Mike Matheny hiring opens a few more million for Albert Pujols

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The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games back on August 25. They weren’t supposed to make it to October.

The Cardinals drew an NLDS matchup with the 102-win Phillies. They were supposed to get out-pitched.

The Cardinals faced the high-powered Brewers in the NLCS, then the higher-powered Rangers in the Fall Classic. They weren’t supposed to win either series.

But all of those odds and predictions were defied.

Now, to add a surprise cherry to the astonishment sundae, the Cardinals — kings of the old school — have hired the youngest manager in MLB. A 41-year-old former catcher with zero managing experience and barely any official coaching gigs on his résumé.

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Mike Matheny, revered for his defense during a 13-year playing career, was named replacement to Tony La Russa, the third-winningest skipper in baseball history, in a press release delivered to the media late Sunday night. He will be officially introduced at a formal press conference Monday morning at Busch Stadium.

While recent speculation presented subtle hints, the hiring was a surprise. Terry Francona, with his big name and decorated resume, seemed a better fit for the Cards’ veteran core. Jose Oquendo, some suggested, would help carve an easier path to the re-signing of Albert Pujols. Even Ryne Sandberg drew buzz.

But the Cardinals made up their mind on Matheny before they even spoke with the former Red Sox manager or the former Cubs great, according to Tim McKernan of KFNS 590 in St. Louis and InsideSTL.com.

The Cardinals had their man almost as soon as the search began, and maybe even before.

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Guessing a front office’s strategy can be an exercise in frivolity, and it often is in the case of the close-lipped Redbirds. But this sure feels calculated, and the steps ahead would appear to be shaking clear.

La Russa was earning salaries of nearly $5 million per year by the end of his tenure in St. Louis, more than any other manager in the sport today. Matheny is sure to cost less, by perhaps as much as $3 million annually. Then there’s the decision to name Daniel Descalso as the club’s 2012 starting second baseman just weeks after the end of the World Series and the suggestion that Tyler Greene might fit at as a regular shortstop, all of which leaves Skip Schumaker and his $2.7 million 2011 salary as a non-tender candidate.

Make no mistake: the Cardinals like Matheny. They consider him a born leader, and someone well-versed in what is affectionately called “The Cardinal Way.” But they’re also freeing up every bit of payroll they can.

If Pujols is going to command a yearly rate of $23 million or more over the next seven, eight, or nine seasons, the Cardinals need to be more well-oiled. They need to run more efficiently, with better structure from top to bottom and more cost control in the big leagues. It’s something that GM John Mozeliak has known since taking over the job in October of 2007, and his decisions are now clearly being led by the idea.

Matheny is efficient. Descalso is efficient. So is almost the entire bullpen. And the talent budding in the farm system — as seen in top-grade prospects like Shelby Miller, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras — should keep the organization humming at econo-grade even if Pujols scores an SUV-sized deal.

Mozeliak has truly built something great, and the Cardinals are suddenly as streamlined as it gets in the capricious world of professional baseball. It would take multiple catastrophes for Matheny to screw it all up.

Derek Jeter doesn’t have the money to buy the Marlins

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Derek Jeter met with Major League Baseball yesterday and told them that he does not yet have the money to purchase the Miami Marlins, reports the Associated Press.

Jeter bid $1.3 billion for the Marlins, as did the group led by Tagg Romney and Tom Glavine. Bidding is one thing, however. Cash on the barrelhead is another. Jeter has been trying to wrangle together an investment group since Jeb Bush pulled out of his bid, but still hasn’t pulled it off. There are reportedly other groups still in the hunt.

If only there was someone else with baseball and Miami ties he could call.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Phillies 5, Cardinals 1: Aaron Nola allowed one run on four hits in seven and a third while striking out eight and Freddy Galvis and Tommy Joseph homered. The Phillies snap a five-game losing streak.

