Where to begin with this woeful bunch? The anemic offense (worst in the majors in May)? The sloppy defense? The career minor leaguers who have been forced into action because the owner, Bill Dimwitt, Jr., (friend and supporter of George W. Bush) is too cheap to acquire real baseball players? The fraud of a manager? The red sheep who fill the stands each night? The sycohpantic media who fawn over the team? I have lots of gripes.
I am sick of the melodrama that is Rick Ankiel. The pitcher who used to throw balls over the backstop is now an outfielder who cannot hit, yet Tony LaLoser keeps sending him out there. Ankiel is hitting .220, with no power, and never gets a hit when it really matters. His mental and emotional problems are well-documented, and he wilts when the pressure is on. He's the last guy I want at the plate in the ninth inning of a tie game. Rarely does he make solid contact with the baseball because of his loopy, upper-cut swing. When he's not striking out, he hits the top of the ball (ground out) or the bottom of the ball (pop-up). He is erratic in the outfield and susceptible to injury. He is very high maintenance, and he never comes through in the clutch. So why is he still on the team? The manager has a man-crush on him. Ankiel is one of Tony LaLoser's favorites. As is the pitching coach's son--Chris Duncan.
Duncan plays left field with all the agility of Frankenstein. If butchers were all-star outfielders, this guy would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. And, like Ankiel, he cannot hit a curve ball or a chane-up. His swing is stiff and flawed, and opposing pitchers fool him with off-speed stuff constantly. Why is he still on the team? He's another of the manager's favorites; he's the son of LaLoser's long-time pitching coach--Dave Duncan.
The one outfielder who can hit is Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick had 37 homers, 110 RBI, and hit .300 last year. He was voted to the All-Star team and won a Silver Slugger award. So what does Tony LaGenius do with him? Platoons him in April, to the point where Ludwick questions, rightfully, the manager's sanity. This gets Ludwick a one-way ticket to the doghouse. He falls victim to the manager's mind games and now he's an average player. Who benefits? Favored children, Ankiel and Duncan, who have actually played in more games than Ludwick.
Meanwhile, unknowns like Brian Barden, Nick Stavinoha, Joe Thurston, Shane Robinson, Tyler Greene, and Brendan Ryan, all of whom should still be in AAA, get significant playing time. They are the oddest assortment of banjo-hitting slugs I have ever seen. They do not hit for power, average, or if their lives depended on it. Some nights, I swear, I think I am watching the Memphis Redbirds and not the St.Louis Cardinals.
And why do we have no talent in the minors? Because, apparently, the scouting and drafting departments are being run by Moe, Larry, and Curley. In the past 30 years, only two major league-worthy pitchers have been drafted and developed by the organization. One--Danny Haren--was traded away by Walt Jocketty. Jocketty was also responsible for signing Tino Martinez (a bust), Juan Encarnacion (a bigger bust), and Adam Kennedy (the grandaddy of busts). He traded for Mark Mulder (the most worthless ragarm of the three Billy Beane dumped), giving away Haren in the deal.
The current GM, John Mozeliak, is no better. His big signing was Khalil Greene, who is hitting about .200 and now has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder and likely will never play again. Good job researching Khalil's history, Mo.
Overseeing the whole mess is LaRussa, the most overrated manager of all time. How did he get the reputation of a genius? George Will, the creepy political geek who knows as much about baseball as I know about marine biology, once wrote a book in which he called LaLoser a genius. The label stuck, despite all evidence to the contrary. He changes line-ups every night to eradicate performance consistency. He cools off hot hitters (see Ludwick). He makes unfathomable in-game decisions, typically folding under the pressure of a tight game. (In a tie game, ninth inning, at Arizona in April, he sent up Brendan Ryan to pinch hit with the bases loaded instead of Silver Slugger Ryan Ludwick.) He typically destroys the confidence of young pitching talent. He plays favorites. He does not retaliate when his players get hit by pitches. (The one legitimate offensive threat, Albert Pujols, was plunked in the kidneys in a game in May...no retaliation was ordered by LaGenius.)
So how does the team manage to compete? The starting pitching has been pretty good. Especially Carpenter. But give it time...LaGenius will find a way to screw that up too. Meanwhile, red lemmings (aka Cardinal fans) fill the stadium every night, and Dimwitt, pockets full of cash, chortles all the way to the bank.