The Winner Is: Mike Matheny?

In just a few short hours, the Cardinals will convene a press conference to announce the 33rd manager in the history of the franchise.

The keys to the family sports car are about to be handed to the sixteen year old.

There were six managerial candidates that were interviewed for the vacant spot atop the St. Louis Cardinals team on the field. Only one, Terry Francona, had major league management experience. Two, Ryne Sandberg and Chris Maloney, were highly regarded managers at the Triple A level. Two, Jose Oquendo and Joe McEwing, are former Cardinals and major league coaches that have gained a lot of respect (even if players don’t listen to “stop” signs). The final one is a former Cardinal catcher, a roaming instructor in the Cardinals system, and has no coaching or managerial experience.

Yep, that’s the one everyone would pick.

By no means am I saying that I do not support this move. Mike Matheny is a class act, a baseball mind, a good guy, and was definitively in charge of a field when it stood behind the plate. He is a player that is ingrained in the traditions of Cardinal nation. He obviously interviewed very well and said everything that the Cardinals’ upper management needed to hear. But it is a certain gamble for one of baseball’s most historic and traditional franchises to go with an inexperienced manager at the helm.

There are a ton of questions that will not be answered until 2012 and some that will be answered soon. We will not know until the season progresses how Matheny manages. We will not know if he will prefer a veteran arm to a young rookie. We will not know if players like Daniel Descalso and Nick Punto are the types of guys we will see a lot of or if he tends to run the same lineup out there 140 games a year. The biggest question on the mind of some is simple: Will the pitcher ever hit eighth again?

Some questions are about to be answered soon. One of the most important will be the appointment of the bench coach. With a manager with little experience, you would think the Cardinals will put a strong bench coach next to him to help alleviate some of the concern. The rest of the coaching staff will start to fall into place, the Pujols negotiations will heat up, and the Cardinals will delve into free agency and trades to solidify the few shortcomings they have entering the new season. Some of these moves will make it evident what type of team Matheny will prefer.

One thing is for certain. As of eleven o’clock central time this morning, all eyes are now on number 22.

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