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The Cardinals’ First Offseason Challenge? Get Smarter.

As you know, the Cardinals have been losing ground since the end of the 2014 season.

They won an NL pennant and reached World Series Game 6 in 2013.

In 2014, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in their division round and got bounced by the Giants in the NLCS.

In 2015, the Cards failed to win a postseason series, getting blasted by the Cubs in the NLDS. It ws the critical turning point in the teams’ rivalry.

In 2016, the Cardinals didn’t even make it to the postseason. They won 86 games. They finished in second place.

In 2017 the victory total dropped to only 83 wins and the Cardinals got shoved down a flight to third place behind the Cubs and second-place Brewers. This was no fluke given the Cardinals’ abysmal combined record of 13-25 against Chicago and Milwaukee this season.

In the days to come we’ll pinpoint some of the specific areas that should be addressed this winter.

For now, here’s the first challenge: GET SMARTER.

For the longest time, the Cardinals had an advantage over opponents in baseball IQ.

Chairman Bill DeWitt was way ahead of his time (compared to fellow owners) in setting up a competitive model that would emphasize advanced metrics, big data, scouting, drafting, player development, and a more intelligent way of assessing player value.

GM John Mozeliak ran a savvy, cohesive baseball department. Mozeliak won most of his trades, big and small. One deal brought in left fielder Matt Holliday, an excellent core player. Another — the Colby Rasmus swap in 2011 — refurbished the rotation and bullpen in time for a postseason run that ended with a World Series parade.

The Cardinals had Tony La Russa in the dugout, and benefited greatly by the presence of one of the most successful managers in major-league history. La Russa had a superb coaching staff that was shrewd and alert in spotting opponents’ weaknesses to exploit. TLR was also a master at mind games, frequently distracting the other dugout with his intimidating guerrilla-style maneuvering. La Russa developed a team culture that reflected his personality: hard, unforgiving, unrelenting.

The Cardinals no longer hold those advantages.

Not even the fear factor; that’s gone, too. When the last-place Reds basically played the Cardinals on even terms in 2017 that’s all we need to know. When the Cardinals had an embarrassing 34-42 record in division games, that’s all we need to know.

Competitors have gotten smarter.  Every franchise had analytics departments now.

Every franchise has cultivated more evolved methods in scouting out talent and procuring it.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts recruited Theo Epstein from Boston to transform the Cubs’ hopelessly outdated and inefficient model. DeWitt and Mozeliak never had to compete against a rival that possessed Epstein’s brilliance. When a baseball executive builds Boston’s first World Series champion since 1918 and the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908 … you’re going up against the best there is.

The Cardinals are also dealing with one of the brightest young minds in the game, Milwaukee GM David Stearns … who ironically learned from Houston GM Jeff Luhnow … the same Luhnow that  DeWitt hired in the early aughts to install an analytics department, set up a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic to mine international talent, and implement a new system that kept the Cardinals’ pipeline flowing with young talent.

Or, to look at it this way: DeWitt created Luhnow … who created Stearns … who now, in less than two full years, has moved the Brewers ahead of the Cardinals. DeWitt’s brainy ideas boomeranged back  to work against him.

This is why Mozeliak was promoted to president of baseball operations this past summer, with Michael Girsch moving up to GM. As Mozeliak told me, he felt it was important to have the time and the flexibility to get away from the daily grind to study the Cardinals’ way of doing things … to understand why they’ve lost the edge in the brain race. And to look at what the Cardinals can do to regain an advantage.

The Cardinals need to get smarter.

— Tommy Pham shouldn’t be wasting in Memphis for five weeks at the start of the season when the big-league team is doing foolish things like sticking backup first baseman Matt Adams in left field.

— You don’t continue to utilize an extreme defensive liability in center field (Dexter Fowler) when you can move him to a corner outfield spot and place the superior defender, Pham, in center field.

— Why did the team wait delay in making a belated decision to demote Aledmys Diaz to Memphis and put Paul DeJong at shortstop? Diaz was horrible defensively, and his park-adjusted runs created were 22 percent below league average offensively.

– Large free-agent contracts have been hit or miss: starter Mike Leake (miss), reliever Brett Cecil (not worth it in 2017), and Fowler. About Fowler:  too many injuries, defensive problems, but outstanding power. Too soon to pass judgment on the overall five-year contract.

