Poll: How Do You Feel About Mike Matheny?

I want to get a feel for how other Cardinals fans are feeling about Mike Matheny.  Is he a great manager, a huge failure, or somewhere in between?  Vote below:

 

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No Room For Mediocrity

There are a lot of baseball thoughts swirling around in my head at any given time.  I think about the game of that day, I think about the lineup, and the starting pitcher, and what Mike Matheny is likely to do that will piss me off.  I think about the schedule ahead. I think about what roster changes I would like to see made.  Sometimes all of these thoughts and other things fight for time in my head.

When it comes time to post, however, I think about the thing I am most concerned about at the time.  Usually there is one thing.  Fortunately the team is playing better and things are looking up, so there is not a major concern for me right now.  So, I think, what do I post about?

I could post about the possible call up of Oscar Taveras, which is a topic that seems to be on everyone’s mind.  If I did that though, and I said what I really think, it’s likely to make people angry.  I have never been afraid of making people angry before now, but with the team playing better and most people in a better mood, it seems not to be a wise move on my part.  Let me just say that while I am not opposed to calling Taveras up when the time is appropriate, I have serious concerns about what will happen when that time comes.  Those concerns have to do with playing time, where he will play, and the expectations many people seem to have about what he will do for the team when he does come up.  I see some possible pitfalls, and areas where expectations may not necessarily be in line with reality.  I will just leave it at that.

The roster issue that most concerns me is the shortstop position.  I was initially opposed to the signing of Jhonny Peralta, I will not expound on the reasons for that opposition, but I was not happy about it.  However, once he was signed and on the team, it seemed unproductive to continue to be unhappy about it.  Acceptance was the wiser move I believed.  It has worked out pretty well so far.  His defense is not as bad as I feared it might be.  While he struggled at the plate at the beginning, he seems to have acclimated and has produced for the team.  I am content with him for now.

The back up to the shortstop position is of major concern to me, however.  The only viable candidate on the current roster to handle that position is Daniel Descalso.  While I have no issues with Daniel Descalso personally, I find him to be a very mediocre player at best, and a defensive liability at the shortstop position.  On top of his unacceptable defense, he doesn’t produce at the plate either.  Despite Al Hrabosky‘s preposterous claims that Descalso is one of the best utility players in baseball, in reality Descalso is doing nothing more than occupying a precious roster spot that could be better utilized by someone with more ability.

Mike Matheny appears to have strong feelings about Descalso.  I can’t speak to the root of those feelings, but they signal to me that as long as Descalso is on the roster, Matheny is going to play him as much as he can justify.  Because Matheny relies so much on small sample size match ups (which statistically speaking are fairly useless) those opportunities are going to arise more often than is comfortable or beneficial for the team.  Unfortunately, I don’t see Mozeliak making any move to change the situation, as Descalso has little trade value, and outright release, such as what occurred with Ty Wigginton last season, seems unlikely given Descalso’s tenure with the team, and Matheny’s attachment to him.  Descalso does have all three of his option years remaining, meaning he could be sent to Memphis, but this seems unlikely to me as well.

Someone will have to be sent down in the event that Oscar Taveras is called up in the next few weeks, but the likely candidate for this move seems to me to be Shane Robinson, as otherwise there would be an excess of outfielders on the roster.

Descalso will be second year arbitration eligible at the conclusion of the season.  Since I see no likely avenue for Descalso to be removed from the roster before then, I would hope that Mozeliak will see fit to non-tender Descalso during the offseason and allow him to move on.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Double Switch This

I became massively confused during extra innings of last night’s game.  In the bottom of the ninth, Peter Bourjos had made the last out in a tied game.  So in the top of the tenth, Mike Matheny double switches Jon Jay in for Bourjos to bat 9th, and Trevor Rosenthal comes into pitch.  Okay, my brain says to me, it’s going into extra innings, and Matheny is wanting to use Rosenthal to pitch more than one inning.  I mean, isn’t that the purpose of a double switch, to delay the pitcher’s batting spot from coming up as long as possible so that he can pitch longer?  So far I am on with this.

Imagine my surprise when after pitching to three batters and getting three outs, the next inning who do I see pitching?  Not Trevor Rosenthal but Pat Neshek.  What the ?, my brain says to me.  What was the bloody double switch for, then?

