Cardinals Chatter

Tough Love

A few days ago, Stephen Piscotty addressed the media and spoke of a family issue that is unimaginably difficult to go through. After playing in a game or two upon his return, he addressed the media again after a blunder out in right field. The ball got lost in the sun and he missed what many think was a routine catch. He answered the question no less than 5 different ways as the reporters tried no less than 5 different ways to reword the same question: “What happened out there?”

Watch the post game shows if you can, or follow Fox Sports Midwest on social media. Notice who is appearing in these interviews. All the starting pitchers of course, but who else do you see? I’ll tell you–Greg Garcia (a very part time player), Kolten Wong (especially when he has made mistakes), Randal Grichuk (not here but when he was, he answered, especially in losses), Stephen Piscotty (see above), Jedd Gyorko (emerging as our best player), Tommy Pham (only been in the majors this season since May 5th). What do you notice about this list (aside from starting pitchers)? Not a single person 30 or older. Not a single person that is the supposed “face of the franchise” or “leader of the team.” Not a single supposed veteran. The only veteran that constantly answers is Adam. And he has the type of character that would answer no matter what, even if not a starting pitcher. All of our starting pitchers do an admirable job.

I mention all of this because this team is in need of leadership. The young guys are pulling their weight with the media, picking up the slack left behind by those such as Matt Carpenter, who dodge the media after mistakes and then proceed to never own up to those mistakes.

When Matt Carpenter made the 9th inning baserunning error, trying to stretch a sure lead off double in the bottom of the 9th into a triple, he didn’t answer to that for the media. Days later, he gave multiple reasons of why he was right, noting that his offense around him may not have been able to hit him home from second base. As you all know, Carpenter is batting .216 and has now reached 52 strikeouts. His OBP is 345, but his overall game isn’t going well at the moment. “Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” applies here. Throwing people like Jedd Gyorko under the bus when he has been carrying this team was disrespectful and unnecessary.

After that game, Matheny said “he knows” when asked if there would be a discussion with Matt. Clearly, he does not know he was wrong.

The younger players are trying to lead, answering the difficult questions when asked and trying their best with the opportunities given. They take ownership of their mistakes publicly. Maybe it’s time to let them have more opportunities…turn to them for a spark that is desperately needed. Adam Wainwright is almost always at the top step or up on the fence, constantly interested in the game going on as is Carlos, but other than that, we’re in need of some leadership. In reality, we need a Chris Carpenter type of player, who would light a fire. The play of late has been lackluster, and he would never stand for it. If a defensive blunder occurred, he’d probably address it. Seems like there is no one willing to call out the play of this team. Matheny acts as though everyone knows how to fix things without discussion, but they aren’t fixing things. Players are going to other teams and figuring out how to end their hitting struggles. All special instruction given in Spring Training from legendary players like Ozzie, Willie and Edmonds has flown back south for the summer instead of the winter.

It’s time for the front office to face some things. Matheny is not the supposed leader of men he was supposed to be. The team is now on a 7 game losing skid, falling further below .500 ball every day. If he was capable of motivating, at least half of this team would be able to turn things around.

Another look in the mirror by the front office would force them to see that Mabry is clearly unable to help anyone at this time. Grichuk was sent to Palm Beach to work with an offensive specialist, and many thought no one was worse off at the plate. Cut to almost two weeks without Grichuk and the team is 2-9, with Carpenter now having a lower batting average and Fowler staying tied with Grichuk. Adam Wainwright is one of the team’s best hitters. I’m Adam’s biggest fan but I’ll still tell you his offense probably shouldn’t be THE story on a competitive team hoping to contend this season. He’s the team’s biggest bench threat. That’s not really an exaggeration.

Further down the rabbit hole, it is baffling to me that with 11 singles, 0 runs batted in and 13 strikeouts, sporting a batting average of .204, Peralta has not only seen two starts this past week, but also pinch hit opportunities. If ever there was a player dragging the competitive edge of a team down, it is Peralta at this moment.

