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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Ex-Cardinal Andy Benes points to team’s problems

A former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher says the Pujols contract situation and lack of vocal leadership has affected the current team’s results.

In a speaking engagement with the Evansville (Ind.) Downtown Quarterback Club on Monday, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes offered his perspective on the 2011 team, currently holding onto slim hopes of reaching the playoffs.

As reported by the Evansville Courier and Press, Benes has an interesting perspective about the current Cardinals and why they have underachieved. He feels the Albert Pujols contract uncertainty is the elephant in the room, or in this case, the ballpark.

“From the beginning of the year you could see that something was missing,” said Benes. “The Pujols deal was hanging over everybody’s heads, which nobody will talk about.”

Benes believes the suspended contract discussions cast a shadow over the ballclub that has not lifted. His assessment is that the 2011 team has been doing just enough to win recent games and remain in the playoff hunt.

Further, Benes perceives the need for a vocal leader on the team, in the mold of retired Jim Edmonds. He believes it is not in the nature of the players who most logically would take that role, specifically mentioning Pujols, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. He also rules out hurlers such as Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright.

“It can’t be a starting pitcher,” Benes said. “It has to be somebody who plays every day.”

Still, when all is said and done, Benes is among those who believe Pujols will remain with St. Louis.

Benes, who won 155 games in his 14-year MLB career, pitched for the Cardinals from 1996-97 and again in 2000-02, all under manager Tony La Russa. The native of Evansville now lives in the St. Louis area.

One of his sons, Drew, was the Cardinals’ 35th-round draft pick in 2010 and is currently in the minor league system as a member of the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits bullpen. His brother Alan, also a former major league hurler, works in Cardinals baseball operations in the professional scouting department.

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27 Responses to “Ex-Cardinal Andy Benes points to team’s problems”

  1. RCWarrior says:

    I believe this to be an excellent representation of what the problems have been in St. Louis for the past 5 years. I’ve repeatedley stated the exact thing Andy stated in his talk at the QB club. You don’t need a lead by example guy, you need a vocal leader who isn’t afraid to speak his mind to the entire team.

    The problem is Albert is such a powerful presence that nobody will ever be that guy now that Albert has become the future HOF player he is. So you have a lack of leadership which causes different groups to develop within the clubhouse with those different groups doing their own thing. You don’t have that one person who brings the entire group together as one unit.

    Unfortunately this will never change, as Albert will never change who he is and he is the leader of the group because he is looked at as the best player in the game. Now Albert will go out of his way to help the Latin guys because he feels obligated to do that and that makes a difference for those players at least. Yadi, and Jay fall under this group so these guys have a person to go to in Albert and thats good.

    But the problem is the entire group relies on different people for their individual leadership needs. When times get tough, which they always do in a long season, you need that go to guy who will bring the team together so they can weather the storms that arise. Unfortunately that guy doesn’t exist.

    Its an interesting team dynamic which I don’t believe can be fixed. You love Albert for his production and his ability but his stature prevents anyone from ever stepping into that leadership role which the cards so desperately need.

    • Bw52 says:

      RCW-One vocal overall team leader would be great.The problem is …………who do people hang around with……………………………………people like themselves.People might mingle quite often but they generally come back to people the are most comfortable with…people like them.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Then there would never be a true team leader since a roster is not homogeneous.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Andy Benes could not countersign his offer before mid-night, so ended up leaving Walt and the Cards and moving to Arizona. He must have gotten confused. Brian would omit that part of the story.

        Did lack of leadership cause Wainwright to have a bum elbow ligament? Or cause Franklin to stink? No.

        Benes has to go home to Evansville and impress the locals. Say something that they will find interesting. Offer the old absence of leadership theory.

  2. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Thanks for putting that forward Brian …………………………..

    The real issues have been written about here for 10 months………..if you’ve paid attention………

    This is the relevant question……………did the timing of the Chris Carpenter extension, which began a month ago, have any bearing on current team politics……….. namely AP/Lozano…….. and was it carried out now to cover………..or even impede the teams recent progress under undermining obvious attitudinal concession by AP via TLR in recent weeks…………… anybody familiar with the dynamic knows Carp would have been happy with that deal before the option deadline………. and he was pitching well enough without it…. the market place had no bearing what so ever……………. The dialog between Mo and Tony appears to have been compromised from above……… and Tony’s role as a moderator in the AP negotiations appears to have been compromised………. the resent talk about reclaiming parole by offing 20 million in pitchers and the way that might be accomplished……in the name of clearing salary flexibly for the “contract” ….appears to have blown up in their faces…………… Tony wants Jackson……….which is complete fantasy anyway………and Mo know the conditions of KL and JW’s no trade status……………. is Tony stupid…..or is he working in a diminished capacity………… both maybe?……… BD is very very good……….. all of these behaviors are completely predictable within the framework of his perception…………. it is war it appears……….and look who gets hurt…….
    its us fan in the end…..because we just want hero’s…………..

    footnote………………… these players aren’t exactly chess prodigies………….. any fool might guess Holiday would love to play ball again without all this BS…… to say he is not getting/giving? any quality swings is a huge understatement…………. conscious???? subconscious???????

  3. CardinalFan4Ever says:

    Sorry for rambling, post very little but enjoy everyones viewpoint on here…

    I have always noticed how Albert always seems to stay close to the Latin players, and this is something I have never really liked from him. It has always seemed that he showed more favortism towards them than any of the other players on the team during his career. I see him and Holliday yack one in awhile (rare), but you never see anyone talking with him during the game very much. How much you think he has talked to Descalso (I am sure Colby didn’t get much attention from him either RC), or Freese. My guess is little or none.

