Cardinals' manager Oli Marmol needs to be held accountable for how he has handled the Tyler O'Neill situation
The St. Louis Cardinals were handed their second straight loss by the dominant Atlanta Braves last night with a final score of 4-1. Again they struggled while facing a rookie debut starting pitcher, as a somewhat local kid named Dylan Dodd went 5 innings with allowing only one run. The biggest story here should be how awful the Cardinals starting pitching is, but instead everyone is here to discuss what happened in the 7th inning. Let's talk about Oliver Marmol vs Tyler O’Neill.
In the bottom of the seventh inning with runners on first and second, pinch hitter Brendan Donovan hit a single through the right side which made its way to Ronald Acuna in shallow right field. The runner on second was waved home and made the challenge for Acuna to throw him out. Acuina did just that and hosed him with several feet in between the catcher and the runner. So why would the Cardinals even consider challenging the arm of Ronald Acuna?
The decision to send
Tyler O‘Neill was the runner on second base. Last season, he was 16th in sprint speed in all of MLB. He has been known for hitting bombs and also being very agile. Given the score of the game and this being a rare moment to get a run on the board, it seems to be a no-brainer to roll the dice on challenging Acuna. Several things to consider though. One is the hamstring injury history with O’Neill. Last year alone he was on the IL twice with it aggravating him. So maybe he does not have full strength in his legs at the moment. Second was the weather conditions. We have seen very strong winds in STL over the last week and it began to rain last night toward the end of the game. Might not have been the best conditions to be running 100% in. Third is Acuna’s arm. It is very low odds you will be safe running against a player in the 97th percentile in throwing velocity for outfielders.
To make matters worse, Pop Warner sent Goldschmidt home during Thursday's game on a bloop that fell in left field, only for him to get gunned down as well.
After the game, Oliver Marmol addressed the media and was pretty stern in his thoughts. He stated, “We’ve got a lot of guys playing really hard and that’s not our style of play as far as the effort rounding the bag there. It’s unacceptable”. When questioned about the weather conditions playing a factor in the baserunning, Marmol responded, “Bottom line, that’s not his judgment and that’s why we have a coach standing over there. Your effort’s 100 percent until you’re told not to run.”
O’Neill fielded questions and said, “I think Marmol was pretty blunt about it and he didn’t think I gave the best effort. “I’m out here every day grinding my ass off and giving it my all and trying to stay on the field for 162 games. Like I’ve said, I’ve got to get a better jump next time and get around the base a little quicker and be in there safe next time.”
So both sides seem irritated and are displaying their emotions to the media. This can either be motivation to work harder, or this can cause clubhouse tension. This should have been a short response from both parties and should have ended with this being a privately held matter.
So who is at fault here?
Pop Warner needs to be criticized heavily here. Marmol is taking the stance to say players need to 100% listen to the coaches and not question their decision-making. That's fine, then the media needs to question it. No one last night went further into the decision-making to send O’Neill. It was brushed off with closure that O’Neill was not giving full effort and that the issue needs to improve. No base runner would have beaten Acuna’s throw. It is ignorant to even try to challenge the throw. Instead of blasting your player to the media, how about addressing coaching decisions and how that was not the right call to make? Accountability goes both ways and needs to be recognized.
With Harrison Bader, not hustling last season leading to a bench assignment, Marmol wants to set a tone that his team will be giving full effort every play of the game. That is how it should be. But when your coaching staff makes the wrong call, you need to address it as well. This team is one unit, including all coaching and staff personnel. No one is above anyone in his clubhouse. It is time to hold everyone accountable and unify this team, not separate it.