The offseason has started for the St. Louis Cardinals in dramatic fashion On Wednesday, as president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that batting coach Jeff Albert, pitching coach Mike Maddux and reliever coach Bryan Eversgerd would all be leaving the coaching staff ahead of the 2023 season.
On Tuesday, the Miami Marlins announced that former bench coach Skip Schumaker had been hired as their new bench coach, creating four openings on the Cardinals’ Major League staff for which they will seek replacements inside and outside the organization.
They did, however, announce a major comeback – starting Adam Wainwright agreed to terms to return to the mound for his 18th season in St. Louis.
Mozeliak said he was ready to offer contracts to return to both Albert and Maddux, who both had expired contracts and both preferred to leave.
Eversgerd, originally from Carlyle, was assigned elsewhere in the organization as a special assistant.
“He’s not retiring, he hasn’t been fired,” Mozeliak said of Maddux. “He wants to do something different. He wants to do something at a different pace.
The team, Mozeliak said, would also be open to discussing a special assistant or consultant position with Maddux, if he was interested.
Maddux joined the Cardinals before the 2018 season and served as a pitching coach for three different managers. His extensive experience as a player and coach gave him a seriousness and credibility that contributed to his solid reputation around the game.
Constantly referred to by his nickname, “Mad Dog”, he was rather often a source of calm, timing mound visits as needed to maximize stress release for his pitchers, often physically tugging him with a steady hand on the collarbone.
Wainwright’s return comes after a series of social media posts in which the right-hander described a flaw in his performance that contributed to his late-season struggles and went undetected for a few weeks. Mozeliak, who said he was aware of Wainwright’s plans to go public before the tweets emerged, declined to blame the oversight on Maddux or the coaching staff.
“I think when you really understand Adam’s process, he doesn’t rely on training as much as maybe a young player,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t think placing a foul here is as important as, at least we have an answer, and now we’re moving on.”
The transition away from Albert, who was hired ahead of the 2019 season, comes at a time when the Cardinals finished with one of the best offenses in the National League in 2022, even as production has plummeted in baseball. Originally hired as part of an effort to embed modern teaching methods across the system, Mozeliak shared Albert’s ‘frustration’ with the extent to which he was often blamed for declines in productivity by the public.
“I think in Jeff’s particular case,” Mozeliak explained, “I think there was a certain level of frustration and a feeling that he took a lot of the blame when things didn’t go well. And for him, I think he’s just open to change.
“I think Jeff accomplished exactly what we hoped he would,” he added. “He modernized our strike program, our strategy. I think he made a huge contribution to our minor league team. So I think from that point of view it was a success.
In the search for a hitting coach who is willing and able to continue some of these philosophies, an internal candidate who would appear to be high on the list is Russ Steinhorn, the team’s minor league hitting coordinator.
Look at the outside world?
It was Steinhorn, along with Albert, who gathered prospects from across the minor league system at the team compound in Jupiter, Florida ahead of the 2020 season to introduce the technology and methods that would be central to the philosophy. team offense going forward. , and it was Steinhorn’s work at various levels of miners that contributed to the vertical integration of this plan.
Likewise, major league pitching coordinator Dusty Blake was the only one of three 2022 staff pitching coaches slated for a return in 2023. Even though Mozeliak declined to comment. on the names of potential candidates for the vacancies, he acknowledged that Blake would be a candidate to slip into Maddux’s previous role.
Mozeliak declined to offer a timeline for filling vacancies, but said the team “wants to understand what the outside world is like.”
Plan to fill positions quickly
The other staff coaches — first base coach Stubby Clapp, third base coach Pop Warner, assistant coach Willie McGee, assistant batting coach Turner Ward, batting strategist Patrick Elkins and Blake — are expected to all returning, although Mozeliak said their roles may change.
Aside from Blake’s bid for pitching coach, Clapp should be a major consideration to fill Schumaker’s role as bench coach.
“I can imagine the next couple of weeks we’ll be working feverishly to achieve that,” Mozeliak said.