The Cardinals picked the perfect year to hire Mike Matheny. After the WS victory in 2006, Tony LaRussa led the 2007 Cards to a 78-84 record. It’s common for teams to have a WS hangover for a number of reasons. There’s a reason no NL team has repeated as WS winners since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds. In no way could John Mozeliak imagine the bullpen would be as bad as it has been. I wished the Cards would have re-signed Octavio Dotel, but there didn’t seem to be room, and I understood the reasons at the time. Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas were up and coming along with Lance Lynn. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte were more than solid, and there was no need to sign an experienced closer. Scrabble was going to hold lefties in check. Even with the struggles of Salas and Sanchez, the bullpen would have been good enough if Chris Carpenter’s injury didn’t start a ripple effect that moved Lynn to the rotation.
Many are saying Dusty Baker outmanaged Matheny this weekend as the Reds swept the Cards. The problem with that statement is that Baker is not limited with a bad BP like Matheny has been. Matheny made some interesting moves, or lack of moves with the bullpen, and also fell into the trap of sitting back and waiting on the three run HR. Matheny is going to make some rookie mistakes, and we are going to have to live his growing pains as I expect he’ll be here quite a while. The Cards are still only 4.5 games out of the NL Central lead, and they have 73 games left in the season. It’s going to take some inspired baseball to come back and catch the Reds and Pirates, but it’s not out of the question. The bullpen has limited Matheny’s options in close games, but I think a little help may have just arrived.
In my last few entries I had mentioned Trevor Rosenthal possibly being called up. The Cardinals were apparently more impressed with him in ST than just about anyone, even though he had never pitched above A ball. Rosenthal moved to AA to start the year, and his numbers there have been great. In 17 GS, he’s 8-6 with a 2.78 ERA, has a 1.11 WHIP and 83 K’s in 94 IP. Maikel Cleto (who had no business being in MLB at this point) has been optioned to make room for Rosenthal.
Whether this move works out or not, I like it. I would prefer the Cardinals go this route rather than trading away a surplus of young stars for a rental, especially in a seller’s market. Rosenthal has 3 above average pitches, a fastball, a slider, and a curveball. He was a 21st round selection in the 2009 draft out of Lee’s Summit, MO. If 2012 is going to be a year in which the Cards don’t make the playoffs, I would rather see some of the young stars from the Cards farm system that have a bright future take their lumps now and be better for it in the years ahead. Rosenthal for Cleto is a start in the right direction. When Victor Marte is replaced, real progress will begin. Who knows, Rosenthal being called up might just be the answer to the middle innings and the start of the something special.