When the sports gossip site Deadspin revealed one of his players had viewed pornography via Twitter, St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stepped up to the plate. He offered private counsel to players and public comments to fans about the responsibility of being a role model.
Matheny, 43, is as much a mentor as a manager to many of his players. Matheny said that in college he was a “coward” with his faith, a “closet Christian” who failed “to stand in the gap and be a witness, to be a man.” He changed that as a major league player and now as the Cardinals’ manager, leading the team to the World Series last year.
“I’m not trying to shove my morality down anybody’s throat. I’ve made that very clear,” Matheny told theSt. Louis Post-Dispatch. “But I also need these guys to understand that it’s not just me that they need to be concerned about. There are a bunch of young guys that absolutely admire these guys and everything that they do.”
Pitcher Carlos Martinez “favorited” the sexually explicit tweets, similar to “liking” something on Facebook. He didn’t realize that a favorite isn’t simply a personal bookmark of sorts; everyone can view it under an account’s “favorites” tab. There’s a chance Martinez’s account was hacked to bring the porn to the level that went viral, “but I’m sure where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” general manager John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. “We’re disappointed.”
This is the third time this spring Matheny has addressed social media with prospects and players. Any misstep “is one fraction of a second away from being all over the world,” Matheny said. “Is this something that you want to be known for? Is this how you want to be remembered?”
As he talked Tuesday with an MLB.com reporter and a Post-Dispatch reporter, Matheny didn’t hold back how he viewed his role as a public figure. “We are, like it or not, role models, and that’s the danger when this thing hits the area that it hit. There are a lot of young eyes that love the St. Louis Cardinals and their players and could be easily influenced,” Matheny said. “Regardless of your moral compass and where it points, those sort of things that we’re talking about are not things we want our kids seeing.”
Martinez learned his lesson the hard way, and he says he’s taking a break from social media to focus on baseball. “I want to acknowledge fault for what happened,” Martinez told reporters Wednesday. “It was my responsibility. I want to apologize to the fans, to the organization. I didn’t mean to cause a distraction.”
Mozeliak called the situation “tricky,” but Martinez won’t be penalized because it was not work-related. He wasn’t venting a locker room dispute or violating Cardinals policy. “It was just a poor choice of sites visited,” Mozeliak said, “and we hope other people learn from it.”
Martinez, 22, is in his second year with the Cardinals. A solid bullpen option last October, he is now fighting for a job in the starting rotation. Martinez pitched three innings in the Cardinals’ 5-4 spring training loss Friday to Miami.