Do Not Disturb the Patrons, Please.

So I haven’t been posting much for a while.  There are multiple reasons for that, one is that I am writing some for another site, but I only do that on the weekends, so that is kind of a paltry excuse.  The bigger reason is that I just have not felt like posting.  This season so far has not given me much motivation to blog.

I can’t explain it exactly, but this season feels to me like working everyday in a library checking out books.  You sit around a lot while people read or do other stuff, and once in a while you get a customer to help, but mostly you just sit there and stare out into the vastness of the stacks, or maybe you read something or daydream.  I worked in libraries throughout college and law school, and sometimes now I substitute for the librarian at the high school where I substitute teach.  I know whereof I speak.

Sure, there have been exciting games, the first game in the Pirates series at PNC last week, the one where Waino hit the game winning double, that was pretty dang exciting.  This season has had its moments, but I haven’t felt that anticipation of the division race or the postseason.  The Cubs are running away with the division, and yeah maybe the Cardinals will get into the postseason as a wild card, but that doesn’t excite me a whole lot.

I still watch almost every game, I really love baseball just for itself, and I love the Cardinals even more.  However, I still feel like I am working in a library, a place in which I generally feel very comfortable, as I love books, but still a place that doesn’t get the adrenaline going, if you know what I mean.

This team is plodding along, winning games and then losing some, many of them in frustrating fashion.  The manager continues to annoy me to no end, but I don’t expect that to ever not happen, and I have exhausted my level of outrage over his dumbassery (not a word, but who cares).  It’s not like anything I say in this blog is going to suddenly make the bright light come on in the dim bulb of Matheny’s brain.  He is still going to let the pitcher bat when he shouldn’t, he is still going to play Stephen Piscotty in center field where he doesn’t belong, he is still going to do all those things that make me want to toss something hard in his general direction.

So I just keep watching and waiting, keep reading to see how the novel ends.  I am not inspired enough to write about any of it though.  Sorry dear readers, but I can’t force it.  Perhaps when the trade deadline comes around or something else happens that gets my writing juices flowing there will be more content.

Until then, I will be in the library.

 

 

In Praise of Stephen Piscotty

The Cardinals returned home to Busch on Friday, after earning a split series (2-2) against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix during the week.  My topic de jure, Stephen Piscotty, had a nice series in that ballpark, going 9 for 20 with a home run, a stolen base, and six RBI.  I am much more impressed with the home run and the stolen base than I am with the RBI.  RBI are more of a function of circumstance and luck than they are a particular skill, but they are a stat that is still popular with the faithful, so I cite them, but they are not a particularly useful measure of anything.  Nevertheless, Piscotty had a good series there, and well, that is one of many reasons why I chose to write about him.

Piscotty was a first round draft choice by the Cardinals in the 2012 draft, and though draft order doesn’t necessarily have relevance in predicting future performance (ahem…Pete Kozma), it does give some insight into how the Cardinals viewed Piscotty as a potential big leaguer.  You can also give some thanks to Albert Pujols for Stephen Piscotty, because it was his decision to hightail it to Los Angeles for the mucho dinero that made Stephen Piscotty possible, as he was the supplemental pick the Cardinals received for Pujols.

Piscotty moved swiftly through the lower levels of the minors, playing what was left of 2012 after he signed in the Low-A Midwest League, skipping the short season Rookie Leagues entirely (which is not uncommon for college picks of Piscotty’s caliber). Piscotty was drafted as a third baseman, but the Cardinals quickly realized that was not a position he was well suited for so he was moved to the outfield.  He started 2013 in High-A Palm Beach, but finished it in Double-A Springfield.  He unfortunately languished for 1 1/2 seasons in Triple-A Memphis, in part because there was no spot for him in the big league club, and in part because the organization felt he wasn’t quite ready.  He also took a back seat to another outfield prospect, Oscar Taveras, and that is a sad story I choose not to dwell on.

It was in that partial season at Springfield that I first got a glimpse of Stephen Piscotty.  I occasionally travel to Springfield to catch a game, as it an easy two hour drive from my home in Jefferson City, MO.  Brian Walton, who covers the Cardinals minor league system for his site, The Cardinal Nation (who is now my boss, so to speak, as I am a contributing writer there) happened to be at that game also and he mentioned to me that I might want to watch this kid named Stephen Piscotty closely.  I did, and I was impressed.  From that point on, I followed his progress through Memphis and was quite excited last season when he got the call up to St. Louis.

