Manager Mike Shildt has bristled at “urgency” related questions this season. He seems offended by suggestions that the Cardinals are lacking in urgency — because in Shildt’s opinion his team plays with the necessary urgency in every game.
That’s ridiculous, of course.
And the manager himself is a perfect example.
Just this week as a matter of fact.
As the tilting Cardinals entered the four-game set with the Dodgers, they had only 27 games remaining on their schedule. They were about to face a Dodger team that leads MLB in run prevention, allowing an average of 3.45 per game. Runs would be hard to come by. Wins would be hard to get. This was a tough series for the Cardinals at a tough time in the campaign.
So what does Shildt do?
He rested All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado in Monday’s game, and started Matt Carpenter at 3B.
In the second game Shildt rested first baseman Paul Goldschmidt — the team’s best hitter since June 1 — and wrote Carpenter into the lineup for a second consecutive day. This time at first base.
How did that work out?
In getting outscored by nine total runs in two straight losses to the blue team from Los Angeles, the Cardinals scored three runs, batted .209 and went 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position.
No surprise there — especially when you pause to realize that Carpenter had eight plate appearances in the first two games, twice as many as Goldy (four) and Arenado (four.)
Something is wrong with that picture.
How in the heck can you rest your two most important and productive hitters — and excellent defenders — at such a critical stage of the season?
And do it after losing momentum by dropping the final two games of the series at Milwaukee? How can you weaken your offense when your hitters were headed into a strenuous test against Max Scherzer and the Dodgers’ deep supply of pitchers?
Shildt said that the days off for Arenado and Goldschmidt had been scheduled a while back. My goodness. It’s hard to believe, but this man is managing as if this is some nondescript series in June.
In Game One against the Dodgers, Goldy was the offense. He had three hits.
In Game Two, Arenado was the offense. He drove in both of the team’s runs.
Problem: Arenado and Goldy weren’t in the lineup together.
Dear Shildty: YOU HAVE ONLY 25 GAMES LEFT ON THE SCHEDULE NOW.
The Cardinals were off on Thursday. They didn’t play ball last Tuesday because of a rainout in Cincinnati. So why did Arenado and Goldy need rest at this particular time? These dudes are great competitors. They love to play. They’re all-in. And the Cardinals need them in the lineup. Their presence is vital.
During the team’s 10-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, this is what Goldschmidt and Arenado did for the Cardinals: combined for seven homers, 17 RBI, 12 runs scored. Goldy batted .333 with a .422 onbase percentage and 1.089 OPS. ‘Nado hit .293 with a .585 slugging percentage and .888 OPS.
For the season Goldschmidt and Arenado have combined to deliver 53 homers, 59 doubles, 172 RBI and 142 runs. Oh, and they have a combined batting average of .326 — and 110 RBI — with runners in scoring position.
And these are the two guys that you put on the bench for a little rest with the Dodgers in town?
Matt Carpenter went 0 for 8 in the series with four strikeouts. Carpenter hadn’t started a game since Aug. 14. But with the Cardinals running out of time on the sked the manager deemed it necessary to start the team’s worst hitter in two consecutive games against LA instead of having Arenado and Goldschmidt in the lineup for both games.
Carpenter, by the way, is now 4 for 45 (.089) with one RBI and a 37.5 percent strikeout rate since July 19.
What about the obligation to the fans? There was a large crowd (over 41,000) for Monday’s game and another 34,000 or so for Tuesday’s contest. A late-arriving crowd, but still. Sure, a lot of people were fired up by the chance to see Albert Pujols. But it’s a smart idea to give them more motivation to support their own team.
Memo: if your franchise has struggled to sell tickets this season and you’re looking to (1) take your best shot at winning by (2) putting your best lineup on the card and (3) you are heavily dependent on Arenado and Goldschmidt for bulk offense, it make no sense to stymie your own lineup. As a manager Shildt struck out on all three pitches.
Recap: you’re resting two big bats that had two days off last week. Against the Dodgers. With larger crowds in the house, and fans looking for a reason to get excited. With your team coming home having lost two in a row and three out of four to complete the road trip. With only three-plus weeks on the schedule. And with your squad part of a four-team pileup in the wild-card derby. And then to top it all off, you plug Carpenter in the lineup.
Shildt just gave the fans even more reason to stay away.
Shildt just gave the fans another reason to question the commitment to winning.
Shildt just raised more questions about his style of managing.
And Shildty wonders why reasonable people question this team’s urgency?
All you have to do is look at the calendar and the lineup card.
Thanks for reading …
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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.