TCN St. Louis Cardinals 2021 Top Story #1: Mike Shildt Out and Oliver Marmol In

photo: Oliver Marmol and Mike Shildt (Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports)

Sometimes, the Top Story of the Year is selected due to its short-term importance. Other times, the value expected to be accrued over the long haul brings it to the head of the pack. Other times, the magnitude of the shock waves that emanate blast a story to the top of the heap.

The latter is the case for 2021.

In terms of shock value, no story affecting the St. Louis Cardinals this past year approached the abrupt and totally unexpected firing of manager Mike Shildt. The decision was formally announced by the team on October 14.

Mike Shildt (USA TODAY Sports Images)

Shildt, 53, was named interim manager on July 15, 2018 upon the firing of Mike Matheny. The interim title was removed six weeks later. Before joining the Major League coaching staff in 2017, Shildt spent 13 years (2004-2016) in Cardinals player development as a scout, coach and manager.

In his three-plus seasons leading the big-league team, Shildt posted a 252-199 won-loss record and was voted National League Manager of the Year in 2019. His then-current contract ran through 2022.

The tide that seemed to be with Shildt turned quickly and strongly against him, after he had been in the midst of discussions with the front office on a contract extension. Team president of baseball operations John Mozeliak admitted that firing Shildt was not under consideration just days before when the Cardinals played the Dodgers in the National League Wild Card Game.

The stated reason for the change was “philosophical differences”. When asked to define the organization’s philosophy, Mozeliak said the organization has trust in creating a pipeline from the minors to the majors to grow internally. He went on to say they did not want to debate that, with the implication that Shildt did. Mozeliak added that Shildt was “very shocked” by the decision.

The rift appeared to come to a head in an internal organization meeting following the season, and “the conclusions came quickly,” per Mozeliak. The situation “evolved rapidly” and the Cardinals “did not want it to drag into next week,” receiving permission for the unusual timing to make the announcement during the MLB post-season.

Oliver Marmol (Steve Mitchell/Imagn)

Just 11 days later, Oliver Marmol was named as Shildt’s replacement. The 35-year-old was the front-runner after serving as the bench coach the past three seasons (2019-2021) and the team’s first base coach from 2017-2018. Shildt’s former top lieutenant took the job with his ex-boss’ support.

Marmol, a former minor league infielder, spent five years (2012-2016) managing in the Cardinals farm system, leading his teams to the postseason in four of those five seasons, including taking the New York-Penn League title in 2014 with State College. Marmol’s teams were a combined 268-225 (.544), posting league-best 48-win seasons with the Spikes in both 2013 and 2014.

Shildt has taken a position in the MLB Commissioner’s Office in the on-field operations department. The new bench coach is former Cardinals player Skip Schumaker, who was most recently associate manager of the San Diego Padres.

How these changes reflect the play of the Cardinals in 2022 and beyond remains to be seen.

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The Cardinal Nation’s Top 10 St. Louis Cardinals Stories of 2021

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