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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The Brotherhood of Baseball

I have not posted here for a while.  I haven’t abandoned the blog, I have been both dealing with some personal health issues and have been doing some writing for another site that has taken my concentration away from the blog.  I haven’t had much to say lately anyway, most of my thoughts these days about the Cardinals are repetitious of many of the thoughts I have had all season.  But last night’s events have provoked me to speak up.  This will be a short post, I don’t want to bloviate about this topic but I do want to say something.

What I am talking about is last night’s horrible collision between Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos in the seventh inning.  Like everyone else I watched in horror as Stephen Piscotty lay motionless on the ground, after colliding with Peter Bourjos on a fly ball to the left center field gap.  Bourjos made a spectacular catch there, but the greatness of it was lost in the horrible events that followed.  It was right that the catch was not noticed, the well being of Stephen Piscotty had to be paramount.  Peter Bourjos knew that, it was clear that his first thought was to go to his teammate and summon help immediately.   As we all watched silently, one could not help but be concerned about the mental state of Piscotty’s teammates as well.

Baseball players are paid a lot of money, more money than many of us will ever see in a lifetime, to play a kid’s game for six months out of the year.  The hugeness of the salaries often leads to fans taking cynical views about players.  Many see them as overpaid divas, men who are pampered and spoiled, who think of no one and nothing but all the dollars in their bank accounts.  What gets lost in all this cynicism, I believe, is the notion that these men are like brothers to each other, like soldiers on a battlefield who protect and fight for each other.   These men spend months with each other, in clubhouses and hotels, long plane rides together, day after day.  They spend more time with their teammates than they do with their own families for half a year.  When one of them gets hurt, they all hurt with him.  They have to, the humanness of them mandates it.  It could just as easily be them, each of them, lying motionless on the grass, and they know it as profoundly as it is possible to know it.  There can be nothing more terrifying than that.

Matt Carpenter sat kneeling on the ground, as did Tony Cruz, and Kevin Siegrist.  The bullpen stood staring, wondering whether their teammate was going to get up, or even move.  Kolten Wong looked ready to burst into tears at any moment.  Jason Heyward comforted Peter Bourjos as he roamed, no doubt agonizing over what his tumbling body had done to his teammate.  Can any of us imagine what it must have been like to these men as they waited, hoping and praying that their brother was going to be alright?

Do we ever even consider the human side of these men we watch play this kid’s game?  Or do we just see them as a means to entertain us?  We praise or we condemn them based on what they do on the field, but do we think for even one second that they may be as vulnerable and emotional as the rest of us?  Do we even consider the possibility that the amount of money they make doesn’t define who they are?  These are a lot of questions, but I believe they are questions worth asking ourselves, especially before we make assumptions or say things about players that might be hurtful.

Stephen Piscotty lay motionless on the outfield grass last night and we all collectively held our breath.  When things like this happen, I like to think it is a good time to reflect on what it means to be a fan and what responsibilities we bear.  It’s a self reflection worth doing.

My thoughts and prayers are with Stephen Piscotty, his loved ones, his friends, and his teammates.

 

Peace.

Show Me The Money

As the time for Spring Training to begin comes closer, the first steps toward getting that new season roster in place began this week.  For those players who have 3 years of service time (less than three but more than two for a small minority) but have not yet reached the 6 years needed for free agency, their salaries will be determined by arbitration.  Yesterday at noon CT was the deadline for players and teams to submit salary numbers for the purpose of a possible arbitration of those players’ 2015 salaries.   For most, this process ends with a mutually agreeable deal being worked out between the parties before any arbitration takes place. For a few, an adversarial hearing before an arbitrator will determine what that player will be paid.  Most teams and players prefer to avoid this part of the process, because it can be unpleasant and contentious.  In a few rare cases it has resulted in hard feelings between player and club.  This is why both sides work very diligently in trying to avoid this outcome.

