It may come as no surprise, but fans generally seem to be unhappy with management in the Cardinals organization. When you have a team who traditionally wins, and wins a lot, the mediocre seasons in recent memory just don’t cut it. The star power is there, along with the potential to play well. Somewhere between hopes, dreams and performance, this team seems to get lost along the way to the post season.
The intent here isn’t to discredit any of the organizations management. Instead, the intention is to analyze one key weak point to help the team push over the hill. The second half of the season needs to be played better. The Cardinals want to make the post season with the current team. In order to do so, the following change needs to be at least considered. It may be time to move on from John Mabry.
Mike Matheny has his own set of problems as the team’s skipper. When comparing him to other managers of the Cardinals past, he actually could be argued as one of the best. The question is, how long will he continue to be the manager. One thing that stands out is what every other manager of recent past has that Matheny lacks- a losing season. That’s right, Tony La Russa and Whitey Herzog had three, Red Schoendienst had four of them. Matheny has yet to log a single losing season. There are many other factors to consider, but Matheny has been very successful. Undoubtedly, the Birds seem to be stranded in a world of mediocrity. It seems they have been hesitant to clean house, but sooner than later, that has to change.
If the Cardinals front office wants to break out of its current cycle of lackluster baseball, then something needs to change. Potentially moving a player via trade may help. The question is who do we give up, and how much can one player make the difference. It seems like there is one glaring issue, and that is hitting coach John Mabry. Since taking over, the teams batting average has trended down every year since 2013. Players are left stranded on base far too often. Failures to hit with runners in scoring position, and a failure to drive runs also seem to be trending in the wrong direction. The team is full of capable hitters, and yet production seems to be nonexistent. As easy as it may be to blame the 1st/ 3rd base coaches for errors on the base paths, the lowering batting average could be to blame for team struggles.
Looking Beyond the Stats.
Recently there has bee been couple observations made that are troubling from this season. Jim Edmonds recently on the broadcast with Dan McLaughlin pointed out that Marcell Ozuna had changed his stance at the plate from last year. The change in approach and stance from last year with the Marlins was said to be the reason that timing wasn’t right for the power hitting left fielder. Ozuna stated that he had reviewed video and on his own, and noticed the same thing. After a couple days, an adjustment was made and seven of his ten home runs came as a result. Clearly the change had a positive effect. Then slowly, Ozuna has slipped into the same trend as before. This is something a hitting coach should be on top of, not broadcasters and the players themselves. Why is it that Mabry does not appear to not be on top of this problem.
This isn’t the only issue to be noticed. Earlier this season a few people reported that Dexter Fowler went to Mike Maddux for help with his swing. Why is he seeking help from the pitching coach for help with swing timing. Where is Mabry when Fowler clearly needs the help? Approaching a pitching coach for help indicates that you simply don’t trust the hitting coach.
It has also recently come out that Matheny and Fowler have a strained relationship and hardly talk. The fact that Dexter is feeling defeated and not performing at the plate is almost understandable given these circumstances. Is it possible that the extra help could actually assist Fowler in getting right. One thing is for sure, it’s hard to see Fowler in this rut for so long. Fowler getting right may bring a major boost in the second half, but diminished playing time is a big factor. Without an effective coaching staff there is that chance that we will never see him swinging the bat well again.
Perhaps after five years, his insight isn’t being listened to. Perhaps Mabry is just a nice guy, but a bad coach. Right now, if the Cardinals want to make the postseason, the current state of mediocrity has to be broken. It needs to happen as soon. Replacing Mabry seems to be a good start. Matheny should remain the the Cardinals manager at least until the end of the season.
The point being, if the team wants different results, then a different approach is needed, and personally, I think it comes from a new hitting coach. The second half of the season has to go better than the first. A change being made right now means time for other adjustments. If the change comes to late, the season could be lost as well.
Who should replace Mabry?
One name stands out to me. Mark “the Buddha” Budaska, the secret weapon in the organization for building hitters. What stands out about Budaska is what the players have to say. They give him credit, and that seems to be missing from Mabry. Kolten Wong nearly was batting .300 last year and was very productive at the plate. Buddha has over 10 years at AAA Memphis and is well liked among players. Wong stated last year “Without Buddha, a lot of us wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in. He’s one of those guys you can talk to and throw ideas at and he’ll try to figure out something that helps make it work.”
The players from the minors may benefit heavily from having a coach of that caliber at the major league level. A familiar face may be what players like Bader, O’neil, and Voit need to maintain success as they ascend to the big leagues. While I believe that this will have a dramatic impact on what happens in the Minors as well, the tradeoff may be worth it this year.
Another couple of honorable mentions for consideration that come to mind are Jim Edmonds and Matt Holiday. It seems as if Edmonds has a critical eye that can quickly spot deficiencies in players, and seems to know how to correct them. Jim is well liked on the broadcast when he is present, and his insight to the game is impeccable. These are attributes that can translate into coaching, and perhaps could also be what the team needs as a competitive force driving the dugout forward.
Matt Holiday played for the Yankees last year after departing St. Louis. He has a big heart and loved playing in the organization. Fans would love to see him back in a coaching position. He is still listed as a free agent, and still has aspirations to play. At 38 years old however, it seems as if that dream may not come to fruition. Holliday should at least be considered as a coach, perhaps even lower in the minors to replace Budaska if he were to coach the Birds.
A change in staffing seems to be the right move. As we approach the trade deadline, we are all hoping that the front office will make the right moves to push the team into the playoffs. Is the right move to replace Mabry? Possibly. We can continue to hope for a big move but only time will tell. If the Cardinals are buyers, only time will tell what is instore for this team. Something has to change or else we can expect the same issues to continue as we have seen the past few years. The consideration to move on from John Mabry has to at least be evaluated if not executed.