After having only one manager, Tony La Russa, for 16 years the Cardinals will go into the 2022 season with their third manager in the last five seasons.

The next manager up is Oliver Marmol, who replaced the fired Mike Shildt, who replaced the fired Mike Matheny, who succeeded the retiring La Russa.

La Russa managed the Cardinals for 2,591 regular-season games.

Matheny’s term lasted 1,065 games.

Shildt made it through only 451.

The two men that had the formidable assignment of following TLR were sacked despite making the playoffs a combined seven times in 10 seasons.

The late George Steinbrenner would approve of the Cardinals’ recent whack-a-manager philosophy.

The pressure is turned up on the front office and ownership. The fuse is burning. Much is at stake for the 2022 Cardinals including home attendance and the level of business activity at Ballpark Village.

For a franchise that’s put a consistently successful team on the field over Bill DeWitt Jr.’s 26 seasons as chairman, the Cardinals are in a surprisingly uncomfortable position. It’s interesting because the discomfort wouldn’t be there unless the Cardinals won, and won and won under DeWitt. And despite remarkably off-base claims to the contrary, they’ve done well since John Mozeliak became the head of baseball operations in 2008.

The fans have high standards and demand more. Making the playoffs is admirable, and shouldn’t be overlooked or waved off. Reasonable or not, the BFIB have supported this team with a substantial investment of dollars and loyalty and are entitled to set their own expectations. And though some of the whining is truly absurd, the World-Series-Or-Bust mentality has set in.

Here’s my Pressure Index:

1) John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations: The overall record is impressive — and no, you’re not entitled to make up your own facts just because of a personal dislike of the guy. In baseball, the numbers are the numbers, and they count.

Since Mozeliak replaced the deposed Walt Jocketty and placed in charge of baseball ops in 2008, the Cardinals have the third-best winning percentage in the majors (.553), with only the Dodgers (.576) and Yankees (.572) winning more often. And those clubs have outspent the Cardinals by a huge amount. The Cardinals have nine postseason appearances since 2008; only the Dodgers (11) and Yankees (10) have more over that time.

The Mozeliak box score includes the 2011 World Series title, two NL pennants, and competing in five NL Championship Series. The Cardinals have made it to the postseason eight times in the last 11 seasons, a batting average of .727.

Ah, but here’s the problem: the Cardinals may be reaching the postseason at a terrific rate, but they haven’t been doing much after getting there.

From 2011 through 2013, the Cardinals won a World Series, two league pennants and advanced to the NLCS in all three seasons. Their postseason record over that time was 27-21.

Despite qualifying for the playoffs five times since 2014, the Cardinals are a lousy 9-17 in the postseason. They reached the NLCS two times — only to lose eight of nine games in those two opportunities. And beginning with the loss to the Giants in the 2014 NLCS, the Cardinals are 6-16 in their last 22 postseason games — and have lost seven of their last eight. Awful.

The lack of success can be attributed to two factors: postseason randomness — which is a real thing.

Second — and more on point regarding Mozeliak — the front office has declined to make major trades to fill voids, bolster the team strength, and enhance the probability of a deep postseason run. The complacency is inexcusable, and fans and media are burned out on the annual “Teams Wanted Our Top Prospects For An Average Starting Pitcher” cop-out. OK, so why do so many other teams manage to add important help without handing over elite prospects?

“Mozeliak Fatigue” is a condition that’s weakening fan support.

Mozeliak didn’t help himself or burnish his image by being vague and elusive when pressed to explain the reasons for the Shildt firing. Why did he flunk a fairly easy test? Because he wanted to. Mozeliak didn’t want to spill the beans on the factors that prompted the dismissal. He didn’t want to trash Shildt. Mozeliak easily could have laid out the case in a way that reasonable people would understand — but he avoided doing so, and that cost him. Mozeliak’s popularity took another hit.

Perhaps Mo should have taken a more brass-knuckles approach instead of being a gentleman. Beyond making the change, the Cardinals didn’t want to do anything to damage Shildt’s chances of landing another managing job. That’s nice, but it ended in another public-relations setback for Mozeliak. He has a problem that only he can fix. But if he’s unpopular with fans, it hurts business. And his contract expires after the 2023 season.

Mozeliak and DeWitt have given the manager’s office to the 35-year-old Marmol, and that only cranks up the thermostat. First of all, the “puppet” narrative is idiotic but is here to stay until Mozeliak and Marmol can change the lazy narrative. Anyone that pays attention to MLB realizes that every MLB front offices wields more power than ever. All 30 have reduced the traditional, all-encompassing autonomy of the manager’s job.

OK, so here’s the best way to overcome an image problem and increase public approval ratings: build a better ballclub for your rookie manager, and give him a strong chance to win more games than Shildt. Give Marmol the depth and pieces this team needs to be a more capable postseason threat. Win the pennant, and no one is mewling about Mozeliak and his youthful manager.

