Worst Case Scenarios And The Hard Sell Up The Middle
Cardinals fans endured a tough offseason. They noted the enormous and unacceptable holes in the middle infield, and then they watched in confusion as the team impotently sat on its hands all winter and failed to adequately address these issues. Aside from the constant stream of lies and misinformation, of course.
It started innocently enough. There were leaky early-winter reports about how well Rafael Furcal was responding to his non-surgical rehabilitation. John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny used many interviews discussing the usefulness of fan-favorite Matt Carpenter at second base. Anyone with an ounce of understanding about baseball or the human anatomy knew this was bullshit, but it was early enough in the offseason to dismiss these first attempts to sell the fans on such a plan.
Then came the acquisition of mostly-useless infielder Ronny Cedeno and clubhouse presence Ty Wigginton. It suddenly became grotesquely apparent that the team had every intention of forging ahead with what seemed like a ridiculous plan of non-intervention in the Cardinals’ junkpile of a middle infield.
Once spring training began, the propaganda machine went into full tilt. First we were treated to Jose Oquendo assassinating Skip Schumaker in the press by floating the idiotic idea that Carpenter is already a better second baseman than Schumaker. This might be easy to swallow, except that Daniel Descalso still figures to play second base on Opening Day! And Schumaker was statistically better than Descalso last year in EVERY important aspect! That means Carpenter is not even close to Schumaker’s ability! Who are they trying to fool?
Next, Mozeliak answered all offseason questions regarding the stability of Rafael Furcal’s torn elbow ligament with reassurances that Furcal is doing “fine” and that he will be ready by Opening Day. His confidence in Furcal’s progress, he said, was the reason why he neglected to pursue a healthier option at shortstop.
Of course, Mozeliak failed to mention that Furcal didn’t throw a baseball until just two weeks prior to the start of spring training, and when he did, it wasn’t at full strength! Now come reports today that Furcal has inflammation in the elbow from a bone spur related to the ligament tear in the elbow. He will miss at least the first 10-15 games of spring training, and that’s the best-case scenario.
The Cardinals must feel that the fans are morons who will accept any story tossed their way.
I get the second base problem: the Cardinals don’t want to tie up second base for the long-term because they’re hoping Kolten Wong will be ready to assume the position for multiple seasons starting in 2014. Their short-term solution makes some sense: toss Descalso, Carpenter, Cedeno, or Wigginton at the problem and hope for the best. The organization has long undervalued the second base job anyway, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.
Just don’t lie about the situation and assassinate Schumaker in the process. That’s unacceptable.
Meanwhile, the months of obfuscation surrounding Furcal’s failing rehab were similarly unacceptable. Here’s the reality: the team owes Furcal $7M for the 2013 season. Obtaining a major-league shortstop to replace a now-useless Furcal would mean tacking on additional payroll or cost the organization a boatload of prospects.
So instead of facing that reality, the team lied to the fans to convince them that Furcal would be “fine” at shortstop. This kept the fans placated enough for the team to slip through the offseason without making any expensive moves. Then, at spring training, the team could then express “frustration” at Furcal’s lack of progress and hope the fans would overlook this injury as just “something that happens.”
It only happened because the team didn’t want to spend the additional revenue or prospects to fix the problem. Everyone faintly familiar with a LIGAMENT TEAR in an ELBOW knows that the injury cannot repair itself or be magically healed with platelet injections, sacrifices to Baal, or witchdoctor voodoo. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone to see Furcal soft-tossing the baseball like a limp-wristed thirteen year-old girl this past week in Florida, least of all Mozeliak or the team doctors. It’s just not going to get better, and they know it.
But they’d rather hard-sell the fans a truckload of nonsense rather than deal with an unpleasant problem head-on. Frustrating.