The short attention-span gnats out there want to revise history by insisting that Mike Shildt was never a good manager for the Cardinals. 

Yup, the geniuses completely choose to ignore the team’s improvement when he took over for Mike Matheny just before the All-Star break in 2018. 

The 2018 Cardinals under Matheny: 47-46. Ninth in wins among NL teams, 17th in wins among the 30 teams. 

The 2018 Cardinals under Shildt: 41-28 from when he took over on July 15 until the end of the regular season. The 41 wins were tied for first in the NL and tied for 2nd in the majors. And under Shildt’s direction, the Cardinals immediately sharpened up defensively, and in their baserunning. 

Shildt took over the roster that Matheny also managed in 2018. The Cardinals didn’t make any trades to upgrade the talent. Shildt latrgely had the same players that Matheny did in 2018, and Shildt’s winning percentage (.594) was 89 points higher than Matheny’s that season. 

Oh. But Shildt wasn’t good at his job in ’18.

Not at all. 

(Laughter.)

The 2019 Cardinals under Shildt: 91-71 record, the team’s first NL Central title since 2015. Made the playoffs after a three-year absence. Won a playoff series for the first time since 2014. Advanced to the NLCS for the first time since ‘14. Ranked 4th in the majors in defensive runs saved (73). Ranked 4th in the majors in net baserunning gain, +77. 

Shildt was still doing all of that horribly inept managing right?

I suppose that’s why he was voted NL Manager of the Year in 2019. 

In 2020 Shildt’s team refused to capitulate to a Covid-19 outbreak that severely disrupted the early part of the season and caused an enormous overload of games on the schedule. It wasn’t a great team — not at all — but the Cardinals persevered and made a late-season run to pull above .500 and get into the playoffs. 

Unlike the 2021 Cardinals, last year’s team fought hard — just as the ‘19 team did in erasing an August standings deficit to win the division. 

Shildt likes to claim that his ‘21 Cardinals are leaving their hearts on the field, battling their tails off, and all of that hokey stuff. It’s a load of junk, and I’ll continue to call it that until this team kicks up the energy and gets after it. 

Here’s a thought: do some of this scratching and clawing early in games instead of letting the other side jump on you during the first few innings. 

In their 13-24 stretch going into Friday’s game against Pittsburgh, the Cardinals have been outscored 76-56 over the first three innings, 105-63 over the first four innings, 117-80 over the first five, and 150-98 over the first six. 

I’ve praised Shildt for his good leadership along the way, but to this point of the 2021 schedule I don’t care for his work this season. 

I’m not sure why some people think that managers can’t have bad seasons, or at least disappointing seasons, even after they’ve had multiple seasons of effective managing. 

In other words, we’re not supposed to criticize Shildt in 2021 just because we praised him, legitimately so, in previous years? That’s insane. But then again, welcome to modern American culture. It’s ALL 100 PERCENT GOOD or 100 PERCENT BAD. There’s no tolerance whatsoever for pointing out the good and the bad.

And you cannot rip a manager — ever — once you’ve praised him, right? For the advanced thinkers who actually believe this, I have a question: your family loves a restaurant. You enjoy the food and the friendly service. The prices are fair. You look forward to going there. Great. And now you must forever support the same restaurant — even if the place looks filthy, and the kitchen prepares lousy food, presented by rude or incompetent servers — oh, and at higher prices. Nope. Can’t stop going there. Can’t complain. You are not allowed to adjust your opinion based on the restaurant’s dramatic neglect in in performance. 

This of course is hopelessly and incredibly stupid, but sports fans (some, not all) apply this childish, irrational standard on a continual basis. 

If you holler for Shildt to make a lineup change — and by the way he’s usually too slow to do that — then you’re doing what I do. You may like one version of a lineup, but when the lineup combination goes quiet, then it’s time to push for a change. You see, it’s OK to give a manager credit for doing something smart — and badger him for being dense. Both things are possible, and reasonable. Imagine that. 

Baseball is a performance-based business. Just like the restaurant or a car dealership. Accordingly, my opinions reflect the state of play: praise when warranted. Criticism when warranted. And try to maintain a sane, reasonable view. Try to keep things in perspective.

This really shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. 

But, well, God Bless America. 

Even though I’ve admired Shildt’s work in the past, I’m not a fan of his work so far this season. I also recognize that there are quite a few miles to go in 2021. I remember 2019, when a middling Cardinals got straight in August and closed with a 33-16 rush that put them in first to stay.

