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Note to Mike Matheny From a ‘Bitter’ Fan: You Aren’t Managing the 2011 Cardinals

The Cardinals flubbed another series, losing two of three at Milwaukee even though STL pitchers gave up only nine runs in 25 innings.

I am sure, however, that you will be hearing this. saying this, or reading this, today:

The Cardinals are only 4.5 games out in the NL Central! 

Can we knock this off, please?

I realize this makes me one of these hideous  “bitter” people in the eyes of Mike Matheny, the Beloved Leader of Men. It’s funny how Matheny is always so positive, and thinks the Satan-controlled media is so negative — but he has no problem questioning the loyalty of fans who are grumbling over an uninspired, underachieving, self-tripping, self-defeating baseball team.

Matheny had the audacity to suggest that dissatisfied fans “don’t get to be really an active part of when something really cool happens.”

Oh.

I guess I’ll suspend my plans to buy tickets to an upcoming home game.

If you have complained about the Cardinals this season … you’re out.

If the Cardinals suddenly go on an impressive winning streak and surge into the playoffs, and you expressed anger or frustration over this team’s blooper-video performance at any point this season, Dear Leader has made his ruling: you aren’t allowed to enjoy it, or be a part of the excitement. You have relinquished your right to love the Cardinals. And you aren’t, to use Matheny’s term, a “hardcore” fan. (In other words: a real fan … true fan.)

Never mind that there are legions of disappointed fans who love this team with all of their hearts … they love this team so much, they’re emotionally connected in a special way. And if you’re a passionate and intense fan, you’ll also get upset by this team. As Randy Karraker said, just because parents get upset at their kids, it doesn’t mean they love their kids any less.

Fans that care deeply will take it harder than most when watching a fundamentally embarrassing team stagger through a second consecutive season of shabby baseball.

Mike Matheny isn’t in charge of determining fan loyalty. He doesn’t get to decide if you’re a true fan or an infidel — with the word “infidel” applying to anyone ticked off substandard baseball that’s soiling the franchise tradition for sharp fundamentals and distinguished field management.

Six years into the job, Matheny can’t run a bullpen or construct a coherent lineup. But he’s in charge of your fandom? He’s going to dictate how you should feel when you are repeatedly exposed to second-rate baseball? What’s next? Will Matheny be at the gates to Busch Stadium, making fans sign a loyalty oath?

For the fifth consecutive season the Cardinals are ranked second in MLB (to the LADodgers ) in average attendance per home game. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. can count on more than 3 million fans filing into the ballpark each season — and for that matter, pumping the money into Ballpark Village.

But don’t you dare criticize this team.

The manager evidently would like you to hand the team your money and shut up.

Show some gratitude and bow down to bumbling baseball.

It’s astonishing that DeWitt would tolerate his manager — on top of everything else — taking snotty shots at paying customers or anyone that adores the historical institution of Cardinals Baseball.   But we live in strange times. And I’m sadly coming to the conclusion that the franchise standards have been lowered.

As much as I’d like to muster optimism about the Cardnals’ chances of climbing well above .500 and passing the Cubs and Brewers in the standings, I can’t fire it up. Sorry. I’ll explain why in a quick follow-up piece that you’ll find on 101sports.com in a while.

Cardinals’ players, management, manager and coaches believe that they’ll make a run and make things right. And I don’t blame them;  otherwise, they’d just pack it in for the season. And that would make them quitters. They must try to remain upbeat and hopeful.

But from a pragmatic standpoint, I just don’t see a late-season charge in the Cardinals’ future.

Matheny likes to bring up the 2011 Cardinals as an example of why it’s a bad idea to count out a struggling team. As he told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch: “I think about how many people must have done that in ’11. They’re just so bitter — this team, this, that or the other. And kind of had their mind set. So when everything started to go well, did they truly get to enjoy what happened from there on out?”

Since Matheny asked, I have a few things to offer in response:

1. I am pretty sure Cardinals fans enjoyed seeing their team win another World Series, the second in six years. And I am pretty sure they savored this triumph to the max. They were literally dancing in the streets following the World Series clincher. And the celebrants included many of the demon-possessed heretics who thought the 2011 Cardinals were toast after being 10.5 games out of the lone NL wild-card spot on Aug. 24.

2. The 2011 Cardinals were below .500 for only 13 days during the ’11 campaign. Their record was solid, or good, all season. Even at their low ebb on Aug. 24, the 2011 Cardinals were still four games above .500. Through 108 games, the 2011 Cardinals were 57-51. OK, so what about the 2017 Cardinals? Through 108 games they are 53-55. And while the ’11 Cards spent only 13 days below .500, the 2017 Cards have been under .500 on 78 days. And counting.

3. The 2011 Cardinals had the league’s best offense, ranking No. 1 in the NL in runs, slugging percentage, onbase percentage and OPS. They were third in extra-base hits. Their hitters had the lowest (as in best) strikeout rate in the NL, and fifth-highest walk rate. The 2017 Cardinals have a listless offense that ranks 11th in the NL in runs and homers per game and is 10th in slugging and OPS.

4. The 2011 lineup was stocked with a bunch of hitters that put up good-to-great seasons: Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, David Freese, and Jon Jay.  The primary middle-order hitters for the 2011 Cardinals were Pujols batting third, Holliday hitting cleanup, and Berkman batting fifth. The three impact hitters combined to hit 90 homers, drive in 268 runs, club 88 doubles, and score 278 runs.  As for the 2017 Cardinals and their middle lineup … well, I don’t think I need to say anything about that.

5. The 2011 Cardinals greatly benefited from the expertise of Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa and an exceptional field staff that included pitching coach Dave Duncan, third-base coach Jose Oquendo, first base coach Dave McKay, and hitting coach Mark McGwire. Terrific leaders and teachers. As for the 2017 Cardinals’ manager and staff …  I’ll just note the obvious brain drain and move on. But before I move on, let me add this: Derek Lilliquist is an outstanding pitching coach.

I’ll also note that the 2017 Cardinals’ manager-coaches are working with inferior talent on the offensive side in comparison to the 2011 team. And president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is responsible for that.

I’ll note that the Mozeliak substantially upgraded the Cardinals’ bullpen and plugged a rotation spot by dealing Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays as part of a three-team trade that included the White Sox.

The 2011 “Mo”  made a season-changing trade at the deadline.

The 2017 “Mo”  didn’t make a trade … any trade … at the deadline.

Geez …

I’m just so damned  bitter.

Your basic reptilian overlord.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Wheeler – Matheny Should Go By the Facts and Not the ‘Feel’ When Making the Lineup