Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Sorry, Pathetic Mess That Is My Team--The St. Louis Cardinals

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 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.


Jack Jodell said...

Tim, I empathize and understand completely. My Minnesota Twins are owned by the sons of a recently deceased billionaire, and they, too, are too cheap to build a dominant team. They throw quarters around like they're manhole covers. Our pitching, both starting and bullpen, is so erratic I think one would have better odds of winning the Powerball than betting on them to consistently pitch outstanding games. Our bottom four hitters are flirting with.200 averages (or below). At least we have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan, each of whom is outstanding and a pleasure to watch. And at least you have the fabulous Albert Pujols, so I guess we'll both just have to be content with what we have for the moment and hope and pray for the best or a change in regime down the line. PLEASE beat up on the Milwaukee Brewers, though, will you guys? I can't stand them or their former owner, Bud Selig.

Tim Fleming said...


A friend of mine here in the St. Louis area is a diehard Minnesota fan, and he regularly moans about the Twins cheap owners. I tell him I would give anything to have Mauer, Morneau and Nathan...and I believe the Twins will win the AL Central. They have the most pronounced home-field advantage in all of baseball (no NL team can ever win in that godforsaken dome...witness the '87 World Series...still painful for me...and my Twins buddy brings it up every week or so.)

As for beating up the Brewers, sorry, my friend, no can do. They have too much thunder in their line-up, and their pitching is better than I imagined it would be. Milwaukee will win the NL Central, but then die an easy death in the playoffs. The ragtag bunch of no-hit wonders called St. Louis can't come close to matching the Brewers in talent. At least the Cubs appear doomed for the
101st consecutive year.

Jack Jodell said...

Tim, your "friend" is a sadist to rub in a World Series of 22 years ago. And the Twins may well win the AL Central, but, like the Brewers, that will be it. They'll both be eliminated in round 1 of the playoffs. I don't see us in another Series for a long time to come. At least you guys were able to beat the hapless Tigers and get another championship in 2006, seemingly against all odds---that must have been very fun. That's kind of how '87 was for us---I never dreamed that team would even reach the Series, let alone win it. And our "Dome Field advantage" disappears after this year, as we'll settle into a new, "normal" outdoor field next year. I can't wait, as the Metrodome is cramped with a LOUSY LOUSY sound system and sub-par visuals, too! I actually liked the old Metropolitan Stadium far better! Go Cardinals!