Tears and Transitions

I didn’t watch the game today.  After the 12-1 drubbing that I was forced to sit through yesterday, I decided I wasn’t in the mood.  I dreaded what might happen after the big news came down right before the game started that Allen Craig and Joe Kelly had been traded to the Red Sox for John Lackey.  I knew the news would not be taken well in the clubhouse (and reportedly it wasn’t) and I feared its affect on the team’s performance in the game.  I was not going to sit through another drubbing if it came to that.

It turned out my fears were unfounded.  The Cardinals won the game 6-2.

Now for my take on all that went down in the last hours of the trade deadline.

The trade deadline is a tough period for fans (for the team as well, no doubt).  One would have to be pretty dispassionate not to get attached to players on your team who you have cheered for over a long period of time.  Even when you know that getting new players can energize a team for that push to the playoffs, when getting those new players involves losing old ones, that can be very tough to handle.  I completely understand and feel myself the sadness that can come over you to say goodbye to a loved player.  I don’t want to seem dismissive of those feelings in any way.

However, baseball is a business just like any other.  Sometimes very tough decisions have to be made to ensure the long term success and viability of that business.  Anyone who is a baseball fan has to know that most players do not spend their entire careers with the same team.  Players come and players go.  It is the nature of baseball.

We all know this team has been under performing all season.  The offense has been sluggish to non existent.  The pitching has been good, good enough to keep the Cardinals in the race, but it has had its issues as well.  The improved defense has worked well for the most part, though there have been times where it has completely fallen apart, like in the first two games of the Padres series.  This team has problems, problems that needed to be addressed.

I have been convinced for some time that at least part of the problem lay in that clubhouse.

I think that in the clubhouse was an atmosphere of smug complacency, and a “veterany cliquishness” (I made that up, but it fits what I am trying to say).  Long time veterans felt they were entitled to all the playing time they wanted, regardless of their individual performance, and felt that their manager had their back in this.  I believe they wanted to win, but win on their terms and in their own time, with no sense of urgency.  One by one, younger players were introduced to the roster, only to get limited playing time and then sent on their merry way back to where they came from when they couldn’t produce on demand.  The one exception was Oscar Taveras, the prized #1 prospect.  He came up once, but was soon shown the door like the others.  Then he came up again, and this time he stayed.  He stayed and he threatened the playing time of veterans.  Veterans like Allen Craig, and to a lesser degree Jon Jay.  (Peter Bourjos is more of a threat to Jay, and we all know what has happened to him as well).

Because of this, the manager wouldn’t put him in the lineup on any kind of regular basis.  He would play, and then he would sit for days while the struggling Allen Craig continued to play.  Taveras could not put together any consistent time at the plate, and his performance suffered.  There also had to be a mental aspect to this as well, when you know that one mistake, one unproductive game, and you would not play for days.  It might have all been different if Craig had been producing as he had in the past, but he wasn’t and showed no signs of doing so.  Yet he continued to play.  Mike Matheny, when asked about this, would make glib responses like “we’re not in the development business”.  Did anyone truly think that Matheny could possibly have Taveras’ best interests at heart when you heard something like that?  I thought that comment was extremely telling about Matheny’s attitude about the young prospect.

You could read between the lines in interviews with Mozeliak during this time that he was very frustrated with the Taveras playing time situation.  Reports of a “rift” between Mozeliak and Matheny were made by the local media.  Well, it all came to a head apparently because Mozeliak fixed the problem.  Craig is now playing for the Boston Red Sox, and Taveras is still here, playing RF.

It was reported that the clubhouse was shocked and stunned at the news.  I bet they were.  I am sorry that Joe Kelly had to be the collateral damage in all this, because I like the guy, but these things happen.  It was said that Craig and Kelly found out about the trade from TV and social media;  that’s unfortunate, but in this day and age of instant news and the race to get the latest tidbit out before your competitor, it’s not surprising that it happened that way.  Mozeliak was engaged in last minute negotiations, this thing happened pretty fast, and the opportunity to let the team and the players know about the trade before the media announced it was probably not there.

Regardless, this trade needed to happen.  The clubhouse needed a shakeup.  These guys might be a “family” as both players and the manager have so stated, but this family was dysfunctional.  We all saw the dysfunction played out on the field, time after time.

I know that people are sad.  I specifically have avoided watching the interviews with the players in question and their teammates because I am not an automaton.  I know it would upset me.  However, someone needed to look at all this objectively and dispassionately and I elected myself.

It is after all a business and the players are paid employees.  They are paid to win baseball games.  The team is not a boy’s club or a fraternity.  While it is good that they all get along and have chemistry, the ultimate goal is results.  This team was not getting them.

While it hurts to lose your friends in the clubhouse, that hurt would be ameliorated by a championship.  These guys are big boys and they can take it.  If they can’t, then they should look for another profession.

At the end of the day, John Mozeliak did what he is paid to do.  He can’t afford the sentimentality like the rest of us can.  This organization has a goal and a stated method to get there.  If the manager and the players can’t be on board with that method, then maybe they need to be somewhere else.

Hopefully a message was sent, and the results will be better.  We will see in time.

 

Thank you for reading.

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6 Comments

  1. baseballmania

     /  July 31, 2014

    Shocked was the clubhouse but the real truth is that they didnt hear it first from management. That hurt.

    I think its a good trade and both will have thriving careers in the AL. Boston has a bunch of young guys and I think next season they will improve as a team.

    I wish them the best.

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  2. laura michaels

     /  July 31, 2014

    Once again, well said.

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  3. The thing I keep thinking about is that Mo gets one of the Boston beer and chicken guys after having gotten A J Pierzynski, the ‘most hated’ player in baseball. And Lackey has a most hated title to his credit as well I believe. What’s going on?

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    • Waino said the other day that the team lacked an “edge”. Mo apparently decided to give them one. I for one am glad because this is the most boring Cardinals team in recent memory.

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      • baseballmania

         /  August 3, 2014

        Maybe so as the leading edge guy was Carp. He kept the pitchers line.

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  4. baseballmania

     /  August 3, 2014

    Not boring…but very vanilla.

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