Over the past decade the 2nd baseman position for the Cardinals has evolved from a steady job for a legitimate 2 bagger to a revolving door of players. The role players have varied from the established to the young hopeful, the aging to the wild card shot to see if it will work. During the reign of Tony La Russa this position was used more as a try out position for utility players than a steady home. One has to wonder if Mike Matheny will continue with that mindset and philosophy for the middle of the infield.
I think Matheny will attempt to re-establish this position as more of solid role for someone. In the 16 seasons of La Russa, over 40 different players made the start at second base. This mindset differs from the traditional role of the past. Red Schoendienst held the position for 14 seasons combined in the 1940’s, ‘50’s and early 1960’s. The 1960’s saw the rise of the Julian Javier and Phil Gagliano era. In the 1970’s there were a handful of players at second until 1979. In 1979, a rookie by the name of Tom Herr made his debut. During the next season he worked himself into the starting role. He became the face that most Cardinal fans remember at 2nd base. The smooth double play machine in conjunction with Ozzie Smith at shortstop was what we grew to be comfortable with. Herr would stay there until 1988 when he left the Cardinals.
Through the 1990’s we saw Jose Oquendo, Delino De Shields, Geronimo Pena and Placido Polanco at second. Then in the late 1990’s the merry go round of players seemed to pick up speed with each year that passed. It truly was an entry level position for the birds. La Russa was quoted in article by Derrick Goold of the Post Dispatch explaining his thought on the ever evolving position, “Except for the double play, you can knock a ball down and thrown a guy out,” La Russa said. “You have to have a certain arm to make it work.”
As unusual as this mindset might sound, he made it work. When the Cards tried to sign an everyday second basemen, Adam Kennedy, it didn’t work. It was back to the drawing board and time to “produce’ another 2nd baseman. I think everyone raised their eyebrows when the decision was made to move what is probably the most talented outfielder the team has, Skip Schumaker, to the infield. It has proved to be a solid decision. Schumaker needs to be on the field as much as possible. With Ryan Theriot being released and Schumaker signing a new two year deal, I hope we are moving into an era of a more solid and set everyday secondbaseman. Another option that is bouncing around, moving Daniel Descalso to second. He has a great arm and a great glove, but does he have the range? Is it an option to go and buy a one? Jack Wilson also remains out there in the free agent market.
The continuous juggling of players and line ups worked for La Russa, but I think we will see Matheny move toward a more stable and consistent offense and defense. I think this will be a good thing. I think we will see a regular second baseman, if not the Cardinals will make another one. They have done it before.
Tags: Adam Kennedy Daniel Descalso Delino DeShields Geronimo Pena Jack Wilson Jose Oquendo Julian Javier Mike Matheny Ozzie Smith Phil Gagliano Placido Polanco Red Schoendienst Ryan Theriot Skip Schumaker St Louis Cardinals Tom Herr Tony La Russa