It was good to see the Cardinals bust out the hitting sticks Monday against Seattle.
But I worry about the long-term health of this club after General Manager John
Mozeliak mentioned in the Sunday pre-game show on Channel 5 that the team
seems to have a bit of a chemistry problem.
I doubt that he’s talking about a bench player and a middle reliever that don’t get
along. If he were, they’d be gone by now. Unfortunately, it is more likely to be a
couple of guys the Cardinals can’t do without who aren’t getting along.
It would seem the new kid on the block, $120-million free agent outfielder Matt
Holliday and the established superstar, Albert Pujols, are the ones who don’t care
for each other much. Not only are they cold toward each other on the field, but
they seem to be carrying their bad feelings onto the field and neither is producing
up to his usual standards so far this season.
I’m not sure if it’s a personality problem or if Pujols is irked that Holliday makes
more money than he does after the Cardinals backed out on their off-season pledge
of signing their superstar to a contract extension before opening day. But
something’s got to give.
Usually I would say suck it up and play ball. But, if Pujols and Holliday can’t
co-exist, it could be a big problem. Holliday, with 6 1/2 years and well more than
$100 million left on his new contract, is going nowhere. Pujols — the face of the
franchise — on the other hand, is a free agent after next season.
I hope, if Pujols and Holliday aren’t pals, that they can at least turn things into
a friendly competition. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig famously didn’t get along. But
they played together for the team and, instead of bickering with each other, they
tried to outdo each other.
Speaking of getting along, there was talk over the weekend that Colby Rasmus and
manager Tony La Russa are struggling to co-exist. The story goes that La Russa
cracked down on Rasmus for mental errors and the young outfielder closed himself
off and refused to speak with the skipper.
Seriously? I know players today are softer than the guys who played in the 1920s
and 1930s and you can’t beat them down and ship them off like clubs used to. But
come on. ... Let’s have a little bit of toughness. How are players supposed to stand
up to the mental grind of a six-month season and the constant battle against slumps
when they can’t handle a little bit of criticism. There’s still no crying in baseball.