I’ve seen a lot of things I never expected in this disappointing St. Louis Cardinals season.
But hearing the players whine and moan because starting pitcher Mike Leake was traded to the Seattle Mariners takes the cake.
Sure, every little leaguer knows that it’s fun to play with your friends. But this is the big leagues and that means it’s big business, too. How can players who know what it takes to reach the peak of their profession, many of whom have played on championship teams in St. Louis or other places, claim to be surprised that a guy who won a third of his decisions this year, while being under contract for three more seasons at a total of $53 million, was traded?
The only shocking thing about this deal is that the Redbirds found a sucker — I mean taker — for Leake’s awful contract. Now the club has a big chunk of money in its war chest to spend on getting a player who can help this team next year and beyond.
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The Cardinals players who complained about the deal claimed their ire was based in the fact that the front office pulled the rug out from beneath their feet while they’re busting their butts to try to make the playoffs by going into “sell” mode.
Surely, those players must know that Leake, had he stayed, was facing a one-way ticket to the bullpen for the awful way he pitched in the second half this season — if not for his overall body of work since signing with St. Louis before the 2016 season.
The guy was 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA this season. He allowed 169 hits, 19 of them home runs, in 154 innings. Over the last month, Leake was 0-3 with an 8.88 ERA and allowed 42 hits, including five homers, in 25 innings. This is the guy the Cardinals can’t win without? Please.
I went to the game last Saturday night which turned out to be Leake’s last start with the Cardinals. At the time, the team was publicly considering the possibility of removing the embattled hurler from the rotation. I was disappointed when its leaders decided that Leake would hold onto his position instead of the Birds calling up Jack Flaherty to take the start. In short, I was more confident in a rookie making his first start than I was in a veteran with an $80-million contract.
It turns out the only reason Leake was allowed to start was to showcase him for Seattle.
I don’t see how any of his teammates who watch Leake perform on a regular basis could look anyone in the eye and say that he was making a positive impact on the Cardinals. They come off like a bunch of entitled babies who don’t think they should be held accountable for their performance.
When you have a team that has shown itself capable of going on eight-game winning streaks — but equally capable of following such a streak with a 2-8 stretch — it’s easy to imagine that a lack of focus is contributing factor to the mediocrity. I don’t have any problem with the front office breaking up the country club. These players aren’t nearly as good at hitting, pitching or defense as they are at making excuses for their shortcomings.
Maybe the sacrifice of one of their own will be the thing that lights a fire beneath this club. But it wasn’t going anywhere when it had Leake, so I don’t see his trade as running up the white flag because he just wasn’t that good.
Finally, if the Cardinals players are hurt that their buddy was traded, their ire is directed at the wrong people. Leake had a full no-trade clause. The only way he could be traded is if he approved of the deal. Ultimately, Leake is gone because he decided he wanted to leave. No one could have made him go if he didn’t want to.