For December’s UCB Project, we’re all looking back at what 2014 brought us, and I figure many will cite similar things, so I thought I’d scratch off my top five interesting things (things like Taveras’ death, a loss that still echoes to this day) and move on down the list, to find perhaps a few different things for people to think about.
So far, Mike Matheny has been a successful manager, guiding the team to the playoffs each of his years at the helm and even leading us to one World Series appearance. Given that success, it’s easy to view him as a successful manager. Yet when Joe Maddon became available, many fans, myself included, wanted the Cards to fire Matheny immediately and hire Maddon. Why? Not just because Maddon’s a great manager (he is) but also because Mike has a weakness, one that was highlighted by his handling of second base last year. Basically, Mark Ellis, if healthy, would’ve been the starter the entire season, with Kolten Wong spelling him. That wasn’t exactly the plan going into the season. The plan, was in fact, the reverse. But Mike likes veterans, and will choose them if there’s any ambiguity. Luckily Ellis got hurt and Wong, after a brief stint in the minors, returned and settled into the starter’s job nicely. Still, this trend of preferring veterans over the kids can be a problem on a team as farm driven as the Cards.
John Mozeliak, while he does like farm grown talent, hasn’t been hesitant to make a move when needed. He made several key in season acquisitions, most notably John Lackey in a move that at the time cleared up a bit of an outfielder logjam by trading the ineffective Allen Craig along with Joe Kelly to Boston. The move also shows that Mo isn’t sentimental as Craig was a fan favorite who’d produced as recently as the year before and Kelly, though young, was well liked. Mo’s lack of sentimentality is, in my opinion, a good thing. GM’s can’t afford to be sentimental, not when you’re trying to build a winner. Sentimentality is, and should be, left to the fans. Mo reinforced that approach by trading Shelby Miller, another young starter who came up with us, to the Braves for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden in his big splash of the off-season. The only exception to the lack of sentimentality approach should be players who’ve played for the team for a long time and consistently produced and thus could be on their way to becoming club legends. Guys like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Those two should retire as Cardinals.
I’ve covered him a little already so I’ll be brief here. He developed nicely last year, especially after his recall from the minors, and has earned the starters job at second base. He also showed surprising pop which I hope will carry over to this year, possibly giving us a guy who can hit 10 to 15 home runs (and maybe more) and steal over twenty bases. Not too shabby. I enjoyed watching him and look forward to seeing him again next year.
This was perhaps my favorite story of 2014. I loved his baseball card obsession, I grieved over his loss of a child, I smiled when I learned they recently had a new son. I thoroughly enjoyed his season, and while I was sad when he signed with another team (Houston, which is my local team. I may just turn on Astros’ games just to catch Neshek) I was happy for him, as he got a good deal, better than a million a year we snagged him for that turned out to be an awesome bargain.
Matt Carpenter’s At Bats:
Carp didn’t have as good of a year as he did in 2013, but I still really like the guy, and I love watching him bat. He’s a grinder who stretches out AB’s and makes pitchers’ work. Consider that despite having a batting average that was .046 points lower than the year before, his OBP was only .017 points lower. His OBP was, in fact, over .100 points higher than his batting average in 2014 (.103, to be exact.) due to his excellent plate discipline (he earned 95 walks) this is why, despite a lack of speed, he’s a great leadoff hitter. Plus, given that he’s, as I mentioned, a grinder, he starts the game off by immediately running up the starters’ pitch count. It’s very fun to watch him battle, and I look forward to seeing him do it in 2015.
Bonus: Favorite Post Season Moment: A tie between the Big City Leap and our ownership of Clayton Kershaw. I loved both, the unbridled joy of Adams, and the depressed look on Kershaw’s face when we got to him. I really hope we’ve gotten under his skin.
As always, thanks for reading.