The former manager and the new manager had something to say this week. There was Mike Shildt, the longtime organizational fixture who was unexpectedly sacked by the Cardinals just over a month ago. There was Shildt’s protege and bench coach and replacement, Oli Marmol, now MLB’s youngest manager at age 35.

Shildt appeared on MLB Network for their Manager of the Year award show. He was accompanied by the two other NL finalists, San Francisco’s Gabe Kapler and Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell. Kapler won by a huge margin, and Shildt finished a distant third — but he did get a first-place vote, coming from a Cincinnati-based member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Shildt’s time on screen was both poignant and awkward. In a three-screen chat before the announcement, Counsell and Kapler were informal and light. Counsell’s hair was mussed, and he looked like a 19-year-old who just got out of bed. The laid-back Kapler set up in his apartment, which overlooks the scenic San Francisco Bay.

Shildt wore a sports jacket and a nice shirt. He was gentlemanly and polite but not exactly chill. He didn’t lighten the mood. He couldn’t because the man was hurting. The aftershock of his sudden firing is still searing and burning. Shildt did not try to conceal his sadness. It was touching and poignant.

“Candidly it hit me right between the eyes,” Shildt said in response to a question by baseball journalist Ken Rosenthal. “And there’s some pain I gotta work through, and I am doing that.

“But I really firmly believe — I’m a spiritual guy, faith based, (and) God didn’t want me to be there anymore, and he’s going to put me in a place where he wants me to be. And I trust that. I can tell you I’ll heal, continue to heal. Family’s been great, Michelle, my wife has been super supportive. I’ll land on my feet somewhere that makes sense. Better days are still ahead.”

There’s so much in there, and I’ll come back to Shildt in a little while.

On another managerial planet, Marmol was happy to talk baseball with The Athletic’s Katie Woo. Her good story depicted an enthusiastic young manager, eager to put his ideas into place — ideas that, contrary to public perception, are clearly aligned with the front-office’s desire to implement analytics in a more ambitious way. Marmol isn’t a captive, a yes man, a figurine. He truly believes in this stuff — and that’s why president of baseball operations wanted him to manage the team.

Shildt embraced analytics, but only to a point. Unlike previous manager Mike Matheny, Shildt performed a valuable service by accepting analytics as a useful reality, and transitioned a clubhouse of players into baseball’s new world. Now comes Marmol to finish what Shildt started — with Marmol wanting to venture deeper into that new world.

Under chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.’s guiding philosophy — which has been in place since the early aughts — analytics matter and are a meaningful tool. DeWitt has been clear and open on this for the last 20 years, and I have no idea why so many media types and fans are so flabbergasted by the Cardinals’ longtime presence on the analytics front.

But analytics also change, becoming more modern and versatile and enlightened. Nothing stays the same. The front office needed to adapt and upgrade and evolve — and did so. And now it’s time for the manager to do the same. Once again: this isn’t complicated, and there’s not a damn thing mysterious or radical about it.

“There’s some stuff (the front office) and I) have talked about, like modernizing our strategies and optimizing our lineups,” Marmol said. “I think we have an opportunity for that. I think we have an opportunity for how we use our bullpen. I think there’s ways to optimize our lineup on a day-to-day basis, depending on starting pitching and what’s available in opposing bullpens. When you hear the term modernizing strategy or overall decision making, those are the things we are talking about.”


What’s this? The manager wants to optimize lineups and cultivate advantageous matchups and make use of platoons that will enhance the probability of the Cardinals achieving better results? You mean, Marmol actually wants to construct a more productive lineup and move the pieces around depending on the opponent and that team’s use of personnel? This is insane!



I apologize for the sarcasm, and I know I’m obnoxious. But I’m trying to make a point here. This is exactly what the manager of the Cardinals should want, and strive for. If he felt otherwise, then he should be managing a slo-pitch softball team in a beer league. And Marmol’s goals should be viewed as a positive by those who care about this team. Why wouldn’t you want him to press for every possible advantage? I grew up watching Earl Weaver do this. Many of you grew up watching Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa do this.

This is no insurgency, OK? When Weaver stressed walks, a high onbase percentage, sterling defense, a strong rotation and created highly effective outfield platoons, he built a powerful Baltimore Orioles’ team and became a Hall of Fame manager. Herzog and La Russa — Hall of Famers — were successful because they had innovative ideas that deviated from the old-school norms, and did so to give the Cardinals an edge. They built and managed rosters that fit their personnel and the home ballpark and the strategies that would work best. This was good. No, this was great.