— You don’t give 460 plate appearances to Yadier Molina in the No. 5 lineup spot — only one other MLB player had more PA batting fifth this season — when Molina’s offense is below average for that position in the batting order. Among NL players that had at least 250 plate appearances in the No. 5 hole this season, Molina ranked 10th out of 11 in park-adjusted runs created. Cardinals No. 5 hitters — with Molina taking the most at-bats by far — finished last in the 15-team league in homers, 14th in slugging percentage, and 14th in OPS.

— Why did it take so long to give Jose Martinez regular at-bats? Here’s a player that batted .309 with a .379 onbase percentage and .518 slugging percentage and was 35 percent above league average offensively in park-adjusted runs created. But Martinez had 29 plate appearances in July, and 61 in August, and didn’t reach 90 PA in a month until September. Was that smart? I don’t think so.

— You don’t distribute 401 plate appearances to Stephen Piscotty when he’s having a subpar year offensively. Piscotty finished 12 percent below league average offensively.

— The Cardinals have to be smarter about handling injuries, and take advantage of the 10-day DL instead of playing shorthanded for no reason that makes sense.

— The Cardinals need to ease up on making contract decisions, and determining playing time, based in large part on sentimentality and misplaced loyalty. The team’s interests should come first. Winning should be the only real objective that matters. Already, manager Mike Matheny is insisting that pitcher Adam Wainwright “absolutely” will be in the team’s 2018 rotation. That, despite Wainwright’s age (36), his scheduled elbow surgery, and his 4.81 ERA over the last two seasons that ranks 67th among 72 big-league starters that have made at least 50 starts over that time. We all love Waino … but at what point are decisions based on performance? Or does the team want to extend its two-season streak of missing the playoffs?

— The Cardinals need to be more careful about rewarding young players with big-money contracts before they’re eligible for larger deals — and haven’t fully established themselves as assets at the big-league level. I’m talking about second baseman Kolten Wong, and right fielder Piscotty. In the Cardinals’ defense, it made sense to give such a contract to young starting pitcher Carlos Martinez. And it worked out fine with Matt Carpenter.  I didn’t say they should suspend this practice; I’m just saying they need to be more selective.

— The bosses need to get aligned with their manager. Make sure the manager understands the best way to go about handling the personnel, and game tactics. Here’s an idea: some genuine accountability, maybe, instead of the constant attaboys?

Frankly, I’m baffled by the disconnect. Given DeWitt’s intelligence and Mozeliak’s cold eye for making evaluations, this unshakable belief in Matheny is incomprehensible.

How many times has Mozeliak intervened by making trades to prevent Matheny from using the wrong players because of his personal preference?

How many times has Matheny disregarded essential statistical information from the analytics department? Example: the Cardinals had only 3 Defensive Runs Saved on shifts this season; that ranked 22nd among the 30 MLB teams. By contrast, the Brewers saved 22 runs on shifts, and the Cubs saved 15. This obviously put the Cardinals at a competitive disadvantage. Maybe if the manager didn’t let  pitchers make the call on defensive shifts in some instances, the Cardinals wouldn’t be underperforming in this area.

How many relievers will be chewed up before the chairman and the baseball president get upset?

How many times must the Cardinals put a lesser lineup on the field — again, because of misguided loyalty — before the men in charge find it objectionable?

The Cardinals lost more runners on the bases, 110, than any NL team in 2017. When will the manager stop encouraging his players to push it on the bases when few have the speed or guile to make the aggressiveness work?

Why  did the 2017 Cardinals rank sixth among NL teams in sacrifice bunt attempts when they succeeded to advance the runner at a mediocre rate of 59.5 percent, which ranked 11th among the 15 teams?

Why does management look the other way when Matheny is frequently too slow in removing a starting pitcher from a game? Take a look at this research done by Tyler Kinzy at Viva El Birdos.

Hardly a novice, Matheny just concluded his sixth season in the manager’s chair.

I’m honestly not sure why this pattern of repeated managerial mistakes is so fine and dandy with the owner and the front office.

Unless this organization gets a helluva lot smarter, the Cardinals will continue to chase the Cubs. And the Brewers. And other aspiring teams that are on the come.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Karraker – What Happened to the Cardinals? Takeaways from a Disappointing Season

  • M W

    Getting smarter means getting a new manager. That won’t happen. You can’t expect that suddenly the ownership will start to hold Matheny accountable. And you can’t expect that someone as stubborn as Matheny will change how he manages.

    They certainly need a MOTO bat, another starter or two, a closer and a couple of bullpen arms. But that doesn’t do much good if the same manager is in place.

    • Christopher Toth

      Exactly.

