Who Are These Cardinals?

It’s early in the season, and yet things with the Cardinals are not looking particularly good.  It happens.  It’s baseball.  The sample sizes are small so the numbers will tell you very little if anything useful about the future.

Invariably every season, however, if things are bad for any length of time, the amateur general managing begins.  It is as predictable as sunrise and sunset.  Something is wrong and someone or multiple someones are to blame.  Finger pointing begins.  Moves that are made are criticized and alleged to be the cause.  On and on, yada, yada.

Hey, we as fans really become emotional about these things.  We want to believe we know how to do better if the Cardinals would just listen to us.  I can’t say how many fans actually believe this, or just act like they do because it’s fun or their bored or whatever.  Having something to analyze and discuss with other fans is part of the experience, with the internet even more so than it used to be because the avenues for discussion are widespread.  It’s a good time be a sports fan.

I am no different than any other fan.  I have a blog, so that reinforces that I have opinions and I am not hesitant to express them to anyone who is willing to listen.  Maybe not so many people are willing to listen, but I can live with that.  It won’t stop me from expressing said opinions as often and as forcefully as I choose.

Okay, so get to the point you are saying to yourself.  As much as I have strong opinions and am willing to exclaim them to the entire universe, I don’t for one millisecond think I have the answers or know more than those in the Cardinals organization who are paid to make the decisions.   Not that they are always right, they are human just like me and make mistakes.  At the end of the day, however, in the aggregate those folks are going to make better decisions than I would likely make if I were in their shoes.

Nevertheless, here is what I think.  The 2016 Cardinals are a less talented team than the 2012-2015 versions were.  I believed at the start of the season that this was not a division winning team and I continue to stand by that assessment.  The “core” players like Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are aging and will never be the players they once were.  The young players are finding their way, and the jury is still out as to whether any of them will reach their potential.  Players like Carpenter are peaking, still have good years left and I suspect will continue to be the stalwarts for a couple of years.  Wong has room to improve, and Matt Adams is, well, an enigma.  I don’t see much improvement in his future, though I could be wrong.  Maybe call this a transition year if you will.  This team is going to be overshadowed by the Cubs, and perhaps the Pirates if they can get their starting rotation to work.

I am a fan of John Mozeliak. I think he has done great things for this organization.  He is fallible, however, as even he, I imagine, would admit.  I think he whiffed on some things in the offseason, to be frank.  The Heyward situation is somewhat murky, as there is some evidence, if you believe what Heyward says, that he was bound and determined to be a Cub, and nothing Mozeliak did was going to change that.

On the David Price matter, however, I think Mozeliak could have done better.  Yes, it is a lot of money to pay for a pitcher, and maybe the Red Sox were going to  be insane and keep bidding until they got what they wanted.  It wouldn’t surprise me, the Red Sox have done many stupid things with their money.  But I think the Cardinals could have, and should have offered more.  Sometimes I think they are a little too conservative for their own good.

I also think the outfield situation could have been handled better.  Once Heyward was a thing of the past, resorting to the “do nothing further” approach didn’t sit well with me.  I think Piscotty, Grichuk and Pham are fine players, Piscotty I like better than the other two, but all are still fine players.  Grichuk and Pham are injury prone, and Grichuk is a weird player who one cannot really count on to be consistent, in my opinion.  I am not saying that keeping Jay and/or Bourjos was the answer either.  I have never  considered Jay to be more than an average player at best, and Bourjos, though I think he was mishandled and undervalued, as he is a better player than most give him credit for, he was not going to work out, as it was clear that Mike Matheny had no use for him.  In an organization that appears to value offense over defense and speed, Bourjos was not a good fit.

As for Matheny, well, he makes bad decisions.  I think he will keep making bad decisions, because I think he is too stubborn and set in his philosophy to take direction from others and change his approach.  Having said that, I don’t think his bad decisions in the aggregate  have a large effect on the performance of the team.  In individual games the bad decisions can make a difference; over the long haul, not so much.  The organization, however, seems satisfied with him and that is what matters.  It is the overall talent of the team that will make a bigger difference, and as I said, I think this is a less talented team.