Leading into this week, the Cardinals had four players who were eligible for arbitration.  Those players were Lance Lynn, Tony Cruz, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay.  Lynn and Cruz were first time arbitration eligible; Bourjos and Jay are in their second year of this process.  By the deadline yesterday, all but Jon Jay had worked out a deal to avoid the hearing.  As of this writing, Jay does not have a deal, but salary numbers have been submitted.  The passing of the deadline does not mean that a deal cannot still be accomplished; the sides can reach a mutually acceptable deal anytime before the arbitration hearing occurs.  The Cardinals have not had a case go to the arbitrator since 1999, so it is very unlikely that a deal for Jay will not be reached.

The following is a synopsis of the status of the four players:

 

Lance Lynn—Starting pitcher, 3.119 years of service time.

On Thursday, the Cardinals and Lynn reached an agreement for a 3 year, 22 million dollar deal (23.5 M with incentives).  This deal covers all 3 of Lynn’s arbitration years.  There was some surprise that the deal did not go beyond 3 years, it was expected that at least one of Lynn’s free agent years would be bought as well, perhaps with an option.  That did not happen, but the deal is still reasonable and team friendly.  Extending Lynn was a wise move for the Cardinals, given the uncertainty of the future for the rotation.  Lynn has been a solid, durable starter for the Cardinals, so far virtually injury free, and providing plenty of innings for the club.  This deal will insure cost certainty for the Cardinals, something that is welcome in a time of fluctuating payroll. I like the deal very much for the Cardinals.

Tony Cruz—-Catcher, 3.105 years of service time.

Cruz is the Cardinals back up catcher.  Being the back up to Yadier Molina is like being the Maytag Repairman.  Kudos to Cruz for being the sacrificial lamb.  Cruz doesn’t get much love from the Cardinal faithful, but from all accounts he is much liked and respected by his teammates and his manager.  Cruz won’t wow you; he can’t hit much and his defense, though above league average, pales in the blinding light of Molina’s stardom.  Many fans wish the Cardinals had a better back up than Cruz (admittedly I have professed those sentiments myself).  The team is sticking with Cruz, however, for the time being.  Cruz and the Cardinals settled on a salary of $775,000, a modest increase for Cruz over last season.

Peter Bourjos—Center field, 4.062 years of service time.

Similarly to Tony Cruz, Bourjos, in his second year with the Cardinals, spent last season as Jon Jay’s unloved stepbrother, playing around 650 innings in center field.  Bourjos got much more playing time than Cruz,  and unlike Cruz, is talented enough to deserve more.  Whether he will get it remains to be seen, as Jon Jay is again slated to be the starting center fielder.  Bourjos could be a starter on almost any other team, but his position with the Cardinals is murky. Both a better defender and a better base runner than Jay,  Bourjos’ year with the bat was limited by playing time and a nagging hip injury that was corrected this off season with surgery.  Now that he enters 2015 healthy, Bourjos has an opportunity to show what he can do at the plate.

Bourjos and the Cardinals agreed on Thursday to a salary of 1.65 million for 2015.  This is a bargain for someone with Bourjos’ talent; a good 2015 season will help him for next season.

Jon Jay—Center field, 4.134 years of service time.

Jay had a good year with the bat in 2014, though it is a bat with no power.  Jay hit .303/.372/.378, with 16 doubles, 3 triples and 3 HRs.  Jay is an average defender at center field, but he is limited by a very poor arm. Jay also played some time in both left field and right field last season.  Jay is a high OBP, high BABIP offensive player; though he hits 80% singles, he gets on base at a high rate, which is very valuable.  Jay also has a propensity to get hit by pitches, a career high 20 times in 2014, leading the NL  last season in HBP.

The Cardinals and Jay were unable to reach agreement by the deadline.  The Cardinals submitted a salary figure of 4.1 million, an increase of $850,000 over his 2014 salary of 3.25 million.  Jay submitted a salary figure of 5 million.  It is likely that the parties will reach agreement somewhere near the midpoint at 4.5 million.  In the unlikely event that the matter reaches an arbitration hearing, that will take place sometime in February.

 

That is your recap of this week’s arbitration news.   Nothing earth shattering or melodramatic, just business as usual for the Cardinals.

