Cardinals replace La Russa with surprising choice

587896.jpg

Cardinals replace La Russa with surprising choice

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis 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 Monday. "I think he's going to be a great leader," Jim Edmonds, a teammate of Matheny's with the Cardinals, said Sunday night in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "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." The 41-year-old Matheny played for the Cardinals from 2000-04, won three of his four Gold Gloves and was part of three postseason efforts including a World Series. He became a team leader playing for La Russa, who retired just days after leading the team to his second World Series title in 16 seasons. Matheny's playing career blossomed after he signed a one-year free-agent 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 Boston manager Terry Francona, Triple-A manager Chris Maloney, and Chicago 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." La Russa did not respond to telephone and text messages. 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 NL 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. "He's a great leader, and an even better person," Edmonds said. "I think this is great. There's nobody that's going to work any harder than Mike." Matheny's coaching staff could include some familiar names. Pitching coach Dave Duncan, who was La Russa's right hand all 33 seasons, has one year remaining on his contract. The Cardinals have considered promoting Maloney in recent years, and Oquendo also could stay.

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

Bennett back at practice, but admits injuries hurting his play

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett is willing to admit it. 

"Last week was probably my worst game as a Patriot," he told reporters in the locker room on Thursday. "But, you know, you have a bad game here and there. This week, come back grinding, and get ready."

Never was it more clear than on Sunday that Bennett has been hobbled by the injuries he's dealing with. He's coped with an ankle injury since Week 5 in Cleveland that has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches, but against the Rams it appeared to severely impact his performance. 

He saw four targets and caught two for four yards. As a blocker -- the facet of his game that stood out more than his receiving ability early this season -- he was called for two holds and had difficulty keeping his assignments in check, both in the run game and in pass protection. 

Asked if he may benefit from a week off, Bennett said he planned to continue to play.

"I never thought about that. I just keep going," he said. "I'm like the energizer bunny. I just try to find a way. Sometimes it's [expletive] when you're out there playing with different injuries. You can't do a lot of things that you want to do. You have [expletive] plays. You might have a string of bad plays in a row just because youre dealing with different things . . . 

"But throughout the game you kind of find a way to get the job done. I think that's the biggest point. It may not be pretty all the time, but try to figure some kind of way to get it done. Sometimes it's adjusting as the game goes on."

He added: "The thing about this sport is it's always something. You never go throuigh a season without having some kind of nick or tear, but there's a lot of guys playing with different things. But some guys are able to play through different injuries, and [with] some of the same injuries, you see guys around the league . . . go on IR and things like that. But it just depends on the person and their pain tolerance."

Bennett was back at practice Thursday after he wasn't spotted there on Wednesday. He may be helped by the long week leading up to Monday's game against the Ravens. It could mean an extra day of rest and recovery.

Sometimes, he said, it's difficult not to be out there.

"Sometimes. Sometimes it's like, thank God. I needed that today," he said. "It varies each week. . . I'll fight through whatever and I think that's something that my teammates and coaches know about me that I'm going to try to give them everything I got no matter what."

Tim Thomas ranked one of top 40 goalies on very weird list

Tim Thomas ranked one of top 40 goalies on very weird list

The NHL Network is terrific. Its programming is the best of any of the four major sports leagues’ channels, its talent is outstanding and it shows a lot of cool games across various leagues.  

Players mess up though. 

In the network’s recently released ranking of the 40 best goaltenders of all time, the Bruins were well-represented, but so too was insanity. We’re talking Jonathan Quick in the top 20 (No. 16!), Marc-Andre Fleury top 25 (No. 21!) and Corey Crawford top 30 (No. 26!). Those are just a few of the head-scratchers. 

Tim Thomas was one of seven Bruins on the list, coming in at No. 27. Other Bruins ranked were Bernie Parent (No. 12), Frank Brimsek (No. 23), Rogie Vachon (No. 25), Tiny Thompson (No. 28), Gerry Cheevers (No. 29), Andy Moog (No. 36). Here's the full list, per Mark Lazerus. 

Statistically, Tuukka Rask deserves a place on this list if Fleury and Crawford are going to be that high, but we’ll save the Rask arguments for literally every other second of my life. 

[OK, real quick: Rask has the highest career save percentage of all time. Quick sits No. 17 and Fleury is 32nd. This doesn’t need to be completely statistics based, but it also shouldn’t be completely how-many-Cup-teams-were-on-based. Honestly, I can’t tell what this list is based on at all. Like Cristobal Huet had a better career save percentage than Fleury has.]

Anyway, everyone else hated the list, too.