I am coming to a conclusion, I promise.  My conclusion is that this is not a talented enough team to win the division, perhaps not talented enough to even make the postseason.  I don’t see this as the end of the world, however.  These things tend to come and go in cycles; no team, not even the Yankees, have been able to keep a run of success forever, it just doesn’t happen.  The down times were coming, and as one who lived through the Cardinals of the 1970s, that is not something that I am going to freak out about.  Others can do as they please.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Advertisements

An Underwhelming Offseason

The new season is set to start in a couple of weeks, and it has seemed, at least to me, to have been a very long offseason.  Other obligations have kept me away from the blog for most of it, but the specter  of the new season begs to me to return and take up the keyboard once more.

One of the reasons the offseason has seemed interminable, is the lack of anything resembling excitement about the results of it.  There has been for the last several years a reason to be excited about the coming season, due to intriguing acquisitions by GM John Mozeliak to the Cardinals roster for the coming season.  Last season it was the Jason Heyward trade that gave me something for which to look forward.  The prior season it had been the trade of David Freese for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.  Neither of those two trades ultimately worked out the way I had hoped they would (I am less excited about Randal Grichuk than most) but the ultimate result doesn’t diminish what I felt at the time.

This offseason, however, has been, to put it mildly, as dull as dishwater.  What started out as dreams of a Jason Heyward extension and perhaps David Price as a Cardinal, has fallen as flat as a wad of gum under the wheels of a bulldozer.  I can’t recall a Hot Stove season of recent memory that was as disappointing as this one.

It was bad enough that David Price was snatched out of Mozeliak’s grasp at the last minute by the Burglars of Boston, but to add insult to injury, Jason Heyward spurned my beloved team for our hated rivals, the Cubs.  I won’t even go into what he said as he walked out the door.

Instead of rallying by making other compelling acquisitions, Mozeliak instead provided Cardinals fans with a succession of underwhelming additions to the 2016 roster.

First there was Jedd Gyorko.  Acquired from the Padres for Jon Jay (that had to hurt for Matheny), Gyorko is meant to be in the Daniel Descalso mold, but with some pop.  Gyorko IS pretty much Daniel Descalso, not much with the glove, doesn’t hit a lot, just has a little more power when he does.  I was never a fan of Jon Jay, but I think it was an unequal trade.   Underwhelming option #1.

Then, after the disappointing loss of David Price, Cardinals fans get……Mike Leake.  Yep, that former Reds rotation member, famously known for purloining some T-shirts  from a department store, which spawned a cool T-shirt owned by some Cardinals fans (I confess I own one).   To be fair, no charges were filed and it was a misunderstanding, apparently.  Leake isn’t bad, he is certainly an innings eater, but he is, (yes, you guessed it), underwhelming option #2.

Finally, with only weeks to go before Opening Day, the Cardinals get Ruben Tejada.  A shortstop discarded by the Mets and picked up after no one claimed him off of waivers.  The reasoning is simple, Jhonny Peralta is injured and lost until June at the earliest, and Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz apparently don’t excite Mr. Mozeliak.  If Ruben Tejada does, well Mr. Mozeliak should, in my opinion, get out more.  Tejada is not the worst shortstop in baseball, but he may be one of the more c0ma inducing ones.  Anyone remember Pedro Feliz?  No?  Well, you get my point. (Feliz wasn’t a shortstop, but work with me here).

Ruben Tejada is underwhelming option #3.

Well, that’s the end of this rant.  I need a nap.

 

Thank you  for reading.

 

 

 

Where Have You Gone Jason Heyward?

I’m late to the party on the topic du jour for Cardinal Nation.  I’m late to the party for a reason, though.

I am a person who wants to have as many facts as possible before I draw any conclusions.  My legal training made me this way.  It’s not that I never make emotional, on the spot judgments, just that I make them infrequently. When I have made them, I have mostly come to regret them later.

On the topic of Jason Heyward and his defection, if one were to call it that, to the Cardinals longtime rival the Chicago Cubs, I have stayed mostly silent.  The reason, in a nutshell, is that I don’t have any idea what the hell happened.  How does one point fingers, if pointing fingers is your thing, without knowing who knew what and when did they know it?  If Cardinals fans can be likened to the Watergate Commission, then where are the tapes?

The facts I know, or think I know more likely, are that the Cardinals made a $200 million dollar offer spread over a number of years, perhaps 10, perhaps 9.  I don’t know if there was an opt out, though some sources have claimed there was.  I actually know more about the Cubs offer, 8 years $184 million dollars, two opt out clauses.  Some information exists that it was front loaded, though that particular detail is a little murky.

