Does the Cardinals signing another veteran for leadership point to bigger issues?

Matt Carpenter, another veteran with a positive clubhouse presence, was recently signed by the Cardinals. Do all of these character signings speak volumes about management?

Houston Astros v St Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros v St Louis Cardinals / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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In October of 2021, Oliver Marmol was promoted from bench coach to the St. Louis Cardinals' field manager. Marmol, only thirty-five at the time, was the youngest manager in baseball. The team was coming off a historic winning streak to make it to the playoffs that year, and Mike Shildt appeared to have another year as manager locked up.

Speculation ran rampant surrounding Shildt's firing and Marmol's subsequent promotion. Many fans tabbed Oliver Marmol as a mouthpiece for the front office, others balked at the hiring as rushed and imprudent, and even more fans voiced disagreement with John Mozeliak's firing of Shildt due to "philosophical differences". Regardless, Marmol stood to be the 51st manager in franchise history for 2022 and beyond.

Oliver Marmol was a player in the Cardinals' system as recently as 2010, and he climbed up the coaching ranks throughout the decade after his retirement. He was quite familiar on a personal level with players such as Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina.

Marmol's calling card as a manager was his ability to build relationships with players. During his first Spring Training as a manager, Katie Woo of the Athletic released a piece detailing his managerial style.

"It’s why he stresses the importance of relationships and, more importantly, effectively communicating within those relationships. And it’s why he believes the culture he is determined to promote within his club will be the leading cause of its success."

Katie Woo

That begs the question, why are so many players being signed this offseason by the St. Louis Cardinals to promote a positive clubhouse culture? Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, Sonny Gray, and now Matt Carpenter were all signed partly due to their ability to lead their fellow players. Sonny Gray is a very strong pitcher, but the other signings didn't make complete sense, especially when considered together.

Isn't it the job of the manager to maintain a positive clubhouse culture? Players should take charge of the atmosphere; more often than not, a player will respond more positively when called out by a teammate after a game than they would should the manager scold them in front of the team. However, the manager should be the one to set the tone.

Adam Wainwright, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado were tabbed as last year's de facto team leaders. Wainwright was fighting his on-field demons for most of the year, so he was unable to fully lead. Paul Goldschmidt was tasked with being the sole guy to speak up, and Nolan Arenado was also working through some struggles on the field.

Perhaps we should have seen a cultural downfall in 2023 when Skip Schumaker was poached by the Marlins, Mike Maddux decided to be closer to home with the Rangers, and Matt Holliday ultimately turned down a bench coach job to spend more time with his family. These three esteemed coaches, two of whom saw great success in 2023 with their respective teams, would have shouldered some leadership roles with the team. Instead, the players were forced to step up and possibly be the sole voices of confidence in the clubhouse.

Oliver Marmol was hired due to his familiarity with the team, his ability to build relationships with players, and his penchant for inspiring players. The signings this offseason were directly focused on improving the clubhouse culture. Perhaps the front office should look at its manager and ask him to step up rather than putting the onus on the players.

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