The pressure is on Oli Marmol and the St. Louis Cardinals to win immediately.
Oli Marmol is 35. He is a first time manager. Yet he faces significant pressure to win immediately – and win big – in his first season as St. Louis Cardinals manager.
That became even more true on Thursday night when the San Diego Padres hired Bob Melvin, one of the best and most respected managers in baseball. If the Cardinals start slow, or fail to meet expectations, fans will wonder “Why didn’t we hire Melvin instead?”
Fair or not, it’s now Marmol and the Cardinals’ reality. And in all likelihood, they will enter the regular season with World Series expectations, perhaps even greater in 2022 than in 2021, considering that it will be Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina’s last season in baseball and with the front office likely to go all-in on a deep postseason run.
They also have the Nolan Arenado factor. Of course, he didn’t exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and will play with the Cardinals in 2022, but there is a real chance he strongly considers doing so following this season. By winning, and perhaps winning big, the Cardinals would maximize their chances of keeping Arenado in St. Louis long term. They could also sign Trevor Story, one of Arenado’s closest friends, to help increase their chances of retaining him.
But that would also increase the expectations that the Cardinals face in 2022. Having a first time manager facing these kinds of expectations is a daunting task. There is a reason, however, why Mike Shildt and the front office felt so confident about Marmol’s future as a manager and it will be put to the test immediately.
But there is a reason why so many felt the Cardinals were playing with fire by firing Shildt, even as the two sides had philosophical differences. He had the pulse of the clubhouse, the players loved him and he’s seen as one of baseball’s best managers. By letting him go, the Cardinals risked ruining that dynamic. By hiring someone who knows the players, and worked under Shildt, they lessened the risk. But it’s a huge risk for a team entering arguably their most important season in recent history.