The Cardinals offer, be it 9 or 10 years, would have an average annual value between 20 and 22 million.  The 20 million AAV figure is what I seen bandied about more often, so let’s go with that.  The Cubs offer has an AAV of 23 million, so right there that is more yearly income in Heyward’s pocket.  If the contract is frontloaded that is even more income in his pocket sooner rather than later.  The opt out clauses have their own value, especially with a frontloaded contract.

So what we have here is clearly a better deal from the Cubs.  Anyone (I am looking at you Post Dispatch) who rings the “total value” bell to suggest otherwise is being intentionally disingenuous.  Jason Heyward didn’t jilt the Cardinals, he isn’t a “trader”.  Jason Heyward took the best deal offered him, as 99% of major league baseball players would.  Lance Berkman once said it’s always about the money, and he wasn’t kidding.

So where does that leave Cardinal Nation in their efforts to judge the actions of John Mozeliak and Co.?  Clearly they whiffed on this one, right?  If everything that is known is taken at face value, then yeah, Mozeliak whiffed worse than 1 in 3 Randal Grichuk plate appearances.

Let’s hold on a minute though, and put on our Watergate Commission eyeglasses.  Did the Cardinals make their last and best offer with all knowledge available to them, and it just didn’t cut it?  Or were there, as Mozeliak claimed on KMOX Sports radio on Sunday, “circumstances out of our control”? Well, your guess is as good as mine, only certain people know and they ain’t telling.  If such circumstances existed, what exactly were they and how did they prevent the Cardinals from securing their prize?  Again, who knows?

This is why I can’t get out my pitchfork and torch.  Without the necessary information, and the likelihood of getting that information is somewhere between winning the Power Ball and flying to the moon on gossamer wings, my pitchfork has to stay in the barn and my torch has to remain unlit.  It’s all rather convenient for John Mozeliak, don’t you know Robbie Cano, but that is the way this game is played.

What Mozeliak does between now and Spring Training may be more telling anyway.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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.

 

 

Has Mozeliak Hit The Panic Button?

It is less than 48 hours before the non-waiver trade deadline is upon us, and so far the Cardinals have made two deals: 1) acquiring relief pitcher Steve Cishek from the Marlins for minor league relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough; and 2) acquiring OF/1B Brandon Moss from the Indians for lefty pitching prospect and 2013 first round draft choice Rob Kaminsky.  It is possible another deal could be made, but I find it highly unlikely.

I like the Cishek deal.  Chishek, though he struggled at the beginning of this year for the Marlins, has been pitching better since he returned from a stint at AAA.  He’s a reasonable risk and the pitcher we gave up for him, Barraclough, has had some control issues and was not likely headed to the majors anytime soon, if at all.  Cishek was a good reliever for the Marlins, and has a career FIP of 2.68 and xFIP of 3.22.  If Cishek can get back to that level of production, or something close to it, he would be a valuable reliever for the Cardinals, in the Pat Neshek mode.

The Brandon Moss for Rob Kaminsky deal, however, I do not like at all.  It is quite true that pitching prospects are highly volatile, more so than position player prospects.  Pitching prospects are more likely to flame out, are more likely to succumb to injury, and can break your heart.  There was no guarantee that Kaminsky would ever make it to the majors.  Having said that, Kaminsky was a highly touted prospect, unlike Barraclough, and was widely believed to be one of the top prospects in the Cardinals system.  Kaminsky was ranked as the Cardinals #5 prospect, and the #2 pitching prospect, behind Alex Reyes, by Baseball America.

Brandon Moss, on the other hand, was having a tough year with the Indians, batting .217/.288/.407 and had a wRC+ of 94.  Moss is striking out at a 28.3% rate and walking at a rate of 8.5%.  Compare these numbers to those of Mark Reynolds, .227/.309/.390, wRC+ of 96, K% 29.9, BB% 10.1, and it is difficult to see how Brandon Moss is an upgrade over Reynolds.  Moss has more home runs than Reynolds, 15 to Reynolds 9, but this is hardly enough of an advantage to justify giving up a top pitching prospect to get him.    Moss does have a .265 BABIP, which leaves room for some upward regression in his numbers, but even putting the most positive spin on Moss’s chances for improvement, the trade was a significant overpay in my opinion.

Even setting aside the questions about Moss’s bat, defensively Moss is a better OFer (much better) than he is a first baseman.  Will he be spending any significant time in the OF, a position the Cardinals don’t lack depth in?  Moss’s defense at 1B is pretty bad, much worse in fact than either Matt Adams or Mark Reynolds.  Worse even than the majority of first baseman in baseball.  If playing him the majority of the time at 1B is the plan, that plan brings his value down even more, even if he is platooned with Reynolds.

