No wins from the World Champs? I don’t think we are seeing signs of a World Series hangover just yet. The St. Louis Cardinals are currently winless in their Spring Training campaign after a mutually agreed upon stoppage after nine innings today against the Washington Nationals. There is no need to panic or hit the tilt switch just yet. There are several reasons this is the case and the Birds will be back on the winning track in due time.
Spring Training is an interesting beast. While the Win/Loss record is not ultimately that important it does tend to set a tone for the remainder of camp and the start of the season. The Cards are in a precarious situation with all of the offseason changes that have taken place. I am sure manager Mike Matheny would love to get a win as soon as possible, if only to get the monkey off his back. I would like to show him some credit for sticking to his plan of getting his pitchers the right amount of work and taking a look at several players. The road trip to Viera to play the Washington Nationals skewed young with many veterans remaining back in Jupiter and avoiding the road trip. The Cardinals even had two nineteen year olds on the field at the same time (Pitcher Tyrell Jenkins and Outfielder Oscar Taveras).
The Redbirds are readying to host the Boston Red Sox in Jupiter tomorrow. This will mark this season’s Grapefruit League debut of Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal. This will hopefully bolster a line up and get the Cardinals off the snide. I have been excited about the performance of several youngsters thus far. I was pleased to see Shelby Miller survive a collision and a rough start today relatively unscathed. The future holds great things for this minor league standout. His role will be with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, but he may make an impact sooner rather than later in the big leagues.
This is a club that is finding its legs and is prepping to defend its World Series title. Matheny and his staff are doing an admirable job of evaluating what seems to be an abundance of young talent. I hope they continue to take a look at everyone to see what will be the best fit. Spring training is one of my favorite times of the year for a lot of reasons. One of the things I love is getting to see the youngsters that we usually only hear or read about unless you have the opportunity to attend minor league games on a regular basis. We get a firsthand glimpse of what kind of role these guys will play in the future. I am glad there isn’t a tremendous emphasis on wins and losses. There is a focus on development and preparation.
With that being said the rumor mill will begin to heat up about Matheny and his staff if there aren’t wins before too long. Right now the fact that it is early and we really haven’t seen any of the big guns will carry this staff through. If the Birds remain winless it will begin to take its toll and the verdict will start to form about what kind of decision John Mozeliak made when he turned the team over to an inexperienced Matheny. Matheny continues to impress me with his grace and style. He is affable and is doing a great job handling the media. I read a story recently where Matheny refused to sign a ball for a fan. As I read this I immediately thought how out of character that was for him. As I read further I discovered that he didn’t sign the ball due to the fact that Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith had signed it. He told the fan he would sign something else but if he signed that ball it would lose its value. That is exactly the kind of understanding and self-aware person I am proud to see managing the Cardinals.
If this is the type of character that is coming from the top with the talent that is in place the wins will come. It is not a time to worry. We will talk about that if we are a week or two into the season and we are having the same problem. I am glad to see the organization taking the time to follow a plan of evaluation and education to prepare a revamped club for the grueling season ahead. I hope these guys keep plugging and following the script. If this is the case I am confident the Cards won’t be winless for long or especially once it counts.