This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Manager: Oli Marmol
When you preside over the worst season since 1990, you aren’t going to be popular with a lot of people. Every bullpen implosion, every questionable lineup, all of it comes down on your head. Whether it’s your fault or not that the starter gave up eight runs in the first inning or the club almost got no-hit, there’s going to be a lot of arrows coming your way. It comes with the territory. It’s not the glamorous part of the job but it is part of it.
That said, you open yourself up more to it with unforced errors. Early on, before we realized that April was going to be completely terrible and a harbinger of the rest of the year, the Tyler O’Neill fiasco happened. If you somehow were smart enough to go into a medically induced coma at the end of spring training and are just now waking up, in an early April game Marmol chastised O’Neill for getting thrown out at home when he represented the tying run. All the variables that were out there–a wet night, O’Neill’s injury history, the fact that he was sent by Willie McGee when Ronald Acuna Jr. was the one doing the throwing–made that a weird time for Marmol to throw down. The fact that things continued to go south from there made some people think that he was in over his head and just flailing about trying to find purchase.
However, comments after made it seem like that was a bit of a last straw situation, that perhaps the clubhouse had tried addressing things with O’Neill in the past with little effect. It’s hard to know for sure and while Marmol is a bit more blunt than his predecessors and more likely to note when someone didn’t live up to expectations, he also didn’t stir the pot like that again during the season. Maybe he realized he’d overstepped.
Given that he was a first-year manager though, it’s clear that he’s just not able to handle…..what’s that? This wasn’t his first year? He won 93 games in his first season, took the team to the playoffs, and was a jammed Ryan Helsley finger away from winning their first series since 2019? That even as terrible as 2023 was, he still has a plus .500 record? That he was in consideration for Manager of the Year in 2022?
Look, I’m not saying that Marmol was as great as everything looked in 2022. Perhaps he had help with Albert Pujols back in the clubhouse (and Yadier Molina being around at least some of the year). I’m just saying that if you are going to run him out of town for 2023, you have to give him a parade for 2022. He never seems to have lost the clubhouse, as all the major voices like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt continued to back him. I don’t think Adam Wainwright would be out here lobbying free agents so hard if he thought they’d be miserable with the manager. A lot of things went wrong last year. Maybe some of them Marmol could have prevented. It seems unlikely he could have done enough to make this a contender, though.
What’s in store for 2024: The Cardinals went from 1980-2011 with three full-time managers. They’ve had three from 2012 to the present. Continuity is prized in St. Louis but so is winning. Marmol’s seat is warm going into the season. If it starts going south, especially with the additions the front office has made, the club will be looking for manager #4 in the post-Tony LaRussa era.