David Bell Gets Ejected Often, But He Cannot Get Thrown Out of Cincinnati
Not necessarily a tale of two cities, this non-Dickensian piece reads more like a tale of two teams. Same division. Same market size. Same color of uniform. Two completely opposite decisions at the end of the regular season.
Heading into the final month one team, the Cincinnati Reds, appeared destined for the playoffs. They were twelve games over .500, holding a two game edge for the second Wild Card.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals were struggling to stay above the .500 mark, anything but playoff bound with a 64-62 record. They trailed in the Wild Card race not only the Reds, but also the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Fortunes changed in September, when the Cardinals rolled with seventeen straight wins while the Reds went into a tailspin. Cincinnati lost their next six series, allowing St. Louis to clinch the playoff spot with an entire week left in the regular season.
It should have come as no surprise that, along with the changes of the fortunes of their respective clubs, the two managers would also experience opposite consequences as well. After all, when a team struggles miserably for a long spell in a pennant race, the skipper usually bears the brunt of it.
Indeed, one manager did get fired, while the other was rewarded with a two year extension. Therein lies the surprise, and the reason for this article.
David Bell, the manager whose team plummeted out of the playoff race in spite of an easy September schedule against last place teams, was the one rewarded. Cincinnati's front office, in what is considered a head-scratching move, handed Bell a two year contract extension on the very day the Reds were mathematically eliminated from contention.
Four days after ending a month that saw his team establish a September record seventeen straight victories and a postseason berth, Mike Shildt was fired by the St. Louis front office. In spite of a historic playoff run and back to back to back postseason appearances, the 2019 Manager of the Year was out of a job.
“All I can say is where we felt the team was going, we were struggling to get on the same page,” said Cardinals President John Mozeliak. “With him having one year remaining on his contract, we could have gone into 2022 having that over him, and we just decided that internally it would be best to separate now and take a fresh look as we head into a new season.”
As harsh as it may seem, that decision says a lot about the Cardinals organization. Merely reaching the playoffs is not good enough to keep your job in St. Louis, which has brought home more World Series Championships than any other team in the National League.
The other managerial decision, extending the contract of manager David Bell, says a lot about Cincinnati as well. Freefalling out of a pennant race is no great sin, and finishing .500 will give you job security.