In what was already a crucial offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals, the front office is now under even more pressure to deliver.
The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t played a baseball game in a few weeks now, but they’ve found a way to dominate headlines regardless.
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak and the rest of the Cardinals front office received a special exception from Major League Baseball to fire manager Mike Shildt on the day of a playoff game, and since then, the reports surrounding the decision have been cloudy at best. On Monday, after Mike Shildt delivered an emotional and heartfelt statement of gratitude to the organization, the pressure on the Cardinal front office to deliver a deep postseason run officially rose to another level.
I’ve spent almost four years now as a philosophy major at Wake Forest University, but I still can’t read between the lines to decipher the “philosophical differences” between Shildt and Mozeliak. Was it emphasizing outside talent over homegrown players? A lack of aggressiveness at the trade deadline? Was it even baseball related? Philosophers– and Cardinal fans– question everything, and for good reason.
The reason for Shildt’s dismissal, however, is no longer important. As Shildt said on Monday, “Let’s move forward and let’s take care of maintaining the integrity of the future of the organization.” (It’s so, so hard to not root for this guy). Now, the Cardinals must not only hire a new manager, they must improve on this year’s wild card run.
Mozeliak is a smart guy. He knew what he was doing when he made the call last week. But the pressure on the front office has never been higher than this offseason.
When the Shildt news broke, a friend of mine made an interesting comparison. He recalled the surprising move by the Golden State Warriors to fire their head coach Mark Jackson. The team was immensely talented, but had yet to take the next step in the postseason. Four years later, Steve Kerr had guided the Warriors to four straight NBA Finals and won two championships.
Is this a fair comparison? If so, who is the Cardinals version of Steve Kerr? It’s easy for Warriors fans to look back now and remark about how genius the Jackson move was. But the front office risked their entire reputation on that decision, and it was not well received at the time.
The key, of course, is that the Warriors also signed important pieces like Shaun Livingston during that offseason. It wasn’t solely a change of leadership that delivered a title. And ultimately, the same will be true of the Cardinals. A new manager will have lots of pressure on him, but the front office needs to be aggressive in supporting him through roster construction as well.
I hope Mike Shildt’s tenure as manager of the Cardinals will be remembered fondly. The players loved him, his teams competed hard, and he was effective in getting the team back to the clean, fundamental baseball that we had missed during the Matheny era.
In addition, there is no doubt in my mind that Mike Shildt will be a successful manager for another club at the major league level. But just how Tyler O’Neil and Matthew Liberatore have faced extra scrutiny because of the success of the players they got an opportunity over (no one will ever forget Randy Arozarena), so too will this new manager be under an additional microscope as his predecessor succeeds elsewhere.
Really, no matter who the next manager is, these are now officially Mozeliak’s Cardinals. I’ve been a defender of Mo in the past, and I will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. That is, as long as the Cardinals keep winning.
The pressure to win is now squarely on the front office. They have no option but to put the St. Louis Cardinals in a position to make a deep playoff run in 2022. I sure hope they pull it off.