Piscotty had a very good half season in St. Louis, he, along with Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham, contributed significantly to the Cardinals 100 win season in the second half of 2015.  With the defection of right fielder Jason Heyward over to the Dark Side of Chicago, Piscotty was poised to be an everyday player in right field for the Cardinals this season.  He hasn’t disappointed.

Piscotty has filled in quite nicely for the turncoat Heyward, though the sample size is extremely small, so any defensive numbers for him are quite meaningless (I am talking to you Derrick Goold, you should really know better).  At the plate, Piscotty has more than surpassed Heyward so far, again, small sample size, but I am doing it anyway because I can {raspberry, you Benedict Arnold}**  However, based on the imprecise eye test, I believe Piscotty to be a more than adequate right fielder.

Piscotty, though, has kind of been overlooked in all the Aledmys Diaz/Jeremy Hazelbaker hullaballoo, most probably because he isn’t new and shiny anymore.  Frankly, I see Piscotty as being more of a contributor than either of those guys, most especially Hazelbaker.  Hazelbaker most likely will be boarding the Memphis Shuttle soon, with the return of Tommy Pham, unless someone else gets hurt (knock on wood it doesn’t happen).  Diaz is having a terrific small sample size, but will cool off eventually, when we will see better what we truly have.  Both Diaz and Piscotty are BABIPing the hell out of the ball, so it’s going to take more time to see the true talent level of both.  I just have more faith in a consistent Piscotty, than I do Diaz.

Moreover, Piscotty is a brainiac, for which I am an unrepentant sucker.  An engineering degree from Stanford is nothing to sneeze at, even my law degree pales in comparison (maybe if I had gotten it at Stanford it wouldn’t, but I digress).

So, to conclude this mess, I am declaring that Stephen Piscotty is praiseworthy.  My brand new Piscotty t-shirt is proof of that.  Now if I could just get it autographed, that would be cool.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Stephen Piscotty #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates scoring a run in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs during game one of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 9, 2015 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

ST LOUIS, MO – OCTOBER 09: Stephen Piscotty #55 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates scoring a run in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs during game one of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 9, 2015 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

 

** Seriously, I am just kidding, Heyward is a great player who I like.

 

Who Are These Cardinals?

It’s early in the season, and yet things with the Cardinals are not looking particularly good.  It happens.  It’s baseball.  The sample sizes are small so the numbers will tell you very little if anything useful about the future.

Invariably every season, however, if things are bad for any length of time, the amateur general managing begins.  It is as predictable as sunrise and sunset.  Something is wrong and someone or multiple someones are to blame.  Finger pointing begins.  Moves that are made are criticized and alleged to be the cause.  On and on, yada, yada.

Hey, we as fans really become emotional about these things.  We want to believe we know how to do better if the Cardinals would just listen to us.  I can’t say how many fans actually believe this, or just act like they do because it’s fun or their bored or whatever.  Having something to analyze and discuss with other fans is part of the experience, with the internet even more so than it used to be because the avenues for discussion are widespread.  It’s a good time be a sports fan.

I am no different than any other fan.  I have a blog, so that reinforces that I have opinions and I am not hesitant to express them to anyone who is willing to listen.  Maybe not so many people are willing to listen, but I can live with that.  It won’t stop me from expressing said opinions as often and as forcefully as I choose.

Okay, so get to the point you are saying to yourself.  As much as I have strong opinions and am willing to exclaim them to the entire universe, I don’t for one millisecond think I have the answers or know more than those in the Cardinals organization who are paid to make the decisions.   Not that they are always right, they are human just like me and make mistakes.  At the end of the day, however, in the aggregate those folks are going to make better decisions than I would likely make if I were in their shoes.

Nevertheless, here is what I think.  The 2016 Cardinals are a less talented team than the 2012-2015 versions were.  I believed at the start of the season that this was not a division winning team and I continue to stand by that assessment.  The “core” players like Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are aging and will never be the players they once were.  The young players are finding their way, and the jury is still out as to whether any of them will reach their potential.  Players like Carpenter are peaking, still have good years left and I suspect will continue to be the stalwarts for a couple of years.  Wong has room to improve, and Matt Adams is, well, an enigma.  I don’t see much improvement in his future, though I could be wrong.  Maybe call this a transition year if you will.  This team is going to be overshadowed by the Cubs, and perhaps the Pirates if they can get their starting rotation to work.