  • Christopher Toth

    Bernie, respectfully, you are dancing around the obvious. To the extent that’s a professional courtesy you may owe the Cardinals, I understand.

    But if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, call it for what it is: a duck.

    There simply isn’t any justification for the Cards not to fire Matheny. Your article above eloquently proves that out but instead of going before the grand jury to indict the ham sandwich, you pause even though I suspect deep down you know he needs to go and nothing much will change until he does.

    Matheny only managed 5 wins against the Cubs despite having the lead in a majority of those losses. The lowly Reds beat the Cubs 7 times while the Brewers and Pirates beat the Cubs 9 times each.

    Unless I missed the something special Matheny referred to earlier about this team – a team with a losing record against .500 plus teams – this is the same train wreck happening over and over that only a Jeff Fisher could admire.

  • chrisoleary

    Use of “baseball IQ” is PRECISELY the type of soft, squishy, subjective, (stuff) that was the bad old days.

    Get OBJECTIVE or get beat. Bad.

    So define “savvy.” That sounds squishy and subjective.

    And cohesive is VASTLY over-rated. I’m sure Matheny and his lieutenants all agree that what they are doing is the right thing.

    Here’s a start. Talk to Pham’s hitting guy, who Matheny has disparaged as just an “Internet Guy.”

    • More shameless self promotion from a guy who Pham dismissed out of hand in a tweet.

  • Commih04

    Insightful article and more than fair, tough call on young players, I thought Wong was done but had a very good season but Piscotty looks like bad contract, TLR had blind loyalty as well to many players as well Izzy, Allen Craig, Kozma etc, bottom line is our players are somewhat overrated by organization and fans and Cubs and now Brewers are just more talented, major upgrade needed at top of rotation and middle
    Of line up!

    • JohnS

      Bottom line is our organization is somewhat overrated by itself and a rapidly declining segment of some of our slower fans which has also contributed to our roster not being as talented as the Cubs, Brewers, Nationals, Dodgers, Rockies, Red Sox, Yankees, D-backs, Astros….but tenth place is not too bad for the 14th highest (and falling) payroll I guess….

  • waggs03

    Remember the late season winning streak? Look at who was on the DL and who was on the field.

    • JDinSTL

      Look at how bad the teams were they played.

  • Aaron

    Thanks, Bernie. I wish we all had more insight on why ownership is okay with Matheny’s ineptness. You are exactly right that the Cardinals are going to be looking up at the Cubs for a long time. I don’t think that will change unless some big things happen. Smarter management, spending to get great players, and valuing their prospects adequately.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    DeWitt may have been “ahead of his time” but recently he seems calcified like a dinosaur relic when it comes to readjusting his performance vs. value sabermetric tool. Financial experts know that risk and reward go hand in hand. That’s why the best returns are in the stock market even though the risk is higher that your investment might go awry over just sticking your money in a bank CD. Somewhere there is a sensible tradeoff.

    From what I can tell, the target of DeWitt’s model of player ROI suggests that “90 wins are enough, and by golly, let’s get there.” The problem with this is that the Cubs are positioned to win 90 PLUS games. The Cubs won 97 in 2015, 103 in 2016, and 92 this year. If you shoot for 90 games, you are in essence giving up on the division crown. Therefore you must be banking that you can squeak into the wild card with a 90 win game season.

    Two issues: First, you can’t control what teams in other divisions are doing down the stretch because… BECAUSE you play teams only in your division down the stretch. Therefore, banking on anything less than winning your division is foolish IMO. Second, to win the division, the team needs to be good enough to beat the Cubs (and as Bernie has pointed out, the Cards not only played poorly in the division but were OWNED by the Cubs).

    Unfortunately, complacency (extending MM) and stubbornness (when it comes to risking a little of that Cardinal profit) rule the day. The Cubs have upset the probability equations DeWitt/MO bank upon. And unless those equations change to incorporate additional risk, more second and third place finishes are upon us.

    • JDinSTL

      The idea that you let Andrelton Simmons get traded with no expression of “interest” while you were counting on “Jhonny” at SS says it all.

      Asleep at the wheel.

    • JohnS

      Excellent points even if you live in Lawrence KS!

      • LawrenceKScardsfan

        LOL – I’m moving to Oregon next year. So I’ll have to change my moniker. But I’ll still be a Cardinal fan through and through.

        • JDinSTL

          We’ll look for LawrenceORcardsfan

  • Big T

    Kind of knew how this one would read before I read it. No where in this article is players performance or their accountability ever mentioned. I know a manager is ultimately responsible for his team but are we to believe the Cubs or Reds are smarter based on their manager? Really Bernie! A new low even for you the president of the MM HATE CLUB!

