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Cardinals tab Matheny manager

Former catcher replaces La Russa

Associated Press / November 14, 2011

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The Cardinals are replacing a manager who’s third on the career victory list with a man who’ll be writing his first lineup card on Opening Day.

Mike Matheny, a former catcher with the Cardinals who had been a minor league instructor, will be introduced as Tony La Russa’s successor at a news conference today.

“I think he’s going to be a great leader,’’ Jim Edmonds, a teammate of Matheny’s with the Cardinals, said yesterday. “If he goes out there and does what he’s capable of doing and they put the players around him, he could be the manager for the next 20 years.’’

Matheny, 41, played for St. Louis from 2000-04 and won three of his four Gold Gloves. He became a team leader playing for La Russa, who retired after leading the team to his second World Series title in 16 seasons.

Matheny’s playing career blossomed after he signed a one-year deal to be the backup catcher in St. Louis. Though a career .239 hitter, Matheny did enough defensively to earn a starting job.

Matheny was one of six men the Cardinals interviewed to replace La Russa. They also talked to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, longtime Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Triple A manager Chris Maloney, and White Sox coach Joe McEwing.

General manager John Mozeliak declined to comment on the hire aside from a one-word text to The Associated Press: “Tomorrow.’’

Francona was the only candidate who had major league managing experience. He left the Red Sox after the team collapsed in September.

Oquendo coached for La Russa the last dozen years after playing the final decade of his career with the Cardinals and has had a handful of interviews for managing openings.

The Cardinals received permission to interview Sandberg, manager of the Phillies’ Triple A team.

Former Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, who played for La Russa and is on local sports talk radio, thought the Cardinals would go with Francona because it gave them the best chance to retain momentum from their unlikely World Series run.

The Cardinals won the National League wild card on the final day of the season and were underdogs against the Phillies, Brewers, and Rangers, but have a solid returning cast - with or without free agent Albert Pujols in the fold.

“I think Matheny will be a great manager, given time,’’ Duncan said. “He lacks managing experience, but it shows a lot about his character that the Cardinals hired him.’’

Matheny was with the Giants when his career was ended by concussions in 2006.

Matheny’s coaching staff could include familiar names. Pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was La Russa’s right hand all 33 seasons, has one year remaining on his contract.

Dodgers state case

The Dodgers may seek bids for future television rights under a proposal that could trigger a court fight with current rights-holder News Corp.’s Fox Sports.

The Dodgers asked US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross to approve a marketing process under which the rights and the team sale would move forward separately, according to court papers filed in Wilmington, Del. The entire process would stretch into next year, the team said.

By marketing the rights separately, the Dodgers “will be able to provide prospective buyers of the team with real-world information about what the value of the telecast rights would be if openly marketed,’’ the team said in the filing.

The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June after commissioner Bud Selig rejected a television deal that team owner Frank McCourt negotiated with Fox. Selig and McCourt fought over how best to reorganize the team until earlier this month, when they both agreed that McCourt would sell the team.

The television rights may not be sold unless MLB and the winner of an auction for the team approve the deal. Before the team can begin talks with bidders for the rights, it must win approval from Gross.

Payday for program

A program from the first World Series game sold at auction at the Louisville Slugger Museum for $241,500. Hunt Auctions said there was enormous demand for the rare 1903 program from the series between the Boston Americans (Red Sox) and the Pittsburgh Pirates, which Boston won.

Company president David Hunt said he was “aware of only one other copy of this 1903 World Series program, and that copy resides in the Baseball Hall of Fame.’’

The program features pictures of Pirates stars, including Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner. The item sold for 5 cents at the game. Other auction highlights included a Pete Rose autographed 4,000th-hit ball that sold for $66,700, and a ball signed by Cy Young ($51,570).

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