August 28, 2018: Cardinals name Mike Shildt manager

After 15 years as a scout, coach, and manager with the organization, the St. Louis Cardinals officially named Mike Shildt manager on August 28, 2018. Shildt had spent the previous six weeks as interim manager in place of Mike Matheny, who was fired in the midst of his seventh season at the helm.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak initially hired the 49-year-old Shildt as an area scout in 2003. Shildt stayed in that role for three seasons, then requested the opportunity to coach.

“If I’m not good, if I’m overmatched, send me home,” he said.[1]

Rather than send Shildt home, the Cardinals kept promoting him. In 2009, he was named the manager at Johnson City, where his teams won the Appalachian League championship in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Shildt managed the Cardinals’ Double-A Springfield affiliate. In his first season there, with a roster that included Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, and Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals won the Texas League championship.

Shildt spent two seasons as the manager at Triple-A Memphis before he joined the Cardinals’ major-league staff under Matheny in 2017. When the Cardinals fired Matheny following an 8-2 loss to the Reds that dropped the team’s record to 47-46 on July 14, 2018, they named Shildt interim manager.

“When you look at the last few years, who has been the closest to players at the major-league level, and players on the cusp at Triple-A, that was Mike Shildt,” Mozeliak explained, referring to Shildt’s role as interim manager as “an extended interview.”[2]

“He’s a legitimate candidate because he’s come through the system and had a lot of success as a manager,” Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “He knows the situation.”[3]

Shildt’s promotion was greeted warmly by the players, even as they expressed disappointment that their performance on the field had cost Matheny his job.

“The one thing I can say about this guy (Shildt) is he cares,” Wong said. “He pays attention. He always puts in the work. From day one, I knew he was an amazing man because of how he could communicate and how he could talk with us. No matter what, he always had our back. After finding out what happened last night, and finding out he was the guy, it was a little bit of light in a dark time.”[4]

Dating back to his time as the Cardinals’ general manager, Mozeliak had long kept a running list of potential candidates for key positions, including the manager. Now that he had a vacancy, he updated the list and began researching potential candidates, including Joe Girardi, who had won a World Series as manager of the Yankees in 2009, and Cardinals coaches Jose Oquendo and Stubby Clapp.

Oquendo, who had applied for the Cardinals’ managerial job in 2011 when Matheny was named to replace Tony La Russa, placed his support behind Shildt.

“I think the Cardinals have the right guy in Mike,” he said in August. “I think, to me, in my opinion, they should decide now and make him the manager. He’s a real good one. I don’t think they should miss him.”[5]

The results on the field supported Oquendo’s opinion. From August 7 through August 15, the Cardinals reeled off eight consecutive wins. On August 21, a 5-2 win over the Dodgers propelled the Cardinals into second place in the National League Central Division, just 2 ½ games behind the Cubs for the division lead.

As the Cardinals kept winning, Mozeliak looked at his list of managerial candidates “less and less,” he said.[6]

“We’ve won, certainly, and that’s a byproduct of what he has done there,” DeWitt said. “He’s very collaborative with his coaches. He’s got relationships with the players. We all watch the games and my observation is – and I think it’s pretty well agreed to in the front office – his in-game strategy is excellent.”[7]

Shildt also changed the communication in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. General manager Michael Girsch described it as “a different energy.”[8]

“The one thing we’ve seen under Shildty is he’s changed the process and he’s been very intentional about that,” Mozeliak said. “I should say, it’s not just him, it’s the coaches, the players willing to accept that. We’re no longer doing what we were doing, and guess what? The outcome has changed. That has been very positive.”[9]

By August 28, Shildt had managed the team to a 26-12 record. He was in his home when Mozeliak called and asked if he was sitting or standing. Shildt answered that he was sitting.

“Good,” Mozeliak said. “I’d like to make you the next manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.”

Shildt was silent for a moment.

“It hits you,” Mozeliak later explained. “That’s a unique phone call to receive.”[10]

It was especially impactful for Shildt, who carried a copy of Cardinals coaching legend George Kissell’s ideas in a notebook that had been gifted to him by Kissell’s son, Dr. Dick Kissell. Shildt revisited the notebook each day, particularly the question early in the book, “Am I an organizational man??”[11]

Shildt’s dedication to Cardinals’ history combined with his interest in analytics made him unique among the candidates on Mozeliak’s list.

“When you’re talking about possible outside candidates, they would not have that,” Mozeliak said. “I do think there is some nuance that has value when you understand what you have. We don’t have to spend time having the new manager learn what our product is about. He knows that and he also knows the weaknesses of that where we need to improve. When we talk about the success over the last six weeks, I think we’d all agree that we’ve seen the little mistakes go away. They’re not festering.”[12]

DeWitt expressed a similar appreciation for Shildt’s climb through the Cardinals’ system.

“It’s nice that those who have been in your system, who have done a good job, can come up and continue to do a good job,” he said. “That’s an ideal scenario.”[13]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon wrote, “DeWitt, Mozeliak, and Co. have made many tough decisions while running this team. Removing Shildt’s interim tag was not one of them.”[14]

“We just felt like we could not do better,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly the relationship he has with our players and our coaching staff, as well as our front office and ownership, it just made this a seamless decision and one we didn’t agonize too much over.”[15]

“He deserves it,” Jedd Gyorko said. “We’re playing really good baseball and he’s leading the charge behind that. We’re pumped for him. Baseball … you guys have seen what we’ve done out there, but behind closed doors, he’s a great guy to play for and an even better person.”[16]

The Cardinals finished the 2018 season with an 88-74 record – including a 41-28 mark under Shildt – and finished third in the NL Central. The following year, Shildt was named the National League Manager of the Year after he guided St. Louis to 91 wins and the NLCS.

In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Shildt and the Cardinals placed second in the NL Central with a 30-28 record before losing to the Padres in a three-game NL Wild Card Series.

In 2021, buoyed by a 17-game September win streak, Shildt’s Cardinals went 90-72 to finish second in the NL Central and qualify for the NL Wild Card Game. Despite a 252-199 record in four winning seasons in St. Louis, Shildt was fired that October. Mozeliak cited a “philosophical difference.”[17]

Shildt’s .559 winning percentage during his tenure as Cardinals manager actually surpassed those of legendary Redbird managers such as La Russa (.544) and Whitey Herzog (.530), though both managers enjoyed longer careers in St. Louis and totaled significantly more wins.


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[1] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[2] Ben Frederickson, “It’s an audition for Shildt on the Cards’ stage,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 16, 2018.

[3] Ben Frederickson, “It’s an audition for Shildt on the Cards’ stage,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 16, 2018.

[4] Ben Frederickson, “It’s an audition for Shildt on the Cards’ stage,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 16, 2018.

[5] Ben Frederickson, “Cardinals manager Shildt has full support of Oquendo,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 17, 2018.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[7] Jeff Gordon, “This decision was easy one for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[8] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[9] Jeff Gordon, “This decision was easy one for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[10] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[11] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[12] Derrick Goold, “Job Belongs To Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[13] Jeff Gordon, “This decision was easy one for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[14] Jeff Gordon, “This decision was easy one for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[15] Jeff Gordon, “This decision was easy one for Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[16] Rick Hummel, “Flaherty keeps rolling,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 2018.

[17] Derrick Goold, “Cards Fire Shildt,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 15, 2021.