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.