Bernie: Cards' moves make sense if Matheny lets them play

2014-05-31T10:25:00Z 2014-05-31T23:15:05Z Bernie: Cards' moves make sense if Matheny lets them playBernie Miklasz bjmiklasz@post-dispatch.com stltoday.com

Here’s my “Take 5” reaction to the Cardinals’ promotion of outfielders Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk to the big club:

1. It makes sense. The time is right. The Cardinals need a jolt and of energy and power. As for Grichuk, he got the initial callup because he’s superior to Taveras defensively and is more capable of handling center field. Taveras is on the way to fill the roster spot that opened when first baseman Matt Adams (strained calf) was placed on the disabled list. But this is hardly a minor move. If the Cardinals simply wanted to pull up a fill-in to briefly take the roster spot of an injured player, they could have summoned outfielder Shane Robinson back o St. Louis. No, this is a dramatic and seminal moment, with the organization elevating its most celebrated prospect in Taveras. 

2. Accordingly, manager Mike Matheny must commit to playing Taveras and Grichuk or their time will be wasted here. This is especially true of Taveras, who is a potential game-changing talent. And if Taveras sits the Cardinals will be wasting money by starting the arbitration clock and placing him on a faster track to a big salary. Frankly, that would be incredibly stupid.  Disregard the team's Friday-night spin; GM John Mozeliak has always said that he wouldn't promote Taveras to the majors unless and until Oscar was here to stay. And that means playing him. A lot. 

3. Moreover, if Matheny keeps Taveras on the bench he’ll be going against the express wishes of Mozeliak. In case you missed it earlier this week, this is what Mozeliak told me about a potential Taveras call-up:

“If we’re going to bring up somebody like a Taveras, it’s certainly going to be where everybody agrees with the plan. It’s not necessarily something I’m just going to dictate. I obviously want to talk to Mike and his staff and get their thoughts. But you’re not going to start somebody’s clock, and then have them sit. That makes no sense. If you get to the point where you feel he can help you, then you’ve got to be committed to him playing a certain amount of games.”

Message sent.

But will it be received?

Big, big question. 

4. Back to Grichuk: If Matheny gives Grichuk a full opportunity to grab the job in center, the benefits could be numerous. The Cardinals could solve their conundrum in center field, add a power presence to the lineup and deploy an effective righthanded bat against lefthanded pitching. But I find it hard to believe that Matheny would be willing to start two rookies in the outfield over an extensive period. The manager doesn't want to hurt the feelings of veteran players. Sure enough, when you look at Saturday's lineup, Taveras is in right field. And Grichuk _ already! _ is on the bench, with Jon Jay in center field. Jay has played pretty well, so there's nothing outrageous about Matheny's lineup decision.

That said, I'll repeat my theory. And if my theory is wrong I will own up it later. But here's what I believe: the Cardinals won't be able to maximize their young outfield prospects until Mozeliak makes a trade to clear out a veteran or two, which will leave Matheny with little choice but to play the baby birds. 

5. If Taveras is given regular playing time and does enough to keep it — then what? Who sits? Allen Craig’s substantial resurgence over the past month means he’s unlikely to have his role reduced. In the end, and barring a trade, this probably means fewer at-bats for Adams. Adams is hitting an impressive .326, but among Cardinals regulars he has the team’s second-highest strikeout rate (20 percent) and lowest walk rate (2.5 percent) and has homered only three times — or once every 65 at-bats. Adams has driven in only one of 39 runners from second base so far this year. And in his brief MLB career he’s a .188 hitter against lefthanded pitching.

We could see a system similar to last season, when Carlos Beltran manned right field for the Cardinals, with Craig at first base and Adams in a super-sub role. In this obvious scenario, Taveras would take over Beltran’s old spot, with Craig also making some starts in right to give Adams a decent number of starts at first base. This playing-time distribution worked very well for the 2013 Cardinals, and it can work again this summer.

For an offense that’s searching for ways to score more runs, there should be plenty of at-bats to go around. And the players who have have been here since the beginning of the season have no credible reason to complain about the arrival of the rookies and how it impacts the veterans' roles. The purpose of this entire enterprise (other than to make money) is to win. 

More on Taveras:

Get the latest Cards news on the Post-Dispatch baseball app

Podcast: Should Mo influence Matheny's lineup decisions?.

Video: Matheny vows to get Taveras playing time

Moving on...

