If the St. Louis Cardinals were limited in a position going into the 2012 season it was the same one they’ve been weak in for several seasons, second base. It has not been developed from within and has been filled with stop gap players for several years now. It is fortunate that the team has so many different players who can pick up the slack left behind by the now trio of players who have started at the position in the first 18 games of the season.
Skip Schumaker, who was supposed to compete for the position during Spring Training, received the start last night due to the complete ineptitude of the “platoon” of Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene up to this point. Schumaker missed most of Spring Training with an oblique injury and was injured in his first game back while playing center field. But, the first moment manager Mike Matheny had to insert Schumaker at the keystone, he did.
I can’t blame Matheny for his patience wearing thin. Descalso has a triple slash line of .205/.314/.341 while Greene has an almost mirror image line of .206/.308/.324. Last night, Greene misplayed a ball which was ruled a hit, but that was clearly a home scorer’s call. The ball was pretty much hit directly at Greene’s feet and his ole impression came up with nothing but air. He looked like a player learning the position and, well, he is.
Is this the route the Cardinals should have gone? Greene’s bat in AAA has yet to translate in the majors. In three separate stints he failed to impress former manager Tony La Russa enough to gain any real playing time. It can be argued that he was never given a fair shake. Some players need consistent at-bats and the confidence that the job is theirs. Greene never received this then and has not received it under Matheny either. Why?
Descalso is the main reason in 2012. I think he was propped up by a good season last year as a replacement for David Freese. Descalso had a very hot start to the spring and to me it seemed like the Cardinals’ brass took a liking to a platoon situation, though they claim that’s not what it was going to be. Only, it was. Greene has recently received a start or two against righties, but predominately the starter was determined based on the arm of the opposing pitcher plain and simple.
Enter Schumaker. His presence in this debate goes back to 2009 when he played 128 games at second base. He’s played 343 total games at second in his career, so the position is far from foreign to him. In fact he has played second base three times more than any other singular position he has manned (he has played 102 in LF, 102 in CF and 97 games in RF). In 2009, he hit .310 and provided the most stability the Cardinals had second base for some time. But in the end he was always looked at as a utility man. He was basically signed in the offseason and designate as such by general manager John Mozeliak. He is the perfect player to fill in for various positions due to injuries or days of rest because he won’t hurt you too much.
The problem is the inconsistency of the player at the position. Now that the Cardinals have expressed their displeasure with the ways things were going by slotting Schumaker in the position on Tuesday, it has to be a mental blow to Descalso and Greene. Descalso, who is also better suited for a utility role is clearly being told as such and Greene knows his days in St. Louis may be numbered.
So what can or should the Cardinals do? I think they should just pick one of them to play second base and stick with the player. It is not like they are getting the benefit of a platoon. They can’t possibly want to keep three players seeing part-time work at the position. At the worst they have a player who will be decent at the position in the field and a .225-.250 hitter at the plate. At best the fielding is a little better than average and they get a .270 hitter.
In my Rants Daily column earlier today, staff writer Marilyn Green and one of our readers commented on this situation. Marilyn suggests Descalso is the right fit as he is the better glove of the bunch in her opinion and John, the commenting reader, suggested Schumaker for basically the same reason. Statistically it is Descalso, but John says his eyes tell him it is Schumaker. Before the season started I really hoped that Greene would run with the job because I felt he had the most upside at the plate and he could learn the position without being a major detriment. He hasn’t done either so far and I’m still not convinced it is because he never feels like it is his job.
That leaves Matheny with a decision. He can play the odds each night by spinning the merry-go-round and see who comes up or select one of the players to be the second baseman for 2012 and deal with the immediate inadequacy of one player and hope he gets better with more playing time. It is something that could be revisited at the trade deadline as John also suggests in his comments. I believe that is a good idea, though I am not sure there is a better answer out there for the taking. Another option is to wait and fill the role permanently for 2013 and beyond during the offseason. Whichever way the Cardinals go, second base is once again the weak link in the lineup and none of the three players seems to be the long term solution. They may not be the short term solution either. Get ready to spin the wheel Mike Matheny!