By Rob Rains
The last week has been an emotional roller-coaster for Mike Shildt.
The manager of the Cardinals has had to deal with the death of his mother, Lib, last Wednesday at the age of 85 and then on Tuesday night found out that he had won the National League Manager of the Year award from the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Lib Shildt, who helped her son get his start in baseball as a youngster when she was working in the front office of the Double A minor league team in Charlotte, N.C., knew when the award was being announced, Shildt said.
“She was aware,” Shildt said during a conference call. “Right before she passed we had some closure which meant a lot to me and hopefully her; I’m sure it did. She was emotional about it being likely that she wasn’t going to be here and I said, ‘You’re going to know before I do.’
“My mom was remarkable. It still hasn’t sunk in in total and I don’t know if it ever will what that loss is going to feel like. Candidly she had the date circled (for the announcement). I don’t want to misrepresent my gratefulness for winning the award but the fact of the matter is this isn’t a date that I had circled.”
Shildt became the third manager in Cardinals’ history to win the BBWAA award, following Whitey Herzog in 1985 and Tony La Russa in 2002.
Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell finished second in the voting by two BBWAA members from each NL city even though he actually received three more first-place votes than Shildt, 13 to 10.
Shildt, who was named on 27 of the 30 ballots, received more second and third-place votes, however, and finished with a seven-point victory over Counsell. He was not on the ballots of three writers, one representing Atlanta, one from Los Angeles and one from Pittsburgh.
This was only the second time in the history of the award that the winner did not receive the most first-place votes. Lou Piniella of the Mariners won the AL award in 1995 despite receiving two fewer first-place votes than Kevin Kennedy of the Red Sox.
Shildt was recognized for leading the Cardinals to their first division title in four years and for directing the turnaround of a team that committed the most errors in 2018 to the fewest in the NL this season.
“This is a staff award,” Shildt said. “I just happened to be the guy who is so-called in charge of that. … This isn’t about me. It never has been.”
Shildt won the award in his first full season as the Cardinals manager after getting the job in the middle of the 2018 season. He recently signed a new three-year contract that runs through 2022.
The Cardinals were 91-71 this season and are 132-99 since Shildt replaced Mike Matheny as the team’s manager.
Shildt was surrounded by several close friends and members of his staff when the award was announced live on MLB Network. The Cardinals coaching staff is meeting with Shildt in Jupiter, Fla., this week to begin planning for next season.
Part of that planning includes looking back at this season, and Shildt said the discussions have produced one obvious fact that the team hopes to put into practice again next season.
“What is clear to me and us as we go through talking about the year, reflecting on it, was how important the synergy is with our players and all our different support systems that feed into our players.” Shildt said. “There are so many different tentacles that feed into the player, and always making sure we put the player first.
“When we were at our best there was clarity for the player. We’re going to continue to look at how that works and how to best make it a general approach and how to make it individual for each player. You only have so much time and energy and we’re not getting it back. We have to make sure we’re investing it properly.”
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports