Return Of The Running Game
The first two weeks of spring training haven’t illuminated much about Mike Matheny‘s managerial strategies or game plans. All we really know about him so far is that he likes to run up and down the bench and high-five people. In other words, we don’t know much.
But one thing is clear – the 2012 Cardinals are going to run more than they have in almost 20 years.
The Cardinals already have 15 steals in spring training. If you projected that rate out over a full season, the 2012 Cardinals would have four more steals than the entire La Russa era combined. Let’s face it – the biggest problem with the TLR teams (besides the in-fighting) was the lack of speed. Hell, they weren’t even walking very fast (not to first, anyway). On a TLR team, a runner on first might reach second on a shot into the gap. Stolen bases were considered to be evil incarnate. It was like watching a team full of Boog Powell clones. While nobody ever expected a pure American League manager like La Russa to resurrect Whiteyball, many of his teams had the energy of a catatonic nursing home patient staring out the window while waiting for sweet, sweet death.
Matheny obviously has something different in mind. Much of that new game plan appears to revolve around Tyler Greene (3 steals), who stole home today as part of a double steal with Daniel Descalso that was straight out of the Coleman/McGee playbook. Greene would be the perfect piece for this restructured, speedier offense if he could hit more than his weight in the major leagues. Still, he’s causing some damage with his speed despite hitting just .200 in six games.
In addition to Greene, Erik Komatsu, Adron Chambers, and Ryan Jackson have all impressed with their use of speed on the bases and in the field. And Chambers has even taken to coach Willie McGee’s suggestion of wearing tight pants in order to increase his aerodynamics on the bases (oh, Willie … you so silly!). Hopefully Lance Berkman doesn’t decide to slip on some tight, eighties-style pants and join the speed party with the youngsters.
While the 2012 club still has its share of TLR-styled, base-running monoliths (how many surgically-repaired knees are on this club, anyway?), it’s apparent that Matheny intends to steer this team into a more balanced offensive attack. Gone are the days of players standing around on the bases while looking for the big hit. He obviously wants a team that can actually move from first to third without a home run, which would be refreshing to say the least.
As a fan of Whiteyball, the idea makes me giddy with excitement for the upcoming season.