If there was ever a time for the St. Louis Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak to step up to the plate, it’s right now.
Manager Tony La Russa is sticking up for his bullpen, as a good manager should. And his jumping down the collective throat of the media when asked, pretty much, anything that has the words bull, or pen, or about the connective compound that this keyboard refuses to type without gagging, doesn’t make the issue any less critical to the Cards at this point in the season.
For if you don’t win some of these “shoulda had it” games now, you’ll be under even more pressure to win them in September.
When you think about La Russa’s recent statements that the issue is more with the offense than the pen, any Cardinal fan is hard-pressed to see the point. La Russa’s point is valid, to be sure. It’s just that from a fan’s perspective, it sounds like pure denial. Not calling in a reliever in the eighth when Lohse was gasping for air after three straight Brewers’ hit seemed a pretty strong message from manager to pen, and even if La Russa would’ve brought in Aaron Miles to mop up, this writer wouldn’t have held it against the boss.
La Russa argument regarding offense just doesn’t hold water on one point, that he’d already chosen to carry an extra man in the bullpen. Need to get this one straight. If offense is the problem, then carry an extra hitter. Make up my mind, already.
And now, for the flipside, from which a fan must make an attempt to look at La Russa’s overall situation and understand what a pickle he’s in. With no crystal ball in that dugout, he must make a lineup (he has plenty of templates from which to choose) and run with it. Will the offense show up or not, will the bullpen come around? And the least talked about factor, will the starter go longer than five innings?
That Lohse went so long (maybe when he shouldn’t have) amplified the dilemma that is the bullpen. In other words, when La Russa has to trot these relievers out for almost as many innings as his starters, there’s an issue there that the bullpen has not created, but is being asked to fix, almost on a daily basis, plus, handle the usual task.
This reminds us that this is still a team game, which in La Russa’s defense, is something he, in so many words, reminds everyone of each time he faces the media. Yet we as fans have no patience when we’re so close to contending.
This brings us back to the beginning, where we can now see what a perfect time it is for Mozeliak to step up to the plate and stick up for his team by taking some of this heat La Russa’s been taking. But better yet, if there is a deal to be made, now is the time.
La Russa has made his feelings known on certain needs for the squad, and probably a lot more we don’t know about, which is okay. He can’t say any more, and for good reason. If he does, it comes off looking like he’s telling some player or portion of his team that they aren’t good enough.
And the aforementioned is exactly the type of heat Mozeliak is supposed to take. If it’s a manager’s job to protect his team, it’s the GM’s job to protect the team and it’s manager. Mozeliak can accomplish this by making the deal everyone within sight of the Arch knows is coming, or at least talk about the possibility of this deal or that deal, or anything to get the focus off the manager.
And Mozeliak, like it or not, will have to take responsibility for any such deal, and must forego voicing any reservations about the same. Nobody wants to hear the talk about not making a move just because everyone else is. This relief issue is not something that is suddenly upon the Cardinals. So it’s either make a deal, as was stated in the 4thebirds feature Deal … or no deal?, or don’t, But either way, Mozeliak must step up and make a choice for the team’s sake.
We question La Russa on a daily basis, and La Russa goes out on a limb on a daily basis, so whether you think he did well or blew it, you know you’re going to get some guts. The players play the same way, out on that limb.
And can’t be fun being the Cards’ relievers, peering through the bullpen fence at the opposing team and saying: “They’re down by four with one out in their last at-bats, but they don’t look scared that La Russa is on the mound and tapping his arm.” And the other reliever says: “Yeah, I think their on to us.”
And as a fan, you lean toward the locked plate glass door of the main offices, cup your hands around your eyes and peer inside. “Mo? Hey, Mo! Ahem … Mo … anybody in there?”
With a little over two weeks left to the trade deadline, there still has been no indication that the St. Louis Cardinals are working on any potential deals.
The speculating public seems to be split on just what the Cards need more at this point.
There are two camps, with maybe an edge going to the one that desires to see a knock-out lefthanded closer added to the bullpen. Also high on the wish list, however, is an “impact” bat, as Tony La Russa described the minimum requirements should there be an addition made to the offense.
There is a lot of agreement on where this potential help will come from, though.
Mentioned players that fall into the category of (probably) expensive but “doable deals” are lefthanded reliever-closer Brian Fuentes and the talented stickman, Matt Holliday.
Since both would be asking far too much, the Cardinals–if indeed they are seriously investigating the possibility of pursuing either of these Rockies’ standouts–will have to ante up in big bucks or decide if they will go against there oft-spoken sentiments concerning the building of a strong organization from within.
