What Happened To The St. Louis Cardinals?

Whatever brand of baseball this team is currently playing is NOT the product I grew up associating with the Birds on the Bat. This is reckless, absolutely disgraceful and incredibly frustrating.

Outfielders flat-out missing fly balls, overthrowing cut off men, and just a blatant lack of communication. Base runners getting picked off, persistently running into outs, and committing “Cardinal Sins” like making the first out at third base — only to hear the player defend the aggressiveness.

This is nonsense. Totally insane, and the Cardinals have a leadership problem starting with the manager, Mike Matheny.

Matheny, as I wrote shortly after his hiring, was a dangerous choice. His lack of experience is becoming increasingly exploited. He took over a roster littered with All-Star talent and had four successful seasons. But since the cornerstone names have dispersed, it seems Matheny is incapable of leading the next wave of talent at the big league level.

Drafted players are stalling, seemingly hitting their ceilings too early. Veteran players are declining at an alarming rate, and perhaps a fluke, it’s odd so many are having career-worst campaigns all at once. It’s one of the most perplexing situations in recent memory.

Matheny is popular internally for his tenacious defense of his players. Well, ahem, certain players. It’s created a strange divide, where certain cliques formed and has some wondering how to crack the Da Vinci Code. Fair or not, how in the world can something like this ensue?

The disturbing trend isn’t something that cultivated over the disastrous weekend at Wrigley Field. These problems have simmered for years. Winning delays ignorance, but it’s obvious the wound is too severe for Band-Aids at this point.

Matheny’s allegiance has hindered his ability to lead. The constant ‘pats on the back’ after so many egregious mistakes is downright mind-boggling. I’m all for positive reinforcement, but I wouldn’t assign a relentless apologist to lead a young battalion into war.

The clubhouse lacks the sternness of a Chris Carpenter. Think about when Brendan Ryan couldn’t find his glove for whatever reason and delayed the start of an inning in Milwaukee. Carpenter took care of that problem.

After missing the playoffs in 2010, the team recruited Lance Berkman to provide a voice that could tell someone when they messed up, and then share a laugh two minutes later. The Big Puma enjoyed a resurgent All-Star season in 2011 and finished 7th in MVP voting. His spectacular numbers on the field gave credibility to his message off.

But perhaps more importantly, the championship-level squads featured mainstays like Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.

The Cardinals are in desperate need for the next superstar. Elite-level talent is difficult to land, but every championship team features great players. Depressingly, the death of Oscar Taveras was a massive blow for the Cardinals. His void is glaring. He was essentially penciled in as the cleanup hitter for the next decade.

Yes, St. Louis still has a terrific catcher in Yadier Molina, but he turns 35 in mid-July and he has logged more miles than a 1952 Packard. The facts are what they are: Molina is batting .250 and the manager has plugged him in the five hole 30 times this year. The. Five. Hole.

Now is the time to make a trade. Working for Double-A Springfield, I’ve seen many of the “top” prospects. GM John Mozeliak should unload some of these coveted players to secure a polished, proven major league hitter. It would be a travesty to waste the current unbelievable starting pitching efforts because the organization refuses to make a splash.

It wasn’t long ago when Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa pressured the executives to trade Colby Rasmus for imperative postseason contributors Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Mark Rzepczynski. I think 2011 worked out O.K. for Cardinals Nation.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe the current manager has the sort of personnel power, which made La Russa so crucial. In fact, at times the general manager makes decisions to take options AWAY from the manager. See: Randal Grichuk.

This is not some vendetta against Matheny. I wish he could succeed, but it won’t happen in St. Louis. This dull offense has taken the personality of a proclaimed “Leader of Men”, and the commonly used “best baseball is ahead of us” phrase has grown painstakingly old.

Better days may certainly be on the horizon, but only under new direction from a leader who can right the ship.

FIVE OBSERVATIONS AND A STORY

  1. Enjoy Paul DeJong. This guy is a Cardinal in every facet. His homerun in Colorado was spectacular and he’s an exciting player. He should stay on the 25-man roster.
  2. There are vast opinions on what to do with Magneuris Sierra. He’s probably a little raw for the Show right now, but he’s fun to watch on a team where fun has been hard to locate.
  3. In 13 games with Atlanta, Matt Adams has five homeruns, 12 RBIs and scored eight runs. The good thing is the Cardinals had a surplus of offense to trade.
  4. It would be refreshing to hear the manager lose the political correctness for once and call a horseshit play, horseshit. This blind loyalty is hilarious. Sad!
  5. Seriously, where is Jose Oquendo? It’s preposterous to think his absence has no consequences. This team could use a Secret Weapon.

George Kissell, the late longtime Cardinals coach, must be spinning in his grave. He preached fundamentals like nobody’s business. If a player showed up late, he’d walk into the clubhouse and pluck his jersey. The tardy player would have to walk into George’s office to retrieve his threads. In return, George stressed the importance to recognize the prestige and honor of donning a Cardinals jersey. The privilege to play the game of baseball for such a storied franchise meant something to George Kissell. I occasionally wonder if that sentiment is still felt today.

All for now, thanks for reading.

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