Rob Manfred has criticized teams for what he views as “manipulation” of the 10-Day-DL, but have the St. Louis Cardinals manipulated the DL enough?
The St. Louis Cardinals played much of the first half of the season with a 4-man bench, due to their decision to carry 8 relievers. The lack of offensive and defensive flexibility this roster configuration, provided by manager Mike Matheny, already had the fan base riled. However, the situation came to a head in the Cardinals’ June 23-25 series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Nagging injuries saw starting center fielder, Dexter Fowler, and perennial all-star catcher, Yadier Molina, sidelined for multiple games. John Mozeliak’s decision to send the St. Louis Cardinals out on the field down two men, rather than placing them on the 10-Day-DL, had many fans questioning why Mo seemed reluctant to make use of a rule change tailor-made for this scenario.
Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals 34-year-old catcher, is once again leading the league in games caught, at 74. Catchers are always beat up, and when a foul-tip off the knee sent Yadi to the bench, this seemed like the perfect time to give Molina a much-needed 10-day vacation.
Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler had nursed a nagging foot injury all season long. With the success young Magneuris Sierra had during his previous call-up, it seemed like a no-brainer to give the struggling Fowler a chance to recuperate. The Cardinals could have given Sierra another shot to inject some life into a stagnant lineup.
Instead, the Cardinals opted to bench the two ailing players and play short-handed. The move had many Cardinals fans scratching their heads.
Fowler would manage to get back in the lineup for game two of the series, before finally landing on the DL by game three. Molina missed the first two games of the series. Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz would also need some bench time.
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Once Fowler landed on the DL, it was not Sierra, but Luke Voit who got the call-up.
Voit has since slashed .316/.366/.684 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 14 games. Tommy Pham hit his way into the everyday lineup in Fowler’s absence.
He also ha not used it for Michael Wacha, whose presence in the starting rotation is jeopardized by a recurring shoulder injury.
By contrast, the first place Los Angeles Dodgers have used the 10-Day-DL more than anyone. The Dodgers have put a league leading 23 players on the DL for a total of 980 days so far this season. The St. Louis Cardinals have put just 11 players on the DL, for a total of 506 days, which ties them for 16th on the list.
The Dodgers have gained such notoriety for their use of the 10-Day-DL. Even though Commissioner Manfred didn’t name any names when he suggested some teams had misused the 10-day-DL, the club’s own media outlets assumed he was pointing a finger their way.
The LA Times noted:
"“The Dodgers set a major league record by putting 28 different players on the disabled list last season. They already have put 23 players on the DL this season, including every pitcher in their season-opening rotation except Clayton Kershaw, strategically using the DL as a way to manage an excess of starting pitchers and keep each one fresh.”"
Per the LA Times, Manfred said he likes the concept of the rule, which he hopes will keep fan favorites on the field. However, his displeasure with some teams’ use of the 10-Day-DL in 2017 has sparked internal discussion about the rule change.
Concerns aside, the rule is what it is for the 2017 season. The benefit it provides players, in terms of lower incentive to play through nagging injuries and increased opportunity for minor league players to get a pay hike via more frequent MLB call-ups, is needed. It seems unlikely the rule is going anywhere anytime soon.
Perhaps adhering to both the letter and the spirit of the rule change is part of the much vaunted “Cardinal Way,” or maybe Mo wanted to play things extra straight coming off the penalty imposed on the St. Louis Cardinals for the hacking scandal, which cost the club their 1st and 2nd round draft picks in 2017.
Whatever Mozeliak’s reasons are, it seems clear not using the shorter DL effectively has been a competitive disadvantage for the St. Louis Cardinals, who have struggled to stay relevant in the 2017 post-season picture. It will be interesting to see if this strategy changes at all under the guidance of the Cardinals’ freshly promoted GM, Mike Girsch.