I have a bad feeling that the Cardinals' August swoon is going to weigh heavily on manager Tony La Russa's future plans.
And that's a shame. Because this team's demise has more to do with the players and the front office than it does with the manager's ability to lead the team.
A common theme over the last two season's has been Colby Rasmus' chilly relationship with the manager. The presumption from many is that Rasmus is the young stud who represents the future of the club while La Russa is a short timer. So Rasmus gets the benefit of the doubt based on the belief that he will be here long after La Russa has ridden off into the sunset to rescue animals fulltime.
But do we really want a pouty, disengaged guy who doesn't seem to be interested in learning anything new about the game or playing with more than a hangnail as our future centerpiece?
Guys like that are a cancer in the clubhouse that spreads as fast as a teammate can say "he doesn't have to do it, why should I?"
Rasmus isn't the only troubling player on the St. Louis roster by a long shot. But guys like Felipe Lopez and Randy Winn are older players on short-term contracts, so they're easily disposed of and they're not going to be guys La Russa would have to learn to live with if he decides to stay.
It seems like everyone is comparing Rasmus these days to another former Cardinals phenom who never seemed to make good on his limitless promise, J.D. Drew.
It's true, Drew wouldn't play if he had a pimple. But he was much more into the game than Rasmus has ever been.
The Cardinals fired Walt Jocketty because he was too old school to clear the decks for Jeff Luhnow to fill the roster will cheap young players. But what has the Cardinals farm system produced in the last few years? One dimensional or otherwise flawed players who put up nice power numbers on the stat sheet but who can't play defense well enough to start in the National League, a centerfielder who has great power, great speed and a great arm but he can't make contact consistently, run the bases or throw the ball in game situations and a revolving door for bullpenners.
Rasmus was forced on La Russa in spring training a couple years back when Jim Edmonds was traded away. Instead of having Edmonds teach Rasmus what he learned as a Gold Glove, All-Star centerfielder, they kicked him out the door -- and later did the same to Rick Ankiel -- because Rasmus couldn't deal with having to compete for playing time.
Meanwhile, the managers of the Cardinals farm system never gave Jon Jay a second thought. He tore up pitchers all the way up the minor league ladder. But Rasmus was their guy and he wasn't going to be challenged.
Maybe the reason the Cardinals minor leaguers seem to have a tend of flaming out like Anthony Reyes, Bryan Anderson, Chris Perez and countless others isn't that the manager doesn't give them a chance. Maybe it's because they aren't major league quality players for one reason or another. After all, it seems like real deal prospects like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Jaime Garcia didn't have a problem playing for La Russa.
The Cardinals need to take a good hard look at their roster and their management from top to bottom. And then they need to decide if they want to build around Rasmus. There are teams out there who would pay a hefty price for a power hitting young centerfielder. Would the club be better off if it could trade him for a leadoff man who can play short or second base?
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