Mike Matheny faced criticism before he began managing the KC Royals.
Matheny had his share of success managing in St. Louis, where he was 591-474 from 2012 until he was fired during the 2018 season. The Cardinals didn’t have a losing season during under him and reached the postseason in each of his first four seasons. The club even rewarded him after the 2016 campaign with a three-year contract extension through 2020.
Things soon changed for Matheny and the Cardinals. The team finished 2017 in third place in the National League Central and he didn’t make it through the 2018 season. How could a manager who built a track record of winning and success go from a contract extension to being fired so quickly?
The answer is in the details. Part of the problem was the team’s three-year postseason drought. Winning fixes everything, and the Cardinals just weren’t winning enough. Beyond that, however, Matheny’s managing skills were questioned: NBC Sports’ Bill Baer reported Matheny and outfielder Dexter Fowler hardly spoke and, in his piece “Long Known As a Bad Tactician, Mike Matheny was Fired for Being a Bad Boss,” The Ringer’s Michael Baumann detailed his criticisms of Matheny, including tactics, inflexibility, and an inability to “bring the best out of your players.”
Now, some of those same concerns are starting to plague the Royals. Matheny’s lineups seem dull, inflexible, and frequently downright stubborn. Concerns about tactics should sound familiar to KC fans, including leaving starters in too long, which SBNation’s Tyler Kinzey pointed out as a shortcoming back in 2017. Royals fans saw this last season with Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch and are seeing it again this season with Kris Bubic and Carlos Hernández.
Much criticism of Eldred may start with earl-game struggles of young Royals starters, a problem that may involve him but aren’t new to Matheny, and seem to have followed him from St. Louis to Kansas City. If Eldred goes, so, too, should Matheny.
Mike Matheny has been unable to put his players in the right positions to succeed. It’s time for the Royals to fix the problem. He needs to feel the heat.