If the St. Louis Cardinals were hoping their makeshift plans for closing out games were going to be the cure for all that ails them, the results Tuesday showed it’s not going to be all that simple.
Staked to a four-run lead to start the bottom of the ninth inning in Kansas City -- which is the easiest save situation possible by the rule book, Seung-hwan Oh walked the leadoff man and then gave up a pair of hits to load the bases, putting the tying run at the plate in a finish that should have been a yawner.
That’s just one example of the desperate moves the Redbirds have had to make this year to try to win games because the guys they expected to do certain jobs weren’t getting them done.
It’s really not Oh’s fault that he struggled as the closer, through. He shouldn’t be the closer. That’s not what he was signed to do.
As I watched it unfold, it hit me that the Cardinals need to quit trying to come up with Plan B and Plan C. What they need to do is find a way to get the players who were supposed to play key roles to perform up to expectations.
Deposed closer Trevor Rosenthal was brilliant in 2015. He started off pretty well this year but then trailed off dramatically before having his job wrested away from him for an undefined lesser role in the bullpen.
Even if Oh, came in and struck out the side without incident, that doesn’t really solve the problem. Because, if Oh is the closer, he’s not doing the job he was hired to do. Someone else will have to fill that role and the dominoes start to fall. The result is the team as a whole is weaker.
The same goes for the problems with slugging outfielder Randal Grichuk. The Cardinals sent him to Class AAA Memphis when he struggled to hit this season. Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty have taken turns in Grichuk’s stead in center. But when they do that, the Cardinals are depleting their bench and/or they are compromising their lineup in other ways.
Putting Pham, Wong or Jeremy Hazelbaker in center doesn’t solve the larger problem. None of those guys has the upside Grichuk had. Why can’t the Cardinals bring out his best?
Players sometimes have bad years. I get that. But it seems that so many of the St. Louis youngsters suffer growing pains?
Rosenthal, Grichuk, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha... These are all guys who have been around long enough that these stumbles should be in the rear view mirror. Oscar Taveras was benched in his final season for under performing before his untimely demise...
Barring a major shakeup from a trade, the Cardinals need to reassemble the roster the way general manager John Mozeliak envisioned it before the season. And then they need to find a way to get these players to turn their talent and potential into results.
The 2015 Cardinaks may have found a way to get more than they should have out of the sum of their parts. But that’s certainly not the case this year.
Could it be that the Cardinals rushed Wong, Grichuk and other young players to the big leagues too soon? Did they put too much pressure on them to be pillars of the team before they were established players? Did they show too much faith in Rosenthal by continuing to send him to the mound when he began to struggle -- or too little when they took his job away with no real plan to get him back on track?
According to the team’s pythagorean win-loss record, an estimation of what their record ought to be based on the talents of their players as opposed to what it really is in the real world, this team should be 45-31 instead of a handful of games over .500 at 40-36.
At 45-31, the National League Central has a two-horse race between two of baseball’s best teams. Instead, the Cardinals are hanging out on the fringe of relevance, unable to get their act together -- or at least to keep it together.