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Will a Devalued Taveras Follow Rasmus’ Path Out of Town?

I don’t think there is any doubt that Oscar Taveras is the St. Louis Cardinals’ most celebrated position prospect since Colby Rasmus.

I have to admit that I am holding a fear that would connect the two outfielders in another way.

I wonder if Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s curious disuse of Taveras could be the prelude of a repeat of one of what I consider to be the most distasteful episodes in recent team history – the devaluation of Rasmus.

In the summer of 2011, then-manager Tony La Russa let his frustrations with the young outfielder become front and center in the public eye. A major irritation seemed to be Rasmus taking hitting instruction from his father rather than his coaches. La Russa touched on the subject here, on July 10 of that year.

The last straw may have been drawn a couple of weeks later. On July 26, La Russa told KSDK’s Frank Cusamano on camera that Rasmus was not listening to Cardinals coaches and his struggles were a direct result. At that juncture, my poll question here was whether readers felt the manager and outfielder could coexist. 58 percent of the voters sensed the damage was irreparable.

Despite the repeated insistence of general manager John Mozeliak over an extended period of time that Rasmus was not on the block, the big trade with Toronto was announced the very next day, on July 27.

As I analyzed the transactions that evening, I was not alone in my concern that the Cardinals did not receive full value for Rasmus and wondered aloud if anything positive came from La Russa’s frustration over his young player becoming a public matter. (I also do not hold Rasmus without responsibility as his performance late in his tenure with the team was erratic.)

We will never know if Mozeliak was just being coy and planned to deal Rasmus all along. If that was the case, we will also never know if the Cardinals could have received even more in return for Rasmus had La Russa remained quiet.

Instead of the prior paragraph’s scenario, what if Mozeliak was telling the truth – that he did not intend to make a deal – until his feet were held to the fire one too many times by La Russa? That is what I feared at the time and still wonder about to this day.

Ultimately, it worked out fine in the short term, as the Cardinals went on to win the 2011 World Championship with the help of pitchers acquired in return for Rasmus. Further, the outfielder has never lived up to his lofty potential during his time with Toronto.

How does this relate to today, you might ask?

Just as I wondered about a potential disconnect between field manager and general manager in 2011, the feelings are back today.

Prior to Taveras’ most recent call up from Triple-A, Mozeliak, the only common thread between 2011 and now, seemed very clear as to his intentions. Just 30 days ago, about a week before he brought the recently-turned 22-year-old back to St. Louis, the GM shared the following with a group of Cardinals bloggers.

“Mozeliak said he told Matheny that if Taveras is with the Cardinals ‘you have to play him’,” reported Mark Tomasik at his blog, RetroSimba.

Unlike Rasmus, we have no idea if Taveras is not open to instruction from his coaches. Taking Matheny’s Tuesday remarks at face value, his staff is apparently not in that line of work.

“We’ve got to do what we can to win today; we’re not here in the development business,” the manager told reporters prior to the contest, one in which Taveras did not start for the sixth time in eight games.

Apparently feeling the daily pressure to win, what Matheny is saying is that he believes his team has a better chance with slumping Allen Craig playing most days over the unproven Taveras. Matt Holliday and Matt Adams are rarely taking days off, closing off another avenue for Taveras to play. Though the Cards had Taveras take a few turns in centerfield, that experiment now seems in mothballs, as well.

Unlike others who are writing in depth about the subject, I am not going to go into detail here why I think Taveras should see more time in the Cardinals lineup. Suffice it to say, I share that opinion. (Update: Rob Rains makes the playing time case eloquently here.) I am not going to go into the tradeoffs in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton or David Price. Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch covered the latter exceptionally well here.

It should not be forgotten that as a teenager in the minors, Taveras had hustle and motivation issues at times. He also was the target of veiled accusations that he did not return from his 2013 ankle injury as aggressively as some thought he should. To the extent one gives credence to these, one might consider that Taveras may have also hurt his own value.

In a way, I am almost glad the situation is unfolding this way, as I believe Taveras will eventually deliver on his promise regardless of his early use by his manager or any other factors. Maybe by underachieving early, Taveras will keep himself in the organization long enough to prove himself.

Bottom line, I can deal with the current situation – unless Mozeliak ends up dealing away Taveras, that is. Then, I would once again wonder how much more the return could have been had his manager’s preference not been so obvious – to us and prospective trade partners alike.

