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The 2018 St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Team: The Time Has Come to Wave the White Flag on This Team

Updated on July 19, 2018
Dexter Fowler
Dexter Fowler | Source

Was someone listening to me before I even spoke out loud?

Sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Life stepped in. Saturday night, July 14th I began this Hub after watching the truly pathetic effort the Cardinals were giving, and had given, over the past couple of days. Days, hell: months. Teams that couldn't have beaten the Little League World Champions were trouncing the Cards time and again. Pitchers making their big league debuts looked like Sandy Koufax, leaving the Cards swinging at dust dancing over the plate as the ball bounced in front of it, or waving at pitches so far outside that if the batter had been in the other batters box the ball would have hit him at least, or been behind his back at worst. Some of these players literally were swinging at anything a pitcher threw. Hell, I could have won ten games this half season pitching against my favorite team!

Anyway, someone took notice of my unpublished Hub and took action. Mike Matheny was fired along with John Mabry, his hitting coach and the assistant hitting coach.

Thank you, Gods of Baseball!

I love the St. Louis Cardinals, but this team is trying my patience.

My first game was a Cardinal game in 1965, when they played the newly minted Houston Astros in Houston. The previous year the team had been the .45's and I watched as players on the Cardinals like pitchers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, catchers Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker, infielders Ken Boyer and Julian Javier, and outfielders Mike Shannon, Curt Flood and Lou Brock took the field against this team; watched as the new electronic scoreboard in the outfield showed fireworks and animation like never seen before; and enjoyed a game for a team that ended up under .500 for the year, some 16 games behind the eventual league winner.

But watching this team, playing right now, is a struggle like I have never had before.

Problem Child #1

Mike Matheny. His coaching style, or lack thereof, is atrocious. At times it appears as though he literally has no clue whatsoever about how to manage a professional baseball team; other times he's not so bad, or maybe those times he is lucky. Take a game this past week against the White Sox. Dexter Fowler, who is a horrible hitter this year and worse than normal batting right-handed, is left in to hit against a left handed pitcher. Now to me, common sense says to bring in a right handed bat off the bench, say Harrison Badar to replace Fowler at the plate with the added benefit of a tremendous increase in the defense for the remainder of the game. While the Cards were ahead by several runs, recently no lead is truly safe with the way the bullpen is constructed and playing. Subbing in a better right handed hitter with better defense made sense to me and probably 98.9% of the free world: not Matheny. Leave ol' Mr. K (Fowler) in to hit. I have no doubt Matheny felt vindicated after Fowler hit a grand slam, but really, it was pure luck it turned out that way. Fowler hasn't been able to hit his way out of a wet paper bag this year and hitting right handed he is even worse. In this case, the blind hog found an acorn and made his manager look like a genius.

However, only a few days later Matheny threw away whatever good will he had gathered by that incident by throwing his 21 year old flame-throwing pitcher Jordan Hicks under the bus by inferring he was "soft" after it was revealed that "old timer" closer Bud Norris was "bullying" Hicks in the bullpen and clubhouse. Matheny basically gave Norris free rein to continue the behavior and that, I believe, was his undoing. In today's world of hypersensitivity to bullying of any kind, this was his death knell.

Problem Child #2

Hitting coach John Mabry. While I am not privy to the inside of the clubhouse, and there are few articles to read concerning Mabry as a hitting coach for the Cardinals, I feel, or believe (your choice) that he is not supplying good direction for the players in today's game. On every website concerning baseball, in every meeting about baseball, and in every report by the talking heads about baseball the word sabermetrics is bandied about. And while the word is seemingly on every reporter's and manager's lips the game I see today does not really reflect the thought and meaning behind it to the degree it could. Oh, there are facets of it such as a shift put on for a hitter who is a dead pull hitter which results in more outs on balls hit into the area normally vacant of a defender, thus taking away a hit from said hitter but beyond defensive positioning and possibly pitchers throwing to holes in a hitter's swing (whether they are able to hit those spots consistently is another matter entirely) what evidence of sabermetrics do you see in the game? Announcers and reporters of the game spout statistics left and right but do we know if they even have a place in a manager's game plan, specifically Mike Matheny?

But I am currently speaking of John Mabry, hitting coach. As a player John was nothing special as a hitter which should mean, according to the author of Moneyball Michael Lewis, that he would be a good coach. In this incredible book he relates a story concerning Hall of Fame Red Sox Jim Rice and his approach to hitting as it was relayed to player Scottie Hattieburg. Basically, to swing away at anything that is near the plate on the first pitch. To hell with Scottie's approach that gave him an edge, which was proven to be the truth by being a patient hitter and hitting the mistake thrown by the pitcher, swing away! Rice spouted facts concerning his hitting approach and demanded all of his players follow suit. Thus, a lesser player (Mabry) should be a better coach than Rice because he wasn't successful as a player so he might have studied the game harder to cover for his lack of talent.

