Of Mice and Men and Beating the Reds

So I have some thoughts about the weekend series against the Reds that I want to jot down.  These are mostly random and in no particular order, but I hope they come together in some coherent, readable fashion.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Matheny be proactive with his bullpen usage.  Rather than leave pitchers in situations where they were not suited, he mixed and matched them quite well.  No unnecessary double switches, no leaving Randy Choate in to face a succession of right handed hitters.  Perhaps he has learned something, (or perhaps he was given offseason marching orders by Mozeliak?).  I hope to see this continue.  No backsliding, please.

As for the aforementioned Choate, I imagine his early season failures have gotten the fan base quite riled up.  Memories are short, though, as many are not recalling how poorly Seth Maness pitched at the beginning of last season.  He turned it around, and I suspect Choate will as well.  If he doesn’t, then Mozeliak will probably take care of it.

One area where Matheny hasn’t shown improvement is his penchant for bunting too much and in the wrong situations.  What in the world was he thinking having Yadier Molina bunt in the 8th with two men on and no outs?  Matheny’s love affair with giving up outs has got to stop.  It has become pathological.

As it is early in the season, I will refrain from making judgments about the Cardinal offense.  There are enough Chicken Little fans on this subject as it is.  Offense has been declining for some time, and that trend is likely to continue.  Fans looking for big offense are just going to be disappointed.  This is not something that is particular to the Cardinals.   Better use of what speed the Cardinals possess would help in the run scoring department.  I am going to be careful here because I don’t want this post to become another rant about Matheny’s use of Peter Bourjos. I think my opinion on this subject is quite clear.  I will only say this; making playing time decisions based on Spring Training numbers is one of the most imbecilic things a manager could do.

However, I will segue that into something else of note.  Quite a few have been making a big deal about the catch Jon Jay made in yesterday’s game.  Make no mistake, Jay is not a bad center fielder; I have never said that he was.  He is about average, which isn’t a bad thing.  On many teams he would be quite an asset.  On teams that have well above average defenders, however, he sticks out like a sore thumb.  As for the catch, it was a good catch, no doubt about it.  Kudos to him.  What is the but, you say?  It is this.  Great American Ball Park has one of the smallest outfields amongst all of the major league ball parks.   Did anyone notice that even Matt Holliday was making catches that he doesn’t normally make?  Let me just end by saying this.  If a ball to the wall had been hit in say, Coors Field, or ATT &T Park, it would have been so far over Jay’s head it would have required a separate zip code.  GABP makes a lot of outfielders look good.

Okay, I have stepped into the Centerfield Wars as far as I am going to.

Pitching.  I thought Carlos Martinez did a very good job yesterday.  He did give up a couple of long balls, but referencing my previous statement about the size of GABP, that isn’t as big of a deal as it normally would be.  I thought his stuff was very good.  He has a ways to go with efficiency and durability, but I think that will come.  His stuff is filthy nasty.

Reds manager Bryan Price was quoted as saying he thought Jason Heyward’s slide into third base was “dirty”.  I think Price needs to stop channeling Dusty Baker before it’s too late.

The Cardinals meet up with the Reds again this weekend at Busch Stadium.  The Reds don’t have a great track record at Busch.  It must be the Clydesdales.  Or maybe it’s that Arch looming over centerfield.  Whatever it is, the Cardinals need to take advantage of Busch’s voodoo magic over the Reds.  I really, really like beating the Reds.  Almost as much as beating the Cubs.

That’s all for now.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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The Inevitability of Death, Taxes, and Jaime Garcia’s Shoulder

“Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

It was the 800 pound gorilla in the room, the one thing you knew was just around the corner, waiting to pounce.

Jaime Garcia has discomfort in his left shoulder and will not pitch tomorrow as scheduled.  Though described as a “setback”, we all know where this is leading.  We have all seen this movie before.

Will Garcia pitch for the Cardinals in 2014?  That Magic 8 ball would say “Outlook not so good”.  I wouldn’t count on it if I was a betting woman.

So the burning question of whether Carlos Martinez will get the 5th spot in the rotation has moved to the “probable” column.  Of course, the decision could be made to put Marco Gonzales in this spot instead, seeing as he is a lefty.  However, the course has been up to this point to see Martinez get the shot to start this year that he was denied last year. Gonzales can start in AAA and be available in the event another pitching injury occurs.

Martinez has never pitched above 107 innings in any season in his career.   Marco Gonzales pitched 150 innings in 2014, divided among high-A, AA, AAA and the big leagues.  So the question about endurance for Martinez is indeed real.  However, the question is not going to be answered by anything other than letting him pitch and see how he does.  Having Gonzales on hand to step in if Martinez falters gives the Cardinals some insurance to try it.  There is also Tim Cooney, another lefty, looming in the background should the need for him arise.

Martinez, with his 95+ velocity and wicked slider, has a ceiling that excites the senses.  How can you not give him a chance?  I would much rather see him try and fail, than to hide his light in the pen.  That to me is a waste.

Marco is a solid choice, but he doesn’t have the ceiling that Martinez has.  Moreover, he is not a certainty either.  I am solidly in the Martinez camp as the 5th starter.  Marco will have his day.

In other Cardinals news, Sam Freeman was traded to the Texas Rangers today for the Player To Be Named Later or cash.  This was not unexpected, as Freeman was out of options, and thus could not be sent back down to the minors without passing through irrevocable Outright Assignment Waivers.  The likelihood of Freeman being claimed through waivers is high, and rather than lose him and get nothing in return but a minimal waiver fee, the Cardinals wisely chose to trade him for something of more value, either in the form of a warm body or more money.  The Cardinals likely felt lefty Kevin Siegrist, who has pitched well in Spring Training, was a more attractive option for the other lefty in the pen besides Choate.

I wish Sam Freeman all the luck in the world. I truly like the guy, even though he was once an evil Kansas Jayhawk.  🙂

With only 5 Spring Training games left, we will soon know who the 25 will be who are going north.   My crystal ball tells me that Garcia will land on the DL and Martinez will get the 5th starting spot.  Am I right?  Stay tuned.

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.

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