From the beginning of his tenure as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, manager Oliver Marmol has had one goal on his mind.
Winning the World Series.
All the way back in Spring Training of 2022, that was the tone that Marmol set for the Cardinals in his first year as their manager. He didn't shy away from expectations after the abrupt ending to the Mike Schildt era, instead, he upped the ante.
“In contacting our guys, it’s beyond optimism,” Marmol said in a Spring Training of 2022. “They are beyond just being committed to winning. You can hear the conviction in their voices that they are dedicated to winning a World Series. It’s impressive, and it’s exciting. The first three calls I made, in their own way, said it would be a disappointment if we didn’t win a World Series.”
Every manager should be saying that, right? Marmol doesn't deserve a gold star for saying the goal is to win a championship each year, but I think it's especially noteworthy when you compare that mentality to the rhetoric from front offices around baseball, including Cardinals' President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak.
"I never speak in absolutes," said Mozeliak that same week in 2022. "Look, he’s excited about this club, I think we all are. I think I’ve been doing it long enough to know that trying to position expectations so high, you can’t guarantee delivery. But I think really his point is that he knows we have a talented team, he knows there are guys that understand what it takes to win at a high level, at a consistent level — and what it takes to get to October and win in October. And so, when you have those attributes or those traits, you can easily connect dots to getting there."
Notice the difference?
At the end of the day, managers are graded by their wins and losses. Players can stick around the big leagues for a long time on the sheer prospect of their potential, some exciting tools they show, and even just the intangibles that they show. But when it comes to a skipper, they can embody everything you want in a manager, but if the results are not there, their seat gets hot.
And it's safe to say Marmol's seat is boiling as 2024 approaches.
Marmol is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in the Cardinals' history, causing many to call for his job throughout the 2023 season. The Cardinals stuck with Marmol as their manager, believing he has what it takes to right the ship, and seeing many of those qualities shine through during their NL Central title run in 2022 and even in the darkest moments of the 2023 season.
On a recent episode of the Noot News Podcast, we had an in-depth conversation about Marmol's ability to manage the Cardinals, and we talked through whether or not he's the right manager to lead the Cardinals in 2024 and beyond. You can check that out in the video embedded below.
However you feel about Marmol, the facts are the facts. He's going into the final year of his contract with no extension in place, coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and with multiple capable leaders within the organization who could take his job, such as new bench coach Daniel Descalso, first base coach Stubby Clapp, and franchise icon Yadier Molina, who is stepping into an advisor role with the club this season.
When Marmol was asked about the perceived pressure that comes with the state of his job security and the capable leaders around him, Marmol was quick to own that reality.
"It’s a high-stakes environment", Marmol told media at Cardina's Winter Warm-Up. "If you are insecure, then this seat’s not for you. It’s as simple as that. You want the best people around you, at all times. And that means you're hiring people that can one day do your job."
If you're asking me, I think Marmol has the makeup of a great manager, and I think the roster construction issues in 2023 meant no manager was going to save them from the mess they were in. But I also believe Marmol has to turn things around in 2024, or it will be hard to justify him returning as the Cardinals' manager in 2025 and beyond.
2024 is a prove it year for Marmol, and he seems motivated to right the ship in a big way this season.