Greetings, chatters. Thanks for adjusting your schedules. I think this move to Monday will be a one-week deal, and we will be back to Tuesdays starting next week. I'll keep you posted on that. There will be no interruptions today, so that's good news. I'll have to close shop at 3 p.m. to switch attention toward tomorrow's print column, so let's mash the pedal (hey, I was at IndyCar this weekend) until then. Away we go ...
I've heard plenty of folks asking about that, so I did some investigating. Long story short is this: The Cardinals didn't want Murphy. Now, you can say that's the wrong opinion to have, and he has certainly started hot with the Cubs, but consider this: He's a subpar defender at second base, and even worse at third base, which he has not played for some time. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have had built their comeback in part on strong defense up the middle, from Molina out to Bader in center. The DeJong/Wong combo is a big part of that. And both Gyorko and Matt Adams are strong defenders at third and first, respectively. (It sounds like Jose Martinez, for the most part, is not going to be playing much first base moving forward, unless injuries force him there.) Another thing: The Cardinals had little interest in adding anyone who might upset the current chemistry rolling in the clubhouse. Adams doesn't do that. He knows the guys. He fits right in. Murphy has had some bumps in the past, based on some of the opinions he's shared. On top of how the team viewed him as a player, there were some off-the-field factors to consider as well. Most important: You can't put a claim on a player you do not want, because that team (in this case the Nats) might say, OK, he's yours. Seeing what the Cubs traded to the Nats to land him suggests teams were not so far off from getting the pending free agent for nothing. The Cubs desperately needed offense, even if it hurt their defense. The Cardinals have one of the hottest offenses in the National League during the second half. Different needs. That's as thorough of an explanation I can offer. Hope it helps!
I predicted 7 wins for the Tigers this season, but I also pointed out that record would be disappointing. Let me explain: This team has the talent to win 9-10 games. Easy. However, there are two big question marks in my eyes. 1. Did the players learn their lesson from last season? As in, do they realize they can't sleepwalk through the start of their season and not sabotage a season because of it. If they don't show up against this non-conference schedule, they will lose games. Memphis will jump up and bite you. Hell, Purdue already did last season 35-3 should be recited every day at practice. 2. Are the coaches ready to get the most out of this talent? It should not be lost on fans that the two games Mizzou had the most time to prepare for last season -- the opener and the bowl -- were the two games the Tigers looked the least prepared. That's coaching. I like what new OC Derek Dooley is preaching about a more balanced approach on offense that prioritizes winning over "fake news" stats, but we have to see it. Dooley always talks a great game. What he has not done before is call plays. And he's not going to get much help from a head coach who is defensive-minded. Odom has to clean up the areas that tripped this team up last season. Dooley has to prove he can do this. We can't know how either of those will go until games begin.
Maybe, I guess. But are the Cardinals supposed to have a crystal ball? Kolten was on absolute fire. Hitting like crazy and defending even better. He has shown what everyone not named Mike Matheny knew to be true; put faith in him and he will reward you on the field. With that in mind, I would not have wanted to add a competitor at the position where I'm getting surging hitting and Gold-Glove caliber defense. You can't make waiver additions based on the worry that a healthy player might get hurt. For the roster the Cardinals have, Adams was a wiser addition, because of the situation I outlined this weekend. He can start at 1B against RHP and Gyokro can start at 3B against LHP. That still gives you strong defense and plugs in some serious slugging against those matchups. I don't think Murphy is a bad player. Look at his All-Star resume. Clearly, he's hitting it really well right now. Doesn't mean he was the best fit for the Cardinals.
Let's see if they can hold the division first. The Cubs see an open window, and they are going to add on whatever they need to help get them there. That has been their approach since they finished the rebuild. They will always make the bigger splash, until they can't. Sometimes it works (Murphy, so far). Sometimes it flops (Remember Darvish?) But the thing about the flops is, another attempt will come. The Cubs are not messing around.
Hard to know, considering it would be hindsight 101. The Cardinals don't often go there, especially when it would lead to them admitting they wish they would have done something.
Players' Weekend. They get to customize their cleats and put their nicknames on the back of their uniforms.
There were other factors to consider with Murphy. Some of them are addressed below if you scroll down. Not trying to be dismissive at all, but I don't want to re-type it all for the sake of answering as many questions as possible. Don't overlook the second prospect the Nats could get in the deal. The one to be named later. But most importantly don't overlook that the Cardinals did not want Murphy. Full stop. You don't make a claim on a player you don't want playing for you. Blocking an opponent is great until you get a player you don't want.
Yeah, and I thought it was cool that Kolten Wong was wearing a Hawaiian arm sleeve to raise awareness about volcano recovery efforts in Hawaii. But Manfred thinks that's too political, so Wong had to take it off. Meanwhile Bryce Harper wears his American flag gear during the home-run derby. Mixed messages? Does Manfred realize Hawaii is part of the Unites States? Curious minds wonder. It's pretty mind boggling that Manfred saw how ham-handed the NFL was in handling some of these issues, and has decided to pursue the same approach. Baseball had a chance to do things differently, but the suits can't see past their ties.
The Cardinals like him, too. The catcher discussion is evolving. It's great to have Carson Kelly. It's great to have Andrew Knizner. Does it make sense to have them both? Kelly is more polished defensively, and he would still be the answer tomorrow if Molina gets injured today. But as Knizner progresses, there becomes some redundancy at the position. At some point the Cardinals are going to have to make the call on which one they want to take over for Molina, and trade the other. Another thing: People act like Kelly is rotting on the vine. He's 24. Knizner is 23.
He was known for his defense. For his speed. For his hard-charging, run-through-the-wall style. These things flashed in the minors. The question was, would his offense produce enough for him to stick? It appears the impact his previous attributes make might have been underestimated, right? And, his offense is on an uptick. It seems to improve the more he plays. Shocker, right? So far this month has been his best month: He's slashing .316/.378/.557 in August. The outlook on Bader was that he was a fourth outfielder type, and would need to hit to prove he's more. Well, his defense and speed have made him more. And the bat looks better as the season has progressed. I think we might have under-estimated him, yes.
I don't have any unique insight there. This season didn't reflect well on him. Neither did Dusty Baker's comments recently, all of which were fair and accurate. The Nationals took a step back by replacing him. He would have gotten more out of this team. Not a ringing endorsement of the GM.
I love it. I checked the New York Times the other day, and there he was, his photo leading the online sports section. I had to send that one to his dad. Pretty cool moment in his career. He's now 11-for-29 with three homers since he put on pinstripes. Good for him.