Join columnist Ben Frederickson for a live STL sports chat at 11 a.m. Tuesday

Join columnist Ben Frederickson for a live STL sports chat at 11 a.m. Tuesday

Ben Frederickson answers your Cardinals, Blues, St. Louis City, Mizzou and SLU questions in Tuesday's 11 a.m. live chat.

    Greetings, chatters. Hope everybody is having a good week. Today's chat song, on a tip from a friend, is James Ingram's "Just Once." A ballad about a breakup also applicable to the Cardinals' current situation. Luther Burden picks his college tonight; that's big. Blues beat Arizona. It can happen. Young guys looked good. Plenty to discuss. Let's ride.
    You’re right Ben, it’s Mo’s way or the highway. Absolute power corrupts absolutely
    He's the baseball operations boss. And he has a lot of autonomy with decisions. Does Bill DeWitt Jr. have to approve of decisions like this? Of course. He is he owner. But Mozeliak has his support in most if not all cases. For the time being, at least. There are times when DeWitt goes out of his way to explain how a decision was made, and how collaborative it was. This was not one of those times. He directly said it boiled down to differences between Shildt and Mo, and Mo's guys. That statement was one of the few clear things in this murky mess.
    Ben, when did wins and losses become a secondary factor to gauging the performance of a baseball manager?
    When a front office wants to fire a manager, the record can be everything.
    When a front office wants to fire a manager and the on-field results don't support the move, there have to be other reasons that are pointed to.
    The Cardinals insisted it wasn't about record, but didn't really clear up many of the so-called philosophical differences.
    Some of them have bled out over time and reporting.
    Shildt was pushing. Too hard it seems now. He wanted Cardinals knowledge to remain with the Cardinals. He was pointing out where he felt the team was slipping. Shildt could run hot -- sometimes too hot. There were two misconceptions of the former manager I tried to point out in real time. He did not lack "fire" as some suggested. And he was not a "yes man" as some suggested. There were some clashes and as the page turned from 2021 to looking forward something happened that the front office decide the differences were too much.
    The Cardinals labeled 2021 a success because of the winning streak and the playoff appearance. Shildt's winning percentage is better than any active manager with as many seasons under their belt as him except for Dave Roberts and Aaron Boone, who just got an extension from the Yankees today. Shildt will have received manager of the year award votes -- and he won it once -- in every full season he managed, including this season. The Cardinals, to their credit, did not attempt to say it was on-field related. Because how could it have been?
    Corey Seager or Trevor Story? I imagine contracts will look fairly similar. Is Seager being a lefty a big deciding factor? What impact would the DH coming to the NL have on a decision between the two.
    Seager is 27.5 years old.
    Story is almost 29.
    Seager has a 131 OPS+ in the last 3 seasons, with a 147 OPS+ over the last two.
    Story has a 114 OPS+ in the last 3 seasons, with a 108 OPS+ over the last two, and remember he's playing in the offense-aiding Coors Field for home games.
    I'm not sure how their contracts would look all that similar.
    Story is a two-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger.
    Seager is a two-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger. And a rookie of the year, a World Series champion and NLCS and World Series MVP.
    I think Seager is going to get a bigger deal, potentially a significantly bigger deal.
    The Cardinals have shown interest in Story in the past, including at the trade deadline.
    They have not shown much interest in beating the field for a top-of-the-class free agent, due to the contract and commitments those wins require, and how the contracts that win them often struggle to hold up.
    Could you see the Blues packaging Tarasenko with Mikola or Walman in a trade for a top 4 LD? Would one of those guys be enough to sweeten the deal or at least mitigate some of the risk in trading for Tarasenko? I think Scandella is fine, but seems an upgrade to that spot could help Parayko take another step.
    Could Bortuzzo go instead? Mikkola has the makings of a player you might not want to face in the near future, knowing your team traded him away. If Tarasenko plays well, and signs so far point to that, then other teams' interest could rise when injuries start to happen.
    Ben, I’m a numbers guy so tell me if I’m close in quantifying the philosophical reasons: the Albert factor (60%), Shildt calling out the FO during the season for not adding pitching depth (20%), all other factors including Shildt not pushing analytics hard enough to suit the brilliant John Mozaliak (20%).
