The Cardinals Had a Big Problem in the Clubhouse: Not Enough Talent

There’s been some disturbing talk in town recently about a big problem in the Cardinals clubhouse in 2017.

Some of this was aired out in a column that appeared in the local gazette.

The intriguing piece caused a stir, and left many fans headed for the fainting couch.

But there was a problem.

And it was a biggie.

A serious issue that cannot be ignored, dismissed, or downplayed.

The Cardinals simply couldn’t overcome the number of flawed individuals that inhabited their clubhouse this season.

The clubhouse composition was so damaging, that it became the No. 1 reason why the 2017 Cardinals failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

And for that to change — for the Cardinals to solve the problem during the offseason and push their way back into the 2018 postseason — they must do so something to improve the clubhouse.

You want specifics?

Here’s the hideous truth about the clubhouse chemistry:

Not enough talent in there.

A shortage of good  players.

Too many average, mediocre players.

Here’s what was missing from that clubhouse: enough impact bats, enough outstanding pitchers, enough excellent fielders.

The chemistry chemistry was off, absolutely.

The Cardinals needed an essential, vital ingredient:


This is a shocking revelation. I’ll give you a few seconds to exhale.

I’ll  go down the list of ways to enhance the clubhouse in time for 2018:

1. The Cardinals need more elite-level talent to move into the clubhouse. Get rid of some of the bums who are causing so much trouble … causing trouble because they are streaky hitters … or causing problems by playing klutzy defense … or causing problems because they don’t pitch deep into starts, or they lack a secondary pitch, or they throw meatballs and squander saves, or they are slow afoot on the base paths. You can’t keep these troublemakers around.

The disturbers are source of frustration and anger. They’re just not good for this baseball team. They aren’t good for this baseball team because they are mediocre and not especially skilled at playing the game that pays them. Or they lack the natural instincts to make smart, savvy decisions during competition.  Players like this cost their teammates too many wins, and that only increases the grumpiness in the clubhouse.

2. The challenge is to come up with more players who can lift the clubhouse mood, and brighten the clubhouse atmosphere. This can be achieved by importing very talented newcomers who will make the overall roster more imposing and capable of, well, you know …  WINNING MORE GAMES.

I know that when a team is winning, you will read stories about how team dinners resulted in bonding and unity and a group of 25 men become ONE GIANT BEATING HEART.

And I know that when a team’s starting pitching implodes late in the season — hypothetically, let’s describe this free-falling out of contention because of a 9.57 rotation ERA and a 2-7 record in the final nine games which includes losing five of seven to your division rivals on the last home stand of the season … losing to teams like the Cubs and Brewers, hypothetically… then we’ll be reading about ping pong tables and clubhouse arrival-departure times … and those unprepared SOB interlopers who were not raised to play baseball the right way, the only way, which of course is The Cardinal Way.

Yeah, I know, this gets a little confusing. I thought these team unity steak dinners made the Cardinals a tight team of Bros?  So if the steak-unity suppers turned the squad into single-minded family of blood brothers, then what’s all this stuff about ping pong? Did they start swatting each other upside the head with the paddles, or something?

I never knew that ping pong was cancerous. The respected Matt Holliday used to play a lot of clubhouse ping pong, this is a guy who actually worked too hard, incessantly lifting weights. And yet, even with the ping pong, Holliday was heralded for his seriousness and strong leadership. But I am never too old, or too proud, to learn something.

And by way, you know what the experts warn about the risks of playing ping pong …

It is often gateway to BILLIARDS.

I have also learned something else. Evidently it isn’t sufficient for a player to spend 10, 11 hours at the ballpark each game day. When the game is over, he must sit there in the clubhouse and mill around, and talk about the day, and review video, and maybe go to the workout room, and possibly help the clubbies clean the uniforms, then take some extra swings in the cage at about 1:10 a.m. because he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and it would be cheating the team to go home earlier than that. Here is what a player absolutely CANNOT do: get on out of the clubhouse in time to get home and say good night to his little kids. C’mon now … you can tuck the brats in during the offseason. But during baseball season, you are obligated to honor and respect the game and that means staying at the damn ballpark all night to PROVE that YOU REALLY CARE.