What do you think should happen and will happen over the next week? Sound off below.

Should Taveras be traded this deadline and will he?

  • No, he should not and no, he won’t. (48%, 65 Votes)
  • Yes, he should and yes, he will. (23%, 31 Votes)
  • No, he should not, but yes, he will anyway. (20%, 27 Votes)
  • Yes, he should, but no, he will not. (9%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 135

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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58 Responses to “Will a Devalued Taveras Follow Rasmus’ Path Out of Town?”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Family Rasmus campaigned for Colby to be traded, before he even reached StL. It was good to unload him finally, great to win a World Series as a result. Rasmus has not become a star in Toronto, as yet. Good riddance.
    The 2014 Cards are what DeWitt and Mo were worried about, after Albert left. They brought in Beltran as an expensive free agent, to help smooth over the loss of Pujols. This worked for a couple of years, but Beltran left town.
    About the best hope of reviving the offense over the next few years is Oscar. If Matheny does not like playing Oscar, maybe Mike could do us a favor by resigning.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Nice article.It does appear to be some disconnect between Mo and Matheny concerning Taveras.Is Matheny so insecure in his job that he fears being fired if he fails to make the postseason?The Cards usually don`t act like Steinbrenner.Matheny probably has built up enough goodwill with DeWitt to keep his job if this years team falters.I know its a win now game but you also need to look forward to next week ,next month etc;.
    The quote about not developing players in the big leagues is mind-bloggling.Do they simply get to the majors and stop getting coaching………………no they don`t…………aren`t the players constantly worked with to improve.So the developing players quote is just so much garbage.Matheny`s judgement is questionable on many things especially use of his bench players and pitching decisions.Matheny seems to be the one regressing in his 3rd season.

  3. crdswmn says:

    Matheny wants to play Allen Craig, that much is obvious. The question I have is whether Mo will give in to Matheny’s desire to play Craig, or will he cross the GM/manager barrier and insist that he play Taveras? If he does, what happens to Craig? Bench player? Traded? (his value is low).

    You could play Taveras in CF, but that takes playing time away from Jay/Bourjos. Seeing as how CF is primarily a defensive position, and Mozeliak himself has already stated that Taveras is “average at best” as a defender there (personally I think that is being kind, having seen him play there many times in the minors), that does not seem to be the optimal solution.

    It seems to me that playing Craig against LHP (which he hits better) and subbing him for Holliday on occasion, could give Craig some playing time while keeping Taveras in at RF against RHP.

    Mozeliak is going to have do something about the glut of OFers eventually.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    I see no evidence (only speculation) that Mo is unhappy with Matheny’s use of Taveras. If he was really unhappy, the logical thing would be to send him back down where he would play everyday.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Curious why you think sending Taveras down would be more logical (and beneficial) than for the GM to overrule the manager on the lineup.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        brian, First, your comment still assumes that Mo disagrees with how Taveras is being used – my point was is that we don’t know that. Even taking the statement Mo made prior to calling up Taveras we dont know if Mo changed his mind after seeing Taveras perform.

        But lets assume that Mo does think Tavera should be playing regularly. I’m sure you’ve either been a boss or had a boss or both. You know that once the boss tells the employee how to do the job, the employee is no longer responsible for the outcome, the boss is. Mo may not want to fire Mike for being insubordinate over this issue but he surely doesn’t want to take the responsibility for the team’s performance out of his hands.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Nothing is sure. However, I feel far more comfortable sticking with a several week old factoid over making an assumption that a mind was changed with nothing of substance to back it up.

          On the second point, I acknowledged that it would be very ticklish for Mo to order Matheny to do anything. Even if an employee has been empowered, a direct order from above is generally not necessary if the employee is astute enough to get the boss’ signals and act accordingly.

    • crdswmn says:

      Mozeliak said in an interview with Jim Bowden yesterday about Taveras:

      “In the next week, week and half, if playing time is dwindling, sending him (Taveras) to Memphis is definitely an option”.

      • Brian Walton says:

        That seems to imply that Mo is not going to intervene, even if he might want to. I guess Shane Robinson will get yet another return (batting 5 for his last 25, .200, at Memphis). Feels like they are caught in the same spin cycle over and over.

        • crdswmn says:

          Who knows? A week from now is the trade deadline, maybe he is anticipating that a trade will solve the problem (that could be good or bad, depending on who is traded).

