The St. Louis Cardinals hold a miserable record of 3-6 as they rest today on this off day before the weekend set against the Yankees in New York.
All fans of the St. Louis Cardinals are surely frustrated with the start of the 2017 season. Will it remain this way the entirety of the season? Maybe but very likely not. To me, the thing that is lacking is fundamental: passion.
We all complain- no one better than me- about the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, the offense has been absent (except when it isn’t and then it all on display). Yes, the defense (which was to be improved this year) is lacking. And yet, the Cardinals drudge along.
Drudge is the operative word here. After departing spring training with a great record and positive showings, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to have fallen flat. This isn’t entirely a fair statement, right? This year’s birds showed great passion on opening night to silence the surging media darlings. But then what? Where did it go?
Just taking a quick slice of the team, players like Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Eric Fryer, Dexter Fowler, Randall Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko all are resting below the Mendoza line in batting averages.
These things cannot continue if this team is going to adequately compete this season. I believe that many of these things will change. I believe that the bullpen will find its way. I believe that Carpenter and Fowler and Grichuk and Gyorko all have the ability to raise their averages.
I also believe that something must fundamentally change as it relates to passion if these things are going to be realized. Passion, as I mentioned above, was very much evident in the opening night contest against the Cubs.
Perhaps, then, the passion left when the Cubs defeated the team in the next two contests. I don’t feel this is necessarily fair- however- as in both contests, the Cardinals showed at least some passion.
Then came the Reds series wherein the team had the chance of picking up some “easy” wins. This was not the case as this year’s St. Louis Cardinals went stone-cold. Yes, the offense decided to show up against the 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo but even in that game the passion seemed to be lacking.
Let me dig a little more into this. In the game against Arroyo, the game in which the St. Louis Cardinals scored ten points, the players seemed to only be having “free” fun: it didn’t seem as though they were pouring it on or working hard to even score these ten runs.
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In the opening night game (the one game that I will hold up as the pinnacle of passion thus far this season) the guys gave the impression that they were not going down with a fight and it was exactly that fight that won the game. This fight- this passion- was absent from the losses leading up to the 10-4 victory over the Reds and absent even within the 10-4 victory.
In yesterday’s contest, manager Mike Matheny trotted out a lineup that had many fans scratching their collective heads. I had no problem with this lineup. I would have liked to have seen the great hitters like Grichuk and Jose Martinez– great from the night before for their performances- but I understood holding them out so they wouldn’t become demoralized by Max Scherzer.
I know, I know, I am defending a decision by Matheny and this isn’t my style but I also liked the lineup because it had guys listed who have things to prove. I like anytime that Greg Garcia starts because this dude comes to play. I like anytime that Gyorko gets a start because he can handle the position assigned.
And I especially liked that slumping players like Peralta were absent from the lineup. Speaking of Peralta, did you see his at-bat in the second game of the Nationals series wherein he struckout and then just kicked the dirt like a petulant child?
Here’s the skinny: this team gives me the impression that they either don’t want to play or don’t want to play for Matheny. Then we get glimpses like yesterday’s game when Stephen Piscotty showed a comfort at the plate that stoked his own fire (and showed in the output). We need more games like yesterday.
Where will the St. Louis Cardinals find their passion? Will it come from within (through success) or will it come through a change (removal of manager)? The most likely solution is from within and this might necessitate a closed-door, player-lead meeting by the experienced leadership guys like Adam Wainwright. Either way something needs to change.