It is 32 days until pitchers and catchers report.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

My Winter Wishes: Hot Stove 2014-2015

In my last post I stated that I would write another post regarding possible off season transactions (or non-transactions) that the Cardinals should make.  This is that post.  I am just a fan, not any sort of expert, so my suggestions are nothing more than an amateur opinion.  I confess right now to not having much insight into the trade value of any player, major or minor league, or any idea of what the market is going to be.  These are all just shots in the dark.  They are also, admittedly, tinged with some personal bias on my part.  I will do this by naming a current Cardinal player first and then stating what I think should be done with that player.  I will talk about arb-eligible players as well as free agents and even some not yet arb-eligible players.

 

FREE AGENTS:

1.  Jason Motte—-This will be Motte’s first foray into free agency.  Motte is one season removed from Tommy John surgery, a season where predictably he was not very effective.  Motte has always been a pitcher who relies primarily on his fastball velocity and that velocity was down this season.  At 98-99 mphs Motte is effective.  At 95-96 mph not so much, because he has no secondary pitch of any substance to offset that.  Yes, he has a cutter, but it is too much like his fastball to make a difference.  Now, whether Motte’s fastball velocity will return to his pre TJ numbers is anybody’s guess.  However, I don’t think it matters, because the Cardinals already have hard throwers Rosenthal and Martinez on the roster, with several others waiting in the wings, such as Sam Tuivailala.  Relievers are very fungible, so I would expect Motte has pitched his last as a Cardinal.  Good luck to him.

2.  Pat Neshek—Part of me would like to see Neshek return to the Cardinals on a one year deal.  The bigger part of me realizes that:  (a) Neshek can probably get a better deal somewhere else; and (b) because relievers are fungible and there is no guarantee that Neshek can replicate his 2014 success, the Cardinals should let him move on.

3.  Mark Ellis—I thought this was a good deal when it was made.  Ellis is an above-average defender at second base and it was worth a shot.  It didn’t work out.  I wish him well in his future endeavors.

4. Justin Masterson—It was worth a shot to see if Masterson could bring some short term value.  It didn’t happen.  I still don’t think the trade was a bad idea, because I was not that high on James Ramsey to begin with (we have better outfield prospects) and we traded from depth.  You win some, you lose some.  Masterson taught Shelby Miller to throw a sinker, so he had some value after all.  Bye Bye.

5.  A.J. Pierzynski.  I was not a big fan of this acquisition when it first happened, but he grew on me.  He is the other free agent, along with Neshek, that I have a moderate amount of angst about losing.  Not so much for his baseball skills, but just because of his personality.  I think we need someone like A.J in that milquetoast atmosphere the Cardinals call a clubhouse.  A little too much buttoned up sanctimony and inbreeding for my taste.  Having John Lackey back may help, but A.J. would be ideal.  Alas, we could really use a decent back up catcher and A.J. just isn’t that guy.  Neither is Tony Cruz, but that is covered below.  See ya, A.J.

 

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE PLAYERS:

1.  Daniel Descalso—This guy is on the top of my list of players who have to go.  It’s not personal, but he has little to no value on the roster.  Can’t hit, can’t field.  He is also one of Mike Matheny’s favorites, which is reason enough to let him go.   If no one will take him in a trade, then he should be non-tendered.  Do it Mo.

2.  Tony Cruz—I actually like Tony Cruz, but my liking him doesn’t mean he should remain on the team.  We need a new back up catcher, one that can hit some.  I realize that Mike Matheny has this thing for never pinch hitting the back up catcher, but that needs to change.  It’s really stupid.  The Cardinals have a history of valuing defense more than offense in their catchers, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, if you can find a good defensive catcher who can also hit, he is probably a starter.  A hitting catcher on the bench would be a nice change of pace.  So, I suggest the Cardinals look for one, and Tony Cruz be either traded or non-tendered.

