SUNDAY: The Cardinals plan to have Shildt finish the season as their manager, Mozeliak told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other reporters Sunday. Meanwhile, they’ve promoted minor league assistants Mark Budaska and George Greer to serve as hitting coaches, per Goold. It doesn’t appear the Cards will name a bench coach to succeed Shildt, but Mozeliak said Greer and third base coach Jose Oquendo could help fill that void (Twitter link via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com).
SATURDAY: Mike Matheny is out as the Cardinals’ manager, the team announced in a press release today. Hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller have also been let go, and bench coach Mike Shildt will serve as interim manager for the time being.
As the Cardinals mentioned in the release on Twitter, Matheny has been at the helm for the Cardinals for the past six-plus seasons, during which time he helped the club get to the playoffs in four consecutive seasons from 2012-2015. That stretch included a National League Championship in 2013. He’ll end his Cardinals tenure with a 591-473 record.
While the team won’t hold an official news conference until tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m., President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak offered some words on the subject.
“These decisions are never easy, but we felt that a change in leadership was necessary as the team prepares to enter into the second half of the season. I would like to thank Mike for his exceptional commitment and devotion to the Cardinals organization, including many fond memories of our years working together.”
Though Matheny figured to be on the hot seat pending the outcome of the 2018 season, it’s certainly a surprise to see him let go here and now. The Cardinals have never had a losing record under his leadership, and though they currently sit just a game above the .500 mark, they’re just four games back of the NL’s second Wild Card spot and at least within striking distance of the NL Central crown.
Then again, the standards for Cardinals fans and personnel alike are higher than those of most ballclubs. If the Redbirds fail to make the playoffs this season, it would mark their third consecutive campaign without a playoff berth; that hasn’t happened in St. Louis since the 1997-1999 seasons. Furthermore, the Cardinals certainly didn’t expect to take a step backwards following key additions like Marcell Ozuna and Bud Norris, along with a wealth of young talent coming up through the farm system.
Matheny’s also been surrounded by at least a bit of controversy of late in regards to player management. After reports surfaced that Norris had been “mercilessly riding” 21-year-old rookie Jordan Hicks (some described it as bullying) in the clubhouse, Matheny received criticism from some in the baseball world for his decision to side with Norris and not address the situation more seriously. Matheny’s most notable response was that Norris was from a “different generation of players.” It’s unclear whether this played even a small role in Matheny’s dismissal, but it does raise further questions about his performance as manager, at the very least.
Matheny’s also received criticism for his bullpen management, poor use of the double-switch, and his failure to motivate players such as Dexter Fowler (whose effort level Mozeliak recently criticized). However, none of this takes into account that this Cardinals team is suddenly much younger and more raw than in years past. It’s also entirely possible that Matheny’s dismissal is simply a shake-up, and that St. Louis will be searching for a candidate whom they believe can get the most out of the club’s young core in a second-half push towards the playoffs.