    Why don’t we consider our record against the Dodgers, DBacks, Nats and Rockies versus the Cubs and Brewers record against them? Truth is we just sucked against the NL central this year! We lost seven one run games to the cubs and 29 one run games overall! Ever hear it is a game of inches? No I am sure most would prefer to say “Fire Matheny that is the only answer”! “Hogwash”!! B-SHXX

    Be real here what would the Cards critiques say if they spent nearly 40 million dollars more on their talent like those cubbies, and oh tanking for five years,(averaging 92 losses a year FOR FIVE YEARS.) Would we be patient for that process or do we trust the one that has produced a winning culture and family environment for the last three decades plus! Only two teams have winning records ten years in a row. Cards and Yanks. Call me a homer I am proud of it!! I will always trust the Cardinal process and you will see the Cardinal way will rule again!!

    Yes we have some catching up to do. But look to the fact the Cubs will lose three of their starting pitchers this year. And WD from the pen. Our team is rich in young pitching arms, talented players and we only truly need two core players to compliment our existing talent. Our window is rising and theirs is closing!!!

    Go Cards!! Get Donaldson and a raking outfielder and we are set!!

    • Jody Wassmer

      You’re delusional but hey, whatever.

      • Big T

        Thanks for your opinion

        • JDinSTL

          The suits in the front office are a far bigger problem that Forrest Gump.

    • W Mahan

      Matheny is just like former Illinois BB coach, John Groce. Maybe a nice guy, but clueless when it comes to managing a team. Finally, IL had to get rid of Groce and eventually STL will have to get smart and can Matheny.

      Matheny couldn’t manage the ’27 Yankees to a successful season. Until Matheny is gone the Cards will be looking up at two or three teams every year. He’s not getting better as a manager, he is getting worse every year.

      All you have to see is what MM did with Wacha in the 7th inning last week. NO semi-competent manager (not one) would have allowed Wacha to stay in the game with runners on 1st and 3rd, no outs, Wacha gassed, 10 guys in the bullpen, AND the season on the line. That was baseball malpractice 101. He should have been fired for that inning alone, let alone his season-long incompetence.

      • Big T

        W Mahan – Who do you recommend to replace MM?

        • W Mahan

          That’s a fair question. I could be sarcastic and say the first name out of the STL phonebook. Heck, I’d prefer you over Matheny. He is simply not a good manager. The Cardinals are declining in almost every offensive and defensive metric. That’s on Matheny and his coaching staff. Just like I said about John Groce, Matheny is in way over his head.

          Maddon makes him look like a child head-to-head. No one can deny that. Cards go 5-14 against their main rival. That’s not acceptable when every other team in the division did better than that against the Cubs. No way would Maddon school LaRussa like he has Matheny. As long as Matheny is the manager, this team will never see another playoff game. Period.

          • JDinSTL

            You could give Stubby a shot. Memphis competes every single inning and has a winning culture.

    • ken

      perhaps the glass really IS half-full. but “family atmosphere” has nothing at all to do with it.

      • JDinSTL

        Hey, I hear Ryan Sheriff is great at chess AND ping-pong.

        • Big T

          Wonder how he is at Snarky??

      • Big T

        More than half full but hard to see after falling below our usual Cardinal expectations. 17 out of the last 18 years with a winning record. More playoff games, wins, and WS Championships than anyone over the last 30 years. Top ten farm system talent in baseball… Cardinal way is to draft develop and deploy raised talent with supplemented FA.

        • W Mahan

          Every team (every one) has injuries. That’s just an excuse. Poor managing of fundamentals is what got the Cards to this declining trend. If you can’t see the trend line of where the Cardinals are heading, then nothing anyone could tell you would open your eyes. If you want to live in the past, fine. But unless major changes are made, the next 5 years will not be good ones…unless finishing 3rd or 4th in the division is good enough.

        • JDinSTL

          President Moe sat there and watched Andrelton Simmons get traded to the AL and showed no interest because SS was “covered” with Jhonny – who had 2 more years of “team control”

          Let’s just say President Moe lacks the skills necessary to assemble a championship roster without Luhnow’s talent pipeline backing him up.

  • videosavant

    I always laugh out loud when a member of the media instructs someone, anyone really, on how to be smarter.

    • Jody Wassmer

      Why? Bernie’s smarter than any writers covering the Cards and what’s your credentials?

      • JDinSTL

        He’s smarter 1/2 the time.