I personally believe that all 25 Cardinals players, when in the sacred space of this hallowed clubhouse, should be immersed in study, absorbing the Zen of the Cardinal Way. If these new and ungrateful Cardinals would just get themselves righteous by reading the good book of wisdom and the secrets that no other franchise possesses — because the Cardinals are extraordinarily special —   then maybe we wouldn’t see these new, bedraggled Cardinals running like lunkheads into so many outs on the bases. All because they have not been properly trained in the enlightened Cardinal Way.

What’s that?

Matt Carpenter and Stephen Piscotty ran into a gazillion outs on the bases over the last two seasons, and they were drafted by the Cardinals  and developed  in the Cardinals’ system?

Are you sure about that?

Wrong. Carpenter and Piscotty were CUBS.

Just like that DEXTER guy.

3. One issue in this clubhouse is leadership. Let me say it again: there is an undeniable need for leadership in that locker room. The Cardinals absolutely must put some true leaders in that clubhouse. Great leaders to transform  that clubhouse. And it won’t be easy, but it can be done. Just get someone that can lead the league in slugging percentage, or lead the league in homers or runs batted in, or lead the league in quality starts, or lead the league in save percentage. Those type of leaders will put more smiling happy people in that clubhouse … and they will be smiling and happier because the leaders will be leading the Cardinals back into the postseason.

4. This clubhouse definitely  needs someone to do clean up … you know, the cleanup hitter, the guy who bats fourth in the lineup and who can pick up a wooden cleanup tool and erase a two-run deficit with a single stroke. Been a long time since the Cardinals had a first-rate cleaner in the clubhouse. Or in the lineup.

5. This flawed clubhouse also requires — and this is mandatory — relief pitchers who will not forget to close the clubhouse door and lock it up … relievers who will not play with fire and burn away leads and victories. And the sturdiest of sturdy relievers who can pitch, say, 57 days in a row without a break. That last part has been the way of the Cardinals’ bullpen management since about, oh, 2012.

I implore president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, and GM Michael Girsch to do the right thing:

Gentlemen, you have an depressing clubhouse. So what are you going to do? Better take the destructive ping pong table out of there.  And you must put in new rules requiring all 25 players, and even the injured DL guys, to report to the clubhouse at Busch Stadium at no later than 10 a.m. for a 7:10 p.m. start, and following the game they must remain in the clubhouse for a minimum three-hour period of mandatory study, and contemplation. And if the team has lost the game, make it four hours just so we know that they will properly brood and grieve and rededicate themselves to winning.

If I may offer two other suggestions:

FIRST: These team-building steak dinners only seem to be talked about only when the Cardinals are playing great baseball, and going off on a winning streak. So if you get into a crisis, with the team’s earned-run average bursting into flames, billowing smoke to about an 11.43 ERA because the hurlers are fatigued, or hurting or just plain old terrible at what they do  … then promptly schedule a team steak dinner, have the boys gnaw on truck-tire sized ribeyes, and in between bites they can  pledge unwavering loyalty to one another. And that will fix your pitching staff. Immediately. Guaranteed. The team ERA will be down to 3.42 by the time the boys get to the ballpark the next day. And about those horrendous batting slumps? The recent flurry of errors? Or nimrods foolishly getting thrown out at third base to make the final out of an inning?

Two words: team dinner.

Fixed. Solved. Cured.

Dark clouds: lifted.

New clubhouse playlist:  Hey Ya (OutKast), Come On Eileen (Dexys Midnight Runner), The Twist (Chubby Checker), My Sharona (The Knack), Drunk Girls (LCD Soundsystem), Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne), Life During Wartime (Talking Heads), Tipsy (J-Kwon), Do It Again (Beach Boys.)

Shake it like a polaroid picture.

World Series parade.

SECOND: Make some big-fish trades and recruit esteemed free agents. Bring in new men who will provide a substantial roster upgrade and get the Cardinals ready to kick ass again. Take these steps, you will fill your clubhouse with the good vibrations that resonate when a team wins 95 regular-season games, and barged into the playoffs to win the more important games. That’s how you cultivate a terrific clubhouse setting. Put terrifically talented players in there.

Thanks for reading…


More – Video: The Cardinals Crushed the Nationals’ Dreams Five Years Ago This Week

  • Michael Menendez

    Oh, we got trouble right here in the river city–with a capital “T,” and that rhymes with “P,” and that stands for “ping pong.”