3.  Shane Robinson—Good ole Shane is not without value (he is a pretty good outfield defender and has some speed), but not enough value to keep him with all the outfield depth the Cardinals have.  We have other options for a 4th OFer, which is all he has ever been.  Trade or non-tender.

4.  Lance Lynn—Can you spell extension?  Like the Cardinals should really give him one.  If not, obviously he should be tendered a contract.  He is going to get a substantial raise in arbitration, and he deserves one.  Right now I see him as the Cardinals #2 starter.  This is a no-brainer.

5.  Jon JayThis one and the next one are going to get some folks’ dander up.  I don’t care.  Trade him.  Jay’s value is never going to be as high as it is now and his arbitration salary is going to approach 6M, which in my opinion is too much for a 2nd year arb player whose only really good skill is hitting a lot of singles and getting on base.  He’s also going to be 30 years old in March.  Can you spell decline?  His defense was better this year,(it was terrible last year), but how many people have in the back of their mind that only happened because he had some very stiff competition named Peter Bourjos?  A player worth paying 6M to shouldn’t have to be motivated by outside forces to play his best.  Moreover, that throwing arm is a train wreck and he is the worst base runner on the team in terms of making outs on the basepaths.  Get something of value for him before his value goes down.  My suggestion?  See: Tony Cruz, above—a hitting back up catcher.  How about Evan Gattis?  The Braves are likely to trade him, Gattis can really hit, and the Braves could use a center fielder who isn’t B.J. Upton.

6.  Peter Bourjos—What you saw this year in terms of offense is not the real Peter Bourjos.  Trust me, this is my 4th season of watching him play.  Is he a .300 hitter?  No.  But he has the ability to be a .270ish hitter with regular playing time, and with his defense and speed that makes him better than Jon Jay.  He also has a little pop in his bat.  The only reservation I have about keeping him on the team is that he has to play for Mike Matheny.  As we have seen with Oscar Taveras, if Matheny has taken a dislike to Bourjos, he will find any excuse he can to not play him.  That means Randal Grichuk as the every day center fielder (assuming Jay is traded).  Randal Grichuk is not the defensive center fielder that Bourjos is, he isn’t as fast, he strikes out more than Bourjos does, and he can’t hit RHP consistently.  He is an inferior CFer to Bourjos in every way,  which means that Matheny will play him and not Bourjos.  Without some intervention from Mozeliak it will be 2014 all over again.  Which isn’t fair to an elite CFer who deserves to play every day.  So, keep him if Mozeliak can some how force Matheny to play him.  If not, then give him the opportunity to play every day somewhere else.

 

NON ARB PLAYERS:

1.  Oscar Taveras—There are some Cardinals fans who think Oscar Taveras will or should be traded.  That is incredibly, monumentally dumb.  Oscar Taveras did not play enough in 2014 for ANY fair evaluation of his skills or future potential.  Those who make judgements about players based on small sample sizes just annoy the hell out of me.  Maybe he has some work ethic issues.  Maybe he has some conditioning issues.  Maybe he is only 22 years old and folks need to chill out.  Maybe Mike Matheny should spend less time criticizing Taveras and more time making sure he is getting the help that he needs to improve in these areas.  Oscar should still be a Cardinal in 2o15.

2.  Randal Grichuk—I want to like Randal Grichuk.  Until Mike Matheny decided he was the anti-Taveras, I actually did.  Not as a starting OFer, but as a 4th OFer to hit against LHP and be a defensive sub in the corners.  If Jon Jay is traded and Mozeliak makes Matheny play Peter Bourjos and Oscar Taveras every day then Randal Grichuk as a bench player is perfect.  Otherwise, he needs to go, either back to Memphis or to another team.  The bottom line is that we can’t have another repeat of 2014.  The Cardinals as managed by Mike Matheny cannot have Jay, Bourjos, Taveras and Grichuk all competing for playing time again.  Matheny can’t be trusted.