    • JohnS

      Well, he sure is right in his criticism of the Cards’ lack of smartness, though I admit, Pham didn’t hit in ST because he couldn’t see, but Adams never should have been in the OF. Nor Wong, for that matter….

  • Jody Wassmer

    It’s amazing how MoTie has danced around the obvious Matheny problem. Two examples: Signing Fowler with the idea that his “fun spirit” would lighten the sour mood that Matheny brings. Secondly, the adding of Schilt as “quality control” coach prior to the start of 2017 to make up for the lack of fundamentals. ENOUGH! It’s become plainly obvious through advanced stats and simple observation that Matheny is NOT a major league manager. I suspect another poor start to the 2018 season would open some eyes, hopefully the eyes of those who can do something about it.

    • W Mahan

      With a new 3 year contract just starting next year, there is unfortunately no way Matheny will be fired next year, or even the year after that. DeWitt is not going to pay 2 managers at the same time.

      It’s a shame, because 3 million paying fans deserve a lot better. How you give a manager a 3 year extension based upon a steady downward trend line is beyond me. I guess MM works cheap. There is no other explanation.

      • Vico

        With any decency, or perhaps a shred of intelligence and a little less self pride, Matheny would resign without requiring Cardinals to pay full freight. But we can’t expect that of the financial genius.

    • Christopher Toth

      It is almost at times as though Mo thinks he’s MM’s therapist as opposed to boss.

      Clearly when Luhnow left, the brains of the front office that understood simple math went with him. What remains is a too proud Mo who can’t or won’t admit he got it wrong in hiring MM.

      Up until now I thought it was just MM who was the deer in the headlights. No longer, he’s got company in Mo now.

  • ken

    great piece, bernie.

  • Mark Lee Arbogast

    I think they are focusing more on getting richer than getting smarter. And its working!

  • rightthinker4

    Good luck with management or Matheny getting smarter. For some reason, DeWitt thinks
    Matheny is the right guy to manage the Cardinals. Maybe he should have his eyes checked by Pham’s opthamologist. How do you get better if you think everything is okay?

    Bernie didn’t say to fire Matheny, because that’s not Bernie’s call. He laid out the areas that the manager and management need to improve on. Most of it is on Matheny, but ultimately it’s DeWitt who is keeping Matheny as manager.

  • JeremyR

    The Cardinals (especially DeWitt) were never smart. They unexpectedly stumbled onto on of the best players in baseball history (Pujols). Yeah, they managed to surround him with enough talent to win (which the Angels can’t seem to do with Trout), but without him they would have been much less successful. Just like they have been before and since.

    • JDinSTL

      Hiring Luhnow was smart, the rest has been stupid. Yes men have taken all the credit.

      • JohnS

        Losing Luhnow was the screw-up. A brilliant man. Moe? He’s just another man in a grey flannel suit….former batting practice pitcher while Luhnow had all the sabermetric genius. Hard to be smarter when you aren’t……

        • JDinSTL

          Hard to “get smarter” when you’re simply a yes man.

    • JohnS

      They even cheaped out in “them days”. Remember how thin the starting pitching was for several of those years, the dumpster diving for types like Woody Williams and the Dancing Bear? Sure sometimes that worked out, but on the whole they should have ponied up for better starters….Our starters in the 2004 World Series were laughable and really not too good in the 2013 World Series….

      • JDinSTL

        The plan back then was to trade for top-tier position players – Renteria, Edmonds, Rolen, and backfill with durable veteran pitchers that Duncan could help. It really worked – until Jocketty blew it with Haren for Mulder.

  • JDinSTL

    But, but Bern…. President Moe is the “smartest guy in the room”. Just ask him.

    Those algorithms that Langosch rhapsodizes about. Just brilliant!

  • flood21

    Not sure if you look at their banking account the DeWitt’s don’t think their pretty smart. Matheny fits their mode well as he is probably in the lower half of payroll when it comes to Mgrs.

  • James R. Norvell

    Bernie:
    If you think that not playing Martinez and Pham all season and playing Piscotty too much and batting Molina too high in the batting order or having faith in Wainwright were the reasons for this abysmal season, then you are sorely disappointing me. Are you getting lazy? Because I think you understand more than that about baseball.

    Did Mozeliak and DeWitt slip you a favor or two? Are they holding a loved one hostage? This team is the creation of a whole lot of bad judgment, bad contracts, lack of leadership, failure to create a winning culture and absence of any sense of urgency — top to bottom. This team needs a thorough exorcism. Bad karma!

