I enjoyed Rick Hummel’s interview with Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. in the Post-Dispatch, and on the STLtoday site. With only three games to play before the All-Star break, the beloved Hall of Fame baseball writer sought BDJ’s views on the Cards’ 2018 season.
Many of DeWitt’s answers were intriguing.
Not just for what he said … but also for what he didn’t say.
More on the Hummel and DeWitt conversation in a few.
The schedule is sizzling away. After playing their weekend series against the Reds at Busch Stadium this weekend, the Cardinals (47-44) will have only 68 games remaining on the docket. The Cardinals already staring and blinking at imposing odds. As of Friday morning Mike Matheny’s team trailed the first-place Brewers by 6.5 games, and the second-place Cubs by 5.5 in the NL Central.
Two wild card slots provide another way into the postseason, and the math is more favorable. But not by much. The Cubs and Braves currently hold the two WC tickets, with the Braves 1.5 games behind the Cubs. Third are the Diamondbacks, 1.5 games behind the Braves for the second WC. Next comes a pack of teams without much separation: Cardinals, Rockies, and Giants each are 4 games out of the No. 2 WC, with the Nationals next at 5 behind. That makes seven teams tussling for two places in October. Best of luck.
Here are the Friday morning Playoff Odds from Fangraphs — listed in order by the highest percentage of probability for reaching the postseason. I’m including only the teams that currently have at least a 10 percent chance of getting there.
Back to DeWitt’s assessment of his ballclub, 91 games into the campaign.
I went with this format on the Friday “Bernie Show,” and it’s a good way to parse it out here.
I’ll pull the most intriguing quotes and let you in on what I believe Mr. DeWitt is saying …
I will present my interpretation of his message, subliminal or otherwise.
I am The DeWitt DeCoder.
DeWitt, Quote No. 1: “I still believe in our club. think it’s a playoff-caliber club if we’re clicking on all cylinders and, hopefully, that will occur. We haven’t played as well as we had hoped. We’re above .500 (47-44), which is good, but I thought at this point, we’d be better.”
Background: There’s a debate among Cardinals fans about the fair way to assign blame for team’s inconsistent and mediocre showing this season. Did the front office fail to cultivate sufficient talent for the roster? Or is manager Mike Matheny failing to get the most from the talent on the roster? The pro-Matheny worshipers blame president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch for burdening Saint Mike with a lousy roster. The Matheny skeptics don’t think he’s maximizing the talent he’s been given to manage.
The DeCoder: Not good for Matheny and his peoples. DeWitt has spoken. The Cardinals are a playoff-caliber club … the talent is there … not clicking on all cylinders … haven’t played as well as he’d hoped … thought they’d be better by this point. If DeWitt says Cardinals have a playoff-caliber roster, then the problem is the manager.
DeWitt, Quote No. 2: “It’s been pretty well written and documented that we’re disappointed in our offense. I thought at the start of the season, we’d be a really good offensive club. We were hit by a couple of pretty tough injuries, with (Yadier) Molina going down and (Paul) DeJong going out. But, no matter who plays, we have the potential to be really strong offensively.”
Background: The Cardinals are scuffling to string together a lengthy winning streak, but keep breaking down, conking out, and waiting for roadside help. What’s the problem? What is the top reason for this maddening pattern of lurching and stalling?
The DeCoder: Batting coach John Mabry is sweating a little more today.
DeWitt, Quote No. 3: “Going into the season, I thought our offense was an improvement over the prior year. We thought it would be a real asset but it hadn’t worked out that way.”
Background: This is DeWitt’s 23rd season of owning the Cardinals. As of now, the 2018 Cardinals would rank 20th among the 23 in runs per game, 20th in slugging, 21st in OPS, last in batting average (.245) and last in onbase percentage.
The DeCoder: In case we missed it the first time, let’s get up to date … Bill isn’t happy with the offense. And when Bill isn’t happy with the offense, Mabry can’t be happy.
DeWitt, Quote No. 4: These are actually snippets of two separate quotes, linked together. DeWitt made reference for the need to “get our offense untracked” and said he believes more games could have been won “if our hitting had been as anticipated.”
