Greetings from the South Side of the Lou,
As the Cardinals aim to even the series in Chicago today, I will provide some pregame bits. Fodder, insight and a little something to chew on as the weekend unfolds.
A.J. Comes To Town
The most hated man in baseball is a Cardinal. John Mozeliak hasn’t pulled the emergency break yet, but this is a bold move by the general manager. A.J. Pierzynski was released by the Boston Red Sox earlier this summer and is known as a jerk around the league. Well, I think this team needs an unsettling personality to sweep through their clubhouse. Every fan loves Joe Kelly’s goofiness and Adam Wainwright’s comedy until the end of time. When Yadi Molina sits crackers on home plate for his brother, it’s cool. This is why Cards faithful will hate Pierzynski. He doesn’t bring a warm feeling to the stomach. He is a mercenary type catcher who is coming here to supply a better support system for the team at catcher. In case you haven’t noticed, Tony Cruz isn’t doing a great job back there. In 34 at bats since Molina went down, Cruz has 6 hits and 10 strikeouts. He hasn’t thrown out many baserunners. He has handled the staff well and that’s to be expected. However, Pierzynski is going to provide a veteran presence at catcher and bring a bat that has a history of producing. If it’s okay to speak so highly of what Allen Craig did in 2012, look at what A.J. did that season for the Chicago White Sox. He hit 27 home runs, drove in 77 runs and had an OPS of .827 with only 78 strikeouts. I am not a fan of the guy personally but he can’t hurt this clubhouse. The team needs a kick in the ass. Someone who has no ties to the team and isn’t friends with anybody. Remember when Crash Davis joined the Durham Bulls in the baseball movie classic, Bull Durham? He was an outsider who didn’t give a damn about making friends or being nice. A.J. can’t make Matheny a better manager but he can give this team something they sorely lack this season. An edge. Unfiltered. If he doesn’t work out, Mo can easily cut him and move him on. It’s that simple. The outrage over this signing is a little over the top. Pierzynski isn’t near and dear to many hearts in the game of baseball, but he has caught a no hitter, won a World Series and earned the trust of many pitchers. Call him a prick all you want but please don’t tell me he has nothing to offer. A.J. will have an impact on this team. Let’s see how it plays out before we call the Cardinal Way a black book.
Shelby Miller Theater Reopens
I can’t tell you what to expect from Miller today. He is facing a weak lineup with a couple threats. He has talent. He has a year of great experience. Miller made one appearance out of the bullpen before the team pulled the plug on the Carlos Martinez Rotation Experiment. Miller is being inserted into the rotation again because the Cards are looking really hard at what they currently have before they reach outside the organization. Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist need to know what Shelby can offer the team right now. Sure, he may be great in 2015 and beyond, but how does that help right now? There is a season to be finished here and if Miller can’t find his way against the Cubs, how will he do against Milwaukee, Boston and Baltimore in August? He’s a young 23 year old pitcher with time on his side when it comes to his career but for the Cards approaching the deadline with possibilities, Miller must produce something positive right now. He needs to supply quality innings because the time for nurturing projects(Miller, Craig, and the rest of the loyalty band) is over and the time to be efficiency is here. With Miller, the issues are clear as day. Can he throw his offspeed pitches for strikes and locate his four seam fastball? I am not sure if a horror flick will be showing today at Wrigley but the Shelby Miller Theater is open again. I’ll gladly take six innings of shutdown baseball.
Here’s a reason to play Kolten Wong every single day. Mark Ellis and Daniel Descalso are combined 45-248(.181 average) on the season with 17 RBI. Ellis can play good defense but so can Wong. Descalso can do nothing good these days so he shouldn’t even be on this roster. Jumping on a player for no reason is wrong in journalism. Notifying the public that two men are getting occasional starts over a talented rookie is appropriate. Descalso has no business on this 40 man roster. Ellis has no business starting baseball games. They aren’t good. Start Wong. The End. Also, the Cards bench just got a little better with Pierzynski. When he isn’t starting, he supplies this team with pop off the bench.
Play Oscar Please
Let the Allen Craig experiment be over with for now. Sit the man down. Let him figure out his problems there and take the occasional pinch hit appearance. If the goal is to win games, Craig shouldn’t be starting right now. If he isn’t injured, it’s something else far more complicated. In baseball, few problems are simple and easy to fix. Craig’s swing is a wreck but is it due to the Lisfranc injury being re-aggravated or is it his vision? Craig’s issues run deeper than human anatomy and could be mental as well. It’s a batch of crazy that can’t be figured out by hitting him 5th in this lineup. Take yesterday for example. He had success against Cubs pitcher Travis Wood. He was hitting .321 with two home runs off him. He went out and looked horrible, collecting zero hits in three at bats with a walk. He has no power. He has no ability to adjust. Allen Craig needs to sit. Oscar Taveras needs to play. Oscar has more hits in his last 5 at bats(3) than Craig has in his last 13 at bats. It’s an easy decision. The rehab project has to be put on hold. You aren’t abandoning Craig at all. You are giving him time. Whether Mike Matheny does this is left to be seen…
It’s a strong group. Carpenter, Wong, Holliday, Adams, Peralta, Pierzynski, Taveras, Jay and Miller. That’s a good group of hitters and wisely spread out. If they can produce, it would be nice to see this same group of guys(subbing in Bourjos for Jay on occasion) for a week or so. Allow them to jell together. For the first time in a while I can get excited about a lineup and see it doing some damage if the cards play out right.
That will unfold today in another daily grind at Wrigley, a field that is no dream to Cardinal fans and their players. A field where I think weather and luck play more of a part than usual in a baseball game. In this chaos, will the Cards find their footing?
Thanks for reading folks and come back for more here and on Twitter, @buffa82