As Mike Matheny was recently answering questions about Adam Wainwright being his potential Opening Day starter, the St. Louis Cardinals manager explained that the right-hander’s value went far beyond what he did on the mound.
More than once, Wainwright has been described as a captain on the team–by pitchers and position players alike. But so too have a couple of other players.
“No, I’ve put very little thought to it,” answered Matheny about designating an official team captain. “I’m real clear whenever I talk with you, whenever I talk to them–we have a few pillars. When I got here we had three already in place–actually four if you counted Chris Carpenter at the time, with Waino, Holly and Yadi. I believe Matt Carpenter has made his way into being one of those pillars.
“We’re very fortunate to have that kind of leadership. We lean on those guys and we ask a lot of them. That’s what leadership is–it’s influence. These guys are very influential in our clubhouse, on our team, and on the field.”
It’s not that Matheny, who was captain of his team at Michigan, is entirely against the idea or doesn’t see the value of having a team captain. He mentioned a scenario where a young team might need someone to step and be challenged or to the situation in New York with Derek Jeter.
“It was such an honor to be able to do that with Derek,” said Matheny. “He did an incredible job for a long time of just being exactly what they needed in that market on that team and giving him that honor, I get that too.”
Officially, Ken Boyer was the last player to wear the ‘C’ for the Cardinals, although Brian Finch of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum was able to find an excerpt of Joe Torre being referred to as the captain of the team when he joined the team in the late ’60s.
“I think Boyer, as far as I’m concerned, I think that was it,” recalled Red Schoendienst. “I know when Eddie Stanke was here as manager, he wanted to make me a team captain. He talked to me a long time. I said ‘that means I usually take the lineup out and everything?’ He said yeah. I said, ‘I want to thank you for the opportunity and the thought you put in it for me and everything. I said, you can make somebody else.
“If you want me to work like a team captain, I will but I have to take all the time I need to get ready for the game and I said I don’t want to be rushing up there, so I have to get down on the field a little earlier. Not that it’s that much earlier, but it’s something that you have to be there when the lineups come out. He said okay.”
“He was tough,” said Schoendienst of Moore. “He’d get on the ballplayers the right way if you didn’t do this, if you didn’t run out a play, or you didn’t do this. He’d get them on the side and talk to them. Of course, the manager runs the club. He’d put the lineup up there and everything but Terry Moore was the best I’ve seen as far as a team captain. He knew what to do, when to say, what time to say it, and everything.”
Schoendienst shared that he never considered naming a captain when he managed the Cardinals in the ’70s, as similar to Matheny, he instead relied on a group of veterans to act together as the leaders.
“Where we are right now, I think everybody’s okay with not having a ‘C’ on their chest,” finished Matheny.