Is the Cardinals’ “philosophy” hiring underwhelming coaching staffs?
I don’t know if Mike Shildt deserved to be fired. There are certainly several franchises (Hey, Anaheim 👋🏼) that’d love his success — three playoff appearances in three years, including an NLCS — but the St. Louis Cardinals have some of the highest standards in the MLB outside of the Bronx.
That’s why I, a Cardinals fan, didn’t really understand why he was so blindsided by the dismissal. The only thing that would shock me about Shildt is if he got another gig (but Mike Matheny did — so who knows?).
For as much success as president of baseball operations John Mozeliak had early in his tenure, the Matheny and the Shildt eras were equally meh by St. Louis metrics.
Not re-signing Albert Pujols was a predictably good move, but the first base spot, and lineup in general, lacked pop until the arrival of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
Yes, Mozeliak acquired those two All-Stars, but over the past decade, the farm system/coaching staff has failed to produce/develop any real All-Star position players save for a few good seasons out of Matt Carpenter. Tyler O’Neill has all the tools, but I want to see him do it again before I trust it.
Even if fate had gone differently for Oscar Tavares, the outfield hasn’t exactly been full of transcendent talent. Matt Holiday notwithstanding, Tommy Pham, Randall Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Ozuna, Jon Jay and Harrison Bader have all had serviceable-to-good years but that’s about it.
I know it’s heresy to question Cardinals Devil Magic, but it’s no coincidence that mantra came about with Yadier Molina calling games and controlling baserunners. Having Molina behind the plate is as comforting as having your grandma in the pool when you’re just learning to jump off the edge. (No? Just me? OK.)
He’s basically a pitching coach on the field, and it’s terrifying to think of how the staff will perform after he retires.
Look at the pitching development post Dave Duncan; it reads like the above list of position players who failed to reach their potential, have potential or were brought in as stopgaps. Michael Wacha was supposed to take the staff ace baton a la Chris Carpenter to Adam Wainwright, but injuries never let him reach the highs of his 2013 World Series run. The only constant with Carlos Martinez has been his regression, and Alex Reyes’ career seems to be teetering on a similar path.
You can point to Jack Flaherty, and he’ll point to his contract situation, which falls directly on Mozeliak. I wasn’t exactly furious when Lance Lynn bounced in 2017 (although I kind of am now), but I will be apoplectic if St. Louis lets another Cy Young-level starter leave.
The best-case scenario is a Mark Jackson-Steve Kerr outcome, with a new coaching staff able to get the best out of the talent, develop prospects and make substantial playoff runs. (The 2019 NLCS against the Nationals doesn’t count because that offense and its six runs over four games gave new meaning to the word anemic.) However, if the extent of Mozeliak’s imagination is Matheny and Shildt, it’s more likely he hires — or, God forbid, promotes from within — another emotionless skipper, who stares into the abyss when obvious scoring opportunities stare him in the face.
Arenado told Mozeliak he was picking up his option before the postseason, and my guess is part of that decision was the 17-game winning streak, but the majority of it had to be a trust that the organization would try to carry 2021’s momentum into 2022.
Mozeliak better have a Gabe Kapler type up his sleeve, because if this hire falters, there’s probably not going to be a Yadi to maintain the pitching staff — and maybe not an Arenado to provide power — in 2023.