Does Matheny not know the difference between double switching and pinch hitting?  Does he think you have to double switch or die?  If his purpose was not to pitch Rosenthal for multiple innings, then what was it?  If all Matheny wanted to accomplish was to get Jon Jay into the game, he could do that easily without double switching.  All he had to do was leave Bourjos in to play defense in the top of the 10th with Rosenthal on the mound, and then in the bottom of the inning, pinch hit Jay for Rosenthal.  If the game goes into another inning, Jay remains in the game to play defense.

Now, if that wasn’t crazy enough, Matheny proceeds to do it again in the next inning.  He brings in Randy Choate to pitch the next inning.   Choate has been shown to be ineffective against right handed hitters, which he never should be pitching against in the first place because he was not signed to do that.  Matheny has been misusing him in this manner all season, and it has come back to bite him, yet he still keeps doing it.  Choate has to face three lefties in a row, Ellsbury, McCann and Suzuki.  Okay, that’s fine.  But then he walks Ellsbury, hits McCann with a pitch, and then intentionally walks Suzuki.  Next is the switch hitting Brian Roberts, who bats right to face Choate.  So Matheny leaves Choate in to face Roberts and…….please see my shocked face……….Roberts belts a single to plate two runs.

Now that the damage has been inflicted, Matheny takes Choate out and brings in Motte.  But wait, he has to double switch, must always double switch or die a painful death.   Allen Craig made the last out in the previous inning, so out he comes.  He puts Matt Carpenter in right field, and puts Daniel Descalso in at third base.  Well, since he already wasted his outfield bench options, I guess that was his only choice, since not double switching and leaving Craig in is now illegal in his world.  Because, you know, Motte won’t pitch multiple innings probably, and oh he has to get Descalso in the game somehow or die…….

So Motte comes in and another run scores and it is now 6-3.  The bottom of the inning comes in and the team valiantly manages to make the score 6-4, though with no help from Daniel Descalso who strikes out (see shocked face No. 2).

I have to say that was the most confused I’ve ever been in a game.  I didn’t get any of that nonsense.  Matheny needlessly goes through 4 pitchers in three innings of extra inning baseball.   If that game had gone on longer, we probably would have seen the bat boy playing left field and the trainer pitching.  Matheny is the worst manager of a bullpen I have ever seen.  It’s bordering on the ridiculous.  What was even worse last night was the needless double switches.  If Matheny didn’t feel comfortable pitching Rosenthal or Neshek for multiple innings, then forget the damn double switches, they weren’t necessary.  Save the bench players for later innings, or just pinch hit who you want to pinch hit and leave them in the game if you want.  Why did Craig have to come out of right field to bring Motte in?  That was the head scratcher for me.  Just put Motte in and if the Cardinals managed to tie it up then he still had Freeman and Maness left in the bullpen and Maness used to be a starter who can go multiple innings.  So could Freeman for that matter.

I’ve come to the point where I just don’t understand how Mozeliak can let this misuse and abuse of the bullpen go on.  I get that he doesn’t want to cross the manager/GM line, but at what point does he have to do it to save the team?

I don’t know how much longer I can watch the three ring circus that is Matheny’s bullpen management.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

No Jubilance For Jeter

I may be the only baseball fan on the planet that doesn’t care at all about Derek Jeter. It’s not that I dislike him, I don’t know him, and I have no reason to dislike him. I just don’t care about all the hype pertaining to his retirement. I wouldn’t spend the money just to see him play at Busch. If I had the money for only one Cardinal game this year, I wouldn’t spend it on a game with the Yankees. I would rather spend it on a game against a team that matters, an NL Central team, or at least another NL team. That’s just me.

I haven’t watched Jeter play much. I don’t like to watch AL games, they are usually too long and I find most of them boring. I will watch them if I have a reason to. After one of my favorite players, Brendan Ryan, was traded to the Mariners, I watched him play for a couple of seasons, until his playing time started to diminish. Back in 2011, a friend who knew I liked good defense suggested I catch some LA Angels games and watch this kid named Peter Bourjos.  I did and I was hooked.

I can’t get invested in a player unless I watch him a lot. I never watched Jeter much, so he has never been more than just another player for the Yankees to me. I don’t respond to hype, which is why I am not all gaga over players like Yasiel Puig, or Bryce Harper. If I watch a player not on the Cardinals it is either because they used to play for the Cardinals, or they have a talent that catches my attention, like Bourjos or like Clayton Kershaw, my favorite non Cardinal pitcher.

