Exodus of Cardinal coaches in 2023 offseason were a sign of things to come

Mike Maddux, Jeff Albert, and Matt Holliday departing after the 2022 season should have been a warning flag of what was to come for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

The 2022 season was an exciting one; Albert Pujols was back, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright were in the twilight of their respective careers, and baseball was fully back after a year and a half of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The St. Louis Cardinals and their fans witnessed Albert Pujols make history that year by finishing the season with 703 home runs, and the team won the National League Central with an impressive 93-69 record. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado finished first and third in NL MVP voting, respectively. All was well for the organization once again despite losing in the NL Wild Card series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The ensuing offseason featured a profusion of departures from the coaching staff. Bench coach Skip Schumaker took a manager job with the Miami Marlins. Mike Maddux stated a desire to return home, so he left to be the pitching coach of the eventual World Series champions Texas Rangers. Hitting coach Jeff Albert left stating social media fatigue as part of the reason. Just like that, three of the most important coaches on the staff up and left the St. Louis Cardinals.

Oliver Marmol was tasked with not only starting his first full spring training by himself, but he now had to fill voids in key coaching positions. He started by promoting Dusty Blake to pitching coach. Matt Holliday was then hired to be the bench coach. Lastly, Turner Ward was promoted to hitting coach.

Almost as quickly as the old guard departed, new leaders were brought in. Turner Ward was a favorite of Paul Goldschmidt who was formerly the manager of the Mobile BayBears, the Arizona Diamondbacks AA affiliate. As manager, he was able to lead the BayBears to two Southern League championships in 2011 and 2012.

Dusty Blake was the pitching coach at Duke University from 2018 until 2020. The Cardinals brought him on as a pitching strategist in 2021. His promotion to the head pitching coach in 2022 was a bit questionable given his unproven track record.

Matt Holliday was an exciting hire; he was a career 134 wRC+ hitter with plenty of accolades to his name. The only issue, however, was that Holliday ended up departing from the role. In early January, Matt Holliday stepped down from the role citing a desire to spend time with his family.

The departure of Matt Holliday, a long-time veteran of the sport who has worked with a vast array of coaches in his time, was a bit curious, especially when paired with the other diaspora that occurred a few short months earlier. At the time, Holliday had two boys in high school tearing it up on the field. Now, one is the top prospect in baseball and the other is ranked as one of the best high school players. He has been able to watch both in pivotal moments of their playing careers.

Did Matt Holliday see something from November to January that he didn't like in the coaching staff? Did he reach out to Mike Maddux, Skip Schumaker, or Jeff Albert to glean some information?

Related. Managers story. 9 manager replacements for Oli Marmol. dark

Regardless of why these coaches left the Cardinals within a three-month period, the mass exodus of leadership spelled disaster from the start. Rather than having veterans of the sport with successful resumes leading the Cardinals into a transitory period without Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, or Adam Wainwright, the team was left with inexperienced coaches. Oliver Marmol was a rookie manager of sorts still, and he had unpracticed (unqualified, possibly?) coaches by his side.

The player acquisitions this past offseason build on the possibility that the coaching staff is not qualified to coach professional athletes. John Mozeliak targeted veterans who provided a positive clubhouse presence, perhaps because the coaches didn't know how to handle a clubhouse. Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Matt Carpenter are known for their illustrious careers and their abilities to lead a team.

There are plenty of reasons as to why the Cardinals have drastically underperformed since the start of the 2023 season. Coaching staff choices may be one of the biggest causes for the downfall of such a storied franchise.