Jun 11, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (22) in the dugout calls a play against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
While the St. Louis Cardinals are FINALLY on a hot streak, 6 games over .500, 3.5 back of the Milwaukee Brewers, I am still not confident they can pull ahead in the NL Central and win the division. The offense is still very sparse. They don’t seem to be playing with a lot of passion every single game. So, a good friend of mine and I were talking via email…while at work…because we like to be productive during our 8+ hours at our day jobs…about what moves the Cardinals could make leading up to the trade deadline to solidify this team as the NL Central powerhouse as we know them.
Let’s start with the outfield. We all know Matt Holliday and Allen Craig aren’t going anywhere. Peter Bourjos hasn’t quite panned out offensively as the Cardinals had hoped. Jon Jay has been hitting well, but Bourjos provides better defense. Then, of course there is the young talent pool seemingly stuck in AAA Memphis right now. I really don’t see an opportunity for a trade or a move to solidify the outfield anymore than it already is. Holliday and Craig are starting to heat up. If they can reach their potential, the Cardinals should be just fine.
As for the infield, there isn’t much room there either. Matt Carpenter is a solid third baseman and a wonderful lead-off hitter. Jhonny Peralta has shown some very good defense at short stop. While his bat hasn’t come to the expected fruition as of yet, he is still a huge improvement from the Cardinals short stops of last season. The platoon of Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis at second base seems to be working well. Wong has really come alive after his stint in Memphis earlier this season, and Ellis (while struggling at the plate) plays a solid defense and is a nice back-up. Matt Adams at first base has solidified his spot on the team this season. His bat has come alive (even though he is still struggling against left-handed pitching), and he won’t be going anywhere soon. As for catcher, well, it is Yadier Molina. No more needs to be said. Basically, similar to the outfield, if the players the Cardinals have can start hitting like they normally have in their careers, the Cardinals should be fine.
On to starting pitching. Really, there is no need to make a move here. Sure, some of the younger guys (Shelby Miller especially) have been rather inconsistent. But, as a team the Cardinals lead the league in ERA. For the most part, these pitchers need some more run support. I honestly think Michael Wacha should have 3 more wins than he does due to lack of run support. The bullpen has been a little shaky at times, but for the most part they have done their job. Again, I do not see a need for a trade to help this Cardinals team.
So, what else could be done to save the Cardinals season? How about a new manager! I have said it before, and I will say it again. Mike Matheny is a very good leader and a nice man. However, he has made some very questionable managerial moves this season that I have disagreed with, and really didn’t fully understand. Maybe I am a little biased because I am still used to the Tony LaRussa way of managing. But Matheny’s use/overuse/underuse of the bullpen leaves me scratching my head at the tail end of most games. His inopportune uses of the bunt and pitch hitters boggles my mind. And, his use of the bench seems rather misguided, as if he is unsure of what moves to make.
That being said, let’s take a “look” at who the Cardinals should get to replace Mike Matheny. First, the Cardinals could try to lure Tony LaRussa away from his cushy job with the Arizona Diamondbacks and get him back in uniform and in the dugout. If TLR declines, maybe Jim Leyland would come out of retirement to manage a contending team to glory. His managerial techniques are comparable to LaRussa, so the Cardinals fans and players wouldn’t be too shocked with any moves he makes. Retirement is hard to leave, I would imagine, so Leyland would likely turn that down. We could give Joe Torre another shot, this time with quite a bit more talent than he had in the early ’90s. Ideally, now that the Cardinals have some speed with Kolten Wong and Peter Bourjos in the line up, Whitey Herzog would come back to the dugout and lead the Cardinals to an NL Pennant with Whitey ball. How much fun would that be to see? Maybe Bobby Cox would like to try his hand in the Midwest rather than the South in a baseball stadium that sells out on a regular basis. Or, the Cardinals could always resurrect the winningest manager of all time, Connie Mack. Not sure he would be able to handle all the tweets and insane media coverage of today’s game. Last I checked Ozzie Guillen was still unemployed. He probably wouldn’t be the best choice. Although he would give me plenty to write about. It would be interesting to see how Dusty Baker would be treated, and how he would handle the team after his years as an enemy with the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. How great would it be to see Lou Piniella out there throwing bases around and kicking dirt? There is, of course, the option of giving long deserved Jose Oquendo a chance. I don’t see that happening though since it is too practical. Looks like we are stuck with Matheny. Let’s hope he can wise up and make some more appropriate moves. Or, let’s hope the offense turns things around so Matheny doesn’t need to make those difficult decisions.