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.

 

 

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Ugly Is Not Virtuous, It’s Just Ugly

Yeah, I was pretty angry and frustrated.  This was tweeted early in the game, when the score was 2-1 and the offense was non-existent (as it often is).  After the Cardinals were up 6-2, I was feeling better and a little sheepish about my outburst.

But then the 8th inning happened.

Up until then I figured to own up to my premature acrimony and admit I was wrong.  This entire maddening, frustrating season has turned me into a shrew.  Then everything that kept me in a constant state of exasperation happened again in the 8th inning.  The manager who can’t get out of his team’s and his own way, did it again.  While we all watched in horror as he allowed Pat Neshek to continue to give up hits and runs until the lead was gone.

The game was won eventually, but at what cost?

Mike Matheny always has some eye-roll inducing, quixotic profundity to impart to the Cardinal faithful after one of these types of games.  As if to smugly inform us that there is always a method to his seeming madness, and we just don’t understand his genius.  Bah.  His screw-ups are often saved by sheer luck, or a determination on the part of his players to prevail despite him.

His luck is going to run out soon.  We all have felt it coming on.  It’s just a matter of when.

John Mozeliak says he has an ulcer.  Well get in line, baby.  Perhaps the Cardinals might spring for the antacid for all of Cardinal Nation.  Or better yet, get us a manager with a better functioning cerebral cortex.

Oh, there is all kinds of blame to go around.  This team has looked like it has been on life support for most of the season.  The players don’t get off that easy.  Matt Carpenter played like he didn’t know what a baseball and a glove were for.  Matt Adams has functioned at the plate like that wooden thing in his hand was a poisonous snake.  Our darling Yadier Molina treats the first pitch like it’s the only one he is going to get.  The Cardinals are the worst base-runners in baseball.  They couldn’t bunt properly if their life depended on it.  The Cardinals have coaches for this sort of thing, right?  You could have fooled me.

Yes, I am extremely frustrated.  The relief of last night’s win is not enough for me.  The playoffs are looming, and the ability to comeback against the worst team in baseball is not going to be a virtue worth a plug nickel then.

I envy the composure of the eternal optimists.  I hope they are not disappointed.  I really do.  I do not have the ability to be like them though.  I call them like I see them, and I don’t hold back. That is either a vice or a virtue, depending on how one views the world.  So be it.

I leave you with my parting tweet of last night.

Thank you for reading.

Thor And His Mighty Bat Of Thunder: A Game Recap

For the first 6 innings of last night’s game, I thought I had dreamt the last week of baseball.  The Cardinals were back to their old form, not hitting, not scoring runs, and just generally being boring.  The original starting pitcher for the Reds was injured after throwing 7 pitches, and a new pitcher, a lefty, was brought in who, prior to last night, had an ERA of 15.63.  Nevertheless, the Cardinals’ offense was stymied by him for 6 innings, managing only 4 hits and being struck out 5 times.  No one could figure out why the offense was so ineffective, because the pitcher, David Holmberg, wasn’t throwing anything special.  The curse of the soft-tossing lefty was apparently back.

Then the Reds brought in a familiar face, Manny Parra, another lefty, but one who the Cardinals had seen many times before.  The Cardinals promptly scored two runs off Parra, and the ball got rolling.  Shelby Miller had been pitching his heart out, and had kept the Reds at bay for 7 innings.  In the top of the eighth, still having only thrown 81 pitches, Mathenaging happened and Miller was removed after giving up a lead off single to Brandon PhillipsPat Neshek finished the inning with a fly out and a double play and the Cardinals came up to bat in the ninth.

[Begin dramatic musical interlude]  Then, after a walk by Sir Jon Jay of the Ample Booty and a Prince Matt Holliday of the Bulging Forearms single off the body of Reds’ evil pitcher Pedro Villarreal, the mighty Matt Adams (aka, Thor, God of Thunder ) hit a towering, long, 3 run homer to the center field seats, a fitting tribute to the long suffering Cardinal martyr, Sir Jason of LaRue.   The Goodly Knight Sam Freeman came in and finished the Reds off in the 9th.  Once more, victory was ours. [Dramatic music fade]

The first 6 innings can only be explained by the presence of two pitching profiles that strike fear in the hearts of Cardinals fans everywhere.  The Pitcher Never Seen Before and the Soft-Tossing Lefty.  Both were present in David Holmberg.  If you add in the High ERA Cy Young Pitcher, you have a hat trick.  The perfect storm of Cardinal offense suckitude.

Thankfully the perfect storm ended in the 7th inning.

In other NL Central news, the “Better than the Cardinals” Milwaukee Brewers lost again last night to the Marlins.  That’s a dozen, cousin.  Losses, that is, in the Brewers last 13 games.  The new second place team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, unfortunately won, so the Cardinals’ lead remains at 4.5 games.  The Cardinals’ win brought the magic number down to 15.

It’s good to be talking about magic numbers again.  Until a week ago, I was doubtful that would happen.

If you want to laugh, check out this hilarious game recap at the Reds’ SB Nation site, Red Reporter.  I especially loved the picture of the mythical creature, Grichuk:

 

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Quite a looker, ain’t he?  Looks like a 4 year old girl’s doll nightmare.

I guess if you suck as badly as the Reds do, you have to have something to laugh about.  Kudos to the clever writer at Red Reporter.

The Cardinals take on the Reds again tonight behind Michael Wacha and his pitch limit.  The Reds are offering The Shoplifter, Mike Leake.  I am especially looking forward to the Reds’ reaction to the other Cardinals’ mythical creature, The Tuivailala.  If he makes an appearance, of course.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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