Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you are aware the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle of a very bad stretch of baseball. Before Monday’s win at New York, the club had dropped 5 straight and if you take out the sweep against the AAA padres on a 4-17 stretch of baseball.
For whatever reason, I do not believe the sky is falling and all is lost for either this season or the future of the organization. Perhaps it is because I like Mike Matheny, and want to believe he will get it turned around. Perhaps it is that Mozeliak has earned some trust that he makes moves for the long-term good of the club, and not just knee-jerk reactions to fix immediate needs. Perhaps it is because I believe in the talent and leadership of this team, and understand what they have been up against with all the injuries. Or perhaps, I have allowed a paradigm shift to take place this season to take the long view and not get so caught up in the “window is now” mentality that has pervaded the Cardinals organization for the last several years.
It solidified in my mind last Friday night as I was on Conversations with C70 podcast. As I was talking with host Daniel Shoptaw, he reminded me the importance of getting out of that “all-in” mentality that it’s this year or nothing. Should fans have the expectation to put a winning product on the field? Of course. Is expecting to win a World Series or deep playoff run every year realistic? No. And again, do not take this as I am throwing in the towel on the Cardinal’s chances for this season. Just trying to provide some perspective.
The messaging from the media and front office the last few seasons has created a sense of urgency to “win now”. The conversation always centered around the need to win before Albert Pujol’s free agency, or before Tony LaRussa retired, or while Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were still producing at a high level.
We are in a different era now.
Yes it would be nice to get Berkman, Carpenter, and Beltran another ring; but this team has positioned itself to be a contender for a long, long time. There is good talent at the major league level, and the deepest farm system in years. That farm system is being bolstered by another solid draft
*Quick aside: I was overall happy with the Cards draft, and think they can sign a bunch of players based on where they slotted…but my gosh wouldn’t it have been nice to see one completely risky pick on a raw high schooler with a ton of talent? Isn’t that the point of having 5 of the first 59 picks, you get to risk one of them? Dan Kantrovitz played it safe in his first draft. Time will tell if he plays it this safe in every draft. I sure hope not…he was sitting on an incredible opportunity this year to take a very high upside but risky player, and didn’t do it. *
Heading into the Mets series, the Cardinals boasted the 3rd best run differential in MLB, and best in NL. Pitching has obviously been more problematic than offense during the May/June slide. But here is the main problem as I see it. Lack of veteran presence within the bullpen.
Some would say Mozeliak went all-in with a bunch of second year arms in the bullpen and that was foolish….that the club made a huge mistake letting Dotel walk. Be careful before quickly jumping to that conclusion. Yes, Dotel is a great pitcher, but Mozeliak had an experienced left-handed reliever in Marc Rzepcynksi coming off a great 2011. He also added two veteran relievers in the off-season that should have provided the needed veteran presence: Scott Linebrink and JC Romero.
Unfortunately, Romero severely underperformed and was released. Rzepcynski has struggled, and Linebrink got hurt. What is Mozeliak supposed to do? The Memphis roster has already been depleted due to the huge number of injuries this season. Should Mo trade off top prospects for bullpen arms this early in the season? It seems the approach is to ride out the tough stretch for the time being and allow players to get healthy, and deal from a position of strength and not urgency.
My plea to Cardinal fans is to take the long view. Realize the window to win is big, and a knee-jerk move to shore up a short-term problem may not be in the best interest of the organization for this year, and certainly over the long-term. The Cardinals will figure it out. A veteran presence is needed in the bullpen, perhaps Linebrink is one piece and we trade for another in July. But all is not lost.
The window to win is bigger now than ever.