The Cubs are in town for the weekend, facing the Cardinals in a three-game series that should have heightened importance for a gasping home team that’s malfunctioned through the month of May.
And it amuses me, how 98 percent of the advance media coverage has been focused on Cardinals fans booing the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, a vanilla-wafer personality guy, bland as skim milk, just because he tried to be a funny man in a stupid comedy skit with wannabe TV star Ryan Dempster last winter.
Oh, the horror…
There was a lot of tough talk from the St. Louis side, with Yadier Molina throwing around words like “losers” and “stupid” in response to Bryant’s forced and awkward attempt at humor, Reliever John Brebbia suggested that Bryant should “cry me a river,” whatever the hell that means. Because I think that, no matter what you think of Bryant, he’s having an excellent career, and will make a fortune during his playing days. I don’t think Bryant has much of anything to cry about. He just needs to stay in his lane and hit line drives … otherwise, Kris, give that brain a rest on non-baseball stuff.
Brebbia also referred to Bryant as a loser …
And you see, this is where I’m confused.
Bryant was promoted to the Cubs early on in 2015.
Since the start of the 2015 season, the Cubs have won more regular-season games (418) than any team in the majors. It isn’t by much; the Dodgers have 417 victories. The Cubs have been in the playoffs every year — 2015, ’16, ’17, and ’18. They won the World Series in 2016, breaking a championship famine that had gone on since the end of the 1908 campaign.
Bryant, age 27, is in his fifth MLB season. He’s already won two substantial awards, NL Rookie of the Year (2015) and league MVP (2016.) That and two selections to the All-Star team.
I don’t see much losing there. When Bryant starts a game for the Cubs they’ve won 107 more games than they’ve lost.
Speaking of losing …
The Cardinals haven’t made the postseason since 2015. And when they won the division that year, they took on the young Cubs in the 2015 NL Division Series … and got blasted into the offseason, losing three in a row after taking Game 1.
The Cardinals have been looking up at the Cubs ever since.
Looking up and wondering what the hell happened to a baseball operation that used to be smarter than anyone.
Looking up at the Cubs from second place in the NL Central in 2016 …. no postseason.
Looking up at the Cubs from third place in the division — after being shoved aside by Milwaukee — in 2017 and 2018 … and no postseason in either year.
And right now, on the final day of May 2019, the Cardinals have a losing record (27-28) and are looking up at the Cubs and Brewers. The Cardinals are tied for fourth place in the NL Central with a Pittsburgh team that has one of the smallest payrolls in MLB ($74.8 million.) It is a Pirates team that already has put 12 athletes on the injured list a combined 22 times this season. Players that have missed a combined 434 days according to Spotrac. Players that can’t play while being paid a combined $5.526 million during their IL time, according to Spotrac.
To this point the Cardinals can’t even separate themselves from the Pirates despite their payroll advantage ($162.6 million) and low number of injuries (three players have been on the IL for a total of 175 days so far. (That info from Spotrac.)
So maybe Cardinals players should be careful about slapping other players and teams with the “loser” insults. Just a thought.
After all, the Cubs have been slapping the Cardinals around since the second half of the 2015 season. Including the ’15 NLDS, the Cardinals are 27-43 against the Cubs. And since the start of the 2016 season, the Cubs are 26-15 vs. St. Louis. I don’t see much losing for the Cubs there.
Early this year, before the season, Molina vowed that the bad feelings over Bryant’s words of disrespect would “carry over” into the competition between the teams. Before the Cardinals played the Cubs for the first time this season, on the first weekend of May, pitcher Miles Mikolas vowed that his team would go into Wrigley Field and “make some noise.”
Well, I suppose the Cardinals DID make some noise by allowing the Cubs to bomb them for five homers, six doubles, a triple, and a .522 slugging percentage during a three-game sweep in which Chicago outscored the hapless visitors 23-10.
But far be it for me to use facts here.
The Cardinals have been routinely embarrassed by the Cubs … but of course, the Cubs are the losers … and not the rival that keeps losing and losing and losing to the Cubs.
