Is This the Cardinal Way?

The St Louis Cardinals have established a long-term relationship with their avid fan base. The “Cardinal Way”—playing fundamental baseball–advancing runners, good starting pitching with a good to great closer, excellent defense, running the bases aggressively. Fans have ‘bought into” the Cardinal Way since the 1960’s. thus attendance for a moderate sized metropolitan area far exceeds expectations of other comparable cites. But… this week, the Cardinal Way, was challenged…or changed….and left some fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. Despite repeated questions at the press-conference about the “why” of the Shildt firing, Mozeliak kept repeating the “philosophical differences” phrase…over and over again.  He was almost robotic in his usage of “philosophical difference”. This is very, very surprising since Mozialiak, who seems to use several polysyllabic words in lieu of a simpler direct words, whenever possible. 

….First of all….the things that we know FOR SURE about the firing of Mike Shildt.

  1. The Cardinals may fire anyone that they want in their organization at ANY time. The reason maybe very miniscule in the eyes of the fans. The Cardinals DON’T owe us a full explanation. NO team owes their fans a complete explanation of the firing, dismissal, or resignation.
  2. From our best determination, the idea had already been hatched about “extending” Shildt’s contract. However, after a “final” meeting with Shildt, these “philosophical differences” quickly emerged and grew exponentially. As scuttlebutt has it, Mike Girsch opened the idea of releasing Shildt and it quickly was agreed upon by the threesome of DeWitt Jr, John Mozeliak & Girsch. With lighting speed, it seems, in 1 meeting, Shildt went from negotiating for an extension to being fired! One has to wonder how often the Cards have turned a 180 in a couple days on a major decision similar to that in the past?
  3. Then the most egregious segment of this “firing”. Shildt was called on the phone & told of his removal!  HOW HORRIBLE!  Not even a video conference or heaven forbid…another face-face meeting. This isn’t how a company treats employees … especially one who had spent 18 years in the organization. I just can’t imagine telephoning someone with this type of life-changing news. Calling on a phone was a completely classless approach.  Is this the new Cardinal Way??

Now ….some new questions facing the “brass”

…Will the Cardinals hire their 3rd straight manager without any MLB managerial experience? Both of the previous managers had been affiliated with the Cards in some way. That has been the Cardinal’s Recent Way. Is is time for “fresh” blood with experience sitting in the MLB dugout to guide the ship? As a business decision, hiring a “rookie” manager is the least expensive route. But…what is the “real” cost to the club’s performance level as a rookie Manager swims his way through the choppy MLB waters for the 1st time? btw.. Bob Melvin (Oakland) would be an experienced, winning background, with analytics use as part of his nature. The Cardinal Way would seem to dictate Mgr w/experience.

…the strongest philosophical disagreement centered around Cardinal Way use of analytics and the approach taken by batting coach, Jeff Albert. This was a continuing point of disagreement.  In his first public comments since his firing was announced, Shildt admitted these factors played a part in his departure from the organization. “There is merit (to those factors)” Shildt said in a text message to The Athletic recently. Shildt DID use analytics…no doubt about it…but are the Cards demanding a complete surrender to the “numbers” of the game?   Is that going to be the new, complete Cardinal Way? Somewhat Joking now….but…if its all analytics….why not hire a math professor?

…Had Schildt “lost” the team to Yadier Molina? Was Yadi actually calling the shots behind the scenes?  It seemed at times, that players were responding to Yadi’s looks, gestures, etc. Remember Yadi chasing a pitcher out of the dugout? Soooo..did THAT scene also chase Shildt out of the dugout? Is this the New “Cardinal Way” that a player supersedes the power of the manager?

…O’Neill, Bader, Carlson…this trio was on the roster for almost the entire season, yet it took until August for this trio to play every day together. On July 14th, this trio had only started together 17x! Agreed, injuries plagued them but it should have been established in spring training that this trio WAS the every-day outfield. Their defense & speed alone would have helped to win games. Several minor leaguers proved why they were minor-league players during their brief ‘trials” in the Outfield pastures. The Cardinal Way indicates to “go with” your top prospects.  Was Shildt responsible for the slow development of this trio?   

….although the Cards finished 4th in attendance at 25,957/game in the MLB this year (behind Dodgers, NYY, San Diego), the Cards slipped when compared to their own attendance of past years. In 2019, the Cardinals were second in MLB attendance with 42,967/game, in 2018 they were third with 42,019, in 2017 they were 42,567, and in 2016, second with an average of 42,524 fans. For reference, the Cardinals did not make the playoffs for three of those four seasons, but fans still showed up. The 2020  year was covid year-not a fair comparison. But in 2021, not until the great August/September run of 17 straight wins & 19 of 20 game wins, did the fans flock to Busch! Did the management feel that Shildt, leading the club through a slow start, was the cause for this decline and a drop in the income? Remember at all times, the DeWitts are businessman. Their business is baseball. The Cardinal Way relies the turnstile reaching the 3+mil fans to succeed.

….Did management have  “philosophical difference” about Shildt’s use of starter Alex Reyes too? Shildt pushed him out to the bullpen in the spring. After 20 straight saves, signs of wear & tear showed on Reyes in August & September. He sank from closer to  set-up man. Was his usage too much for a pitcher who’d had Tommy John surgery and arm issues for several years?

…Even fate seemed to thwart the Cardinal Way. On the final game against the Dodgers, Shildt had Giovanny Gallegos(the new closer) warming up in the bullpen, but Gallegos split a nail while warming up. Sooo Reyes was forced to enter the game. On his 4th pitch, the Cardinal Season was over with the LA Home Run! Sooo…what has this season (& post season) done to the future of Alex Reyes? It was far from the usual Cardinal Way of developing pitchers. Is Schildt, or the Cards, responsible for Reyes’ severe decline in the performance during Aug/Sept 2021.

… I’m anxious to read YOUR thoughts on the Cardinal Way. Post on my Facebook page (Bob Ryan), or post on my webpage….www.bobryansportsblog.com or send to me through email (rjryansr@charter.net) & I’ll post it for you! As always, thanks for the read & your time! Bob

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