This episode began with Jim pointing out that while it is reasonable to be upset about the current state of the club, they are still near .500. He likened it somewhat to the feeling he had after the first 15-20 games where the team was not looking very good but still hovered near .500 before going on the run which put them 10 games over. Now, that's not to say that he or Bengie believes that a run back to being one of the prominent NL teams is imminent. On the contrary, the guys spent the balance of the episode discussing changes that should or need to be made. Bengie started by lamenting the lack of change or creativity in the lineup. He was especially bullish on his belief that Jose Martinez needs to be an everyday player for this team.
The discussion continued in wondering if the ownership is fully invested in making the changes needed. This topic meandered and touched on a lot of different topics and went on a few different paths, as such a large overarching philosophical question would. In the end, Bengie dismissed the notion that the ownership is taking fans for granted or is not fully invested. He went back to his mantra that certain players on the field just aren't getting it done. He alluded to bold moves made for Ozuna, Goldschmidt, Miller and also extensions given to guys like Wong and Carpenter but that in many of those cases, at least currently, the Cardinals are not getting the expected impact and return on those bold moves or investments.
The podcast concluded with a return to the subject of the lineup, with Jim asking if Jose Martinez and Yairo Munoz are playing more, who is playing less? The consensus was it would come at the expense of Wong and Fowler, but Bengie wondered why not Carpenter as well. Jim's rebuttal was that Carpenter has the better overall track record and the highest chance of being an asset if he gets on track. The human element was a part of this discussion as well, pointing at that a manager doesn't just write out a lineup card without having to manage and deal with emotions and personalities of his players.
This Blogger's Take:
First, it was a good reality check in considering Jim's point about .500. When you're hovering around it as the Cards currently are, it is important to realize that a 15-5 stretch or a month where you can go 20-10 or something like that can easily put you right back in the thick of things. Of course, that is not just going to magically happen and I agree that change is needed. I am on board with Jose Martinez as a regular and more at bats for Munoz. With Munoz, getting him 3-4 starts per week would not have to come at the expense of one player since he could bounce around and play some 2B,3B,SS, and even OF if needed. With Martinez, if you're not going to play him you might as well trade him. I also wonder in his case if veteran pitchers on the club have influenced his decreased playing time due to his defense, which is definitely well below average as a big leaguer.
Now I was most intrigued by the guys discussion then of personalities in the clubhouse and that lineup decisions and playing time aren't just made on paper. I've managed hundreds of baseball games at the varsity high school and American Legion level and it is absolutely true that as a manager you have to not only balance and manage playing time but also the mental psyche of the players. If you're going to sit a player down who had been playing regularly, that has the potential to be a much larger issue with your ballclub. Now I am just talking about high school kids, it must be magnified a great deal when you are talking about professionals, their livelihood, and grown men making millions of dollars to play the sport at the highest level in the world. The solution, however, even though it is a hard one, is that some guys would have to go. The precedent is there. The Cardinals traded Pham, Grichuk, Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, etc. in recent years because they felt they had a better solution coming up that they preferred and that the player traded was a commodity the team was willing to move on from. Going further back it's what Mo did in the Allen Craig situation as well when Matheny kept running him out there everyday. So for Wong and Fowler, for example, if you want to play others over them the way to deal with the potential hard feelings of the player set to lose their spot is to deal them. This is the precedent that has run its course time and again. So then the question becomes can/would the Cardinals deal those two? I would, especially if I could find a taker for Fowler. With Wong, do you really think a Munoz/Edman timeshare couldn't or wouldn't be an upgrade? I would like to see it. The only issue is for Wong I would be a little more demanding in what I may ask in return, and that could of course make a deal much tougher to do. Opponents will cite Wong's WAR and defense. I'm sorry, I just don't too much of a premium on 2B defense, if he was a SS or CF or catcher I would feel differently.
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