So, Derek Jeter coming to play at Busch Stadium during his Retirement Egomaniac Tour, does not impress me. I will watch the game on TV and be satisfied.  I am looking forward to the celebration of the 1964 World Series team, however.  If I could have afforded the tickets, I might have gone to one of the games for that reason.  That would be the only reason.

As it is, I will enjoy watching the series at home, as I always do.  The Cardinals can do their Derek Jeter gifty congratulatory thing, and that will be fine.  I will listen to all the Jeter hype and roll my eyes, as I have since he announced his retirement and we have been bombarded by it from the media.  Then the Yankees will move on, and the Giants will come in, and life will go on.

I hope Brendan Ryan gets to play in this series.  Now, him I want to watch.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

The Best Case For Jon Jay

Peter Bourjos was supposed to start in center field last night against the lefty Cingrani.  Because of a stomach virus, Bourjos was scratched and Jon Jay started instead.  Jay had a good night at the plate, going 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs.  The Cardinals won the game and everyone was happy.

However, I noticed something during the game as I was following on Twitter.  Folks were saying that Jay doing so well was proving the “haters” wrong.  Well, first of all, the results in one game hardly prove anything of significance about Jay except that he had a good night.  Secondly, I wondered who were the “haters” exactly?  I didn’t see any overt expressions of hate on my Twitter timeline last night toward Jay or for that matter any other night in recent memory.  There are certainly people such as myself that are quite vocal in our preference for Peter Bourjos as the starting center fielder, for what should be some pretty obvious reasons.  I don’t see preferring one player to play over another as an expression of  “hate” for the unchosen player.  I want Bourjos to play simply because I think he is the better player, but I have no hate for Jon Jay.

Jon Jay is a fine extra outfielder who I think plays better off the bench and with an occasional start under the right circumstances.  Jay has a history of being a streaky hitter who can go on prolonged slumps.  Moreover, Bourjos is clearly the superior defensive player;  Jay takes bad jumps and routes to balls and has a limited amount of range.  He also has a very poor throwing arm.  When Jay is overexposed, in my opinion, his hitting slumps.

Let’s look at some numbers for clarity.  At the beginning of this season, almost the entire team was not hitting.  Bourjos didn’t get a hit in his first 5 starts, but when he started to hit, at the home opener against the Reds, he hit at a .348 clip in his next 6 starts, raising his BA from .111 to .222.  Jay on the other hand was hitting .188 during this same time period. Then Matheny benched Bourjos to play Jay, who went on a hot streak, hitting at a .400 clip for a 9 game period, raising his BA from .188 to .326.  Then, the slump began and Jay’s BA plummeted from .326 to .267 in the next 10 games.  It was at this point, at the beginning of the series in Atlanta, that Bourjos began playing everyday and Jay went back to the bench.  Since that time, Bourjos has hit at a .311 clip, raising his BA from .179 to .227.

The interesting part is that while Bourjos was playing everyday and getting better at the plate, Jay, hitting off the bench, has maintained a stable BA, hitting .294 from May 5 to now.  The book on Bourjos is that the more he plays, the better he gets.  Playing off the bench or in a platoon situation is death to Bourjos.  Jay, however, seems to thrive hitting off the bench, as his performance at the plate since returning to that role appears to indicate.

Now, this is just a cursory evaluation using small sample sizes, so there can be no hard conclusions drawn from any of this.  What I do know from watching both Bourjos and Jay play for the last 3 seasons, is that Bourjos hits better when he gets regular playing time, and Jay is a streaky hitter who can have brutal slumps.  Given this knowledge, is it a stretch for me to say that the best utilization of talent here is to play Bourjos everyday, and use Jay off the bench and as a spot starter?  Well, if you are a big Jay fan, you might disagree.  I can understand that.

Let me put it another way then.  John Mozeliak traded for Peter Bourjos because he wanted to improve the defense in center field.  He has said this many times publicly.  He also has a log jam in the outfield, with several good outfield prospects in the minor leagues vying for playing time.  In the not too distant future, decisions will have to be made as to who can be brought up and where they will play.  Mozeliak already knows what he has in Jay, but not so for Bourjos, who has only had one season where he played regularly, due to the emergence of Mike Trout and time down due to injury.  Mozeliak needs to see what he has in Bourjos, and the only way he can do that and be fair to Bourjos, is for him to play as much as possible.