 

I am not going to address those players who are on the fringes of the big league club, like Tommy Pham, Greg Garcia, Pete Kozma and Xavier Scruggs.  How or if they are incorporated into next year’s team will depend on what moves Mozeliak makes in the offseason. It is entirely possible if Daniel Descalso is gone from the team, Kozma or Garcia will take his place.  Tommy Pham could be in the OF mix depending on offseason moves as well.  I just don’t have a good read on how they fit in so I am leaving them out. Assuming Motte and Neshek don’t return, there could be additions to the bullpen as well.

I am sure there are many who would like Mozeliak’s biggest offseason move to be firing Mike Matheny.  While that idea is not unpleasant to me, I believe it is extremely unlikely.  We are stuck with him.  I just want Mozeliak to minimize the damage he can inflict by making the roster as Matheny proof as possible.

Let’s hope 2015 begins and ends better.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

Mathenaging: NLCS Edition

That was a fugly game.  No two ways around it.  I didn’t expect the Cardinals to walk all over Madison Bumgarner , but I did expect something approximating a playoff caliber team effort.   I didn’t get it.

Let’s start with a very poor start by Adam Wainwright.   Then add some bad defense, lackluster offense and then top it off with a sizeable dose of Mathenaging and you have a suck sandwich.   Not very appetizing I must say.

For starters,  Randal Grichuk should not be batting second;  he really shouldn’t be starting at all, at least not on a regular basis.  The lovers of small sample sizes are just never going to get it are they? Apparently 2012 Pete Kozma taught these folks nothing.  Mike Matheny I am talking to you too. Oscar Taveras may not have lit the world on fire in his small sample size time in the big leagues, but at least he has several years of minor league numbers and the opinions of a whole lot  of smart baseball people that say he is better than Randal Grichuk. Heck,  even if playing Oscar is not palatable,  Jon Jay in RF amd Peter Bourjos in CF is way better than Jay/Grichuk any day of the week.   At least Peter Bourjos can catch the damn balls and hold onto them.

It was clear in the 2nd inning that Waino was a bust.   But Matheny had to keep him in until he gave up 3 runs.  What were his other options you say?  Well there is this guy named Michael Wacha on the roster, and if he is on the roster shouldn’t he like, you know,  be available to pitch?  I know it’s a difficult concept and all, this roster thing, but work with me here.  And if he is not available to pitch in these kind of situations then WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING ON THE DAMN ROSTER?   Sorry for the screaming but my patience is being sorely tested.

Then, to put the cherry on top of the Mathenaging parfait,  he brings out Tony Cruz to pinch hit in the 7th inning with runners in scoring position and a chance to put some runs on the board.  Tony Freaking Cruz.  Um, was Peter Bourjos dead?  I don’t get what Matheny’s problem is with Bourjos. Did Peter spit in his Cheerios?    Even Oscar Taveras against the lefty  Bumgarner was a better option than Tony Cruz.  I swear I don’t know how John Mozeliak’s head doesn’t explode when Matheny pulls dumb stunts like that.

Matheny didn’t blow this game all by himself.  That would  be too easy.  In addition to poor pitching by Waino we had some defensive non-gems by the aforementioned Randal Grichuk, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter.  And in an encore of What Else Could Go Wrong delights, there was a Balk That Never Was that was missed by a grand total of 6 umpires who apparently were looking at the babes in the crowd at the time because it was so obvious even Helen Keller would have seen it.

Madison Bumgarner pitched a great game, there is no question about it.  You have to give credit where credit is due.  But with an offense that has consistently made Clayton Kershaw want to cry in the postseason, one would think a few runs could have been scored.  I think most people certainly expected a little better showing by the Cardinals.  This is the postseason after all, and even though the Giants have some Magic Postseason Pixie Dust of their own, the Cardinals are no slouch.

I certainly hope for better things in tonight’s game.  I don’t think losing pitifully to the Giants in another NLCS is something I want to experience again.  I have enough misery in my life to last me three lifetimes, thank you.

Ugh.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

There Is No Poetic Justice In Baseball

So I missed two games in a row.  Couldn’t be helped.  They would have to be these two games.  Well, barring anything unforeseen I will be watching tomorrow.  On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t, they have scored 17 runs in two games with me not watching.   Hmmmm.