    The question is why isn’t AP taking charge more of the team? He can talk and take charge when the media gets him all riled up, so why not the clubhouse?

    Off topic I wanted to share a story about AP. Every year for the last 3-4 years, I have taken my daughter to his hitting clinic (she is 15 and VERY good at softball) in KC, in January. It is a great event that we never miss. There isn’t too many kids there, so he gets to spend time with each kid there (avg. 5-6 minutes per kid or so) and it is a fantastic event. Anyways, something that I found odd was when we were there this last January, it was close to his birthday, and he had to ask Chris (one of Pujols trainers), how old he was really going to be, he had forgotten. Does that strike anyone as odd that you can’t remember how old you are going to be? I was at the Cardinal game the other night and the waiter taking the drink order stated that everyone there thought that AP was older than he really was, and that was the real reason why the team did not up the ante more with his contract, which made the story I had click with what he was telling me.

    Sorry for the off topic post and rambling..

  4. Brian Walton says:

    Tuesday lineup:
    1. Rafael Furcal (S) SS
    2. Jon Jay (L) CF
    3. Albert Pujols (R) 1B
    4. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    5. Lance Berkman (S) RF
    6. Skip Schumaker (L) 2B
    7. Yadier Molina (R) C
    8. Daniel Descalso (L) 3B
    9. Chris Carpenter (R) P

    • friendmouse says:

      Good enough line-up for me. I guess Tony thinks Freese needs a day off. And I would agree. If memory serves me, TLR stated in the spring that Freese would not be overused, with plenty of days off. Man, we need him back on track. However, tonight we shall win. No, we will MURDER those buccos tonight. Of course, Atlanta will probably win, but maybe the crew will tank. I actually think we’ve got as good a chance to overtake the crew as we do the braves. And that’s my hope.

  5. Nutlaw says:

    Does Berkman not currently take on that vocal leadership role?

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Nutlaw, best not to say something questioning or positive, at this web site. Its for whining.

    • Brian Walton says:

      And your post is what, Jumbo?

      Good question about Berkman, Nutlaw. He has the “veteran-ness” but is also a newcomer on a one-year deal. He seems a pretty easygoing guy. Had to be used to winning before the other two Killer B’s got old, then it must have been tough in Houston as the losing increased.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Albert seems really distracted………………I wonder if Holiday and Berkman could be distracted by the same thing………………………???? Theres magic in the air ……….. could AP be trying to get this over with………….. so that he might just …………play fun ball for a few weeks and pump those numbers………………… ?????

        • friendmouse says:

          If he’s distracted, it doesn’t seem to be affecting his numbers on offense. I wish Lance and Matt were similarly distracted, as their numbers have been not so characteristic of their career numbers the past month…and Albert’s HAVE!

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Last night the Cards lost to Hanranhan. Tonight, we got him back, despite our horrible leadership gap, identified so helpfully by greedy former free agent Andy Benes.

    • Bw52 says:

      Was Benes in the clubhouse a lot? To make his comments it would seem he would have to have been hanging with the team quite a bit.Or is he just making a observation from a distance?Just wondering.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Back when he was a player, Andy used to love getting his backslide slapped with a wet towel snapped by Ron Gant. That’s the kind of leadership from a team-mate that Andy thinks was needed in 2011.
        That’s been whats missing. A great practical joker. Some joker to give their team-mates hot foots. This is leadership.

        • friendmouse says:

          Yeah, well, I for one believe that it’s important to have some “levity” in the clubhouse. Some, in my opinion, go overboard (eg. the brew crew) and there definitely needs to be a balance, But I believe that too much “focus” can strain your eyes, and stress you out. I hearken back to the beginning of the season, when Berkman “led” everyone into sporting (cripes! I can’t remember…was it turtlenecks or something?) on a roadtrip. And, of course, the Lohse/TLR impersonation. Who knows (some do, huh RC?)…maybe TLR doesn’t like any horseplay and that “message” got communicated to Lance & Lohse, and we’ve played fairly stiff ever since. Maybe.

  7. easy says:

    I think that Tony has a very different concept of “leadership” than Andy Benes. Tony has emphasized that he will continue to manage the Cardinals as long as his “message” is getting through to the key players. He then expects that the key players will deliver the message to the others.
    I think his concept of leadership a pretty authoritarian one where he expects each player to play his role in the hierarchy and that’s why he has difficulty with certain types of players. Rolen, Ryan, Rasmus, Reyes (holy crap maybe it’s guys whose names start with R) were players who impressed me as non authoritarian types. Not that they weren’t good teammates and team players but that they didn’t fit into a hierarchical system. I think this is also why TLR loves some players who aren’t all that good on the field. They accept and play their roles in his system.
    Moreover it has appeared to me that the “message” or what passes for leadership on the team is more often communicated negatively than positively to the other players. The coldness of TLR and apparently Albert towards some players, the glares and tongue lashings that Carp has delivered to his fielders, statements to the press etc. are negative ways of communicating “the message”. If what Benes is saying is that there is an absence of positive leadership in the club house and on the field then he may have a point.

    • crdswmn says:

      Very insightful post and right on, imo. Constant negativity wears on most people emotionally and can affect performance. The late season slides could very well be the result of mental fatigue.

      • Bw52 says:

        Okay then what`s the possible reason for the better play this August and September?

        • crdswmn says:

          They went only 15-13 in August which included going 10-9 against sub .500 teams. They were swept in four straight games by the Dodgers. If that is your definition of “better play”, I question your standards. As for September, it is too soon to make a judgment.

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