  • John Sachse

    One of your best! About says it all. Also, don’t speak the truth like Tommy Pham.

  • Christopher Toth

    So basically you are saying you want Cardinal players to realize they are in General Patton’s army (real and fictional) but in doing so are leaving out the general himself.

    If an army fails, you don’t double down on the commanding general. You boot him or her. If not, it is just a recipe for more of the same.

    If you want to cure the Cardinal clubhouse cancer, then cut it all out.

  • JohnS

    Matheny couldn’t manage the 27 Yankees to a championship. Until he goes, roster improvement won’t matter very much. He instinctively makes the WRONG move almost EVERY DAMNED TIME! Sad but true….

    • geoff

      Heck, that can be said about every manager at one point or another. Look at what just happened to Francona’s team and he had a heck of a lot better roster than Matheny had this year and last. Dusty let another one get away and he had a way better roster than Matheny. I am not saying that Mike is the best I have seen or that I think he is even average but he has shown that he can get a team there if he has the horses. As to winning it all, any team can beat any team in the end of the year tournament, because the teams still playing are good and they are healthy and going well right now. He doesn’t really make the wrong move every time, you are exaggerating a bit here. Would I have rather had Francona running the Cards, maybe, would I rather Tony had not left???Heck yeah, yet there were people constantly screaming to get rid of him. Truth is I think the demise of this franchise lays more on Mo than anyone.

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    • JW

      You sound just like many Yankee fans calling for Girardi to be fired ! And look where they are so far !

  • Res

    Great article.

  • Jeffrey Cohen

    I don’t know what to make of this article. Stream of consciousness. Sounds like Bernie is letting his hair down. Sounds like the Cards are a mess. And they are.

  • ken

    it’s official. the current baseball phrase du jour is “impact bat.” expect to see/hear it at least once per article/show.

  • Rich Rauch

    The biggest talent void here is in the manager’s office. When MM stood there and watched Wacha get shelled the third time through the order with the entire season on the line, that said it all. He’s in over his head. He manages every game like it’s Opening Day.

  • Chris Moeller

    Very necessary. Thanks Bernie.

  • flood21

    One thing we know is that Honny won’t be batting 4th to start the year. I guess that’s a start

  • David B

    I’m not quite sure who the mockery is directed at. Jose de Jesus Ortiz, who wrote the article in the Post-Dispatch that referenced ping pong? The anonymous insiders whose grumblings fed the Ortiz piece? George Kissell’s pamphlet? Or some hypothetical idiot observer who thinks the Cardinals main problem is how players blow off steam or that more of them need to linger at the stadium after midnight?

    I was under the impression, Bernie, that one of your critiques of MM’s leadership is the particular kind of factionalism it has generated. The pattern of favoring Mike’s guys, the cherished veterans, over others. The resentments that fester when the perception takes hold that personnel decisions are based on considerations other than performance. That’s one kind of clubhouse problem. And yeah, they also need a closer and a cleanup hitter, better baserunning and steadier defense.

  • LawrenceKScardsfan

    Like Hamlet says: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”

  • BradW

    The Cardinal Way is dead. RIP Cardinal Way.

    • Duane Wisner

      Fundamentals are dead? The Cardinal way is all about fundamentals and how they are taught, by the great George Kissell. Sadly it is a book on the shelf covered in dust, the Cardinal way is alive (just look at all the sucess in the minor leagues) the major league team for whatever reason left it on said shelf. Just think how many more games would they have won if just the basic fundamentals of defense and base running had been applied.

      • BradW

        We are in agreement. Allow me to clarify.
        The Cardinal Way was murdered by Mike Matheny and friends. RIP Cardinal Way.

  • Scott

    Gee, and we’ve spent the last few weeks in Bernie’s world, putting all the blame on Matheny. Now today, Bernie realizes that perhaps Matheny actually didn’t have much talent to work with. So, is it possible that after upgrading our talent that Matheny becomes a better manager? Sure it’s possible, as much as Bernie and the other Matheny haters don’t want to admit it.

    • Christopher Michael Meister

      Oh no, Matheny is part of the mediocrity. His in-game tactics are absymal

  • Mark Steinmann

    There might be something to the clubhouse problem, but it wouldn’t matter as much if the team was better. It seemed like the 01′ – ’11 teams had clubhouse problems at times, but they also had the best player in the game so it was masked. Take a list of the 50 best position players & 50 best pitchers in the NL, how many Cardinals are on there? That’s the problem (in addition to the manager).

