Fine, fine game last night. ADAM returning to form, (I'm going to start going with the usage that Scarlet coined for him last season; it makes him sound like a giant robot, and I like that image) Ludwick continues to impersonate the man he's hitting behind, and a Chris Perez sighting. Other than the rain delay, it doesn't get any better than that. Speaking of Scarlet, wonder what ever happened to her?
You know, I'm a little puzzled by ADAM's pitch selection this season. He's throwing far more sliders than in the past, and actually less of his giant robot curveball. I assume that it's a deliberate choice, but I wonder why? The only real reason I can come up with that makes much sense is just trying to adjust the gameplan. Hitters have learned to look for the hook, so you give them a different breaking ball. Still, though, after watching how successful he was last night by dropping more curves in there, I can't help but think that I at least somewhat disagree with the move to the slider. Thoughts, anyone?
I want to award the Post of the Night Award for last night's game thread to Adjusted Expectations. The post which earned him this prestigious award, which I just now invented, was in response to another poster who said, "Gary Bennett is on the DL because he can't throw the ball back to the pitcher. The award winning response:
"LaRue should be on the DL because he can't hit ball back to the pitcher."
Congratulations, Adjusted Expectations, on this tremendous honour. Yours is a shining example for all others to follow.
You know, by now, we've all heard that 'Joey Bombs' Mather is absolutely destroying the pitchers down in Triple A. He's currently sporting a nifty 1.051 OPS at Memphis, and has been particularly terrifying as of late, with eight of his ten home runs in the past two weeks or so. He spent a bit of time on the DL early this season, but has done nothing but rake since coming back. The most impressive part of his line? The 16:16 K/BB ratio he's putting up. This is a player who has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues.
There's been some discussion around here as of late as to whether or not Mather should already be with the big club and just how to make space for him. I wanted to sort of get an overall read on the situation and just what everyone thinks about Mr. Mather's place in the firmament.
The unfortunate thing, of course, is that Mather plays primarily in the outfield, an area in which the Cardinals are long on players and short on opportunity. The, (at least moderately) good news is that Mather is also capable of playing first base and third base, at least well enough to sub in at those positions occasionally. Thus, he's a good candidate for that Scott Spiezio super sub sort of role that the Cardinals are really lacking currently. Of course, they are also carrying four dedicated middle infielders, with only Brendan Ryan really capable of playing at third base. Yes, before anyone says it, I know that Aaron Miles has seen time at third. However, just because you are physically capable of standing at a given position on the field doesn't mean you can really play that postion. But, I digress.
As it stands now, the Cardinals have a couple of options for making some space for Mr. Mather. First off, they could option Brendan Ryan back to Memphis, and just slot Mather into his spot on the roster. This is the path of least resistance, really. Ryan still has options, so it wouldn't take any sort of complicated finagling to get him through waivers or anything of the sort. The move would help out the offense significantly, specifically the bench, because Mather would be a much better stick pinch hitting than what Ryan is. The downside to this would be a downgrade in the middle infield defense overall, as Aaron Miles would then become the team's primary backup shortstop. This may not be an optimal solution, but it would be the simplest.
Option two would be to work out a deal with the Cleveland Indians for Brian Barton's rights. At that point, the Cardinals would control him outright, and could option him down the Memphis to get more regular playing time. This would probably be the best solution for Barton himself, as I believe he's really struggling to adjust to such limited playing time as he's seen recently. He doesn't look overmatched to me; he just looks as if he's a half beat slow due to rust. The downside here, of course, is that it costs you a player to get him from the Indians. What kind of prospect would they want in return for CrabMan? Tough to say, really, but I don't think it would come cheap. The Indians have all the leverage in this situation; the Cards are the team that really needs to try and make the deal. Cleveland could certainly use Barton in their own outfield right now, but they can afford to wait. It's not costing them anything. The Cards, on the other hand, need to either find more time for Barton or try to do something different with him. In a case like this, I'm afraid the cost of trying to outright trade for Barton might be higher than the Cardinals are willing to pay.
Option three would be to try and trade one of our current outfielders. This would open up a space for Mather, allow a little more playing time for Barton, and might bring a nice return, in the form of a middle infield or pitching prospect. You can't trade Barton, you'd be crazy to trade Ludwick, and I don't think Ankiel's really movable at this point. That just leaves Skip and Baby Huey. Skip plays above average defense and has shown at least serviceable offensive prowess. Duncan is a masher, or, at least, he's supposed to be, but he's been less than imposing this season. The downside here, of course, is just the chance that you end up hurting the production of the outfield in the long run, if Mather and Barton both fizzle out, and Rasmus fails to drag himself out of his current rut. Personally, I don't think there's really a lot of risk to this option, but it is more complicated than some of the other available routes. At the very least, this may be an option that has to be explored a little later, rather than immediately. As a La Russa favourite, I'd have to think that Skip is pretty safe, so I'm looking at you on this one, Duncan. Of course, he seems to have some sort of connection to the coaching staff, too...
Option four: drop a reliever. This team is currently carrying seven relievers, leaving them with a somewhat short bench most days, particularly when the manager insists on at least one defensive substitution most games, usually in left field. Of course, the Cards do have a couple of pitchers who hit very well, so that helps to alleviate the pinch hitting crunch a bit, but still. The real problem with this option is that it's probably just not realistic with this coaching staff. Personally, I think you can manage a game without using three relievers to get five outs, but this particular manager and pitching coach disagree with me. The upside here would be not having to see Jason LaRue pinch hitting nearly as much, as the deeper bench would hopefully guard against too many instances of him being the only guy available to hit.
Option five would be to do something to Adam Kennedy. Whoops, I mean with Adam Kennedy, with him. I wasn't suggesting that some crazed, sleep deprived blogger should go all Tonya Harding or anything... By the way, none of you have ever heard of me before, okay? Don't ask questions, just tell them you don't know me! God, you people and all your constant questions.
Anyway, putting Kennedy on the disable list with, as someone suggested in the comments the other day, a hangnail, or foot fungus, or something similar, would open up a spot the same way sending Ryan down would, but with the added benefit of not hurting the defense up the middle. Brendan could start at second most days alongside Izturis, giving the Cards the most effective MI they're currently capable of fielding, and the spot for Mather opens up. The downside here is, um, well, hmm. Well, the only real downside is that this is a more temporary answer than the others, since the DL does have a time limit. Of course, that could also be construed as a benefit, really, since it gives a more concrete time frame to evaluate Mather and a handy reason to send him back down if he struggles.
Option six would be to simply bring Mather up, put him on the roster, and hope that no one notices. Tell opposing teams he's like a foreign cousin or something, sort of a Perfect Strangers situation. He comes up as a pinch hitter, just tell them you're humouring the guy, who, by the way, totally doesn't know English. At all. Keep quiet, Joe. I mean, Heimsdell. Show them your native dance. No, Heimsdell, your native dance is not the Bus Stop. Oy, such a kidder, this one.
To me, this is the best option. It's pretty much airtight, to me. Unless, of course, someone noticed he was wearing a uniform and tended to hit homers and that there were 26 men on your lineup card. Which someone almost assuredly would. Airtight.
Technically, option seven is just to leave him where he is, and let him continue to develop. I guess this is actually the path of least resistance, but it doesn't really improve the team, and that's sort of the point here. So to me, this isn't really much of an option, but it certainly is within the Cardinals' means.
So, what does everybody think about this? I'm really interested to get people's thoughts on this. I certainly think it's an interesting question.
Happy weekend, peoples.