The “talk” was easy to spit out early on in the season when it was the bevy of call-ups that patched the parental roster. One has to admit the Redbirds have the appearance of a lovable blue-collar team driving repeatedly by the Arch in the Family Truckster, forging along like a vehicle held together with baling wire and duct tape.
The “build from within” mission statement, now, however, may be obsolete.
Before, Cardinal Nation may have been figuring GM John Mozeliak was waiting to see how Mark Mulder would fare. Or possibly, if the offense could put together more than one rally per game. Add to these worries that the bullpen strategy seems to be who not to call upon.
Now, the Cardinals may be trying to decide, considering all of the above, whether they have a legitimate shot at the division.
As fans, we always believe there’s a chance. No doubt La Russa thinks the same way; evidenced by the fact that he’s been working his tail off with his coaching staff all season to turn the squad into a real contender, and keep them that way.
There’s no harmful intent in addressing the Cardinals’ current shortcomings, either. Realize that every team that’s not in first place has them; otherwise, they’d be in first place.
Cardinal Nation needs to remember, however, that any trade the Cards make is a trade-off, and it’s going to sting a lot if the “doable deal” requires the bartering of any or many Cardinals’ players and/or prospects, Redbirds to whom we’ve all gotten pretty attached.
Trade? Don’t trade? Trade? Don’t trade? Try for Fuentes? Holliday? Or no one?
Eeny, meeny, miney…
Just because Tony La Russa isn’t commenting about the possibility of Barry Bonds wearing a Cardinals uniform doesn’t mean GM John Mozeliak isn’t mulling it over.
While La Russa might be analyzing how Bonds’ bat might bolster the middle of the Redbirds’ lineup, however, Mozeliak may be (or not be) getting pressure form other parts of the Cardinals’ organization. Cardinal Nation can only speculate as to what is or isn’t in the works.
From a Front Office perspective, there’s probably not as much worry over what Bonds’ might contribute on the field or (more importantly) in the batters’ box. Deep within the Cardinal “think tank” it’s doubtful they’re worrying about La Russa’s definition of “impact,” either. The administrators of Cardinals business most likely have their own idea of what “impact” means, and it probably has to do more with dollar bills and box seats then bases and bats. Mozeliak must be stuck in the middle somewhere, which should give a fan an idea of how challenging it is to be a general manager.
Bonds could mean big business for Cardinals’ ownership if they can figure out a way to make merchandising work. The seats are pretty much full already, but if there are any empties, his presence would “top off” Busch Stadium, based on notoriety alone, be it good or bad. And there’s the rub. There’s always the chance that the negative aspects of Bonds’ recent scandal would be less than profitable, so to speak.
A monetary loss? No way. Cardinal Nation is too faithful to not show up. But that’s because of all the Redbirds that have earned their respect. The fans would surely continue to purchase jerseys with “Ankiel” or “Pujols” or “Ludwick” on the back, just not B-o-n-d-s. And then again…
The financial forecast on that one is just too hard for a blogger to figure out.
But as far as the baseball side…
Bonds has stated he can be ready in ten days. C’mon. Most of us who are near Bonds’ age and weight can tell you it takes ten days to get off the darned couch.
For poops and grins, though, let’s ***-u-me Bonds is ready to be a rockin’ Redbird. (Here’s where we need the stat-geeks.) Without researching the baseball blogs with more numbers than letters, the garden-variety hardball fan knows Bonds is (or was) a good batsman, but over the last few years, he has done no better than most Cardinals’ hitters who usually hang out in the middle of La Russa’s revolving lineup.
So when La Russa uses the word impact, you merely need to ask the question, “Impact what?” to know he’s projecting the potential benefit to the team’s win column. Yet, when considering Bonds’ reduction in production (at least, down to the level of a solid major league hitter) over the last few seasons, you have to, even as a manager, consider the impact Bonds might have on a team that has worked as hard as most, if not all, of La Russa’s teams over his long career. Would his presence in the dugout enhance an already established work ethic and bring an increased feeling of hope, or create animosity amongst a roster of men that have hoed that NL Central Row from the beginning, many of them sub-million-dollar players that are the reason the Cardinals have gotten this far?
Now we see that even though the Road to Impact forks somewhere around the batters’ box and the box seats, the splits merge when you get close to Bondsville, and then everyone that had jumped on the wagon begins to see how heavy it’s becoming, and thinks about the fellow that resides there, and collectively realize it’s not so much Barry as it is the baggage.
photo by Barbara Moore