplicable things he does. But you may want to skim over a lot of the youth sports stuff. And I wish there was some insight into why changing the lineup everyday is a good thing to do – is that a hold over from coaching little league and making sure everyone gets to play?



Thoughts I Had While Rereading 192 Haikus I Wrote About The Cardinals’ 2016 Season

I’ve been writing haiku summaries of Cardinals games since 2006, on and off – honestly, more off than on. This is the first season where I’ve written a haiku about every single game, including Spring Training – that’s 192 haikus!  I’ve compiled them in a single page: The 2016 Cardinals Season – Every Game in Haiku!

Rereading these haikus, I think they function as a Cliff’s Notes to the season. Some of them are a bit obscure and I don’t remember their context, but they tell me the gist of what went wrong and right this year.

It really hurts to miss the playoffs after making it the past six years, especially when we only missed by one game. Rereading these haikus, I see so many games we lost by a run, or a blown save, or a blown start, or an error, or failure to hit with runners in scoring position. Sad to think if we had won just one more game we would have been in playoff game with the Giants last night.  But I doubt this team would have gone deep into October.


  • Aledmys Diaz – He was certainly a surprise with his early season heroics and off-the-charts hitting. His injury really dampened our playoffs chances. But we will never forget his emotional first ever grand slam, coming just after he lost his childhood best friend Jose Fernandez. That was baseball magic!

9/27/16 – Cards 12, Reds 5

Diaz says he will
play hard to honor Jose,
promptly hits grand slam!


  • Bullpen
    • Seung Hwan Oh – He really rose to the occasion, taking over from Rosenthal as closer and was mostly lights out.  Plus he and his translator Eugene are a fun pair, especially when dressed as Mario and Luigi during rookie hazing.
    • Matt Bowman, Miguel Socolovich, Zach Duke – These guys were pretty solid.


10/1/16 – Cards 4, Pirates 3

Gyorko’s jack wins it!
Holliday and bullpen show
great tenacity.


  • Starting Pitching
    • Carlos Martinez – We owe this guy so much. Looking back at the haikus, I see so many great performances from him where we either didn’t hit or the bullpen blew a lead. I love his passion for the game and his filthy stuff.

      6/11/16 – Cards 5, Pirates 1

      C Mart dazzles, throws
      near-complete game. Holliday
      hits a three-run jack.

    • Alex Reyes – He has amazing stuff and pitched so well in pressure situations toward the end of the season.

      9/18/16 – Cards 3, Giants 0

      A stellar Reyes
      unspools seven shutout frames,
      ensures series split.

    • Luke Weaver – While he had problems, he shows so much promise that I expect him to be a big contributor next year, either as a starter or reliever.
  • Home Runs – I can’t count how many times the words “homer” or “jack” appear in these haikus, because the Cardinals hit so many homers this year. They hit 225 home runs, setting a team record and notching the second most homers in the league after Baltimore. It was so much fun to watch!

    4/8/16 – Cards 7, Braves 4

    First win of the year
    comes with MLB record:
    Three pinch hit homers

  • Jedd Gyorko – I loved watching this guy! He reminds me of a 70s player who just does his thing without ego or fanfare. He hit so many key home runs, leading the team with 30 jacks.

    7/20/16 – Cards 3, Padres 2

    Gyorko homers twice,
    dominates his old team. Cards
    take double header!

  • Randall Grichuk – He hit 24 homers. He did struggle early in the year and was sent to the minors, but he bounced back well and was a key contributor toward the end of the season.

    8/13/16 – Cards 8, Cubs 4

    Didn’t make it to
    Denny’s, but Grichuk still got
    a birthday grand slam!

  • Stephen Piscotty – Piscotty was a lot of fun to watch, hitting 22 homers, with 85 RBIs.
  • Yadier Molina – He may be part of our “aging core” but he is still a leader and a terrific player, barely resting at all this season and a true offensive weapon especially after being moved up in the lineup.

    6/9/16 – Cards 3, Reds 2

    Waino settles down
    after rocky first; Yadi’s
    three hits power win.

  • Matt Carpenter – Our lone all-star sparked many rallies and hit 21 homers, but he was hampered by injury.

