Mike Shildt made a gutsy call on Monday by giving the ball to Carlos Martinez in the ninth inning. Like it or not, good or bad, smart or stupid, that’s what the St. Louis Cardinals manager continues to do as a leader.
After Sunday’s ninth-inning debacle, St. Louis Cardinals manager, Mike Shildt, apparently didn’t blink an eye by handing over the ball again to Carlos Martinez. With Monday’s NLDS game vs the Atlanta Braves tied 4-4 in the ninth, Shildt called again to his often erratic closer.
Shildt’s confidence in Martinez then paid off when, after giving up a lead off ground rule double to Ronald Acuna, the right hander retired the next three Braves hitters. Two pop ups and a ground out to the top of their order which included Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson.
After Miles Mikolas’ 10 pitch, three up and three down, 10th inning relief outing, the Cardinals won a dramatic victory in the bottom of the 10th. Yadier Molina’s fly ball brought in Kolten Wong from third base and the Cardinals tied the NLDS, setting up a fifth and deciding game in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Monday’s gutsy call demonstrates Shildt’s leadership style.
Martinez’s 16-pitch ninth inning restored confidence, if not with Cardinal fans, at least in himself. But the credit for Martinez living to fight another day should be given to Mike Shildt and his unrelenting confidence in ‘one of his guys.’
Monday’s episode illustrates Shildt’s leadership style in standing up for the guys on his roster when many fans start to bail out on a particular player. Fans have had up and down relationships with players such as Matt Carpenter, Harrison Bader, Adam Wainwright, and Michael Wacha, just to name a few.
MIke Shildt could have given up on any of the above players during the season and many fans wouldn’t have criticized him for it. In spite of Carpenter’s and Bader’s struggles at the plate, and Wainwright’s and Wacha’s struggles on the mound, Shildt believed in these players and never waivered.
While Bader continues to struggle, Carpenter has found an important role in coming off the bench as a pinch hitter, batting .289 in his last 30 games. MIchael Wacha found his role in the bullpen and as spot starter with a 3.86 ERA in his last 15 outings.
However, Adam Wainwright may be the biggest beneficiary of Shildt’s leadership style this year. The future Cardinal Hall of Famer-who-should-have-won-at-least-one Cy Young Award, has been effective in the four spot in the rotation. Even though his season ERA stands at 4.19, at home his ERA stands at 2.56.
It’s not just based on sentiment, its pragmatic
This may sound like it’s all based on sentiment, but Mike Shildt’s leadership style has a pragmatic side to it. It’s the roster he has been given and he has to make it work. This is best demonstrated by the case of Carlos Martinez.
Who else is going to close out games for the Cardinals in this postseason? Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley haven’t had the experience to turn to in the postseason. Really, other than Andrew Miller, no one else has any extensive experience to close out in a high leverage situation.
Carlos wasn’t who Mike Shildt or the Cardinals front office counted on to be the closer in 2019. But with the season-ending injury to Jordan Hicks and Andrew MIller’s inconsistency, who else was Shildt going to turn to? Carlos was the pragmatic choice and it has worked well in most situations.
However, Mike Shildt is not above criticism.
Criticism of Mike Shildt is legitimate and shouldn’t be discounted. Should Shildt have sent Harrison Bader down sooner than he did? Did he stay too long with Matt Carpenter before moving him to a bench role?
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As with most managers, legitimate questions could be asked about Shildt’s in-game decisions. This obviously arose Sunday, when he decided to walk Brian McCann and pitch to the Braves hottest postseason hitter, Dansby Swanson.
Also, could have he pulled Carlos sooner and gone back into the bullpen? Carlos was struggling and maybe another call to the bullpen was needed. All are honest questions.
Nevertheless, Mike Shildt has proven more right than wrong with his decisions to stand by his players. Staying with Carlos Martinez in the closer role is the right call for this postseason. It’s paid off for the Cardinals all year. At this point, you just can’t go in another direction.
Mike Shildt’s call on Monday wasn’t popular, but it was gutsy and…the right call. During the offseason, the Cardinals can relook at the closer position, but for now, Carlos Martinez is and should be the closer.