Picking Up Where We Left Off

All right, where were we?  We discussed the arbitration guys, Chris Carpenter‘s move to the front office, and the new Cardinal Hall of Fame.  However, there was much, much more coming out of this weekend in St. Louis.  Let’s touch on a couple of other things.

This time last year, Lance Lynn was ruffling some feathers by assuming he was a lock for the rotation since he was coming off an 18-win season, even though he’d struggled down the stretch in 2013.  Of course, I can’t find the direct quotes now, but when asked if he thought he was in competition for the rotation, he seemed to dismiss that, saying “I’m a starter now” and that “nobody’s told me there’s a competition.”

Now, I’m 85% sure that Lynn will be in the starting rotation next season.  He has spent two years in the rotation (though not completely exclusively) and even with the glut of starting pitchers, it seems pretty likely he’ll go north as the third or fourth man in the rotation.

With that caveat, man, Lynn must be the most tone-deaf player the Cardinals have seen for a while.  This is a fan base that tends to appreciate the players, even the stars, saying they are coming in to fight for a spot.  Albert Pujols used to say that about first base.  It was obvious that it was probably hyperbole, but we also saw Pujols work like nothing was guaranteed.  If anyone could have gotten the big head this winter, it was Michael Wacha, but Wacha’s quote was “My mind-set going into spring training is to try to win a job.”

To some degree, Lynn is in a catch-22.  As apparently (it’s not something I follow closely, but right now it’s hard to avoid it) Richard Sherman in football is finding out, we tend to say we want honest and interesting answers out of our athletes, then we bust on them when they actually stray away from the cliches.  Our good friend Jon Doble Tweeted this out yesterday:

That really does seem to be the case at times.  We want the players to appear honest and forthright when they are saying how hard they work or how much they love the town and the fans.  Anything that starts to sound arrogant or cocky, the attitude shifts like Matt Adams is coming up to bat.

Perhaps that’s what this is.  Perhaps Lynn comes off more arrogant when he’s just trying for honest.  It’s reasonable for him to assume that the Cards plan to use him as a starter if no one has actually told him otherwise.  But, boy, at least in the abstract and perhaps out of context, it just rubs people the wrong way.

Our intrepid reporter Kevin Reynolds tweeted out a Lynn quote on Sunday: “Some young guys in this league need to show they can do it two years in a row.”  This from a guy that can’t put two halves of a season together?  If we are going by that standard, the Cards should yank Lynn from the rotation right after the All-Star Break, because he’s shown two years in a row that he can’t seem to handle the summer portion of the schedule.

I’m not saying that the team needs to import Kevin Costner to have him work on his cliches, but sanding off the rough edges wouldn’t be a bad thing.  Then again, perhaps we are conditioned to react to Lynn’s comments in a different way than we would someone else.  As there doesn’t seem to be anyone else on the team commenting in such a fashion, it’s hard to know for sure.

Let’s talk a little about the outfield situation today.  It’s interesting to hear Peter Bourjos say that he wants to steal 40 bases this upcoming season.  You have to figure he’s going to be hitting seventh or eighth, which isn’t necessarily prime stealing position.  Then again, a steal in front of the pitcher, followed by a sacrifice bunt, and you could well be in business.  The Cards haven’t really had a base stealer in quite some time, so watching him will be an interesting dynamic.

The health of the outfielders was a talking point as well.  Oscar Taveras says he’ll be 100% by spring training, an assessment backed up by John Mozeliak.  Allen Craig seems to be ready to run and move in the outfield as well after his late-season injury last year.

Which means that the composition of the outfield could be a pretty hot topic in Jupiter this year.  While Mozeliak cautioned putting a lot of expectations on Taveras, remember that the club almost promoted him so he could play in the 2012 postseason.  The talent hasn’t dimmed and the outlook for him hasn’t changed either.  Mozeliak can be outwardly cautious, but I’m still in the camp that says a very strong spring gets Taveras into a red convertible for Opening Day in St. Louis.

The Cardinals have never been a club that at least overtly has made moves with arbitration limits in mind.  When a player is ready and there is a need, they’ll promote him regardless.  I’m sure that comes into the equation, but it doesn’t seem to be the dominant factor that it is for some other clubs.  Given the arbitration and the recovery from injury, there’s no shame in Taveras returning to Memphis–indeed, it’s the most likely option–but it’s not a given.

There’s a lot to be said for invoking that three-man weave that St. Louis used last year with Carlos Beltran, Adams and Craig.  Replace Beltran with Taveras and all the same benefits still apply, plus some new ones.  People get regular rest.  The bench is strengthened.  Craig doesn’t have to constantly be running on that foot if he can spend some time at first.  Taveras can ease his way into the majors and not have to be counted on from Day 1 to play every day and produce.

Really, the only person who wouldn’t be excited about that is Shane Robinson, because a great Taveras spring guarantees he’ll be heading down to Memphis instead.  With Taveras’s talent, Oscar’s going to be in the big leagues soon enough.  Selfishly, we can hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The outfielders keep on coming, though.  There’s a nice Q & A with Stephen Piscotty up at the Post-Dispatch.  You’ll likely see him, Randal Grichuk, and James Ramsey at Memphis, at least after Taveras gets promoted.  Plus there’s Mike O’Neill to factor in.  I’ll leave that to the Preacher, though, to sort through all those possibilities! (Never mind, I see he already did!)

There’s still more from this weekend to digest, but we’ll see about doing some more tomorrow.  Sound good?

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