Mozeliak has some hard decisions to make regarding the outfield situation, and he needs all the information he can get to make those decisions.  That’s why it doesn’t make sense to play Jay over Bourjos because that would not aid Mozeliak’s decision making in the slightest.

The best case for Jay right now is for him to continue to play off the bench.  It will all get sorted out eventually.  My believing this to be the best use of Jay’s talent does not make me a hater.

 

Thank you for reading.

The Rivalry That Isn’t

I guess the Cardinals and the Reds have a rivalry.  The media keeps saying they do, often harking back to the infamous fight of 2010 as evidence of it.  I hate losing to the Reds, but no more so than I hate losing to the Pirates, the Brewers, or the Cubs (maybe even less than).  If it is a rivalry it is one that I personally don’t think much about.

The Reds appear to me to take this so-called rivalry way more seriously than the Cardinals do.  The Reds apparently have a dish that it is served at the ballpark called “Smoked Cardinal”.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but obviously it is not actually a Cardinal bird.  If the Reds have dishes named after any other team in the NL Central I haven’t heard of it.  There are no foods at Busch Stadium named after the Reds that I am aware of.

Reds fans that I know talk of every upcoming series against the Cardinals like it is the playoffs.  They have specific Cardinals players, both past and present that they constantly refer to with sarcastic quips on Twitter.  Yadier Molina seems to be the one they love to hate the most.  His part in the “fight” no doubt is the genesis of those feelings.  They still boo Molina at Great American Ballpark.  Cardinals fans still boo Brandon Phillips as well, but it seems like those boos get less and less every season.  I have never booed Phillips; I frankly don’t see the point, it is only giving him the attention he wants but doesn’t deserve.

The other Cardinal many Reds fans fixate on is Chris Carpenter.  Of course Carpenter is no longer with the team as a player, having retired at the end of 2013.  Reds fans have this saying about Carpenter that I see repeated again and again on Twitter.  It is something to the effect of “What will Chris Carpenter tell his son?”  To this day I haven’t the slightest idea what that means.

Old grudges are constantly dredged up.  The “slick balls” controversy, the smoke from the fireworks that caused Chris Carpenter to leave the mound (told to do so by an umpire, not his choice).  There is the fight of course, and the nickname that Reds fans have for the Cardinals that came from that—“whiny little bitches” (or WLB for short).  I always find that somewhat ironic coming from a fanbase that whines about perceived slights to them and their players on a regular basis (are they still crying about Johnny Cueto not making the All Star team?).

I find all of these things more amusing than annoying.  I just don’t get that worked up about the Reds or Reds fans.  I get more agitated at losing to the Cubs than I ever have losing to the Reds.  To my way of thinking the Cardinals/Cubs is the rivalry.  Most Cardinals fans spend way more time making fun of the Cubs with Twitter hashtags (#cubssuck) and sarcastic jokes about the Cubs not winning a World Series in over 100 years.  They even play a game between innings at Springfield Cardinals games (the Cardinals AA affiliate) called “Are you smarter than a Cubs fan?”.  Now that’s a rivalry.

The only Reds player that I truly have a distaste for is Johnny Cueto.  His cowardly actions of kicking at Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue with his cleats during the 2010 fight has never been completely avenged by the Karmic Universe.  Jason LaRue’s life and career was forever changed by that act.  Johnny Cueto’s life and career has not been similarly affected.  Alas, an eye for an eye is a nice concept, but it rarely plays out that way in the real world.  I’m still waiting to feel better about all of that but I suspect I will be always disappointed.

No, the Reds just don’t push my buttons the way the Cardinals appear to do to the Reds and their fans.  The Cardinals lost to the Reds on Friday night in the first game of a three game series and like any other loss, I didn’t like it.  It was game number 48 and there are 114 more to get through is the way I look at it.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

So the Cardinals and the Reds have a rivalry.  You couldn’t prove it by me.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Adam Wainwright Is Good At Hurling Baseballs

Last night’s game against the Dbacks was fun to watch.  It was fun to watch in a different way than Saturday’s game against the Braves was fun to watch.  It wasn’t bunts and fast legs this time, but absolutely masterful pitching.  We’ve pretty much come to expect pitching gems from Adam Wainwright.  I think sometimes that expectation mutes the celebration somewhat in a way the celebration of the bunts and fast legs wasn’t.  We as Cardinals fans are not used to speed winning games; we are quite used to pitching doing so.

