This isn’t the first time the Cardinals have made a managerial change after a postseason appearance. In fact, they made one after their first postseason in 1926 when, after guiding his team to the World Series title against the New York Yankees, the Cardinals traded player-manager Rogers Hornsby to the New York Giants for fellow second baseman Frankie Frisch, who later became a World Series-winning, player-manager himself for the Cardinals in 1934.
After the 1926 season, Hornsby had asked Cardinals owner Sam Breadon for a three-year contract at $50,000 per year, an astronomical ask in those days. Breadon countered with one year at $50,000 but Breadon insisted that Hornsby had to stay away from the race track. Hornsby didn’t smoke or drink but he did play the ponies.
The Rajah said he couldn’t do this, so Breadon, who didn’t really want to pay him $50,000 anyway, traded Hornsby.
Johnny Keane, who directed the Cardinals to a spirited run over the final couple of weeks of the season and then, like Hornsby, won a seven-game World Series from the Yankees in 1964, quit after the season rather than accept a belated extension with the Cardinals and he then signed to manage the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers, in the first years of a decade-long fade, fired Keane after two seasons.
Keane had made up his mind to leave the Cardinals after learning that club owner Gussie Busch had all but offered the job to then Los Angeles Dodgers coach Leo Durocher during a late August 1964 meeting at Grant’s Farm. Busch already had fired Keane confidant Bing Devine as general manager.
More recently, Tony La Russa stepped away from managing (for 10 years) after winning the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals. But when Mike Shildt was cashiered on Thursday, it marked the first time a Cardinals manager had been dismissed after guiding his team to the playoffs, with his club riding an historic September winning streak of 17 games en route to the prize.
Now the Cardinals, an organization known for their stability at the managerial level, look for their ninth full-time manager in the past 57 years.
The team accelerated that search in earnest Friday, a day after firing their manager, and every indication from sources was how the team intended to move swiftly to find its new manager. Thursday’s announcement and lack of specifics on the “philosophical difference” that led to the firing invited only confusion, and a new hire would give the team a new storyline and some direction.
Reigning National League Most Valuable Player Bob O’Farrell, in his first and only season as Cardinals manager, moved in for Hornsby as a player-manager in 1927 and won 92 games, which was three games more than Hornsby’s championship club had won and the first time the franchise had had more than 90 victories.
But, Breadon, perceiving that O’Farrell’s play suffered when he also had to manage, took away O’Farrell’s managerial rein and gave it to Bill McKechnie for 1928.
Future Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst took over for Keane and, after two .500-type seasons, won pennants in 1967 and 1968 and the World Series in 1967. Former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny, succeeding La Russa, went to three consecutive league championship series and got to the World Series in 2013.
So the bar has been set high here. And the Cardinals, after their late-season rush, feel that many things are in place to contend for top honors again. This is why it seems to make more sense to hire from within the current coaching staff than to look without.
Oliver Marmol was the Cardinals’ bench coach for the past three seasons and on Matheny’s staff for two years before that. Marmol has managed young pitching standouts Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and Alex Reyes in their early years in the minors.
Then, there is first-base coach Stubby Clapp, who also helped coordinate the defense. Before joining the Cardinals’ staff, he managed Class AAA Memphis to Pacific Coast League titles in 2017 and 2018 and the Class AAA overall title in 2018. Among his players on those teams were Cardinals regulars Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader.
So, much of the Cardinals’ young talent long has been familiar with one or the other and both seem well-liked and respected.
Not that former 2011 World Series team member Skip Schumaker, the associate manager at San Diego, which doesn’t have a manager (Mike Shildt?) wouldn’t be liked or respected. But he hasn’t managed before. And popular former Cardinals infielder Joe McEwing has been with the Chicago White Sox for the past 10 years. He also would be liked and respected but he’d have some catching up to do with the talent.
Like McEwing, longtime Cardinals coach and instructor Jose Oquendo was interviewed in 2011 for the job that went to Matheny but Oquendo seems more comfortable working with minor league players at the Cardinals’ training site in Jupiter, Florida, near where he lives.
Yadier Molina, a Cardinals backbone since 2004, has many of the qualities of a manager and has done so with some youth teams in his native Puerto Rico. He also has all but managed Puerto Rican teams for whom he played in the World Baseball Classic. But, unlike fellow catcher O’Farrell, he won’t be a player-manager this year. Or probably any year.
Managers have to deal with the media before and after every game and Molina, sometimes a man of few words — or no words — after a game might not like that part of the job. Asked a couple of springs ago if that constant responsibility to the media would be a problem for Molina, he turned it around.
“No,” he said, smiling and pointing his finger at a reporter. “That would be a problem for you.”
It probably wouldn’t work to try to bring in a veteran bench coach and former manager like the Dodgers’ Bob Geren because it appears most, if not all, the coaching staff, will be back here and new managers usually want to bring some of their own people in as coaches.
With the Cardinals’ young talent on board with board with either Marmol or Clapp, it would seem that the veterans would be, too. But, in the case of one particular veteran, he has to be.
While Molina and staff ace Adam Wainwright are set to ride off into the sunset after next season and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt under contract through 2024, that leaves third baseman Nolan Arenado, who still is the centerpiece of all the Cardinals have going on.
Pending unforeseen developments, Arenado, acquired from Colorado on Feb. 1, is scheduled to be here through 2027, probably longer than almost every other player who is here now. But he doesn’t have to be. Arenado has waved off one potential opt-out in his contract but one more remains after the 2022 season.
Arenado has given no indication he wants to go anywhere else but it might be better for everyone if he likes the new manager. All the more reason to stay in house.
Chris Carpenter joins Angels
Chris Carpenter, the last Cardinal to win a Cy Young Award, has joined the Los Angeles Angels in a role that will allow him to work with young pitchers on their mental skills and advancement toward the majors.
Carpenter spent several recent years with the Cardinals in a formal role that began as a chance to explore his options in the organization or front office. He and several other former players had those roles downsized during the pandemic. Carpenter’s official special assistant position with the Cardinals sent him for visits to the minor-league affiliates, where he met with prospects and pitchers. He also would spend several weeks at the major-league level during the regular season to be available to pitchers and coaches.
The Cardinals did not contact Carpenter about returning to his role with the team. Other teams reached out, and the Angels offered a compelling “fit,” the Cardinals Hall of Famer said.
Staff writer Derrick Goold contributed reporting for this article.