One of the main things that irritates me about the St. Louis Cardinals thrifty offseason plans is that it seems like the club left far too much to chance.
Team leaders decided to go with unproven players in key spots when the Redbirds had plenty of money to go out and get athletes with a proven track record who could more likely be counted on. And if some of those players faltered, with more depth, the club would still have more options if some things didn’t pan out the way the team hoped.
So, while we’re only two starts into spring training and I know that lots of things can change between now and opening day, I don’t feel good at all about the fact the team absolutely refused to bring in a veteran pitcher — be it bringing back Lance Lynn or going out and signing Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb. Instead, the club took a gamble on a guy who pitched in the Japanese league after washing out of Major League Baseball four years ago and stuck with holdovers including an injury-plagued former ace in Adam Wainwright.
I love Wainwright. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Bob Gibson, too. But I don’t want to see the Cardinals send him out to the mound today to try to get people out. Unfortunately, age and injuries start to add up and guys who were once among the best in the game are suddenly not what they used to be. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s an inescapable reality.
I’m a little bit concerned that the usually affable Adam Wainwright has been seemingly grouchy this year. He held a huffy press conference early in the spring to tell the media not to ask him if he planned to retire. Odd, if he’s not concerned that he’s close to the end of the line. Then he responded after his most-recent spring training start by telling reporters in a sarcastic way that he struggled last season because he was injured. I’ve never seen him pop off like this before which makes me believe the stress is getting to him. I’d like nothing better than to see Waino go out there and win 19 or 20 games like in his heyday. I have no doubt we’re going to get every single drop of gas he has in the tank every time he takes the mound. But I’m nervous about having no Plan B.
And then there is Miles Mikolas. I sure hope we can laugh about this sometime in July. But right now his statistics are no laughing matter. He’s given up 13 hits and 10 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League play. It all adds up to an ERA of 19.29. Opponents are batting .429 against him and he’s allowing three baserunners an inning. Folks can dismiss spring training stats as being meaningless. And in the big picture, they are. But right now he’s not able to get Class AA prospects out. It doesn’t bode well for what’s going to happen when the big-leaguers get hold of him.
If the Cardinals want to audition a guy who hasn’t pitched in the majors for four years, that’s up to them. But they shouldn’t count on him to hold down one of their rotation spots all season. What happens if he stinks and Wainwright gets hurt? What happens if Michael Wacha’s shoulder starts to act up again. There are going to be too many holes in the ship and too few plugs to stop it from sinking.
That’s really not fair to fans who spend a lot of their hard-earned money to support this team. People say that we, as fans, shouldn’t spend the team’s money. But that money flows from us. The way I see it, the Cardinals solicited about $200 million from their supporters to throw a six-month-long party for the fans. Instead of getting a great band, super food and awesome decorations for that party, they decided to bust out their boom box and their mixed-tape collection, shop for dinner in the day-old bread section and skip on the novelties all together. So they’ll spend about $135 million and pocket the rest of the cash.
I get that this team’s leadership wants to draft and develop the bulk of its talent. But that doesn’t mean it can’t use other resources that are available to it to field a well-rounded team. Especially when there were plenty of good players available on the free agent market and obvious holes to fill.
If the Cardinals pitching looks anything at all in July as it appears in March, this team is going to be in serious trouble. And those supportive fans are going to be staying home. But I guess the team got it’s big television contract and it will still be raking in the big bucks, no matter what.
Maybe Wainwright isn’t cranky because he doesn’t believe in himself. Maybe he’s angry because the front office refused to put a team around him that can win in 2018, what may likely be his last year in the majors. I supposed I would be pretty mad if I was in his spot, too.