Shildt Fired Despite Success

The St. Louis Cardinals cited “philosophical differences” as they fired Mike Shildt on Thursday. For many, it was a curious move. The team enjoyed a significant amount of success since he took over as manager with 69 games left in the 2018 season. Despite trips to the playoffs in each of his full seasons at the helm, the manager has a 4–9 record in the postseason.

Brief Tenure, Good Results

Shildt’s success started immediately when he was named the interim manager in 2018. He took over a team from Mike Matheny that was at 47–46. He rallied the team to a 41–28 record to finish the year.

In 2019, he was named Manager of the Year and led the team to a Central Division title. The Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.  They were then swept in the NLCS by the eventual World Series Champion Washington Nationals. The 2020 team would also make the playoffs. The 2021 club made it into the playoffs with a record-breaking winning streak and were arguably the hottest team in baseball in September.

Cardinals Fired Shildt for Reasons Unknown

Most front offices would be content with their manager after finishing the year 90-72 and securing a playoff berth. However, the 2021 season wasn’t a normal one for the Cardinals. Many fans began calling for Shildt’s dismissal immediately following his decision to bring Alex Reyes into the ninth inning of the wild-card game. Reyes threw four pitches and the season was over as he gave up a two-run home run to Chris Taylor.  The move was heavily criticized as Reyes had performed poorly late in the year after an otherworldly first half.

For many, disappointment in the Cardinals and Shildt began much earlier in the year. His bullpen usage was often called into question as he taxed the same arms often. When matchups didn’t work out, he insisted he could only use the players he had. He occasionally batted Matt Carpenter in the top half of the lineup even though his numbers didn’t warrant it. The offense disappeared as the rotation was decimated by injuries.

During a press conference, President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak insisted that the 2021 season was a success. He stated the decision to part with Mike Shildt was not based on past performance but instead on the future direction of the team. Mozeliak was not forthcoming with the specifics surrounding the philosophical differences. It was evident at times that Shildt did not fully embrace the hitting philosophy implemented by hitting coach Jeff Albert. In June, Shildt signaled repeatedly that he needed more talent on his roster. The Cardinals have significant money coming off of the books this offseason. Where to invest those dollars for next year may have been a point of contention.

Are They Better Off?

Regardless of the rationale, whether the team is better off without Shildt will depend heavily on who replaces him. The club has a history of promoting within. As a result, Ollie Marmol and Stubby Clapp are names that have immediately surfaced as possibilities. Skip Schumaker and Mark McGwire are potential candidates with relatively recent ties to the organization. If the Cardinals opt for an external candidate, A. J. Hinch and Buck Showalter are both intriguing.  Embracing the front office philosophy will likely be a requirement. But that may be more challenging than outperforming Shildt with lineup construction and bullpen usage.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players/Managers Mentioned:

Mike Shildt, Mike Matheny, Alex Reyes, Chris Taylor, Matt Carpenter, Skip SchumakerMark McGwire, A. J. HinchBuck Showalter

 


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