With the same excuses coming, a change needs to happen.
The Cardinals are playing like a team with post-traumatic stress disorder. It's understandable after a season in which manager Oli Marmol has attacked players for various reasons.
Marmol attacked Tyler O'Neill for a perceived lack of hustle, leading to an extended trip to the injured list. O'Neill had purposefully worked during the offseason to remain healthy and not extend himself to injury. O'Neill said at the time the issue should have been handled individually and not made so publicly. That's the truth.
The team wouldn't send Jordan Hicks on a minor league assignment to work on every issue resulting in him pitching ineffectively. While he has moments of pitching well, Marmol insists on leaving him in to work it out when he is struggling. This is leading to him hurting the team. Hicks has been in the league long enough to refuse a demotion. OK, stop putting him in high-leverage situations and leaving him in the game when he's struggling.
The Willson Contreras ordeal is still astounding. Marmol and president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said the pitching staff was complaining that Contreras was not legendary catcher Yadier Molina. Because of the complaints, Marmol and Mozeliak decided to remove him from his catching duties publicly and have him be the team's designated hitter. The pair said he would do this until his preparation with the pitchers improved. It turns out Contreras and the pitchers just needed to communicate with one another and figure out what would work best for them. A week after being told this could take some time, Contreras returned as the team's primary catcher. There was no need to make Contreras the situation so dramatic. The pitchers and Contreras just needed to communicate.
And thankfully, Contreras and the pitchers handled the situation professionally and outside the public eye.
After Sunday's game, Marmol told the media the Cardinals have to play perfect to win. "We don't have the luxury of giving up extra outs, making a mistake, or walking a guy. That's where we're at now. ... We've got to execute better."
This is the same excuse he's been giving. It's getting old. If the Cardinals hope to get on the winning track, a change needs to happen. A jolt. The same excuses and actions can no longer continue. A change to management will not likely happen. But something needs to happen to create a sense of urgency.
The team is a solid group with All-Star talent, a mix of experienced players, and some amazing prospects making their splash in the majors. The team is talented. They do not seem to be meshing or playing like a team though. And that comes down to leadership. They do have leaders in the clubhouse. The overall leadership of the group is lacking, though. This must change, and there must be a jolt in that area.
Does the team have the proper leadership in place for their pitching? Dusty Blake was a pitching analyst for the Cardinals before taking over as pitching coach. The issues with the pitching staff and Contreras, the starting pitching struggles, and the problems with Hicks and the bullpen could all be traced back to Blake. Having an experienced may be in pitching coach with leadership experience would be a great start to serve as a jolt for the team. Blake seems like a good person who may be in over his head as a pitching coach.
The club needs to make a change and soon. This team needs some urgency. Now.