I don’t know exactly what this will look like under Marmol — he’ll need time to form his baseball identity as manager — but his head is in the right place.

“It’s about building upon what’s already in place,” Marmol told Woo, and let me say here that you need to subscribe to The Athletic. “It’s not that we’re going to run away from tradition, the things that have given this organization a ton of success for a ton of years. It’s just building upon that and modernizing certain strategies.”

When Shildt got fired, he spoke of looking forward to the next baseball opportunity, adding “which I’m sure will be many.” The Padres interviewed him for their open manager’s job but hired Bob Melvin instead. The Mets don’t have a manager, and I don’t see Shildt as a good fit there. And he should be choosy instead of leaping into a bad gig that almost certainly will lead to failure.

MLB manager gigs will come open during the 2022 season. Let’s not forget how Herzog took a little time off before rolling into St. Louis after being fired by Kansas City. La Russa was canceled by the Chicago White Sox after 64 games in 1986, and it didn’t take Oakland long to bring him in as manager. Prominent recent managers have sat out a year to wait for the next opportunity, one that appealed to them: Buck Showalter, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, etc.

Shildt won the NL Manager of the Year prize in 2019, and received Manager of the Year votes 2018, 2020 and 2021. When a manager who runs a team for 3 and ½ seasons attracts Manager of the Year votes in four seasons, that’s impressive. He’ll get another shot.

Speaking of the Cardinals’ cherished history, Shildt said this on MLB Network:

“Even from the beginning I wanted to do my part to be a good steward of that, create value for the organization. In St. Louis it’s hard to establish anything personal, because that’s what makes the organization so special. It’s about the Cardinals, The Birds on The Bat. And then you get the opportunity to manage the club for 3 and ½ years, and that stewardship ramps up a little more. I was really pleased that I was able to do it with a bunch of great players, a bunch of great people, the staff was phenomenal. But ultimately to really continue and take on and carry on the tradition of St. Louis Cardinal baseball. And that’s to win baseball games, and carry yourself with class and dignity on and off the field.”

That’s a little too serious from the standpoint that the Cardinals on occasion take themselves too seriously. That’s why people make fun of them. But Shildt means it. And he meant well by saying it.

However …

I respect Shildt’s Christianity and his unshakeable faith. But with all due respect, I think he needs to be careful with the “God didn’t want me to be there anymore” explanation for his termination in St. Louis. This reminds me of athletes who say “It’s God’s will” after losing games.

A while back I was a member of a weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes group led by a graceful and bluntly honest pastor who strongly disagreed with athletes who relied on the “It’s God’s Will” answer to everything — especially failure in the athletic arena. He called it a cop out and stressed that all humans must look inward and search for ways to improve as a person, as a husband or wife, as a partner, as a parent — and yes, as a professional in their chosen careers.

God doesn’t care who wins a baseball or football or hockey game, OK?

Teams looking for a new manager will want to know that Shildt understands why the Cardinals went in another direction, and they will want to see if he accepts any responsibility for shortcomings or conduct that led to his dismissal. Saying “God didn’t want me to be there anymore,” may be a completely sincere feeling in Shildt’s heart, but it strikes some of us as a bit of a cop-out, and I don’t think the answer will serve him well when potential employers want to hire a baseball manager.

I know this from experience in my career. When I got fired from a job for the first and only time — ostensibly because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic — the first thing I did was take a hard, unforgiving look at myself to understand why I needed to take responsibility and ownership of my flaws. Before being sacked, I wasn’t in a peaceful place on a personal level. I put myself through the ringer with the intent of finding value in the unpleasantness of going through adversity. I had to be honest about myself. What could I do better? Was there a better way of handling myself? I know I caused stress for others by being so intense all the time. And that was wrong. How can I be better at my next job? How can I more considerate colleague?

Team owners and baseball executives will want to thoroughly explore the baseball side of Shildt, and the baseball-personality part of Shildt. They will want to seek detailed answers on modern-thinking baseball topics, and they will want to know everything there is to discover about his baseball leadership and how he worked with his coaches and players. And, in Shildt’s case, especially the coaches. And yes, his views on analytics will likely be a huge factor in the way potential employers grade him as a candidate. They will also ask him about his personal side, and what motivates him. And then Shildt can talk freely about the impact of Christianity in his life.

Shildt will move on, and move into a good job — but only if he looks within himself to learn from his demise as the Cardinal manager. And here’s the deal: all fired managers go through this, so in time Shildt will shake it off and benefit from the knowledge derived from past mistakes. That’s my hope.

Thanks for reading …


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.