Nevertheless, the performance of Wainwright last night was arguably the best of his career.  It was his first career one hitter, and the game score of 94 was the highest in his career.  The one hit was a double by Paul Goldschmidt to center field that Jon Jay played off the wall.   Goldschmidt was the only Dbacks player to reach base in that game.  Nine strikeouts, 6 of them looking, tied Wainwright’s season high.

Wainwright had pinpoint command of all of his pitches.  His curveball was sharp and his cutter and sinker were moving well.  Even a 15 minute delay when the home plate umpire had to leave the game because of illness wasn’t enough to shake Wainwright out of his groove.  From the first pitch to the last, Wainwright was in control of the game.  He was helped by an offense that appears to have gotten its extra base hit mojo back.  Five double and 2 HRs (yes, HRs; I know it’s a shock), were the order of the offensive day.  Peralta hit his 9th homerun, and Matt Adams, sans elbow brace, hit his 3rd.

The one not so bright spot of the game was the continued struggles of Allen Craig.  Craig went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.  Craig looks uncomfortable at the plate most days, and the reason for this is unknown to Cardinals fans.  Many speculate about injury, though Craig denies it.  He has moments where he looks like the Craig of old, only to fall back into his current pattern of flailing at breaking balls outside the zone, and hitting down on the ball, resulting in weak ground balls that don’t get out of the infield (Craig has seen an increase in sinkers pitched to him, which could account for some of the ground balls).    Craig has an anemic batting line of .220/.275/.345, more reminiscent of Pete Kozma than Allen Craig.

Matt Carpenter continues to confound people as well.  I wouldn’t say he is struggling exactly, he is hitting .264 and went 1 for 4 in last night’s game, he just doesn’t look like the Matt Carpenter we are used to seeing.  Maybe it’s just a sluggish start and he will pick it up as the season goes on.  For an interesting article addressing Carp’s issues read here.  There seems to be no obvious answer to the puzzle of Carp.  I miss him; come back please.

Tonight we see Michael Wacha take on Brandon McCarthy.  Given the competitive nature of the Cardinals’ starting rotation, will we see a no hitter tonight from Wacha?.  Will it rain?  Will Matheny make a double switch?  Will we hear Al Hrabosky say, “You never embarrass yourself when you hustle” ?  These and many other burning questions will be answered tonight starting at 7:15 pm  CDT at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Thank you for reading.

The Cardinals Keep The Brooms In The Closet Again

It’s like the Cardinals are allergic to sweeping a series. Invariably the team gets in a position to nail the final nail in the coffin, and they lose the hammer. Someone explain this to me like I’m a 6 year old.

I really thought we had this one until I heard “Rosenthal is warming up in the bullpen.” My heart sank. Rosenthal had already pitched in 3 games in a row, and here he was going to pitch in a fourth? After Pat Neshek had just finished pitching the 8th without any trouble on 3 pitches? This was pitcher abuse, plain and simple. Dusty Baker would be proud.

It didn’t end well.

After giving up a single to Freddie Freeman and a double to Ryan Doumit, miraculously no run had scored yet and there were two outs. Then Evan Gattis came to the plate as a pinch hitter. Gattis is hitting a whopping .200 as a pinch hitter and .233 against right handed pitching. So Matheny orders up an intentional walk. Loads the bases he does, with the tying run at 3rd base. No place to put the next batter, so the specter of walking a run in looms large for the overused pitcher who is now at over 20 pitches in the inning. With the aid of the home plate umpire calling a pitch at the bottom of the strike zone ball four, that is exactly what happened. Game tied.

Out comes Rosenthal, and in comes Carlos Martinez, who has been so erratic of late, that one wonders again what Matheny was thinking. One wild pitch later, the Braves are now leading 6-5. Martinez gets out of the inning without further damage, after walking the next batter first.

The Cardinals are unable to produce any runs against Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the 9th (surprise, surprise) and the Cardinals drop the last game of the series in the 9th inning.

In the post game interview, Matheny got the inevitable question about the use of Rosenthal and Martinez. His response, “I pushed them today and it didn’t work.”

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

I didn’t use to have these kind of feelings about Mike Matheny.  He had his irritating habits, but for the most part I was okay with him.  I felt he would learn it all in time.  This year, however, he is really pushing my buttons.  The unfathomable treatment of Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos, the continual mismanagement of his bullpen, the constant double switches that make me want to scream “KNOCK IT OFF!” at my television screen.

