Mike Matheny talks before home opener
Some observations from the first week of the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals season:
Yes, Matt Carpenter and Jose Martinez are excellent offensive players. But I am concerned that they're going to give away as many runs — or more — in the field as they drive in at the plate. Carpenter settled in at first base after stints at second and third were abandoned because of his scattershot arm. But the team wants to get Martinez into the starting lineup and first base is the only place he can really handle in the field. So, Carpenter not only is moved out of his least dangerous position, but he's replaced by someone who is actually a worse defender than he is. And this is the way the Cardinals are going to improve the defense? The Cardinals weakened third by replacing Jedd Gyorko with Carpenter and first by replacing Carpenter with Martinez. I get why manager Mike Matheny wants to find at-bats for these two. But I don't see this as a sustainable situation. The Cardinals have a questionable starting rotation, so the team can't afford to give away extra outs in the field.
He's only made one start. But it's getting more difficult for me to imagine Adam Wainwright is going to suddenly regain his form after two sub par seasons. Wainwright couldn't make it through four innings during the home opener. That was at least partially the fault of the previously mentioned crummy defense. But that can't excuse the fact that the once-dominant hurler ran up his pitch count by trying to nibble around the edges of the plate instead of attacking hitters like he used to. I love Wainwright. He's an all-time favorite. But it appears that Jack Flaherty is a better starting pitcher than he is right now. Wainwright seems to pitch one or two good innings per outing before he starts to fade. He might have some value as a reliever if St. Louis wasn't already overstocked in the bullpen.
I'm worried about the Birds' consistency. They have alternately looked excellent and terrible this season, not much in between. They were flat as a pancake in both the season opener and the home opener. But they looked dominant in all but a couple innings of the Milwaukee series. Unfortunately, those innings in the middle game were enough to cause a 4-0 lead to evaporate and a promising start turn into a loss. This team looks like an American League club from the 1970s, hoping for enough home runs to get by in between all the strikeouts. If the Cardinals could manage to make more productive outs, moving up runners instead of leaving them in place with whiffs, they might score an extra run or two a game and they could have had two more wins already this season.
I have worried the past couple of years that the innings would start to add up quickly and Yadier Molina would suddenly stop resembling himself. But, so far this season, he seems immune to the sands of time. Molina, who has already cranked out a couple of home runs and a couple more key base hits, seems like he's five years younger than what the back of his baseball card says. And that's a good thing because it's quite clear that this team needs Yadi to be its leader. While Marcell Ozuna, Pham and Paul DeJong have picked up some of the offensive responsibility, there is no doubt who is in charge on the field. Yadi is the heart, soul and personality of this team.
This Tommy Pham thing is getting old fast. Some people have run to Pham's side playing the he had a tough life when he was a kid card, the he need's to play with fire to succeed card, the don't tell him to shut up and play card and the racism card in the same hand. But I don't buy it. There are dozens of players in major league baseball who had a hard time when they were growing up, who play with "fire" in their game and who are outspoken about causes and issues who don't have to whine and complain until their teammates feel uncomfortable around them. Albert Pujols, Jackie Robinson and Bob Gibson fit most if not all of those criteria. I don't think anyone ever played with more fire than those guys and no one would dare to tell them to shut up about their causes. But they were and are interested in pursuing things that helped other people. Pham is mad at the world because he isn't happy with how much he's getting paid. It's unfortunate that he has had health problems that slowed his rise to big league prominence. But the Cardinals didn't hold him down on purpose to keep him poor. He can't change his past. But he's going to blow his chance to make the most out of his future if he doesn't stop complaining and focus on what's in front of him instead of what's behind him.