Congrats to former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who signed a two-year deal to manage the San Diego Padres. It’s great to see Shildty get a second chance, but this won’t be an easy job for him. Shildt became the fourth full-time managerial hire for A.J. Preller, San Diego’s top baseball executive since August 2014. Preller is hyperintense and controlling. He seems to have a problem finding a collaborative partner to share his vision. The Padres have an entitled clubhouse culture that can be difficult for a manager to deal with.
Highly regarded manager Bob Melvin lasted one year in San Diego and was happy to get away from the disruptive Preller, who prefers to have a puppet in the job. Melvin was hired immediately by the division–rival San Francisco Giants.
In San Diego the view of Shildt is wary. He’s respected for his baseball knowledge and communication skills with players. But he’ll have to overcome internal and external skepticism that raises questions: Did Preller hire Shildt because he knew he could control him? Will the players buy in if they believe Shildt is just an extension of Preller? When Shildt was working in an advisory capacity over the last two seasons in San Diego, he spent a lot of time in the home-team clubhouse. This left players – and probably Melvin – wondering if Shildt was there as Preller’s spy.
Here’s an overview from Kevin Acee who covers the team for the San Diego Union Tribune:
“Melvin isn’t the only one to push back on Preller’s relentless energy. Multiple managers and coaches have over the years talked about the exhausting nature of Preller’s perpetual fount of ideas and what they interpreted as his interference. However, narratives can be like a brush fire, feeding off themselves and spreading wildly.
“Whether it is because he is trying to reinvent the wheel or because he hardly sleeps, Preller can be difficult to work for. Of this, there seems to be little doubt, even as several people who have worked for him for several years say any such notion is almost entirely a product of his relentless drive for success.
“Many people — including those who have been close to him — say Preller can push the boundaries of truth. Sometimes, that seems to be in the name of guarding information. Sometimes, people see it as nefarious, which has served to feed a lack of trust. Several anecdotes told privately by those who have worked for Preller say he essentially talks in circles when he does not want to give an answer, a concept that rings true for anyone who has listened to his news conferences.”
Have fun, Shildty.
Shildt takes over as manager at a time when the Padres are in the process of slashing payroll in a massive reduction. Despite drawing a franchise-record 3.3 million at home last season, the Padres took out a $50 million loan to cover expenses.
That said, Shildt has a chance to make this work. He’s already been a successful and respected manager in the big leagues, having led the Cardinals to three straight playoff appearances (2019-2021.) He was the NL Manager of the Year in 2019 and earned other votes for the award in 2018 and 2021. In St. Louis, Shildt curated a .559 winning percentage that ranks seventh in MLB history among managers that have at least 300 big-league games on their resume. Impressive.
Shildt also worked closely with Preller over the last two seasons and is better prepared to handle Preller’s aggressive style. (Melvin was deemed uncooperative.) Shildt is familiar with every aspect of the organization and won’t be on a learning curve. But fairly or unfairly, Shildt must show that he’s a lot more than a Preller sycophant.
Shildt is a very good manager. He was fired at the end of 2022 after a showdown with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. I wouldn’t call it a power struggle but Shildt flatly refused to endorse some of the front-office plans, including control of the coaching staff. We all have bosses – like it or not – and Shildt was sacked after overestimating his clout within organization and making demands that the front office wouldn’t go along with.
Shildt undoubtedly learned a lot from the experience that led to his shocking dismissal. This time around he’ll do a smoother job of navigating his way through the roiling front-office politics. But it’s also imperative for Shildt to maintain credibility in the clubhouse by showing he can think for himself and maintain some independence instead of following Preller’s every order.
We wish Mike Shildt the best.
If anything, Shildty earned vindication through the Cardinals’ stunning and avoidable collapse in 2023. In a way, that became a victory for Shildt, who pushed hard with his own ideas of what the Cardinals should do.
Thanks for reading …
For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.