It's been a year and 1/2 we've all been involved with the Mike Matheny experiment.
And have no, doubt… it was an experiment.
While Mr. Matheny was a distinguished MLB defensive catcher, he'd never coached a team that played baseball for money. Orange slices and juice boxes, yes. Cash, no.
He wasn't taking over the Marlins either. The Cardinals were and are built to play baseball in October. It's the organizations' expectation and it's the fans expectation. He was given the keys to a race car, told how to get on the track and expected to win…
Oh, and the guy he was replacing? Probably the greatest manager the sport has seen in the modern live ball era and a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
The Cardinals are mired in a 7 game losing streak and are on the verge of being the first team to get swept in a 5 games series since the 1927 Yankees. The team passed on making any moves at yesterday's trade deadline and by the weekend, the Cardinals could be in 3rd place a mere 10 days after flirting with 25 games over .500 before August.
Much like the the 2012 NLCS, the Cardinals are in free-fall. This is where the manager actually becomes very valuable in baseball… figuring out how to pull the emergency shoot and avoid disaster.
Mr. Matheny wasn't able to do that in the NLCS. And it's becoming pretty startling to even the most ardently positive fans just how tough it is for the Cardinals to stop the bleeding.
It certainly won't be with former MVP candidate Yadier Molina, who is on the shelf now with a knee injury most likely exacerbated by excessive use.
It won't be with a new starting shut-down pitcher, like Jake Peavy or Dioner Navarro who the Cardinals didn't deem worthy of sending top-tier prospects to the Sox or Cubs for.
No, it's going to be on the guys in the house right now. And their looking for a leader. If game 6 and game 7 of the NLCS were Mr. Matheny's first test as manager and how his teams reacted to adversity… he failed.
We're in the midst of the second big test.
Split or better these next 4 games, and a full-on crisis is probably averted. But continue to slide into the abyss and that startling 17-24 record against winning teams becomes the new talking point for 2013.
Mike Matheny might just be a good manager. Heck, even a great one.
It's time to show us. It's time to prove that these free falls aren't going to be the hallmark of his tenure.