It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve stepped foot into this office and there’s been a lot of things going on since then. There was an epic meltdown against the Dodgers, Blogger Day at Busch Stadium, the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, a tough series loss to start the second half, plenty of Juan Soto rumors, and probably the two biggest stars not to be allowed into Canada turned out to be Cardinals. That’s a lot to cover and most of these (save the last two) have been tackled in part on the latest Gateway to Baseball Heaven and Meet Me at Musial, but if you aren’t inclined to spend the time listening to me ramble with Tara and Allen, here’s the bullpen point synopsis.
- We’ll get to the individual games in a bit, but the sting of that loss to the Dodgers has faded some, replaced by other stings such as losing two of three to Cincinnati. With Steven Matz coming off the IL and then going back on the IL after five good innings and one misplayed ball, the issues that have led to both of those problems have only intensified. If the Cardinals are going to make a run–and they are just 2 1/2 back of Milwaukee, though that gap has widened over the weekend and they are just clinging to the last playoff spot by a single game–they will have no choice to go acquire some pitching. What that will look like remains to be seen.
- Blogger Day, or as it probably should be termed now Content Creator Day since there were probably more podcasters and the like in the room than actual current bloggers, was again a roaring success. John Mozeliak, as he usually does, came in and was fairly candid with us, though obviously there were very few direct questions asked to him. The Soto rumors were in their infancy so there was no discussion of him by name, but in relation to a question Mo did say that earlier in his career he would have indicated a player was “untouchable” but now he knows that there’s always probably some Player Y that you’d trade Player X for. (He followed that up with, “That being said, I really like Jordan Walker.”)I asked Mo a couple of questions. One, whether five years out he had found his days as President of Baseball Ops different than he found them as GM. He said that it was trending that way in 2019, but then when COVID hit, especially the outbreak on the team, he realized he couldn’t leave that in the lap of anyone else. It sounds like while he’s still relying on the staff, he’s got his hands on the day-to-day more than was expected when he got the bump, when it was suggested that he’d be doing some big picture work with the new title.
The other question came to me at the event (unlike the couple I had in mind going in) and I’ll use that as a bit of an excuse why it didn’t turn out as well as I was hoping. My idea was that Mo’s track record in signing relievers has been spotty (something he acknowledged when he met with us in 2019) and I was wondering if that process had changed any. However, in the process of asking the question I said, “For every Packy Naughton there’s a T.J. McFarland” and while I tried to clarify that I meant this year’s version of McFarland, that gave Mo the opening to talk about why he couldn’t just fire someone after a bad month and various notes along those lines. I’m not one that typically is a “you gotta get rid of this guy” person, since I know you have to factor in things like contracts, how it looks to others, etc. I do think it would have been interesting to hear how he balances that sort of thing with the “you have to produce” mentality that is there for other folks.
- I didn’t really get to see much of the All-Star festivities. I missed the Home Run Derby due to a church group but was very excited to see Albert Pujols not only win the first round but be competitive against Soto, the eventual winner, in the second. It was a great moment and a wonderful way to celebrate not only Pujols the legend but also Pujols the man. AP had a lot of fun with that whole thing, including giving a speech to the team before the game started Tuesday, and I’m very glad he got this last time in that spotlight.As for the game, I am old enough to remember when the National League dominated this thing. That means I am very, very old. With all these excellent pitchers coming in for just one inning, it’s tough to get any real traction. Paul Goldschmidt‘s home run could have very well been all the scoring, but apparently Tony Gonsolin hit a down patch in his season. First the Cardinals get him for five runs in five innings, then he gives up all three run (on two homers) in this game. He hasn’t thrown since then but it’ll be interesting to see if he’s starting to come back to earth a bit. Anyway, that was all she wrote on the offense and the NL lost again. I was hoping to see Pujols, but I missed his walk as I was helping my wife get ready for her trip.
- All of this smoke around Juan Soto and the Cardinals is probably just that, smoke. It’s very, very hard to fathom the Cardinals giving up the prospects necessary to get a talent like Soto. Don’t get me wrong, they most likely should (depending on the package) but Mo just talked about how the Cardinals are a “pipeline organization” and for them to disrupt that process would be a real surprise. That being said, the talk continues to swirl and it’s less people on Twitter (and articles like “these teams have prospects so maybe they could do it) and more reputable writers talking about the prospect, that others in baseball think they are in on it, and I believe I even read something about the Cards touching base with the Nationals, which is actually a little surprising to me in and of itself.I still don’t think it’ll happen, but given the state of the pitching rotation, the fact that the Nationals might want someone to take Patrick Corbin off their hands as part of the deal could be more intriguing and less an issue that it would be for other teams. That says a lot about the rotation, given how bad Corbin has been. I’m sure there’s some idea that maybe he could do what J.A. Happ and Jon Lester did last year and revitalize himself in front of a good defense. That is, unless some of that good defense is what it takes to get both of those pieces.