    I wish I could give you numbers that concrete but I can tell you this stuff about Shildt being "anti-analytics" sounds more like spin than anything else, to me.
    Analytics is a fancy word for information.
    Shildt is not anti-information.
    He put on more defensive shifts than any Cardinals manager. He regularly cited advanced offensive metrics when discussing and/or defending his lineup decisions. He regularly perused data provided to him daily about the direction of the lineup, including advanced analytical markers.
    He also understood that while all the data in the world is great, it can overwhelm at times, too, and it has to be presented in a matter that can help humans who are competing at a high level. Two baseball men might have different opinions about a direction to take, or move to make. It does not mean one is pro-analytics and another is anti-analytics. Anyone who is truly anti-analytics has been pushed out o the majors by now. 
    Shildt has his flaws. Who doesn't? He could get a case of red ass. He could run hot at times. Not every decision he made was perfect. But he was not anti-analytics.
    How do you fix this Mizzou defense? Stack 8 in the box? Move to a 3-4? Is there a gimmick out there worth trying? They lost some NFL talent, but never would have thought we’d take such a step back from what was a pretty average D from last year? How can you not fire Wilkes if they don’t improve, even with the big contract?
    I would start by having full-contract practices over the bye week. That's if the NCAA even allows it. Somewhere along the way, Wilks forgot to make sure his defense knew how to tackle, and Drinkwitz apparently didn't see the magnitude of the problems from his side of the ball, which is as big if not bigger of a concern. Another thing: Drinkwitz should take a long, hard look at his strength and conditioning program. The Tigers too often looked physically dominated at the line of scrimmage and at the linebacker level. Recruiting matters, sure. But you've gotta have players getting bigger, faster and stronger while on campus. In short, there are no easy answers right now. I agree that if Wilks is as out of touch as it has appeared, there is no real benefit to keeping him around. It could make things worse.
    Mo is now looking to hire a third field manager in the last decade. Neither Matheny nor Shildt had any managing experience at the major league level nor do any of the presumed front runners (Schumaker, Clapp, Marmol). What does Mo expect from a manager? A Yes Man? It seems Mo doesn’t want to be challenged or certainly not overshadowed by the field Manager.
    When the team chairman says the manager was fired because he could not get along with the president of baseball operations and his guys, and the president of baseball operations says he wants a manager who stays on the same page as the front office, I think it's safe to assume that, yes, the Cardinals are now officially taking a stance that their next manager will be someone who agrees to accept the role with the understanding that it is an extension of the front office, not a counter-balance against the front office.
    You win and lose as a team. Mo, Girsch, and Shildt each received contract extensions on the same day two years ago yet after three consecutive trips to the playoffs, Shildt gets fired. Why do Mo and Girsch still have jobs?
    Because Bill DeWitt Jr.'s faith in Mozeliak remains, and Mozeliak's faith in Girsch remains. At least for the time being. Simple as that.
  • Ben, do you think the Cardinal manager was going to be fired no matter how deep the Cardinals went in the playoffs?
    That's an impossible what-if to answer.
    A deep postseason run certainly would have made it harder to justify, considering it's already pretty hard to justify based on how Shildt's teams performed given the rosters he had to work with.
    Nothing cures beef like winning.
    Maybe the fractures that led to the offseason earthquake would have been repaired by a sweeter October. It's a totally fair question. Just can't be sure, because it's not what happened.
    Would George Kissell have a place in today's Cardinal organization?
    That is a heavy question. And a fair and great one. It's unfair to Shildt and Kissell to say Shildt was the closest thing the Cardinals had to Kissell, but Shildt clearly felt he was trying to carry the torch, if you will, in his own way. One thing is pretty clear. The emphasis on institutional knowledge of the Cardinals is not as valued as it once was. Chris Carpenter being hired out from beneath the Cardinals without an offer is an example. The red coats are thinning. Times, they are a changing.
    The Cardinals have fired long time organizational guys in Shildt, Greer and Budaska because they had philosophical differences with Jeff Albert. That seems to be expending a lot of coaching talent to protect a guy whose results have led to bottom third finishes in runs scored each year. They were near the very bottom last year and most of this year, until the hot streak. It would be one thing if the offense was top of the league each year, but this screams poor upper management. Just think how well this team might have done the last couple of years with John Mabry's offensive results?
