Is veteran leadership the problem for the Cardinals or are there more issues?

Maybe the problem isn't in the dugout but in the office.

Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

A lack of veteran leadership from the St. Louis Cardinals' players in 2023 has been a topic of discussion this last week. This was with Contreras, Goldschmidt, Arenado, Wainwright, Montgomery, Naile, Matz, Mikolas, VerHagen, Gallegos, and Stratton on the team. 11 players exceeded the age of 30. There were only eight players under 25. The ratio of older to younger players was such that they could have had a buddy system like we had in high school and had a few older players left over. 

This has overshadowed management’s questionable leadership. The Tyler O’Neill, Willson Contreras, and Jordan Walker situations foreshadowed these problems. 

I’ve seen posts that make this seem normal. There are posts now comparing this with how Tony LaRussa relied on older players. In his 2011 season, he rostered 9 players under 25 and 13 over 30, which is close to the same ratio. LaRussa didn’t rely on his players for leadership. He didn’t need to. He had his own experience and the experience of his staff. This is where the comparison needs to occur. 

Tony LaRussa's staff in 2011

Tony LaRussa - Manager - Played for six years (132 Games). After his playing days, he managed in the minor leagues for two years and was manager of the White Sox and A’s and brought his 16 years of experience managing major league teams to the Cardinals. By the time he got to St. Louis, he had already managed in three World Series, winning one. 

Joe Pettini - Bench Coach - played four years (188 Games) with the Giants. Managed in the Cardinals Farm system for 8 years before getting his chance.  

Dave Duncan - Pitching coach - A catcher in the majors for 11 years (929 games) and was an All-Star in 1971. He coached for the Cleveland Indians for 2 years, became the pitching coach for Seattle, and from 1983 on was the pitching coach for La Russa at the White Sox, As, and then came to the Cardinals with several years of experience. 

Mark McGwire - Hitting Coach - 16 years as a player (1874 Games), 12 All-Star games, and has HOF stats. After taking a few years off, he became the hitting coach for LaRussa. His success here led to stints as a hitting coach for the Dodgers and later as a bench coach for the Padres. He was the only member of this group with no coaching experience when he started. His extensive baseball knowledge and larger-than-life presence attracted players to follow his lead on the first day.

Current Management Team

Oliver Marmol - Manager - Never played in the majors. Managed “A-Ball” for five years in the minors. He spent two years as the Cardinals’ first base coach, then two years as bench coach before being named as manager. 

Daniel Descalso - Bench Coach - Played 10 years (1,079 Games). No management or coaching experience at any level. 

Dusty Blake - Pitching Coach - Never played in the MLB minor or major leagues. Never coached or managed in minor or major leagues. 

Turner Ward - Hitting Coach - played for 12 years (629 Games). From 2015 to 2019, he was the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks, The Dodgers, and the Reds. 

Tony LaRussa came in with immediate credibility and surrounded himself with a staff that had the same. His staff exuded leadership. Pettini was himself a manager for eight years, three years at “AAA” where he won a championship. Marmol is the sole member of his staff with any management experience, albeit at the "A" ball level. He has two coaches with zero coaching experience before becoming a member of this staff. 

The Cardinals had enough veteran leadership in the dugout last year. They just didn’t have it in the office.