    5/31/16 – Cardinals 10, Brewers 3

    Leake cruises. Carp gets
    four hits for second straight day.
    Fatherhood brought pep!


  • Bullpen
    • Trevor Rosenthal – Rosey crashed and burned as our closer and Matheny stuck with him a bit too long. Rosey did look good in non-save situations toward the end of the season. I hope he can bounce back in some capacity.

      6/3/16 – Giants 5, Cards 1

      Tight game implodes in
      ninth when Rosey walks three in
      a row and all score.

    • Broxton, Williams, Siegrist, Maness, Tuivalala, Kiekhefer – These guys were disappointing more often than not and kept me continually stressed out.

      7/15/16 – Marlins 7, Cards 6

      Six runs (four homers!)
      ought to be enough but Cards’
      bullpen was a sieve.

  • Starting Pitching
    • Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha were totally erratic. Wacha could not come back with any effectiveness after his injury.

      5/19/16 – Cards 13, Rockies 7

      Thirteen-run blitzkrieg
      led by Carp doesn’t hide fact:
      Wacha is struggling.

      7/30/16 – Marlins 11, Cards 0

      Mercy rule needed.
      Fish get four off Jaime in
      the first, keep swimming.


    • Mike Leake was totally lackluster.

      6/25/16 – Mariners 5, Cards 4

      Leake gave up five quick
      runs, must have felt as blue as
      his throwback jersey.

    • Often our starters would give up first inning runs. Many times they staked the opposing team to three or four runs early in the game and our offense couldn’t make it up.

      5/24/16 – Cubs 12, Cards 3

      Wacha gives up six
      runs in the first. Our starters
      don’t give us a chance.

  • Injuries – We sustained key injuries to Diaz, Holliday, Lyons, Wong, Peralta, Wacha, Carpenter, Rosenthal. We didn’t have Lance Lynn due to Tommy John surgery. Mike Leake missed games due to shingles!


7/8/16 – Brewers 4, Cards 3

Villar’s walk-off hit
wins it; Wacha, Holliday,
Rosey exit hurt.


  • Defense – the team made 107 errors – 6th worst in the league. It was the sloppiest Cardinals baseball I’ve seen in my life.


6/30/16 – Royals 4, Cards 2

Three errors and hot
Morales doom Cards as Royals
lock up series win.

9/16/16 – Giants 8, Cards 2

Uhh… Giving up six
unearned runs is no way to
earn a wild card slot.

  • Management – I know I have been spoiled as a Cardinals fan, getting to see Whitey Herzog, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa manage for so many years, but I just don’t feel Mike Matheny has the right level of aggressiveness. He left pitchers to hang themselves too many times. He changed the lineup so much that the team never got comfortable working together. His devotion to the veterans and the short leash he held on younger players like Grichuk and Wong was frustrating. And there is just no excuse to have kept playing Moss every day when he was in a historic slump and we were battling for a wild card spot. That was simply maddening!


9/8/16 – Brewers 12, Cards 5

Matheny froze while
Jaime and Mayers floundered.
Let the bullpen work!

  • Jhonny Peralta – He had a disappointing season once he came back from his injury, but Matheny kept him in the lineup faithfully. He ended the season with only 29 RBIs in 289 at bats.

The jury is still out…

  • Brandon Moss – He hit 28 homers, yet had a historic slump in the final two months of the season that really damaged our playoff hopes. His average over the last 30 games was .089! He broke out of the slump a bit in the final week, but I just don’t know what to expect. I feel Matheny did him (and us) no favors by keeping him in the lineup every day.


6/8/16 – Cards 12, Reds 7

With our sad pitching,
Moss knows he may need to hit
two homers per game.

  • Jeremy Hazelbaker – He started the year on a hot streak. I was kind of hoping he wouldn’t do so well because his last name takes up so many haiku syllables 😉  But then he didn’t do much after the all-star break – of course, he didn’t get many chances either, as he seemed to fall out of favor.


3/17/16 – Tigers 5, Cards 4

Hazelbaker’s big
homer isn’t enough. His
name fills haiku space.