Look, I don’t care if anyone boos Kris Bryant at Busch Stadium this weekend. Have fun.
Maybe it helps STL fans to ignore their team’s gruesome May (8-17 in the last 25 games) and pretend that Kris Bryant is the bogeyman.
I don’t care what the Cardinals say or do about Bryant.
Well, actually I care about what the Cardinals do … but it has nothing to do with Bryant except for their pitchers’ ability to get him out. Bryant did his part to turn the Cardinals into a smoldering heap of wreckage during the sweep at Wrigley this month — going 4 for 9 with a homer, double, four walks and five runs batted in.
Yeah, the Cardinals really showed Bryant, didn’t they?
They really made him pay for his dig at St. Louis.
That’s why this entire Bryant-Cardinals thing rates among the most idiotic, forced sideshows I’ve ever seen.
Here’s a suggestion: Win some damn baseball games. Win back some self respect instead of letting the Cubs bop you, smack you, all over the place.
Kris Bryant’s awful Chuckle Hut routine with Dempster?
That’s the burning issue?
I’m thinking that it’s more important to, well, you know … win a series?
Or maybe sweep the Cubs?
Perhaps bring back that thing called “home field advantage” to Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals are 0-7-1 in their last eight series overall … and that includes an 0-3-1 accounting in their last four series at Busch. The Cardinals are a mediocre 16-12 at home this season. They’ve lost eight of their last 11 at home. They haven’t won a home series since taking two of three from the Reds in the final days of April.
St. Louis is far from being a boring city but the baseball team is pretty boring these days.
Yo, Cardinals: win some damn games.
Then maybe you talk a little about winners and losers.
Action, not words.
And now …
THE DAILY REDBIRD REVIEW…
FIRST PITCH: After two gloomy, messy losses at Philadelphia the Cardinals left town with a little sunshine by staving off a late rally for a 5-3 win over the Phillies. The victory gave the Cardinals an 8-18 mark in May. The Cardinals trail the first place Cubs by 4 and ½ games.
After winning in Washington on May 1, the Cardinals led the Cubs by three games. There’s been a 7 and 1/2 -game turnaround in the standings since the Cardinals reached their peak with a 20-10 record.
CARDS KILLER: Bryce Harper pretty much had his way with the Cardinals, going 8 for 12 with five doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. Before the Cardinals came to town, Harper batted .179 with three RBIs in his previous seven games. It was nice of the Cardinals to get Harper going.
BASEBALL HERO: Respect to rookie starting pitcher Dakota Hudson, who kept the Phillies down over six innings of four-hit, one-run baseball. Hudson is trending well. Hudson had a 2.80 ERA in in six May starts and gave up only one home run run in 150 batters faced. This month Hudson allowed a .252 average, .327 OBP and .326 SLG.
TURNING POINT: After the negativity of the previous two games including the team’s lack of effort in Wednesday’s 11-4 loss, it was important for the Cardinals to quickly move onto a positive track and Marcell Ozuna and Matt Wieters got it done in the second inning with solo homers that gave Hudson a 2-0 lead to work with.
HEY, YOU DID GOOD: The Cardinals hit four homers. Solo shots by Ozuna, Wieters and Carpenter and a two-run cannonball by Jedd Gyorko. That was their offense. Muscle ball. Just a reminder that home runs are a good thing. Perhaps if the Cardinals bunted less, slapped fewer ground balls and got the ball airborne they’d score more runs. Actually, forget the “perhaps.” They would definitely score more runs.
Dexter Fowler’s catch at the wall in foul ground in right was sensational. That still doesn’t excuse his lack of hustle and focus in Wednesday’s debacle. Effort ain’t optional. It’s mandatory.
I’m going to repeat something I’ve said in recent days: Wieters needs to play more. There is absolutely no sensible reason to have a soon-to-be 37-year old Yadier Molina get all beat up and play hurt when a quality backup like Wieters is available.
