My wife and I surprised the kids by taking them to The Lego Movie last night. Besides the completely incredible Star Wars cameo (my wife said afterwards she thought I was going to come out of my chair when the theme started playing and I’m surprised I didn’t), the one thing that most everyone will take away from that film is the ridiculously catchy song that plays all the way through it.
For Cardinal fans, right now everything is awesome. The Redbirds show up at the top of most every ranking and people continue to assume that the postseason–and a long postseason–are in store just as soon as they get rid of this pesky season. If you were a member of a Lego town, you might be wondering when the big wrecking ball was coming.
Things this well hyped don’t often stand the test of time. Remember the Nationals of last year? Many people–including myself–had them in the World Series. Not so much. The Red Sox of 2012 were supposed to be right there for a title, but instead finished in last place. History is littered with teams that looked great on paper but hit the real world and crumbled.
There’s little reason, besides just general caution, to think that will be the case with the Cardinals this year, given their talent and their depth. The only thing that might derail them would be any issue with Yadier Molina, because he’s the only player on this team that’s completely irreplaceable. (Though new shortstop Jhonny Peralta comes pretty close as well.) Mike Matheny said yesterday that there are no specific plans in place when it comes to Yadi’s playing time. While “going with how he feels” is a nice theory, it’s a dangerous philosophy.
You’ve seen the Black Knight from Monty Python, of course. I have a feeling that Yadi could have both legs gone and one arm broken and he’d still want to be out there on the field, telling Matheny it was just a flesh wound. There’s no doubt that the Cardinals need Molina on the field as much as possible, but this is a situation where less can lead to more. I’m sure Matheny and the staff will monitor it, but hopefully we won’t see Molina catching 15 innings or for three consecutive weeks. Man needs a break every once in a while, whether he admits it or not.
Molina, on the other hand, thinks that he can do more than he’s been doing. Not quite sure how that is possible, given his elevated all around game, but it sounds good. It’s a great mindset to have and one of the things that makes Molina so special. Having that drive to always improve, even when the bar is set so high, is a difficult thing to have but the best ones always have it.
Albert Pujols passed that mentality down to Molina. Perhaps Molina can pass that down to the newest phenom. Oscar Taveras, who we talked about some earlier in the week, probably made that whole conversation moot by being cleared for baseball activities yesterday, though there are still a few running restrictions. Wednesday I probably would have put his chances at going north with the club at 10%. Today, I’d say 20-25% with a bullet. Taveras is still going to have to hit, of course, but he’s already adding a new discussion dimension to this club.
Last spring, Taveras hit .289/.325/.421 with two homers in 76 at-bats. Given the depth the Cardinals have, I think he’d have to have a better spring than that this season to crack the Opening Day roster. With Allen Craig where you’d like to put Taveras and Matt Adams where you’d move Craig, there’s no reason to force that piece into the puzzle. However, if he lights up the spring like Michael Wacha did last year, Matheny and John Mozeliak will gladly shuffle the pieces to get him into a major league uniform.
Here’s a fascinating side effect of such a young and talented roster–there aren’t enough “veterans” to lead the group workouts. So you have relative newbies such as Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly being mentors for folks like Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez. Which could be a negative if Miller and Kelly didn’t quite know what to do (and therefore install bad habits or wrong information) but they’ve both been around long enough to not have that issue. Trusting them with leadership could be a positive thing as well, as it can give them the maturity and confidence that they can then apply into their regular routines.
Speaking of Gonzales, the Cards got a look at the lefty drafted in 2013 yesterday. It’s not likely he’ll follow Wacha’s path, but a strong spring could in theory get him to start at AA Springfield, though that might be a stretch. Still, it’s nice to know that not all of the young talent has been promoted just yet. With all the televised games this spring, I hope to get a chance to catch one of his outings as well.
We started with one irreplaceable, let’s end with another. Peralta is already in camp, trying to get an early start on integrating himself on this team. It’s interesting to hear that Peralta’s PED issue was, according to Mozeliak, “not your traditional performance enhancer” and might have been more of a weight loss thing. Not that it makes a ton of difference–breaking the rules is breaking the rules–but it does put a little different light on the situation.
I’m really interested to see what Peralta is going to bring to this team. If the soft-focus spring stories are accurate, he’s sorry for what he’s done and there seems little chance of him doing it again. How will his performance be affected, though? As Mo points out, his numbers during his PED usage were actually down. I think Peralta can be a good part of this team and I’m interested to see a shortstop actually be a threat at the plate. We’ve not seen that since Edgar Renteria decided if you can’t beat them, join them. Plus it’s nice to know that we can count on the same guy at the position. For a team that has one of its legends as a shortstop, seeing that revolving door at 6 (eight shortstops in the last eight openers, counting this year) has been a little strange.
With spring training starting to really gear up, it’s time for all those traditional before-season items that we do around here. Today’s the last day to get your ballot/voice/picks/whatever in for the Cardinal Approval Ratings. Just over 60 in this year, well short of the 100 goal I had set. I have my doubts we can get 40 more today, but any more would be appreciated.
Then, this afternoon, I’ve got the introductory post for the Playing Pepper series coming, with those posts starting Monday. Baseball, y’all. It’s awesome.