On July 15, 2018, the move was made to make Mike Shildt the St. Louis Cardinals interim manager, replacing Mike Matheny. The Cardinals were one game over .500 at 47-46. by Aug 28th, The Cardinals were 73-58, 15 games over .500. The interim tag was removed, and they finished the season 88-74—15 games overt .500. October 14th, 2021, he was fired for philosophical differences.
Shildt was 252-199 for a .559 winning percentage and qualified for the playoffs in 3 straight seasons. Under Shildt, the cards finished 1st in the Central in 2019 and second in the NL Central in 2020 and 2021, earning a wild card spot both years.
The Cardinals were 91-72 and took the NL Central Pennant by beating the Chicago Cubs on the last day of the season (9/29) 9-0. They beat the Braves in the NLDS three games to two. They were swept by the Washington Nationals, who eventually won the World Series. The Cardinals were not projected to be in the playoffs, let alone win the division. For that accomplishment, Shildt was named manager of the year.
The year of pandemic-ball. The Cardinals started to play on July 24th stopped on July 29 due to covid protocols. When their play was suspended, they were 2-3. They resumed play on August 15th. With a doubleheader. They would restart their season with 3 doubleheaders in a five-day stretch. They would play 21 games in a 16-day stretch. Then in Sept., they would play 32 games in 21 days. IN all, the Cardinals would play 11 doubleheaders. They finished 30-28 and made the expanded playoffs. But lost 2-1 to the San Diego Padres. However, the Cardinals were the only NL Central Team to win a ballgame in the playoffs.
The off-season brought Nolan Arenado from Colorado and Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina from the brink of free agency. The start of the season was marred by pitching injuries and some key components like Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong. Yet somehow, Shildt and the Cardinals found themselves on May 29th 8 games over the .500 mark at 30-22. Two weeks later (June 12), they had dropped to 32-32 and 4th place in the NL Central. By the end of the month, they were one game under .500 40-41 and 8 games out of first in the Central. One month later, they were back to 1 game over .500 but 9.5 games out of first. By the end of August, they were 4 games over .500 and 12.5 games out of first and 5th in the wild card race. On Sept 11, they were 3 games over .500 and 15 games out of 1st but only 2.5 games behind second wild-card San Diego 17 games later on September 28th, they were 19 games over .500 and the second Wild Card with a 6.5 game lead.
October 6, the wild card play-in vs. the Dodgers was a hard-fought game, eventually ending in a walk-off homer by Chris Taylor in the bottom of the ninth. Nine days later, he was fired.
Now bear in mind this, Mike Shildt was hired as a scout in 2003 BY John Mozeliak. He worked his way through the system to a manager's job in the farm system before landing on Matheny's staff. So just what Philosophical differences could exist after being in the organization for 17 years?
THE CARDINAL WAY?
The Cardinal Philosophy has always been good fundamentals, defense, baserunning, hitting, and pitching.
Shildt took over a team that was horrible on defense. The next year one of the best in the league was led by Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong. 2019 saw some of the best work in the rotation with Rookie Dakota Hudson 16 wins, Adam Wainwright 14 wins. Jack Flaherty would struggle in the first half yet be almost unhittable in the year's second half.
The Bullpen Jordan Hicks garnered 14 saves before going down to injury. Carlos Martinez would step in and get 24 saves. You had 3 mashers in the lone up Paul Goldschmidt 34HRs. 97 RBIs. Paul DeJong 30HRs 78RBIs and Marcel Ozuna 29HRs, 89RBIs. Guys were stealing bases. Wong 24, Tommy Edman 15, Bader 11, Even Ozuna had 12. That sounds like Cardinal baseball to me.
Through 2020 and 2021, the defense has continued to be the staple of this team, even losing 2-time Gold Glove winner Kolten Wong in the process. Hitting has had issues, but that would seem to be more in Jeff Albert's territory lines. Pitching has been solid for the most part, other than crucial injuries here and there. Even in the press conference Mo when asked, said he thought that the team was "managed well" and that "the decision was not based on wins and losses." Bill DeWitt echoed that by saying the decision to fire Shildt was not based on this season. Ok, so the team was managed well. You were not upset about wins and losses. So again, what Philosophical differences are there that precipitated this?
Neither Mozeliak nor Bill DeWitt Jr. would EXPAND on just the philosophical differences or WHY it took 5 days, and then the announcement could not wait and HAD to be announced on a playoff game day, WHICH required permission from Major League Baseball! But yet it was not about how the team was managed or wins and losses. I mean, IS there an explanation out there? Why can't Mozeliak and or DeWitt explain themselves? Several times during the presser, both were asked and pressed on the differences that caused this rift that developed in 5 days, while Shildt was at home in North Carolina!
Two items were "divulged" but pushed aside. One was when a reporter asked whether rumored tensions between Shildt and hitting coach Jeff Albert had anything to do with the difference in philosophy. (sometime back in August, Shildt remarked the post-game presser that the Cardinals were relying too much on the slug and not making good contact when it came to hitting. Now couple that with the proposed study to move the fences in at Bush to increase the home runs, and now it looks a little more like an issue. However, Mo said that was not the "sole" factor.
With the cardinals using Albert's hitting philosophy/system on hitting throughout the minor league system, it seems pretty clear they are committed to him and appear to choose to shield him from ANY responsibility with major league results.
The second is that Mo referenced the direction that the team wanted to be headed. This could mean several things. The one that makes the most sense to me is. Most recently, the Giants have been a model of success. They invested in the farm system and supplemented with veterans, but it is the type of players. They are making use of platoon-type players and using almost a regular rotation at certain positions to make use of the bench players they have. The Cardinals could do this, especially with the DH coming in players Like Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez. As well as current players like Tommy Edman, Edmundo Sosa, and Jose Rondon. It is possible that Shildt was not keen on that idea. In which case, Mo and the front office had NO choice but to make a change.
WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?
The next manager is something that has been discussed since Mike Matheny was hired. Jose Oquendo, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter - are all names that get mentioned. And Now, with Skip Schumacher in San Diego as a bench coach, his name is popping up as well. And, of course, calls for Yadier Molina as a player-manager. Then you have coaches still under contracts like Ollie Marmol and Stubby Clapp, and Pop Warner. The Cardinals could go outside the "Cardinal Family." Bruce Bochy's name has come up here, as well as former manager turned analyst Buck Showalter.
In the last two managerial changes, Mike Matheny came out of the administrative office, and Mike Shildt was a bench coach for Matheny. So do they change or go to the internal well three times in a row?
While Ollie Marmol seems to be the odds-on favorite to most people but a couple of names have gained some support. Skip Schumacher and Matt Holliday. It will be tough for ANYONE coming in IF the team insists on keeping the current contract coaches. Even though Holliday and Schumacher are "Cardinal family," they still might have ideas on who they want on the bench with them, and there could be the rub that disc=qualifies them. As I am sure, one coach that will be non-negotiable is Jeff Albert. Could a guy like Holiday work with Albert?
At this point, anything is speculation, but as quickly as the firing was announced, And with the CBA and Free Agent period starting in a month. Expect a decision shortly after the World Series is over.
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