Amidst the smells of meat grilling in your backyard, the comforting warm sensation of the sun cooking your skin, and a couple of adult beverages this weekend, you’re probably also hoping to enjoy some St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Said baseball is decidedly more enjoyable when the team residing at 700 Clark Ave is winning.
For the Cards, the Independence Day festivities will have added meaning beyond the many deserved salutes to our veterans and active service personnel working to defend our freedom. It will be a time to analyze and make decisions about a team whose trajectory may need to be significantly altered if they are to be playing baseball when hayrides and pumpkins are more en vogue than hot dogs and coleslaw.
After finishing up a daunting road trip out West with a 5-5 record, the team must be wondering when they will hit their stride. Or perhaps the realization has begun to set in that this is the new normal. The addition of Oscar Taveras to the MLB roster appears desperate only because of management’s repeated outspoken reluctance to place him there. That opened the door for speculation about internal panic in the team’s front office when they finally did make the call after the series in Los Angeles. It shouldn’t have.
Rather than seeing the Cardinals’ promotion of Oscar as late realization of a collapsed offense, observers ought to see it as a natural move and wonder why he hadn’t been made permanent earlier. His presence in St. Louis is less an indicator of panic and more an indicator that he has achieved everything he can at every minor league level. There’s only one place for him to be.
Instead of viewing Taveras as the night in shining armor to rescue this struggling team, it would be more appropriate to see him as a young, reliable, high-performing horse. Analogies aside, the outfield of the Cardinals has not had any new young life in a few years now, and perhaps that’s exactly what it needs.
Matt Holliday will improve this season. However, to believe he can continue to be a .300 hitter until the end of his contract is optimistic to say the least. The younger Jon Jay will continue to do what he does for probably several more years, but Allen Craig is continuously lost at the plate this season.
The options to fill in for Craig are two: 1) Have a merry-go-round of minor league talent comes up for a couple of weeks at a time, or 2) Bite the bullet and bring Oscar up. After toying with the former option for the majority of the season, the team simply decided the latter was the more plausible long-term solution. Craig has been fantastic for the Cardinals, but he’s a Faberge egg. The Cardinals can ill-afford to have Craig continue to make rehab starts in St. Louis for the rest of the year.
Since coming back up, Oscar has logged just two hits in 11 at bats. He’s also struck out three times. His small sample size battering average has actually dropped .001 since coming back, despite the hysterics of his July 1st double and go-ahead run against the Giants. He will take time to find his way, as all hitters do.
If the Cards could afford to be patient for better than half the season waiting on Allen Craig, then they can certainly give Oscar Taveras a few months to find his rhythm.
When Craig heals, and I do believe it’s “when” and not “if”, he’ll be a solid weapon again. Lacking a crystal ball, it is impossible to say whether that will be for the St. Louis Cardinals, or another club. He will be an impact player again, though.
For now, we take this holiday weekend to thank those who work to defend our freedom. We also celebrate the liberation of Oscar Taveras from Memphis.
Now would someone please pass me a beer.