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If I Were Mike Matheny (Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals)
The St. Louis Cardinals, my baseball team of choice. I've been a fan of the team since I was old enough to walk. I attended my first Major League game in 1965 when the fledgling Houston Astros hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. My father caught a foul ball from Julian Javier, known as The Phantom for his ability to elude base runners sliding into second base. We found him after the game and had him autograph it. For some time after that it was a treasured heirloom in the family: until I played catch with it and the autograph was occluded by grass stains. Ouch, that hurt.
Another memory of the Cards that is a favorite of mine centers around a player, Matty Alou and an Enos Slaughter-like dash around the bases in the early 1970's. We were on our way back from Stockton Lake and had stopped for an ice cream cone at a little roadside shop in a small town. I recall yelling at the radio as he flew around the bases, the announcer screaming out what was going on to those of us hundreds of miles away. When he scored, we all jumped up and down like crazy people.
I have now been a fan of the team for over a half century and have made my share of second guesses over the decades. Never have I put them in black and white, but the time has come to put pen to paper, so to speak. Mike, I loved ya as a player, for your grit and toughness, but sometimes, I wonder...
What in the hell are you thinking?
Seung Hwan Oh
Should this be Wong's walk back to the dugout music?
What do I mean? Well, I suppose I mean what drove you to search out, pay for, and play Ruben Tejada? He isn't a powerhouse player; he's an average glove, average arm, average bat. I understand that with Peralta going down you needed someone, but there, standing in the wings was Aledymas Diaz, Cuban born, defector to America to play the great game of Baseball, good hitter, good glove; in other words, at least what Tejada was if not more. Why spend for what you already had? And now Tejada is injured and look who you bring up: Diaz. Kinda makes you wish you had done this in the first place, huh?
And this First Base thing, settle it already!! Matt Adams is a hulking fella who ought to be able to crush the ball: problem is, he can't find the ball to crush it. He has had his moments but they have been few and far between. I can't say what kind of a man he is but the one time I met him at an autograph session he struck me as arrogant and somewhat snooty for a ball player from a small town; you know, one of those "I play Major League Baseball, make millions of dollars and you small people clamoring for my autograph are beneath me" kind of guys. I wonder if he has always been a big fish in a small pond and is having trouble adapting to being less than that. Might take a look at his personality, Mike; he may not ever come around and just because you like him doesn't mean he's worth liking as a player. I mean, his swing has more holes than a block of Swiss Cheese! If they pitch where he swings great; if not, whooooosshh! Who needs a fan?
I was all for putting Piscotty at first. I know I wasn't there to see how he progressed last year but I believe he has the adaptability to play about anywhere: kind of like Matt Carpenter has. I knew, I KNEW he was going to be an outstanding second baseman when the ol' Secret Weapon began working with him. Had no doubts. That first year I drafted him in every one of my fantasy leagues and by the middle of the year I looked like a genius to every other manager in those leagues. Holiday may be an acceptable first baseman but we need someone to play the position and help the team: Adams ain't it. Move him along the road, maybe to the American League. Someone will want him. Moss may be a step up but not much. There's gotta be someone in the minors we can bring up. If not, work a trade.
And for crying out loud SOMEBODY teach Kolten Wong how to hit!!! Tell him to stay away from those low inside on the dirt pitches he loves, and those high outside pitches he keeps swinging at. Look, if I were there at Spring Training I'd treat him like those parents of old who caught their kid smoking a cigar: I'd lock him in the woodshed with a whole box and he don't get out until he's smoked every single one. Break him from suckin' eggs! How? Every single pitch he sees in practice is a curve ball at his ankles: learn to hit 'em or stop swingin' at 'em!!! He wouldn't see a single good pitch until he can identify his problem and stop swinging at balls in the dirt. Then work on those high outside pitches, teach him those aren't to be swung at either. And if he doesn't learn, teach him to bunt. Maybe he can be a good sacrifice bunter or something. Bottom line, he ain't a home run hitter so quit swingin' for the fences, he ain't a good hitter, and he's kind of like Gary Templeton: making the great plays look effortless and bungling the everyday plays because he lacks focus.
Look, Kolten, if you don't stop striking out maybe your walk up music should go away and you have walk away music, like Brittany Spears "Oops! I did it again!"
