The St. Louis Cardinals have saved themselves an offseason managerial search. On Tuesday, the Cardinals announced that they’d removed “interim” from interim manager Mike Shildt’s title, giving him a three-year extension after he’s guided the team to an incredible turnaround since the All-Star break. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report the move was coming.
Shildt was the interim replacement for Mike Matheny, who was fired on July 14. The Cardinals went 47-46 under Matheny, and when he was fired they were in third place in the National League Central and four games out of the wild-card.
Under Shildt, the Cards are 26-12 and they’ve climbed to second place in the NL Central with a half-game lead for the first wild-card. The Cards may not have known that Shildt was the man for the job when they named him interim manager, but you can’t argue with success.
Shildt is markedly different from nearly all the managers hired by teams this past offseason. Guys like Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees, Mickey Callaway of the New York Mets, and Dave Martinez of the Washington Nationals are all young-ish former players who had no managerial experience prior to being hired. Shildt, on the other hand, is 50 and never played professionally, but he’s followed a more traditional career path for managers.
In an interview with Tim Brown on the Yahoo Sports MLB Podcast, Shildt said that he started in baseball as a clubbie, an important but low-level job. After spending time as a high school coach, he joined the Cardinals organization in 2004 as a scout, and worked his way up from there. He got his first chance to manage in 2009, when he helmed the Cards’ short season team, and eventually managed their Triple-A team. Matheny named him third-base coach in 2017. You can find our entire podcast and interview with Shildt by clicking over to Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or Acast.
When Yahoo Sports talked to Shildt about his team’s turnaround, he talked a lot about the clubhouse and the quality of people in it.
“Every single guy in that clubhouse is really dedicated to not only their own career, which they should be, but to the success of this team,” Shildt told Yahoo Sports. “When you have that, it’s more about now using your energy and effort and how to compete that day instead of getting sideways with the ego or the things that can get in the way of the team moving forward together.”
Announcing Shildt’s contract, Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak explained why the team made the move now:
John Mozeliak: "Why now? It makes sense to do it now because everything is going well but more importantly, momentum behind our players and our staff." #stlcards
— Cardinals Magazine (@CardsMagazine) August 28, 2018
It’s been a stunning turnaround for the Cardinals. Before Matheny was fired, it seemed like the Cards were destined to miss the playoffs for the third straight year. Now they’re about to enter September in possession of a wild-card spot. It’s hard to know how much a manager affects the players beyond setting the lineup and making in-game decisions, but the Cardinals front office is obviously confident that Shildt is the right man for the job.
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