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.

 

 

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Roster Retribution

Cardinal Nation got quite a shock last night when it was announced that Kolten Wong and Shane Robinson had been optioned to AAA Memphis and Randal Grichuk and Greg Garcia had been called up to St. Louis.  The shock was not so much about the call ups as it was about the send downs, or one send down at least.  Kolten Wong being sent down was rather disturbing to say the least.  Yes, he has struggled at the plate of late, but he still is hands down the best 2nd baseman in the Cardinal organization, and it seems as though he should be given the opportunity to continue to play through his struggles as some of his also struggling teammates have been allowed to do.

Wong is currently batting .225, which though not good, is not as bad as several of his teammates.  Jhonny Peralta, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, Daniel Descalso, and Mark Ellis are all hitting below .200.  Peralta has 6 home runs, and has enough service time accrued that he couldn’t be sent down anyway;  same for Mark Ellis.  The others all have option years remaining and could technically be sent down as well.  It wouldn’t make sense to send Craig down, and Bourjos has played so sporadically that sending him down wouldn’t help much, because he wouldn’t get much playing time in Memphis either, with Taveras, Piscotty, Butler, Pham and now Robinson all vying for playing time as well.

The truly head scratching thing about this is that Daniel Descalso still remains on the roster, while the much better hitting and fielding Wong is gone.  Daniel Descalso is hitting .100 and is a poor fielder to boot.  He has no skills, other than a decent throwing arm, to recommend him.  Yet he remains taking up a space on the roster that could be better utilized by someone with more talent.  Descalso also has all 3 of his option years remaining, so sending him down would not create a problem.  With 3 years of service time he would have to go on waivers, but they are revocable, and seriously, what team would take him?  It would have to be a team desperate for a utility infielder with no talent.  Even if some team did take him, the Cardinals would not be losing anything. He really is that bad.

So, the team that John Mozeliak claimed he had “improved defensively”, now has 2/3rds of that improvement either gone, in the case of Wong, or culturing penicillin on the bench, in the case of Bourjos.  There goes all the speed too.  What a waste.

I have to wonder where all this came from all of a sudden.  Just Friday, Mozeliak told Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest that roster changes at this time were premature, and that the young players were better off playing every day in Memphis.  What changed?  The offense showed signs of life in Sunday’s game, so I fail to see the sense of urgency from Friday to Sunday.  If Mozeliak believed the offense needed the jolt this soon, what accounts for his comments in Friday’s interview?  I have a lot of respect for Mozeliak, but it seems like talking out of both sides of his mouth.  I now have to wonder about his credibility in the future.

It seems like unnecessary panic to me.  I get that Grichuk and Garcia are hitting in Memphis, but it has been less than a month, and big league pitching is a whole lot different than AAA pitching.  Maybe they will both do well, but then what?  How long will Wong have to stay down?  Will we continue to be subjected to Daniel Descalso?  Will CF playing time now be apportioned among three players or will Bourjos just be permanently cemented to the bench?  Is it a good thing for Grichuk to not play everyday?  I have many thoughts jumbling through my mind and most of them are not good.

Perhaps this is all just a temporary move to add some offense for the Milwaukee series and the tough road trip after that.  I hope that is the case and not an omen of a major roster shakeup so early in the season.  Making permanent roster decisions based on less than a month of play seems like a drastic overreaction; even more so because the young players at Memphis haven’t had a single AB at the major league level.

I have never been a fan of playing musical chairs with lineups, and lately Mike Matheny has been making me dizzy with all of his tinkering.  I think the tinkering might do more harm than good in the long run.   Expecting players to perform like trained monkeys in such small amounts of plate appearances, to me, is short sighted and wrong.  Hit .3oo in a couple dozen chances or you’re done seems to be the theme, at least for some players.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on guys.  I just don’t like it.

I am an unhappy fan right now.  Not that John Mozeliak or Mike Matheny need to be concerned about what I think, but I don’t like any of this.  Not one bit.  Panic tends not to end well.  We shall see.

 

Thank you for reading.

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