The firing of Mike Matheny as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals has left the organization looking for a new direction. There are winning managers available, but the best options are products of the Cardinal Way.
It finally happened. The moment that a majority of the fan base has been clamoring for finally came to fruition. July 14, 2018 marks the date that hopefully will mark the beginning of the end of futility. An organization that is accustomed to playing October baseball every year has fired the man that many viewed as the roadblock that kept them from it for two consecutive years.
All signs pointed to a third consecutive season and the fan base became impatient. One fan even brought a “Fire Matheny” sign to Busch Stadium. His sign was promptly removed by one of the ushers. Matheny was promptly removed by the front office the next day.
Matheny was hired on the heels of St. Louis’ 11th World Series title. The move came from out of nowhere as he had not managed anything other than a little league team. Back to back postseasons and a World Series appearance in 2013 seemed to ease fears, but that was the peak. It was all downhill from there.
In the seasons since, the Cardinals have seen a steady decline and have even had to suffer through watching the Chicago Cubs hoist the World Series trophy. The fan base longed for change. Fingers got pointed and the blame fell on one man in particular: Mike Matheny. The collateral damage was John Mabry and Bill Mueller, the hitting coaches who were dismissed along with Matheny.
That brings us to now. This organization is left wondering where to turn in order to restore its winning ways. Big names are out there. Joe Girardi seems to be getting the most attention. There are others, but none that would fit better than one that is already in the organization.
When people come across hard times they often have to take a long look inward and rediscover what makes them who they are. They have to find that thing that defines them and sets them apart from everyone else, their identity. It’s time the Cardinals did that as an organization.
For years the Cardinal Way has been touted as the reason for success. It is, in essence, the thing that defines the St. Louis Cardinals as an organization. It’s a way of doing things predicated on the idea that if you do things the right way, get good at it, and develop from within, then you can achieve greatness. It worked for years with players, so why not with our next manager?
I believe a return to the Cardinal Way is exactly what’s needed in the newest managerial search. The fact is, that guy may already be on the bench manning the team. I’m talking about Mike Shildt, a great baseball mind and a proven, winning manager at every level.
Shildt began as a scout for the Cardinals prior to 2004 and has worked as a coach and manager at every level. That time includes back to back Appalachian League (A) Championships in 2010 and 2011, a Texas League (AA) Championship in 2012, and a two year stint as the Memphis Redbirds (AAA) manager.
In case you haven’t realized it yet, Shildt has had a hand in the development of every one of the Cardinals current homegrown players not named Yadier Molina or Adam Wainwright. That’s right, Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader, Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty, and Co. all spent time developing under Mike Shildt.
Mike Matheny was expected to be a lot of things. The problem is that he wasn’t any of them. The biggest mistake the Cardinals could make now would be to go outside the organization in an attempt to make a big splash. They don’t need to.
Fortunately, the answer is already managing the team in the interim. If the front office is smart, they’ll make that permanent. So the Matheny experiment didn’t work out. It’s ok. Sometimes Shildt happens. And that’s not always a bad thing.