Free Allen Craig, Mike Matheny.
That doesn’t mean send him down to the minors. I just can’t fathom the team sending Craig down to Memphis to work on his swing. Sure, they could fake an injury(pressure headaches?) and send him packing. I just don’t see them doing that. Allen Craig is here to stay folks.
Here’s what Matheny can do. Don’t let him hit cleanup. Don’t put Allen Craig in the #2 hole or the #3 hole. Drop him back to the #6 hole. Hit Craig in the 7th spot. It would be stupid to disregard what Craig has done for the Cards from 2011-2013. That would selfish and low minded. Craig looks like a different and more troubled hitter at the plate, but he isn’t hopeless. He needs a new spot and less pressure. A platoon with Oscar Taveras in right field is a high peak for Craig right now. Oscar will collect his at bats with the occasional start in center and left, so there is no need to send Craig down to Memphis.
I have thought long and hard about this. I have rewatched Craig at bats from earlier in the week. The couple of hits in the Giants series. The many groundouts to third base that show us the struggling slugger making that crucial mistake on outside offspeed pitches. Craig has 6 HR and 40 RBI, to go with a tepid slugging percentage and a bad on base percentage. As Bernie Miklasz pointed out in his sharp bytes yesterday, Craig doesn’t have the bat or the stats right now to hit cleanup. He ranks among the league’s worst in RBI and hits when hitting 4th. That means get him out of there.
When people talk about getting rid of people, Allen Craig doesn’t come to my mind first. I think of Daniel Descalso(nice turn on the game ending double play last night aside) and Shane Robinson. Players who don’t get out on the field much to begin with and don’t represent a threat or upgrade off the bench. Allen Craig doesn’t come to mind when I think about discharging players. A 15 day stint in Memphis may help but it may prove nothing. Craig has MLB pitchers to deal with and not a hitter friendly PCL league.
My words to Matheny now run like this. Play Craig. Get him in there 3 times a week at least. Save his bat for the later innings on the other nights. Craig has played solid defense in right field and can substitute for Taveras late in games. I am not of the belief that Oscar needs to play every single game. There is more to learn about this game than simply playing. Oscar could learn a ton by sitting next to veterans like Waino for an entire game and learning a bit more about pitchers. Oscar is a young man and needs to go to school before he can truly learn how to run rampant in this league.
Matheny can still find room to play Craig. Get his bat going. If there is a way, somehow, to get Craig’s bat rolling and alive again, that route must be exhausted. If he starts to swing, this lineup will become lethal. Craig will give Jhonny Peralta’s bat a boost if he hits. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday get on base a ton, and will score if Craig can knock them home. Matt Adams may see a bit of the pressure roll off his shoulders and start to find that power stroke that he left in Colorado. Unlike Yadi Molina or Holliday, Craig’s bat has always been the key to full ignition in this Cardinals offense. If Craig hits, watch out!
Do not send Craig to Memphis. Keep him here. Play him. Slot him lower in the order. The Allen Craig of old may show up or he may not. He deserves a chance to find that stroke, even if it may not come every day. In the end, if he hits, Matheny can say Allen earned his time. If he doesn’t hit, Matheny can say he gave him the chance to recover some dignity.
In my opinion, Craig has until the deadline to prove himself. To me, he is trade bait in some form or another and this team is still looking to deal for some kind of commodity. Craig has just under 4 weeks to get his bat rolling in a part time role. He gets that chance here.
I want to see Craig do well. I really do. I want to see him get to second base and launch his arm in the air and look happy. Let’s put a smile on that face Allen. I believe in the adage that happier players makes for looser baseball which turns into more wins and happy flights. Craig needs to chin up and start hitting. While that’s easier said than done, Craig can make it happen here in St. Louis and not in the minors. They already have a few Crash Davis’ down there and need the room to play the future stars of this team. There it is. I rest my Allen Craig defense. Briefcase is on the table and the suit is coming off.
UPDATE-Craig is hitting 3rd in the lineup today and I can’t say that’s a great plan but at least it’s not in the cleanup role. I would have suggested a lower spot but basically pulling him away from the cleanup spot(one of the most vital spots in a lineup) is a good start. Oscar is sitting in favor of Jay, which should get the fan forums rolling and set Twitter on fire. Once again, it’s okay to sit Oscar on occasion. He can learn quite a bit watching the game from the bench.
Team Notes-The Cardinals have pulled within 4 games of Milwaukee with their 3 game winning streak. The Reds are helping out the Redbirds and beat the Brewers 4-2 last night. The Cards have Shelby Miller on the mound today and NO ONE knows what to expect. Miller’s right arm is as polarizing of a subject as Craig’s bat is these days. Is it growing pains or something worse? Today’s start will shed some light.
Have a good holiday weekend folks and thanks for staying.