I am a fan of John Mozeliak. I think he has done great things for this organization.  He is fallible, however, as even he, I imagine, would admit.  I think he whiffed on some things in the offseason, to be frank.  The Heyward situation is somewhat murky, as there is some evidence, if you believe what Heyward says, that he was bound and determined to be a Cub, and nothing Mozeliak did was going to change that.

On the David Price matter, however, I think Mozeliak could have done better.  Yes, it is a lot of money to pay for a pitcher, and maybe the Red Sox were going to  be insane and keep bidding until they got what they wanted.  It wouldn’t surprise me, the Red Sox have done many stupid things with their money.  But I think the Cardinals could have, and should have offered more.  Sometimes I think they are a little too conservative for their own good.

I also think the outfield situation could have been handled better.  Once Heyward was a thing of the past, resorting to the “do nothing further” approach didn’t sit well with me.  I think Piscotty, Grichuk and Pham are fine players, Piscotty I like better than the other two, but all are still fine players.  Grichuk and Pham are injury prone, and Grichuk is a weird player who one cannot really count on to be consistent, in my opinion.  I am not saying that keeping Jay and/or Bourjos was the answer either.  I have never  considered Jay to be more than an average player at best, and Bourjos, though I think he was mishandled and undervalued, as he is a better player than most give him credit for, he was not going to work out, as it was clear that Mike Matheny had no use for him.  In an organization that appears to value offense over defense and speed, Bourjos was not a good fit.

As for Matheny, well, he makes bad decisions.  I think he will keep making bad decisions, because I think he is too stubborn and set in his philosophy to take direction from others and change his approach.  Having said that, I don’t think his bad decisions in the aggregate  have a large effect on the performance of the team.  In individual games the bad decisions can make a difference; over the long haul, not so much.  The organization, however, seems satisfied with him and that is what matters.  It is the overall talent of the team that will make a bigger difference, and as I said, I think this is a less talented team.

I am coming to a conclusion, I promise.  My conclusion is that this is not a talented enough team to win the division, perhaps not talented enough to even make the postseason.  I don’t see this as the end of the world, however.  These things tend to come and go in cycles; no team, not even the Yankees, have been able to keep a run of success forever, it just doesn’t happen.  The down times were coming, and as one who lived through the Cardinals of the 1970s, that is not something that I am going to freak out about.  Others can do as they please.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Add Yet Another Flavor of the Month

It never seems to end, the small sample size mania that engulfs Cardinal Nation seemingly every season.  The emergence of the one or sometimes two players who make a grand entrance and dazzle the faithful into instant adoration.

Why do I couch it as “never seems to end”?  Because such phenomena more often than not eventually become no more than a mirage, a short term preoccupation that will more than likely turn out to be not what it seemed to be, leaving us bereft and still thirsty for the actual thing.

The newest of such flavor of the month players is one Jeremy Hazelbaker.  Hazelbaker, a 28 year old career minor leaguer who now resides with his third organization in eight seasons in professional baseball, has become the latest act in Small Sample Size Theater:  St. Louis Cardinals Edition.  Hazelbaker is in his second season with the Cardinals organization after languishing for five minor league seasons in the Red Sox organization and one full season and one partial in the Dodgers minor league system before being released and picked up by the Cardinals.  Until now, Hazelbaker hasn’t sniffed the major leagues with any organization, but a twist of fate leading to an injury to shortstop Ruben Tejada gave Hazelbaker the opportunity he had long been denied, a spot on a major league roster.

He has made the most of it in the first week of the season, hitting 2 home runs in his six plate appearances so far.  For a fanbase that has seen its team swept in the first series of the new season, Hazelbaker is a large drink of water to a thirsty crowd.    Drinking too much can be a problem, however.

I preach this all the time, and yet I don’t know why I do because it never gets through.  NEVER, NEVER NEVER, get too excited (or become too disgusted) with small sample size performance.  I really mean NEVER.

Jeremy Hazelbaker may be the biggest surprise since the rise of Donald Trump, and have a great resurgent major league career, but he also may be a complete dud and end up in obscurity, like so many other flashes in the pan have done.  No one is going to know the end of this book for a good long while.

In the meantime, last season’s most popular flavor, Randal Grichuk, is now wondering where he stands.  Who is the real Randal Grichuk?   Will the struggling Grichuk return to his former popular status?  Or will he find himself occupying the Peter Bourjos Memorial bench spot?

Stay tuned for new episodes of “As The Outfield Churns”, produced and directed by Michael Scott Matheny.

 

So long, folks.