That is the theory anyway. In truth, it appears that Mabry was of a type similar to Rice in that he promoted a swing for the fences approach to virtually every hitter he mentored. The only exception to this rule appears to be Matt Carpenter who is as patient a hitter as I have ever seen, driving up pitch counts every at bat. Beyond that, every other hitter swings at pitches so far out of the strike zone as to be ridiculous.

And that is where sabermetrics should be assisting, by helping hitters to pattern pitchers in the same way pitchers pattern hitters. Pushing patience, developing the eye of the hitter to be able to recognize a certain pitch in a certain count thereby having an advantage, and that is exactly what we do not see the Cardinals hitters doing. Evidently, Mabry has been unable to either teach or inspire hitters to follow this approach. And so, he must go.

Moneyball

If you haven't read Moneyball, I highly suggest doing so. I finished it inside of two days and immediately began reading it again, slowly this time to better understand its ramifications and applications in today's game. The film, starring Brad Pitt is good but the book is far superior to the film. And while the Cardinals are far from being cash strapped as the Oakland A's are, still the core of what is being preached is relevant in the game today and the Cardinals would behoove themselves to take a look at it.

Basically, Moneyball is finding value in players and methods other teams do not. Statistics such as OPS (on-base + slugging) mean runs, and runs are the key to winning games. Finding, developing or encouraging hitters to become on base machines means scoring runs and scoring runs is the key to winning more games. I cannot tell you how many games the Cardinals have lost this year and in recent years past where they were unable to score even two runs in a game. They have truly been a feast or famine team. Last week they scored 14 runs in one game, followed by a total of 3 runs in 3 games, losing all 3. Not the way to a playoff berth.

Basically, what is needed is an overhaul. Get rid of Matheny, get rid of Mabry. Bring in someone who can motivate those players able to be motivated; get rid of those who are not; and bring in players who can get on base with either hits or walks. Cut down on the strikeouts as they are the same as walking to the plate without a bat in your hands: after you strike out you have done nothing for the team except add one more out to the other team's total, thus reducing your opportunity to score a run. I would take a team full of "Punch and Judy" hitters, those pesky little single and double hitters, who put the ball in play and draw walks and rarely strike out to a team of sluggers who hit a home run every few games but swing and miss more than they connect with a ball. If you cannot hit a well placed ball why in the hell are you swinging blindly at it? And if you cannot recognize a ball on the outside portion of the plate is breaking away from you why swing at all? You cannot hit it!

Can this year be saved?

I doubt it. Stranger things have happened but don't count on it. Milwaukee is playing better than anyone else in the division; the Cubs are the Cubs and will play well enough to get to the post season. The Dodgers will win the West; Nationals the East. Arizona or Atlanta will take the other Wild Card slot leaving St Louis in the cold once more. Even Philadelphia could surpass the Cards in the Wild Card standings thus adding another team above them. Basically, I see the Cards as a team winning 85 games AT BEST and being four or five games behind the closest Wild Card contender.

So, what to do? First off, I would send Jordan Hicks down to the minors to learn how to improve his strikeouts. Anyone who can hit 105 mph like he has should be mowing down hitters in the latter portion of the game and while he has flashes of brilliance, the bottom line is he gets hit too hard for someone throwing the ball that hard. He's only 21 years old for goodness sakes! He made the jump from Class A ball to the Major Leagues and is doing well considering; give him a chance to season just a bit for our, and his, future.

Get rid of Matheny, Mabry and company (NOTE: DONE!!). Bring in someone who can connect with the players, who commands respect by giving respect, and who knows how to run a team. I do not favor Girardi nor do I favor McGwire. I like Shildt and feel he could be the answer. Find a batting coach who knows how to hit, knows how to relate that skill to the players, and who preaches how to control the at bat, not be controlled in it. Anyone know where Wade Boggs is nowadays?

Find a hole for Greg Holland and bury him. Deep. Trade Bud Norris and get something, anything in return. Give Dexter Fowler away if need be and pay someone to take him. He cannot hit, he cannot field and he has no place at his age on a team being built for a run in 2020. Find an American League team for Jose Martinez and get rid of his abysmal fielding; he can hit but at what cost in the field. He might be just the type of player Billie Bean wants in Oakland: high on base with questionable fielding. Make the trade.