I honestly don’t believe Soto is traded before the August 2 deadline, but that doesn’t stop me from reading any article or checking out Twitter regularly for any possible news!
- That brings us to this weekend, when it was disclosed that Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado (and Austin Romine, but nobody really worries about him) weren’t going to be going to Toronto this week because they have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 and as such can’t get into Canada. I did my best to stay away from Twitter yesterday knowing how that was going to go but what I did see there was a lot of indignation and condemnation.Do I believe vaccination is a good idea? Absolutely. I have both my initial shots of the Pfizer vaccine and my first booster. Am I disappointed in both of those players, players that I’m very fond of being on the Cardinals? For sure. I wish they’d made a different choice and I don’t know what medical professionals they were talking to that suggested that there were more risks than benefits in taking the vaccine.
All that being said, I’m not really on board with this whole idea that they are selfish or are bad teammates. For one, I don’t think I’m in any position to judge a person’s worth as a teammate. I’m not in the clubhouse, I’m not there seeing how they interact with the other players, with management, with support staff. Making a value judgement on this one piece of evidence is a little too sweeping for me.
I also don’t want to claim that they are disingenuous or anything of the sort. I am sure they truly believe that they are better off not getting vaccinated, no matter what evidence points to the contrary. If that’s the case, I am not comfortable saying that a person has to go against their convictions. I know that there are many things I hold to that a large portion of the world doesn’t. If you aren’t willing to deal with the consequences of your decision, that’s a different story. I think you have to credit them for sticking to those convictions when it would have been much easier to take the shot, especially since you knew this was going to be a big deal. As Terence Mann says in Field of Dreams, “I wish I had your passion, Ray. Misdirected as it might be, it is still a passion.”
We also know that Tyler O’Neill did a lot of the same type of research and finally came down on getting a shot, then missed a game or two with reactions to it. I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t play in a role in their choice as well. Again, they should have gotten the shot in the offseason if they were concerned about reactions keeping them out of the lineup, but I can imagine that at least being part of their decision making. Also, we’ve seen how even vaccinated folks (Adam Wainwright comes to mind, Genesis Cabrera had issues earlier this year) are sometimes missing games because they’ve contracted COVID. It’s possible that they don’t see vaccination as a “magic bullet” and as such don’t want to mess with it.
Because we are talking about athletes that are in top form and are very careful about what they ingest. If it’s a fat slob like me saying, “I don’t want it because I don’t know what’s in it,” that’s probably counteracted by the Arby’s bag in front of me. That’s not the case with these guys. They have to be extremely focused on what they take, not only because they are almost fanatical about their health but also because there are things that show up in steroid testing. I doubt that there are any such ingredients in the COVID vaccine–you’d think with so many players having had it, false positives would have happened by now–but that’s the sort of mindset these players could have.
Again, I believe that they should have gotten the vaccine and the team is going to miss them in Toronto. However, I’d rather offer grace than condemnation. Hopefully at some point they’ll change their minds. Also, there’s a real good chance that any losses in Toronto could be traced back to the pitching, something neither of those guys do.
Wednesday, July 13 (7-6 loss vs. Los Angeles)
Hero: Nolan Arenado. His two-run homer made it 4-0 against a pitcher that hadn’t given up more than two earned runs in any game all year. He also drew a walk.
Goat: There’s a lot of relievers that could go here but I think you have to go with Giovanny Gallegos. Coming into the ninth up one, he immediately allowed a double and a single that put runners on the corners with one out. Max Muncy tied it with a sacrifice fly and Gallegos almost worked out of it after a strikeout, but Hanser Alberto singled to bring in the winning run.
Notes: This was a cascade effect all the way through. Adam Wainwright didn’t allow a run, but he walked four and reached 115 pitches in 5.1 innings, which meant that there was a lot of innings for a worn bullpen to cover. Packy Naughton did a mini version of what he did the night before, stranding the two runners Wainwright left on for him. After that, though, it got slippery….I should have used Drew VerHagen‘s name instead of T.J. McFarland’s. VerHagen gave up two runs in an inning here and by the end of the week he went back on the IL….Genesis Cabrera put two runners on for Junior Fernandez, who wound up letting them both score and gave up one of his own to boot in his worst game yet….Lars Nootbaar, Andrew Knizner, and Tommy Edman with two hits and all three scored a run.
Thursday, July 14 (4-0 loss vs. Los Angeles)
Hero: Dylan Carlson. Two of the five hits, plus he drew a walk as well.
Goat: Albert Pujols. 0-4 with two strikeouts, a double play, and four left on.