 

An Underwhelming Offseason

The new season is set to start in a couple of weeks, and it has seemed, at least to me, to have been a very long offseason.  Other obligations have kept me away from the blog for most of it, but the specter  of the new season begs to me to return and take up the keyboard once more.

One of the reasons the offseason has seemed interminable, is the lack of anything resembling excitement about the results of it.  There has been for the last several years a reason to be excited about the coming season, due to intriguing acquisitions by GM John Mozeliak to the Cardinals roster for the coming season.  Last season it was the Jason Heyward trade that gave me something for which to look forward.  The prior season it had been the trade of David Freese for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.  Neither of those two trades ultimately worked out the way I had hoped they would (I am less excited about Randal Grichuk than most) but the ultimate result doesn’t diminish what I felt at the time.

This offseason, however, has been, to put it mildly, as dull as dishwater.  What started out as dreams of a Jason Heyward extension and perhaps David Price as a Cardinal, has fallen as flat as a wad of gum under the wheels of a bulldozer.  I can’t recall a Hot Stove season of recent memory that was as disappointing as this one.

It was bad enough that David Price was snatched out of Mozeliak’s grasp at the last minute by the Burglars of Boston, but to add insult to injury, Jason Heyward spurned my beloved team for our hated rivals, the Cubs.  I won’t even go into what he said as he walked out the door.

Instead of rallying by making other compelling acquisitions, Mozeliak instead provided Cardinals fans with a succession of underwhelming additions to the 2016 roster.

First there was Jedd Gyorko.  Acquired from the Padres for Jon Jay (that had to hurt for Matheny), Gyorko is meant to be in the Daniel Descalso mold, but with some pop.  Gyorko IS pretty much Daniel Descalso, not much with the glove, doesn’t hit a lot, just has a little more power when he does.  I was never a fan of Jon Jay, but I think it was an unequal trade.   Underwhelming option #1.

Then, after the disappointing loss of David Price, Cardinals fans get……Mike Leake.  Yep, that former Reds rotation member, famously known for purloining some T-shirts  from a department store, which spawned a cool T-shirt owned by some Cardinals fans (I confess I own one).   To be fair, no charges were filed and it was a misunderstanding, apparently.  Leake isn’t bad, he is certainly an innings eater, but he is, (yes, you guessed it), underwhelming option #2.

Finally, with only weeks to go before Opening Day, the Cardinals get Ruben Tejada.  A shortstop discarded by the Mets and picked up after no one claimed him off of waivers.  The reasoning is simple, Jhonny Peralta is injured and lost until June at the earliest, and Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz apparently don’t excite Mr. Mozeliak.  If Ruben Tejada does, well Mr. Mozeliak should, in my opinion, get out more.  Tejada is not the worst shortstop in baseball, but he may be one of the more c0ma inducing ones.  Anyone remember Pedro Feliz?  No?  Well, you get my point. (Feliz wasn’t a shortstop, but work with me here).

Ruben Tejada is underwhelming option #3.

Well, that’s the end of this rant.  I need a nap.

 

Thank you  for reading.

 

 

 

Where Have You Gone Jason Heyward?

I’m late to the party on the topic du jour for Cardinal Nation.  I’m late to the party for a reason, though.

I am a person who wants to have as many facts as possible before I draw any conclusions.  My legal training made me this way.  It’s not that I never make emotional, on the spot judgments, just that I make them infrequently. When I have made them, I have mostly come to regret them later.

On the topic of Jason Heyward and his defection, if one were to call it that, to the Cardinals longtime rival the Chicago Cubs, I have stayed mostly silent.  The reason, in a nutshell, is that I don’t have any idea what the hell happened.  How does one point fingers, if pointing fingers is your thing, without knowing who knew what and when did they know it?  If Cardinals fans can be likened to the Watergate Commission, then where are the tapes?

The facts I know, or think I know more likely, are that the Cardinals made a $200 million dollar offer spread over a number of years, perhaps 10, perhaps 9.  I don’t know if there was an opt out, though some sources have claimed there was.  I actually know more about the Cubs offer, 8 years $184 million dollars, two opt out clauses.  Some information exists that it was front loaded, though that particular detail is a little murky.

The Cardinals offer, be it 9 or 10 years, would have an average annual value between 20 and 22 million.  The 20 million AAV figure is what I seen bandied about more often, so let’s go with that.  The Cubs offer has an AAV of 23 million, so right there that is more yearly income in Heyward’s pocket.  If the contract is frontloaded that is even more income in his pocket sooner rather than later.  The opt out clauses have their own value, especially with a frontloaded contract.

