After a third consecutive season of "not really good enough but somewhat close", I expect the front office has a really great shot to completely cover the bingo card for predictably meaningless cliches this winter. John Mozeliak has turned the process of fielding a competitive team into an art form, and with his artistry comes an artistic license when it comes to explaining and not explaining what the team is doing. Much of the work now falls to his understudy, and GM Girsch should be responsible for the brushstrokes now with Mo to help steady his hand. It's like Bob Ross painting happy trees on roster canvases. In the solitude of a Twitter hiatus, I've dreamed a little dream of how those sessions have been going.
Mo: "Congratulations on 88 wins. I feel a celebratory feast is in order. We shall line the concourses of Busch with the bodies of the fallen and carry you to the Cardinals Hall of Fame of our forefathers to dine with the elder DeWitt."
Girsch: "Uh, sure. Let's go with that, John. Not sure how I feel about celebrating missing out on the playoffs though. After that August run, I really thought we had a shot at the wild card."
Mo: "Nonsense. You've done your best and arrived at a completely acceptable outcome. The team and BPV both generated immense streams of revenue the like of which our hallowed walls have never before seen. We shall revel in our sustained glory and all shall join our merriment. Don't try to rain on my unnecessary but grandiose gesture parade here."
Girsch: "I'm not sure the fans have the same take you do. I think many are disappointed, and our spies in the media tell us that there was significant emotional investment made during August."
Mo: "Pish posh. Handling the peons is a triviality. Simply explain how fortunate they are that we've managed to field a somewhat competitive team with the financial constraints of a mid-market team playing in flyover country. Money for payroll doesn't grow on trees, and since we never have to reveal to anyone just how much money we bring in through different revenue streams, they'll buy it just like they do every year."
Girsch: "Perhaps they will, but I should point out that while we did spend quite a lot, much of that was wasted. The peons must be aware of this."
Mo: "No doubt some among them are, but they'll forget. Time heals all wounds except for the Denkinger thing. They've held onto that like BDIII grasping Matheny's neck before we had to pay him to take his chess set and go away. Still, you'll drop subtle hints to our media friends that injuries to a few key players kept us from having a 95-win team. That alone should quell the angry mob."
Girsch: "That's disingenuous at best and intellectually dishonest at the worst. We've gone into the last three seasons with what our in-house geek squad referred to as 88-90 win talent, and we've accepted that our projected ceiling each season wouldn't be enough to secure a playoff berth."
Mo: "The playoffs are overrated. Granted, I do miss the money-filled Cub-shaped pinata that comes with each playoff victory, but I found all the extra time spent mingling with the downtrodden faithful distasteful."
Girsch: "Those were our employees, John."
Mo: "Ah, so they were. I knew the security badges looked familiar. Still, the extended season becomes a nuisance when all I really want to do is swim naked through pools of cash spread throughout my office."
Girsch: "I wish I had knocked first."
Mo: "Relax. Nobody in HR even noticed. Besides, that incident occurred in August, and everyone was on a natural high thanks to Shildt. Your job is to create the same magic next year so that my unclothed romps through my whirlpool of currency go completely unnoticed."
Girsch: "With the roster we've got now and the money we've got committed, I'm not even sure where to begin. Obviously we've got Carlos returning to the rotation along with Wacha and Reyes. I'm not sure I've got any tricks up my sleeve for the offense though. Suggestions?"
Mo: "No. Maybe we should waterboard some underlings and have a brainstorming session."
Girsch: "How about we skip the festivities in favor of just throwing crappy ideas against the wall to see what sticks?"
Mo: "Fine. Just remember that you owe me some waterboarded underlings."
Girsch: "Let's start with Ozuna and how we'll spin that situation. It's not like he had a bad year, but he certainly didn't live up to expectations."
Mo: "We'll blame the shoulder, and we'll say that the medical team cautioned that this could happen, but Marcell is a gamer and chose to valiantly fight through the pain rather than miss an entire 10 days."
Girsch: "So, we blame an injury that wasn't really disclosed, shift responsibility for treatment decisions away from the doctors, and present Ozuna as the next Bo Hart?"
Mo: "Now you've got it. Okay, you try it. Tommy Pham - go!"
Girsch: "We felt Pham needed a change of scenery where he could flourish without looking over his shoulder at competition that he may or may not be able to actually see. We knew Bader was the guy to lock down center and potentially the leadoff hitter of the future as well. It was a win-win for everyone involved, and we started to replenish a minor league system in need of fresh bodies after we played as the St. Memphis Cardinal Birds for much of the season."
Mo: "Minus the not-so-subtle jab at Tommy's vision issues, I like it. It plays well, and the peons love Bader anyway. He's like Bo Hart but with talent, skill, and a future in baseball. A+ for that one. Now try Luke Voit."
Girsch: "Tough one. We felt he had it in him all along, but he needed just the right opportunity, and there was no opportunity here especially after the incident with Grandma Joan beating up Fredbird. The Yankees approached us, and they offered players that both filled separate needs. Chasen Shreve was key in bringing us close enough to the playoffs that we can totally ignore that he missed bats as much as he missed the strikezone completely."
Mo: "You are getting the hang of this, although you may want to be slightly less verbose. When truth is concerned, less is more. Nobody needs to know why we listed Fredbird as day-to-day, and Grandma Joan didn't really do that much damage."
Girsch: "I like this game. Who is next?"
Mo: "As much as I enjoy a rousing game of 'Pin the Details on a Donkey', it's time for my mud bath treatment. Here's your homework, and be mindful that it's due before the end of that end of the world thing."
Girsch: "It's the World Series."
Mo: "Yes, that's the one. Anyway, we need an explanation for why a guy who hit 36 home runs this season is so stubbornly attached to hitting leadoff when that makes it nearly impossible to scrape together a run when we really need it. If he can't score from first on a double, then he needs to make way for a defensive outfielder with elite speed who can. Also, we need to justify having Jose Martinez as an everyday player, because his defensive nearly negates everything he does on offense. Last but not least, figure out a way to leave Brett Cecil stranded in Japan."
Girsch: "Done, done, and done. No comment on Wainwright?"
Mo: "I like his bat, but we've got enough tall outfielders who can't play defense."
Girsch: "He's a starting pitcher, John."
Mo: "That's even worse. I don't remember seeing him."
Girsch: "He's immensely popular with fans, and he does not seem willing to go quietly into retirement."
Mo: "So, you've been following this Wainwright person closely?"
Girsch: "He's been on the team since 2005, John."
Mo: "I believe you, but what has he done for me lately?"
Girsch: "Well, he came up big starting for us in the Dodgers series."
Mo: "What about the rest of the time?"
Girsch: "Well, the other three starts he made in September were passable. One might even refer to him as moderately effective."
Mo: "Fine. We can afford to indulge the peons their nostalgia to a point. Let's do this. Tell him that we want him to come back, but we want him in a slightly reduced role. Talk to him about not retiring but staying in shape. He can do his own extended spring training, but he has to be ready to go with just a couple weeks notice around mid-June when someone breaks."
Girsch: "I like that, but that risks running afoul of some rules, right? We could just sign him to an extension."
Mo: "Maybe, but this would give him time with his family, and I'm hoping that he decides not to come back at all. That would save us a lot of trouble, and if he does come back, it's probably just as a temporary solution. He gets to continue his career, and we get to clear a roster spot all while keeping the peons happy."
Girsch: "We can do that. What about Gyorko's role for next year, Greg Garcia's status as left-handed utility guy, Yairo Munoz, Wisdom, or the backup catcher?"
Mo: "We've got until at least the winter meetings to come up with explanations, and these things tend to work themselves out anyway."