  • Adam Wainwright – He definitely wasn’t his usual self but he rose to the occasion on most of the times we really needed him. His performance was definitely vexing.

4/10/16 – Cards 12, Braves 7

Five-run ninth caps sweep
of Braves. Cards found their bats. Hope
Wainwright finds himself.

And so we have a team that ended the season with a record of 86-76, finally achieved the mark of being ten games over .500 on the last day of the season, and was eliminated from the playoffs on the last day of the season. I can look back at the haikus and see so many blown opportunities that I would never blame the Dodgers’ failure to take one game from the Giants in their final series as the reason we didn’t make the playoffs. Our fate should always be in our own hands.

It was an often frustrating season but I feel lucky we have a team that did give us many thrills and kept things exciting all the way through September. They displayed a lot of fire in the final weeks and I hope that will carry over into next season.

Appreciating the Experience of Vin Scully Appreciation Night

Last night, I attended Vin Scully Appreciation Night at Dodger Stadium, and it was a wonderful, heartfelt celebration of Vin’s career. I decided on a whim to go and bought tickets off StubHub a few hours before the game.  I’m so glad I did!

Upon arrival, we were given a lovely thank you letter Vin had written for the fans. It’s on nice card stock and came in a blue envelope.  It was neat to see that most of the fans had arrived in time for the 6:30 PM tribute. People tend to think LA fans don’t care because they show up late, but the reality is: TRAFFIC.  It took us almost ninety minutes to drive eleven miles to get to the game, as it was Friday and rush hour.


The evening began with a video tribute narrated by Bob Costas. Many Dodgers legends and other baseball heroes spoke about Vin in the video. They revealed Vin’s top two calls of all time (as voted by the fans):  (2) Sandy Koufax’s perfect game and (1) Kirk Gibson’s home run.  “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible just happened,” said Vin of the Gibson homer, as Gibson limped around the bases. He put so much poetry into his work. What a gift to be able to come up with lines like that on the fly!


Vin’s broadcasting partner Charley Steiner was the emcee for the tribute. Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish language voice of the Dodgers, spoke about the honor of being Vin’s colleague for so many years. Sandy Koufax said that Vin used to go to church before World Series games – not to pray for a win, but to pray that no players would be the goat. He said Vin has a deep appreciation for anyone who has ever played the game and really cares about the players.


Mayor Eric Garcetti gave Vin a key to the city. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers chairman Mark Walter and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a few words. Kevin Costner spoke while music from Field of Dreams played in the background, and he brought most of us to tears (including this Cardinals fan).  I know the music helped stir emotion, but so did everything he said about Vin’s place in baseball history, which demonstrated how lucky we have all been to hear Vin for 67 years.  67 years!! Costner also made us laugh, referencing his brush with Vin in For the Love of the Game: “You called my imaginary name in my imaginary perfect game and nobody can ever take that away.”


Vin took the stage and expressed his gratitude to his family, the Dodgers organization, and especially to the fans. He received a long standing ovation.  We could see the emotion on his face and his wife Sandy’s face.  Vin said when people ask him what he’s going to do in retirement, he says, at age 88, he’s just going to be happy to wake up each day. He also said if he gets bored, he’s sure his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids will think up ways to keep him busy.  And he closed his speech with his signature line: “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”


John Williams conducted a special arrangement of the National Anthem, played by members of the LA Philharmonic. We hoped he would stick around and play the Imperial March, but no such luck.


There was another great ovation for Vin, as they played a recording of him singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the Seventh Inning Stretch and shone a light on him in the broadcast booth. They unfurled a banner from the press box that read: “I’ll miss you” (with Vin’s signature).  The Dodgers won the game, and the Friday Night Fireworks were punctuated with clips of Vin’s classic calls.

It was a long night, and we didn’t leave the stadium until after midnight, but it was great to be a part of baseball history.  I thought of Jack Buck often during the tribute. Jack and Vin are two icons, and having lived in St. Louis and Los Angeles, I feel very lucky to have experienced both of them as the baseball soundtrack of my life.  Happy Retirement, Vin, and thanks for the memories!

Check out all my pictures from Vin Scully Appreciation Night