Kolten Wong hit another home run.  This is getting to be a habit.  Tony Cruz had a good game too.  Despite what people who don’t seem to understand the concept of small sample sizes think, Cruz is not a bad hitter.  He’s never going to tear up the league, but he was a decent hitter in the minor leagues.  He just needs to play to hit.  Gee, what a concept.  Too bad a lot of people don’t seem to understand that one either.

I missed the Gabe Kapler Incident, too.  It’s too bad that a guy with so much promise as an announcer (he understands sabermetrics, which is a first), wasn’t more careful.  I doubt he meant it as a slight against Molina, but it wasn’t very professional.  What annoys me more, though, is how so much is made of playing in the All Star Game.  Like it is some prestigious award or something.  The whole thing is a farce.  I mean, why should anybody care whether Jonathan Lucroy or Bugs Bunny starts the freaking All Star Game?  Is Jonathan Lucroy going to be less of a player if he doesn’t start?  He’s had a better offensive 3 months than Molina and all of a sudden it’s a matter of national pride that he didn’t get voted in over Molina?  Give me a break.  I would expect homer fans to be outraged that their guy didn’t win,  but a professional on a national broadcast?  Do better Mr. Kapler.

Unfortunately, the only thing that all the complaining on Twitter will do is make sure we all wake up to another “Let’s Trash Cardinals Fans, It Gets Us Mucho Page Views” article from Deadspin.  This is another of my pet peeves.  What fanbase doesn’t get upset when someone disses one of their players?  Anybody think if Gabe Kapler had said the same thing about some other player, that that player’s fanbase wouldn’t be outraged?  Yet, many act as if  Cardinals fans are unique to being protective and defensive about their players, as if it was some kind of monstrous disease that only they had.  That whole “Best Fans in Baseball” nonsense probably contributes to it, but still, it’s just ridiculous to suggest Cardinals fans are any dumber or sillier than other fans.  People really need to grow the hell up.

Being tied for first place is nice.  Being there all by our lonesome would be better.  Too bad the All Star break is coming up, it might slow down this offensive momentum.  I was so happy that Adam Wainwright got all this run support, it was about time.  I wish he hadn’t had the two runs scored, because he is going to have to be twice as good as Clayton Kershaw to get any consideration for the Cy Young award.  That is too much to ask for any pitcher, but when you don’t get the recognition that Kershaw gets you are fighting an uphill battle with the voters. I’m not knocking Kershaw, I love the guy, but let’s face it, he gets extra points from the media just for being Clayton Kershaw.  Waino is usually just an afterthought, like “yeah, that guy is pretty good too”.  However, Waino has to out-pitch Kershaw, and so far it’s pretty dang close.  Kershaw’s next start is likely to be against the Cardinals, so our guys need to step it up and whup up on him.

Get out the brooms tomorrow folks.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

It’s Make or Break Time

The news about Yadier Molina‘s injury was the capper on an already bad day.  Perhaps I should say an already bad season.  The Cardinals offense had kicked it up a notch at the beginning of the Pirates series, but I have learned to be cautious.  Let’s just say I have trust issues with this team.  The Cardinals were headed into the possibility of a four game sweep of one of our NL Central rivals in an important week of baseball and then the bomb was dropped that the glue that held this team together (such as it was) was lost for possibly the remainder of the season.  It was our worst nightmare come true.  Add to that some frustrating personal issues, and my day was about as bad as it could get.

Losing the fourth game of the series in an ugly beat down was just the cream cheese icing on the proverbial nightmare cake.

It’s good to put a positive spin on it all.  The Cardinals won 3 of 4 from the Pirates.  That’s the correct way to look at it.  Somewhere in some hidden alcove of the black comedy that is my life, there still lies the ability to look at the bright side.  It’s just playing hide and seek.

