Circling the Drain



Does anybody want to tell me when this whole thing just went to hell?

Remember when the Cardinals were a first-class organization, one that made smart moves, fielded competitive teams, and had everyone pulling in the same direction?

Well, guess what, folks, the party, as they say, is over. Last one out turn out the lights.

Here's a quick rundown (Like the subtle plug there? Of course, since you're already reading this, it's probably pointless for me to advertise to you.), of just some of what we've seen from the Cardinals the past few days: 

  • Tony La Russa, longtime manager and elder statesman of the game, became so upset by the fans and media members singling out Chris Duncan after he grounded into a game-ending double play that he not only blasted the fans, saying they make him want to vomit, but also throws his starting shortstop - who has been very, very good, by the way - right under the bus. This is the same Chris Duncan, by the way, who is sporting an OPS below .700 for the season and hasn't hit a home run - supposedly the thing he does best - since the 16th of July. 
  • Shortly thereafter, it appears the Cardinals agree to trade Chris Duncan to the Boston Red Sox for Julio Lugo. The next morning, the Cardinals release a statement that Duncan is instead being optioned to Memphis. Word on the street is La Russa and Dave Duncan were so upset by the news of Chris' departure that one or both of them may have threatened to walk. 
  • Later that same day, Chris Duncan is, in fact, traded to the Boston Red Sox for Julio Lugo. Did the GM call the bluff of his coaches? I don't know, but I sure hope we find out. 
  • The General Manager, supposedly an intelligent, collected man who isn't easily swayed, is now apparently willing to part with the Cardinals' best prospect in return for a two month rental of Matt Holliday, whose name, I swear, I hear in my deepest, darkest nightmares. 
  • Duncan the Elder, also supposedly an intelligent, collected man who weighs his words carefully, goes on the record regarding his son's departure from St. Louis with some rather, shall we say, inelegant comments. 
And that's just the off-field stuff. On the field, just in the past few days, we've had: 

  • La Russa sitting Colby Rasmus against a right-handed pitcher in favor of Nick Stavinoha and his robust .593 OPS. 
  • Ryan Franklin self-destruct, though, to be fair, he has been brilliant this season. 
  • Joe Thurston, still on the team somehow, fail to turn a double play which would have gotten the Cardinals out of last night's ninth inning mess with the tie still intact. Thurston is hurting this team. Period. Why is he still here? 
  • Todd Wellemeyer continue to take the mound, despite being one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball this year, all the while Duncan and La Russa insist there are no better options. 
Honestly, I barely even recognize this organization anymore. 


We've got Tony throwing Brendan Ryan under the bus, and I have to ask why. Ryan has been one of the real bright spots on the team this season; why do you trample him in your hurry to defend Duncan? 

"Did anybody watch Brendan's at-bats?

"Chris is a ... whipping boy. I'm so tired of the unfairness with Chris Duncan, it makes me want to vomit. You can tell anybody ... that he's getting treated unfairly. It makes me want to vomit. That's why I get upset as soon as he gets mentioned. 

"They've got a great reputation in our town, but it's not a perfect reputation. 

"It's a pretty clear difference [for Valverde between right- and left-handed hitters]. Plus Chris, even when he struggles, he's one of our better pinch-hitters.

"This guy is treated unfairly. For fans that have the reputation that they have, that they deserve, they do have a couple quirks that are not fair. And he's one of them.

"What's so ridiculous is, if you watch Brendan, Brendan had no chance yesterday for some reason. So he's going to do better in that at-bat? That's ridiculous if you think about it. I think it's ridiculous. And it has to do with the guy that pinch-hit. It's really a black eye for some of our fans that are not objective about him for whatever reason. I'm not sure what it is. I can't figure it out."

Okay, so not only is Tony shitting all over the people who come out, night after night, to watch him overmanage the game, but he's saying, "You guys think Chris sucks? Well, fuck that! Have you seen how bad Brendan is?" 

There was no reason to include Brendan Ryan in his comments. None at all. All you have to say is, "I wanted to get the lefty/ righty matchup." Just leave it at that. See how easy that is? There's even plenty of reasonable, logical support for it! 

Of course, as unfortunate as Tony's statement was, his buddy Duncan then managed to go him one better just yesterday, when discussing his feelings on the trade of his son. 

