To Be Or Not To Be An NL Team…That Continues To Be The Question

To piggy back off of last week’s column where I noted the Cardinals inability or maybe better said, hesitance, to play small ball the team embarks on a six game trip through the American League East. After the lack luster home stand showed that perhaps the Cardinals are not equipped for the NL game maybe this trip out east will show if perhaps they are built for the AL game. Somehow I doubt it. The St. Louis Cardinals are a team without a baseball identity and until they can commit to one style of play or the other the Cardinals will continue to linger in baseball purgatory. Worse yet, if management and the collective brain trust behind Ballpark Village cannot pick a direction for this team I fear every 3-4 years will be a roster turnover and more of the same.

There are a lot of quality players on this 2011 roster; the problem is that they can be divided into two groups. Those best suited to play in the NL and those maybe better off on an AL club. In this situation two halves do not necessarily make a whole. Adding to their identity crisis is manager Tony LaRussa, who cannot seem to make up his mind as to which style the Cardinals should play. Seemingly changing his strategy from series to series. We as fans and bloggers know what we see when watching a game so no facts, sabremetrics, percentages or other statistics will be used. That is for another article on another day. All statements within this column are based on the “eye-test” and common sense factors.

For as long as I can remember the breakdown was always speed and defense win games in the NL, power in the AL. Here is how it breaks down for the Cardinals. Theriot and Schumaker give away outs like free soup at a homeless shelter while Pujols and Molina when healthy are two of the best fielders in either league at their positions. If not for his glove Descalso would not be on the Major League roster, by the same token, if not for his bat neither would Allen Craig. The yin & yang of it goes on and on.

Based on the criteria above here is how I separate the two groups. In examining the roster I take into consideration any position player who has seen significant AB’s as either a regular or an off-the bench guy.

Albert Pujols Ryan Theriot
Daniel Descalso Allen Craig
Yadier Molina Matt Holliday
Colby Rasmus Lance Berkman
Skip Schumaker David Freese
Jon Jay
*disclaimer players were assigned leagues based on where their skill levels I felt were best suited. Some of course could play in both

Finding a way to utilize both types of players requires good strategy and gamesmanship. Usually synonyms for how TLR has managed his teams. But for his part, these last few seasons TLR’s management of this miss-matched roster only makes the differences more apparent. He has players in Rasmus and Schumaker who are supposed to be good on the bases but doesn’t let them show it. To make it worse more often than not he bats them out of position. In yet another mystifying move, where a team should be sacrificing offense for defense the Cardinals do the opposite on a daily basis by continuing to run Theriot out to SS rather than moving him over to 2B.

The pieces are there and yes injuries have played a large role in the season’s results thus far. But the season is not lost, especially not in the NL Central. The sooner the Cardinals and Tony LaRussa decide which type of team they want to be for the remainder of 2011 the better the results will be.

As usual these are just my thoughts…if you’re smart you’ll most likely agree. If not keep on reading my articles and you’ll get up to speed.

Follow me on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze or check out my thoughts on the Rams at RamsHerd.com

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