Since the turn of the century, the St. Louis Cardinals have experienced an era of sustained success. During that time, the Cards have posted a losing record just once (2007) while winning the World Series twice (2006, 2011). The team has also become overlord of the NL Central, topping the division standings nine times. At the beginning of last season, it looked as though the purple patch was ending.
When the Cardinals fired long-term manager Mike Matheny in July of 2018, the season looked like a complete loss. The Cardinals were struggling, the playoffs seemed an impossibility, and a change was desperately needed. When Matheny’s term came to an end, the team replaced him with coach Mike Shildt. He was expected to be an interim placeholder until the team could find a marquee candidate to be their next full-time manager. Well, Shildt had other plans. While he couldn’t lead the Cardinals to another playoff berth, he did right the ship, and in short order. Some St. Louis fans were worried about having a meaningless string of games at the end of the season, but they were delighted to find a competitive team who didn’t give up until the final game had been played.
Last year’s turnaround has transpired to high hopes in 2019. The Cards added Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason, who will help both at first base and behind the plate. The team’s rotation will surely be one of the most fearsome in baseball, with Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas among the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award. The big question for the season is whether Shildt can continue to inspire his players and live up to the hype he created last season. If he does, the sky’s the limit for the Cardinals this year.
Opening day always brings a sense of optimism and excitement. Whether or not that optimism lasts through the dog days of summer remains to be seen, but chances are good that the Cards will have a fighting chance come September. Who could ask for more than that?