So, Tony Cruz is a pretty good catcher.  Many teams would love to have him.  That is the way I have to think about it.  Perhaps Audry Perez will be a bright spot.  Perhaps John Mozeliak will find a deal he likes for another catcher.  It’s not the end of the world.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The Brewers series this weekend is crucial.  It presents the possibility of going into the All Star break in first place in the division.  It would take a sweep to do it.  A sweep by the Cardinals of course.  The other alternative would be a place where no Cardinal fan wants to go.  Joe Kelly, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez will go against Yovanni Gallardo, some guy named Jimmy Nelson, and Wily Peralta.  A guy the Cardinals usually whip up on, a guy that they have never seen before (not always a good thing), and a guy that they have had some issues with.  Kind of a mixed bag.  The potential is there for a sweep but the execution is iffy.

I am avoiding talking about last night’s game, because, well, what would be the point?  It was a beat down, it was ugly, we have seen it before, I would just be repeating myself.  I have come to see, among many other things, that I am not on the same page with most Cardinals fans where it concerns this team.   I have lived a long life working in a profession, the law, where digging beneath the surface of people is a necessity for success.  Perhaps that has made me jaded, or turned me into some wacko who sees the boogey man everywhere.  I have often wondered those things myself.  However, the truth is I don’t just accept what I see at face value all the time.  I have seen and experienced too much for that.

Regardless, I do want to enjoy what is left of this season.  Whether I will is yet to be determined.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

The Little Stepbrother Gets No Respect

Lance Lynn got his 4th win yesterday.  He got his 3rd win in Milwaukee with Tony Cruz behind the plate.  It was Lynn’s best performance so far.  Many fans speculated then if maybe Lynn pitches better with Cruz behind the plate.  It seems like it should not be so, after all the Cardinals have the best catcher in baseball, Yadier Molina, well known for his ability to work with pitchers.  Perhaps there is something to it though, because Matheny again started Cruz yesterday with Lynn on the mound.  Lynn didn’t match his Milwaukee performance, not as many strikeouts, and he made one mistake pitch to Danny Espinosa for a solo home run.  Lynn appeared to run out of gas in the 6th and was taken out, but he pitched well, not having the frustrating “big inning” that often marks a Lance Lynn start.

Lynn was asked about working with Cruz in his post game interview.  He explained that he and Cruz have been together since A ball and that he was a good catcher.  He said he is the only one of the starting rotation who threw to Cruz in the minor leagues.  Perhaps that explains his apparent comfort with Cruz.  In any event, that battery appears to be working, so keeping it going may be worthwhile.

I will say it now, because I have said it before and I will continue to say it.  Tony Cruz does not get enough respect.  This guy has the hardest job in major league baseball—being the back up catcher for Yadier Molina.  Cruz is a good catcher, make no mistake about that.  He has never had enough playing time in the majors to show what he can do with the bat.  Many folks don’t seem to understand the concept that if you don’t play with any regularity, you are not going to hit.  When you don’t even pinch hit, the amount of ABs you end up getting is so miniscule as to make the idea of putting together any kind of hitting profile a near impossibility.  Yet Cruz manages to come through pretty well for someone who hardly ever plays.  Cruz was a decent hitter in the minor leagues, he had a career BA in the minors of .266 over 5 seasons.  On the defensive side, Cruz’s minor league career caught stealing percentage was 44%.  That is Yadier Molina territory.  With the tiny amount of playing time Cruz has received in the major leagues, he still has managed a caught stealing percentage  of 33%, which is well above league average.  The bottom line is that Tony Cruz could easily be the starting catcher on many major league teams.  Think about that.

As Molina ages, he is going to need more time off to stay fresh.  The Cardinals would be smart to start now giving him that time off and utilizing the talents of Tony Cruz.  Good back up catchers are hard to come by, and Cruz has the trust of the pitching staff and the skills to take the pressure off Molina.  As much as we all like to see Molina in the lineup every day, he is not going to maintain his level of excellence forever and it’s time to think about the future.  If the Cardinals want to get the most they can out of Molina’s remaining years, lessening his playing time behind the plate is the best way to accomplish that.  It’s time to stop being selfish about Molina and give Tony Cruz the playing time he has earned.

 

Thank you for reading.

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