    To his credit, Albert can point to impressive results some young up-and-coming hitters are having in the Cardinals' minor league ranks.
    That bodes well for the future, and it's clearly one the Cardinals front office is committed to seeing through.
    Those who are not on the same page, or don't get there, are going to be gone.
    This is where things get confusing. Because when Albert is defended by the front office, there is a lot of talk about how different viewpoints are good and not everyone benefits from the same kind of instruction. And yet anyone who seems to clash or push back against Albert's direction doesn't last very long.
    Even more confusing, to me, is how the Cardinals reacted after this season, firing Shildt, after what I think was a pretty good example of a team finding a really productive balance for the offense. In the beginning of the season, the Cardinals were all trying to hit the ball to Big Mac Land. In late June, Shildt staged what could best be called a hitting intervention. Hard conversations were had, and the Cardinals stopped treating every at-bat equally. Numbers with two-strikes went up and numbers with runners in scoring position went up. The intervention, if you will, was not about throwing out Albert's method, I don't think. It was about balancing it a little it. And the results speak for themselves.
    Does Albert get credit for that or Shildt? It depends on who is asked. Now one of them is gone. Time will tell if the balance the Cardinals found in the second half will be gone as well.
    I’ve tried to give Mo and DeWitt the benefit of the doubt over the years. They’ve certainly done a lot of winning even though we may not always like how they go about it. But if they’re going to make a decision like this, they better be right and they better take this team to the next level. I always believed if they gave Shildt a more complete roster, he could take them to the World Series. And I hope fans who wanted Shildt gone realize that they’ll probably love the next manager until he makes his first pitching change. Managers are there to take the heat when players don’t execute.
    The person that has to be right is Mozeliak. Team owners don't get fired or pushed out for being wrong. They just hire new front office members, like front office members do managers.
    Was the change in hitting approach that heavily contributed to the cardinals best win streak in franchise history seen as an affront to Mozeilaks authority and Jeff alberts philosophy?
    Those who support Albert seem to think it was vindication of his plan, more than a pivot away from it. Personally, I think it was more of a balancing out of it, encouraged by the former manager. Opinions vary.
  • Is it at all possible that we had the narrative wrong around the change in hitting approach that led to the 17 game streak? Could it have been that Schildt finally let go of the reigns and allowed Jeff Albert to handle overall hitting philosophy with the big league club instead of the narrative that Schildt intervened and saved the season?
    That is not my understanding of what happened.
    In last nights blues game, Most of our goals stemmed from stellar board and behind the net play combined with guys holding down the space directly in front of the net. Berube preaches this style of play all day every day. Is kostin perfect for this style of hockey, or are the coyotes just that bad at clearing guys out of those high danger areas?
    Don't forget a healthy amount of sizzling skill, often from Kyrou, in that scoring effort. A great night for the young Blues against a team that too often as the Blues' number. Kostin's willingness to play tough and get physical was a great sign. Berube had challenged him to get there, and he did. Good sign. I wrote before the season that this really needs to be the year the Berube-is-too-tough-on-young-guys narrative goes away. So far, so good.
    BenFred - You and your Post-Dispatch colleagues deserve big thanks for your diligent in-depth reporting on the Cardinals. I wonder, though, if there could be more reported on the dynamics of front office management – how does this organization actually operate and where is it heading? We see that the model is to be just good enough to barely qualify for the playoffs, make the turnstiles sing, then claim success. But Mo refuses to even say what his philosophy for the team is while firing Shildt for “philosophical differences.” A huge difference in class was evident in their recent press appearances. Secretive organizations are generally hiding their inadequacies, not just protecting their strategy. For years Cardinal fans have tried to decipher Mo’s riddles, evasions and lack of transparency. Carefully coded stories help provide understanding, but this franchise, city and fans deserve better. Loyalty has its limits when you can no longer trust, respect or like the management. Again, thank you for your insights and professionalism.