Is he even looking at the ball?
Hope you're taking notes here Mike; if not feel free to print this off and refer to it now and again during the year.
Okay, what's next? We've touched on first base, second base, shortstop; what else do we need to look at? Starting pitching is looking good; I'm comfortable with our relief corp; bench is what it is. Maybe batting order?
Matt Carpenter is a legitimate power threat it appears, so why bat him first? Piscotty bats first, followed by Carp; then I'd follow with Holiday, Grichuk (maybe - more later), Yadi, Diaz, whoever plays left (Hazelbaker) if Holiday was playing first, then Wong. I might even pull a LaRussa and bat the pitcher before Wong at times: like when Garcia and Leake were pitching. Moss would play first if Holiday was in left, and when Pham gets back it would be him in left and Holiday at first virtually all of the time, with Moss, Garcia, and Gyorko off the bench and spot starters.
Now, let's talk about Grichuk. Go back and watch video of his swing and misses: you won't have to look too far to find some. Are his eyes even on the ball when he swings? If they are then maybe he needs glasses 'cause he sure ain't seeing the ball hit the bat. If not, then maybe he needs a few drills to impress the need for eyes on ball. One I've used in the past when teaching players to keep their eyes on is have a bat with letters on it. When they hit the ball, shout out the letter the ball hit. Simple enough really. Another one is tossing practice golf balls, you know those wiffle golf balls to be swung at. Quite a bit smaller than a baseball and if they can square up a wiffle golf ball they can hit a baseball.
This last one is my favorite drill. I used it myself a long, long time ago to teach myself how to hit left handed. I am a natural right handed hitter but wanted to learn how to hit left handed. I took an old bat (wooden) and went out to a dirt road. Standing in the road I would pick up a small rock, toss it into the air and swing away. I must have done that for a couple of months, tens of thousands of swings before I had grooved my swing the way I wanted it. By the time the bat was chewed in half about six or eight inches from the end I was there. Then I took an old aluminum bat and did the same thing until I broke it in half. Buddy, let me tell you I was a good left handed hitter from that point on. Great hand to eye skills, I could decide if I would hit the ball to left, right, or center when I wanted. It had nothing to do with the pitcher, I decided based upon how I shifted my hips and if I swung inside out or rolled my wrists. It ain't that hard and if this ol' country boy could do it, then there's no reason a talented athlete like Grichuk can't. Get on him! Might toss Big City and the Wong-anator in the mix as well.
Now: about those Cubs. Go after them! Pitch them hard inside, never letting them extend their arms. You know all about Heyward and how he can't hit anything inside, treat the rest the same way. Don't be afraid to throw inside when they stand way off the plate like that: just have the pitchers throw a cutter or curve a couple of inches off the plate. High heat ought to work well if its up and in to those lefties like Heyward and Schwarber. As for Bryant, hell if he hits a home run so what. He'll strike out the other three or four times in the game. Just make sure no one's on base when he does.
And when you face Lester for God's sake RUN! RUN FORREST RUN!!! Make them throw the runner out! Hell I'm in my fifties, a svelte 250 pounds on a 5'10" frame and I could steal second on him! Work on his mind!!!! By the time Lester is through five he'll have sweat stains in his underwear and arm pits, his hat will be dripping and something brown will be drizzlin' down his legs.
Let's see, anything else?
I think that ought to get you going and put the team on a good track. Just remember to not out think yourself when it comes to the bullpen; keep Adams on the bench or trade his big city ass; and for goodness sake's find out why the boys are pulling muscles like they are. Those guys pull more muscles than a teenage boy does in the heat of summer after a hot date. Maybe all this new fangled yoga crap and Pilates stuff ain't what it ought to be. Might have them run more, stretch less and quit saying things like "OOOOOOUUUUHHHHMMMMMMM" when they meditate.
Look, I love the Cards; always have, always will. But I'm tired of seeing simple things derail the team. There's too many mental mistakes; too many simple errors both physical and mental; too many things that are taught to kids that these "Major League" athletes don't do properly. They can't be dumb, so they must just forget. Maybe? Please, remind them how to play the game!
Good luck and go get 'em Redbirds!!