Notes: Dakota Hudson has been much worse and even if he’d been better, it wouldn’t have mattered. Four runs in 6.2 is probably something we’d take from Hudson every time out. Instead, he wound up in the IL with a neck spasm afterwards….T.J. McFarland threw 1.2 scoreless innings, which was probably another reason John Mozeliak took umbrage….all five hits came from 2-3-4 (Carlson, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado) but not clustered together enough to put a run across.
Friday, July 15 (7-3 win vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Brendan Donovan. 2-3 with three RBI.
Goat: Nolan Arenado. He had an RBI, but went 0-3 otherwise with two strikeouts and two left on. He almost made an incredible sliding catch, which was even more remarkable after we found out he was skipping the rest of the series and the All-Star Game to rest his back.
Notes: Nolan Gorman smoked his 9th homer of the year late in the game….Andre Pallante was serviceable, striking out five in his five innings of work but allowing three runs….the bullpen made this a little dicey, as Genesis Cabrera allowed two runners in the ninth (then spiked the ball when Oli Marmol came to take it from him) and Ryan Helsley allowed a hit as well, loading the bases with nobody out. Helsley got the next two before Brandon Drury launched one to center that was caught on the track by Dylan Carlson, letting everyone breathe and go home happy….Carlson doubled and walked three times.
Saturday, July 16 (11-3 win vs. Cincinnati)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. 2-5 with three RBI, including his 300th home run. I was in the park for Ken Griffey Jr.‘s 500th so it was neat to see another milestone.
Goat: Johan Oviedo. He allowed two of the three runners left on by T.J. McFarland to score before getting out of that inning and throwing a scoreless ninth.
Notes: McFarland walked two of the four batters he faced but Brendan Donovan made an error in between, costing him a chance to get out of the inning without incident….Miles Mikolas gave up a leadoff homer to Jonathan India, then went seven innings and gave up just two other hits….two hits by Tommy Edman, who must have known Mr. Godar and Mr. Humphries were in attendance….hits by every starter and Nolan Gorman, who pinch-hit late….home run for Lars Nootbaar, which made up for him striking out with the bases loaded and two outs in both the first and the second innings.
Friday, July 22 (9-5 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two run homer in the fifth that brought the Cards back to within a run, plus added another hit as well.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. I get that you want to start off with your best pitcher, but maybe from now on try to avoid Waino in Great American Ball Park? After this one, where he allowed seven in five and a third, his career ERA at GABP stands at 5.73 in 22 games there, the worst of any ballpark that he’s pitched in more than a couple of times. He’s 10-17 with a 5.46 ERA overall against the Reds, so juggling the rotation a bit might not be a bad thing when he’s scheduled to take on Cincy.
Notes: Nolan Gorman competed for the Goat, going 0-5 with three strikeouts and leaving three on base….the Cardinals out-hit the Reds 10-7 but Cincinnati had three homers to St. Louis’s one….two hits for Dylan Carlson and Nolan Arenado as well….Jordan Hicks allowed two of the runs charged to Wainwright and one of his own in 2/3rds of an inning….Zach Thompson was the only pitcher to get out unscathed, though he gave up a walk.
Saturday, July 23 (6-3 win at Cincinnati)
Hero: Tyler O’Neill. Two hits, three RBI, including a two-run shot in the fourth that gave the Cardinals the lead.
Goat: Brendan Donovan. Tough night for the rookie as he went 0-4 and left seven on base. Donovan is hitting .184 this month and that was with a few days off in the middle, plus the All-Star break. He might need a little more rest.
Notes: Three hits for Nolan Arenado, who also scored a run….another homer for Paul Goldschmidt, who went back-to-back with O’Neill….Steven Matz did a fine job in his return from the injured list, giving up just two runs in 5.1 innings. However, he went for a dribbler up the first base line and slipped, tearing a ligament in his knee. I would think it’s doubtful we see him again, which is why we talked above about John Mozeliak needing to find some pitching….in his last three outings Junior Fernandez has pitched two innings, allowed three runs (two earned), batters have an OPS of 1.433 against him, and he’s allowed three of the four inherited runners to score. It could be a regression after such a strong start, it could be the league has adjusted.
Sunday, July 24 (6-3 loss at Cincinnati)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. He had all three RBI, had two of the three hits (both homers), and scored two of the three runs. Truly he was the offense in this one.
Goat: Miles Mikolas. He wasn’t getting any help but allowing six runs in five innings isn’t going to win you many games either.
Notes: Packy Naughton, Patron Pitcher of the Blog, with another 1.1 scoreless….James Naile and Zack Thompson closed it out without incident….a pinch-hitting Albert Pujols had the only other hit on the afternoon.