- Last Updated: 11:39 PM, October 17, 2012
- Posted: 1:01 AM, October 17, 2012
ST. LOUIS — Following the Cardinals’ miracle 9-7 win over the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, Mike Matheny checked his texts. There was one from an old teammate, congratulating the first-year manager on the victory and advancing to the NLCS.
It was from Joe Girardi.
“Joe was a great teammate,’’ Matheny told The Post. “He is somebody I had the utmost respect for and continue to [have] just by how he carries himself and what he stands for, he stands for excellence.’’
Girardi’s last season as a player was 2003 with the Cardinals. He didn’t play much because of injuries. Matheny was the starter. Girardi was 38, Matheny was 32. Here we are nine years later and both former catchers have their teams in the League Championship Series.
“Joe is in as tough a situation as there is for any manager or coach in any sport,’’ Matheny said of Life in the Bronx. “I’m a fan of what he stands for. He’s just one of those people who make an impact on other people. To me, that’s the foundation of leadership.’’
Matheny is about leadership, too. His Cardinals are tied 1-1 with the Giants in the NLCS with Game 3 today at Busch Stadium, Kyle Lohse against Matt Cain. Matheny has accomplished much his first season. He had to replace a legend in Tony La Russa. Girardi had to replace Joe Torre.
Matheny quickly won over the Cardinals clubhouse.
“He’s a great man,’’ Carlos Beltran said. “He’s like a ballplayer. We don’t see him as a manager. We see him as a ballplayer. He’s a guy who has a lot of passion for this game and just being able to play for him means a lot because I played against him a lot, plus we were teammates a long time ago in winter ball in Puerto Rico. I’m happy for him. He’s done something not many first-time managers have done.’’
Lohse said the transition from La Russa to Matheny has been seamless.
“Mike’s come in and done a great job with handling the team, the mentality, keeping it going along the same lines that Tony did,’’ he said.
What the Cardinals have been able to do is pretty simple, yet is one of the most difficult tasks in baseball. Matheny has kept his team focused on the moment.
“We don’t overlook anything,’’ Lohse said. “We’re very focused.’’
The Cardinals play hard and for each other, let the chips fall where they may, witness Matt Holliday’s late slide that took out Marco Scutaro in the 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 2 at AT&T Park.
“We play this game with intensity,’’ Matheny said. “We play this game with passion. If we didn’t I wouldn’t expect anybody to show up or watch. This is something we take real serious when we go about playing the game and try to play it within the rules, but respecting the game and playing hard.
“You hate to see anybody get hurt right now,’’ Matheny said of Scutaro. “We don’t want to see anybody lost or anybody have to leave the game. That’s how it worked out and now we’ve just got to move forward.’’
In other words, that’s baseball. Late slides happen. But he understands why the Giants are upset.
“We’re a family,’’ Matheny said. “Our team would be in the exact same boat. So right now we just understand that they need to rally around each other and we hope that the rest of the results turn out good.’’
You can be sure Mike Matheny will have his team ready for Game 3.Follow @NYPostsports