Cardinals choose Matheny as La Russa’s successor

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Mike Matheny settled into Tony La Russa’s desk chair in a freshly painted office minus all the knickknacks accumulated over 16 years by his predecessor. The stuffed tiger from the 2006 World Series title, the bust of TLR’s favorite dog, the piles and piles of books _ all gone.

A blank slate _ just like the St. Louis Cardinals new manager, who has never filled out a lineup card in the majors.

Not that he hasn’t thought about it.

“I loved spending the time I had with Tony talking about managing, and he knew that,” Matheny said Monday after getting a two-year contract with a club option for a third season. “He’s been advocate for a long time, someone that’s been promoting me.”

General manager John Mozeliak offered Matheny the job last Friday while he was in the Dominican Republic with Albert Pujols but told Matheny to say nothing until Monday.

Mozeliak envisioned Matheny as manager material when he rejoined the organization two years ago. Matheny was a special assistant in player development last year and previously had been a minor league instructor.

Mozeliak knew there’d be questions about Matheny’s lack of experience but pointed out when he replaced Walt Jocketty four years ago, he, too, was unproven.

“That’s something I’ve experienced myself, and I know what it’s like going from maybe a less leadership role to one where you’re thrust into it,” Mozeliak said. “I think he has that skill set.”

Mozeliak also believes Matheny is a good fit for this team because of its blend of veterans and youth, and because the rotation is set.

“A Matt Holliday and a Lance Berkman, they don’t need to be over-managed if you will,” Mozeliak said. “So I think he’s going to be able to put his energy into the players that most need it, and to the team itself. That was something we factored in.”

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said Matheny is well-respected throughout baseball, and the Cardinals background doesn’t hurt.

“He knows our current club and organization as well as anyone, and we feel he is the perfect one to lead us into a very bright future,” DeWitt said.

As for his managing style, Matheny said he’d rely on instincts honed from his playing days.

“I believe I owe this organization to be myself,” Matheny said. “I’m not here to try and clone Tony or any other manager or coach, but I believe I’m a collection of all the above.”

Holliday and World Series MVP David Freese attended Monday’s news conference, held in the same room where La Russa said his good-byes two weeks earlier. Both escaped via a side door without talking to reporters.

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