"Neither a seller or a buyer be." - Polonius (Hamlet - paraphrased beyond recognition but approved by Shakespeare during his most recent podcast)
At the beginning of June, the idea of the Cardinals becoming active buyers before the trade deadline seemed reasonably plausible. Just 17 wins and 24 losses later a team with more holes than a Kardashian family reunion has no reason to buy.
The Cardinals have no reason to sell either. Guys like Bader, Edman, O'Neill, and Sosa could be moved to help restock the relatively bare minor league cupboard. Those same guys are in their mid-20's and are likely part of the team's future to varying degrees. Homegrown talent is typically cheap, and that makes them even more valuable on a team with a really, really old core. Besides, trading away guys near or during their primes is a great way to end up like the Pirates.
Standing pat may not sit well with the Best and Most Obnoxiously Spoiled Fans in Baseball, but it's not a terrible strategy under the circumstances. Playing out the schedule may require a particularly unsavory combination of journeymen pitchers and DFA fodder. The baseball may be hard to watch, but there is an upside.
At least there is probably an upside.
I just don't know what it is.
Actually, there probably isn't much upside at all.
Like zero. None. Zilch. Zippo. There's the Johan Oviedo win watch and not much else. Not even the Prince Sex that was Promised can save 2021.
Inaction may be the best move. With CBA uncertainty looming and a very real possibility of payroll reduction on the horizon, chapter 6 of The Cardinal Way tells us that the DeWitt sportsball corporation will pocket what they can and stick with the "goal is to reach the playoffs" mantra.
Declining options on Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez moves the needle from $35.5M in salaries to $2.5M for the buyouts. Depending on what Molina and Wainwright do, the Opening Day payroll could be around $132M give or take. That may or may not leave a lot of room for a free agent signing of significance. Maybe they go all-in on Scherzer as a free agent. Maybe they launch themselves into space. The odds are probably about the same, and I lean in favor of a spaceflight.
Help isn't going to arrive this year unless Mikolas and/or Flaherty return to save the season and fulfill the "like trading for an All-Star" prophecy. Shildt has to know that they are playing out the string. He probably doesn't like the hand he's been dealt, but he's stuck with it. It's a Shildt show in St. Louis, and he's not the only one to blame.
In this case, mediocrity is the confluence of Mozeliak, questionable decision making, Mozeliak's ugliest socks, the pressure to win, Girsch as Mozeliak's puppet, and awful Provel cheese (I actually made this up because Provel is the abused futon of cheeses). The Cardinals simply can't give up on a season and actually say that they are giving up. The Ballpark Village People would crucify Mo for such an admission especially after a lengthy playoff drought of almost a year. The team is expected to reach the postseason every single year and twice each Leap Year. They can't rebuild or reload. What they can do is leave everyone out to dry and allow fans to parcel out blame whenever and wherever. They can point fingers at a scapegoat or just let fans do the pointing.
Fire Shildt. Fire Jeff Albert. Fire Fredbird. Fire Mozeliak. Fire away.
Fire everyone. Doing so may make the armchair managers feel better about the direction the team is headed. That just means having the aisle seat on a Southwest Airlines flight to the underworld. It's like winning the battle royale for the really good deck chair on the Lusitania as it starts taking on water. In this case it's the SS Entitled Fans ship that is sinking.
It's a Shildt situation, and he's either internalized a ton of frustration or been committing violent acts involving stuffed animals and chainsaws during his downtime to cope. I'm in favor of the chainsaw thing. I'm also in favor of keeping Shildt because I find his stoicism and dry humor endearing.
That's actually a lie. In a year of sub-.500 ball and with no heir apparent to Morganna the Kissing Bandit for a diversion, Shildt is a breath of recycled air. Realistically, Shildt throwing a temper tantrum is probably the most fire you'll see this year.
The hissy fit captured by the Bally Sports camcorders last night was incredibly unprofessional yet profoundly entertaining. At the very least it temporarily moved the spotlight away from the team's deficiencies and lack of quality baseball at the end of the game. While there was no malice aforethought there, the unintended consequence of refocused attention wasn't undesirable.
If Shildt is responsible for the way the game played out (and he is), then he's also at least partly responsible for the team's .544 W-L% during his tenure. Incidentally, that's the exact same winning percentage as Tony La Russa had during his time in St. Louis. Mike Shildt may not be being playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, but he's no worse at checkers than Mike Matheny who somehow received a 7-year long leash.
Barring an unlikely and sudden separation that results in the Cardinals firing Shildt and hiring yet another baseball guy who has never managed at the big league level, it's Shildt's show for a while. He just needs the Cardinals to hire performers who are more Wainwright than Webb because there isn't a manager out there capable of carrying the existing team to the playoffs.