Perhaps this is a tough market, and even marginal players are pricier than usual.  If that is the case, then it seems to me no trade would have been better than this one.  With the addition of Stephen Piscotty into the mix, and with improvement in the performance of the Cardinals current starters, the offensive outlook for this team, in my opinion, is not as doomy as many Cardinals fans have made it out to be.  Offenses go through slumps, and there is no reason to believe that is not the case with this one.

The Matt Holliday injury does add another wrinkle, that is for sure, but it seems to me adding a marginal bat that may not add a lot of additional value to this offense is not the answer to this particular problem.  It smells of desperation, a trait that I don’t generally ascribe to John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak has typically been immune to the hues and cries of the fanbase (thankfully), so what made this move so needed?  More importantly, how does it affect Stephen Piscotty going forward?  Will the Piscotty to 1B experiment be terminated, or will Moss play more in the OF than 1B?  A lot of questions about an acquisition that doesn’t add much value to the mix.  Add in Mike Matheny’s often questionable use of his resources and this trade has the potential to make the situation worse instead of better.  It would seem to me a trade for a first base only player would have made more sense, and would have given Mike Matheny less rope with which to hang the team.

I don’t like this trade one bit.  I give it a grade of D.

 

Thank you for reading.

To Trade Or Not To Trade?

Now that the “unofficial” second half of the season has started, I want to talk about what is and should be ahead for the Cardinals.  When the last half of July rolls around, the most talked about topic in baseball is, of course, the upcoming trade deadline and who is or isn’t going to make a splash.  When we think big splashy trades, we think of teams like the Red Sox, or the Dodgers.  We also think of teams like the Marlins and the Blue Jays, who seem to think trading players is in itself a major sport.  We don’t think of the Cardinals, that bastion of conservatism when it comes to player turnover.  The Cardinals don’t make splashy trades; the Cardinals bring up young players from the farm system who fit in seamlessly and make other teams wonder what the Cardinals put in their minor league drinking water.

No, the only trade of recent memory that could possibly come close to being splashy, was the three team trade of Colby Rasmus in 2011.  That trade was made more out of the necessity of separating Rasmus and his manager Tony LaRussa before someone got hurt, though the return the Cardinals obtained did help them win a World Series.  That return didn’t “return” much of anything after that (though we did get a draft pick that returned us Patrick Wisdom, so there is something yet unrealized). There was also last season’s trade of Allen Craig and Joe Kelly; that trade was more surprising than splashy.  Surprising perhaps most of all to Craig, Kelly, and their teammates, who learned of the trade the same way the rest of us did, from the media.  Oops.

Most years the Cardinals do something low key, a minor player for another minor player.  There was Michael Blazek for John Axford in 2013, who remembers who Michael Blazek was?  We remember Axford, because he is kind of hard to forget, but do you know where he is now?  Then there was Zack Cox for Edward Mujica in 2012.  Mujica was a great deal for us until he wasn’t, but a gold star for anyone who knows what in the world happened to Zack Cox.

No, the Cardinals are anything but splashy.  I suspect if the Cardinals make any trades this season, it will be of the low key variety.  Perhaps a bullpen arm, or a first baseman that comes cheap. No Joey Vottos, Paul Goldschmidts or Freddie Freemans will occupy first base for the Cardinals in the second half.  More like an Adam Lind, or an Ike Davis or a Logan Morrison.  Someone who fans will say, “that guy?” over.  That is the Cardinal Way, amirite?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining.  Splashy deals that are expensive are for suckers.  Most of them turn out to be a big wet dud.  The San Diego Padres made a bunch of these splashy deals in the offseason and where did it get them? Have the Marlins or the Blue Jays set the world on fire in the last several years?

I think low key deals are just fine for the Cardinals.  They tend to work out more often than they don’t.  John Axford and Edward Mujica were good for us.  If you don’t count the Craig/Kelly deal as splashy (I don’t) then that one has worked out in spades.  The Red Sox will probably never trade with the Cardinals again.  John Mozeliak is a crafty dude.  Don’t underestimate him, he knows how to get value under the radar.

I don’t expect this trade season to put the Cardinals on the map, so to speak.  That is just fine with me.  The Cardinals get enough media attention as it is, and not in a good way.

