(Busch Stadium) With an unexpected 3-9 start to open the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals are faced with a myriad of problems as they try to get back on a winning track.
As a team, they are hitting just .212, which ranks 28th of the 30 MLB teams.
Of the Cardinals hitters with at least 20 at-bats, Stephen Piscotty’s .258 average is tops. Only Jedd Gyorko (.250) and Aledmys Diaz (.245) join him with an average of .230 or higher.
Add into the equation that opponents are hitting .277 against St. Louis pitchers, worst in all of baseball. The Cardinals have also allowed the second most runs (64) in both leagues.
When there’s so many areas that need to be improved, how do you fix things?
“Obviously, this is clearly not how we wanted to begin the season,” began General Manager John Mozeliak before today’s game. “When you think about sort of why we are where we are, you can really look at the entire roster. Candidly, it’s been a tough go. I think anytime you start off slow, you have a tendency to compound things and even though you’re trying to make things better, you sometimes make things worse.
“I feel like it’s not as simple as just pushing one button to fix it, or there’s not one simple thing to get it right. I think the simplest approach would be just everybody to try and do their job and do it right. If so, I think we have the talent to be successful. I think this team still has better days ahead of it, but it clearly has to get out of this current lane we’re in.”
Despite the slow start for the team, the Cardinals open tonight only 4.5 games in back of Cincinnati in the NL Central.
“You have a couple options,” stated Mike Matheny. “One is you sit there and say everything looks good, we’re close, and let’s just stay the course. That’s been the message more often than not with this club, but this is one of the few times I can tell you just as easily as people who watch us closely would say, it doesn’t look right. We have to fix things. So, it begins with work. It begins with knowing the expectation–we have to change this. We have to change the way we think, we have to change the way we go about not just competing but preparing too. All of us across the board, going down the laundry list of okay, what is it that we have to differently.”
“I also feel like the pressure to right it fast comes because people want to see us successful, people expect us to be successful and we haven’t done that to date,” said Mozeliak. “So you start looking around and want to point fingers and want to blame. I think the easiest way to look at this is with the exception of one or two players, it just hasn’t gone like anybody had hoped. I think we would all agree, when you look at this roster, you believe in the talent that’s there. You believe it will come around. But, I’m certainly not one of those guys that’s just going to tell you ‘just be patient, it’s early’ and compare it to teams 20 years ago and say everything will be fine. It will be fine if we start playing better and that’s what we need to do.”
Interestingly enough, Mozeliak recently happened to see footage of Tony La Russa explaining in 2011 that it was the first-week of the season and that the Cardinals offensive woes would turn around.
“In a way, I think he’s right. Will you see a progression to the mean offensively? I think the answer’s yes. Again, when things are going wrong, everything gets compounded. The weight of every small mistake ends up feeling like, ugh. Last night’s a perfect example. Garcia showed a lot of enthusiasm as we scored a run and then we go out and we just give it right up. That can be frustrating. I think that’s sort of where this club is at this point, where it needs to find a way to build a little momentum. Get itself where a small thing is a big thing.”
The Memphis Redbirds (AAA) have gotten off to a good start this season, but don’t expect Mozeliak to begin promoting players just yet.
“I don’t think there’s anything that I could go to right now to Memphis that’s going to necessarily, directly change the trajectory of this club,” he said. “But I will say that everything’s on the table right now. So if we continue down this path, obviously might have to do something different.”
“I hate to sit here and again, judge a player on simply on this body of work, but it hasn’t been good,” said Mozeliak. “When you look at production, it just hasn’t been there. And I think that’s sort of the part that’s a little bit of a head scratcher because you look at the majority of players had really strong springs. Then to have the regular season start and be has flat as we’ve been or the inability to have success, it’s frustrating.”
The Cardinals have committed 10 errors in their 12 games thus far, and some of their alignments have also been questioned.
“Obviously, our off-season narrative was about defense, it was about being more athletic and–we’re not living up to that,” acknowledged Mozeliak. “Obviously, we have to be held accountable for that. And that’s something we have to take a hard look at.”
Expect the Matt Adams in left field experiment to be put on hold.
“I honestly feel like for him to get playing time in left field, it’s a hard place to do this in the big leagues,” said Mozeliak. “At the time, we were trying to be creative and find a way to get him some at-bats. But I do think that takes away from our main goal, from a defensive standpoint. But arguably, as you sit here 3-9, you’re trying to get the offense going while trying to keep the defense going. It’s always that push-pull, which is tough. But I do feel like there’s a better way to stronger defensively than perhaps Matt.”
The Cardinals were also clear about their desire to not move Matt Carpenter around to multiple positions this season. Could that now be re-visited with everything on the table?
“My hope is we don’t have to go down that path,” said Mozeliak. “I think everything has to be on the table right now. As I started by saying, this current model isn’t working. So if we have to do something different to find ways to win, we have to be open to that.”
As noted previously, Yadier Molina is not in the starting lineup tonight. Thus far, the catcher has two passed balls and five wild pitches while behind the plate.
“Usually from a defensive standpoint, passed balls just don’t happen,” said Mozeliak. “I think maybe there’s something physically bothering him or something that’s just not quite right, but again I have not spoken with him or had anybody medically bring anything to my attention.”
Pitcher Adam Wainwright took responsibility after his last outing for a disappointing start. His General Manager is still encouraging patience as the right-hander finds his place on the mound.
“Waino’s like a lot of pitchers that are having to readjust how they pitch,” said Mozeliak. “When you don’t have the velocity you may have had three or four years ago, when you’re breaking ball might not be as crisp as it once was, that means everything else has to be better and it usually starts with command.”
“Obviously, what Adam Wainwright’s done during his career for the St. Louis Cardinals, we certainly have the ability to give him some time to work through this.”
LYONS 3RD START
–Pitcher Tyler Lyons made his third rehab start earlier today, finishing with a line of 4.2 IP, 6 hits, 2 ER, BB, and 4Ks for the Memphis Redbirds (AAA). He threw 73 pitches, with 49 called for strikes.
“I’d like to talk to the medical staff first, but I would say sooner than later,” commented Mozeliak on the left-handers timetable for return.
The runs were the first allowed by Lyons, who had previously thrown 9.1 scoreless innings in his previous rehab starts.
Memphis won the game, 4-3 over Oklahoma City.
photo credit: STLBaseballWeekly.com; Jeff Curry, Adam Hunger, Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports