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Miklasz: Mike Matheny considers use of stats to be “personal attacks”

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101 ESPN’s Bernie Miklasz really laid into Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in a column published on Friday. Miklasz references an interview Matheny had with ESPN’s Mark Saxon during which the skipper attributed his team’s flaws with defense and running the bases to the young players on the roster. Before more or less “fisking” — or FJMing, in baseball parlance — Matheny’s statements, Miklasz provided an interesting anecdote:

When asked about the team’s problems with defense and base running in 2016, Matheny never really explored the topic. Never really answered the question or acknowledged the defense/running issues. Instead, he sought to play it off by citing his use of so many “young” players. And Matheny criticized the media for, well, I don’t know what the media did exactly. My best guess is that we discussed and wrote about the defensive and base running flaws last season. Areas that obviously were harmful to a team that won 86 games and failed to make the playoffs. Keep in mind, Matheny once told me that he considered my use of statistics — facts — to be personal attacks.

Though the Cardinals have been quite successful under Matheny in his five seasons — they’ve gone 461-349 (.569) — they have nothing to show for it. They lost the NLCS in seven games in 2012, lost the World Series in six games in 2013, lost the NLCS in five games in 2014, lost the NLDS in four games in 2015, and didn’t even make the playoffs last year. As a result, Matheny has been put under the microscope. Indeed, Craig has pointed out some of his shortcomings — here and here, for example — while Cardinals bloggers have gone to more specific detail. Miklasz, too, does a great job refuting Matheny’s claims.

We’re no longer in an era where people in crucial baseball roles can afford to be close-minded about information. Every team utilizes analytics in some capacity. To not use them, whether out of stubbornness or some moral distaste, is to intentionally handicap oneself. The Cardinals have been on the forefront of the analytics movement, too, so it comes off as particularly quirky that the manager appears to be a Luddite.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.