Cheap Seats

Carpenter and Fowler need to spend a lot more time on the bench

Matt Carpenter's slump has gotten so bad, the Cardinals need to take the bat out of his hands.
Matt Carpenter's slump has gotten so bad, the Cardinals need to take the bat out of his hands. AP

After a frustrating loss Saturday night to the San Diego Padres that saw the Cardinals manage to plate one run in 13 innings, it’s time to shake things up.

The Redbirds have done everything they can to try to get infielder Matt Carpenter and outfielder Dexter Fowler going offensively. It’s time to try something else.

Fowler put up a demoralizing hitless performance in six trips to the plate. He struck out twice and stranded four runners on base to see his average drop to .147 for the season. Mercifully, Carpenter was benched in favor of Jedd Gyorko at third base. But he came in the game at a pivotal point, pinch hitting for hurler Michael Wacha, at struck out looking. Great. That out dropped Carpenter to .145 for the year with a miserable .294 on base percentage.

During the past two weeks, Carpenter is hitting .091 with FOUR hits. He’s struck out 17 times. During the past week, he’s batting .050 with one hit and nine whiffs. He’s not getting better, folks. He’s getting worse. Much worse. The same can be said for Fowler who is batting .089 with five hits and 14 strikeouts during the past two weeks.

If these two were young players, they’d have found themselves in the minor leagues long ago. But they’re not kids. They’re veterans with big contracts. And that’s why they keep arriving at the ballpark to see their names penciled into the lineup. It’s got to stop.

Manager Mike Matheny is obviously trying to give Fowler and Carpenter every opportunity to play through whatever it is that’s troubling them. But this isn’t the first couple of weeks of the season. We’re a month-and-a-half in with no signs of life. I hope both players perk up. But they’re going to have to figure out how to do it in batting practice and off the bench. Because this team, which is trying to stay out of last in Major League Baseball in hits, can’t afford to carry them anymore.

I’m tired of hearing about this just being bad luck. Stop it. I don’t care if Carpenter hits a ringing line drive right to the second baseman (who is playing short right field in a shift) every single time. The object of baseball is to “hit it where they ain’t” and all Carp seems capable of now is hitting the ball where they are. Even if it’s hit hard, being a one trick pony doesn’t work in the majors. Carpenter isn’t unlucky. He’s unable to overcome the defense because he is so predictable. And there is nothing to blame on luck when he is on a pace to strike out nearly 200 times this season.

The last time I wrote about Carpenter’s missing bat, he hit a home run and a double the next day. But, we’re talking about the climate here, not the weather on one day. In the place the Cardinals are right now, they’re much better off with Gyorko — who is hitting .348 right now — starting at third. With all the outfielders the Cardinals have at the top of their prospect charts, let’s have a competition to see who gets the bulk of the playing time in right field.

Harrison Bader is only hitting .241 right now in limited duty. But he’s the best defensive outfielder currently on the team and he’s stolen four bases in a handful of games played. Bring back Tyler O’Neill and give him a shot. Or Randy Arozarena, who turned heads with a great spring training showing, is batting .324 in Class AA Springfield. It would be less of a stretch to call him up than when the Birds promoted Mags Sierra last year.

I don’t think Carpenter or Fowler are in any danger of being released. The Cardinals aren’t going to eat their contracts and they’re probably untradeable at this point. But they shouldn’t be promised starts if they aren’t producing well enough to justify them. Instead of letting them try to play through their woes, let’s have some internal competition to inspire them — and to help the offense get better in the short term.