THE TIME IS NOW
The Cardinals are a conservative club. They prefer shorter contracts, smaller dollar amounts, tempered personalities, and moderate expectations. The team likes to take its slow, sweet time with everything, like cold molasses oozing out of a frozen mason jar.
But I’ve had enough of the constipated organizational pipeline slowly dripping players onto the major league roster like Chinese water torture. The Cardinals need to stop the thumb-twiddling, hand-wringing, navel-gazing nonsense and unleash these young, hungry prospects. That time is most definitely now.
Several years ago I could understand taking the Aunt Jemima approach to using young, untested talent. We had very few real prospects, and their ceilings weren’t so high that they absolutely needed to have a place on the roster. And frankly, even high-draft players like Pete Kozma never really blossomed into the kind of star you make room for on the major league team.
But we aren’t talking about marginal talents or high-hope prospects anymore. This organization is virtually bursting at the seams with high-impact talent literally champing at the bit for playing time. The situation seems even more obvious considering that the 2013 Cardinals are one of the OLDEST teams in the major leagues. It’s ridiculous to wait.
Look at the damage wrought already by Oscar Taveras, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller in spring training. Taveras is hitting over .365 in a handful of at-bats with an extra base hit and a shoestring catch in center to end the game two days ago. Adams leads the team in RBIs and is hitting .556. Wong is batting .375 with two doubles and has played flawlessly at second. Wacha has destroyed every team he’s faced; he’s still carrying a 0.00 ERA. Miller has been impressive in his outings as well.
I’m not advocating that all of these young studs should be inked onto the major league roster to start this season; Wacha in particular should definitely get some work at Memphis before making a debut in St. Louis. I also find it hard to see a spot for Adams on this team given Allen Craig on first base. However, I simply cannot justify any reason why the team insists on stalling the development of these other impact players.
The Taveras and Wong situations are particularly bothersome. In the case of Taveras, I understand why you’d prefer to get him in the lineup everyday at Memphis rather than sit him at the major league level. But couldn’t you make the case that being in the clubhouse will strengthen what is already considered his weakest aspect – his attitude? Meanwhile, a Taveras bat over a Shane Robinson bat on the bench makes your team exponentially more dangerous, right? *
As for Wong, he is already head-and-shoulders above our two current candidates for the starting second base job on our MAJOR LEAGUE TEAM. Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso are fine fellows and enthusiastic clubhouse guys, but Wong is a natural infield talent and, with a lifetime slugging percentage above .400, a more impactful hitter. Why are we wasting our time with a boring positional battle between two marginal players when we have a better player already producing for us?
Shelby Miller could potentially stay in Memphis for a while longer; unlike position players, starting pitchers need regular work. The major league team could easily get by without exposing Miller at this stage, using Joe Kelly or Trevor Rosenthal for the fifth remaining spot in the rotation.
If the Cardinals opt for a 12 man pitching staff, that leaves five bench spots. If Wong takes second base, you could have Taveras, Ty Wigginton, Ronny Cedeno, Carpenter, and Robinson/Descalso on the bench (preferably Robinson). And if there was some way to swing it, I’d pack Adams on this bench, too.
Yeah, it’ll be tough to say goodbye to solid, gritty ballplayers like Descalso, but that’s baseball.
The organization has been building this farm system methodically over a period of years, and it has now reached a crescendo. It is foolish to stifle these young talents any longer! Stop signing junk like Cedeno and clinging to players like Descalso who do nothing except clog the pipeline!
We wanted young, cheap, game-changing talent in our farm system. It’s here, and it’s ready. The future is not tomorrow; it is now. It’s time the Cardinals embraced that future and give it a chance.
* Yes, I am aware that Robinson is currently tearing it up in spring training. Great. But it’s still SHANE ROBINSON.