"The way I look at it is he was traded for a player who had very little (leverage) ... he was designated for assignment," Duncan said. "It's highly unusual for a major-league roster player to be traded for somebody like that. So somebody wanted to get him out of the organization, and they've accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.

"Either that or we don't have anybody in the minor leagues that they wanted for (Lugo). One or the other."

Now, at first blush, that may not seem quite as incendiary as what Tony said, but let's look a bit closer, shall we? Dave Duncan has, in the space of about three sentences, managed to degrade the Cardinals' newest acquisition, suggest there was a conspiracy against his son, and insult the farm system by suggesting there was nothing in the minors worth trading for a player Duncan himself just implied was worthless. You know, Dave Duncan may not be a man of many words, but when he does say something, he makes that shit count. 

You want evidence the organizational rift so prevalent in the last days of the Walt Jocketty era is still fully in extant? Look no further than that last comment by Dave Duncan. This thing is going to get real ugly, real fast. 

And then, just today, comes the news that John Mozeliak may have decided he's willing to part with Brett Wallace to bring in Matt Holliday. I understand this team needs offense, and badly, but giving up your best prospect for a couple month rental of one of the most overrated players in all of baseball is just foolishness. If the Cardinals were to trade Wallace, it should be for a young, cost-controlled commodity at a position of real need, someone who will help to fill a spot for the team for years to come. I nominate Clay Buchholz, the young right-hander from the Red Sox the Cardinals almost drafted instead of Tyler Greene, but I'm pretty sure they'll just hold on to him now. 

Oh, what's that? You say you want to trade for him, then sign him to an extension, thus making the deal worthwhile? Well, prepare to not sign Pujols, then, because the Cardinals likely won't be able to afford both. Scott Boras is going to get Matt Holliday in the $17 million a year range, maybe more, over probably six years. You add that contract on top of what the Cardinals owe Carpenter, Lohse, and Wainwright over the next few years, plus what it's going to cost to fill in the spots the Cards won't be filling with young talent, since they traded it away, and the payroll simply can't support that many big money deals. 

Now, I will say this: if the Cardinals were to deal for Holliday, offer him arbitration, and let him walk, they would receive two draft picks in return. That's really the only thing that gives me a bit of pause in saying this sort of deal would be a disaster. Still, Brett Wallace is as close to a sure thing to hit in the majors as you're going to find. The risk of two draft picks, the numbers of which you don't even know, is incredibly high. 

So we've got the manager calling out players and fans, the pitching coach calling out shadowy forces within the organization who hated his son and degrading the farm system, and the General Manager considering getting rid of his best prospect for the pleasure of paying Matt Holliday for the rest of the season and then watching him walk away. 

On top of that, we constantly hear from the coaching staff how safe Todd Wellemeyer's job is, seeing as how there aren't any other options. Blake Hawksworth is a better option. He's already pitched well at the major league level, in a role he's never really occupied before, no less. Clayton Mortensen has been solid at Memphis this year, Mitchell Boggs looked very good earlier in the season with the big club, and I have no idea where Brad Thompson is at the moment, but I refuse to believe he could be any worse than watching Wellemeyer take the mound even one more fucking time. 

Yet La Russa and Duncan continue to live in denial, conceding every fifth game out of, what, exactly? Loyalty to Wellemeyer? Arrogance? Perhaps a bit of both; after all, they did move him to the rotation, and if there's one thing we know this staff is bad at, it's admitting when they've made a mistake. All the while, games continue to be lost. I have never questioned Tony La Russa's desire to win, nor will I ever do so, but I absolutely question whether he's still the right man to get the job done. This is why personal attachments are such a bad idea in the game. Both La Russa and Duncan have put their personal feelings ahead of what's best for the team. I'm having a harder and harder time believing either of them will be back next year. I'm also not sure that's a bad thing. 

There's still a giant fucking hole in downtown that was supposed to be something useful by now; instead, we get a god damned softball field for the All-Star Game. The front office can't seem to all get on the same page, and the field staff is publicly undermining what the organization is trying to do. The offense is putrid, the pitching can't possibly keep carrying the team, and the manager seems hell bent on proving to the world he's right, even if it comes at the expense of the team. 

I have no idea what in the hell has happened to my baseball team, but I will tell you this: I think this ship is sinking, and I don't much care for it. 

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