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A post about Tyler O’Neill since he was traded

A weird conclusion to a volatile tenure

St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It is 2:30 am on Saturday morning at the time of my writing this. I have an eight-year-old’s basketball game to go to at 8:30 am, but here I am, writing about Tyler O’Neill. There is no reason for me to have waited this long to start this. I have no excuse for this; the reason for my suffering is my own doing. I have simply been procrastinating.

I have been procrastinating because what the heck do I write about this?

To start, I guess I should explain what “this” is, I suppose. I suppose that is how writing about things works. By “this” I mean the St. Louis Cardinals have traded Tyler O’Neill to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for right handed pitchers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos, but “this” is not the part of the story that causes words to evade me. I do not actually have much to add about “this” — J.P. has a lovely writeup on the details of the trade as they are right now here, along with some payroll and player information. The heavy lifting on relaying that information is already done.

What I wanted to talk about his Tyler O’Neill’s tenure as a Cardinal. Maybe reminisce on some interesting moments. It is hard to do that though without discussing the way that tenure ended. It is sort of all I can think about now. It was a little weird, right? At least based on the Cardinals’ typical approach to things like this? We discussed this a little bit on the Viva El Birdos Podcast, but I do not recall a time where the Cardinals were so openly trading a specific player. There are a couple reasons why I think it would not be wise to do this, the main one being that it seems like it would handcuff the team’s negotiating potential. By unceremoniously announcing that they are looking to trade a specific player, they are sort of locked into trading them — it would be pretty awkward if they didn’t after that, I suspect — and if other teams know the Cardinals have to do something, they have more power in a negotiations.

So why would the Cardinals do this with Tyler O’Neill? It is weird! Even if he was a “clubhouse cancer” and they truly wanted him gone, what is the benefit to doing this? Wouldn’t that sort of be telegraphing he is a problematic teammate and lower his trade value? As someone that likes to write about baseball, John Mozeliak being forthcoming about his trade intentions is nice for Content™, I’ll admit, but it certainly seems like an odd choice to do now. I just cannot see a benefit to it. If there is one I am missing, let’s discuss because I am so curious!

I will move on from that because I do not like to speculate on the interpersonal relationships that make up a baseball clubhouse without facts. From our vantage point as fans we do not really have much insight into these sort of interactions and I think perhaps that is for the best considering the interests of the Real People with thoughts and feelings that entertain us with their talents. That is a privacy I think we can afford to allow. We did get some glimpses in 2023 that implied some sort of tension between at least the management part of the team and O’Neill for whatever reason. Most notably Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol publicly called out O’Neill to the media for not hustling around third base. In was an unusual public riff for the Cardinals, at least the Cardinals of recent years, in the beginning of what would be a pretty unusual season for them overall.

This seemed to set the tone on the relationship with O’Neill for the rest of the season. While there didn’t seem to be any more overt controversies, there was whispers that felt like they were about him. In early May, about a month after the controversy with Marmol, O’Neill hit the Injured List with a lower back injury. The Cardinals at that point had only won around ten games and endured an 8-game losing streak. It was too early to call the season over, but it was already trending in a poor direction. The injury would keep O’Neill off the field until July 20. There were some rumors about him not wanting to play on a turf field. Just things like that.

Anyway... it was a strange final season with the team for a player with undeniable potential, but was oft plagued by injury. His combination of strength and speed is rare among even professional baseball players. There is a meme — and I am trying to remember if it is an old VEB meme or if it originated somewhere else — where he is referred to “a pillar of MEAT”. I think for short whenever he does some real good baseballin’, you just type “MEAT”. It is the kind of very sophisticated meme that I have come to expect and appreciate from this esteemed community. It was created in appreciation of a stature that is just not that common among baseball players and one of the reasons Tyler O’Neill was such an interesting player. When he was healthy he put up a 5.5 fWAR season with a 143 wRC+, 34 home runs, top tier baserunning, and Gold Glove outfield defense. That was back in 2021.

It is hard to make of what the future may hold for Tyler O’Neill. His talents seem like they might line up well playing a majority of games in Fenway Park if he is able to stay on the field. I hope it all works out for him, because even though he does not play for the Cardinals anymore, I still am very intrigued by is potential.

I don’t know how to end this — it is nearly 4:00am and I have to wake up in about 2.5 hours. Here is Tyler O’Neill hitting a baseball 450 feet: