On Sunday night, the Cardinals game against the Cubs will be on ESPNs Sunday Night Baseball at 7pm CT. Aaron Boone is a part of the announcing crew doing the game, and he took out some time to discuss the state of the Cardinals ahead of the series.
VEB: It can be easy sometimes to overstate the importance of any one series in a long season, but given where the Cardinals are in the standings, the Cubs as the opponent, and the trade deadline 10 days away, this series feels like a pivotal one for the direction of the Cardinals this year? Am I making too much of it?
AB: I don’t think that is overstating it. Coming out of the break, this is a team that is up in the air in terms of which direction they are going to go at the trade deadline. After a tough loss [yesterday], if you go into Chicago and have another tough series, it gets harder and harder to make the case this is a team that needs to add, and not make some trades to start retooling a bit.
On the flipside, if they win two out of three or even sweep--especially with the potential of the starting rotation, what it is capable of being and frankly what it’s been--they are that ultimate team that’s on the cusp where in these next few days, and certainly the next week, determines the direction they go
VEB: In [yesterday’s] game, Trevor Rosenthal didn’t cover first base and the Mets walked off. What do you say do a teammate when that happens either in public or private, and this might not have been the first time this year with Rosenthal.
AB: I didn’t see the play. I was listening on the radio so I heard John Rooney’s call of it. It’s something, especially if it’s happened before--even though it’s a guy that’s been around and a veteran pitcher--it’s something that probably should be addressed. At the same time, he knows how big a of a play that was, how costly that was that he wasn’t right on top of things. Those are things that need to be mentioned, addressed, but with a veteran pitcher you know that he knows the drill.
Maybe it’s something you evaluate and say “Are we on top of this? Are we going over these situations periodically with the pitchers?” It’s something you obviously do in Spring Training, but it can be a bit of teaching moment, not just for Rosenthal, but for the entire team. Those little things where you are paying attention to detail, they become critical in these close games.
VEB: A team contending in September, it’s win or go home. In July for a team like the Cardinals, it’s win or play out the string on a non-contender and potentially see teammates and friends dealt away to contenders. Is that almost more pressure on a player? How do you deal with the rumors?
AB: It’s completely part of it. Year in and year out, the different organizations you play with, you understand this is a reality of the business. There’s no doubt there’s an added urgency to these games this time of year for a lot of clubs.
As a fan, it’s part of the reason I love this time of year. All the speculation. All the possible moves going on. The significance, not only right now but for teams rebuilding or trading to get prospects. What it could mean for the future, how these trades pan out, trying to project how they might pan out, I find it to be a very exciting time. There’s no question there’s an added urgency to these games because of the time of year, and i think this weekend in chicago it will be ratchetd up even moreso with these two rivals.
VEB: Tommy Pham, after having a ton of injuries and constantly battling eye problems, is having a breakout year. Do you make him part of the future in St. Louis. Has he surpassed Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.
AB: I think he’s definitely in that mix. Piscotty is significantly younger but I certainly think he’s leapfrogged over Grichuk and is a part of the immediate future. Even if the Cardinals are to sell off some pieces and trade Lance Lynn and kind of retool, I don’t think it’s a situation where the Cardinals are going to be in a rebuilding mode by any means. They are going to makes some adjustments, make some improvements and still look to be contenders--regardless of what happens this week--going into 2018.
Tommy Pham is certainly part of that where they can see him being part of a contending team next year or perhaps the year after. The age makes it a little less likely he’s a guy their building a team around going forward, but there’s no question--with not only his play but what he’s brought to the team and the reputation he’s developed professionally about the way he goes about his business--he’s put himself in a really good position with the Cardinals and being a significant part of their team going forward
VEB: If the Cardinals are in the exact same spot they are now when the trade deadline rolls around, are they buyers or sellers?
AB: Let’s say over the next 9 or 10 days they are .500 and in this position still, I have a hard time thinking they are going to go out and make any significant adds. They are starting to understand they need to address some of the issues they have with their roster and the way their club is built right now. It’s a little misfit. They understand that and it’s something they are probably looking to address. They have to start retool a little. Short of playing a real hot brand of baseball coming up here, I think we will see that adjustment.
VEB: If they’re sellers players like Lance Lynn and Trevor Rosenthal are the obvious guys they could trade. Anybody else you might move?
I’m always a believer that if you are going to be willing to trade guys--and lets say it is in a bit of sell mode--I don’t think anybody is ever off the table. I’m listenening on everyone. Obviously the price is going to be high on certain guys, and I’m going to be reluctant to move certain guys. If you can wow me with a package for anyone on my team, I’m going to listen to that. It’s about getting better.
The Cardinals have been one of those organizations that’s been a model in their ability to consistently put out a winning club year after year after year. Sometimes that involves making some difficult decisions that I think they would be prepared to make.
VEB: The Cardinals have a lot of average players, a lot of depth—a good thing to have—but they are missing that star player. How do they go about getting that player. Talking to Miami now? In the offseason?
AB: I think those conversations are always ongoing. You are always identifying who you think are difference makers, and what allows you to get those people. When you set a bar and set a standard that the cardinals have over their entire existence--and more specifically the last 20 years--I think they are frustrated with what they’ve seen over the last year and a half.
It just feels like a little sloppier brand of baseball. When you don’t have great defensive players, when you are losing games, it can look a little sloppy sometimes. That, too often, has been the case for the Cardinals. I think they understand that internally and they know they have to address those things.
VEB: Anything you are watching for in particular this weekend?
I’m looking forward to seeing Wacha. We get Wacha on Sunday night. It looks like he’s gotten back to the guy we thought was going to dominate the National league for a long time. He’s coming off a shutout, but I’m looking forward to seeing if he can be consistent. Over the last four or five starts, he’s looked like one of the best pitchers in the league again. That’s exciting to see him regain that form and I want to see if he can build on the momentum he’s got going.
Thanks again to Aaron for talking with us. Sunday’s game is at 7pm CT exclusively on ESPN.