One thing that seems to occur on Tony LaRussa’s team is the use of veterans over young players. We see it year in and year out; while Tony has gotten better, it’s still happening.
Remember last year when Rick Ankiel took at bats from Colby Rasmus? Imagine if we had Colby’s production this year at the end of last season. Maybe the playoffs would have been better. Remember the reluctance to give Ryan Ludwick at bats 3 years ago? He became an All Star the next season while still getting benched for now good reason. Hell, if Jason Isringhausen wouldn’t have gone on the DL in 2006, he probably would have been the post-season closer and that probably would have cost the team the championship. Most people outside of St. Louis don’t realize that Bobby Bonilla had the 25th roster spot for the Cardinals in 2001 at the end of spring training, but an injury force LaRussa to add a rookie third baseman that was the best hitter that spring to the roster…Albert Pujols.
This year is no different.
Coming into spring training, you had several position battles. One included taking set up man Kyle McClellan and making him the #5 starter. Luckily, lack of set up options kept McClellan in the bullpen and opened a spot for rookie Jaime Garcia. How has that worked out? 6-3 with a 1.59 ERA. 66 strikeouts in 79.1 innings. He hasn’t given up more than 2 earned runs in any game this season (one of those had 2 unearned runs, which was the highest of the season for him). 11 quality starts out of 13 total starts. He’s been pretty damn good.
Unfortunately, a few other guys haven’t been that lucky.
Tyler Greene was essentially bumped of the roster by Tony-favorite Aaron Miles. Greene can adequitely play second, third, and short; Miles can play adequite second and below average third and short. Greene can run (1 for 1 in SB this year and 3 for 3 last year; he’s XX for XX in the minors for his career); Miles can’t run (0 for 0 this year; 26 for 40 in his career). Both make the minimum, so money is a moot point. Greene is 26 years old; Miles is 33. Basically, any MLB time for Greene is helping him develope and the Cardinals have control of him for 5 more years. Miles is past his peak and has no future with the team. Who would be the better option?
Jon Jay got sent back in favor of the Randy Winn, recently DFAed by the Yankees. Jay was 13 for 43 (.302) for his MLB career. Sure, he wasn’t walking, but he only had 9 strikeouts. He had an OPS of .744, which isn’t shabby for a rookie part-time player. Winn was hitting .213 (13 for 61) for the Yankees when they cut him loose; only 2 of those hits were for extra bases (vs 4 for Jay). Both can play all outfield spots (Jay plays them better though) and both will make the minimum for the Cardinals. Jay is 25; Winn is 36. Again, which player has a better future for the Cardinals?
Finally, the Cardinals shipped rookie Adam Ottavino back to Memphis in favor for the former Cardinals Jeff Suppan, also DFAed but by the Brewers. Ottavino probably isn’t ready for the majors, but he was needed as the team lost Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny to injuries. Ottavino gave up 12 ER in 14.1 innings; his command got better over the 3 games, but he got hit pretty hard by the D’backs in his final start. Suppan appeared in 15 games for the Brew Crew this year (2 starts) and sported a 7.84 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, and a .388 BAA (his one start for the Cardinals resulted in 1 ER over 4 innings). The concern with Ottavino (and other young pitchers) was the potential for short starts and over taxation of the bullpen; 4 innings from Suppan looks like the same thing they wanted to avoid. Ottavino is 24; Suppan is 35. Again, both make the minimum.
Miles, Winn, and Suppan won’t give anything more than Greene, Jay, or Ottavino would; in fact, they give you less since the 3 younger players will have a life in St. Louis baseball after this season. I see no reason they can’t develope at the Major League level; they might not play everyday, but they can pick the minds of their experienced teammates, play under one of the top managers in the history of baseball, and improve.
Of course, that midget Miles might be serving as the bat boy on the road…