They say, no matter how long you’ve watched baseball, that the game never ceases to amaze you with something new that you’ve never witnessed before.
Unfortunately, in 2017, the shockingly unusual thing we’re all witnessing is a hapless St. Louis Cardinals team that can’t field, can’t hit in the clutch and can’t finish out a game. What’s worse, is it doesn’t seem that this set of circumstances is anything that is going to change anytime soon. At least, not this season.
It’s disturbing that there aren’t a couple of things here and there that the Redbirds need to tighten up to get back in the win column. While some segments of Cardinals Nation argue that Mike Matheny is a great manager as evidenced by the fact that his team has qualified for the post-season in four of his first five seasons at the helm, it is an undeniable fact that that Redbirds have regressed in their quality of play in every aspect of the game through the last several years.
I have never seen such a poor fielding and poor base running St. Louis team. Combine that with Matheny’s questionable strategic moves and befuddling handling of the roster — especially the pitching staff — and I am starting to wonder how he seems so secure in his position.
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A lopsided loss like the Birds absorbed Tuesday after a stretch of losing 15 out of 20 games is often a prescription for a change of leadership.
Maybe Matheny’s job is safe because the front office hasn’t exactly done a great job the last two or three seasons, either.
General manager John Mozeliak is widely respected for the overall body of his work. But it seems that it was obvious to everyone in the St. Louis Cardinals universe but him that last off-season was a great chance to fix problems that held back a lackluster team in 2016. Mozeliak took the first steps toward improving a poor fielding and slow-footed team by shedding popular veteran outfielder Matt Holliday and strikeout machine Brandon Moss. But then he failed to add an all-star caliber slugger or any significant defensive improvements to the mix.
What we got was a Band-Aid solution to a condition that required semi-serious surgery, an odd formula to improve the defense by adding Dexter Fowler to play centerfield — even though he is a worse fielder than the guy he replaced in the position, Randal Grichuk — and an over-priced lefty reliever in Brett Cecil who has been a total disaster since spring training. Then crickets.
This St. Louis club is full of mediocre, incomplete players. They’re potentially nice compliments to a core of stars who could carry the team. The only problem is that there are no core stars. No Albert Pujols, no Jim Edmonds, no Scott Rolen to lead by example and put the team on his shoulders when things are going bad.
As poorly as things appear to be going, I think we could see something else we haven’t seen before in St. Louis: A fire sale.
Lance Lynn has value as a steady and productive starting pitcher who could add to the rotation of a contending team. Maybe Matt Carpenter could be an attractive piece to a team that needs a lefty hitter. Grichuk’s trade value has been diminished by a short-sighted demotion all the way to Class A Palm Beach. But it doesn’t seem there is a place for him in St. Louis in the future. Would a team want Stephen Piscotty and his friendly contract?
Get rid of the dead weight and let Paul DeJong, Magneuris Sierra, Harrison Bader, Patrick Wisdom and Luke Weaver show what they can do. Then, for the love of Pete, spend some money this off-season on players who can anchor the middle of a major league lineup AND catch the ball. Otherwise, the suffering is going to continue for years to come.