Blinded by our own Expectations

In life….and the sports world, all of us have expectations. In the sports world, the fans have expectations for their local heroes. Sometimes, the expectations of the fans for their “favorites” blinds them to the actual situation.
…Let’s consider the expectations of the Cardinals for2021. Probably due to the fact that none of the outfielders had “proven” themself previously, there were generally low expectations for this group . Let’s see how the first 40 games have gone for our OF lineup of O’Neill, Bader, Carlson.
… Starting with Carlson, he’s batting .287-3rd highest on the team; 3rd on the team in hits with 39 hits/41 games; 1st on the team in On-Base-% @ .379 (yes, even higher than Arenado )and tied for 1st on the team with 25 runs scored. Defensively, he seems to be a better right-fielder, than CF. A recent complaint that I heard on the radio was that he doesn’t seem to driving the ball deep (code word: fewer Home runs/extra base hits). That’s fine with me. Personally, I would prefer to have 3 of our 8 true batters getting on base frequently. In the last study that I could find, with a runner(s) on base, batters hit 15 points higher and increased their OPS by 42 points! Sooo…to put it another way, pitchers aren’t as effective pitching off the stretch as the windup. Get runners on Base!!!
…Harrison Bader has returned from his injury and continues his improvement @ the plate.. He’s 3rd on the team in OBP (on base percentage) @.343. He’s getting on base so he can now use his speed on the basepaths…as well as in the OF. Further he’s putting the ball in play—he’s only struck out 9 of 60 AB (15%). To give you an idea of how good that is–the strikeouts percentages of the other ”regulars” is Edman-11%, Arenado 14%, Molina 24%, Goldschmidt 26%, Carlson 30%, O’Neill 35% Bader.. finally… seems to have mastered the “slider” at the plate. I really hope he DOESN”T hit a HR! We need him on base. His defense …always good….seems to be even better this year! I can’t pinpoint it but…possibly knowing that he doesn’t have to be looking over his shoulder for any mistake has bolstered his confidence.
….Tyler O’Neill is a protype of many current MLB batters—big power with lots of swing-Misses and abundance of strikeouts. Since he has the “Popeye” build, wouldn’t we expect power? Thus far, he has 8 HR,18 RBI’s, in 107 plate appearances with a .250 batting mark. He’s our #5 guy in the order—big power, with big strikeouts (even if he isn’t batting #5). Prorate these numbers to 160 games-he’d be over 30ish Home runs & 70 Rbi’s ( I allow for some slippage). Let him relax…play him every day.. he looks so tight & nervous to me….let him know that a mistake isn’t going to force him to lose his job. I think that he’d be a better player with that approach.
…. That outfield isn’t only good….but we’re being blinded by how good they’ve played for 2 months. I hear it now….but we strike out too much, swing & miss too much, yada-yada-yada….hey, I don’t like it either but that’s how the game is played now. They’re not Musial, Mays & Williams but…. if we can keep Carlson, Bader & Edman getting on base or even just putting the ball in play that’d go a long way towards reaching our post-season expectations.
…Many people had the expectations that Tony LaRussa was too old to deal with the current players and that he’d fail. Sure…he knew baseball but could he “handle” the young players. . Well…thus far, the White Sox are in 1st place in the AL Central with the highest winning percentage of the American League with a .610 mark and a 25-16 record. Of course, success always makes coaching easier 😊
…last week I wrote about the expectations of Albert’s possible return to the Lou…but…as you know, He signed with the LA Dodgers? Why LA? 1) he wanted to be on a winner 2) LA had done a similar thing in 2019 when Max Muncie was injured, veteran David Freese was signed and played on a semi-regular basis. Muncy is injured again, so another veteran (ironically a former Cardinal), Pujols signs to fill in. Pujols has the same expectations as Freese did a couple years ago 3) He didn’t want to be a “Show Horse” only, like he would have been in StL. He wanted to be a player 4) Possibly the strongest force was personal revenge! According to former Marlins President, David Samson, he thinks that Pujols just wanted to “stick it to the Angels owner-Arte Moreno. Samson actually said,”This is a straight insult to owner Aerte Moreno & the LA Angels. That is the ONLY reason that Pujols agreed to sign with the Dodgers and be a bench player. Because, there’s only 1 thing that Arte Moreno hates more than losing—that’s the Dodgers”. So….it seems, personal feelings drive this signing 😊
…many StL fans have the expectations that the StL Cards ownership is “cheap”. Right now, the Cards are 10th in the MLB in spending, 6th in the NL and have spent the most of the teams in the NL Central Division. Now, some will point out ,that in our last full season, 2019, the Cardinals were 2nd in the MLB in attendance with 3.48m fans!! They DO have a point but the real money isn’t on attendance, it’s on advertising by the sponsors! Clearly in the mega cities, they’ll get far more $$$ since they are reaching thousands-millions more people.
….on the other hand, the expectations of the fans are to field the best team possible. Maybe, like all teams, the ownership has “goofed” in the signing of some big contracts that flopped (Ron Gant, Tino Martinez, Brett Cecil, Brad Penney, Ty Wiggenton, Mike Leake, Mark Ellis Greg Holland). That’s going to happen until you can find a crystal ball. But…at least they were trying to win!
…On the other hand…releasing Kolton Wong last winter when a $12.5m was on the line and then turning around and keeping Matt Carpenter for $18.5m seems egregious. It did then and it still does NOW! Yes… Tommy Edman can play 2b…but he also could have played any 1 of several other positions. There are a variety of ways that he could still be playing daily. In 2020, Wong batted .265 (2nd highest on the team) and had just won his 2nd gold glove (see below) while Carp continues slushing his way through a blizzard trying to find hits. I don’t blame Carpenter…I actually feel sorry for him! Basically, the Cards decided to swallow the cheaper contract and keep an inferior, older player.
…Btw.speaking of Cards 2B…..the last & only other Cardinal 2b to win the Gold Glove-Fernando Vina-2001. Despite our expectations, neither Tommy Herr, Julian Javier, or Red Schoendienst ever won a Gold Glove. Since the Gold Glove Awards didn’t begin in 1957 it really impacted Red. In 1958 Red was found to have Tuberculosis …yet returned to the playing, not at the same plateau but as a semi-regular basis through 1962. He retired as a player after 6 games in 1963. 2 years later, Red began managing the Cards. He did it from 1965-1976. When Red took over the Cards in 65, they were coming off a World Championship in 64. There were high expectations. The every day lineup was in tact…. C-McCarver, 1b-White, 2b-Javier, ss-Groat/Maxvill, 3b-Boyer-Shannon,LF- Brock,cf- Flood, RF-Shannon-Maris. Red took the Cards to 2 more World Series in 1967 &-68. Another plus for Red during his time of managing the Cards—2 HOF’ers–Bob Gibson & Steve Carlton were on the 67-68 teams!
….For some of you….your expectations are that this ends soon! You Got it! Thanks for the read and continue to pass the word to your sports friends of all ages. If you interested in reading or posting on my Facebook page, you’ll find some really terrific thoughts posted there. If you want to check out earlier blogs to see what was said in past years(6 years worth), you may find them on http://www.bobryansportsblog.com.

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