Pitchers and Catchers report this weekend. Divine music to the ears of all Cardinals fans. Now that the Rites of Spring have officially begun I want to take this opportunity as a Cardinals fan to express my wishes to new manager Mike Matheny about the 2012 season. I will do this in the form of a letter to Matheny. My wishes may not be shared by many Cardinals fans, but that is the point of this post, to generate a discussion about the issues and I hope this letter does just that. Here we go.
Dear Mr. Matheny:
I want to start this letter by saying how excited I am for your first season as Cardinal manager. I was a fan of yours when you played for the Cardinals and I believe you have the makings of a great manager. As a Cardinals fan since childhood, I start every season with high expectations. The Cardinals have a long and storied history as one of the winningest franchises in MLB history, second only to the Yankees in the number of World Championships. We as Cardinals fans have a lot to be proud of, and the Cardinals organization has rewarded us over the years with a consistent record of winning teams. I certainly hope and believe that 2012 will continue that record.
Having said all that I have some small requests to make with regard to the 2012 team. Of course I am only one fan and therefore my requests should have no more weight than any other fan, but nevertheless I feel compelled to express them to you. These requests are based on my sincere belief that these things are best for the team. You may disagree and that is your prerogative as manager. Any disagreement on your part will not affect my love for this team in any way. Here are my requests.
First, please do not bat Carlos Beltran second in the lineup. I have heard this idea put forth by many in Cardinal Nation, including the Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak. I think this is a mistake. While Carlos Beltran does have a very good OBP, which is important in a number two hitter, his most important talents, his power and his high number of RBIs, beg for him to be in the middle of the lineup. Lance Berkman has a very high OBP, higher than Beltran, but I ask you, would that alone compel you to bat Lance second? I doubt it. Our esteemed editor at Redbird Rants wrote a piece a while back, explaining in detail using statistics why Beltran is not the best choice as a number 2 hitter in the Cardinals lineup. He pointed out very convincingly that you have two other choices, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso, who are much better suited in the number 2 spot. Please read his piece and consider his arguments.
For my second request, I would like to ask that you not consider playing Skip Schumaker at second base this year. I have no personal animosity towards Schumaker, I hear he is a great guy and a great teammate, and I have no reason to doubt this at all. However, being a great teammate is not a reason to play him at a position he is not suited for. The former Cardinals manager insisted on turning the outfielder Schumaker into a second baseman, an experiment that was a monumental failure. Please don’t repeat this failure. Schumaker himself once laughingly remarked that his arm was his “one tool”. I agree, and that one tool belongs in the outfield where it is useful. You have two more than adequate second baseman on your roster; Daniel Descalso, who unlike Schumaker is a natural second baseman, and Tyler Greene, who although primarily a shortstop certainly has the tools to be a good second baseman. Please use them for that purpose and use Schumaker where he belongs, in the outfield.
Speaking of Tyler Greene, my third request is that Greene be given as many opportunities as possible to play and show us once and for all whether he can be a major league player. I have not been a fan of Greene in the past, but that is primarily because he has not shown me anything impressive (0ther than his speed) during his brief stints in the majors. But proponents of Greene have made the argument, and it is a convincing one, that Greene has not had enough time in the big leagues to make his case. So, please give it to him. If he can perform in the big leagues as he has in the minors, he can be a major player for the Cardinals. Greene is out of options, so 2012 is his last opportunity to prove his mettle. It would be a shame to waste this opportunity.
Next, I would request that we see more running on this 2012 team. Since the end of the Whitey Ball era, the Cardinals have de-emphasized the running game. Perhaps this is because former manager Tony LaRussa was not a big proponent of it. Perhaps this was because of his history in the American League, where this skill is not a big part of most teams’ strategies. That is their loss. The lack of a lot of base stealing in the American League is one of the reasons I find watching American League baseball about as exciting as watching grass grow. That, and the abomination called the DH, but that is another post. I don’t expect a return to Whitey Ball, the current team is not built for that, but I would like to see an increased use of this skill by the players who have it. Make those opposing catchers not named Yadier Molina work harder for their chance to be like Yadier Molina. As a former catcher, you should appreciate this.
My final request is not really a request, but is more like a comment. There has been increasing interest by many in Cardinal Nation to see Shelby Miller pitch for the Cardinals sometime in 2012. I am not one of those who is interested in that. Shelby is one of the most exciting pitching prospects the Cardinals have had in decades, and I am hesitant to see the Cardinals take the risk of bringing him up too soon. He has only been in the minors for two years and one more year of seasoning would do him good, especially for his maturity level. He is barely 21 years old, so there is no reason to rush him. Even if there are injuries during the year to the Cardinals’ pitching staff there is enough depth in the minors other than Shelby to cover those injuries. While bringing Shelby up is an exciting prospect, doing so only because Cardinal Nation wants it is not reason enough. I am willing to wait until 2013.
That is the extent of my requests. I am not greedy, nor am I a back seat manager. I believe you will do a wonderful job and I am looking forward to the 2012 season.