It was nice to start off the second, um, half of the season with a win, and particularly such a convincing offensive shellacking. So that's cool.
However, I have a bit of bitching to do this morning, and it has to do with the manager. Up until now, there really hasn't been too much I've taken issue with as far as Mike Matheny's young managerial career. Sure, he seemed all kinds of bunt happy last season, but that seems to be less of a thing these days. There were times I thought his handling of the bullpen was a bit clumsy, but nothing I couldn't easily attribute to a first-year manager trying to find his way through some of the most treacherous waters a major league manager ever has to navigate. Bullpens are tough. And, again, I feel like we've seen marked improvement as time has gone on.
However, at the moment, I feel like we've run into our first real snag with Matheny as manager. Two snags, actually; one has to do with the shortstop, and the other has to do with one pitcher in particular.
First, I understand the concept of loyalty to your players. I really do. However, at what point does the organisation have to wake the hell up and realise that Pete Kozma just isn't going to get better than this? He never really hit in the minor leagues; it isn't as if this level of production should be some huge surprise. When he caught fire last season, that was the aberration, not this. I concede he's been solid defensively, and having a guy who can handle shortstop at all certainly carries some value. But this is a team currently playing with a short bench due to carrying an extra catcher, still running out a 59 OPS+ on a (mostly), daily basis at shortstop. I just don't understand how this is a good way to construct a roster. Oh, well.
The other thing I'm kind of bugged by at the moment (and the more annoying of the annoyances), is the club's handling of Carlos Martinez. I'm not trying to make excuses for Carlos's struggles last night; he just didn't seem to have it at all. But I have to wonder what exactly Matheny and Mozeliak are thinking with the kid. I totally understood the first time he was brought up; it was a break glass in case of emergency sort of situation, and the emergency came up. The team needed a guy badly, so they took a starter and stuck him in the 'pen. It happens. Hell, I don't think it's a bad idea to bring a guy up to the big leagues in a relief role to begin with anyway; I like the idea of acclimating a pitcher to the majors before throwing him into the fire of a starting rotation spot.
What I have a problem with is this most recent callup. The club sent Martinez down, supposedly with the intention of stretching back out as a starter, getting back on a schedule of regular work, in order to be ready if and when the Cards needed him to come up and take a turn or two (or three), in the rotation. Again, good idea. The kid is a starter. Has been all the way so far in the minors, projects to be in the future. When Carlos got the call to come back up to the big club, I assumed it was his time to get a couple starts, and I was thrilled.
Instead, Martinez is now back in the bullpen. Why? I just don't get it. And I don't think it's a good idea, at all. He was sent down to work on things, get back on a regular throwing schedule, and stretch out for longer outings. So you then bring him back up, stash him back in the 'pen where he isn't getting regular work, can't really do the in-between work a set rotation spot affords, and then use him in short inning situations. I just don't think it's a good idea to jerk a guy who represents such a big part of your future plans between roles, back and forth, when the publicly stated reason for him going back down to the minors was to get regular work on a schedule as a starter. What the hell?
I don't know, maybe the braintrust thinks this is part of limiting Martinez's innings for the season, that by stashing him in the 'pen they'll be able to keep him from piling on the workload. Even if that's the case, though, I don't think this is the best way to do it.
So yeah, the Cardinals won their first game coming out of the all-star break, scored nine runs, have the best record in baseball, and I'm complaining about some pretty marginal stuff. I'm okay with it.