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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It’s Not Over In The First Inning

Last night’s loss was brutal.  I confess that I turned the game off after Trevor Rosenthal walked the lead off hitter in the 9th.  I knew what torture was coming.  I followed the game on Gameday after that because it was less painful that way.  Once again, the Cardinal offense failed to score after the 1st inning.  How many times have we seen that this season?  I have no idea why that happens.  Do the players lose focus after the 1st inning?  Does the opposing pitcher pitch better?  Is it a combination of the two?  I only know that it is frustrating to me as a fan.

The Cardinals can not afford any more such losses.  There are only 11 games left and the Pirates are on a mission.  The Pirates are playing the Boston Red Sox right now, a team that is eliminated from playoff contention and is just playing out the season.  They follow with the Brewers, the Braves and the Reds.  Only the Brewers and the Braves have something to play for.  The Cardinals must bear down from here on out and win most of these remaining games.

As for last night’s game, there are too many grimacing moments to count.  Just about every player did something that made me want to throw hard objects at my TV.  Though Mike Matheny wasn’t the villain in this particular baseball episode, he didn’t help the situation much either.  Perhaps if we hadn’t been once again been subjected to Daniel Descalso playing defense, that bloop single by Hector Gomez that drove in the Brewers winning run might have been caught.  Kolten Wong has caught several of those types of balls before, he has better speed than Descalso and might have been able to catch up to it.  Who knows for sure, but I would have liked our chances better.  Even Pete Kozma might have gotten to it; he certainly had a better chance than Descalso.  Both Kozma and Wong are faster and better defenders than Descalso. Once again, Matheny’s obsession with Descalso came back to bite us.

However, the main villain was the offense.  Scoring runs after the 1st inning would have nullified all of the hand-wringing at the end.  Rosenthal would have had a bigger cushion to work with.  Jhonny Peralta swinging on the first pitch and grounding into a double play in the first inning was a huge rally killer, and may have been the turning point in the game.  That doesn’t excuse the inability to score later in the game, but it certainly put an end to more runs in the first inning.

I can’t stress enough that all season it has been pitching and defense that has kept this team’s playoff hopes alive.  Lance Lynn pitched a good game last night and deserved to win. Many, many times this season, defense has been the savior.  The last thing the Cardinals need is for either of those things to falter or be sacrificed.   The offense has been often scarce, so without the pitching and defense, this team would be in a world of hurt.

As for where the offense went, well that is a question for the ages.  The Cardinals have been trying to find that “spark” all season.  They haven’t found it.  Many hoped Oscar Taveras would be that guy, but he has not.  Though he has hit better of late, overall he has not been significantly better than anyone else.  The power that we all heard about (and that I have personally seen in the minor leagues) is not there.  That doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually come, but I doubt this season will be the one where we see it.  I have high hopes for Oscar, but this season he has been a disappointment, posting  -o.9 fWAR so far for the season.  Last night he had a opportunity to shine in a pinch hit role in extra innings; instead he struck out swinging.  His defense has been less than stellar as well, but to be fair, Oscar has never been a good defensive player.  His talent is with the bat, and when that talent comes out in its full glory, watch out.  Next season I think we will see what he can bring.

So, tonight we face the Brewers again with Adam Wainwright on the mound.  The Cardinals will be facing Mike Fiers, a pitcher that the Cardinals have had trouble with, but who is coming off the brutal outing against the Marlins, where he hit Giancarlo Stanton in the face with a pitch, probably ending his season.  Will Fiers still be affected by that outing?  Who knows, but the Cardinals need to take advantage of any weakness they can.

These games will be a turning point for the Cardinals.  Games like last night must not happen again.  I hope I am not forced to turn the game off again.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Things I Have To Say

I will do the Brewers Series Post Mortem tomorrow.  I wanted to take this time to post something that I have been wanting to post for a while but have been hesitant to do so.  I have a tendency to preach when I feel strongly about something, and that rubs people the wrong way.  When I do it, and I get called on it, my reaction is usually to withdraw and just stew about what bothers me privately.  I also get frustrated on the baseball front by persistent rushes to judgment and knee jerk reactions to perceived problems.  I am a patient, big picture kind of baseball fan.  I don’t sweat things that happen early in the season, and I don’t make judgments based on small sample sizes.   Things almost always even out over time and the picture becomes clearer.