          It seems a no-brainer for Mozeliak to just enforce his will, seeing as how he is the boss and all, but it may not be as easy as it seems, since we don’t know all the particulars about what is going on behind the scenes.

          • Brian Walton says:

            From a working relationship perspective, it could be tricky to enforce his will. Seems to me that either Matheny is not good at reading the signals from his boss or just feels so strongly about his course that he will not alter it.

            The latter would be fine if there was any indication it is working. However, July has been Craig’s worst month in what has been a lost season overall. His July line is .146/.205/.244/.448. One HR and four RBI. Really, really concerning to me.

            P.S. For completeness, Taveras is not killing the ball, either. His July line is .217/.250/.261/.511. No HR, three RBI. 38 PA for Oscar, 44 for Allen.

            • kray66 says:

              I agree that Craig is the most concerning. Any ideas as to what Craig’s issue is? Injury? Trying too hard? Was past success just a fluke?

              • Brian Walton says:

                Thousands wish they knew the answer.

              • crdswmn says:

                I have a very amateurish theory that the front foot (where he had the lisfranc injury) is unstable, and therefore is affecting his ability to drive the ball.

                I only say this because feet and ankle injuries can permanently affect your stability even after they have completely healed. I had this happen to me with an ankle I injured in college falling down some stairs. It has been weak ever since and I was told by an orthopedist that some injuries permanently create instability in ligaments that never goes away.

                • kray66 says:

                  That makes a lot of sense to me. Given the instability, it would be hard to figure out what to do differently – it doesn’t react the same way each time.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Well, with me it was just a matter of having to wear a brace on my ankle when I engaged in any strenuous activity. That helped somewhat. I don’t know whether wearing a brace on the foot is possible, what with having to wear shoes and the bulkiness of it.

                    If his foot is unstable it is not likely to get appreciably better. My injury hasn’t affected me that much, but I am not a professional athlete. With me, the only problems are not being able to wear high heel shoes, and the the occasional stumble when I walk too fast.

            • crdswmn says:

              I think where Matheny is concerned, either of your explanations is plausible. If Matheny is just doing what he wants in spite of Mozeliak’s articulated preferences (as stated to the UCB group), then the working relationship may already be damaged to an extent. Does there come a point where it is so clear that the season could be lost if Matheny continues on his course, that Mozeliak sees no choice but to risk damaging the relationship further? Or does he figure to just do what I was taught in law school to do with an out of control witness–just leave him alone and give him enough rope to hang himself? The risk there is that it is entirely possible that the team could win in spite of Matheny, there are certainly people in some quarters who think that has been the case the last two seasons. If that happened, the outcome could be that Matheny becomes even more intransigent.

              I wouldn’t want to be Mozeliak right now.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          Could be Pham’s turn (finally).

          • Bw52 says:

            Why would you think Pham could do or would do any better than Taveras and Grichuk?Pham isn`t on the 40-man roster and Matheny would rather have Shane Robinson anyway.Pham`s best option is rule V or minor league FA.He`s too far down the pecking order.

            • CariocaCardinal says:


              Why does anyone think any player would or wouldn’t do well – scouting reports and minor league performance. By all accounts anyone who has seen Pham play has never cited a lack of offensive or defensive ability, all that has held him back is a lack of ability to stay healthy. Defensively, all reports I’ve read would rank him as a slightly better CF than either Robinson or Grichuck and definitely better than Taveras. Offensively, only Taveras would rank with Pham aggregating their AA and AAA stats and not even he has ever put together 3 consecutive months where his cumulative OPS was over 1.000.

              Of course the reality is that for the question being asked (who would replace Taveras) only Grichuck and Robinson are the comparisons (though you could logically include Piscotty as well).

              We have so much crap on our 40 man roster Pham could replace several guys and no one would either notice or care. We can also put Wacha or Molina on the 60 day DL anytime we need a spot. The 40 man roster is not an issue.

              • Bw52 says:

                Wishing for Pham is just that wishing.Grichuk,Taveras,Robinson ,Piscotty and Rafael Ortega will see Stlouis before Pham does.That`s my opinion.Pham has too ma ny guys ahead of him and Matheny does`t think far enough out of the box to pull Pham out vof his hat.Ijust think Pham has the numbers game against him.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Your logic is solid and familiar. I made a similar case earlier this season – right before the Cards put Butler back on the 40-man a month after dropping him. The uniqueness with this roster spot is that the Cardinals do not intend to play whoever they call up. It is pretty clear that if they can’t find ABs for Oscar, Mr. X is going to ride the pines.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    So maybe the only thing to do is let Matheny go his way, whatever happens happens, and then sort it all out in the offseason. Some of these OFers are not likely to be with the Cardinals next year. The “who” is up to Mozeliak. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Matheny will play the right guys next year though, unless Mozeliak somehow fixes the roster so that he doesn’t have any choice.

