Last season, the Cardinals received a huge boost from their minor league system that almost ended their playoff drought. Players like Jordan Hicks, Jack Flaherty, John Brebbia, Austin Gomber, Daniel Ponce de leon, Dakota Hudson, Yairo Munoz, and Tyler O’Neill all had big moments down the stretch. The list in all actuality is much longer, but the point is simple. The Cardinals are expecting contributions from those players this season. The difference is that many of them are filling key roles for the Cardinals at the beginning of the season instead of in the middle of a season after taking advantage of opportunities last year.
Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt believes the development of these young Cardinals and the overall continued development of all players on the roster is key to the teams’ success this season.
“I view our job is to develop everyday regardless of experiences, and that goes vice versa. You know, we’re about in our environment bottom line production. Bottom line production as far as wins and losses takes place as being involved with the team and clearly our young players will be a part of that.”
After talking to various Cardinals players in Memphis at the Battle of the Birds exhibition game, many described the clubhouse as focused. All seemed to have the same mindset, and quite frankly were upset by how their season ended last year by missing the playoffs by one game. That focus was echoed by Shildt, but he was quick to also note the importance of letting players be themselves.
“We encourage them to enjoy themselves and take advantage of their own experiences to develop and be a better person tomorrow than they are today. Learn from at bats and innings but also be intentional about taking advantage of the clubhouse that we have that is willing to lead them and guide them on how best to be a consistent winning big-league player.”
Mike Shildt gets it and this truly is the Shildt way. He realizes that his team is going to be evaluated on wins and losses but he understands that his players are people too. He wants them to have fun playing the game they all played as kids, but also remained focused on what they are playing for. Shildt’s focus is the team, the players, the coaches, his people. Regardless of the interview, he is always quick to turn attention away from himself and put that focus back on his players, coaches, and the team in general.
Enter Paul Goldschmidt. By all accounts, Goldschmidt is the perfect player for a Manager like Shildt. He’s a guy who leads on and off the field. He’s cool, calm, but can mash a baseball out of the park at any moment. He can save an errant throw by coming off the bag and somehow still tagging the runner as they run to 1st base for the out. He picks his moments to take advantage of a pitcher not paying attention to him on the base paths. He then uses that advantage to get an extra jump on a hit and run or flat out steal a bag. Paul Goldschmidt does everything that Cardinals fans and quite frankly any baseball fan for that matter love to see when they are watching a game, if of course he’s not doing it to your favorite team.
Goldschmidt fits in well with the Cardinals, and he hasn’t even played a regular season game with the club yet. So well that he already signed a five-year $130 million extension to stay in St. Louis. Goldschmidt’s work ethic and leadership are attributes that can be a good influence for the other players in the Cardinals clubhouse. Working hard, regardless of the task, is important but having fun is also key for Goldschmidt.
“Probably two things that stick out for me, most of all have fun. We’re out here playing a game and we play a kids game that we get paid for. I don’t take that for granted. The second thing is just work hard. If that’s getting good grades in school, playing an instrument, or just playing baseball it’s going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice. That’s the only way you’re going to get better is to put in the work.”
Goldschmidt and Shildt seem like a perfect match. Add that to the turnaround that the Cardinals entire team put together in the 2nd half of last season and you’ve got a combination that looks like a force to be reckoned with in the National League