The Cardinals’ explanation for firing Mike Shildt was not well received — and rightfully so.
John Mozeliak and the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office believed Mike Shildt was not the right manager going forward. The refusal to offer specifics for his dismissal other than “a philosophical difference” was not received well by the media.
It’s fair to question whether Mike Shildt was the right man for the job, but there must be reasons for making such a big change in the organization. Shildt had been with the Cardinals since 2004 and has been described as a “George Kissell disciple”. So firing Shildt, especially after three playoff-bound seasons, raised eyebrows.
By mentioning “a philosophical difference” and not explaining what that meant, John Mozeliak opened himself up to a plethora of media scrutiny.
If you are a subscriber to The Athletic, I encourage you to read Katie Woo’s article. Woo mentions how players were stunned by the news. Woo goes even farther, as she states that some inside the Cardinals’ organization considered firing “crazy”.
Mozeliak stated in his press conference about looking to interview some internal candidates for the position. The question Woo (and I for the matter) have is how much different would an internal candidate have from the predecessor.
Ben Fredrickson, a noted front-office critic, wrote a rather scathing article about yesterday’s press conference. Using words such as “dysfunctional” and “lingering confusion”, Fredrickson believed that Mike Shildt was fired because he simply got on Mozeliak’s bad side by disagreeing with where the club should go for 2022 and beyond.
In short, Fredrickson thinks it’s Mozeliak’s way or the highway when it comes to the Cardinals.
One of the factors in this quarrel was hitting coach Jeff Albert’s role with the Cardinals. Shildt criticised Albert’s hitting philosophy and tactics, while Mozeliak defended Albert. During some of his press conferences this season, Shildt was open about the need for additional help or working with the players he has. This never sits well with the front office. From the Post-Dispatch:
"Some of this was roster-related. Multiple times this season Shildt made comments about his team doing the best it could with what it had. The front office is not a fan of a manager lobbying for upgrades, publicly or privately.Problem is, that’s exactly why the Cardinals need a manager who does just that, because it provides some pressure on the front office to improve during a season, which is the one thing the Cardinals have struggled to do or refrained from even trying to do in recent seasons. Shildt did not campaign from the start."
ESPN writer Bradford Doolittle took issue with Mozeliak’s “philosophical differences”. Doolittle, in an ESPN+ article, called Mozeliak’s quote as akin to saying, “Wow, there is weather outside today.” David Schoenfeld, also from ESPN, described Mozeliak’s press conference as “bizarre” but also speculated that Shildt’s decision to bring in struggling Alex Reyes in the ninth inning of the Wild Card game as the final straw.
On ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser ripped this decision to shreds. Wilbon compared the Cardinals’ management to that of late former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause where the quote, “Organizations win championships.” Going further, Wilbon thinks the Cardinals simply value their philosophy over winning baseball games.
Mike Shildt was not perfect but to fire a manager after three playoff-bound seasons is perplexing. From all of the new information, including Derrick Goold’s newest article, the new manager Mozeliak and his group pick must adhere to what the front office wants from the team.