Most people have probably heard the adage “Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint”.  Well, it’s corny but it’s true.  Yet from my experience, at least with online fans, it is definitely treated more like a sprint.  Judgments are made from game to game, without looking at the bigger picture.  Jon Jay hits a game changing home run against the Brewers?  Bench Peter Bourjos and start Jay.  Allen Craig not hitting?  Send someone down and call up Taveras or Grichuk.  Bullpen not up to snuff?  Just open that Memphis revolving door.

Right now, as I type this, things are going wrong in the game today.  Joe Kelly has apparently injured a hamstring running to first base and was replaced by Seth Maness.  Maness was going just fine until a line drive hit directly to Jhonny Peralta was not caught.  Then a slow ground ball to 3rd was not gotten to by Daniel Descalso.  After that the wheels came off the bus.  Who is getting all the blame?  Maness.  Why?  Because Peralta has become a sacred cow because he hits home runs, and Daniel Descalso is scrappy and thus shielded from blame.  It’s all about perception.  These are the types of games that keep me off Twitter, because my responses would not be welcome.

Yes, that sounds whiny.  I am human.

I like numbers.  I am not arrogant enough to believe what my eyes see tell me the truth.  So I look at numbers, and what the numbers tell me is this.  Peter Bourjos is a much better defensive center fielder than Jon Jay by a large margin.    I also have seen him do remarkable things out there, more than once.  Yet many haven’t seen it, but feel no remorse in declaring Bourjos isn’t that good, despite this lack of knowledge on their part.   He can hit, he has when he has had the playing time to show that he can.  Given time to get used to a new league and new pitchers, I have no doubt that he will hit.

The numbers also say that Jhonny Peralta’s defense is average.  Not bad, but nothing to get excited about.  Yes, he hits dingers, and that’s good, but we are watching a baseball game, not a home run derby.  The numbers say that Daniel Descalso is a poor defender at all 3 positions that he plays.  His range is very poor.  My editorial comment is that he has the range of a statue.  He also can’t run, and can’t hit.  He does nothing well, yet he continues to play more than he should.

Despite what the numbers say, Mike Matheny continues to start Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso in the same game, compounding the defensive nightmare.  Sometimes I think there is more loyalty to incumbent players going on than decisions made on what is best for the team.  Now, I am not saying Jay and Descalso should never play, that is just dumb.  Descalso should never start, in my opinion, because he is just too much of a defensive liability.  If I had my druthers, we would have someone else to back up shortstop, because of all 3 positions Descalso plays poorly, he plays shortstop the worst.  Kozma isn’t an option at this point, however.  I don’t know the answer, short of trading Descalso and bringing up someone else from the minors, a move that probably isn’t very practical at this point.

I don’t have an issue with Jay starting.  I would prefer he start somewhere besides center field, but he will have to start there sometimes.  I do object to starting him there AND starting Descalso anywhere in the same game.  Despite what Ricky Horton  declared on the broadcast today, until Jay’s last at bat today Jay had a lower batting average than Bourjos.  He has more RBIs but a 3 run home run will do that. Ricky is no doubt engaging in the same silo, small picture thinking as others are and is remembering that home run on Monday when he advocates for Jay over Bourjos.  He also forgets Jay’s history of streaky hitting, and the fact that Mozeliak would not have traded for Bourjos if he was satisfied with Jay as the starting center fielder.  Again, I think it is incumbent player preference behind these claims.

This has turned into something of a rant, but these are views I have held for quite some time.  The uniqueness of Twitter makes this kind of expression impossible there, plus it usually turns into a pointless prolonged argument with somebody anyway.  Having my own blog allows me the forum to do this.

I don’t by any stretch consider myself an expert.  I have knowledge and a particular understanding of how things are supposed to work.   As I said in my opening paragraph, I see things in the bigger picture, so games like today don’t get me all riled up.  Baseball happens.

I hope Joe Kelly is okay and is not out for long.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

The Evil That Men Do Lives After Them

It’s the  day after Opening Day, and one would think the logical theme for today’s post would be the 1-0 victory yesterday of the Cardinals over the Reds.  Well, there are 161 more potential regular season victories to write about and I am sure I will get to some of them but this post is not about the game.  It is about the Cardinals, or moreover, it has the potential to be about the Cardinals.

