Cardinals Notes: Nicolaisen Resigns, Marmol Staying Put

Cardinals assistant hitting coach Daniel Nicolaisen has resigned, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak confirmed to reporters, including Rob Rains of STL Sports Page. He has accepted a new position as an assistant coach for the University of Mississippi softball team. The Denmark native earned his first big league job this past offseason after two years spent in the Cardinals minor league system. Prior to that, he worked as a softball coach at Seton Hall University. Evidently, he has decided to return to his roots; he grew up playing softball in Denmark.

The Cardinals will be promoting minor league hitting coordinator Russ Steinhorn to fill Nicolaisen’s spot on the major league coaching staff, at least for the time being. Funnily enough, it was Steinhorn who initially hired Nicolaisen as a minor league coach back in 2020.

In other Cardinals news, Mozeliak also confirmed to reporters (including Katie Woo of The Athletic) that Oliver Marmol will return to manage the club in 2024, the final year of his contract. Given the team’s disappointing performance this season – this will be their first losing campaign since 2007 – speculation that Marmol’s job was in jeopardy began to arise. However, the president of baseball operations didn’t mince words, saying, “I know he’ll be back next year.”

Mozeliak continued, “There’s always going to be finger-pointing on what went wrong, what could we have done differently. And that starts with myself…but I’m certainly encouraged with what I see from Oli as a young manager.” Indeed, it’s hard to pin too much of the blame for the Cardinals’ misfortunes on Marmol. While some have criticized his public communication skills and player relations (RE: his squabble with Tyler O’Neill and his initial comments about moving Willson Contreras off catcher), there’s only so much a manager can do when his pitching staff is bleeding runs and so many of his players are underperforming.

Moreover, St. Louis recently lost a long-time clubhouse leader when Yadier Molina retired, and they’re soon to lose another in Adam Wainwright. It’s understandable why Mozeliak doesn’t want to go through another major change in leadership; after all, it’s only been two years since Marmol took the helm, and he led the team to an excellent finish in 2022.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes coming to the organization. Mozeliak offered praise for much of his coaching staff, including rookie pitching coach Dusty Blake. At the same time, he acknowledged that adjustments must occur behind the scenes. As sources told The Athletic, the Cardinals are in the early stages of restructuring their entire player development system, and the team views improving the baseball operations department to be just as important as adding more pitching.

It’s easy to understand why the Cardinals would want to revamp their player development and baseball operations departments. Several of their top prospects and young players have struggled to perform at the big league level this season, including Matthew Liberatore, Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson, and Jake Woodford. The team has also struggled to make decisions, such as when they briefly moved Contreras to DH and briefly demoted Jordan Walker. Worst of all, the front office failed to put together a competitive pitching staff over the offseason, instead relying too heavily on a collection of aging veterans, injury-prone pitchers, and rookies. Suffice it to say, it hasn’t worked out.

The Cardinals don’t need to fire their manager, but clearly, they need to make some changes to address everything that has gone wrong in 2023. It seems to be a matter of when, not if, those changes occur.

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