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Taveras, Pierzynski, and the science of motivation

Editor's Note: I apologize for this being late -- I was scheduled to be home from a week long road trip at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, plenty of time to write a post after the kids went to bed. Then US Airways made my life a living hell for a good 12 hours and I didn't get home until just before 2:00 a.m. Mother Nature blowing up a giant dust storm in Phoenix last night didn't help either.

Jim Rogash

Spending a week in Arizona as a sports fan really can take it out of you: It's in the Mountain Time Zone, but it might as well be Pacific in the summer, as they don't observe Daylight Savings Time in the Valley of the Sun. It's 110 degrees outside during most of the day, and when it starts to cool off, all the outdoor stuff that's remotely fun for a sports fan (golf courses, driving ranges, batting cages) is closed, as if the entire state just hates money.  Sure, you can play golf on a Championship TPC course for only $40 (versus the $180 in-season rate) but you have to do so at the worst possible time of day, when frying eggs on the sidewalk might be a more productive activity.

Not to mention that all the non-west coast baseball games start really early too -- most of the Cardinals games started at 5:00 p.m. this last week, leaving me only the chance to watch the replays on The only bright spot is that it certainly made the DFR roundups easier as all the games were over by 9:30 p.m.

I'm writing a good chunk of this on the plane on the way home, with no access to the internet, but will barely have time to edit in the morning (whenever I wake up, which won't be early). So hopefully I don't make too many mistakes on easily researched Fangraphs material.

On the Oscar Taveras situation:

I really don't have a lot to say about this that Craig didn't cover in his series of scathing tweets that formed the VEB After Dark post on Thursday night.  The situation with Taveras is actually much worse than anyone even speculated about at the beginning of the season, when we knew that there would be a squeeze with three guys vying for playing time at two positions for the majority of the season.

  • Matt Adams looks like the first baseman of the future, despite a minuscule walk rate that's got to be a little bit concerning given his strikeout rate. 2.6% walk rate couples with a .365 BABIP, against a shift no less, should be a real concern, albeit one we've glossed over due to problems elsewhere.
  • Allen Craig has basically done everything in his power to make sure that Oscar Taveras takes his job....
  •'s just that Oscar Taveras can't seem to take his job.
The question is whether Taveras would be playing every day if he was hitting like, say, Gregory Polanco of the Pirates, who's hitting just .245/.328/.335 thus far.  That looks pretty great when compared to Taveras' .214/.247/.286 but the key stat is this one: Despite having roughly the same amount of service time so far, Polanco has nearly twice as many PA's (175 to Oscar's 89).

That's what you should do with your prized prospects: Play them -- it's not like Allen Craig has done much of anything to keep his job at this stage -- at least Oscar's .243 BABIP looks like it could correct itself given his batted ball profile.

I think the most frustrating aspect of all of this is that Mike Matheny's attitude towards young players seems to change considerably from press conference to press conference.  In April it's that Kolten Wong (older than Taveras, more PA's in AAA) should learn to handle adversity in the minors, he gets sent down, and has basically torn the cover off the ball everywhere when healthy since. Then it's Taveras, who gets a solid 10 days of playing time upon his call up in May, doesn't hit immediately, gets sent down, Craig continues to struggle, gets called back up, and now the story is that he's better off playing twice a week in the big leagues than getting regular PA's in the minors.

Which might be true but it begs the question: If playing twice a week is good, then playing every damn day would be better, no?

On the A.J. Pierzynski signing:

Yadier Molina going down has really put the Cardinals in desperation mode, apparently.  Tony Cruz has played about as well as you could expect Tony Cruz to play.  The original backup plan, George Kotteras, was terrible defensively (which we knew), and hits way too many fly balls for John Mabry's liking (which we also knew), but apparently the combination of those things made it impossible for him to play even 5 games total behind the plate for the Cardinals before being left off the team bus on the way back from Wrigley yesterday.

What to do instead?  Sign the biggest horse's ass in all of baseball, that's what.

If I thought he could still hit at all, this move wouldn't bother me so much. But it seems pretty clear based on his 274 PA's for the Red Sox that he really can't: .254/.286/.348 is good for a 70 wRC+ and the rest of his peripherals are basically in line with career averages with the exception of an ISO currently sitting at .094.

I remember the last time a beloved Cardinal went down with an injury and the club was forced to replace him with an asshole: Will Clark stepped in for a broken down Mark McGwire in 2000 and hit .345/.426/.655 in 51 games...and I hated every single minute of it.

The man was a menace his entire career: fights in the clubhouse, racially motivated disparaging of teammates and former teammates, just an all-around jackass of a ballplayer who just happened to have one of the better left handed swings bestowed upon a human for 15 seasons.

Did Clark help that Cardinals team make the playoffs?  Sure did -- was a key contributor in fact.  That move worked, so the club can only hope that this one does too.  That doesn't mean I have to like it.

There's already the faint cry of "lighting a fire under the ass" of the team from various sounding boards on Twitter and around the blogosphere, but making that case is a sordid misrepresentation of Pierzynski's career: He's been in the playoffs four times in his career...and worn out his welcome in those places almost immediately afterwards.  The lone exception was the White Sox under Ozzie Guillen, and I think it's safe to say that Guillen's clubhouse has no resemblance to the current Cardinals one.

This isn't a motivator who reads Machiavelli in his spare time.  This is just a guy who's unlikable and has a poor track record of letting it show when playing for teams that aren't playing well.  That describes his exit from Boston pretty well and is a pretty good description of how this Cardinal team has scuffled along for most of this season.

Making A.J. Pierzynski out to be a motivator is calling that fox you dropped in the hen house a motivational mastermind.