            • Brian Walton says:

              Probably won’t matter much who it is. Unless it is Robinson, he will likely get about five at-bats like Butler did before they try someone else.

              • crdswmn says:

                If we credit the theory that Matheny is overly loyal to “veterans”, Robinson would certainly be the one Matheny would want over Grichuk or Pham.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Pham would be the winner of the “hot hand” theory.

                • CariocaCardinal says:

                  given that in the scenario discussed, Mo is changing outfielders because Matheny wont play Taveras, I’m not sure Mo will be disposed to give Matheny who he wants.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    If Mo is changing outfielders in order to placate Matheny, then yes he would.

                    • CariocaCardinal says:

                      I don’t think he would be doing it to placate Matheny. He would be doing it to make sure Oscar’s development doesn’t stagnate due to not playing.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Yes, he would be doing it for that purpose as well. But the crux of this discussion was the speculation that Mozeliak in fact wants Taveras to play in St. Louis but there is a disconnect between him and Matheny on this because Matheny wants to play Craig instead. So, rather than creating a situation where he has to impose his will on Matheny and cause discord, he takes the path of least resistance and allows Matheny to have his way. So in effect he is placating Matheny while taking care of Taveras.

                    • CariocaCardinal says:

                      Mo is smarter than that. He has to keep the upper hand so he cant totally capitulate to Matheny. My understanding (from listening to and reading various interviews) is that Mo has the view that he cant tell the manager who to play but who the manager has to choose from is up to him. If it is Robinson that comes up it will be because that is who Mo wants not because that is who Matheny wants.

                    • JumboShrimp says:

                      Oscar should not be getting all the starts against RHPs. I have no problem with Matheny dividing RF between Oscar and Allen. Neither man is hitting enough to deserve the majority of starts.

                      I would like to see Bourjos get a few starts against RHPs. He has some energy others cannot bring.

  5. kray66 says:

    There are definitely parallels. I definitely understood TLR’s issues with Rasmus – they were made public and pretty obvious. When the organization realized the situation was beyond repair, they sided with the HOF manager over the prospect that had yet to deliver. I didn’t blame them at the time of the trade and now considering Rasmus still hasn’t lived up to his potential and we won the 2011 WS.

    I don’t see the obvious issues between Matheny and Taveras though. It’s possible Matheny knows how to keep his emotions in check better having spent more time in the clubhouse as a player than TLR, but the outburst about not developing players sure seems odd.

    To recap what could be the issue, here are the various theories (from myself and others):
    1. Pressure to win now. Keeps going with “veterans” so that if the team loses, he can avoid the criticism that he put a rookie in a high pressure spot and should have used someone with experience.
    2. Trying to keep some mystery around Taveras in order to keep his trade value up. Also protecting Taveras from injury.
    3. There’s some personality conflict or issue that none of us know about between Matheny and Taveras that is causing his playing time to get cut.
    4. Or maybe Matheny just has a serious man-crush on Craig. Why else do you keep trotting him out every day?

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Its not easy being Cards manager. Whitey Herzog was a legend. Joe Torre went on to fame with the Yankees. TLR is a super genius. It is not easy for Mike to follow such managerial titans. Beltran helped him succeed the first couple of seasons, this season its harder.

    Last night when we needed baserunners, the ump lost track of the count and did not give Jay an earned walk. Symptomatic of this season during which we are thrashed by other teams on challenges, we missed this obvious ump gaffe and Jay struck out.

  7. Brian Walton says:

    I am referencing CC’s comment at 8:09 PM and moving out of the completed nest:

    “Mo is smarter than that. He has to keep the upper hand so he cant totally capitulate to Matheny. My understanding (from listening to and reading various interviews) is that Mo has the view that he cant tell the manager who to play but who the manager has to choose from is up to him. If it is Robinson that comes up it will be because that is who Mo wants not because that is who Matheny wants.”