Yesterday did bring to the front another issue that will likely put the Cardinals and their fans in the spotlight in the near future.  The Milwaukee Brewers, an NL Central rival, won their Opening Day contest against the Atlanta Braves 2-0.  Contributing to that victory was the Brewers top slugger, and the guy everyone loves to hate (except Brewers fans), Ryan Braun.  You know that guy, the one who tested positive for PEDS a couple of years ago, railed about his innocence on the national stage, and won his appeal (the first for MLB) by blaming a specimen collector for his predicament.  The one who we later discovered through the Biogenesis scandal and investigation really was guilty as charged, and who lied with the flaming furor of a thousand suns about it to everyone, and blamed an innocent working man in the process.  Yeah, that guy.

Well, Braun played in the game yesterday, and by all reports was greeted by his adoring fans with a standing ovation.  That standing ovation has been met with anger and disgust by many non-Brewer fans, including some Cardinals fans.  That brings me to the point of this post.

The Cardinals have their own Biogenesis taint, in the person of Jhonny Peralta.  Now, Peralta was not playing for the Cardinals when all that stuff went down.  But he plays for the Cardinals now, and though his situation is not identical to Braun’s because he did not lie about it, and he served his punishment without appeal or fuss, and no innocent people were besmirched, he still has the taint.  His signing to a 52 million dollar contract by the Cardinals raised some eyebrows, and some ire, not just by fans and the media, but by other major league players as well.  It contributed to a push by MLB and the MLBPA to increase the penalties for PED use, and such push did result in recent amendments to the Joint Drug Agreement to do just that.

Soon the Brewers will be coming to St. Louis to play the Cardinals, and with them will come Ryan Braun, to put himself before Cardinals’ fans.  The question has already been asked—How will Cardinals’ fans respond?  Will they boo him, as many expect they will?  If they do, what will surely follow will be articles written by such notable publications as Deadspin and Hardball Talk, and no doubt other newspapers and internet sites as well, accusing Cardinals’ fans of being hypocrites.  The “Cardinal Way” such as it is, will again be the subject of mockery, as it was for portions of the postseason last year, but perhaps with even more venom than before.

I say none of this as a preliminary indictment against Cardinals’ fans, my being one of that class makes me hesitant to be so bold.  There are still several weeks before the Brewers come to Busch Stadium, and the reception Braun will receive is yet unknown.  It is a warning, however, to be prepared for the onslaught if the expected booing does occur.  While Cardinals’ fans may see a big difference between how Peralta handled his suspension and how Braun handled his, the outside is not likely to make such a distinction.  Even if they did, the opportunity for entertainment in the form of derision and mockery is too good to pass up, so that distinction will be glossed over or denied.  The perennial success of the Cardinals and the acclaim Cardinals’ fans have been given over the years as “The Best Fans in Baseball”, have set Cardinal Nation up for this potential siege.

I am not going to tell Cardinals’ fans how to behave.  It does no good to preach, no matter how tempting it may be.  I can only control my own behavior.  I am not going to be at Busch Stadium when the Brewers come to town, but if I were, I would be mute when Ryan Braun appeared.  I think it is often better to let wrongdoers steep in their own muck than to give them the notoriety of attention, in whatever form.

I don’t like Ryan Braun, I will freely say that, but I didn’t like him before the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta.  I put him right up there in the category of Alex Rodriguez, men with no character, who use their fame in absolutely the wrong way, and who have an arrogance that belies any form of fellowship with them as individuals.  My dislike does not have to turn into a weapon to be used against him, I don’t feel the need to do that.  Ryan Braun has to live with himself and what he did, and what I or any other person thinks or says has no bearing on how he does.  We may think he doesn’t deserve the money or the standing ovations, or anything else of value he receives, but we don’t decide that.  I prefer to think about better things, about the Cardinals and the season coming up and the enjoyment I will get from that, and not waste my thoughts or my actions on the likes of the Ryan Brauns of the world. They have their own muck to steep in.

 

Thank you for reading.

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