Returning home on a seven game losing streak, the St. Louis Cardinals announced changes to the coaching staff today.
First, third base coach Chris Maloney will be reassigned in the organization, replacing him will be Mike Shildt. Shildt has most recently been the Quality Control Coach with the big league squad. He joined the Cardinals’ organization in 2004 as an area scout and part-time coach. He managed Single-A Johnson City from 2007 to 2011, winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, and Double-A Springfield from 2011 to 2016 before joining the big league coaching staff this season.
Second, assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller has been away from the club and will now formally be placed on a leave of absence. Replacing him will be Mark Budaska, who had been the hitting coach at Triple-A Memphis. He joined the Cardinals’ organization as a hitting coach at Memphis in 2008.
Third, Ron “Pop” Warner will also join the big league club as an additional infield coach, assisting Oliver Marmol in that role. Warner joined the Cardinals in 2000 throwing batting practice for the big league club before becoming a minor league coach in 2001. He got his first managerial job in 2004 and has managed at all levels of the minors in his career.
And fourth, in a roster move, the Cardinals have activated second baseman Kolten Wong from the disabled list and designed infielder Jhonny Peralta for assignment.
The moves may not represent the overhaul that many fans, including myself, have been clamoring for and hoping for when the press conference was announced, but it is a good first step.
“You cannot blow the whole thing up, but we had to do something different,” said Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak as he began explaining the changes.
The first move, relieving Chris Maloney of his third base coaching duties, was one that I felt needed to be made over the winter. Maloney was a quick promotion into the role when Jose Oquendo was unable to return to the job, but through the course of the season was sending too many players to outs. He had not adjusted through the course of the season as I expected him to.
And those problems continued into this season, exemplified on the losing streak by his sending Paul DeJong to get easily thrown out twice at home.
I’m hopeful that that will help cure some of the base running woes and giving outs away at the plate, but the Cardinals still have a problem with the offense.
They struggle to score runs and while the Cardinals have found some success offensively, most notably in 2013 and then again last year, the Cardinals finished 24th in runs scored in 2014 and 2015 and currently stand 24th again this year as well. However, John Mabry still has his job.
Having Budaska up as an additional, and perhaps different, voice could be beneficial to the club’s hitters. As Mozeliak said, “I don’t look at him as the bat whisperer or something, but I look at as someone that has a way of doing this that might not necessarily be identical to how John Mabry might.”
Time will tell, but one can imagine that if this move does help the offense, do you need to consider replacing Mabry over the offseason?
Mozeliak discussed during the press conference that his time frame for judging these changes will be four to six weeks, and at that point if the Cardinals are still floundering, further changes may be made to the team’s coaching staff. Perhaps the hitting coach? Perhaps a change atop the top step of the dugout?
For Matheny, the moves give him yet another experienced voice in the clubhouse with the addition of Pop Warner to the staff. He now has Warner, Shildt, Marmol, and Bell who all have minor league managerial experience that he could lean on for advice if he wants it. Inexperience should no longer be an excuse for him.
I’ve argued that his message is having trouble getting through to the players, which is the primary reason I feel like the organization should move on, but he will need to get everyone on board and pulling the same direction to turn this season around.
The Cardinals play the Phillies this weekend to put this new coaching staff to it’s first test, but their real first test will come on Tuesday as they face off against the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers.
Regardless of whether or not I feel like the moves were enough, I do hope that these are the moves that help the Cardinals turn their season around. But if not, it sounds like Mozeliak knows what his next steps are, because his seat may be getting hot as well.