In two starts in Philadelphia, Wieters went 4 for 7 with a double, two homers and three RBIs. In six starts this season, Wieters is 10 for 21 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Gyorko has done a good job in recent days, going 3 for 8 with two homers and five RBIs since May 25.
The Cardinals have quality depth.
The problem: they don’t tap into it as much as they should.
At some point the objective has to be about winning instead of worrying about hurting players’ feelings.
LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: The Cardinals’ leadoff spot has turned into an enormous liability. Kolten Wong went 0 for 4 with a strikeout as the No. 1 hitter Thursday. Since moving Matt Carpenter to a lower spot in the order last Friday, Fowler and Wong have combined to go 0 for 23 with 10 strikeouts and no walks … and including Carpenter the leadoff men have gone 0 for their last 26. Sad.
Pauly DeJong is having a tough May. On the plus side, his healthy walk rate has produced a .364 onbase percentage for the month. But otherwise DeJong is batting .207 with a .345 slugging percentage in May.
The Cardinals’ bullpen has a 5.08 ERA in May.
Wong had a great start to the season, with three homers and a lot of bang in his first five games. But after the first five games on the schedule Wong has batted .184 with a .296 OBP and .285 SLG in 186 plate appearances.
SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: Not much. In Thursday’s game he took a big gamble, twice, and got away with it. Shildt ordered Hudson to intentionally walk the RH-hitting Rhys Hopkins in the fourth and also the sixth inning to load the bases and face the LH-batting Cesar Hernandez. Risky, considering that LH batters are hitting .350 with a .617 slugging percentage versus Hudson this season. But the harm was minimal this time, with Hernandez grounding into a fielder’s choice grounder that got a run home in the fourth. In the sixth Hernandez rocketed a line drive to shrostop DeJong, who tagged out Harper for a big double play.
GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: I like Shildt’s decision to move Paul Goldschmidt to the No. 3 lineup spot, with DeJong going to the No. 2 slot after hitting third all season. Goldy is warming, going 5 for 10 with a homer in the series at Philadelphia. And Shildty’s lineup tweak should pay off once DeJong emerges from his slump. Goldschmidt had more than 3,200 plate appearances as Arizona’s No. 3 hitter and produced a .408 onbase percentage and .530 slugging percentage.
WHAT KRIS BRYANT SAYS: “I hope they boo all of us,” Bryant told Cubs media on Wednesday night. “We want the games to be a nice rivalry, intense, and it’s always nice to play there because there’s a ton of people. And a lot of our fans show up, so it makes it fun. There are no hard feelings. I’m not going to tell any fan how to react to certain situations. But granted, I was generally joking and having a good time with it, so maybe they’ll treat it the same way.”
ON DECK: Pitching matchups: Friday night, Mikolas vs. Yu Darvish.
Saturday night, Jack Flaherty vs. LH Jose Quintana.
Sunday afternoon: Adam Wainwright vs. lefty Cole Hamels.
THE VIEW FROM CHICAGO:
Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune got it right:
“What’s worse, having your city jokingly referred to as being boring?
Or having a retooled team with realistic playoff ambitions test your patience during an 8-18 May?
That’s the dilemma facing Cardinals fans certain to be invigorated this weekend by the presence of the Cubs and slugger Kris Bryant, who jokingly referred to St. Louis as “boring” during a lighthearted fireside chat with Ryan Dempster at the Cubs Convention in January.
It’s understandable for Cardinals fans to remain upset with Bryant. They take great pride in their support of a storied franchise that has 11 World Series championships and 17 Hall of Famers.
But the Cardinals have far more urgent matters. Their fall from first place in the National League Central — they opened the month with a three-game lead and now are 4½ games out — began with the Cubs’ three-game sweep May 3-5 at Wrigley Field.”
Gonzales made another key point: the Cubs have other issues to deal with.
“The Cubs barely avoided a sweep against the Astros, winning the series finale 2-1 Wednesday. Bryant, who missed the first two games after colliding with Jason Heyward in the outfield Sunday, hit the deciding home run. The day off Thursday allowed the Cubs to reset after losing five of seven to cap a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.”
Thanks for reading …