Personally, I’d love to select 15 or so of the best position players and pitchers from the minors and bring them up to St. Louis. I’d have a team meeting. I’d call the rookies out one by one, asking them to stand up in the crowd, and I’d list their stats on the season for the whole room to hear. When the list was complete and all had their moment to shine, I’d say that any position player not named Jedd or Tommy can be replaced by any of these rookies at a moment’s notice. Everyone’s clocks are running, either out of time or waiting to be started at any given moment. Any relief pitcher not named Matt, Seung Hwan or Trevor is replaceable by any pitchers I’ve presented. Any changes that need to happen would be figured out. It’s time to put up a fight.

Sometimes, there’s a need for tough love. Brutal honesty has its place. Now is one of those times. Complacency doesn’t win games. Settling doesn’t win games. Banking on the failure of other teams or staying afloat in the sea of mediocrity that is the division won’t lead to wins. Someone, somewhere has to find a way to light the competitive fire in this team. Sadly, I’ve written about this already this season. Multiple times. I am committed to the Cardinals for life. We’ve renewed our vows, I’ve split up with Matheny, I’ve composed speeches to make while standing on a chair in the clubhouse, song lyrics and movies have been used to try to inspire the love of the game that seems to be lost. I’m putting in 150% of the effort needed to keep this relationship alive. From the bottom of my heart I hope the Cardinals decide to fight for us too.

0 comments

The tough get going.

Or at least that’s how it is for some players on the team.

Randal Grichuk was demoted to Palm Beach today. At first, before learning of the location, I was at peace with the decision because I thought he would be coached by Mark Budaska in Memphis. Learning of the decision to demote down to Palm Beach is still a concern for me. Last season, Grichuk showed noticeable progress after working with Buddha in Memphis. He returned to the majors and had a very successful run down the stretch of August and September, putting up some of the best numbers on the team.

I figured a two week stay or so under Budaska’s instruction would go a long way to return a rejuvenated Grich to a struggling lineup. Instant jolt. Palm Beach may need a longer time, but possibly help his career more in the long run with the greater number of at bats and the less developed pitching giving him a little more discipline with which pitches to swing at and which to lay off. I still fall on the side of attempting a Memphis reboot. I do see both sides of this coin though.

After returning in August of last season from Memphis, finding help with Budaska, Grichuk went on to slash 284 BA/294 OBP/731 SLG/1.025 OPS for the month. He followed up with a September slash of 269 BA/303 OBP/ 490 SLG/793 OPS. Either of these lines would boost our lineup immediately, especially when you sprinkle in the 12 home runs and 31 runs batted in during that time (171 at bats).

To refresh, as of yesterday, Grichuk was 4th on the team in hits with 37, tied for 3rd on the team with runs batted in with 19, and he had a team leading 14 doubles. I realize that he was leading the team in strikeouts and that needed attention. However, Carpenter is following closely behind with 43 strikeouts, Fowler with 42, Gyorko with 37. We then have a further 4 players with 20 or more. Grichuk’s walks might be on the low side, but he was tied with Gyorko at 12 (5th highest on team). That’s 3 more walks than Molina and Diaz. Finally, I realize that his average at .222 isn’t carrying the team, but when Fowler is also at .222, Carpenter is at .226, and Piscotty is at .224, he is clearly not the only cause for concern on this team. With only 2 people driving in more runs than he has, and only 3 people having more hits, one has to wonder if the production will be made up.

In the past week to two weeks, the team has allowed Carlos to pitch 9 innings of shutout ball, only to lose the game in extras. Starting pitching allowed 4-5 runs total during a stretch of a week and we lost all of the games. The offense is not bringing guys home when in scoring position, they’re swinging at first pitches and getting out, and they are hitting solo home runs (which can’t always be helped, I realize). There have been games where the guys left on base are well into the double digits. In a loss. Today they were letting Rich Hill take a no-no into the 5th.