However. If Mozeliak takes the usual approach — “Nothing To Worry About Here” — and the Cardinals backslide in 2022, his troubles will intensify. His unpopularity will go off the charts. The Shildt firing will circle back and shoot flames at Mozeliak — hey, you fired Shildt and the team got worse!

It isn’t just Marmol, either. The Cardinals can’t waste the final season of Yadier Molina, the possible final season of Adam Wainwright, or take the risk of Nolan Arenado opting out of his contract to explore free agency for 2023. It just so happens that the free-spending Dodgers will need a third baseman for 2023. Gee, you don’t say? Where is Arenado from? Los Angeles.

Simply put: the Cardinals cannot get worse or stay in place. They must get better, win the NL Central, and go far in the postseason. And that begins in the front office, with Mozeliak and Michael Girsch assembling the roster for 2022.

2) Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr: He’s controlled and cared for the franchise since the start of the 1996 season, transforming a franchise that was fading in performance and popularity. The ledger includes 16 postseason appearances — including 15 in the last 22 seasons — with four NL pennants and two World Series championships. By any sane standard, the DeWitt Era has been phenomenally successful for the Cardinals.

But memories tend to drift away and scatter quickly in a hopeless short attention span culture. Twitter isn’t the place for informed nuance or intelligent historical perspective. In the land of The Hottest Of Takes DeWitt is just another old wealthy guy who doesn’t spend enough money on the team and doesn’t try to win, and is content to go 88-64 and snatch a wild-card spot. Oh, and he’s more interested in Ballpark Village.

Most of this is garbage. DeWitt spends plenty of money on payroll. Under the current system the Cardinals have ranked among the top 10 in annual payroll seven times in the 10 seasons and have never been gone below 12th overall.

If anything the Cardinals in recent years have created problems when the TRY get a little crazy with the spending. (See: Dexter Fowler, Mike Leake, Brett Cecil, Matt Carpenter’s extension, the Carlos Martinez extension, Greg Holland, Andrew Miller, etc. And we’ll show the Miles Mikolas deal works out.)

One oddity in recent seasons is the Cardinals’ inability to layer the roster with low-cost, high-return value signings that used to be such a big part of their success. It was their speciality — identifying bargains better than most teams — but they’ve lost the touch and it doesn’t make sense.

(Perhaps we saw a comeback of sorts last season when the front office made shrewd, low-cost pickups of five pitchers: Wade LeBlanc, J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, Luis Garcia and T.J. McFarland. This team misses the playoffs without this sequence of maneuvers. Mozeliak and Girsch deserve credit for that — but were too slow to secure such help.)

It’s difficult for me to pile on an owner that’s won more than just about anyone in MLB over the last 22 seasons. When the owner’s team makes the playoffs for three consecutive seasons and eight times in the last 11 years and gets blasted by fans, it only reaffirms the team’s abundantly successful record under DeWitt. When consistent winning becomes a so-what-yawn type of achievement, then you know the owner is doing a helluva job overall.

DeWitt is a part of every baseball decision made by the club — including managerial firings — and that makes him fair game for critics that would like to see more aggressiveness in padding the roster for the pursuit of division titles, pennants and additional World Series trophies.

MLB teams are trying to recover from financial stress caused by the pandemic. That includes fans who lost jobs and adjusted their priorities — discovering that they can live just fine without baseball. The Cardinals are in pretty good shape relative to most other franchises but face a challenge in filling Busch Stadium to capacity.

Installing a smart but young manager with a low profile isn’t exactly a ticket-selling bonanza, but Marmol will have a chance to win over the fans. Who wants to see him fail? Not me. Quite the opposite.

As usual DeWitt made a pragmatic decision, one that focuses on the Cardinals’ tradition of developing players, coaches and managers within. Marmol, raised to be a Cardinal, is a great example of the DeWitt way. Sentiment and tradition aside, when the games begin Marmol will have to win, and be more successful than Shildt.

With Wainwright and Molina … and Tyler O’Neill’s breakout season … and the anticipated return to health and form by starting pitchers Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas … and the growth of young outfielder Dylan Carlson .. and the corner combination of Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado … the Cardinals have sound reasons for confidence.

And that’s not all. The Cardinals on the cusp of graduating exciting and talented prospects to the big club, and that will cause expectations to rise. If this team doesn’t take forward steps in 2022, the blame game will start with ownership-management wing of the franchise. And no one upstairs can pin it on the manager. They hired him.

