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.

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