Low key, yeah that’s the ticket.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Jon Jay Gets Paid For Being Okay.

So Cardinals GM John Mozeliak did the one thing I was hoping he wouldn’t do.  He gave a multi-year contract to Jon Jay.  I can’t say I am surprised, just extremely disappointed.  I know Jay is well liked, and a team leader and all that, but he just is not the best player to be the starting center fielder for the Cardinals.  The money is not really the issue, it is not a lot of money, so I can’t complain about that.  I can, however, complain about the fact that he is being paid for a role that he shouldn’t have.  The Cardinals have 3, count them, 3 players who can play CF right now that are either already better than him or have the potential to be better than him.  Jay gets a lot of fan love, and I am sure he is a nice guy and all, but dammit, he is just not that good.  He really, really isn’t.  Yet he is going to get most of the playing time in 2015, while he is blocking players who can give the team more production than he can.

Jay really has only one skill.  His skill is to hit mostly singles and get on base due to an extremely high BABIP (batting average on balls in play).  BABIP is influenced by 3 factors: defense, luck and talent level.  Most of the time very high BABIP’s are unsustainable.  They fluctuate from year.  I call Jay’s ability to hit for a high BABIP a skill because he has been able to sustain an above average BABIP for several seasons.  Most players are unable to do this.  So Jay likely has developed the ability somehow to sustain an above average BABIP.  That does not guarantee he will continue to do so, however.  Moreover, Jay’s BABIP in 2014 was extremely high, even for him, which tells me that 2015 is not going to be a repeat of 2014 as far as Jay’s hitting is concerned.

Jay does not have any other above average skill.  Even though Jay appeared to play defense better in 2014 as compared to 2013, his true talent level as a defensive CFer is no better than average. His base running skills are not good at all, he was particularly bad at it in 2014, making 10 outs on the base paths in 2014 (this does not include caught stealings and pick offs which are a separate stat).  Jay’s arm is one of the worst in baseball. He also hits for no power, not even doubles or triples power.  Eighty percent of Jay’s hits in 2014 were singles.

I suspect Jay’s longevity and popularity as well as his 2014 performance was more of a factor in this deal than they should be.  Rewarding players for past performance instead of likely future performance is something the Cardinals do quite often.  Even when it backfires on them like the Jaime Garcia deal did, and to a lesser degree the Allen Craig deal.  Though Jay’s deal is not a big financial burden, Jay will turn 30 years old very shortly, and most 30 year old players start to get worse, not better.  So whether Jay ends up being worth the deal, and worth blocking better players, remains to be seen.  The deal didn’t really save the Cardinals much if any money, so from a financial standpoint only, it doesn’t seem necessary.  It smacks of a reward for being a good guy and a good teammate while just being okay at baseball.

So no, I don’t like the deal at all.   Not even a little bit.  And as a fan of Peter Bourjos, seeing him get another year of sitting on the bench, when he has the talent to be a starter, doesn’t sit well with me.  It’s a huge waste of talent.

The signing of Jason Heyward was a huge coup for John Mozeliak and was very welcomed by me.  This deal takes a little shine off Mozeliak’s offseason in my opinion, however.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

Not a Good Start to the Offseason

You know, just when you think you know something, the universe has a way of showing you that all is not what it seems.  I got schooled in that fact yesterday when Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak held a press conference to discuss the 2014 season and plans for the offseason and 2015 season.  Nothing Mike Matheny said surprised me because I have come to expect inanities, bromides, and motivational speaker babble as his primary method of communicating.  He is a Tony Robbins wannabe in a baseball cap.  Expecting anything of substance from him would be like expecting a Taylor Swift song to be edgy.

However, I was knocked off my feet by the approach taken by GM John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak has always been more circumspect, more a creature of hedging rather than speaking in absolutes.  So imagine my surprise when he announces that Jon Jay has been anointed as the starting center fielder for 2015, before the World Series is even concluded, and 4 months before Spring Training begins.  Quite surprising considering the first deal Mozeliak made in the offseason last year was to trade for a replacement for Jay.  Mozeliak must have been blown away by all that slap hitting of singles and the “hey, I can catch the ball now” defense of Jay’s in 2014.   That is rather snarky of me I know; Jay had a very good year, I am not discounting that.  But baseball players are notorious for putting up great years and then tanking the following year.  Look at Allen Craig.   Did we learn nothing? So automatically proclaiming Jay CFer for the next season before he has even taken an AB in Spring Training seems like a teeny bit of Fate Tempting to me.

