St. Louis Cardinals: Wondering who’s minding the store

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 23: Manager Mike Matheny and Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals confront umpire John Tumpane after Carpenter was ejected in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 23, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 23: Manager Mike Matheny and Matt Carpenter #13 of the St. Louis Cardinals confront umpire John Tumpane after Carpenter was ejected in the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 23, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

In a story appearing in the local daily news organization, a St. Louis Cardinals executive provided a very odd and extremely troubling response to the reporter. It’s a statement that should have Cardinal Nation quite worried about the team’s future, and about whether we’re hearing what its executives truly think.

The last few weeks have been painful. The up-and-down of the St. Louis Cardinals‘ roller coaster has sent fans from joy to despair and back again (and back again once more). With the 2017 season seemingly behind this year’s team, looking ahead seem prudent.

That was how I felt until I read today’s bombshell. A bomb dropped by John Mozeliak’s second-in-charge. A bomb that could spell doom for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Talking about the most recent weeks of the season, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Mike Girsch had this to say to StL Today reporter Ben Hochman:

"“I don’t think there’s been too much that happened this month that’s changed our overall view of the team or the season or next year or offseason plans… I don’t think anything in the last month or so has (led to) a significant change in how we look at things.”"

What the What?!?

There were basically three things the Cards could do with the second half of the season as the All-Star break arrived:

  1. Make a substantial trade or trades for an all-out playoff push. They didn’t do that.
  2. Use the time to observe how the young players perform under pressure, but make modest moves to at least ostensibly compete for a playoff spot. With the exception of obtaining Juan Nicasio AFTER the eligibility deadline for the playoffs, they didn’t do that.
  3. Play the youngsters to learn what they’re capable of, analyze their potential, make some observations and hypotheses, and go from there; basically not paying attention to the playoff chase. That’s pretty much what I thought they were doing.

As usual, I was wrong. Silly me. There was apparently a Number 4: Keep doing what we were doing, don’t learn from the play on the field, go into the offseason with zero knowledge gained from the final month, be so overconfident in the “plan” and the “approach” as to let it take precedence over observation and new data.

Are you telling me that the team had so perfectly identified everything about everyone on the roster than they learned essentially nothing from a second half in which the team was woefully undermanned for playoffs? A second half that we thought would serve as a learning curve for 2018?

Apparently not.

Look, I’ve been a supporter of this front office. No successful professional sports team operates without both success and failure. Failure is often the pot from which learning and success grow.

But there’s no admission here about what succeeded, what failed, what was learned. Sure, I’m going to fairly assume that this was not the story nor the context in which to provide a full analysis of what they have and what they lack. That’s fair.

Saying, however, that they learned nothing, really worries me. I would have been fine with this quote from Girsch, for instance:

"“One of our objectives in the second half of this season was to ascertain how each of our young players is capable of performing at this level. We started with a baseline database, and with each passing day, we were able to add information to help us better decide what the roster might look like going into next year… By taking this approach, while we are unhappy about not making the playoffs, we feel we’re in much better shape to do the evaluative work in the offseason about who will be part of the major league roster come 2018. In this way, we take learning, evalution and organizational success, as best as possible, from 2017.”"

Instead? Nothing’s changed “how we look at things.”

That, my friends, is not only a generic response. It either shows a dismissive opinion of the fans, or an admission that the front office isn’t up to the task of sorting through what they have, separating the wheat from the chaff.

For heaven sake, Cardinals front office, whatever you do, don’t insult us. We’re smart. We’re curious. We study our avocation hard and long. We know that you’re in a perilous position, with several critical issues that lack serious answers yet. You can tell us that, and tell us what your thought process is about how to fix it.

I will never be one to read everything into one quote. But the fact that Girsch’s answer repeated the same approach twice got me frustrated and heated. It made me wonder, do they really have a plan? Are they stymied?

More from St Louis Cardinals News

I know the Cardinals approach things analytically, as any good team must. Those who have ample resources but act irrationally (e.g., the Dodgers a decade ago) will not have a great deal of success against those with money that act rationally. The Cards have mostly fallen in the second category.

I also know the Cubs have had an incredible balance of leadership and luck. While Theo Epstein drafted well, he had the benefit of tanking and then having most of his top draftees show up at the high end of the probability curve. That combo doesn’t usually happen in such an ample manner as the Cubs managed.

But goodness gracious, our fan lives here have been compromised. No, we’re not going to win every year. No, we won’t be in the World Series every other year. Even the Giants ran that streak out last season.

What we do expect is to hear the truth. As I noted earlier in September, the team claimed it couldn’t make one meaningful move in August while the Dodgers were able to land Curtis Granderson off waivers while 28 other teams passed.

And now the new GM essentially admits that despite zero improvement to a prospective playoff roster from the All Star Break to August 31, the last month has proven worthless in evaluating the 2018 season roster.

Next: Help Puerto Rico!

I don’t know if they have been asleep at the wheel or are simply hiding behind their own foreboding sense of the future. Either way, the lack of acknowledgment that they’ve been doing much of anything, either to make the playoffs or to analyze the future, is very troubling.