So what we have here is clearly a better deal from the Cubs.  Anyone (I am looking at you Post Dispatch) who rings the “total value” bell to suggest otherwise is being intentionally disingenuous.  Jason Heyward didn’t jilt the Cardinals, he isn’t a “trader”.  Jason Heyward took the best deal offered him, as 99% of major league baseball players would.  Lance Berkman once said it’s always about the money, and he wasn’t kidding.

So where does that leave Cardinal Nation in their efforts to judge the actions of John Mozeliak and Co.?  Clearly they whiffed on this one, right?  If everything that is known is taken at face value, then yeah, Mozeliak whiffed worse than 1 in 3 Randal Grichuk plate appearances.

Let’s hold on a minute though, and put on our Watergate Commission eyeglasses.  Did the Cardinals make their last and best offer with all knowledge available to them, and it just didn’t cut it?  Or were there, as Mozeliak claimed on KMOX Sports radio on Sunday, “circumstances out of our control”? Well, your guess is as good as mine, only certain people know and they ain’t telling.  If such circumstances existed, what exactly were they and how did they prevent the Cardinals from securing their prize?  Again, who knows?

This is why I can’t get out my pitchfork and torch.  Without the necessary information, and the likelihood of getting that information is somewhere between winning the Power Ball and flying to the moon on gossamer wings, my pitchfork has to stay in the barn and my torch has to remain unlit.  It’s all rather convenient for John Mozeliak, don’t you know Robbie Cano, but that is the way this game is played.

What Mozeliak does between now and Spring Training may be more telling anyway.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

So Long Jon Jay, Hello Jedd Gyorko?

I admittedly wasn’t expecting the Cardinals to do much at the Winter Meetings, despite all the buildup and rhetoric by the media that the Cardinals were going to be big players.  It seemed to me that knowing how they stood with Jason Heyward was going to be the sticking point for any other deals, and well, I just don’t see Heyward making a decision this soon.  Maybe he will, but I am skeptical.

I was wrong partially it seems.  The Cardinals did make a deal, albeit not a big one.

It was announced today that the Cardinals have traded outfielder Jon Jay to the San Diego Padres for infielder Jedd Gyorko.  The one unique thing about John Mozeliak is that he could have a second career as a CIA agent.  That man can keep a secret better than any baseball guy I have ever encountered.  It always seems like Cardinal deals come out of absolutely nowhere.  Like Siberia.  No anticipation, no buildup, no leaks.  Boom, there it is.

I am not complaining, necessarily.  It certainly creates drama, if drama is what you want.  I don’t particularly want it, but I don’t hate it either.  Anyway, there are good reasons for a GM keeping his intentions to himself, and I am all for that.  I have been involved in enough negotiation in my legal career to know the best poker faces have the most success long term.

So, back to the trade.  I wasn’t a big fan of Jon Jay because I believe he only had one decent tool and it was likely declining.  Losing him doesn’t bother me as much as it might others.  I do have reservations but for other reasons.  Those reasons follow.

Everyone makes a big deal about the Cardinals’ outfield depth.  If one is talking about quantity, then the observations about depth are correct.  However, if quality is your thing then perhaps some reservations are in order.  Here is what I mean.  The current outfield depth consists of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham, Stephen Piscotty, and in a pinch, Brandon Moss.  If the Cardinals sigh Jason Heyward, that improves the situation immensely, but there is no guarantee Heyward will be in the mix.

Matt Holliday has been a terrific get for the Cardinals and has more than provided value for the money that has been spent.  He is, however, soon to be 36 years old, was never good defensively and is declining as we speak.  I expect the injury bug to stalk him more in the coming years.  He will still provide offensive value, just not as much as he used to.

Randal Grichuk is a complicated player.  He clearly has power, and above average defensive skills, though just how much above average is yet to be determined.  Unfortunately he also has low on base skills, high strike out skills, and below average plate discipline.  That’s not to say some or all of those things can’t be improved, but as it stands now, there are definitely holes in his game.  His numbers from 2015 are impressive, but those numbers are based on a very shaky foundation.  Grichuk sported a high .365 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in 2015.  Unless one is convinced that Grichuk is the second coming of Ty Cobb, that BABIP is coming down, and when it does, guess what else comes down?  Many of those impressive 2015 numbers.  Which ones and how much is the question, so the bottom line is you shouldn’t count on Grichuk being as good in 2016 as he was in 2015.