To pretend that our offense is fine to have one’s head in the clouds. No one on the team is necessarily a threat. Pitchers aren’t intimidated when they know strikeouts are piling up and the words “1 pitch, 1 out” are flying out of Dan’s mouth. The team isn’t executing and they’ve forgotten the words “plate discipline” even exist. Sure, they’ve had glimpses or hitting streaks, weeks where they flash greatness. But when you look at the bottom line, the numbers totaled for the season, there’s reason to be concerned.

I don’t have the answers. Personally, I’d love to see Mark Budaska offered a job with the big club. I don’t know that he’d accept the offer. I do feel that new blood in the hitting coach department would go a long way. Pham didn’t start the season in the bigs…he was in Memphis with Buddha and continued a tear up here. Grichuk and Kolten have made huge strides after time spent under his instruction. Dex is new to our team…what happened to his numbers from last year? After two full months, things should have started to fall in place by now, at least a bit. Piscotty has looked completely lost all season save for a few games here and there, and we all know he was working with Mabry in the offseason to tweak his swing. One has to question why at this point. Carpenter is off at the plate as well. Shouldn’t their hitting coach be able to find ways to help all of them?

The team’s offense is in need of a boost in a big way. More guys have to hit with runners in scoring position. They need to be more patient at the plate. Walks need to go up and strikeouts need to go down. I don’t personally care if they all hit home runs…as long as they can bring runners home safely, singles, doubles and triples are fine. The hitting coach needs to help all of them find solutions to their problems. Sooner rather than later, as it’s never “just one game.”

I will at least leave you with a great song that can put a smile on anyone’s face. Enjoy. I know I always do. And yes that’s Danny DeVito and the cast of  “Romancing The Stone.” This is 80s goodness and I make no apologies. Good luck Grich! I’m still believing in you back here in St. Louis!

“When The Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean

0 comments

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!”

 

 

 

1 comment

Can’t Help Who You Love

In life, people say that you can’t help who you love. Often, it’s a parent or concerned friend who is telling you this because you love someone who may not be in everyone’s good graces. The person you love may not be everybody’s favorite. Your love might frustrate, confuse, irritate, annoy or depress your family and friends. Sometimes people in your life won’t understand your love.

I’m here to tell you that even if not genuinely accepted by all, it’s all okay. You can’t help who you love and that’s alright.

The same is true for baseball.

I write this as we head into another Adam Wainwright start.

Adam is my favorite player of all time. I know this, you know this, everyone who knows me knows this. I don’t hide it. I’m not ashamed. I’ve definitely shouted it from “rooftops.” I quote that because I would never be on a rooftop. Not ever. But I’ve shouted nonetheless.

My second favorite player, although not near all time favorite yet, is Randal Grichuk.

I’ve written at length about both of my favorites. If you like them too, “Love Letter of Sorts” is about Adam and “Force To Be Reckoned With” is about Grich.

I’m not here to write anymore about them. I am here to write about how it is okay to choose whoever you want to be your favorite player. Your fandom of anyone is fine. You don’t need me to tell you that though.

I wanted to say this because fans of Kolten Wong have been through the wringer this season and I assume some of last although I wasn’t around much back then. I know how it feels because of both Adam and Grich. Being on social media is less than ideal when your favorite player has a lackluster night on the mound, out in the field, at the plate or all of it combined.

All I’m saying is love who you love. Your favorites are your favorites and sometimes things won’t go their way. I’m emotionally invested in baseball, so my emotions are always present, every game. And sure, they’re present all the other times of the day too. I’m slowly learning to shrug off the negative and not feel the need to get entangled into lengthy arguments. Different opinions are part of life. Social media isn’t a place to go if you want to live in a sheltered, protected existence.

Even through their worst moments, love who you love anyways. No judgements here. No apologies necessary for loving who you love or defending them.

You can’t help who you love.

0 comments

It Takes a Village

In Monday night’s game, oh so many things didn’t go in favor of the Cardinals. We tied the game, only to lose it in late innings. Our closer, Seung-hwan Oh, gave up a 3 run homer and as it turns out, that would seal our fate.

