With the promotion of Chris Maloney to the big league staff, the wheels starting turning on how to make the entire organization better. Prized prospect Shelby Miller and his key right arm certainly factor into the decision now that the rest of the chips have fallen into place.
(Ed. Note: the regular Friday posts will return in January, as the holiday season prompted this PH8 scribe to start the giving early! And no, that doesn’t include planning for neck tats 😉
One particular nugget of info stuck with me after taking a quick glance at this press release. The Cardinals as a whole have a great deal of talent outside of the players, and they are going all-in from the top down for 2012. The move to promote from the ranks makes even more sense now in St. Louis given how much the World Champs had to rely on their minor league depth this past year.
That’s not to say a repeat of last spring would be appreciated, but the truth needs to be faced sooner rather than later. Adam Wainwright forced a new appreciation for the job done at Memphis and Springfield, but his injury also took attention away from the AP contract mess.
Said mess potentially becomes a key topic of discussion no matter which way it turns out by Opening Day. The front office made some interesting choices this past month, and new skipper Mike Matheny wasn’t even the biggest surprise. The Double A affiliate in Springfield plays host to their big league counterparts April 2nd, and both clubs may look vastly different.
One key change for certain is who will be calling the shots from the dugout.
Matheny may not have any previous experience wearing the manager cap, but he is used to the pressure of any mistake being amplified on the biggest stage. On the other hand, new SCards head man Mike Shildt moves up the ladder quite a few rungs in what may be the best move of the offseason.
Either way it would be a shock if Miller ended up pitching in that game and not slotted to take the hill for Memphis in his first campaign at AAA. And really, outside of the #5 fun, that is the most intriguing question this winter brings.
The Cards can afford to be patient with their best pitching prospect of at least the last decade, thanks in part to the above-mentioned Wainwright situation. Lance Lynn appears ready to fill in early or at least should get stretched out before moving to the bullpen. With the other four slots locked in, St. Louis did the next best thing for Miller’s progression.
Ron “Pop” Warner gets high marks in the manager musical chair contest, and his prize mirrors that of his new Memphis ace. After deftly passing the torch to Miller during his mid-season promotion to the Texas League, Warner became an obvious choice to take over the Redbirds.
Depending on how the 40-man roster takes shape, Miller should be joined by quite a few of his SCards teammates in Memphis. This newly adopted strategy makes perfect sense now that enough depth exists all the way down to Johnson City. Speaking of the back-to-back Appy League Champs, Shildt may find the road a bit tougher after jumping up in competition.
But that is where John Vuch steps in and makes GM John Mozeliak look even more like the smartest man in the room. By not ‘babying’ his top prospects and best minds, the entire Birds on the Bat franchise is poised to enter the top tier of baseball. Shildt gets first crack at the system which also has a fail-safe in place.
Both Springfield hitting coach Phillip Wellman and new Palm Beach manager Johnny Rodriguez were thought to be on top of the short list to replace Warner. They have the edge in experience coaching at a higher level and also were the more seasoned choices. Instead the more inexperienced candidate with a possible new approach was chosen to make the important transition.
Does that sound like any other recent move by chance?
Shildt and Matheny both made quite an impression to be given the jobs they now own. What they do from now until April is not nearly as important as how they handle the pressure next summer, and the Cardinals have a lot riding on their investment.
With a couple of impressive performances for the two Missouri-based clubs, all talk about the choices will be forgotten. Should one or both stumble, however, how will the front office respond? That is just one of many great story lines the new World Champions face heading into 2012.
The only thing guaranteed at this point is how the reaction will be for both new managers at a certain date in April where the sea of red knows the score.