Is it the Wong Way?

The 2020 season was the most unusual in MLB history. Now, as we move into 20-21 off season, the monetary effects of 2020 lead us into more strange territory. If fans didn’t realize it previously, the Kolton Wong buy-out should certainly make one realize that this is a new “land” of free agency.
….Wong was due $12.5m for 2021. His contract offered the Cards the opportunity to “buy out” the last year for $1m. The Cards took the buy out. Generally, these buy outs which are used with regularity in long term contracts occur when the the performance level of the player dips and the team can walk away from his declining skills. However, in this case, that WASN’T the case. Wong performed in 2020 at a premium level for the Cards. Offensively, he was #5 in off WAR (wins above replacement) in the National League. Defensively, he was just announced as a Gold Glove winner. He’s the type of player that a team requires to win. Not a superstar but an all-around contributor Wong was very good defensively and he was 2nd highest in batting avg, 3rd in OBP (on base %), 3rd in runs scored for the2020 Cards and demonstrated an expansion of his batting skills by taking the ball frequently the other way (to LF) in 2020.. The fans appreciated a batter getting on base by taking the ball the other way (to LF for Wong). That was the Wong Way.
…btw.. this buy out isn’t unique to the Cards…The Cubs swallowed a $10m buy out of Jon Lester to get out of his $25m contract. There are countless other examples. Question is… are the owners making their teams better or are they deliberately “watering down” the product” and yet still expecting fans to react with excitement? Is that the Wong Way for the MLB?
….Owner Bill DeWitt indicated that the move was necessary because the Cards lost $136m last year. Yes…covid was the cause….but…..the Cardinals team was NOT enjoyable to watch. Not enough baserunners, too many strikeouts, too many pitches, not enough action. Wong was one of the few who brought “action” to the table. I think that management has to realize that the fans aren’t going to come back automatically to the 3.48 million mark(2019 level) next year. Baseball was clearly pushed to the back burner for most of the 2020 summer while the fans found different entertainment options. Will the interest EVER match those high peak years of 2015-2019? Failing to sign a player who DID bring action and excitement does NOT provide an incentive to return to watch the longest, slowest games in MLB history… particularly with the Cards owning one of the weakest offensive teams in the MLB. The Cardinals were 28th of 30 MLB teams in runs scored, dead last (30th) in HR, 28th in slugging %.
…Looking deeper at individual batting statistics league wide. The average exit velocity off the bat indicates how hard you are hitting the ball. The Cards top 2 batters in average exit velocity are Paul DeJong & Paul Goldschmidt. DeJong is #108 and Goldschmidt #109 both are at 89.2mph exit velocity. Think about that….Our BEST batters are #108 and #109 across the MLB.. sooo…you need plenty of baserunners to score runs. According to MLB observers Wong normally could have expected a multi-year contract for $10m+ per year so his buy-out sent a loud signal to the entire MLB! Yet…we save money by pushing aside one of our best OB% players—Kolton Wong #3 on team @ .350. Is that the Wong Way?
…. Now, our focus has to turn towards 2 older Card Vets– Yadi Molina & Adam Wainwright. Wainwright, who originally signed with Atlanta, has apparently been in talks with the Braves. Why the Braves? He was born in Georgia and Atl is a strong team that should be a contender to be in the Series next year. Cards or Braves—who’s more likely to go deep in the playoffs? Waino may want to spend his last year(s) with a strong team not one struggling to reach the 8th spot.IWaino had to notice manner that Wong was treated. Why wait on them? Now, Yadi has a connection with the CWS with Tony LaRussa at the helm. It is a good fit for Yadi….he knows Tony and there are many young players that he could tutor along the way. That pressure may…or may not…move the needle for the Cards to resign Yadier. The Cards certainly will not be following the same Wong Way. Yadi isn’t in his prime years and couldn’t be expected to perform that way. However, if Yadi has another suitor in the parlor will the Cards be forced to “up” their offer? Is it the Wong Way for the Cards or not?
…to almost everyone’s…at least, mine… surprise, Tyler O’Neill wins the Gold Glove Award! Many fans… including me…were more infatuated with Harrison Bader’s defensive play. O’Neill does have good….actually, very good….speed despite his weight-lifter type body. His strikeout rate is alarming 27.4% of the time—more than once every 4 AB..ugh……just about once every game! But…his whiff % (swing & miss) continues to drop– In 2018 it was 46.1%, 2019 – 41.4% and this year dropped to 33.9%. That IS significant improvement. But…can we continue to wait for a real “break out” and win big or will he continue to be who his is right now at the plate? Which is the Wong Way?
…one has to wonder if the $261m Ballpark village project– Hotel, and all the new housing across from the stadium hasn’t also tipped the scales for the DeWitts towards more Cards economy for 2020 and after. For example, Brian Hall, chief marketing officer for Explore St Louis claims that covid was devastating. He said “nothing … 9/11 or the Great Recession both pale in comparison to covid for the downtown economy…so is the pinch on all the new buildings around the Stadium and the “Village” digging into the pockets of the Cardinals management? One would have to think that it DOES have some impact. Do the Cardinals get pushed slightly to the side in order to promote and recoup investment on the Village Development? Recently, when DeWitt said that Baseball really isn’t a good business to be in now…did the tip his hand about his thoughts on Cards vs Village? Is this the Wong Way for the Cards?
….the MiLB (minor leagues) will have an entirely new look in the future. It seems that the MLB teams, if they want to continue this system, will need to fund much more of these developmental level teams. The Minor League teams “make” ..at the best… minimal amounts of dollars. The Cardinals have been strong at developing MLB players..maybe not star players but…. starting position players & pitchers. Soo…one would expect StL to maintain some form of minor leagues. This extra drain on funds is yet another obstacle to jump.
…I’m not draining your funds to read this weekly blog…500+ readers this week….thx for spreading the word and…please..continue to let your friends/family know of this weekly blog
…Well I’ve reached the end of the Wong Way…or was it the Right Way?

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