We have seen 173 PAs and 328 fielding innings of major league performance from Tommy Pham.  That’s it.  Talk about your small sample size.  Pham had some good numbers in the minor leagues, and that counts for something, but it proves very little.  How many players have done well in the minors and totally tanked in the majors?  Too many to count.  The small sample size numbers are encouraging, so I am in no way writing off Tommy Pham, but I wouldn’t bet my entire month’s income on him either.  Add to this his checkered injury history, and well, Tommy Pham is a big lottery ticket.  A soon to be 28 year old lottery ticket.  Let us all hope the odds of winning this lottery are better than Power Ball.

I like Stephen Piscotty.  I think he will be at least an average major league player.  That said, I have similar misgivings about his 2016 performance that I do about Grichuk’s.  That BABIP.  It was even higher than Grichuk’s, and the likelihood of having one Ty Cobb on the team is out there enough, but two?  If you believe both Grichuk and Piscotty are going to sustain those 2015 numbers, then do I have a deal for you.  I have this great beachfront property in the Midwest………..

So there is your 2016 Heyward-less Cardinals’ outfield, folks.  What?  Okay throw Brandon Moss in there, do you feel better?

You ask, what does she know?  Not much really.  I fully acknowledge that the Cardinals know more than I do about the situation.  In fact, that is what I am counting on.  I was a big Bourjos supporter (still am) and the Cardinals didn’t think much of him, because they gave him away for nothing, so I expect no one to take my opinions as anything more than my opinions.  But I stand by them, right or wrong, and being wrong has never bothered me.  I want the Cardinals to succeed more than I care about being right, which is not much.  I can suck up my disappointments and move on.

Good luck to Jon Jay, by the way.  I don’t have much to add about Jedd Gyorko, other than based on his performance with the Padres I am not particularly impressed.  As long as he doesn’t take playing time away from better players (do you hear me Mike Matheny?) I won’t complain for now.  I reserve the right to complain later though, should the need arise.

SIGN JASON HEYWARD.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Goodnight, Sweet Friend

It’s over.

It has taken me some days to get past the fact that the Cardinals made a too early exit from the playoffs in 2015.  For me, writing when the pain is new is a recipe for disaster.  Things are said that I will later regret, my thought processes jumbled by emotion.  I am an emotional person on the best of days, so one can only imagine a post-loss next day would be armageddon with a keyboard.  I am mostly blessed with self-awareness, thank goodness.

Now that I have had time to settle down and process, I have accepted all postseason occurrences, one way or the other.  There were some bright spots, not many, but some.  I have moved on in the most important ways from the bad.  That doesn’t mean I won’t talk about it, just that I won’t talk about it like a shrew on steroids.

Why did we lose?  If you want a clever and humorous look at the possible reasons, here is a tool for that.  But seriously, what are the reasons why the Cardinals lost three games in a row for the fourth season in a row?  We all have our ideas and theories, some more valid than others.  For me, it is a combination of things.

First off, it is not a state secret that I am not a fan of Mike Matheny.  This post is not going to be a War Crimes Trial for Matheny.  As a matter of fact, I think this year’s devastating loss is less of an indictment of Matheny than past postseason losses have been.  There were some screw ups, like leaving Wacha in too long in Game 3 and pinch hitting Greg Garcia for Randal Grichuk in Game 4 because of Garcia’s small sample size success against Pedro Strop (Really, Mike?).  Those mistakes were costly, especially the Wacha one, but they had less of an effect on the overall picture than other factors.

Primarily, I think injury and fatigue were the culprits this time.  This team was playing on borrowed time, and I think deep down we all knew it.  The Cardinals won 100 games with a team chock full of the Walking Wounded, and that fact in and of itself was amazing.  However, what goes up must come down, and the laws of physics, probabilities, and just plain common sense tells us the good times weren’t going to last.  Unfortunately, it all came down in the postseason, but who among us didn’t honestly think that was a distinct possibility?  Come on, don’t lie to yourself.

These guys were hurt and tired.  We can certainly admit that the injuries were not Matheny’s responsibility, not in the most direct sense.  Sure, many of us have issues with Matheny’s roster usage, myself for sure, and overwork can lead to injuries.  Players like Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina should have had more rest, but consider the alternatives that were before Matheny.  Pete Kozma and Tony Cruz are replacement level players or worse.  Peralta wasn’t injured and Molina has to take some of the blame for not being more responsible for his own health.  How many times have we heard stories of Molina talking himself back into the lineup after the initial idea was to rest him that day?  Should Matheny have put his foot down?  I would say yes, but I am not the one having to deal with Molina on a daily basis.  All I am saying is that there is blame to share.

