The decision will undoubtedly be unpopular on social media, but the Cardinals did the right thing in giving a two-year contract extension to manager Oli Marmol.

It’s never a good idea to have a vulnerable manager in charge. As soon as the 2024 Cardinals would go through a slump, the development would set off breathless speculation. Heck, that would happen every time the Cardinals lose a game.



As long as Marmol was viewed as a manager on fragile ground, the noise would rage on, non-stop … justified or not. The screeching would only intensify. And some fans and media will still holler about this – and do so at a substantial volume – which is fine. Do what you gotta do.

I hope everyone realizes that Marmol can still be fired if the Cardinals stink again in 2024. This contract is a vote of confidence, yes. It was also necessary.

For the conspiracy minded, one could have suspected that Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. were setting up Marmol for failure by holding off on a new contract. That theory was wiped out by Friday’s announcement: Marmol is under contract through 2026.

When ownership-management backs a manager, it sends a valuable message to the players: this is our guy, and we’re behind him, and it’s time for all of us to align and get to work on a common cause. Marmol is your manager, he is our manager, and let’s pull together.

When ownership-management leaves the manager hanging, it raises questions. The players start talking. Are they going to fire him? Do the bosses like him? Is he still going to be around by the All-Star break? If they don’t want to give him a new contract, then why should we listen to him?

That’s the point that shouldn’t be missed. When a manager is on an expiring contract, it’s more challenging to get all of the players to make a full buy-in commitment to what he’s preaching. When that same manager is handed a new deal, then the players can concentrate on their work and try to improve without paying attention to rumors.

This is true of any team in any sport: if the players sense that a manager is at risk, it’s more difficult to navigate through hard times during a season. On the other hand, if the manager will be there, his power isn’t in question. It eliminates the possibility of shenanigans devised to undercut him.

But managers with contracts can be fired. Mike Matheny had a contract: fired. Mike Shildt was about to enter into talks for a contract extension: fired. Going way back, Joe Torre had a contract: fired. Tony La Russa managed for 16 seasons under multiple contracts, and his job status was never in question. But that’s an exception. The reality is much different.

It’s fair to criticize the decision if that’s how you feel about it. When a proud franchise collapses in its worst season since 1990, as the Cardinals did last year, the manager will be a target. He should be called out. Much of the blame will be heaped on him. That’s the life of a manager and it’s nothing new.

As I’ve written many times, Marmol and his coaches allowed the defense and baserunning to decline last season. The loose and loopy defense fully exposed a bad pitching staff and made it even worse. I never blamed Marmol for the terrible performance by the team’s starting pitching; that failure was management’s fault. But the defense/fundamental lapses were another matter.

I respected the way Marmol handled his potentially precarious situation. I had the chance to sit down with him during the offseason and we talked about all of the trouble swirling around him.

He didn’t whine. He didn’t play the victim. He didn’t point fingers at other people. He took responsibility for the 71-91 record, and said – repeatedly – that he should be first in line to absorb blame. His only goal was to make this team better for 2024. And in so many words, he conveyed the importance of proving that he can deal with the adversity, and the arrows, and the cheap shots … and come through it all as a stronger leader.

Last season we witnessed a successful, historically prominent franchise fall apart. Marmol was adamant in his response: the fans should be ticked off. They should be mad at him. Everybody who cares about Cardinals baseball should be angry about every aspect of the failure. The 2023 mess was unacceptable, and Marmol did not seek empathy or try to harpoon others to justify an embarrassing fiasco. He owned it. All the bad stuff. He owned it.

Marmol knew what he had to do on his end to make the team better for 2024. Prioritize the defense. Restore a more aggressive baserunning approach that we saw in 2022. Run a smart and efficient training camp to clean up the fundamentals and address other flaws. Strive to enhance the clubhouse culture by adding experience and veterans that want to lead their younger teammates.

“It feels different,” Marmol told me Friday. “Clean slate. Fresh start. Everybody is on the same page. There’s buy-in. The guys that we brought in here during the offseason signed here for a reason. They wanted to be here. They want to do everything they can to get it back to what the Cardinals do, and what the Cardinals stand for. There’s an edge to it. A purpose to it.”

Marmol was, of course, referring to pitchers Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. And veteran position players Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford. Marmol sees them making a difference, every day. He sees the younger Cardinals going to them for advice, perspective, guidance. “It’s been such a positive thing,” the manager said.

Mozeliak has been impressed by the camp’s energy and organization. This was another priority for Marmol as he plotted a comeback season for the Cardinals.

“As we got into camp, just seeing how things were working, really felt like things were being run well,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told reporters in Jupiter, FL.  “And did not want to go into the year with this being a distraction for Oli, for the staff, or for the players. Ultimately we have a lot of faith in him. We believe he’s the right person for this job and we’re excited to know he’ll be here for the next few years. It was important for us to get this done. And we’re glad it’s behind us. We look forward to a future with Oli.”

I’m still struck by how Marmol dealt with so many offseason manager-search exercises done by fans and media that anticipated failure. He was being replaced in the job — at least mentally and emotionally — by people who wanted change.

I asked Marmol: what about the Molina speculation? Didn’t it bother him? With Molina moving in as an assistant to Mozeliak, the hiring set up a straight-line path to the manager’s chair.

Molina’s goal is to manage in the big leagues.

Albert Pujols wants to manage in the big leagues.

Bench coach Daniel Descalso wants to manage in the big leagues.

In the court of public opinion, there’s no way Marmol could “win” when compared to two beloved franchise icons, Yadier and Albert. And Descalso, a rising star, could be portrayed as a threat but Marmol did nothing of the sort. Descalso, a former minor-league teammate, was the first name on Marmol’s bench-coach list.

Symbolically – if not in reality – when Cardinals ownership-management declined for a time to extend Marmol’s contract, it served to strip away more of the manager’s job security.

Was Marmol feeling the heat? Doesn’t the situation cause additional stress and anxiety? Will it make a young manager paranoid? Would it distract Marmol and distract him on the job? Wouldn’t the players see Marmol as a manager of compromised authority? Would they take advantage of that? Danger.

Instead of whispering about a potentially hazardous set of circumstances, Marmol embraced his status. Instead of flinching and resenting all of the attention put on Molina and Pujols as his potential successors, Marmol did the exact opposite. I would describe his attitude as open arms.

The Cardinals have a tough road ahead. Two starting outfielders are hurt, Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar. The early-season schedule is imposing. This isn’t the time for abandoning your manager through silent inaction that can be easily misinterpreted.

DeWitt and Mozeliak have an association with Marmol that goes back to his days as a minor league player in the organization. He was a different kind of prospect: one who couldn’t make it to the big leagues as a player … but one who could shine as a coach and eventually as a manager.

Marmol had a 93-win season as a rookie manager. He had a 91-loss season in his second year. He seems to have learned a lot from last year’s catastrophe. This was the time for DeWitt and Marmol to support him. And now it’s up to Marmol to prove they were right.

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. Stream it live or grab the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

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All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions and Cot’s Contracts 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.