That time of year is here in full swing.
It should be one of my favorite points of the season. Division races are becoming defined, teams are separating themselves into “buyers” and “sellers” and even the least truculent of my baseball friends want to argue about the long term value of Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras or the prospect of having the best left-hander in the American League, an answer to Clayton Kershaw, and a statement to the rest of baseball, show up at Busch soon adorned with a red 14 on his back.
It’s a nice thought. At this point though, it’s little more than that. We haven’t heard a whole lot of buzz thats any different from the buzz that we heard months ago when the possibility of Price being a Cardinal first started getting kicked around in the mainstream media. Now the Rays are back in the race and yet somehow the rumors have heated up even more, even though with every Tampa Bay victory, the chances of securing Price, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria, or anyone else that has the likeness of the hot Florida sun adorned on their jersey become bleaker. And I’m going to reiterate that one of the worst things that the Cardinals can do at this point is panic and ship out all the young men with cheap contracts that we’ve been developing and hoarding for the past five years in an effort to save 2014.
So in summation, I won’t bore you with the same armchair GM tactic that the rest of the blogosphere seems to be practicing. If I see one more article from Jim Bowden that might as well be titled “Four Trade Scenarios That Would Be Perfect to Someone Who Has Never Watched Baseball” I’m boycotting ESPN forever. Instead, we’ll talk about some stuff that carries a little more weight, a la John Minnoch.
First things first, lets talk about Oscar Taveras. WHY ISN’T HE PLAYING? The whole Allen Craig debacle has gotten out of control. Mike Matheny‘s blind allegiance to one of “his” guys is costing the Cardinals four good at-bats a night. We waited out the first third of the season to see how things took shape before calling him up. The credo John Mozeliak and Matheny were preaching was “we aren’t calling him up unless theres playing time”. Well now there’s playing time, he’s up here, and he’s riding pine during more than half the games lately. He’s not even platooning with Craig against right-handers; he’s just a fifth outfielder. And if people are still questioning his ability at the plate, we saw in his pinch hitting appearance last night the immense value that he might bring once he gets comfortable. Here’s a few things I noticed from that at-bat:
-The free swinger worked eight pitches out of Kirby Yates.
-The at bat started with a called strike that was considerably -maybe six inches or so- below the strike zone. Taveras could have employed the “horrible attitude” and “lack of passion” that everyone has been dogging him for and hacked as hard as he could at the next two pitches and then gone and taken his seat personal post on the bench. Instead he used it as an opportunity to have the best at-bat of the night.
-He fouled off three pitches that were a foot outside the strike zone.
-He took the best pitch that he saw to hit in that at-bat back up the middle for a single.
-He took this at-bat with his team trailing by five with two outs in the ninth.
This is a microcosm of what Taveras is capable of. Think about it. Here’s how Taveras’ bat speed a plate coverage will turn him in to a superstar: The dude can touch anything. He loves to swing. Most hitters, with two strikes have to be very selective, obviously. Taveras, like Albert Pujols, has such great coverage that with two strike, he can choose to swing before the pitch is even thrown. He can step up with the mind-set that he’s going to continue to hack and just foul pitches off until the pitcher makes a mistake, like he did last night. He takes away the opportunity to get fooled and watch strike three go by. Now, this approach may not be conducive to walks and on-base percentage but as Taveras finds his footing and shows the league what he really can do once he’s adjusted, teams will be less likely to come at Taveras early in at-bats and he will be able to dictate the flow of his plate appearances more by getting ahead in the count.
John Mozeliak, I implore you, please don’t trade this guy for David Price. Don’t trade anyone for David Price. This team, in the absence of Michael Wacha and Yadier Molina, is starting to find itself. If Wacha and Molina recover enough to play the last few weeks of the season, that would be the equivalent of pulling off a massive trade for two of the most valuable players in the game as long as the Cardinals hang around in the race, which there’s no reason they shouldn’t, with or without a big trade. If they don’t , then 2014 wasn’t meant to be anyway and it wouldn’t be worth selling off everything the team has worked so hard to develop for a guy like Price.