The Cardinals announced that the interim tag has been removed from Mike Shildt and the two sides have agreed to a three-year contract extension.
Shildt, 50, took over for Mike Matheny in mid-July. The club was hovering around .500 and Matheny reportedly wasn’t getting along well with some players, including Dexter Fowler. Since the change, the Cardinals have gone 26-12, reinserting themselves into the playoff picture. The Cardinals enter Tuesday 4.5 games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central and currently hold the first of two NL Wild Card slots along with the Brewers. August has been the Cardinals’ strongest month, winning 19 of 24 games. That includes an eight-game winning streak from August 7-15.
While it’s undeniable that the Cardinals have played better baseball under Shildt, it is interesting to see one of the more analytically-oriented organizations make a big decision based on a sample size of 38 games. August’s schedule has included games against teams treading water like the Pirates and Nationals and bottom-feeders like the Marlins and Royals. The upcoming schedule is even more of a cakewalk, with the club opening up a homestand with the Pirates and Reds, followed by a road trip to face the Nationals and Tigers, and rounded out with three more games against the Pirates. The Cardinals will also face the Dodgers again along with the Braves, Brewers, and Cubs, but the majority of their second half schedule has been relatively easy.
Waiting until the offseason to make a decision about the manager position would’ve given them a slightly larger sample size to work with and the opportunity to consider other candidates. But considering how long the Cardinals stuck with Matheny when it clearly wasn’t working, this decision isn’t all that surprising.