The St. Louis Cardinals gave their manager an extension and announced their 2017 coaching staff on Thursday.
With the World Series wrapped up and the offseason finally underway, the St. Louis Cardinals announced several important developments regarding their coaching staff. First of all, manager Mike Matheny has been signed to a three-year contract extension, which will keep him under contract through 2020.
In addition, the staff that will work under Matheny next season was finalized. All coaches except third-base coach Jose Oquendo–who hasn’t coached since the end of the 2015 season–and assistant hitting coach Derrick May–whose departure had previously been announced–will return.
Oliver Marmol, who had been the manager of the Cardinals’ High-A affiliate at Palm Beach, will become the new first-base coach for the big-league club. Marmol, who played in the Cardinals organization before becoming a coach, has spent the past six seasons coaching in the system. Bill Mueller, who had moved from assistant hitting coach to first-base coach as Oquendo departed and normal first-base coach Chris Maloney moved to third last spring, will return to his previous position as a hitting coach. Maloney will remain at third base.
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Mike Shildt, who had been the manager at Triple-A Memphis for the past two seasons, will be promoted to the big-league staff as a quality control coach, a newly-created in uniform position on the Cardinals’ staff. The 48-year-old Shildt had been a manager in the Cardinals’ system for the past eight seasons.
The Matheny extension will undoubtedly upset quite a few fans, but the reality was that it had to get done. Teams across sports simply don’t let head coaches or managers enter their walk year without having their future addressed, and Matheny was no exception.
While some St. Louis fans will argue that it has worked fine for Ken Hitchcock and the Blues over the past two seasons, that’s a major exception to the rule. Especially over a 162-game MLB season, it’s easy to see how Matheny would become especially prone to losing the room if he didn’t have any contract security beyond the season.
The Cardinals weren’t going to fire Matheny after he had led them to the playoffs in his first four years as manager–including one World Series and three NLCS appearances–and then only missed out on a Wild Card spot by one game this season. Thus, the only reasonable choice was to give him a contract extension. If he fails miserably next season and shows that he can’t handle a big-league managerial job, the Cards can always fire him; plenty of professional sports franchises have fired coaches with three years left on their contracts before.
And ultimately, any baseball fan who watched this postseason should realize that ultimately, most of the responsibility falls on the players after a while and managerial mistakes will even out. Matheny may not be a great bullpen tactician, but unless he’s literally making a Buck Showalter-esque catastrophic mistakes on a frequent basis, his results aren’t going to be that different from those of the “replacement level manager.”