CINCINNATI • Reputation rules, and when it comes to an annual survey conducted by Baseball America of major-league managers, the men who are paid to watch the game the closest, reputation serves the Cardinals well.
Each summer the trade publication passes out a questionnaire to managers and coaching staffs at every level, seeking to find out who has the "Best Tools" throughout the majors and minors. The categories vary from the best defensive players at each position to the best infield arm, the best "hit-and-run artist" to the best fastball. The survey, as BA writer Ben Badler pointed out on Twitter, tends to be a good indicator for the Gold Gloves.
The Gold Gloves are voted on by the same people, managers and coaches.
The Cardinals who ranked high within this year's Best Tools poll are familiar names with familiar traits. It bodes well for Yadier Molina's chances of winning a ninth consecutive Gold Glove award. That would put him one behind Johnny Bench's National League record of 10 Gold Gloves.
Molina was voted by the managers as the best defensive catcher in the National League this season, ahead of Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy.
Matt Carpenter, who is widely regarded as one of the finest two-strike hitters in the league, ranked third when it came to "K-zone judgment." Only Joey Votto and Ben Zobrist ranked ahead of him the survey of managers and coaches.
According to the survey, Adam Wainwright has the third-best curve.
He annually ranks high in that category, missing only when he's been on the disabled list. Wainwright finished behind Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg, in that order.
Molina is considered one of the best "hit-and-run artists."
The survey had him second in the NL behind Marlins infielder Martin Prado.
The survey passed out to every major-league clubhouse also includes a question about the best manager in each league. Usually, the managers are asked to rank their top three in every category. That helps with the scoring system used to determine the final results. How each team goes about filling out the manager section varies. The managers and coaches are allowed to vote for players on their team when it comes to the individual awards, and they can do so for the manager, too, but it's got to be rare that a manager votes for himself.
When coaches fill out the survey, they sometimes include their manager in the rankings.
The Cardinals have not participated in this survey since 2011.
I'm not sure how many other teams do not participate.
In a vote of his peers, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny ranked third in the National League. Bruce Bochy remains atop the group, and he is widely regarded as one of the finest managers in all of baseball, a likely Hall of Famer and one of the best at handling and deploying a bullpen. Joe Maddon, of the Cubs, has the mad scientist reputation and gets a lot of attention for his fun-loving clubhouses and also his counter-intuitive moves. Though he didn't invent the role, he helped popularize the everyday utility player that has spread throughout the game and created and inspired more versatility within rosters.
Over in the American League, Terry Francona was voted as the top manager.
Unlike the Gold Glove awards, the "Best Tools" survey is not a barometer for the Manager of the Year award. That award is voted on by 30 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two from National League city. The "Best Tools" gets an opinion from peers, fellow uniformed employees.
If anything it helps reveal what two different constituencies that are voting, ostensibly, on the same skills use to arrive at their decision. It's probably a case of standings vs. story line, and of course reputation.