    If I were a player in the Cards’ minor leagues, I’d be begging my agent to find a trade. I certainly would not want to go from a winning team to a mother ship spinning off into space. Your praise by faint damnation is embarrassing. Get a pair!

    • JohnS

      Well those reasons surely contributed to the relatively poor season, but yes, we all realize I think that ownership and management have been quite sub-par for the Cardinals for quite some time now….

  • Hog Ump 99

    The Cardinals clearly need upgrades at first and third. Sorry but Carpenter is not the old Carpenter and Jedd is a nice option off the bench. Don’t even get me started on the other options. The back of the pen is a mess. After that, there is game managing decisions by a manager who has no clue how to make them.

    • JohnS

      I think Jedd is fine at third, if they get some pop at first and/or right field. His defense is a big plus, and except for the times he was hurt, he was productive offensively, though a tad streaky. Probably a sixth or seventh place hitter in a GOOD batting order, which we clearly do not have…..

  • Scott Warren

    Other than this, they are fine.

  • Scott Warren

    Here is the question. Why are they waiting until they fall behind MULTIPLE organizations before looking themselves in the mirror? Any quality company/organization is constantly adjusting and tweaking the business model to stay ahead of the competition and not wait until the sky is falling. Cardinals are reactive and not proactive. That is the truth and they will continue to pay for it.

    • JohnS

      Why? Because they are in denial and also because they are making mucho money, which serves as a quite satisfactory palliative to losing….

  • disqus_J4MOld5gYt

    It is obvious Matheny is in over his head in managing at the major league level, but DeWallet has a man-crush on him so change won’t come soon enough. I also suspect Mo may not have been the brains behind construction of the great rosters in 2011 and before. Is it mere coincidence that since Luhnow left for Houston after the 2011 season the Cards have regresses while the Astros have significantly improved? Is it also coincidence that a Luhnow protege has constructed a Brewers team better than the Cards? Or, could it be that real secret sauce behind the Cards success with roster construction and player acquisition up to 2011 was Luhnow, but Mo got all the credit? That would help explain the foolish attempt to hack the Astros database.

    Couple an obvious drop in front office performance with Matheny’s inexperience, stubbornness, and inability (or unwillingness) to learn and you have what Mike Shannon calls a second division team. Until there are improvements in front office performance AND a new on-field manager the Cardinals well remain a second division club looking up at the Brewers and Cubs. I honestly believe Matheny could have screwed-up the ’27 Yankees. Even the best talent cannot overcome is ineptness.

  • Greg Gibson

    How many major league manager ascend to a big league managerial position with no minor league or major league bench coaching experience? And, it shows.

  • Mark Steinmann

    If Matheny was fired today, would any organization seriously consider hiring him (Mets, Tigers, etc.)? Not a chance. So why do the Cardinals? If you have a guy that nobody else wants, the problem isn’t that they just don’t see what you see, the problem is you. Also, don’t discount luck in all this. Yes, they need to play better and smarter, but we’ve had some piss poor luck the past few years after hitting the jackpot with Pujols. If the Astros selected Bryant with the 1st pick in the ’13 draft like they should have (instead of taking Mark Appel, who I don’t believe has pitched an inning in the bigs), the Cubs and Theo suddenly don’t look quite as smart.

  • David B

    A lot of good points have been made here. I’ll offer my thoughts about what the FO getting smarter would look like: (1) Make the players who performed big this year (DeJong, Martinez, Pham and Gyorko) the core around which the rest of the position player roster is constructed. (2) Finally conclude that after several years, they have seen enough to know what they will (and won’t) get from players like Wong, Piscotty, and Grichuk, and act on the assumption that they can do better. (3) As impressive as Yadi’s second half in 2017 was, admit that his defensive skills have declined and that it’s flat crazy that he had the most at-bats on the team this year; reduce his games behind the plate and, if Kelly is your future catcher, develop him with enough playing time to improve. (4) Stop letting veteran players’ egos drive decisions: move Fowler to left field, and if he fights it, send him to another team; let Wainwright compete for a spot on the roster, if he really wants to do that, but don’t let his delusions persuade you that he “deserves” 10-15 starts based on past performance. (5) Since M. Carpenter’s best offensive years are behind him, and his other skills are limited, be prepared to trade him and veteran outfielders in effort to fill some of the team’s conspicuous needs. (6) Keep Tommy Pham, and let Pham be Pham. (7) Yes, hire a new manager and change the sour clubhouse environment and the perception that personnel decisions are based on non-baseball considerations.