Friday, July 11, 2008

Cardinals Taking On Water, Limp Towards Pittsburgh

(Heh heh heh - a nautical reference in the title. Go Navy).

To go into Whatever-the-Vet-is-Called-Now Park (with apologies to Bill Simmons) and limit the Phillies to 8 runs is a feat worth celebrating. But only if you score more than 8. Five? Not going to get the job done. Like the Cubs series last weekend, the club is lucky to escape with a win and not get swept.

And it's not like the Phillies sent Curt Schilling, Steve Carlton, and Robin Roberts (in their primes, of course) to the mound in this series. Cole Hamels? He's legit. But to get shut out for 6 innings by a rookie (who was sent down after the game, to add insult to injury) and score one run off a guy who pitched when Moses managed the Israelites? Wow.

Thanks to Cincinnati clubbing the Cubs yesterday (7 HR in the game, guess the wind was blowing out at Wrigley) the Cardinals remain 4.5 games off the pace. They have been no further from first than that all season. As PNC Park is usually a tonic for all that ails Albert Pujols (his numbers at that park are ridiculous, according to reports; anyone know of a website where they show statistics by ballpark?), hopefully they can win the series going into the break. Chicago enterains the Giants - Matt Cain draws our ol' buddy Marquis tonight, then Correia gets Rich Harden's Cubs debut, and Lincecum hooks up with Dempster on Sunday - so there is a chance the Giants could get 2 of those games. I'd really like to be 3.5 or less games out going into the break, even if we still have to leap over Milwaukee in the standings.


I keep turning over Mark Mulder's last 2 years in my mind. Bryan Burwell wrote an excellent column on Mark that appears in today's Post-Dispatch, and for once, I agree with everything he said. If there are folks out there who feel that Mark somehow didn't try hard enough, or stole money from the Cardinal organization during this entire ordeal, well, please don't reproduce and pass your ignorance on to another generation.

But that's not what troubles me. Ever seen The Pentagon Wars? Highly entertaining movie about the M1A1 Bradley development contract. I won't turn this into a review of the movie, but suffice it to say the Bradley continues to receive government funding for development in spite of repeated, and obvious, flaws in the design; the Army's top acquisition folks continue to push forward the project regardless of what the warning signs tell them. This approach nicely approximates how the Cardinals handled Mark Mulder (for more thoughts in this vein, see the first couple of paragraphs of this piece). Mark continued to get promoted up the ladder during his rehab, even though all the evidence said he can't get hitters out anymore. There was no reason to subject him to the beating he took at AAA and the Major League level if he couldn't do it.

One of my favorite bosses was fond of saying, "My success is a direct reflection of the great work everyone here does. I'm not this good; I'm riding on the coattails of your hard work, and I thank you." This is true for any organization. Since the contribution of everyone is so core to the success of the group, a leader is obligated to take care of his people. Hopefully what's best for the employee is also best for the organization, but in some cases it isn't, and that's why we get paid the big bucks - to make those evaluations and pick the right course of action (in the military it's a little different; people come first in peacetime, but in war the job comes first). After watching Mark Mulder stuggle for the past two years, and really after his rise through the minors when he obviously wasn't ready, the organization didn't do that.

It's the same bull-headed wrong thinking that keeps pitchers who are Major League ready (Reyes) off the ML roster, and those who really aren't (Parisi, Perez, Boggs, now Garcia) get promoted.

And it's the same medical incompetence that Scott Rolen dealt with his last 2 years here.

I'll wrap this up, because I have real work to do. Mozeliak has done a fine job rebuilding the organization's talent pool, as has been documented elsewhere and praised here. He would be well-served to take a hard look at those in positions of power who advocated the medical and personnel decisions that have backfired badly this season. And if he is the source of this, he'd better take a long hard look in the mirror. Being in charge isn't about doing the easy and making sure everyone likes you. You get paid to make the hard decisions based on sound judgment.

And that was sorely lacking for Mark Mulder.

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