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In the span of a month, Mike Shildt has been judged to be one of the three most effective managers in the National League ... and the wrong guy to lead the St. Louis Cardinals going forward.
Shildt was named a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year award on Monday, just a few weeks after the Cardinals fired him following an early playoff exit. His fellow finalists: Gabe Kapler, still of the San Francisco Giants, and Craig Counsell, still of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Your NL Manager of the Year finalists.
Which skipper earned this award? pic.twitter.com/esPGEWeXlU
— MLB (@MLB) November 9, 2021
If you had no idea the Cardinals fired Shildt, his nomination would make plenty of sense, for the usual reasons surrounding Manager of the Year awards. Shildt's Cardinals overcame a slow start that landed them at 52-52 and seven games out of a wild-card spot before they caught fire with a 17-game win streak toward the end of the season.
Comeback narratives like that are typically catnip for Manager of the Year voters, typically surpassed only by "being much better than expected" (Kapler) and "won despite injury woes" (Counsell).
Unfortunately for Shildt, the gravy train came to a halt just after the BBWAA award votes were submitted. The Cardinals were held to one run and walked off by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL wild-card game, and suddenly the season looked like a failure again.
Shildt's firing was announced the week after the loss, with Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak citing "philosophical differences" about "where we saw the team going." Shildt was reportedly "shocked" by the decision. The Cardinals didn't go far to replace Shildt, hiring his bench coach Oliver Marmol — whom Shildt signed out of college when he was a scout — as manager.
Rick Renteria knows how Mike Shildt feels
A manager or coach being fired after a season where they earned a Coach of the Year award, or at least finalist status, happens every so often. Just last year, Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria was fired before being named runner-up for the AL Manager of the Year Award.
The ultimate example may be current Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who once led the Toronto Raptors to the best record in the Eastern Conference, exited early in the playoffs again, got fired, got named NBA Coach of the Year, then watched the Raptors win a championship the next year.