Will Leitch has written the best and most accurate thing I’ve read about Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny so far, and why Cards fans get pretty worked up over how he manages in the postseason:
Matheny formulated a plan —Gonzales throws two innings — and maneuvered everything to rigidly follow that plan. When the plan fell into trouble, he had no backup plan, and he was doomed. The regular season requires only one plan; the postseason requires many. Matheny is a one-plan man.
For a good long while, you saw the same pattern every game: Martinez pitches the 7th, Neshek pitches the 8th, Rosenthal pitches the 9th. Cards fans’ heart rates jump every time Rosenthal pitches on not much rest.
It’s such a rigid plan—like taking the closer role that’s so popular now and extending it through more than one inning. What if you have lefties coming up to bat in the 9th? Why wouldn’t you stick with a lefty? Or if a reliever is in and is really clicking, why not stick with him?
Matheny doesn’t do this, and it’s why the Cardinals lose postseason games.