By Rob Rains
In a bold late-night move, the Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny and hitting coaches John Mabry and Bill Mueller on Saturday night following an 8-2 loss to the Reds at Busch Stadium.
Bench coach Mike Shildt was named the interim manager in the moves announced in a press release a little more than an hour after the game ended.
Matheny did make his normal post-game media session without any indication a move was about to be made.
The team has called an 11 a.m. press conference on Sunday to discuss the changes.
“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,” said President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said in the team’s press release. “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.”
Team chairman Bill Dewitt Jr. was quoted as saying, ““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. On behalf of the entire Cardinals organization, I would like to wish Mike the very best.”
Saturday night’s loss left the Cardinals with a 47-46 record, seven games behind the division-leading Cubs. They have lost the last three games overall and their last six games at home.
Matheny had been involved in a couple of disturbing reports recently that had drawn a lot of media criticism, including reports that he and struggling Dexter Fowler were barely speaking and a reported rift between two members of the bullpen, veteran Jordan Hicks and rookie Jordan Hicks.
Whether either or both of those situations played a role in the decision to fire Matheny could be revealed at Sunday’s news conference.
Matheny had been the Cardinals’ manager since 2012, taking over after Tony La Russa retired. His current contract ran through the 2020 season.
At the time he was hired, Matheny had never managed at any level other than youth baseball but was well respected during his long playing career, which included five seasons with the Cardinals.
He led the team into the playoffs in his first four seasons as manager, the first manager in franchise history to do that, but the team failed to qualify for the playoffs each of the last two years, finishing with 86 and 83 wins.
This is the first time the Cardinals have a managerial change during the season since Joe Torre was fired in 1995.
One of the biggest problems for the Cardinals this season was their offensive performance, leading to criticism of Mabry and Mueller. Matheny and Mabry also are close personal friends.
Shildt, 49, was in his second season as a coach on the major-league staff. He has eight years of managing experience in the Cardinals’ farm system.
The full press release can be viewed here.