I could spend 1000 words talking about each injury and what may or may not have helped to prevent it.  I am not going to do that because it is in my view irrelevant, and speculative at best.  I think we can all agree that we don’t have all the information available from which to draw any conclusions, and let’s just leave it at that.

I will say that roster issues were a concern from the very start.  This is an area that needs to be evaluated and worked on.  Players are going to need more rest from here on out and there needs to be back ups at those positions that are adequate and that Matheny will use.  The latter is a sticky subject, and one that I have, shall we say, bombastically expressed my opinion on in the past?  Mozeliak intervenes but rarely in how Matheny uses his roster (the Allen Craig trade is an example of where I think he did).  He no doubt has reasons that I don’t understand or appreciate, but that doesn’t stop me from expressing frustration about it nonetheless.  If Mozeliak has firm and unwavering views on not getting involved with Matheny’s roster usage, then he needs to be more proactive in putting together a roster that is in line with Matheny’s views and usage patterns, as much as it pains me to say that (I don’t think Matheny is particularly skillful at player evaluation).  For instance, Mozeliak should try very hard not to put a player on the roster that Matheny is just going to waste (Peter Bourjos is a painful example).  Just Matheny-proof the roster as much as possible, please.  No more wasted roster spots.  Mozeliak has to know Matheny’s tendencies by now.

I am not going to expound on what players should or should not be acquired for the 2016 season.  That will be another post.  I will, however, pause here to say, SIGN JASON HEYWARD.

Okay, now that that is off my chest, I will conclude by saying that I look forward to 2016 and another chance at the [World Series] ring.  Until then, may we have a productive Hot Stove season.

And please God, don’t let the Cubs win the World Series, I am begging you.

 

Over and out.

 

 

The Brotherhood of Baseball

I have not posted here for a while.  I haven’t abandoned the blog, I have been both dealing with some personal health issues and have been doing some writing for another site that has taken my concentration away from the blog.  I haven’t had much to say lately anyway, most of my thoughts these days about the Cardinals are repetitious of many of the thoughts I have had all season.  But last night’s events have provoked me to speak up.  This will be a short post, I don’t want to bloviate about this topic but I do want to say something.

What I am talking about is last night’s horrible collision between Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos in the seventh inning.  Like everyone else I watched in horror as Stephen Piscotty lay motionless on the ground, after colliding with Peter Bourjos on a fly ball to the left center field gap.  Bourjos made a spectacular catch there, but the greatness of it was lost in the horrible events that followed.  It was right that the catch was not noticed, the well being of Stephen Piscotty had to be paramount.  Peter Bourjos knew that, it was clear that his first thought was to go to his teammate and summon help immediately.   As we all watched silently, one could not help but be concerned about the mental state of Piscotty’s teammates as well.

Baseball players are paid a lot of money, more money than many of us will ever see in a lifetime, to play a kid’s game for six months out of the year.  The hugeness of the salaries often leads to fans taking cynical views about players.  Many see them as overpaid divas, men who are pampered and spoiled, who think of no one and nothing but all the dollars in their bank accounts.  What gets lost in all this cynicism, I believe, is the notion that these men are like brothers to each other, like soldiers on a battlefield who protect and fight for each other.   These men spend months with each other, in clubhouses and hotels, long plane rides together, day after day.  They spend more time with their teammates than they do with their own families for half a year.  When one of them gets hurt, they all hurt with him.  They have to, the humanness of them mandates it.  It could just as easily be them, each of them, lying motionless on the grass, and they know it as profoundly as it is possible to know it.  There can be nothing more terrifying than that.

Matt Carpenter sat kneeling on the ground, as did Tony Cruz, and Kevin Siegrist.  The bullpen stood staring, wondering whether their teammate was going to get up, or even move.  Kolten Wong looked ready to burst into tears at any moment.  Jason Heyward comforted Peter Bourjos as he roamed, no doubt agonizing over what his tumbling body had done to his teammate.  Can any of us imagine what it must have been like to these men as they waited, hoping and praying that their brother was going to be alright?

Do we ever even consider the human side of these men we watch play this kid’s game?  Or do we just see them as a means to entertain us?  We praise or we condemn them based on what they do on the field, but do we think for even one second that they may be as vulnerable and emotional as the rest of us?  Do we even consider the possibility that the amount of money they make doesn’t define who they are?  These are a lot of questions, but I believe they are questions worth asking ourselves, especially before we make assumptions or say things about players that might be hurtful.