Background: The Cardinals haven’t stacked enough wins against teams that have losing records. Their 26-21 record vs. losing teams ranks 21st among the 30 teams. Blame the offense; the Cardinals have scored three runs or fewer 22 times vs. losing teams; only Detroit, with 23, has done that more often. And the Cards’ record in the 22 low-output games is 5-17. The Cardinals have been held to two runs or less 15 times by losing teams; that’s the most in the majors. Record: 1-14.
The DeCoder: Bill, please stop picking on Mabry. It’s mean.
DeWitt, Quote No. 5: What’s the BDJ philosophy on going in big at the deadline to trade for a pending free agent? What about those summer rentals?
“Historically, we haven’t done that. Rentals are hard things to do. Every single night, these games are gut-wrenching, whether you win or lose. But to look down the road … I’ve never been a believer that going all in on an individual player for a month or two and giving up a big part of your future makes a lot of sense. You’re just setting yourself up for failure although you never rule out making a move depending on who’s available and the asking price. But this hasn’t been our experience and I don’t think it’s changed.”
The Background: That’s for the folks that want the Cardinals to go all-in on Manny Machado.
The DeCoder: No rentals … at least not the expensive and risky rentals … no Machado … in other words, DeWitt is not insane. He is very sane. So there is nothing to see here. There is no Machado Watch. Take a damn nap, people. Get some sleep.
DeWitt Quote No. 6: “We’re right there in the hunt for a wild card. We’re not leading or anything, but it goes back and forth.”
Background: The Cardinals have only a 5.1% percent chance to win the NL Central according to the Playoff Odds at Fangraphs. Since the start of the 2017 season, the Cardinals have won 13 fewer games than the Cubs, and 11 less than the Brewers. Plus: the Cardinals have a combined record of 24-35 in games against the Cubs and Brewers over the last two seasons.
The DeCoder: DeWitt is watching the same team that you are watching. He knows that Joe Maddon manages the Cubs, and that Craig Counsell manages the Brewers. So why would he lie and pretend that the Cardinals will roar back and win the division? Be real.
DeWitt, Quote No. 7: “Mike (Matheny) has a tough job and he and his staff work very hard to get the best possible results.”
Background: DeWitt knows that Matheny is, shall we say, somewhat unpopular these days. So BDJ is doing what we’d expect: sticking up for his manager, right ?
The DeCoder: Actually BDJ didn’t stick up for Matheny. The chairman said that Matheny and the coaches work hard. That’s always the faintest form of “praise” in sports. Of course these men work hard. That’s an obligation. It isn’t optional. There’s no credit awarded for working hard. But that was it ? Not even something blandly supportive such as, “We really like Mike as our manager and feel he’s doing a good job.” … Nope, DeWItt say anything like that to reaffirm his commitment to Matheny.
DeWitt, Quote No. 8: “I don’t want to get into specifics. I don’t want to predict the future on how our team does or what we might do in terms of players or anyone else.”
Background: DeWitt knows that Matheny’s job security is the subject of increasing curiosity and speculation. So when Hummel broached the topic, DeWitt made sure take a wide turn and safely move around the question.
The DeCoder: Whoa, Bill…I see what you did there. Nice move. I’m starting to think that this could really happen: Matheny getting sacked. Let’s rewind: DeWitt didn’t want to offer predictions on the future … no predictions on what the team may do, with players or “anyone else. ” Hold it right there. Who is “anyone else” and what job does he have? DeWitt already said he believes the Cardinals have the talent to make it to the postseason, and he called them a “playoff-caliber team.” If DeWitt is pleased with the roster construction, he won’t be firing Mozeliak or Girsch. So we know what this means…
Mr. Anyone Else probably needs to win a lot of games, real soon.
The same goes for the Cards’ productivity in scoring runs.
And that applies to Mr. Anyone Else’s dear friend.
He goes by the name of “Mr. Disappointed With Our Offense.”
The DeCoder, logging off … shutting down now for the weekend.
Thanks for reading…