I think Shildt has been too much of an enabler so far this season, taking his support to next-level absurdity, heaping sugary compliments on a team that doesn’t deserve the constant cheerleading and truth-denials from the manager’s office. 

Shildty is a good fellow but I just wish he’d understand that The Happy Talk doesn’t fix problems. The Happy Talk exacerbates those problems. 

Shildt spent too many weeks in a state of denial about the magnitude of his team’s wayward direction. He turned overly defensive at even the slightest hint of media scrutiny and criticism. 

Shildt constantly if politely pushed back on any media suggestion about his team’s inadequacies. Only now — starting a few days ago — has Shildt recognized the reality of his team’s freefall and conveyed any real sense of urgency. And that’s the opposite of strong leadership. 

Shildt likes to remind us that he gets on players behind the scenes, but won’t embarrass a player by blasting him in public comments. Just about every manager feels the same way, and that’s fine. 

But here’s the question: if Shildt is being true to his word and holding players accountable in a firm way behind the scenes, then why hasn’t the team responded to it? 

If Shildt prefers to take a more discreet approach with the tough-love aspect of running a baseball team, that’s fine. But if the players keep doing the same things over and over, doesn’t this reflect poorly on Shildt and the coaches? Of course it does. 

When a respected starting player, Tommy Edman, speaks to the media about a significant flaw in the team’s preparation, the reveal makes the manager look terrible. I mean, why have a manager and a batting coach (or any coach) in charge if they allow the team’s preparation to lapse? This is an example of what I’m talking about when I describe the Cardinals’ regrettably lowered standards. 

I don’t care if and how Shildt tries to spin this. And I’ll politely disregard any attempt by Edman to backtrack if internal pressure is applied. Edman is an honest dude who plays hard in every single thing he does. I see no reason to basically call him a fibber here. 

“I don’t think we’ve necessarily done the greatest job making a gameplan for how (pitchers) are going to throw us day by day, and working on things pregame that are specifically tailored to prepare ourselves for that,” Edman said after Thursday’s 8-2 loss to the Pirates. “I think we’re going to kind of start to implement a few more of those things into our pregame routines and hopefully that helps us out.” 

That’s damning. 

The Cardinals have been stalled on offense for many weeks now. But it evidently took the manager and batting coach way too much time to acknowledge and address the faulty preparation. 

That’s a bad, bad look. 

In the inevitable pointing of fingers to assign blame, Shildt and batting coach Jeff Albert aren’t alone here. They didn’t put this thin roster together. They didn’t fail to add to this team’s depth with offseason value signings. The front office did not come through for the manager, coaches and players. The front office left the roster vulnerable to the inevitable damage caused by injuries. 

But the manager, coaches and players haven’t come up with any solutions, either. This team should not be as bad as it is. No excuses for that part. And in my view, this “don’t worry, be happy” attitude reduced the accountability level and made a tough situation worse. 

And that’s another thing: if you don’t hold the players accountable, then it’s up to the players to hold each other accountable. And that hasn’t worked out so well, either. Maybe that can change. Put it this way: it better change. 

Edman wasn’t trying to hurt or embarrass the manager or the batting coach. He just made some straightforward comments in a polite, no-drama assessment in response to an obvious question about Thursday’s pregame clubhouse meeting. 

Edman may have underestimated the weight of his words in speaking about the team’s defective preparation.  But in an unintended way, Edman probably did his manager, the batting coach and his teammates a favor.

Edman raised an issue that should inspire change, push change, and get this team’s fuzzy mindset out of Shildt’s Creek and into the real world.  

Shildt did an outstanding job of improving Matheny’s team, and the numbers show that … even if simpleton deniers choose to ignore facts. 

And here are a couple of facts: in his first 231 regular-season games as manager, Shildt led the Cardinals to a .571 winning percentage. In his last 133 regular-season games as manager, the Cardinals have a .496 winning percentage. 

(And how do you add Nolan Arenado and get worse?

Sure, Shildt was let down by a passive front office that passed on chances to stabilize roster depth. And the challenge is definitely more difficult now. But it is more exasperating for an obvious reason: 

Shildt may have improved Matheny’s team, but Shildt has been unable to improve Shildt’s team.

And that’s a problem. 

Thanks for reading! 

Have a wonderful weekend. 

–B

Bernie Check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com  … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 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. 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.