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Tipsheet: Indians show how Cardinals how to add offensive depth

Tipsheet: Indians show how Cardinals how to add offensive depth

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Ramírez homers, Indians beat Chisox to split 2nd DH in row

Cleveland Indians' Harold Ramirez fields a ball hit by Chicago White Sox's Nick Madrigal in the third inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Cleveland. Madrigal was safe at first base for a single. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

It is not impossible to add offensive depth to a 40-man roster.

Cardinals fans are wondering about this given the woeful production their team has received from bench players and fill-ins.

This crisis has extended well into its third month unabated.

Tipsheet has noted Patrick Wisdom’s power surge for Chicago Cubs. Imagine if the Cardinals still had his bat in place of, say, John Nogowski.

Tipsheet has noted Adolis Garcia’s power surge in Texas. Imagine if the Cardinals still had his bat in place of, say, Lane Thomas.

Outfielder Harold Ramirez, in town for the next two days with the Cleveland Indians, is another case. The Colombia native hit .303 in 610 minor league games, so his track record was firmly established.

He was productive in his rookie big-league season, hitting .276 with 20 doubles, 11 homers and 50 RBIs for the Miami Marlins in 2019. Since Ramirez can play all three outfield spots, those numbers play.

But Ramirez fell out of the playing rotation for the Marlins, getting just 20 at bats last season before hitting the waiver wire in February. The Indians claimed him to provide depth, then promoted him in May when other outfielders – including former Cardinals prospect Oscar Mercado – failed to produce.

“It’s a new energy,” Indians pitcher Aaron Civale said of Ramirez. “It’s just a guy you know he’s gonna go up there and put a good swing on the ball every time. He’s never gonna complain. He’s always gonna go out there and give it his all, and that’s refreshing. We have a lot of those guys, but to have someone come up and do that right away, it’s awesome. It’s fun to play with him and he’s a guy you want to root for.”

Ramirez is hitting .278 with seven doubles, a triple, three homers and 13 RBIs in 97 at bats. Imagine if the Cardinals had found that sort of production when injuries shelved Tyler O’Neill, then Harrison Bader.

“I’ll tell you what, he’s been really big for us,” Indians manager Terry Francona noted.

Ramirez has hit in the critical cleanup spot the past few weeks, producing an .882 OPS in that role.

“I don’t think I have to change my approach when I come to the plate, because regardless of the order at-bat, I think I’ll have to do the same approach to get the results I get,” he said via an interpreter. “So, I don’t think it has anything to do with my approach.”

MLB.com noted that Ramirez has produced an elite rate of hard-hit balls since getting his second chance to play regularly in the big leagues.

“He stays flat through the zone so well,” Francona said. “It seems like he’s barreling up a lot of balls. He stays through the middle of the field so well and he gets the barrel to it. He gives himself a chance.”

Had the Cardinals plugged a bat like that into their mix when the injuries hit, imagine how many more games they would have won.

Instead, the same players have failed over and over and over and over while Cardinals management refused to make changes with the feckless supporting cast.

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:

Bob Nightengale, USA Today:  “If Kris Bryant played like this a year ago, he wouldn’t be in Chicago today. If Bryant wasn’t playing like an MVP candidate right now, he and several of his talented friends would be on the trade block and dumped off to the highest bidder by the trade deadline. Well, Bryant has messed up all of the Chicago Cubs’ plans of rebuilding, reloading, reconstructing, refurbishing, or whatever teams call it these days to appease their fan bases. Bryant, almost singlehandedly, has extinguished the Cubs’ plans for a fire sale, with shortstop Javy Baez, closer Craig Kimbrel, catcher Willson Contreras and first baseman Anthony Rizzo all now looking likely to stay in Chicago the rest of the summer. It’s a 180-degree change of plans from the winter. The Cubs, who dumped ace Yu Darvish in December in a seven-player trade with the San Diego Padres to cut payroll, let teams know during the winter that virtually every high-priced player was available. If they didn’t want them during the winter, or spring training, they’d be available in the summer. These days, the Cubs are living out the movie, ‘Major League.’ They’re simply playing too well to be torn down.”

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN.com: “As teams reach the one-third mark of the 2021 season, the Rays are at it again. They own one of baseball's best records and lead economic behemoths Boston and New York in the American League East. Once again, despite entering the season as the reigning AL champions, the Rays opened the campaign with a bottom-five payroll. However you define the Rays Way, the chief trait is that it keeps working. Teams must have realized that they can learn valuable lessons from the Rays' success, because they keep hiring Rays executives. The list of former Tampa Bay execs heading up baseball operations departments across baseball now includes James Click in Houston, Chaim Bloom in Boston and the progenitor of this era of Rays baseball, Dodgers VP Andrew Friedman. Still, perhaps Tampa Bay's biggest contribution to contemporary baseball is that it kneecaps any possible excuse that underachieving or underspending organizations might serve up to their fan bases. The lost art of crying poor has been rendered absurd. If the Rays can do it consistently, then anyone can do it. Right?”

Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com: “Throwing out 2020 due to being 60 games and having an expanded playoff field, we've seen the same division produce three playoff teams four times (2013 NL Central, 2015 NL Central, 2016 AL East and 2017 NL West).  As things currently stand, the Giants lead the NL West while the Padres and Dodgers would be the two wild cards. Not only that, but those three teams have the three best records in the entire National League. The last time one division had the three best records in the league was 2015, when, astoundingly, the Cardinals (100-62), Pirates (98-64) and Cubs (97-65) actually ended up with the three best records in all of baseball. Could the NL West this season pull off a similar feat? The Giants have been pretty consistent all season. Since May 5, they've gone 19-9 and that included a forgettable weekend at home where the Dodgers swept them. They've been ridiculously hard to beat, otherwise . . . The Padres just suffered through one of their worst weeks of the season, record-wise, but they were facing two first-place teams. We've seen what kind of talent they have throughout the season. They are pitching as well as anyone. The offense needs to be more consistent, but the personnel is there. They are on pace for 96 wins and that seems about right. Also, we know general manager A.J. Preller will be aggressive in July regarding the trade market.  The Dodgers are on pace for 93 wins and that's after losing 15 of 20 at one point. The schedule is pretty soft here for the next few weeks, so they'll likely get hot. We know all about the talent this team has and we've seen what it can do when things are going right.” 

Alyson Footer, MLB.com: “The Giants continue to roll, having won nine of their past 12, dating back to the start of play on May 25. They enjoyed an especially fruitful weekend, beating the Cubs three out of four on their home turf. Still, the Giants will have to navigate through their most challenging injury loss of the season, after learning Evan Longoria will be out four to six weeks with a shoulder sprain. The veteran third baseman had nine homers and an .892 OPS at the time of the injury.”

MEGAPHONE

“It's tough being on the bench. There's only so much you can do and you want to be out there. But I'm in there for the meetings, talking about pitchers. I like being engaged in the meetings and telling guys what I saw the last time I faced them. It's a grind sometimes because every day you see the guys go out there, you want to be out there. It's frustrating not being out there, but just trying to do the most I can to help the team win from the bench."

Angels outfielder Mike Trout, on trying to help out while nursing his calf muscle injury.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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