Updated: Nov 5, 2018
A recap of the St. Louis Sports world for the week of 10/21-10/27.
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St Louis Cardinals
The Boston Red Sox captured another World Series title last night, meaning the long off season has begun, and this year, it's time for the Cardinals to do something. This doesn't necessarily mean sign Bryce Harper, it means as a Cardinals fan, three straight seasons of not making the playoffs in unacceptable.
So let's look at what the Cardinals need:
The Cardinals went out and signed Mike Schildt midseason in 2018. Why, I do not know.
While Mike Schildt may have the minor league experience to remove the "unexperienced" tag from him, it does not make him automatically qualified to coach a team to the World Series.
Maybe he wasn't given enough tools, maybe he was able to make the best out of a really bad situation with some amazing coaching, but think about it, this wasn't a Schildt miracle.
What the Cardinals saw in their resurgent second half was the result of an almost complete roster over haul.
For starters, the Matt Carpenter from the first half died, turning into the short term monster that overtook Carp. An MVP candidate for a while, even leading the race at times, Carp hit .257, with 36 homers and 81 RBIs. The only number that really jumps off the page is 36 homers. For a guy being considered for an MVP, batting .257 is not a great way to win that race.
But let's not forget, statistically speaking, Carpenter wasn't the Cardinals best offensive player. Jose Martinez lead the way, hitting .305 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs. But, this was the same player the Cardinals had to pull in the 6th for a defensive replacement.
On top of Carpenter's resurgent second half and Martinez's consistent bat, the Cardinals started trading pieces which brought in spots for some new bats like Harrison Bader and Tyler O'Neil, guys who showed the potential to be major players in the future of the St. Louis Cardinals. In adding these guys, the Cardinals let go Tommy Pham, and did not force Jose Martinez's lack of defensive talent to go on display as much.
And the biggest factor, the complete and total over haul of the Cardinals bullpen. And this paid major dividends. The Cardinals brought in people like Poncedeleon, Hudson, Gomber, and traded for Tyson Ross. They also traded away Greg Holland and Sam Tuivailala.
Gomber found his way into the starting rotation while the Cardinals platooned the bullpen with a mix of starters and Jordan Hicks. Bud Norris, for a while, continued to be an effective 9th inning guy.
And let's not forget the rebirth, and eventual death, of Brett Cecil, a player who looked to have finally figured something out this season. But alas.
The point is this. Mike Schildt was called in to handle the dumpster fire that was this team in July. After some changes, the tools Mike Schildt had at his disposal were not the same as the tools that Mike Matheny had at the same general time. And when you finally bench Dexter Fowler, allowing for room in right field, your offensive numbers are only going to improve. But removing all of that, there are a few key goals that the Cardinals have to hope for with Schildt.
The Cardinals need a leader both in the clubhouse and on the field. As many of us saw this year, the Cardinals locker room was not what it needed to be, hearing the stories of Bud Norris bullying people in the locker room and the inability of Mike Matheny to connect with his players being one of the continued complaints I hear about his tenure in St. Louis.
It needs to end now. In order to have a complete team, it starts with leadership, and it remains to be seen how well Schildt can lead this team.
The Cardinals are a team that continues to produce great young pitching talent, and as discussed before, this year was no exception. The emergence of the young call ups was eye opening, for the simple fact that this group of guys filled in some major holes in our rotation and in our bullpen.
When you talk about bullpen over haul mid-year, you probably should talk about a complete team over haul. With Carlos Martinez going down midway through the year, the Cardinals were left asking Miles Mikolas to be a number one, a role he filled out way better than anyone expected.
Bullpen over haul aside, what we witnessed this year was the birth of a baseball icon on social media. Through pitching ninja, not only did Jordan Hicks show his talent, but just how ludicrous his stuff is. For a guy that went from single A ball, to the big leagues in a year, there is a lot of potential for growth, and hope for the future of our bullpen.
And when Luke Weaver forget how to get outs down the stretch, guys like Gomber and Gant provided stability, allowing the rotation to find a groove for a while. And who can forget Adam Wainwright's late season comeback.
So where does all of this leave us?
The Cardinals staff right now looks to include Carlos Martinez, Mile Mikolas, and Adam Wainwright. This leaves two open spots, and some tough decisions. Looking at the Cardinals bullpen, this would leave Poncedeleon, Gant, Gomber, and Hudson as viable options to take over as a starter.
While Gant and Gomber did an acceptable job this year, it does not necessarily mean they will stay there, possibly opting to start someone like Dakota Hudson, who struggled with runners on out of the pen but might have more success as a starter.
