Oli Marmol must curtail his dependence on veteran Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are stuffed with veterans brought in for clubhouse leadership, but manager Oli Marmol appears intent on giving them outsized roles in games.
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The core of the St. Louis Cardinals is aging, and that seems to be just how manager Oli Marmol likes it. Now that we've entered Marmol's third season at the helm of the Cardinals, some patterns have begun to reveal themselves, and one of them is his reliance on veteran players.

The Cardinals are a veteran-laden team, so Marmol can't be faulted for using them to some extent. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado were signed to be the team's big boppers and are rightfully in the lineup nearly every day, but Marmol has been hesitant to take action when one or both of them are struggling.

Goldschmidt has an OPS of .700 since July of 2023, which is below league average, yet Marmol continues to place him near the top of the batting order. It has been longer than what can be considered a small sample size for Goldschmidt, but Marmol either appears to stubbornly believe that past performances are a guarantee of future success, or he is too afraid to shake up the status quo.

Not only does Marmol seem to have trouble placing veterans in their optimal lineup position, but he also relies too much on playing veterans who have faded to reserve status in the major leagues. Former San Francisco Giants star shortstop Brandon Crawford was brought into the Cardinals organization to provide leadership in the clubhouse, but his appearance in more games than expected raised some eyebrows.

It was later revealed that starting shortstop Masyn Winn was dealing with stiffness in his lower back, requiring Crawford to take his place, but the skepticism toward Marmol was well founded: In 2023, Marmol played Taylor Motter in 29 games, far more than most fans likely expected for the roster's 26th man. Motter hit .171, but Marmol appeared determined to keep the faith.

Marmol's veteran preference raises a troubling thought about what he will do when 38-year-old Matt Carpenter is healthy. Carpenter landed on the injured list with an oblique strain at the start of the season, and the time of his return is unclear. Carpenter hit a dismal .176 with the San Diego Padres in 2023, but if his current actions are any indication, Marmol will likely give Carpenter a long leash even if he scuffles upon returning, which could damage the Cardinals' chances in the long run.

Relying on veterans isn't always a bad approach; manager Dusty Baker, who will likely soon reach Cooperstown, was notorious for his preference of more experienced players over those who looked to shape his teams' futures. But Marmol needs to learn not to be blinded by the past when veterans aren't producing.

The Cardinals are a team that has continually looked at what it did in prior years to be successful instead of innovating for the future, but success will be hard to come by if Marmol refuses to loosen his grip on players who don't possess the skills they once had.