Musial on manager's mind at Cardinals fan festival


Musial on manager's mind at Cardinals fan festival

ST. LOUIS (AP) Mike Matheny first encountered Stan Musial about two decades ago, watching the Hall of Famer draw a harmonica out of his jacket with an impish grin and captivate yet another crowd.

Whichever way the St. Louis Cardinals decide to remember Stan the Man, whether they wear armbands or a patch on their uniforms, their manager expects his team to adhere to Musial's work ethic. Matheny, who begins his second spring training in charge in about three weeks, believes Musial's passing will serve as perspective and motivation while reminding players that the window of opportunity is short.

``I think everybody around here, young and old, gets how important Mr. Musial was and still is - and will be - to this organization and this community. Just everything he stood for,'' Matheny said Monday at the end of the three-day Winter Warm-Up fan festival.

``Whether it's something we physically put on our sleeve or not, I'm sure there will be something that will memorialize Mr. Musial.''

The 92-year-old Musial, a seven-time National League batting champion and three-time MVP, died on Saturday. A public visitation will be Thursday at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, with a funeral Mass on Saturday.

``I think whether you grow up in St. Louis or not, if you're a fan of baseball you're going to hear Stan Musial's name repeatedly,'' said third baseman David Freese, who grew up suburban St. Louis. ``He's going to be missed, I think everybody knows that.

``What a life he lived.''

Matheny's on-field focus has been tested beyond the anguish of a blown a 3-1 NLCS lead against the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants last fall. He faces bankruptcy over a series of failed investments that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported have left him more than $4 million in debt.

Matheny told the newspaper he expects to liquidate all of his investments and real estate holdings, including his dream home, which has 17 rooms on 11 acres. From all accounts, Matheny was able to block out those issues when he put on the uniform.

``You just never know any situation how you're going to react until you get into it, but I was able to show up every day with an incredible ability to just focus and do my job,'' Matheny said. ``Stuff on the outside I was able to compartmentalize and deal with that as I had to.

``It's a story that doesn't have anything to do with woes, it's about some pretty cool things that have happened, but I'm looking forward to moving on.''

The Cardinals, meanwhile, hope to sign pitcher Adam Wainwright, entering the final year of his contract, to a new deal. The 31-year-old Wainwright returned in less than a year from reconstructive elbow surgery last season and was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA, after totaling 39 wins in 2009-10.

``You can be sure we'll try to sign him,'' chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. ``Whether we'll be able to, remains to be seen.''

Wainwright wore a T-shirt that read ``Just Happy to be here. Hope I can help the ballclub.''

``If they want to talk about it with my agent, they're more then welcome to,'' Wainwright said. ``I don't respond well when I'm thinking about other stuff on the mound.''

The Cardinals have three remaining arbitration-eligible players - closer Jason Motte, left-hander reliever Marc Rzepczynski and Freese. They're closer to deals with the two pitchers than Freese, the 2011 World Series and NL championship series MVP.

The 29-year-old Freese played his first full season last year, batting .293 with 20 homers and 79 RBIs, and is seeking $3.75 million. The Cardinals have offered $2.4 million.

``Publicly I'm not going to get involved with talking about where we're at,'' Freese said. ``It's going to get resolved sooner or later, it kind of has to.

``When I don't know, but obviously we're in the process.''

Motte submitted for $5.5 million and was offered $4.5 million and Rzepczynski requested $1.3 million and was offered $900,000.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran, entering the second year of a two-year, $26 million contract, wasn't looking ahead.

``Whatever happens after this year, I don't know,'' Beltran said. ``But I also have to find out what the organization's plans are.

``They don't really have to come to me and explain it to me. It depends on how this year goes, probably.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.