It’s over. The post mortems will be coming fast and furious in the next few days and weeks so I thought I would get a head start on mine. There are a number of issues I plan to address and in no particular order. These are my thoughts and opinions about the season, the team, the individuals, and in some cases, the fans. I don’t expect everything I say will be well received but that comes with the territory. If I am preachy, it’s because I feel strongly about things, and I never apologize for that. You can take what you want from what I say and leave the rest. First up.
Oct 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny before game three of the baseball World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
1. Mike Matheny. He has a lot of nice qualities, and as a human being it is hard to fault him. As a manager, well that’s another story entirely. He has the people skills down pat. But those people skills can be a downside for a manager. How many times have we as fans let out a collective groan every time Matheny brought in a struggling pitcher in tight situations, or left a starting pitcher in way too long? How many times have we wondered why oh why is Matheny continuing to put that guy in the lineup at that position when he just doesn’t fit there? It’s not that we are all experts, but some things are just so obvious. I will just be blunt. Mike Matheny is too nice. To be an effective, long term manager, you have to have something of a killer instinct. Matheny has not shown that he has one. There are times when you have to put aside loyalties to players to win a game. Managing a major league baseball team should not be about being popular, it should be about making hard choices, and sometimes having to make one or more of your players unhappy. I will say this, I never did nor do I now like Tony LaRussa. I am being perfectly honest here. Tony LaRussa fell so far below the ideal on the human being scale that I just couldn’t tolerate him. But strictly as a tactical manager, he had the killer instinct in spades. He wanted to win more than anything else, and if he had to make a player unhappy, well that was no problem. The thing is, my ideal of a Cardinals manager is someone who falls somewhere in the middle of these two men. A caring, decent human being who still has the qualities to allow himself to set aside being the popular guy and do what it takes to win. Does this manager even exist? I don’t know, but I would sure like to have him manage the Cardinals if he does. I am willing to wait and see one more year on Mike Matheny, but if we get more of the same next season, I would prefer the Cardinals move on and look elsewhere.
2. Who should be back next year? My heart tells me to bring Carlos Beltran back for one more year and one more try for that World Series ring. My head tells me that isn’t very practical or smart. Make him a qualifying offer and if he takes it, great. If not, I wish him well in his future endeavors. I don’t have a problem with bringing Pete Kozma back but only as a backup shortstop. We need to get a shortstop that can field as well or better than Kozma but that can also hit enough not to be an automatic out in the lineup. We also need a better center fielder. I am not sold on Oscar Taveras as a CFer. I have watched him play CF many times, and frankly, he ain’t that good at it. Getting another center fielder on the FA market or trade would be my preference. Jon Jay can either be traded or kept as a 4th OFer. As for David Freese, well this is where I am going to be unpopular. I want to keep him for one more year and see if he can pull it together. I don’t like at all the way fans have turned on David Freese. I have many things I could say about that, but it would just be an angry rant that would be unproductive. I prefer to keep Matt Carpenter at 2B. He has carved out a niche for himself there and I don’t want to mess with his mojo. Furthermore, I like his arm better at 2B. He always looks to me like throwing from 3B is too much of an effort for him. What to do about Wong? Well, that’s a good question. More time at Memphis perhaps and then see where we are. Perhaps trade him in a deal for a shortstop. The thing is that Matt Carpenter has proven himself and Wong hasn’t. I would rather go with the sure thing, at least for now. Finally, GET A BETTER BENCH. No more Ty Wiggintons please.
3. Starting rotation. Waino, of course. Wacha too. If Jaime Garcia is healed and effective, him too. We need to have at least one lefty in our rotation. If Garcia doesn’t work out, then Lyons or Gast or even Siegrist or perhaps pick up a lefty on the FA market. Shelby Miller if he hasn’t gotten in someone’s doghouse and isn’t traded away. That leaves Lance Lynn. I am not as down on Lance as many others are. He has good stuff it is just a matter of staying consistent with it. But, if he can get us a shortstop or a CFer on the trade market that would be okay. As for Joe Kelly, I like him so much, I really do, but unless he figures out how to harness that strike out potential he has and cut down on the walks, I would rather have him in the bullpen. So the 5th starter is up in the air. Maybe Lynn, maybe someone else. Martinez? Rosenthal? I don’t know, I really like both of those guys in the bullpen. Which leads me to……
4. The bullpen. Mujica is most likely gone. Choate will be there. Siegrist if he doesn’t start. I am still not sold on Axford, but if he can be re-signed for cheap, well okay. Not a Salas fan, so no. Martinez and Rosenthal if neither of them start. Joe Kelly. For the last spot, another lefty if Siegrist starts, a righty if he doesn’t. Perhaps someone from the minors will make an impression. Lee Stoppelman has potential, though he is a lefty. The bullpen I think is kind of fluid, depending on who makes the starting rotation.
5. What do I think went wrong in 2013? Well obviously the offense was the major issue. Just fell flat at the end. Many bad at bats by many people. Lack of a decent bench. Inability to hit left handed pitching, which needs to be addressed and fixed if possible. If Mabry can’t figure it out, then maybe get someone else who can. Many people are upset about the power loss. I am not one of them. Chicks may or may not dig the long ball. This chick cares more about scoring runs, in whatever manner works best. Swinging for the fences is for the American League, a brand of baseball I despise. The hitting approach that the Cardinals had this season worked fine up until the end. The problems with the offense at the end are probably less about the type of hits and more about getting into a consistent rhythm and just taking good at bats. Maybe there was some fatigue involved. A better bench would be immensely helpful and take some of the pressure off the starting nine.
That’s it for now. I may think of some other things as time goes by. Let us all hope for a productive offseason and a quick one so we can all get back to the sport we love. How many days till pitchers and catchers report?