    Yes, any final roster decision is Mo’s, but like any good manager of people, he gets input from many. On roster moves, that includes scouts, player development and minor league coaches, and he certainly listens closely to Matheny. It is not nearly as black and white as you paint it.

    • crdswmn says:

      No one knows what really goes on behind the scenes. This whole discussion today was based on speculation anyway. I have spent my entire professional career in the business of taking a little bit of evidence and drawing inferences from it. It just seems to me, based on watching and listening to interviews with Mozeliak, that he is a little frustrated with the playing time issue, not only with Taveras, but with a few others as well (Wong was one, earlier in the season) It may not be that big of a deal, but I get the impression that Mozeliak and Matheny are not seeing eye to eye on a few things. Of course Mozeliak is not going to publicly throw his manager under the bus, and he has to keep team morale and other personnel issues into consideration as well. Not a good idea to allow discord to take root in the middle of a push for the playoffs.

      • Bw52 says:

        Good points Crdswmn.As you ( I think) stated earlier that this situation might not come to a resolution until the offseason for the reasons you state.Meanwhile the Cards flail helplessly trying to be a serious contender instead of turning into a fringe contender.I think Cards smoke and mirrors and baling wire will finally give way and see a slow fade .Just too many negatives to overcome.

  8. crdswmn says:

    Let’s switch gears to trade talk.

    David Price: I don’t think the Rays are going to trade him now and he is too expensive anyway.

    Troy Tulowitski: This one will never die. He’s on the DL (shocker); The owner doesn’t want to trade him; We have a shortstop.

    Kurt Suzuki: Why? Didn’t we just get George Kottaras?

    Jake Peavy: Just say no. He’s terrible. I wouldn’t give up a bucket of baseballs for him. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, worse than Shelby Miller, and the only guy we have in the outfield than can handle him is sitting on the bench.

    Giancarlo Stanton: Yeah, right.

    Am I missing anybody?

    • Bw52 says:

      Ian Kennedy-SD wants a lot for him

      otherwise those are the main names floating around concerning the Cards.IMHO I think no trade will be made.Mo won`t find a deal he likes .Wouldn`t surprise me to see Cards decide to go with what they got and making a couple of changes to the 40-man (dropping position guy or moving someone on DL and adding Cooney or Petrick ).Agree with you on Peavy.unless he comes damn near free and Boston pays most of his salary and Cards don`t give up Rowan Wick.

      • crdswmn says:

        I didn’t include Kennedy because he hasn’t actually been linked to the Cardinals.

        I thought some trade talk might get some discussion going (at least to tell me I’m full of it) but I guess folks have better things to do. Thanks for participating BW.

        • Bw52 says:

          Just got a chance to turn on the Game today………………..what do I see……………..Sweeney hitting a 3-run HR.Kelly gets nailed in the dugout and Craig looks lost hitting.Kelly isn`t missing too many bats while Cards have been playing statues 3 times.

  9. blingboy says:

    I enjoyed following this thread while I was on vacation. One thing I kept expecting to see mentioned was the reason Matheny was hired in the first place. Even though he had no experience he was the organization’s guy, who would toe the line after years of TLR getting what TLR wanted. So what happened? The three year contract? Or, are we barking up the wrong tree? Is MM the org guy toeing the line still? What evidence do we have that he is not?

    The other thing is that Colby, when he was traded, and Oscar right now are not comparable and therefore the return in trade should not be comparable. Rasmus had over 1000 MLB PAs, 50 or so homers and 150 RBIs. We got a back end innings eater and a couple relievers who might be serviceable or might not. So what exactly are people thinking we are going to get for Taveras?

  10. blingboy says:

    Here is what Joe Buck supposedly said on air during yesterday’s Red Sox game.

    “The Clubhouse isn’t happy about being force fed Oscar Taveras in right field . . .”

    “(The Players) aren’t happy about the way he (Taveras) has gone about his business since being in the majors . . .”

    “I (Joe Buck) don’t know if anybody in the clubhouse can speak up about this. Albert Pujols used to be the guy who would do that . . .”

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Oscar drove in the game winning runs versus the Brewers the past two days. Poor timing for Joe Buck to pop off.
      Mo could care less about player whining, clearing RF for Oscar to get more at bats. Go Oscar!!

  11. Bw52 says:

    Intersting comments .Reading Buck`s comments make me think of a spoiled kid not having to work for his place and old established veterans not wanting new blood into their clique.Seems to me both sides need a attitude adjustment.

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