Stephen Piscotty lay motionless on the outfield grass last night and we all collectively held our breath.  When things like this happen, I like to think it is a good time to reflect on what it means to be a fan and what responsibilities we bear.  It’s a self reflection worth doing.

My thoughts and prayers are with Stephen Piscotty, his loved ones, his friends, and his teammates.

 

Peace.

Has Mozeliak Hit The Panic Button?

It is less than 48 hours before the non-waiver trade deadline is upon us, and so far the Cardinals have made two deals: 1) acquiring relief pitcher Steve Cishek from the Marlins for minor league relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough; and 2) acquiring OF/1B Brandon Moss from the Indians for lefty pitching prospect and 2013 first round draft choice Rob Kaminsky.  It is possible another deal could be made, but I find it highly unlikely.

I like the Cishek deal.  Chishek, though he struggled at the beginning of this year for the Marlins, has been pitching better since he returned from a stint at AAA.  He’s a reasonable risk and the pitcher we gave up for him, Barraclough, has had some control issues and was not likely headed to the majors anytime soon, if at all.  Cishek was a good reliever for the Marlins, and has a career FIP of 2.68 and xFIP of 3.22.  If Cishek can get back to that level of production, or something close to it, he would be a valuable reliever for the Cardinals, in the Pat Neshek mode.

The Brandon Moss for Rob Kaminsky deal, however, I do not like at all.  It is quite true that pitching prospects are highly volatile, more so than position player prospects.  Pitching prospects are more likely to flame out, are more likely to succumb to injury, and can break your heart.  There was no guarantee that Kaminsky would ever make it to the majors.  Having said that, Kaminsky was a highly touted prospect, unlike Barraclough, and was widely believed to be one of the top prospects in the Cardinals system.  Kaminsky was ranked as the Cardinals #5 prospect, and the #2 pitching prospect, behind Alex Reyes, by Baseball America.

Brandon Moss, on the other hand, was having a tough year with the Indians, batting .217/.288/.407 and had a wRC+ of 94.  Moss is striking out at a 28.3% rate and walking at a rate of 8.5%.  Compare these numbers to those of Mark Reynolds, .227/.309/.390, wRC+ of 96, K% 29.9, BB% 10.1, and it is difficult to see how Brandon Moss is an upgrade over Reynolds.  Moss has more home runs than Reynolds, 15 to Reynolds 9, but this is hardly enough of an advantage to justify giving up a top pitching prospect to get him.    Moss does have a .265 BABIP, which leaves room for some upward regression in his numbers, but even putting the most positive spin on Moss’s chances for improvement, the trade was a significant overpay in my opinion.

Even setting aside the questions about Moss’s bat, defensively Moss is a better OFer (much better) than he is a first baseman.  Will he be spending any significant time in the OF, a position the Cardinals don’t lack depth in?  Moss’s defense at 1B is pretty bad, much worse in fact than either Matt Adams or Mark Reynolds.  Worse even than the majority of first baseman in baseball.  If playing him the majority of the time at 1B is the plan, that plan brings his value down even more, even if he is platooned with Reynolds.

Perhaps this is a tough market, and even marginal players are pricier than usual.  If that is the case, then it seems to me no trade would have been better than this one.  With the addition of Stephen Piscotty into the mix, and with improvement in the performance of the Cardinals current starters, the offensive outlook for this team, in my opinion, is not as doomy as many Cardinals fans have made it out to be.  Offenses go through slumps, and there is no reason to believe that is not the case with this one.

The Matt Holliday injury does add another wrinkle, that is for sure, but it seems to me adding a marginal bat that may not add a lot of additional value to this offense is not the answer to this particular problem.  It smells of desperation, a trait that I don’t generally ascribe to John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak has typically been immune to the hues and cries of the fanbase (thankfully), so what made this move so needed?  More importantly, how does it affect Stephen Piscotty going forward?  Will the Piscotty to 1B experiment be terminated, or will Moss play more in the OF than 1B?  A lot of questions about an acquisition that doesn’t add much value to the mix.  Add in Mike Matheny’s often questionable use of his resources and this trade has the potential to make the situation worse instead of better.  It would seem to me a trade for a first base only player would have made more sense, and would have given Mike Matheny less rope with which to hang the team.

I don’t like this trade one bit.  I give it a grade of D.

 

Thank you for reading.

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