It isn’t all Matheny’s fault.  There were opportunities to run the score up, after all the Cardinals left 12 men stranded on base.  These missed opportunities are all on the players.

Still, the victory was there for the taking.  Using Rosenthal and Martinez in that situation was just a huge mistake on so many levels.  Matheny just gets too comfortable with certain guys in certain “roles”, to the detriment of the team.  Why he can’t learn to manage his bullpen better than he does is a mystery to me.

I don’t want Matheny fired.  I just want him to learn from his mistakes.  He doesn’t seem to be doing that.

So the brooms got put back in the closet, and the winning streak came to an end.  The Braves go back to Atlanta to face the Brewers on a high note, and the Cardinals stew on their day off from a brutal loss.

Lovely.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

That’s What I’m Talking About

My last post was long, so I am going to keep this one short.  I saw more positives than negatives in last night’s game.  This is a feeling I haven’t had in a month.  Mike Matheny  has done minimal lineup tinkering in the last few games.  Last night’s lineup was more in line with what I envisioned the starting lineup to be going into the season.  Lance Lynn looked good and went 7 innings.  The offense was clicking with key hits.  The defense looked good.  There were 3 stolen bases.  The only thing about this game that pissed me off was the home plate umpire.

The called last strike on Peter Bourjos in the second inning was 4 inches off the plate.  One of the areas of concern about Bourjos going into the season was his lack of walks.  Bourjos himself admitted taking a walk had never been one of his strengths.  This was concerning given the importance of Bourjos getting on base as much as possible to utilize his speed.  Despite his disappointingly high strike out rate (this is actually high even for Bourjos, who has a career K rate of 22%, not great, but still nowhere near the 31% he has now), Bourjos’ walk rate is 8%, higher than his career rate of 5.7%.  I was much encouraged by this, and it signaled to me that perhaps he was making a concerted effort to walk more.  That is why the egregiously bad call on the called last strike angered me more than it usually would.  Bourjos doesn’t need this kind of crap happening to him when he is trying to get his K rate down and his BB up.

I don’t blame Bourjos for being upset at the home plate umpire.  He had to be way more frustrated than I was, and I was pretty up there with mine.  I don’t know what Bourjos said to the umpire last night, but from what I know of Peter Bourjos, it couldn’t have been that bad.  We’re talking Mr. Sunshine here.   If Sean Barber is that thin skinned, he has no business being a major league umpire.

By the way, kudos to Mike Matheny for sticking up for his player and showing some long overdue gumption.

I am so happy to have Wong back and in the lineup.  Wong, along with Carpenter, Craig, Molina and Adams all had multi-hit games.  This is what Cardinal baseball is supposed to be.

I hope to see some improvement from Shelby Miller today.  I also hope to see a continuation of what we saw last night.

Get after it Redbirds.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Mike Matheny’s Maddening Methods

The Cardinals beat the Cubs last night and it was a weird way to win, in extra innings on a walk off hit by pitch of Greg Garcia. I’m glad to to get the win. However, as has been the case on many previous occasions, I believe Mike Matheny made things more difficult than they needed to be. I have been very unhappy with Matheny’s managing this year. The team has struggled offensively, no question about it, and that is on the players. However, in my opinion, Matheny has hindered the offense from recovering from the slow start both with his in game management strategy, and the management of his people.

In a previous post I set out in detail the events that occurred two weeks into the season. This is where I stated the trouble began, and I stick by that belief. The Cardinals were 4 games over .500 on April 15th and had won 4 games in a row. It was during this series against the Brewers that both Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos inexplicably stopped playing regularly. Wong eventually was sent down to Memphis, and Bourjos was sent to the bench. I have said it before and I still believe it to be true that Wong and Bourjos were scapegoated by Matheny for the offensive struggles of the entire team.  Since that 4 game winning streak in mid-April, the Cardinals have not won more than 2 games in a row, and that much only one time.

In panicking so early, and showing that he lost confidence not only in Wong and Bourjos, but in the entire starting offense’s ability to pull itself out of its slump, Matheny sent the wrong message.  Constant lineup tinkering became the norm.  In the guise of trying to “jump start” the offense, he instead made things more muddled and reinforced the message that he had no confidence in his team.  The banishment of Wong to Memphis and the loss of Bourjos’ starting job sent the signal to other players of what might happen if things didn’t turn around.  Lack of confidence by the manager leads to lack of confidence by the players.