  • geoff

    Hay Bernie, how many trips did you take into the Cardinals Clubhouse this season. I would wager none because you don’t have the balls to go face to face with the people you continually mock and disparage. When you have managed or coached anything or played a full game of anything maybe you will gain an understanding of what it actually takes to be part of a sports team, the next step would be what it takes to be on a winning sports team. You wrote one of your anything to diminish Matheny columns a short time ago asking what if Francona had been hired instead of Mike. Well, where was your article explaining how the greatest manager in the history of baseball took the best team in baseball and got bounced in the first round of the playoffs this year. Anyone with any real understanding about sports realizes that some times one team is just playing hotter at a particular time. Look at the Nats, everyone talked all season about how great they were, even though they were in the weakest division in all of baseball, they lost to a Cubs team because their manager lived up to his history of not handling his pitching correctly. Maybe he stayed with Scherzer a bit too long there huh? Your analysis of the Cards roster is actually correct, they are not talented enough, and even though you mock “the Cardinal Way”, the fact is George Kissel knew more about baseball than you, even though you have saber-metrics, and had the Cardinals played more to that instruction manual , they would have been playing in the post-season. As to the roster shortfalls, you so boldly state in this column…you sure didn’t say anything like this to your hero Mo when you had him on the air. You, instead acted like a giddy little schoolgirl in your adulation. Man up Bernie, confront Mo with some of these real truths on the air, go into the clubhouse, you are allowed access, hell, just go to a few games and watch some of the nonsense that goes on in the field. Watch Piscotty be the only player on the field with his hands resting on his knees when a pitch is thrown , or watch your boy Grichuk (remember when you were demanding that Mike have him on the field always???) break a step wrong on more than half of the batted balls he sees, or Fowler playing in Sauget, or Carpenter just losing focus randomly. You write a lot of stuff mocking the players and you are a fount of hate for Matheny, yet you never ever place any of the responsibility for the demise of an organization that used to place real value on the fundamentals of how to play winning baseball. You know, fundamentals, what the Cardinal Way instructional book is…that book you so cavalierly mock as bullpoop because it isn’t saber-metric has way more truth in it about how to play baseball than what you derive from your algorerythms.

    • Christopher Michael Meister

      It’s called…satire.

      • Big T

        No it is called Bernie – “The president of the MM hater society”. Translated thru the medium of satirical dressing.

        • Mark Lee Arbogast

          If Bernie hates Matheny then he is not alone because you could have written your rebutted to most of the sportswriters and radio guys in STL. They all complained about MM.

    • Mark Lee Arbogast

      Matheny fits perfectly with these players. He is not a bad manager, he is just not a very good one.

  • Christopher Michael Meister

    I agree, you need talent. You need talent good enough and thick-skinned enough to overlook their skipper’s repeated problems. You need to JoeTorre this manager. Surround him with enough talent where he can’t help himself but win.

  • Phil Marshall

    Sounds like a sore loser! Talent isn’t enough, will is…talent+will+heart= W
    Btw- I respect the Cards, their history and their winning philosophy and all, but you guys aren’t the only gurus out there…it’s not like you invented it, I’m with the guys that know that it’s not just Matheny, that’s a cop out…and go home and tuck your babies in, for gosh sakes, that’ll get your mind off losing. Work smarter not harder…you’d hate to win at baseball and lose at life!

    • Big T

      Well said Phil! Good luck to your team moving forward. Hope to see “The Cardinal Way” again in 2018.

  • Justin Bremerkamp

    Umm, did Bernie forget that he wrote an article saying the exact opposite thing, like not even two weeks ago? Uncle Bernie is losing his marbles kids.

    • Big T

      He is a bit like the president. He says one thing just to distract you from another.

  • Mark Lee Arbogast

    The biggest problem with this article is that I don’t believe the Cardinal management feels the same way. They believe that the team is really close. They built this team and nobody likes to admit they made a mistake. But to be the champ you gotta beat the champ and man for man this team stacks up pretty poorly next to the Champion Cubs.

  • andrewc789

    I love Bernie…best article Cardinals article I’ve read in a while