3) Oliver Marmol, manager: OK, let’s try something here. Let’s be honest. Here’s how many see it: (A) The Cardinals could have hired Bob Melvin, the outstanding Oakland manager who took advantage of his own free agency by signing with San Diego. (B) They could have talked Bruce Bochy into coming out of retirement. (C) They could have gone for another “name” like Buck Showalter. (D) They could have created an enormous wave of excitement by hiring Yadier Molina as player-manager. (E) They could have tapped into Jose Oquendo’s popularity by naming him manager. (F) I even saw some fans clamoring for Albert Pujols as player-manager in 2022. (G) Stubby Clapp is viewed as a loyal Cardinal and leader who earned plaudits for his quality managing in the system — including a league championship at Triple A Memphis. A strong case can be made that Clapp deserved his shot at leading the big team.

This isn’t fair to Marmol, and I’m not taking a dig at him. I like the hire. But here’s my point: if you conducted a fan poll and gave supporters a chance to choose a manager, Marmol’s name would be down on the bottom half of the list. That’s just the reality of hiring a 35-year-old that’s been seen, but not heard, as member of the Cardinal coaching staff since 2017.

If folks didn’t get excited by Marmol’s appointment, it’s only because of his lack of brand-name recognition. My sense is that Cardinals fans have generally positive feelings about Oli and want him to do well, but plenty of skepticism awaits him. That’s life in the big leagues, right? The clubhouse will be an interesting place. Marmol’s age shouldn’t be factor, but we don’t know that for sure. He did play 262 games in the minor leagues, and that should give him credibility — but how much? Shildt didn’t play any professional baseball, but he had vastly more experience than Marmol as a minor-league coach and manager.

Let’s not pretend Marmol is largely free of pressure. He isn’t. Hardly. The 2022 season is being promoted as the year when the pieces fall into place, sending the Cardinals on their way to a huge bonanza of a season. In that context, this is not the kind of job that comes with training wheels. (Sorry; that’s lame but I couldn’t think of a better metaphor.) If Marmol needs time to grow into the job, fine, but patience will be limited. And if the Cardinals struggle, the predictable “Why did they fire Shildt?” cries will be heard.

The nature of this job would challenge any manager, and especially a young one. Marmol managed well in the minors — but never above the High-A level team at Palm Beach. The majors are a different world. He knows that, having been the bench coach under Shildt.

That helps, but only to a point. He’ll be making the decisions now. He must process and handle everything around him: front-office bosses, analytics department, coaches, players, media. Not to mention the politics of the job, and the crush of the demands on his time.

It’s a big job that carries a large variety of responsibilities. He’ll be at the center of it all. And no one would fault Marmol if his head spins for a while. This isn’t a rebuild. Marmol is the chosen one, but this won’t be easy. And if the Cardinals go sour, it will be a disaster for Marmol’s upstairs advocates.

4) Jeff Albert, hitting coach: I’m tired of the obsession with this guy. Even in a baseball town that has displayed an oddly intense fixation with batting coaches through the years, the Albert fascination is borderline crazy. Anything that goes wrong with the Cards offense is dumped on his head. His fault! He cheated in Houston! Fraud! What’s with the long hair!

Never mind the front-office failure to beef up the roster with more capable hitters, especially for the bench. Never mind all of the injuries that limited O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Carlson to 68 games of starting together in the same outfield. Never mind Shildt burying of shortstop Edmundo Sosa on the bench for the first two months of the season, or putting a low-OBP guy at the top of the lineup.

But if you want to get on Albert on a bottom-line way, then go for it. If you want to tie him to your disdain for Mozeliak, then do it. Mozeliak is Albert’s No. 1 fan, or so it seems. Marmol obviously likes Albert and wants him to stay on. (Albert is under contract, anyway.)

Here’s the deal: Albert will succeed in silencing the caterwauling only if the offense performs in a way that delivers a high onbase percentage, robust slugging percentage — plus a lofty OPS, better walk rate, a lower chase rate, more opposite-field hitting, a more competitive two-strike hitting approach, and more consistency in situational hitting

Some of those things came together as the season went on, but I digress.

Here’s that bottom line that I alluded to…

Since Albert became the hitting coach-guru-savior in 2019, here’s where the Cardinals rankl among the 15 NL teams:

  • 12th in the NL in runs per game.
  • Tied for 10th in batting average.
  • Tied for 10th in onbase percentage.
  • 12th in slugging.
  • 12th in homers.
  • 13th in doubles.
  • 13th in total bases.
  • 10th in men left on base.
  • 7th in adjusted runs created.
  • 12th in OPS with runners in scoring position.
  • 7th in batting average on two-strike counts.

The overall three-season performance was worse than mediocre. And while more factors go into this than “Batting Coach Really Bad!” … those numbers have to improve, one way or the other.

Remember “The Heat Is On” theme song for the 1985 Cardinals?

The early Cardinals theme song for 2022: “Under Pressure.”

Thanks for reading …

— Bernie

Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated 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 by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.

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Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

* All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.


Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

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.