The St. Louis Cardinals have decided to retain their manager Oli Marmol for the 2024 season. It will be the final year of his three-year contract that he signed after the 2021 season to take over for Mike Shildt, who was fired in a stunning move.
In 2022, Marmol guided the Cardinals to their first NL Central title since 2019 with a 93-69 season. The 2023 season has been a far cry from what 2022 was for St. Louis. The Cardinals are already eliminated from postseason contention and are guaranteed their first losing season since 2007. They also have secured their first last-place finish since 1990.
Cardinals fans have grown frustrated with the team's second year manager for a number of reasons. And though he may be returning for 2024, fans remain unsatisfied with the job he has done this year.
For quite some time, several fans have been calling for him to be fired along with President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. There are certainly reasons why firing him might do some good for the Cardinals. An argument could also be made that he deserves another chance.
Oli Marmol's questionable comments
Fans began to lose faith in Oli Marmol back in April. After a 4-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on April 4, the Cardinals manager made some very questionable comments, publicly calling out outfielder Tyler O'Neill for a supposed lack of hustle.
O'Neill was thrown out at the plate by Ronald Acuña Jr. when trying to score on a base hit by Brendan Donovan. O'Neill took exception to the comments made by his manager, who doubled down on his comments the next day.
All of this resulted in a very public feud between Marmol and O'Neill, and it cast a shadow over the early portion of the season. The Cardinals also stumbled out of the gates, beginning the year 10-24 and never recovering from their awful start.
But this moment has remained in the minds of fans. Holding players accountable is one thing, but publicly criticizing them in a postgame interview is a questionable approach, and it would have been wise for Marmol to have a private conversation with the young outfielder to discuss what happened and deal with the issue head on, rather than making it public.
In-game decisions by Oli Marmol have missed the mark
Marmol's in-game decisions have been questionable as well. Two of them stand out above the rest.
On April 9, the Cardinals were trailing the Milwaukee Brewers 6-1 in the top of the eighth inning. They had the bases loaded and nobody out for Brendan Donovan. Milwaukee brought in a left-hander, but despite Donovan's prior success against left-handed pitching, Marmol opted to go with a right-handed bat. His choice was none other than Taylor Motter, a career .188 hitter.
Motter struck out and the Cardinals stranded the bases loaded before losing the game. On August 3, Motter came to the plate with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Willson Contreras, Nolan Gorman, and Nolan Arenado were available on the bench but were not used. Motter struck out to end the game.
Marmol's bullpen decisions have also cost the Cardinals a great many games. On September 2, they were two outs away from a win after John King retired the first man in the ninth inning. Marmol went to Drew VerHagen with the Cards ahead 6-5.
VerHagen proceeded to blow the lead as the Cardinals lost 7-6 to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Oli Marmol's lineup construction
Several times during the regular season when the Cardinals were struggling offensively, Marmol consistently kept the same lineup for several games. It didn't help the Cardinals break out of their funk.
One common mistake he made however was constantly sitting several of his regular starters in the final games of road series. On these days, players such as Motter and Alec Burleson were given starts. The reason behind sitting his stars was also the same each time. Marmol claimed that he was giving players like Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt "scheduled days off."
More often than not, the Cardinals would lose these games, as the lineup they put on the field could not hold a candle to their opponent's. And so, it became increasingly clear that Marmol was not putting the best possible product on the field.
Though the Cardinals were already well out of the postseason race, it was something that frustrated fans a great deal, as it convinced them that the Cardinals were not trying to win games. Marmol's constant use of Burleson and Motter was certainly perplexing, and it ran the team into some trouble various times during the season, typically costing them games they needed to win.
Oli Marmol should stay because he has the respect of his players
While there are several reasons why Marmol should be on the hot seat, there is an argument to be made for why he should stay.
Typically, if there were issues in the clubhouse and the manager had lost the respect of his players, it would be well documented by now. However, no reports have surfaced of any trouble in the Cardinals locker room, and most players have continually backed Marmol in the midst of their struggles.
The worst thing a manager can do is lose the clubhouse. If he doesn't have the respect of his players, it's a recipe for disaster. And while the Cardinals have had a miserable season, the players seem to have plenty of respect for Marmol.
Also, the roster was not constructed by Marmol, but rather by John Mozeliak. Granted, this is not to say that Marmol is without fault for what took place this season. There is plenty of blame to go around for how poorly the season went for the Cardinals, and Marmol shares some of that blame.
But he still led the Cardinals to a division title last year, and the Cardinals have plans to contend again in 2024.