Hope is not a Plan

I’ve tried to write this post for over an hour.  And like most of my attempts to write this year, I can’t coherently tie the various ideas swirling around into a post with a common theme.  So I’ve just devolved into bullet points.

  • That the Cardinals ultimately lost this series doesn’t bother me, but the way they lost does – especially games 4 and 5.  I completely agree with the sentiment expressed by others that Mike Matheny lost Game 4 in the third inning, when he didn’t remove an obviously struggling Shelby Miller.  At the time they were down 2 games to 1 with on with Madison Bumgarner looming and uncertainty about Wainwright’s health.  Every game in the post-season is must-win.  In a short series, I believe teams need to be ready to throw ‘the regular season book’ out the window if the situation dictates.  We all remember the 2011 run, when for most of the playoffs the Cardinal bullpen threw more innings than the starters did.  That’s extreme, but it does represent the mental flexibility needed when the fluid in-game situation demands it.
  • Realistically we should have seen the puzzling bullpen usage in Game 4 (and 5) coming based on how Game 3 ended.  Did Choate get squeezed on the 3-2 pitch to Crawford?  Probably.  Why leave Choate in to face Perez?  If you put your faith in the small sample size lack of production from Perez in the NLCS, instead of the larger sample size that shows RHH hitting .396 off Choate in 2014, OK.  I don’t agree but OK.  If you put your faith in that small a sample size, why leave him in to face Blanco who was 3-for-6 off Choate lifetime? A smart man once told me, ‘Hope is not a Plan’.  I saw a lot of hope in the late innings at ATT Park.
  • Do the Cardinals win if Molina doesn’t strain an oblique?  I don’t know; Molina is good, but he can’t throw the pitches for his staff. Too many deep counts, too many walks, too few clean innings from the bullpen.
  • Too much, in my opinion, has been made of the Giants ‘winning ugly’, scoring runs without benefit of a hit.  What was more frustrating, it seemed whenever San Francisco needed a key hit they conjured one.  From the way they tied up Game 2, to Posey’s and Pence’s big hits in Game 3 (third inning), to the HR’s last night.  STL could not close out Giant hitters in high leverage situations.
  • Maybe next time the Cardinals make the playoffs they’ll go to battle with a 25-man roster, not with a pitcher hopelessly buried on the bench like Wacha was.  Until he was asked to perform in the highest of high leverage situations – keep the game tied, season ends if the Giants score, no margin for error.
  • It was a disservice to Michael Wacha for Matheny to not use him until backed into a self-inflicted corner.
  • I truly hope this wasn’t the last time we see Miller or Oscar Taveras in a Cardinal uniform, as BJ Rains prognosticated on Twitter after the game ended.

There’s no question this is a Golden Age of Cardinal baseball.  They’ve made the playoffs in every year this century except 2003, 2007, and 2009.  That doesn’t make losing in the playoffs any less disappointing.  There are roster questions and, frankly, management questions that need to be addressed this off-season.  Based on how they played for most of the season this team did, ultimately, overachieve in the playoffs.  Given the wealth of talent on that roster, however, they should be still playing.

At least St Louis won’t be Kansas City’s foil this time when the Royals win the World Series.

How to move past this series and make any fixes needed so next year they don’t come up 3 victories short of the World Series is the next challenge.

  • Dan Saint October 17, 2014, 9:38 am

    It’s time for Matheny to go. He’s a great MAN…but as a manager he leaves a lot to be desired. Can’t manage a bullpen and pitching staff. Is loyal to a fault. Has a strange love affair with Pete Kozma and Daniel Desalsco. Maybe if Matheny were in player development, his strengths of working with players (especially young players) would be better used. But making those tough decisions, he looks like a deer in headlights. Three years and no progression of decision making…it’s time to move on from this failed experiment.

  • janrayewilliams October 17, 2014, 10:11 am

    As a leader of men and people in general, Mike Matheny may well be better than most. That is a characteristic trait and the personality with which he was born, not something that he developed and mastered on his own which Mozeliak may have thought when hiring him. People with this personality tend to see the world subjectively, rather than objectively. They typically make decisions based on seeing and feeling themselves as being part of the situation, rather than the self being outside of the situation looking in. Objectivity is lost on them until they TEACH THEMSELVES to not be involved in the game, work, job emotionally.

    As the manager of one of the elite out of 30 MLB baseball teams, he may well need a notebook of his very own titled “The Cardinal Way for Managers who have Never Managed a Team of Professional Baseball Players until 3 Years Ago”. He loves writing, reading, teaching and coaching, so he would hopefully appreciate compiling and being the co-author of said notebook with the assistance of MANY others. He likes “scripts”, so it should include almost EVERY possible situation that could come up and what to do if that situation occurs.

    Yes, I’m talking about a book of hindsights! Yes, it will be a long, but uncomplicated, tome with lots of tabs and sections. BUT, as good a man, Christian, leader, friend, boss, servant to his players (which is not what this particular job is about, maybe in another setting), in 3 years Mr. Matheny has not internalized the instincts, the “engineering, mechanics, and artistry” of knowing what to do and when to do it of professional baseball team managing WITHOUT his feelings taking over for the particular men that he is to manage.

    Many have said that they see improvement over the years. Is that what he was hired for, on the job training, an internship? It would seem so. He’s earned his paycheck as have the players. The owner of the Cardinals is perfectly happy with Matheny and this year’s team. After all, it’s his business.
    The Cardinal Way of Respect, Caring and Trust continues every year with some years being less focused on it than others. 2011 and ’12, imho, exemplified the Way, at least outwardly to us fans. The players on the field and in the dugout seemed to be in sync and focused is what I remember. 2013 still seemed to be a ‘happy’ and well-oiled machine as a team on the field. Of course, we don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.

    However in 2014, there seemed to be a disconnect among and between the players in the dugout, on the field, in the batter’s box, and that step where Matheny stands to watch the game progress. I believe that a few of the players lost some Respect for the organization as a result of some changes that were made in the last off season, and it has played out since Spring Training. Trust was more than likely affected as well. Caring, well, it became obvious that the organization cared about different things than Stan Musial cared about.

    Maybe it has something to do with the media people who focus on what THEY want to, not necessarily what the fans want to see and what is important to the game itself. The heart of the baseball game is being compromised by trivia and minutiae.
    Anyway, I digress. Mr. Matheny appears confused at times, tentative, and overwhelmed still after 3 years. He might benefit by taking some time to watch and learn from some of the best managers in high leverage games over the decades. OR just learning from Mr. Bochy. There’s where you tip your cap this week.

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