What the long term effects of these actions would have on Wong and Bourjos were yet to be seen.  Wong has just been recalled from Memphis, we will soon see if his time there did not have any ill effects on his performance going forward. Initially, the effect on Bourjos was a plummeting batting average over the next few weeks of little use.  Though Bourjos has recently been restored to favor and has been given regular playing time (resulting in improvement in his hitting) there may still be lingering effects.  In last night’s game, Bourjos had an opportunity to steal a base, after getting on with a bunt base hit.  Bourjos was  tentative, getting leads but then not taking the opportunity.  Both of the FSMW announcers were complaining that Bourjos was “not being aggressive”,  Al Hrabosky was musing that Bourjos should “not be afraid to make a mistake”.  Really Al?  Why shouldn’t he be afraid?  After all, he lost his starting job two weeks into the season because he didn’t measure up in his manager’s eyes.  Was that the thought in Bourjos’ mind as he was hesitating to make the move to steal?

I realize I am doing an enormous amount of speculating here.   I am giving an opinion, and the thoughts and reasonings behind that opinion.  Unlike some bloggers, I don’t consider what I do here “journalism” in any sense of the word.  I have not been trained to be a journalist, nor do I seek to hold myself out as one.  This blog is for the expression of me about Cardinal baseball, with all my biases and flaws of reasoning.  I own what I say here and whatever mistakes or wild and out there thoughts I might express.

Back to my opinion of Mike Matheny.  In addition to what I see as his failings as a leader thus far, his in game management strategy has left me pulling my hair and wanting to throw hard objects at my television set.  Matheny has always had a method of bullpen management that to me seems inconsistent at best, schizophrenic at worst.  Overuse of some pitchers, misuse of others.  For example, Randy Choate, signed to be a lefty specialist, meaning he only pitches to left handed hitters.  He was used properly in this regard last season, but this season his use has evolved against both left and right handed hitters.  Choate was signed as a lefty specialist for a reason, pronounced lefty/righty splits that indicated his effectiveness against right handed hitters was poor. Nevertheless, Matheny has put Choate out there time and time again against righties.  He has been lucky in that Choate has managed to be relatively effective up to a point, but as is the case most times when luck is pushed, it pushes back. We saw that happening in Choate’s most recent starts.

The most annoying and downright incompetent use of Matheny’s strategizing is his propensity to double switch. He uses this tool to excess, in situations where it makes absolutely no sense to do it.  Last night, he double switched Matt Adams out of a one run game in order for Carlos Martinez to get 2 outs. Two.  What was the point of that? Did he think Martinez was going to give up the tying run, and thus possibly send the game into extra innings?  If that was his thought processes then why send Martinez out at all?  Why not just leave Seigrist out there?   Let him finish the inning, pinch hit for him in the bottom of the eighth, and bring Rosenthal in in the 9th, as he ended up doing anyway.   Even if Siegrist had given up the tying run, he could still pinch hit for him and bring in Martinez or any other pitcher in the 9th.

As it was, Adams was removed in a one run game. Adams, the guy who had two hits in the game, one that drove in a run.  Adams was replaced by Craig moving to 1B, and into RF went Joey Butler, a LEFT fielder, and one who is not a very good left fielder. This became significant in the 9th inning, when the tying run did score on a short fly ball to RF. Now, it is iffy whether Allen Craig would have been able to catch this ball had he remained in RF. Butler’s positioning was such that he had to run both to his left and forward.  However,  it was acknowledged by Matheny prior to the game that Butler was not a right fielder,  at least according to what we were informed by Dan and Al when Butler was put there.  I don’t expect Matheny to be clairvoyant,  but I do expect him to be smart about his defense in the last innings of a one run game. Double switching out Matt Adams and putting Butler in RF under those circumstances was not very smart.

The double switches have become what bunts were in prior seasons,  too excessive and and not in good sense.  They use more relievers than are necessary and remove valuable hitters from the lineup when hits and run scoring have been scarce.

This post has become too long already so I will end this rant here.  Suffice it to say I have many issues with Matheny’s managerial performance.  This season so far has been very frustrating and when a team is struggling,  a manager who doesn’t put his team in a position to succeed with his decisions is one that is not going to last long.

 

Thank you for reading.

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