We’ve all watched the Cardinals this season. We’ve seen some fun games, some good wins that felt like THE turning point, some losses that stung and losses that we all felt were hard fought despite the outcome. If you pay attention to twitter and have looked through the past week, it seems many of us have lost the lovin’ feeling for our Cards and their brand of play this week…for some, this season.
The Boston series was a testament to the way we lose this season. Lots of men left on base, bad baserunning, starting pitching wasted, bullpen struggles, lack of timely hitting, defensive miscues and errors…we got a dose of all of that in a short and sweet (not) 2 games series.
We followed the Boston series with a 1 win out of 3 series against the struggling Giants.
In that time we squandered excellent starting pitching, including wasting a brilliant 9 inning outing of shutout baseball from Carlos. Adam Wainwright pitched in our only win over the past 5 games on Sunday, allowing only 1 run over 6 innings.
Bob Gibson was in town to celebrate the 1967 team this week and he graced us all with his presence in the broadcast booth. Listening to him straight shoot his way through a conversation about how the game should be played was inspiring. He said he loves watching the Cardinals and he only watches the Cardinals. Dan asked him if anyone stood out to him and he said he loves the whole team. However, he added that when they do things like getting picked off and giving up home runs, he doesn’t like any of them. Brutal honesty…sometimes it’s needed!
The 1967 team was a sight to behold, or so I’ve heard and read. They were the definition of well oiled machine. Fired up on and off the field, ready to play their best every single game of the season.
Our team has the potential to make Bob cringe on a daily basis. Our baserunning, defense, hitting, bullpen…they all need attention and I have some suggestions.
Issue #1: “The Danger Zone”
Matt Carpenter made the 9th inning baserunning blunder heard around the world on Saturday night. He tried to turn a sure double into a triple, with the play getting him out by a mile. He is slow on the base paths and his instincts always lead him to the wrong decision. He is not alone in this. Outs on the base paths always seem to happen and are never surprising. I suggest a new coach for this area. We missed out on Vince Coleman, but is there no one more qualified than our current base coaches? I find that difficult to believe. Something is running amok with the base running approach and I feel like it could be fixed with a tweaking of the teaching.
Issue #2: “I’ll fire when I’m good and ready”
Our hitting is off. Carlos Martinez pitched 9 innings of shutout baseball on Saturday only to never factor in the decision, which ended up as a loss in extras. The collective offense of our team had 8 hits over 12 of those innings, and it was against a struggling pitcher, an often flailing bullpen and a team off course with a record of 19-26. In the other games of the home stand, the offense managed to hand losses out like candy to starters who were going above and beyond the call. It’s long past the time to light the fires. I’ve been questioning if we need some new blood in the hitting coach department since last season. It feels like too many of the players are working on their approach all the time, and many are off to very slow starts. On the current roster, we have 5 players batting over .261, and one of these players is Adam Wainwright. Everyone else is hitting .261 or lower. Our best hitter right now is Jedd Gyorko and he’s running away with the lead at .331, 7 homers and 18 runs batted in. When players such as Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler are down near the bottom on a list ordered by descending batting average, there is reason enough to be concerned as May comes to a close. Ideally, I would love to promote Mark Budaska, “Buddha”, to the big league team. Many of the players on the current roster have found success after working with him in Memphis, as well as former Cardinals such as David Freese. It would go a long way to light the fires if we had someone who some of our younger players have an excellent rapport with and have found success with to be around every day. This is my ideal scenario obviously and I have no idea if he would want to be here. If he would want to though, it would make a huge difference.
Issue #3: “I feel the need, the need for speed”
Magneuris Sierra was called up from the minors when our outfield piled up injuries with Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty at the same time. This kid could flat out fly around the bases and everyone noticed…and LOVED it. He was definitely going Mach 2 with his hair on fire. On this team, speed isn’t something you find up and down the lineup. Fowler, Grichuk, Wong, Pham and occasionally Diaz are the fastest players on the team. No offense to them, Sierra would have them all beat in any race. Speed can change the game, putting pressure on pitchers and pressure on defense to get the outs. It would be great to have Sierra back up here sometime soon and with our low bench, 13 pitchers and seemingly endless amount of “sore” this and “tweaked” that, I think we’ll see him again soon.
Issue #4: “Bodies working overtime, money don’t matter, time keeps ticking, someone’s on your mind”
On our current roster, we have multiple players who could have used a DL stint to work through their injuries/issues. Dexter is still sore from a fall in the outfield, and he never went on the DL. His throws have taken the blow of the fall and in one case, Sierra made a throw for him. Kolten “felt something pop” in his elbow on Saturday and is day to day. He “was scared more than anything” according to Matheny and “popping” isn’t exactly comforting. Piscotty ran into a wall to make a catch, after tweaking his knee in his rehab stint, which he was completing due to being on the DL for his hamstring pull. Siegrist has had some decent outings mixed in with some less than stellar outings while pitching through a sore shoulder and sore neck. Rosey is out there requiring an extra bullpen arm to back him up because “if something doesn’t look right or feel right, we don’t use him,” per Matheny. This is a long way to play a season. I’m much more of the belief that if we gave them all the proper rest with a DL stay, they might all be playing at 100% instead of “he’s almost there.” We do have outfield help available in AAA (or clearly lower levels with Sierra). From the sounds of it, Weaver is pitching well and others are turning in solid numbers and could help with pitching. If a club is in the fight to win, they need to be putting their best players on the field every day. If it requires some of them to get rest to be at 100%, then that’s the step that needs to be taken. Is it necessary to keep putting the players out there, somewhat injured, risking their long term careers if they make things worse? No.
Issue #5: “You can be my wingman anytime”
This lineup needs some good 1-2 punches throughout it. Our players aren’t scaring the opponent when they step into the box. They could figure it all out and become solid hitters. However, I’m leaning towards looking outside of the team for help in the middle of the order. I don’t know if this will happen, but our players are wingmen needing a leading hitter.
Issue #6: “One of life’s simple joys is playing with the boys”
If they all play the game the way they were taught as boys, their defense and natural instincts for the rest of their play will all come rushing back. In little league, they learned how to catch a ball, where to throw the ball, how to run the bases and how to hit. Honestly, if they just took the time to think about when they were younger, they’d probably get a little reset. This is the game they grew up loving. Sometimes it’s good to remember why you loved something in the first place. Remembering the pure love for the game and how they wanted to do their best might help them get on track and focus more. Baseball players get to play the game we all love…sometimes I think they just need a reminder.
I’d love for Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Bob Gibson, Vince Coleman, Tim McCarver, Chris Carpenter, Lou Brock and any of our legends to be around these players as much as possible. The way they all played is why they have the red jackets. Our players need to have them around to mentor beyond spring training…a good sounding board for questions, great advice to follow…there’s no such thing as too much time spent with these living legends. While they can’t always be around, their lessons need to be put into action. Bob Gibson said he had notes for Matheny and he may have been joking, but those notes would be priceless. Can you imagine if Matheny used those notes? What a beautiful thought.
The Cardinals need to play their hearts out…bring it all to the field. Play like they’re 10 years old again. Make the plays, speed their way around the bases (intelligently) and hit the ball like in the days of Whitey. Make it exciting and fun to watch! Play so great we all say “goodness gracious, great balls of fire!”