Mike Shildt faces challenges with Padres

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The San Diego Padres’ new manager, Mike Shildt, has the advantage of working for the team since January 2022, so he has some familiarity with the players and staff. However, he faces a number of challenges, including the makeup of the pitching staff, injuries to important players, and vacancies in the outfield.

His first challenge will be losing a week of spring training. The Padres will travel to Seoul, South Korea, to play a series against their nemesis, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in Seoul, South Korea. This will be a first for Major League Baseball.

“Korea is a great baseball country with a rich tradition, passionate fans, and talented players, including current Padres and San Diego fan favorite Ha-Seong Kim,” chief executive officer Erik Greupner told the press.

The games may set a precedent; however, the travel will change the rhythm of spring training.  Shildt regards it as both a challenge and an opportunity, which should be met with efficiency.

“Every day, we’ve gotta be efficient with it, and we’ve got to grow from it,” he explained.

Fortunately, the next two series will be at home. At the beginning of April, the Padres will face the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals in a four-game series.

The Cardinals have the record and reputation of being one of the most savvy and successful organizations in Major League Baseball. The team has won 11 World Series championships, a record in the National League, and second to the New York Yankees overall. Against the Cards, the Padres have a 42.9% winning percentage and a gap of 1378 to 653 runs in a total of 163 games.

Shuldt brings the knowledge gleaned from his first managerial job in the big leagues. He began as a scout in the minor leagues for St. Louis, then added part-time manager to his duties. In 2017, he moved up to be the quality control coach and later a third base coach in the big leagues.

In 2018, the Cards fired Mike Matheny and turned to Shildt, who became only the eighth manager with no Major League experience as a player. He started as an interim manager but was soon given a three-year contract. The following year, the Cardinals clinched a playoff berth on September 22, 2019, and Shildt was chosen as the National League’s Manager of the Year.

Just three years later, the Cardinals fired him over “philosophical differences,” despite the fact he’d come in third as manager of the year and had a winning percentage of .559.

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After a brief stint consulting for MLB, the Padres hired Shildt as a consultant. However, third base coach Matt Williams’ surgery gave Shildt an antre. Shortly after Bob Melvin left the Padres to become the manager of the rival Giants, he got the call.

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“I’m really grateful for a second act,” Shildt told reporters recently. “Not everybody gets it. You take for granted there are only 30 of these jobs. I promise you I won’t take this one for granted. I’m excited about this team.”

In San Diego, Melvin had the advantage of a payroll worth $164 million, third in MLB. This year, the Padres have fallen to 13th place at $143 million. The organization could not afford to keep outfielder Juan Soto, starting pitcher Blake Snell, or closer Josh Hader.

The Padres do have a number of pitchers, including Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, and position players Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Ha-Seong Kim, Xander Bogearts, and Jake Cronenworth. Last year, Machado, Darvish, and Musgrove battled injuries but should be healthy at the start of the season. Cronenworth had a down year, but the front office is counting on him rebounding and earning his seven-year $80 million contract.

Despite the talent and the payroll, the Padres finished in third place, behind the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks last year with an 82-80 record (a disappointment after the 89-73 record the year before). Expectations had been high as the 2022 team won the Wild Card Series and the Division Series.

Melvin and now Shildt are the only experienced managers hired by A. J. Preller, the president of baseball operations since August 2014. He has just a two-year contract and undoubtedly feels the pressure.

However, his two years in San Diego as a senior advisor have helped prepare him for the job. And he had the good fortune of getting to know Peter Seidler. In his memory, Shildt vows to “…be a big part in helping carry is vision for the Saan Diego Padres moving forward to ultimately us winning a first World Series Championship.

“That will be one way we can remember the great legacy of Peter Seidler.

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