Sorry, Stan Kroenke.

The reported $2 billion tentative sale price for the NBA Los Angeles Clippers is wonderful news for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell. As I have written multiple times, the NFL’s long-range plan is to put at least one, and perhaps two, expansion teams in Los Angeles. But only if L.A. can develop a legitimate stadium plan, and that’s a major obstacle.

The NFL already has tight control over the LA market and will be even more protective of the territory now. If an NBA team can go for a record $2 billion, we can only imagine what the NFL can command in expansion fees for a franchise in Los Angeles. It will be a crazy number.

The LA market is too lucrative for the NFL to allow any carpetbagging owner to scurry to SoCal and cash in. The NFL wants to exact the highest possible expansion fee, and that goal just became a lot easier with the Clippers’ incredible purchase price.

With expansion as a goal, NFL owners were never going to vote to permit a move to LA and give up their immense individual cuts of the expansion-fee windfall. Moreover, the San Diego Chargers need LA for leverage in their frustrating attempts to get a new stadium in San Diego and could easily line up enough votes to block another team’s move to Los Angeles.

But even if the NFL eventually relents and is willing to consider a transfer, the relocation costs for an existing franchise just skyrocketed. The NFL is in position to demand and receive a gigantic ransom sum before handing over Los Angeles to an existing team owner.

Kroenke will continue to use scare tactics and play the leverage game in St. Louis. But if you cut through the spin and the nonsense, the sale of the Clippers won’t help Kroenke.

That said, St. Louis and Kroenke still have a stadium issue to solve here, and it’s about time to end the posturing and initiate some earnest discussions.

READING TIME, THREE MINUTES

Our belated condolences to the family and friends of Will Gillespie, 28, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident May 23. Gillespie, a volleyball coach at Francis Howell High, was a U. of Memphis basketball supporter. He once said he wanted to be put to rest in his favorite Memphis Tigers hoodie. When informed of this, Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner phoned widow Kelle Gillespie to offer his sympathy. Gillespie, a teacher at Eureka High and a former Marine, served two tours in Afghanistan.

Congratulations to St. Louisan Andrew Bartnett, a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, who earned All-America honors in the pole vault this season. The John Burroughs alum got it done by finishing third in the NCAA Division III championships. Bartnett’s career-high 5.05 meters in the pole vault is the best in Johns Hopkins history and set a Centennial Conference record.

The Blues’ signing of veteran free agent Swede Joakim Lindstrom appears to be a solid, smart move to improve the forward-line depth. But it isn’t a cure for the Blues’ woeful lack of scoring punch in the postseason. … Remember how Blues captain David Backes and wife Kelly led an effort to find homes for the dogs that became strays during the build-up to the Sochi Olympics? Team Backes adopted one of the dogs for the parents of Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Well done.

Noting the Cardinals: Jhonny Peralta entered the weekend having driven in only five of 42 runners from second base. … Jaime Garcia has made an impressive return to the Cardinals’ rotation, and his focus and determination have never been better. … With Carlos Martinez unable to fend off lefthanded hitters, he should be sent to Memphis to refine his changeup, which he’ll need to get better. And it would be smart to train Martinez to start just in case the Cardinals need to make a change in their rotation. … The Cardinals seemingly have a pitcher who can help their bullpen in RH David Aardsma, who has a 1.25 ERA as the Memphis closer. … A key to Craig’s turnaround: The data show he’s cut down on chasing breaking pitches thrown out of the strike zone.

Final word: In an interview with the Buffalo News, here’s what Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders, had to say about the NFL and LA: “When you factor in moving costs and what it will take to construct a stadium,” Long said, “the price of getting Los Angeles would be very difficult. It’s sounding more and more like we’ll have a team in London before we do in LA.” . … Howie could be right. That’s why Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan already has established an advance position in London.

THE NICE SECTION

Ozzie Smith has lined up some great names to participate in his annual PGA REACH Pro-Am event, set for June 29-30 at the Country Club of St. Albans. The golf tournament is Monday, June 30. But the marquee event occurs Sunday night, the 29th, when Ozzie will sit down with the legendary NBA star Julius “Dr. J” Erving for a fireside chat emceed by actor-comedian Joe Piscopo.

The two-day event raises money for the youth program organized by the Gateway REACH Foundation — Recreation, Education, Awareness, Community and Health.

For information and registration visit www.gatewaypga.org/Foundation.

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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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