Those are the easy changes: now for the difficult ones. Trade Matt Carpenter. I love Carp but he is a borderline liability defensively. He can play 1B somewhat but that is it. He is on the wrong side of 30 and again, not for a team building for 2020. And he cannot throw or move enough to play 3B or 2B: find a team to trade with. Also, trade Carlos Martinez. I know he is young; I know he has the best stuff on the pitching staff but he just does not seem to be able to begin to be consistent. From his hair color to hair length to his delivery to seeming to not even care if he is pitching well, the CMart of late isn't having fun or isn't able to concentrate well enough to take his place amongst the great Cardinal pitchers of all time like I thought he might a year or two ago. When he is right he is unhittable; when he isn't he is hard to watch. What is it they say? Million dollar arm and a ten cent head? Is that the problem with him, or is it something else? For whatever reason he is not the leader he needs to be and it doesn't appear he will be able to take upon himself the mantle of ace pitcher for this staff.

Keep DeJong, Wong, Badar. Trade Ozuna with that weak arm and butt ugly swing of his (he reminds me of the saying he never met a pitch he wouldn't swing at). Keep Yadi behind the plate or at 1B. Gyorko plays a decent 3B and if he receives consistent playing time he might be a good hitter. Pham could turn it around as he is as hard a worker as I have ever seen. Bring up a couple of those AAA players we keep hearing about to play the field and pitch; see how the rest of this year goes and next year then take a look at replacement pieces. And above all...

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM BRYCE HARPER, MANNY MACHADO AND ANY OTHER RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE FREE AGENT!

Find the ones who are quietly excelling at getting on base, playing a decent position on the field and pitchers who know how to pitch. Don't hamstring the team with hundreds of millions of dollars committed to a single player. But do not sign half-assed players like Fowler and Ozuna, and pitchers like Holland who are not going to add to your team. Even my limited research led me to understand that Ozuna wasn't what he appeared to be last year, and Fowler was a cast-off from the Cubs while Holland hadn't had any Spring Training so came into the year behind everyone else with no place to get ready. And while Mikolas is doing very well, now is the time to sell on him. Get something while the getting is good and someone wants him for a stretch run at the playoffs. Find the value in players who will add to the team, not take away from it.

Positional Changes

Position
Current Player
Keep
Trade
Replace With
1B
Matt Carpeter
 
X
Luke Voit (interim)
2B
Kolten Wong
X
 
 
3B
Jedd Gyorko
X
 
 
SS
Paul DeJong
X
 
 
C
Yadier Molina
X
 
 
LF
Marcell Ozuna
 
X
Tommy Pham
CF
Tommy Pham
X
 
Harrison Badar
RF
Dexter Fowler
 
X
Yairo Munuz
Bench
Greg Garcia
X
 
 
Bench
Jose Martinez
 
X
Tyler O'Neill (interim)
Bench
Yairo Munoz
X
 
Randy Arozarena (promote)
Bench
Francisco Pena
X
 
 
Bench
Harrison Badar
X
 
Patrick Wisdom (promote)

Pitching Staff Changes

Position
Player
Keep
Trade
Replace With
SP
Carlos Martinez
 
X
Daniel Poncedeleon
SP
Michael Wacha
X
 
 
SP
Miles Mikolas
 
X
Austin Gomber
SP
Luke Weaver
X
 
 
SP
Jack Flaherty
X
 
 
RP
Brett Cecil
 
X
Matt Bowman
RP
Sam Tuivailala
X
 
 
RP
Greg Holland
 
X
Ryan Sherriff
RP
Bud Norris
 
X
John Brebbia
RP
Mike Mayers
X
 
 
RP
Tyler Lyons
X
 
 
RP
Jordan Hicks
X (AAA)
 
Adam Wainwright
RP
Luke Gregorson
X
 
 

Comments

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    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      22 months ago from Hollister, MO

      I was out in the storm, vicious wind, for sure. I pulled off my curvy road to let the first emergency vehicle from the east pass. He was followed by 8-10 others in short order. Scary. So sad to hear of the outcome. Tragic!

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      22 months ago from Missouri

      Thank you Dr. Bill. Are you okay there in Hollister? That storm that came through around 7 PM was bad over here. Take care Sir and maybe I'll see you at SDC soon.

    • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      22 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Very interesting suggestions, well thought out. It will be interesting, for sure, to see what they actually do... Thanks for standing up and sharing some serious thoughts, from a serious fan!! ;-)

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