Mike Shildt led the St. Louis Cardinals to 17 consecutive wins in September, setting a record for one of the most-storied franchises in baseball history.
That late-season push helped the Cardinals to a berth in the postseason. St. Louis then went toe-to-toe with the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League wild card game on the road before losing 3-1 on Chris Taylor’s two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Now, Shildt is out of a job.
In a move that surprised many in the baseball industry, the Cardinals fired Shildt on Thursday afternoon. Shildt is one of the most well-regarded managers and respected people in the game, having worked his way up through the Cardinals organization from area scout to big league manager.
The Cardinals were vague on their reasoning behind the move, citing the always-nebulous philosophical differences.
Shildt had one remaining year on his contract.
“All I can say is where we felt the team was going, we were struggling to get on the same page,” Cardinals president of baseball operations Joh Mozeliak said during a video conference with reporters. “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 met with Shildt and the coaching staff last Friday, two days after the loss to the Dodgers. Mozeliak and Shildt did not meet again until Thursday when Shildt was told he was being fired.
Mozeliak allowed that Shildt was “very shocked” by the move. However, the longtime executive shed little light on his thinking.
“I’m not going to get into who I spoke with or the details of how I got to this decision,” Mozeliak said.
Any thoughts of Shildt being fired seemed to dissipate following the winning streak that transformed the Cardinals’ season from disappointing to exhilarating. St. Louis was 53-55 on Aug. 5 before going 37-17 in the final third of the season to finish with a 90-72 record.
Yet that finish wasn’t enough to sway Mozeliak into keeping Shildt, who compiled a 255-199 record in 3 ½ seasons on the job.
“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.”
Which way the Cardinals go from here remains to be seen, especially with Mozeliak being so coy. He would not give any specifics on a managerial search beside saying there were strong internal candidates.
“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.”