The Boston Red Sox won 93 games, which was good enough for the AL East crown.
The Red Sox then lost to the Houston Astros in the ALDS. The Astros won AL West with 101 wins, which gave them home-field advantage over the Red Sox.
After the division series loss, the Red Sox fired manager John Farrell.
I only bring it up because it’s a good case study for the situation the Cardinals find themselves in with Mike Matheny. The Red Sox and Cardinals are teams with deep histories, passionate fans and high expectations.
In five years with the Red Sox, Farrell had a .533 winning percentage. The Red Sox won their division three times (2013, ’16 and ’17), but finished last twice (’14, ’15). They won the 2013 World Series, but were booted from the playoffs in the first round in each of the last two seasons.
In six years with the Cardinals, Matheny has a .560 winning percentage. The Cardinals won their division three times (’13, ’14, ’15), finished second twice (’12, ’16), which includes a 2012 wild card spot, and finished third in 2017. Matheny’s Cardinals lost to Farrell’s Red Sox in the 2013 World Series, lost in the NLCS twice and the NLDS once.
Of course, the Cardinals have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and they don’t seem on the verge of firing Matheny. The Red Sox are coming off two division titles followed by postseason disappointment, and they fired Farrell.
What looking at their records and season outcomes doesn’t fully explain is their in-game decisions. A lot of the anger toward Matheny is based on bullpen mismanagement, lineup construction and roster use.
Still, it’s a results-driven business. There have been plenty of below average managers with winning teams and vice versa. If the wins, and ultimately championships, are there, no one will argue.
By firing Farrell, the Red Sox have done what the Cardinals aren’t willing to do. They drew a line in the sand that says being good isn’t good enough. The Red Sox expect more, and so should the Cardinals.
Like Farrell, Matheny has won some battles, but recently they’ve both been losing the war. It’s not to say the only acceptable outcome each season is a World Series appearance or victory. That’s certainly not fair.
What is fair is to expect the Red Sox and Cardinals to couple regular season success with competent postseason performance. After the 2013 World Series, Farrell struggled to consistently bring both those things to Boston. Since the end of the 2015 regular season, Matheny has been unable to bring either to St. Louis.
If Farrell seeks one, there will almost certainly be a job available for him. It’s unlikely Matheny would have the same amount of options.
The Cardinals went out on a limb when they hired Matheny. Early returns were good, but things have spiraled downward.
Matheny will open 2018 as the Cardinals manager – and I’m not altogether against it – but good can no longer be good enough.