Despite a team-record 17-game winning streak that carried the St. Louis Cardinals to an MLB wild-card berth, Mike Shildt was fired as manager Thursday.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak cited “philosophical differences” to explain Shildt’s dismissal. He declined to expand on those differences, saying the move was “something that popped up recently.”
Mozeliak noted that Shildt was heading into the final year of his contract but said it wasn’t the sole reason for parting ways. Shildt had signed a three-year contract extension after the 2019 season.
“All I can say is where we felt the team was going, we were struggling to get on the same page,” Mozeliak said. “With him having one year remaining on his contract, we could have gone into 2022 having that over him, and we just decided that internally it would be best to separate now and take a fresh look as we head into a new season.”
Mozeliak declined to discuss possible replacements but said there are plenty of internal candidates. He said the coaches who remain under contract are expected to return next season.
“As I said before, 2021 was a real success and something that, for all of us that were part of the organization, we take tremendous pride in,” Mozeliak said. “Any time you go on a 17-game winning streak and actually create history for your organization, it’s something you take enormous pride in. A lot of times these decisions aren’t based just on the season. More to the point, it’s directionally where we want to go.”
Mozeliak met with Shildt and the rest of the coaching staff Friday, but the two did not meet again until Mozeliak informed Shildt of his firing.
Asked about the manager’s response, Mozeliak replied, “He was very shocked,” adding, “I’m not going to get into who I spoke with or the details of how I got to this decision.”
Shildt, 53, had guided the Cardinals to the playoffs three times, including in 2021, when they rode their September winning streak to a 90-72 finish. St. Louis lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild-card game on a walk-off home run.
It is rare for clubs to fire managers the same day as a playoff game; the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants played the decisive game in their divisional series late Thursday. But Mozeliak and Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. decided that it was important enough to seek permission from Major League Baseball to make the move immediately.
“I think Mo said it well: This is based on differences between Mo and his group and the manager, and you know, it didn’t have anything to do with this year,” DeWitt said. “I value continuity, but I value continuity if we’re continuing to head in the right direction. This is a decision that everyone bought into, and that’s kind of how it played out.”
Going 252-199 in three-plus seasons, Shildt led the Cardinals to the National League Central title in 2019, when he was named NL Manager of the Year, but they were swept in the NL Championship Series by the Washington Nationals. His team also lost a wild-card series to the San Diego Padres in 2020.
He became the 50th manager in Cardinals history in July 2018 when he was given the job on an interim basis after Mike Matheny was fired. The club removed the interim tag a month later.
Shildt, who never played in the minors or majors, joined the Cardinals organization in 2004 when Mozeliak hired him as a scout. The North Carolina native spent most of that time managing in the minors and was a member of the team’s major league coaching staff for two seasons before being named manager.
“You know, there’s reasons behind what we do,” Mozeliak said. “What direction we’re trying to go with is something we tend to keep private anyway, but just the overall health of this club — we feel very optimistic as we look at 2022, and we just felt like the leadership downstairs needed to be on the same page.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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