This morning I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe the all-around vibe emanating from Camp Cardinal. I’m failing. But it’s kind of a two-worlds type of thing. Do you see sunshine, or clouds? It depends on how you want to look at it.
Which world would you like to visit?
– Happy Talk is off to a very strong start. World Series, here we come. And the confidence level is so high, it’s almost eerie … What do these people know that we don’t know?
– Rookie manager Oli Marmol is impressive, with players and staff giving him high marks for his communication and caring and the trust that he’s building. Not being sarcastic here. Marmol doesn’t have to win over the players. He’s already taken care of that. The important veterans are proud to be part of Team Oli. There’s a strong base of leadership.
– Skip Schumaker, the bench coach, has fit right in. No surprise there. He’s a Cardinal. Always will be a Cardinal. So smart, and he knows the Way. Skip has bonded with Marmol in an immediate, positive way.
– This is stating the obvious, but let’s do it again: how cool is it to have an infield anchored by Paul Goldschmidt at first base and Nolan Arenado at third?
– The St. Louis outfield is so much deeper in 2022. Starters Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson have backup in Lars Nootbaar and Corey Dickerson. Last season Bader and O’Neill won gold gloves for their defensive excellence, and the starting threesome delivered MLB’s third-best slugging percentage, fifth-best onbase percentage and fifth-best OPS among major-league outfield groups over the final three months of the 2021 regular season.
– To their credit, the Cardinals seemingly are having another efficient, intelligent camp with an emphasis on the small details and fundamentals that helped them overcome problematic issues and get to 90 wins and the NL wild-card game. The defense and baserunning should be sharp again, and that’s crucial.
– So much young talent on display. We don’t know if their positive impact will come this year or in the relatively near future. But for the Cardinals and their fans, it’s nice to see these young dudes in uniform, taking in knowledge and gaining experience. This includes the minor-league campers as well.) You know the names by now: Matthew Liberatore, Nolan Gorman, Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Joshua Baez, Masyn Winn. And there are others. But we’ve already seen Brendan Donovan make a serious run at a big–club roster spot for opening day, the heralded Liberatore’s time is near, and Yepez has a chance to earn a big piece of the DH role.
– I’m reluctant to go nuts over Grapefruit League performances – view those statistics with caution, my friends – but Steven Matz and the mystery-men pitchers collected by the front office since the end of last season seem to be throwing well. I say this cautiously, but … maybe these arms will contribute more than anticipated.
– Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are working. No need to add anything else to that.
– Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes, and sore pitching shoulders. The Cardinals already faced legitimate questions about their pitching depth … and then a couple of days into camp, Flaherty and Reyes get shut down. The front office likes the pitching depth. Nothing to worry about. But that’s what the front office said last spring, and we know how that played out. Here were are again. A recurring nightmare that doesn’t make the front office sweat. Well, no wonder. Have you taken a look at the rosters in the NL Central?
– Flaherty took exception to president of baseball ops John Mozeliak’s description of the source of Jack’s latest shoulder ailment … and went to Twitter to let the world know.
– Perhaps some or all of this could have been alleviated, but the pitchers and team were prohibited from communicating during the lockout. So Flaherty and Reyes were left on their own to deal with offseason warning signs with their shoulders. I don’t know about the other 29 teams, but the lockout directly impacted the Cardinals in a negative way.
– Then again, in another example of head-scratching weirdness, the Cardinals were one of only four MLB teams to vote against the collective bargaining agreement reached between the players’ union and the owners. In other words, we vote to continue operating under lockout conditions! This made no sense. And though I was strongly on the players’ side in their labor skirmish with the owners, I don’t understand why Cardinal players were so negative about a deal that 26 other teams approved of. A deal that benefits many of the younger Cardinals. This could mean absolutely nothing. This could be an indication of some underlying hostility and tension between players and management.
– Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader are going to salary-arbitration court to battle Cardinals management. Bader requested a $4.8 million salary for 2022 and the Cardinals offered $4.2 mill. O’Neill asked for $4.15 million; the Cardinals submitted a salary of $3.4 million. This business is never pleasant, because a player must sit there and monitor the arbitration hearing and be subjected to management’s tear-down criticism of his performance. But the process is even worse this year. In normal times the disputes would have been resolved by now – by the team and player agreeing on a salary or settling, or the arbitrator making a decision in favor of one side or the other. Because of the lockout the disagreement will spill over into the first month of regular-season baseball and could be a terrible distraction.
– O’Neill seems to be perturbed by all of this. “I can handle sitting in a room (or Zoom) and having people tell me I’m not good enough at my job,” O’Neill told Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel. ““I’m a grown man. I don’t think I’ll take it too personally. Don’t know yet, of course.” And later in the STLtoday story O’Neill added: “I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I’m a little surprised. I really felt there was a lack of urgency on the other side this time, which is unfortunate.”
— O’Neill has a new agent: Scott Boras. (Oh, dear.)
— According to the salary-tracking site Spotrac, the Cardinals’ estimated current total payroll is $26 million less than their final total payroll in 2021. Keepin’ the powder dry.
– Yadier Molina reported late to camp because of undisclosed reasons. He acknowledged that it would take some time for him to get into catching shape. We should probably assume that Yadi will be fine; he knows how to get ready for a season. But MLB teams already were going through an abnormal spring, and time is short, so you never know for sure.
– I didn’t disagree with the front-office decision to give their young hitters a shot at the DH role. (Yepez, Nootbaar, and possibly Gorman.) That said, I can’t push back on reasonable-minded Cardinal fans that point to the lineup and say: How much better would this row of hitters look with a proven DH?
– I’m exhausted by the constant hissing at Paul DeJong from the gallery. But let me say this: the barrage of negativity coming from the outside won’t help DeJong.
Let’s get this thing started, huh?
FanGraphs projects an 82-80 record for the Cardinals in 2022, which is tied with the Marlins and Angels for 14th overall in the majors. The FanGraphs forecast has Milwaukee winning the NL Central by six games over the second-place Cardinals.
There’s so much going on here. And the only way to start getting to the reality and the truth is to start playing real ball on April 7.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the “Bernie Show” podcast at 590thefan.com — the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.