But that little bit of news was only a small part of the festivities.  We also learned that Randy Choate is on the trading block because he can’t do the thing he was never signed to do in the first place, the bench is no place for young players trying to establish themselves— old guys are better, and once again so you don’t forget, Oscar Taveras is fat and oh yeah, he doesn’t have passion for defense.  Maybe in a few weeks we will learn that Oscar kicks puppies and is a closet Cubs fan.

I can’t even talk about the prospect of more Daniel Descalso next season.  It’s too painful.

You want to know how I really feel about the presser?  Imagine Mike Matheny as Edgar Bergen and John Mozeliak as Charlie McCarthy.  If you are old enough to know what I am talking about you will get the rest.  If not, google it.

Part of me wants to believe the whole thing was a giant troll by Mozeliak.  Maybe it was just an exercise in damage control after the beating Mike Matheny took in the media for his awful managing in the NLCS.  If it was, couldn’t a statement by Mozeliak have done the trick?  Did we have to be subjected to that nauseating spectacle yesterday?

If all of it was legit, then I don’t know what to say except that I am hugely disappointed in John Mozeliak.  I don’t have a good feeling about the Cardinals going forward if this is the kind of handling we are to expect in the future.

Thank you for reading.

It’s Time For Some NoDoz

ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz…………..

 

Wha?  Sorry, I was napping there.  I was thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals and just dozed off.

 

Lost to the Marlins against last night.  No offense, no runs.  Adam Wainwright tried, Donovan Solano muscled a home run just inside the foul pole.  Casey McGehee wouldn’t have been on second base after a base hit, if Matt Holliday hadn’t played that base hit with his head up his….. well, where it shouldn’t have been.    Garrett Jones then ground out and if McGehee was on first base instead of second, that likely would have been a double play.  The third out would have then been made before Solano came to bat, and no home run would have happened.

Who knows what would have happened after that though.  The Cardinals couldn’t score any runs.  Maybe the Marlins would have scored eventually anyway and won the game.

What to do?  I don’t know, that’s Mozeliak’s job.  I just watch em, I don’t fix em.  That is I watch them as long as I can stay awake.  Or until catatonia sets in.

Has anyone checked some of these guys for a pulse lately?

It’s just sad, it really is.  Such promise at the start of the season and we now have this.  Whatever this is.  It doesn’t look much like a baseball team.  I look forward to watching some of the Little League World Series, where I might actually see some baseball worth watching.  I mean, there is a girl pitcher and everything.  There is also some baseball being played in Memphis, I hear.  Need to watch more of that.

One more game in Miami.  Justin Masterson is pitching.  Can’t wait to see what brilliant lineup Mike Matheny comes up with.  Well, yes I can, that was just sarcasm.  Need to see more of Daniel Descalso…….nope, more sarcasm.   I got nothing.

San Diego Padres back at Busch Stadium.  Already lost a series to them.  That doesn’t look promising.  Reds at Busch after that.  Maybe we can stir up some of that rivalry.  Get the competitive juices flowing. Stick pins in some Brandon Phillips dolls.  Wait, he’s on the DL.  Never mind.  Joey Votto?  DL also.  Johnny Cueto?  He might not pitch in that series.  I give up.

The thing is, fans are getting pretty tired of this team and its underachieving.  Blame Matheny, blame Mozeliak, blame John Mabry, blame (insert player here), it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that this team is boring, lifeless, and they stink (not the malodorous type, the you play baseball not so very good type).  Only so many ground ball outs a person can tolerate before the eyes glaze over.

Yeah, yeah, there is still plenty of baseball left to play, and we are not that far out, and yada, yada, yada.  I get it.  Have to keep the hopes up that the savior (or saviors) will ride in on the white horses and save the day.  Huzzah!

I am about cheerleaded out I have to tell you.  My positiveliness (I make up words, it keeps me awake) is about to run dry.  So sue me, I’m a lawyer and I need the work.

Now, about that girl pitcher………

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

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.

MGL on Baseball

The Baseball Analysis "no spin" zone!

A Blog of Their Own

Because chicks dig more than just the long ball

The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

On the Outside Corner

A (mostly) historical blog dedicated to the St. Louis Cardinals

Aaron Miles' Fastball

A blog on the St. Louis Cardinals

The view from here.

My thoughts and views on all things St. Louis Cardinals.

%d bloggers like this: