The latest melodrama to come out of the Cardinals’ locker room – the Colby Rasmus “Play Me or Trade Me Saga” – reflects a much broader issue with this team: Management has failed to effectively communicate to the Employees what is expected of them, and has failed to respond to their needs and concerns, as well.
In other words, the Cardinals are not unlike so many other struggling organizations throughout corporate America, suffering from low employee morale, diminished production, and an obvious lack of mutual trust. That is no way to run a business, and the St. Louis Cardinals National League Ballclub, Incorporated, is definitely a business; trying to earn a buck or two. By all accounts, the “business management” side of the organization is doing quite well, thank you very much. Their loyal fan base has been pumping money into this thriving enterprise for over a century; and for the most part, the relationship between the two has been a mutual “win-win”, with ten World Series championships as evidence.
Something went wrong with this baseball corporation over the course of the current season; the bottom line is they are not winning consistently enough to stay within reasonable striking distance of first place Cincinnati; even a wild-card berth seems very unlikely.
The fans are of course, shocked and saddened by this revolting development; we expect the Cardinals to win, for crying out loud. After all, this is a team with the greatest player in baseball (Albert Pujols, in case you missed it), and the three best starting pitchers (you know who they are) in the game. Winning was supposed to be a cakewalk, especially since they happen to play in the National League Central (aka “Comedy Central”), where lower echelon teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee and Houston also reside.
Oh yeah; Cincinnati plays in that division, too; and by all accounts, they are playing a much better brand of baseball than the Redbirds, and have a six game lead as proof. That is the harsh reality which is shaking Cardinal Nation to its very core. The reaction from fans and media has been a combination of shock, grief, anger, horror, and delusional optimism. We were just starting to get over last season’s NLDS disaster – compliments of the LA Dodgers – an embarrassing three game exit from the postseason which helped set the stage for the current negative mindset that has gripped this team and practically everybody who follows them; including me.
Typically, when things go wrong in corporate America, you will see a dramatic increase in finger-pointing and backstabbing; not to mention hidden agendas, negative job-threatening performance reviews, and lousy employee morale.
In the aftermath of the Cardinals’ shocking fall from atop the NL Central, we are witnessing much of the same stuff that goes on in the corporate jungle; except the problems are magnified by the widespread media coverage, which in turn, riles up the fans, while the players themselves become basket cases; and start playing worse than the day before. And so it goes.
It appears Tony LaRussa has failed to “connect” with his players; he has failed to effectively communicate with them what needs to be done to come together as a team and perform up to their capabilities; their struggles against some of the weakest teams in baseball is bizzare; yet, the Cards somehow manage to figure out how to beat their dreaded arch-rivals in Cincy.
One month after the remarkable three game sweep of loudmouth Brandon Phillips’ Reds, the Cardinals are trying to recover from that horrible team slump which now has them a half dozen games from the division lead.
Just as this team was starting to show signs of life, the Colby Rasmus – Tony LaRussa controversy has unfolded. While both sides of the conflict have given different stories about what transpired, Albert Pujols has provided his two cents’ worth – in essence, siding with the manager, publicly calling Rasmus out and suggesting he should get out of St Louis if he doesn’t like it there.
That kind of turmoil is really bad for business; not to mention, completely avoidable, if both parties had simply gotten together and worked out their differences, privately.
Therein lies the problem. A manager’s job is to keep the lines of communication open to the employees; to listen to their concerns, and try to resolve any problems that may arise. Apparently, that is not the type of relationship TLR has with many of his players; the “my way or the highway” approach now has the team’s very talented center fielder reportedly requesting a trade; just to get away from the boss. Whether or not the team is able to resolve this issue without having to trade a guy they desperately need in their lineup, day in and day out; remains to be seen.
Whether or not LaRussa comes back for another season (highly unlikely), one thing is certain: A different approach to management is desperately needed, for the players’ sake; the old way needs to hit the highway.