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?
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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