Most of the time, I write posts in this space for the enjoyment and supposed edification of others. If you read here regularly, you would seem to come for a little bit of knowledge or looking at some of the news of the day in perhaps a slightly different light.
That’s not this post. This post is completely for my benefit. It won’t hurt my feelings if you skip this one or click over to see what the Preacher is talking about today. I’m writing this for one reason and one reason only.
I keep forgetting Mark Ellis is on this team.
Ellis’s signing was in the news around the middle of December, at a time where I was much too busy with Christmas parties and planning to find the time to write a post. Not only that, but Gateway to Baseball Heaven was on its winter hiatus, so I could even talk it over with Tara to get her insights. The move registered, but apparently didn’t stick in my head. He didn’t make it into my look at the Redbirds for Old Time Family Baseball, though he should have. Even this week, when I was writing a short 2014 preview for the upcoming UCB ebook (more on that soon!), I spent some time trying to figure out why Daniel Descalso‘s job was truly threatened by the numbers game. It wasn’t until I was a Twitter conversation with Dan Buffa, Matt Whitener and Corey Rudd that Ellis was remembered to me and I realized what I’d missed.
So this post is to rectify my apparent mental lapse. I figure if I write a little about Ellis, maybe I’ll remember he’s wearing the birds on the bat!
Ellis wasn’t necessarily the masterstroke of the offseason for John Mozeliak, but he was a savvy move that could pay as many dividends as some of the flashier moves Mo made. He was the regular starter at second for a playoff team last season, but was willing to take a reduction in playing time to join the Cardinals. He’s a career .265 hitter with an OPS of .720, which may not scream All-Star, but is a serious upgrade from what was coming off the bench last season in St. Louis.
Ellis may be getting paid more like a starter (he’ll make $5.25 million this season, basically what he earned last year with the Dodgers) but that’s more a function of the cheaper talent the Cardinals have. When you have an infield where three of the four starters are earning under a million (though that might change when they settle up with Matt Carpenter), you can afford to go pricey on a quality backup. The cushion a player like Ellis gives to this team is worth having a little more money on the bench than usual.
I think Cardinal fans are smart enough to know that there’s no second base controversy. Kolten Wong is the starter and is going to be for hopefully a long time to come. What Ellis allows for is not having to force Wong to fight through slumps or face some tough left-handers in his first full season. It allows Wong to ease into the big leagues somewhat and gives the Cardinals options when it comes to extra innings or needing a solid pinch-hitter.
Will Cardinal fans continue to be patient with Wong if he struggles and Ellis starts off strong? Most of them will be, I think. Much of the fanbase has bought into this idea of letting the kids play and grow, basically because it’s provided a ton of results so far. There will be the crazy Cards Talk commenters or the quick-fix folks that might grumble, but they aren’t representative of the general fanbase, I don’t believe. There’s no doubt there’d be more angst about things if Tony La Russa and his penchant for playing the veteran was still around, but with Mike Matheny it’s pretty obvious that Wong is going to get a fair shake.
Again, this is nothing new, nothing you’ve not already thought of and worked out. I just needed to get something down to keep my thinking straight. Thanks for humoring me!