    The Cardinals are a private business, and they can try to withhold whatever information they choose from the public and their fans -- and we will try to report out what is not said -- but I agree that the tone of the Shildt firing Zoom conference was borderline insulting. You all know what I think by now. I don't think Shildt should have been canned. But I realize some did. All good. That's baseball. But whether someone was for or against the firing, the team, I think, owed those more of an explanation along with an understanding of why a better explanation was owed. I don't think very many people within the organization felt good watching how that press conference played out. There are right and wrong ways to handle uncomfortable days. It was the latter.
    Happy Chat Day, Ben

    I know you will be beset by questions about the whole Shildt thing, yet I am compelled to offer one more. Here is where I get stuck... Mo understands that Albert is somewhat unpopular with the fan base writ large. Mo also understands that the common perception of that fan base is that Shildt basically saving the season by, in some form or fashion, pivoting away from Albert's philosophy. I am not saying this is right or wrong. I am saying that this is the general perception. So... knowing that.... I cannot imagine what on earth could have happened that Mo thinks it makes the FO look BETTER to have everyone believe that the dude who saved the season was fired for not agreeing with the philosophy that he had to fix in order to save the season. I mean, that is such a bad look, and yet Mo finds that look preferable to saying the actual reason. I just.. help me understand that one.
    I'd be careful with defining what common perception is. It varies by the person. A large percentage of fans never learned how to spell the former manager's name right, for example .Some fans insist he was fired for pitching Alex Reyes in the wild-card game. Some fans are all in on Albert as the new-age thinker the Cardinals need. Mozeliak hasn't been around as long as he has, or had as much success as he's had, by building his decisions on what common perception of those decisions will be. His boss is Bill DeWitt Jr., not Twitter or forums or journalists, for that matter. If he made a decision in firing Shildt that winds up helping the team, then he is going to look right in the long run. If he made a decision in firing Shildt based off a power struggle, and the next manager is not as good, then his decision will be questioned, likely by DeWitt, and it should be. He's gotta nail this hire, and more importantly make sure the new manager, who is clearly going to be an extension of the front office, has a roster that makes a higher level of winning capable. Ironically, some of the things Shildt pushed for could wind up helping his replacement. Mozeliak is under as much pressure now as he has been in a long time.
    Do you think the way the Cardinals fired Shildt which seemed more personal than professional by not even acknowledging his years with the organization and no real explanation will have an impact on how free agents feel about coming here?
  • No.
    Money talks more than how managers are handled.
    And Shildt was not a a prominent enough figure nationally to move that needle.
    BenFred I would like to compliment you and thank you for your splendid article barely minutes after Mike Shildt (parted ways ha) with the St Louis Cardinals. You had to have been scrambling to get that out to your readers so quickly. It was an excellent piece and I fully agreed with every point you made.

    I will be very unhappy if Shildt was fired for not wanting Jeff Albert to be his hitting coach. Three years is not a small sample size to judge Albert’s body of work. Yes, the team greatly picked up its hitting late this past season but ONLY after young Tommy Edman piped up in public about the team’s hitting approach. Shildt quickly supported his player. The rest is history.

    Time has a way of marching on and Mike Shildt will soon be an afterthought. But I will always be left with a few unanswered questions: What in the WORLD does Albert have on Mozeliak to demand such loyalty? Should the new yes man, er manager, just plan on phoning Mo’s luxury box to ask which reliever to warm up or pinch hitter to get ready? (Try picturing Billy Martin, Earl Weaver, or even TLR doing that!!). And finally, I wonder if Mr DeWitt took aim in the wrong direction? If his new hire doesn’t work out I expect he will find out. Thanks for the chance to comment.
    Thanks.
    You are right about time moving on.
    I imagine by next week there will be chatters tired of questions and answers about Shildt.
    Probably by the end of this one.
    One thing that would help this Jeff Albert situation would be a legitimate and thorough explanation of what he's teaching, how it's an organization-wide process and why the Cardinals are so committed to it.
    Buzz words like "modern" and "analytics" and pointing to more video use only goes so far.
    If the new manager don't work out this will be on on MO for letting a.goid manager get away. He will be on hot seat
    Seems like a fair assessment. Those who are going bananas about Bill DeWitt Jr. being in on all big decisions, which of course is true, seem to be overlooking he came out and said it's a Mo deal, almost that directly.
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