Cardinals’ decision to retain Marmol for 2024 is the right one—Here’s why

St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, right, talks in the dugout with catcher Willson...
St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, right, talks in the dugout with catcher Willson Contreras following an 11-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants in a baseball game Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 7:35 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - For those who have followed along with the explanations from the Cardinals and John Mozeliak regarding the struggles of the team this season, it comes as no surprise. But Mozeliak confirmed in a press conference Friday afternoon at Busch Stadium that Cardinals manager Oli Marmol would be retained in the role for the 2024 season.

Although the first losing season of Mozeliak’s tenure as the head baseball executive in St. Louis will be clinched with the next Cardinal loss, the front office has taken a different tone in diagnosing the cause of the club’s struggles compared to how it has handled other recent disappointing campaigns.

When Mike Matheny’s generally successful run as the Cardinals field manager took a turn toward the notion of a sub-.500 season in summer 2018, Mozeliak acted swiftly in dismissing the manager before it ever got to that point.

Mike Shildt helped to restore the type of clean, fundamental baseball upon which the Cardinals have historically prided themselves. But philosophical differences were cited as the reason to part with Shildt as the St. Louis manager after the 2021 season.

Marmol was, like Shildt, a baseball lifer who made his way through the minor-league coaching ranks on merit to earn his shot at the head job with the Cardinals. Though Marmol had relatively less experience as a thirty-something-year-old manager, he proved his mettle in leading the Cardinals to an NL Central division title in 2022.

When things went woefully wrong for the last-place Cardinals this season, many outside the organization wondered if Marmol was to blame. But in announcing their intentions for Marmol moving forward ahead of the end of this season, the Cardinals are making it crystal clear: this season wasn’t his fault.

Mozeliak entered this season with a now-infamous belief that the Cardinals had enough pitching depth at the MLB-level to compete. That’s a bet that has been proven to have been a loser, evidenced by the team’s decision to wave the white flag and sell at the trade deadline.

But in shouldering the blame for the struggles in the standings, Mozeliak has placed the onus on his front office to make the moves necessary to vault the Cardinals back into contention under Marmol in 2024.

Mozeliak was responsible for the decisions to hire and fire two previous managers. Marmol was his handpicked hire the third time around, as the club’s baseball boss sought a manager who more closely aligned with the philosophies of his front office.

To show the door to that manager after one losing season—a season in which the Cardinals fell out of the top half of the league in terms of payroll—would be more of a direct indictment of Mozeliak’s continued merit for his own role than anything else.

Although 2023 should certainly be used as a valuable learning experience for Marmol—to say he’s had a perfect year wouldn’t be accurate, either—it’s difficult to grade the manager solely on the team’s record when the responsibility for a number of issues with this team go beyond the scope of his role.

Mozeliak wagered that his pitching staff would be adequate because doing so was the simplest solution, the solution that felt most convenient to believe given the veteran status of the various starters on the 40-man roster.

But the aptitude of the next wave, the starters and relievers who are critical to organizational depth heading into each new season, proved lacking. The “Memphis Mafia” that has historically served to bolster the big-league club when called upon simply didn’t pan out in the way the front office had anticipated, particularly as it pertained to pitching depth. Injuries happen, but injuries can’t be used to absolve a season like this one for the Cardinals—all teams must endure them, and until recent weeks, St. Louis had arguably been fortunate not to have seen more injuries to key players than it did.

Regarding Marmol’s coaching staff, It’s likely there will be changes, but not the pound-of-flesh type of changes some disgruntled fans might be hoping to see. Mozeliak reiterated support for first-year pitching coach Dusty Blake Friday to further emphasize the notion that the failings of the pitching staff fall on the person who assembled it.

For Marmol to have a successful 2024 season, the Cardinals need to aggressively fill the numerous holes on his roster before that season begins.

Friday’s confirmation that Marmol will fulfill the final year of his current contract means that Marmol’s boss knows his upcoming off-season is the most important of his own tenure in St. Louis.