Major League Baseball players are a fortunate class. Even the rookie minimum is more than many of us will make in years of work, perhaps even in our entire careers. They have first-class accommodations. They get plenty of attention and exposure, perhaps even respect. I mean, even at my advanced age (an age that ticks up one next week) I still have problems remembering that these guys are younger than I am.
With all of that, though, they are still human beings. Which is one of the many reasons last night was tough to watch.
Mike Mayers had worked a long time for this. Four years in the minors, plus all the youth leagues and high school ball and everything else that put him in the position to be drafted in the first place. His parents are in the stands. He’s on national TV. He’s at the pinnacle of his profession, taking the mound in a major league game.
Only to see it immediately unravel in possibly the most painful of ways.
Hit. Hit. Walk. Grand slam. Double. All of that before recording his first out. Two more runs scored later in that inning and he only was able to retire one batter in the second, allowing three more runs in the process. Nine runs, four outs. All for the world to see.
You know that has to be tough on the kid and I hate to pile on by making him the Goat, but to be behind by eight runs in the second inning of an important game is a hard thing for this team to be involved in. At a time when they need to be making their run through the wild card teams, they are instead 2-4 against those squads over the past two weekends. They needed a win last night.
Of course, Mayers didn’t ask to be thrust into this situation, into this spotlight. I’m sure he’d probably rather have had one of those starts against the Padres last week rather than a nationally televised debut against a tough Los Angeles team. As a competitor, he expected to go out and be good no matter who he was facing, but you have to think that he wouldn’t have minded a little easier entry into the big leagues.
With the big deficit early, Twitter of course got riled. There were a lot of complaints about John Mozeliak making the decision to promote Mayers for this one. I think if it’d been more than one start, Mo might have done things differently, but it’s hard to bring up a Luke Weaver (though my podcast partner was in favor of it) for a start not created by an injury or a trade, but by a rainout that forced a double header. It’s not a recurring role, at least it shouldn’t be. Do you burn an option on Weaver for just one outing, even if it is against a wild card team? I can see why Mo wouldn’t want to do that.
Alex Reyes could have been an option if he’d not struggled a bit lately and didn’t pitch Thursday, when the Cards still expected Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons to make Sunday’s start. By time Lyons was used up in the extra-inning thriller on Friday, it was too late for Reyes.
Who else goes? Nobody in Memphis is setting the world on fire. Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales are still out with injuries. Perhaps the best case was throwing Carlos Martinez on short rest. After all, he got a day of extra rest before his last start with the rainout plus just recently had the All-Star Break. He also didn’t throw an excessive amount of pitches. Perhaps letting him go for 70 pitches and having the bullpen ready for a longer outing would have been the better way.
It also would have shown an urgency that, frankly, it doesn’t feel like this team has had in a while. Tara made an excellent point, one I want to think on more, last night on Gateway. I’m paraphrasing, but she said there comes a time when you have to realize the future is the present. We were waiting for the days of Martinez and Stephen Piscotty and Wacha and Kolten Wong. Those days are here and you have to take advantage of it.
When your window never seems to be closing, you can always think “let’s save up, because there will be next year.” We saw the Nationals do something like that with Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown in 2012. They figured, “let’s keep him healthy because, at worst, we’ll have a lot more chances.” It’s not worked like that for them. The future is never guaranteed.
I’m not saying you don’t plan for the future or you always just trade all your chips for random stabs at glory. Don’t mistake my meaning. I’m saying that sometimes, even when you know the window is still open, you might run a risk of closing it a little early for a much stronger chance of winning it at least once.
To illustrate, let’s say the Cardinals, because they are who they are and have developed a great system, have a 60% chance for the next five years of winning the World Series. However, if they made a certain trade (say, for Chris Sale), their chances for this year and next went up to 85% while the chances for the last three years of that span dropped to 50%, maybe less. Is that worth it? While we always appreciate the consistent winning and playoff appearances, wouldn’t it be worth trying to develop a team more like 2004 and 2005 than muddling along and hoping for 2011?
The Cardinals have a system in place where they can take a risk if they want to do so. They just don’t typically want to do so. And, to be fair, unless there are names available we don’t know about, there’s not exactly a lot worth taking a risk on in the market. Aroldis Chapman might be heading to the Cubs, but the Cards aren’t nor shouldn’t spend what it takes to get him in their current situation, leaving aside his domestic abuse issues. (That said, I was liking having Chapman out of the NL Central and would really like that deal to fall through.) Sale might be the most “risk-worthy” guy out there, but there’s no real guarantee he’s even on the market. As I said on both Musial and Gateway, the suspension for his sartorial decisions doesn’t necessarily rule him out for me, because we’ve said there is an edge missing. An edge John Lackey and Cardinal great Chris Carpenter brought to the team but that isn’t there right now.
Anyway, that’s a long way afield from the game recap, but this is what happens when I don’t try to put a week’s worth of Heroes and Goats into one piece!
Back to last night. Let’s give the Hero tag to Seth Maness, because honestly, I didn’t realize Maness could go three innings. Not only did he do that (actually, almost four!), but he kept the Dodgers scoreless and never really had much of a jam. The Cardinals were able to get the tying run on deck with a rally in the seventh and that’s mainly because Maness kept the game where it was.
It was also because Matt Bowman bailed out Trevor Rosenthal. As Tara said on Twitter and on Gateway, there’s been consistent talk about getting Rosenthal innings somewhere (either the big leagues or Memphis) to see if he could get worked out. A 9-1 game would seem to be the place for that kind of work, but instead Maness took the bulk of it. Rosie then came in and pitched a scoreless fifth (allowing two hits and stranding runners on second and third) but then walked three straight guys to open the sixth. It was 9-3 at the time, but instead of letting Rosenthal try to work his way out, figuring the damage wouldn’t matter much, they went to Bowman.
It seems to me that it’s going to take the offseason to try to figure out what’s wrong with Rosenthal. I don’t know what you do with him in the meantime, though it’s really just the month of August you have to worry about, given the roster expansions. I’d say you don’t want a pitcher that you can’t use clogging up your 25-man, but Rosenthal can be useful in certain situations, just not really any that have a lot of leverage. He might come through in those–he’s had a few successes of late–but it’s not the way you would want to bet.
Otherwise, not much of interest. The Cardinals were able to get to Scott Kazmir a little bit in the early going, but given the huge deficit, it didn’t make a lot of difference. The rally in the seventh was nice–and perhaps could have been nicer without a questionable third strike call on Tommy Pham to lead it off–but Matt Holliday struck out with Piscotty at second, ending the threat. After that, it was six up and six down and the Cards were another game behind the Cubs.
At least with the Cards keeping Martinez on his regular schedule, that means we get him against Noah Syndergaard in what might be the best pitching matchup of the night. Thor recently had a little injury scare, but basically has been as dominant as you’d expect from a guy that has a nickname from the Avengers. He allowed one unearned run in 5.2 innings against the Cubs last time. Should be a low-scoring affair and a fun one to watch!