And this is assuming a lot, such as Carlos regaining number one form, Mikolas having another great year, and Wainwright using his contract incentives to give the Cardinals one final great year. This staff has a lot of potential, and Hicks looks like a great option for closer, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to look at guys like Charles Morton, or if you really want to go for it, Patrick Corbin and possibly Clayton Kershaw.
But pitching is not the biggest hole in the Cardinals roster.
The Cardinals have been known for as long as I can remember as the team of fundamentals. It is almost cool in St. Louis to be more fundamentally sound, rather than flashy. Maybe that is a reason that we don't sign big names, because we worry that they will ruin the "Cardinal Way".
But maybe it is time to realize the "Cardinal Way" is dead. It's time to find a new way. But it does start with fundamentals and defense. And a few good free agent signings. And no, again, I am not looking at Bryce Harper.
But then again, Bryce Harper might be what the Cardinals are needing. Because when you look at the Cardinals, there doesn't seem to be one defining face. The power bat the Cardinals hoped for in Marcela Ozuna never quite panned out. For a player who showed true glimpses of stardom in Miami, he fell rather flat in his first year with St. Louis.
Lets give the Bear some credit, he was dealing with an ailing shoulder.
But that excuse does not help us next year. We cannot hope for the Marcela Ozuna that hit 37 home runs and 127 RBIs in 2017. we have to assume we are getting the Ozuna this year, who gave you a decent 23 home runs and 88 RBIs with a .280 batting average.
If you can add someone like Harper in the middle of your lineup, maybe Ozuna sees more pitches, gets more healthy pitches to hit, maybe adding Bryce Harper is all we need to make our lineup World Series ready. And maybe we can pretend for a short time that the Cardinals front office will put out the money to sign Harper. But realistically, we need to find a better way to imrpove than one big signing.
So trade Jose Martinez, sign Josh Donaldson to for a reasonable contract, it's time for real changes, not bargain players at cheap prices. There are reasons these guys come cheap.
The Front Office
Speaking of over hauls, I think this begs thinking. I'll keep this short, but recently in an article for The Ringer, I heard an interesting story about the way in which teams maintain superiority:
"Teams that sustain success for more than a decade evolve. Since 2004, the Red Sox have gone through three front-office regimes and four managers as they’ve won four titles in 15 years...... The Atlanta Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991 to 2005, and changed out their entire roster but John Smoltz in the meantime.... Even the turn-of-the-century Yankees, who won four World Series in five years and six pennants in eight on a team built around Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, evolved within that time span..... Stability is death. The trick is knowing when to cut bait on a beloved veteran and then how to identify youngsters or free-agent targets to take their place. Building a team that has World Series aspirations for 11 years is not a matter of building one title contender, it’s a matter of building several. And the Dodgers have, to their credit, evolved fairly smoothly. They themselves are on their third manager and second front-office regime since 2008, and the entire roster, apart from Kershaw, has been turned over since then."
I realize this is a lot to stomach, but consider that the current regime has been around for over ten years. Has this front office stagnated the team?
If you thought the cross town winter counterpart was going to offer anything better, you have so far, been proven wrong.
We are currently sitting last in the way too early standings at 3 wins and four losses, with 9 points compared to Nashville's 16. Not a big deal, no need to panic. This year the Blues are working with 7 of 12 new forwards, a drastic change in the offensive strategy for the Blues.
What should stand out to a lot of people is two key statistics. In the early games so far, the Blues are 4th in goals per game at 3.6, and 29th in goals against at 3.9 per game. The Blues are running themselves into shootouts and hoping to muscle past teams. Maybe this starts with the insistence of playing an aged defenseman in Jay Bouwmeester.
But as I said, it is still early, and there is a long way to go. The Blues are slated to play the Vegas Knights on Thursday, and the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
Saint Louis University Basketball
In another way too early sport, SLU basketball began their preseason schedule last week against Quincy University, winning 85-42.
The Billikens look poised to do big things this year, with some big time recruits at the top of the list for not just SLU, but the A10 as well.
Sophomore Jordan Goodwin, who has led the influx of local recruits to SLU, returns after a season ending suspension last year. He was averaging 11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and 4.0 apg.
Carte'Are Gordon comes in as an ESPN top 100 recruit from Vianney High School.
Hasahn French looks to build on last years performance where he averaged 9.8 ppg and7.1 rpg.
SLU has been preseason picked to win the Atlantic 10 confrence this year, making them a projected tournament team come March.
They will play at home against UMSL on Thursday, start time is 7 pm.