White Sox 9, Twins 0: Twins starter Nik Turley got lit up for five runs in only two-thirds of an inning of work, allowing two-run homers to Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier in the first inning. After that it was all just paperwork and Jose Quintana tossing shutout ball into the seventh. Quintana has had some of the worst run support in baseball over the course of his career. Getting nine runs to play with had to feel weird. In other news, this game featured a 4 hours, 50 minute rain delay to begin proceedings. That’s patently ridiculous. If the delay to start the game is almost twice as long as the game is, you probably should’ve just postponed the dang thing.

Rangers 11, Blue Jays 4: Texas built a 7-0 lead after four behind homers from Mike Napoli, Carlos Gomez and Robinson Chirinos. Gomez added another dinger later and had give RBI on the day. On the year Gomez is hitting .267/.346/.515 and is on a 20-homer pace. Not too bad for a guy who missed a month due to a bad hammie. And not bad for a guy a lot of people were writing off after a couple of bad years in Houston.

Brewers 4, Pirates 2: Travis Shaw knocked a home run and two doubles, driving in three runs and starter Chase Anderson allowed two runs and two hits in six innings for the Brewers. Closer Corey Knebel set a record for the most consecutive games by a reliever with a strikeout at a season’s start — 38 — while picking up his 12th save. He has 68Ks in 37.2 innings of work.

Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 3: Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Owings hit three-run homers and starter Zack Godley allowed three runs in seven innings of work. The Dbacks take two of three from Colorado, routing them with a combined score of 26-8 in the past two games.

Astros 12, Athletics 9: Josh ReddickJake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez all homered as the Astros complete the four-game sweep. They’ve beaten the A’s ten straight times in Oakland and have taken 15 of 16 overall. They own the A’s so thoroughly that they’ve started to get invited to planning meetings with the city over possible locations for the new A’s ballpark.

Indians 6, Orioles 3Austin Jackson had three hits and three RBI and Erik Gonzalez homered as the Indianas take 3 of 4 from the reeling Orioles. Cleveland just went 7-1 on a road trip and now hold a two and a half game lead over the Twins in the division. Feels kinda like order has been restored in the AL Central.

Cubs 11, Marlins 1: Russell hit two doubles, a homer, drove in two and had four hits overall.  Kris Bryant had a three-run homer, Willson Contreras hit a two-run shot and Ian Happ had four hits and drove in a pair. The Cubs have won 4 of 5. Maybe order is on the way to being restored in the NL Central as well.

Angels 10, Yankees 5: Aaron Judge went deep for his 25th homer of the year but that was the only good thing for the Bombers, who blew an early 5-1 lead. The Angels rallied for four runs in the seventh thanks in part to a couple of Yankees errors and a wild pitch. That wild pitch came from Dellin Betances, who allowed his first earned run in 22 games. In the eighth, Yankees reliever Domingo German threw a wild pitch and bounced a pickoff toss to first that allowed a run to score. Ug-ly.

Braves 12, Giants 11: Atlanta rode an 8-run fifth inning to victory. It was bookended by falling behind early and allowing some late runs late, so things were nonetheless close. They had not scored that many runs in an inning since the 2011 season. Their nine hits that inning tied a mark last set in 2004. Matt Adams, Lane Adams, Nick Markakis and Brandon Phillips all homered for Atlanta, who took three of four. The Giants’ road trip ends on a 1-7 mark. I guess you could say that they left their game in San Francisco.

Mariners 9, Tigers 6: Robinson Cano hit a grand slam and a two-run homer to lead the M’s to their fifth straight victory. Rookie Andrew Moore got the callup to replace the struggling Yovani Gallardo in the rotation and debuted with seven solid innings. The Mariners moved above .500 for the first time this year.

Dodgers 6, Mets 3: The sweep. Joc Pederson, Justin Turner and Kiké Hernandez all homered for the Dodgers. No word if the home run trots were fast enough. The Dodgers hit 15 homers in the four-game series, so the Mets had a lot of time to gauge the matter. L.A. also drew nine walks in the game.The Dodgers have won seven consecutive games and 13 of their last 14.