Brandon Crawford's dilemma can't justify the Cardinals' lineup decisions

Brandon Crawford may be reconsidering his decision to come back for another season, but the St. Louis Cardinals can't use that as a reason to put him in games.
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals are about to face one of their toughest tests this season in the form of the 39-18 Philadelphia Phillies, but instead of bringing out their best lineup to compete with the Phillies, the Cardinals are rolling with Brandon Crawford at shortstop in place of young star Masyn Winn.

It's a baffling decision: Crawford is hitting a listless .097 on the season, going 3-for 31. He has the seventh-worst OPS of any qualified batter since the start of last season. His formerly Gold Glove defense has also degraded, and he rates as the slowest non-catcher or designated hitter in the major leagues.

The Cardinals' insistence to get Winn off his feet is a head-scratcher, especially when the team has been on a hot streak. Unless an injury has befallen the 22-year-old, there is no reason for the Cardinals to give Winn a rest day following their day off, especially when the team needs all hands on deck to beat the Phillies.

But if Winn does need to sit, the Cardinals have another option — one who has been tearing it up in Memphis. Jose Fermin was just promoted after Lars Nootbaar hit the injured list, and while he hasn't shown a ton with the bat during his time in the major leagues, Fermin can at least provide speed and defense.

The only explanation that seems somewhat logical for Crawford's start involves his recent interview with Jeff Jones of the Belleville News-Democrat. During the conversation, Crawford acknowledged his struggles and said that it was difficult to answer whether he made the right choice to play in 2024.

So are the Cardinals trying to prop up Crawford's morale by inserting him into the lineup during a pivotal series? At this point in his career, Crawford should know that his role is to be a clubhouse leader, and according to Jones' article, Crawford is an excellent influence there. But even his presence around the team could be short-lived, as he seems to be the prime candidate to be designated for assignment when Tommy Edman returns from the injured list.

Manager Oli Marmol's decision to place Crawford in the starting lineup is bizarre when the Cardinals need to squeeze out wins wherever they can get them in order to sneak into the playoffs. Now that the Cardinals have just called up another shortstop, Crawford's presence is even less defensible.

Crawford has been a class act during his 14 seasons in baseball, but he is a shadow of his former self on the field. Baseball is a merciless sport, and the Cardinals can't afford to play Crawford against the game's top team just to spare his feelings.