In this game, as in many games so far this season, many things could be the culprit for the loss. We again did not bring runners in scoring position home. We had 13 hits with 17 runners left on base. Four of our 5 runs were solo homers. Wacha did not look as sharp as he so far this season, allowing 4 runs before his exit.

Again a familiar sight, there was a baserunning blunder and an error. We have few games without those. Unfortunately in this game, they were both done by one player…Kolten Wong. And if you did not see Twitter Monday night or Tuesday morning, consider yourself lucky. Kolten was the center of a pure firestorm.

Was his baserunning blunder a welcome sight? Absolutely not. However, after seeing the replay multiple times and reading what others had to say, the fault isn’t 100% on Kolten. He was being waved home far down the third base line until he all of a sudden was being shown a stop sign, far too late to stop all that momentum. Kolten flat out flies around the bases. Most likely, he was thinking he had to score on this opportunity. And aggressive baserunning is preached in our organization, often to the detriment of the players and the box score.

Was the error made at an opportune time? No. There’s never a great time for an error to occur and often in this season, the errors have resulted in runs scored. This particular error paved the way for 2 people to be on base when Shaw came to the plate, and he then hit a 3 run shot off Oh. 7-5 would be the final score of the game.

As often happens, in Tuesday night’s game, Kolten ended up as the Player of The Game, making spectacular plays and providing the game winning RBI.

The Cardinals played a very 2017 Cardinals game again on Tuesday night. Nowhere near enough offense to keep anyone comfortable and almost not enough to back up stellar pitching. We also had an error. Baserunning went smoothly, but there were few opportunities on the base paths, so luck was in our favor there.

Baseball is a team sport. No loss is ever on one player. Batters have to get hits, preferably of the timely variety. Runs have to be put on the board. Pitchers have to get the outs. Plays have to be made. When on base, baserunners have to be smart and fast. Management and coaching staff have to make the right decisions. In losses, all of these things can be pointed to at least once.

In wins, it’s a warm fuzzy feeling to be able to point to a team effort…multiple positives existing in one game.

Monday’s loss was not all on Kolten Wong. No one player ever decides a loss in its entirety.

Tuesday’s win was not all on Kolten Wong. No one player ever decides a win in its entirety.

It takes a village.

0 comments

My baseball moment is Waino vs Beltran in 2006. Born in the 80s, I knew some about Ozzie and Willie and then knew a few guys in the 90s, but 2006 was when I fell in love. Wainwright closing that game was mesmerizing for me. I was pacing and crossing my fingers and closing my eyes in nervousness, only to open them and watch every pitch. My stomach was doing cartwheels. I knew I was in this for the long run. I jumped and yelled when the beautiful, wonderful, breathtaking curveball struck Beltran out. Amazing moment for me. I was in love with Cardinals baseball.

I cry when I watch Field of Dreams. Every time. The way it talks about baseball…it completely captures its beauty, innocence, wide eyed wonder, old fashioned greatness and most of all, its undeniable heart. Baseball has heart. Players giving their all to play the game they love. The sound of the bat hitting the ball, the curve of a pitch as it goes over the plate, a diving catch in the outfield…I love it all. 3 hours of baseball is a lovely thing we get to watch daily from late February through October. Extra innings are a bonus. Watching Cardinals baseball is a privilege.

I took a tour of Busch Stadium once. Being in the dugout and on the field felt a little like magic to me. I love these guys. I love watching them play. Cardinals fan for life.

As in any normal, healthy, long term relationship, I question some moves, believe some days could be better. Surely there have been tragedies to overcome. Through it all though, I’m in. And at the end of every day, I’m happy with my choice to have the St. Louis Cardinals as my team.

It’s been a fun first year of interaction on Twitter, getting to know many of you fine Cards fans. Thanks for talking with me about our Cardinals! In my real life, an honest to goodness Cards fan is a rarity…makes having you all around all the better.

0 comments

 

Archives

Subscribe to The Conclave via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 87 other subscribers