Yesterday’s announcement that the Cardinals had removed the “interim” tag from Mike Shildt’s title set off a minor Shildt storm of reactions. Before the BFiB could fully digest the news, Gyorko came up lame, and the “ZOMG Donaldson 4ever” groupies began chiming in with a new take on an old narrative. Toss the Girardi fanboys and Matheny apologists into the mix, and you are just a pair of Flat Earth Society members short of a full idiot souffle.
Relax, village idiots. It’s time for the adults to talk, because Shildt’s about to get real.
With regard to Girardi, the sides are clearly drawn. On one side, you have the fans and some regional media types who actually have followed Shildt’s work and realize that the 27-12 start to his big league managerial career is more than a serendipitous alignment of celestial bodies. On the other side you have the “Jawline for Men” fan club.
I understand the interest in Girardi from an experience and track record standpoint. He’s only a few years older than Shildt but already has 1782 games under his belt as a manager in addition to his years as a player. He should be praised and glorified for taking an underdog, small market Yankees team to a World Series title in 2009. How someone can win by running out guys Posada, Texeira, Cano, Jeter, A-Rod, Damon, Swisher, Matsui, and Melky Cabrera on a regular basis is beyond me. Monuments shall be built and sacrifices made. Kudos to you, Joe. Holding together a bullpen with duct tape and some Mariano Rivera guy must’ve been taxing.
In fairness to Girardi, he probably makes the short list of candidates for every potential vacancy out there, and he’s probably the right guy for one or two teams. He just doesn’t seem like the right guy for THIS team. Shildt has already shown that he can be, and he’s demonstrated that by making a dollar out of 15 cents (Tupac reference). Guys like Girardi and Matheny are all about turning that dollar into 75 cents and proclaiming the loss of only 25% a success.
Matheny fans might actually have a better argument here than the “Girardi for President” faction, but the difference is thinner than the 5 o’clock shadow Mike sports after breakfast. At the very least they have more interesting talking points.
- Matheny didn’t have the benefit of the great bullpen that Girsch and Mo pulled out of the Hogwarts Sorting Hat.
- Matheny dealt with a lot of injured players.
- Matheny managed to keep the team afloat while Carpenter was hitting below his weight.
Matheny relied on guys like Brebbia, Tuivailala, Hicks, Norris, Mayers, Holland, Cecil, and Lyons. That’s very much the same bullpen Shildt had to work with for a couple of weeks before the Cardinals expanded their thinking. Then a series of fortunate events: Gomber came back up, Hudson made his debut, Ponce arrived, and they dealt for Shreve and Webb. It was a bullpen rebuild, but it was primarily from pieces they already had (Gomber/Hudson/Poncedeleon). Getting Cecil back and healthy helps as well, but that came much later.
The point is that those internal answers were there all along. Maybe Matheny could not be trusted to deploy them properly. Maybe he simply wasn’t interested. Perhaps he just enjoyed Greg Holland’s chess skills. Regardless, he had plenty of options available, and many are among the options Shildt is utilizing now. Great bullpens are made of talented pitchers, but they don’t become great bullpens without proper utilization and trust. Shildt gets that.
Sure, injuries did not help Matheny’s cause, but injuries are a poor excuse, and they don’t explain Shildt’s success either. Injuries to Wacha, Wainwright, and Reyes have affected both the same, and more recent injuries to Ozuna, Wong, and Mayers move the needle in Shildt’s favor a bit. Sadly, one might argue that Fowler’s DL trip is actually helping Shildt, but one might also argue that Matheny could’ve sat Fowler in favor of Fredbird or maybe one of the kids selected at random from the children’s choir singing the National Anthem before the game.
Just don’t get too deep into your feels over Carpenter’s early season struggles sinking Matheny’s ship. Carpenter hit .263/.372/.522 through July 14th when the Matheny era ended. When Carpenter hit arguably his low point of .140/.286/.272 back in mid-May, the Cardinals were 19-16. Maybe Carpenter didn’t carry the freight, but he wasn’t exactly on a three month hiatus due to a calf injury either.
And speaking of Josh Donaldson, he’s the end result of hitting the panic button before Gyorko has even reached the trainer’s table. I’m not a fan, but I’ll put that aside for a moment. Here are a few things to consider even if Gyorko’s groin turns into a nagging injury.
- The Cardinals can’t just dial up the Blue Jays and work out a deal without Donaldson being put on waivers and subsequently making it through the revocable waiver process without being claimed. The waiting list starts with the AL, and if no team wants to risk paying roughly $4M owed to Donaldson this year to block everyone else from getting him, then the Yankees would make sense as a destination. They could use some insurance for Aaron Judge, and adding Donaldson means they could play him at DH while moving Stanton to the outfield in place of Shane Robinson. Alternatively, they could move Andujar to DH and have Donaldson play 3B, and it would likely be a mixture of the two scenarios.
- Even if he makes it past the Yankees, the Red Sox might take a shot just because they are the Red Sox and want to win 148 games.
- Even if Donaldson goes through waivers on the AL side, there is still the NL side. With the Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, and Phillies closer to the front of the line, I’d be shocked if one of those didn’t drop a dime just to keep him from reaching St. Louis.
- And if he does make it far enough that St. Louis could claim him and work out a deal (although the Jays may just be thrilled to dump his salary), there is no guarantee that he’s really a better option than what they have. If fans have learned anything this year it should be that when given an opportunity a lot of the guys from the minor league system can produce. Just a few days away from rosters expanding and maybe a week away from Kolten Wong returning, a possible $4M addition of a guy that may or may not even get significant playing time the rest of the season seems like a stretch.
I’m optimistic enough to think Gyorko won’t be out for an extended period of time but pessimistic enough to expect that he’ll need TJ surgery on his eyelid and will miss 6-8 months. By the end of that period, perhaps the Girardi fanboys will have found another potential landing spot for him and moved on. As will the Matheny bandwagon. And the Donaldson stans.
After all, this Shildt is not that complicated.