Manager Oliver Marmol has handled the St. Louis Cardinals with aplomb and deserves recognition for it.
I had my doubts on Oliver Marmol. I thought it would be a tall order for a rookie manager to dexterously walk the tightrope of fielding a productive team while acknowledging the final seasons and sendoffs of (at least) two St. Louis Cardinals greats. But Marmol has pulled it off stunningly well, and he deserves consideration as the National League Manager of the Year.
I figured this season would mostly be nostalgia pandering with winning put on the back burner, but Marmol has made victory a priority while still allowing the crowd to appreciate the final seasons of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.
It helps that Pujols has had a renaissance season and forced his way into the everyday lineup, but during periods where Pujols wasn’t as productive, Marmol didn’t have qualms about platooning him to only play against left-handers. Molina hasn’t been as strong this season, but Marmol made sure to keep him as Adam Wainwright’s personal catcher so they could break the all-time record for most starts between a battery.
On the pitching side, Marmol has shown a refreshingly quick hook to the bullpen. The two previous managers, Mike Shildt and Mike Matheny, stuck with struggling pitchers for frustratingly long periods, even when it was clear that the hurlers didn’t have it. Marmol has not been afraid to take a pitcher out when he’s gotten into trouble, even standing his ground when Wainwright has scuffled, especially near the end of the season.
Marmol’s candidness in his interviews is also a welcome change from the “coachspeak” of Shildt and Matheny. While Marmol can’t reveal his thoughts and strategies about everything he’s done or plans to do, he is honest about his moves and whether they worked, and he isn’t afraid to criticize a player’s production if the situation calls for it.
In the Cardinals’ final home game on Oct. 2, as Marmol removed Wainwright after he had another mediocre start, he also took out Pujols and Molina to let the crowd roar in appreciation of the three players’ contributions to the team. It was splendidly handled. If the Cardinals hadn’t wrapped up the division, I would have been less enthusiastic about the move given that the team would likely need its strongest players out there (whether Molina can be considered a better catcher than Andrew Knizner at this point is a different topic), but Marmol has given me faith that he will make the correct decision most of the time.
A lot has gone the team’s way in this storybook season. If Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado weren’t having especially strong seasons, the Cardinals might not have clinched by this time, if at all. If Pujols hadn’t turned back the clock, he would have been relegated to a bit role and not hit the historic marker of 700 home runs.
In that sense, Marmol has had some good luck go his way, but for a manager I thought was being thrown into the fire, he has been outstanding and should at least receive consideration for Manager of the Year. I’m excited to see what he does for an encore in 2023.