The St. Louis Cardinals have made a major change in the dugout.
Following Saturday night’s loss to the Reds (CIN 8, STL 2), the Cardinals announced manager Mike Matheny has been relieved of his duties. Hitting coach John Mabry and assistant hitting coach Bill Mueller were let go as well. Bench coach Mike Shildt will take over as interim manager.
“Mike Matheny has served the St. Louis Cardinals organization with tremendous dedication and pride and I am thankful for his service to the Cardinals over the past six and a half seasons,” said Cardinals chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Cardinals organization, I would like to wish Mike the very best.”
“These decisions are never easy, but we felt that a change in leadership was necessary as the team prepares to enter into the second half of the season,” added president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “I would like to thank Mike for his exceptional commitment and devotion to the Cardinals organization, including many fond memories of our years working together.”
Matheny’s firing comes after a tumultuous few weeks for the manager. First, reports indicated Matheny and Dexter Fowler were not on speaking terms. Then, an article by Mark Saxon of The Athletic brought to light what amounts to sanctioned harassment of rookie reliever Jordan Hicks by veteran Bud Norris.
“I think the game has progressively gotten a little softer. Man, it had some teeth not that long ago,” said Matheny to Saxon.
Hicks indicated he did not appreciate Norris being on his back all the time and offered a “no comment” when asked whether it could pay dividends later in his career. Clearly, Hicks was uncomfortable, and Matheny let Norris continue.
Saturday’s loss dropped the Cardinals to 47-46 on the season. They are only four games back of the second wild card spot, so they’re not out of the race by any means, but the Cardinals have not played well much of the season and they’ve now lost 10 of their last 15 games. Add in the Fowler and Hicks incidents, as well as no postseason trips since 2015, and that was enough to cost Matheny his job.
The Cardinals hired Matheny as manager in November 2011. He replaced Hall of Famer Tony La Russa, who retired following the team’s 2011 World Series title. Matheny had no managerial experience at the time of his hire. The team went 591-474 (.555) under his watch and won three division titles (2013-15) as well as one National League pennant (2013).
Matheny is the first Cardinals manager to be fired during the season since Joe Torre was let go in 1995. While they are not out of the postseason race yet, it seems possible — if not likely — St. Louis will miss the postseason for the third consecutive season this year. They have not missed the postseason three straight years since 1997-99.