St. Louis Cardinals: Manager and outfielder rifts return to the Cards

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 20: Dexter Fowler #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks to the on-deck circle to start the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium on May 20, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 20: Dexter Fowler #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals walks to the on-deck circle to start the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium on May 20, 2017 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals once again face a rift between their manager and one of their outfielders. Is this a now problem or an always problem for the Arch City?

The St. Louis Cardinals are still in the news. While fans would prefer that the birds on the bat appear in the news for positive things, the Cardinals are once again front and center with the news of a rift between her manager and one of her outfielders.

In the years past, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa found himself at odds with Colby Rasmus (and Rasmus’ father). This made all of the sports pages of all local media. This was 2011.

In fact, in 2012 when Rasmus was playing with the Blue Jays- the team to which he was traded from the Cardinals- he did an interview speaking more directly about the disagreement experienced with La Russa. This interview was published in The Star just before the start of Spring Training 2012.

Here’s something quite telling:

"Rasmus admitted to struggling, and certainly took the brunt of the blame on his own shoulders. He’d put up solid numbers in 2010, hitting 23 homers. Last season saw a drop off — 225 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs — and that was fodder for criticism from fans who expected the Rasmus who produced 53 homers and 171 RBIs in three major league seasons… his problematic relationship with LaRussa and perceived preference for his father’s hitting advice over hitting coach Mark McGwire… “It’s all about how you play and if I played good it wouldn’t be a problem, but I didn’t. I guess it was like blood in the water then and they (media) take what they can get from you,” Rasmus said. (Mark Zwolinski)"

And here we are again. This time the St. Louis Cardinals have yet another outfielder who performed well in past seasons but is not performing to the same numbers this season in the form of Dexter Fowler.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed Fowler after his few good-to-great seasons with the Chicago Cubs including the World Series win. Additionally, Fowler had his first All-Star year in 2016, the final year with Chicago. Admittedly, Fowler was playing to a high standard to earn a new contract– one that didn’t transpire with Chicago and instead appeared with St. Louis.

Fowler’s .276/.393/.447 from 2016 turned into a .264/.363/.488 in his first year with the St. Louis Cardinals. Little-to-no news hit about Fowler in his first season of his five-year contract.

As Rasmus said, once his performance dipped this season, the troubled waters rose. He is now sitting at a miserable slash of .171/.275/.276 and now the rumors fly of his needing to depart the Cardinals.

Enter another manager disagreement to boot. As Fowler’s on-field performance suffered, so too has suffered his relationship with manager Mike Matheny. What once seemed like a nice relationship between the two even to the tune of Matheny leaving Fowler in the lineup in spite of his floundering has dissolved into a mess.

A mess that is all over social media. Unlike the Rasmus-La Russa uneasiness, this time one-time GM Mozeliak joined the fray. It seems that Mozeliak’s comments cut deeper or opened the wound further and poured in salt.

Like Rasmus before him, Fowler has made the following statement:

"My effort has always been there,” says Dexter Fowler, reacting to John Mozeliak’s comments publicly for the first time. “That’s out of the question. These guys in here know. They’re the ones texting me, saying it’s bull****. I’m playing as hard as I can.” (Quote via Joe Trezza, July 5, 2018)"

Let me immediately say that the quote I pulled from Rasmus earlier in this piece came many months later. The Fowler quote above is recent and raw.

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To me, I felt that Mozeliak’s comments had more to do with Matheny than it did with Fowler. And yet the rift exists. It also feels as though Matheny has lost this clubhouse.

While many are calling for the dismissal of Matheny and the trading of Fowler, I find myself wondering if the organization need look deeper to understand why these things keep happening. Having said that, we must admit that all clubhouses have similar disagreements.

Here though, the St. Louis Cardinals have had their VP of Baseball Operations climb in the mix. This problem is not going anywhere until something changes and the best change that I can see would be Matheny since the Cardinals owe him less than Fowler.

Moreover, send Fowler for a few games to Memphis and let Mark Budaska “fix” him.

I’d prefer the above solutions to the outcome that the St. Louis Cardinals sought in the Rasmus case.

Next: KC to STL trade

The St. Louis Cardinals and her fans deserve better; better from her manager, better from her big-ticket outfielder, and better from her front office.