On the outside looking in

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In the first game of a double header against the Blue Jays, the Cardinals played the field the way I want them to play it the rest of the year. The results were mixed.

The positions were as follows: Molina behind the plate, Carpenter at first, Wong at second, Gyorko at third, Diaz at short, Jose Martinez in left, Fowler in center and Piscotty in right.

Through two innings Diaz made a competent play in the hole and Gyorko made a barehanded play up the line. Wong also committed an error on a ball hit up the middle.

Thus far, the Cardinals have committed nearly an error per game. The Cardinals committed 107 errors in 2016, the sixth worst mark in the majors. Atlanta, Cincinnati and Oakland all played better defense.

I believe the reason the Cardinals were so bad last year, and have been even worse on defense this season, is that the team is not playing a regular defensive lineup. As an example, Diaz made a diving stop on two-foot hop about 7 feet from the second base bag in the game on Tuesday. He gets up, hesitates and then throws the ball past the outstretched glove of Martinez. The error goes to Diaz, but Rick Horton commented that Martinez should have gotten off the bag and played the ball, sacrificing an out for security.

Carpenter may have made that play. Matt Adams probably would have made that play. Martinez has never played first in his pro career and he is under the added pressure of trying to prove himself in the big leagues. Diaz is still a young player and he should be throwing to the same guy in nearly every game.

With a set lineup, certain position players will be on the outside looking in. Well, I have an opinion about who those players should be.

Jhonny Peralta

 Jhonny is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his thumb. I think he should be the next victim of the curse of Wally Pipp. Jedd Gyorko is a better player than Peralta in every way.

Last year in 289 at bats, Peralta hit .260 with 8 homers, 29 RBI and 37 runs. His on base was .307 and his slugging was .408.

Gyorko in 400 at bats hit .243 with 30 homers, 59 RBI and 58 runs. His on base was .306 and his slugging was .495. Jedd is off to a hot start this season, hitting .340 with 3 home runs.

You would think that Peralta being a converted short stop he would be a better fielder, but Gyorko has just as much range and more consistent hands.

Randal Grichuk

 There’s a scene in “The Natural” where Pop Fisher is talking to Bump Bailey, trying to convince Bailey that he better shape up because Roy Hobbs is going to take his job. I hope Mike Matheny has already had this conversation with Randal Grichuk.

There is no indication that Jose Martinez is going to stop hitting. He’s currently batting .375, more than 100 points better than Grichuk. Martinez deserves Grichuk’s job in left field.

Unlike Gyorko and Peralta, Grichuk is a much better defensive player than Martinez. While a good athlete at 6-foot-5, Martinez has looked very stiff in the outfield. Grichuk could play major league center field.

But, Martinez is much better in left than at first. The Cardinals were willing to put up with an occasional brain fart from Matt Holliday. I am willing to bet that Martinez defensive play will smooth out with regular playing time.

Matt Adams

 I feel bad for Matt Adams because the guy has worked really hard. He lost a ton of weight in the offseason and he looked sharp in spring training. However, Matt Carpenter has to play somewhere and the best option is at first base.

Adams, 28, has had plenty of opportunities over the past three seasons to win the first base job and he has failed to hit consistently. Teams need their first baseman to hit and hit both lefties and righties.

On the other hand …

 In the first game of the double header on Thursday, Kolten Wong committed an error and made a bonehead, base-running mistake by the sixth inning. Wong hit a double and then got picked off by Russell Martin at second.

Kolten Wong is the guy I want to step up. It was my feeling that the constant platooning over the past couple of seasons hurt him more than any other player. His talent at the plate and in the field is undeniable.

Of any of the Cardinals that can play second base, he has the most range. The team can’t wait forever and there may be a point where playing Greg Garcia every day may be the better options. Garcia’s ceiling is much, much lower, but he does not make these types of mistakes.

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Which AL Team Will I Root For

With the baseball season heading into it’s last two months, I think I will pick an American League or two to support en route to the playoffs. Note, the Yankees are disqualified from the get go because they’re the Yankees. Let’s look at the candidates:

I’ll root for them until they’re out of it

Tampa Bay Rays

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Uniforms: Meh
Stadium: Hate (probably the worst stadium in the majors)
Fanbase: The second worst in baseball
Guys I like: David Price, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Matt Joyce
Dumbasses: Yunel Escobar (today he got thrown out for arguing a called strike when his team was already leading 3-1)
World Series chance: They’re probably not making the playoffs, they’re still two games below .500. But, but if they do make it, they’ll be scorching hot and have dirty pitching. They won again today, now 11 out of 12. Really, I can watch them every day in the panhandle.

Kansas City Royals

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Uniforms: Meh
Stadium: Love (one of the most underrated parks)
Fanbase: Long suffering and loyal, but starting to get an annoying Cubs like vibe
Guys I like: James Shields, Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Aaron Crowe
Dumbass: Don’t have one
World Series Chance: They don’t hit well enough or pitch well enough. They’re probably not making the playoffs.

They spend too much money

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Los Angeles Angels

Uniforms: Dislike
Stadium: Meh
Fanbase: Decent if a little spoiled by consistent success
Guys I like: Albert Pujols, David Freese, Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick, Garrett Richards, Kole Calhoun
Dumbass: Josh Hamilton (Oh I can’t hit because of my blue eyes)
World Series Chance: A lot of pundits like them to win it all, which makes me want to watch them lose even more.

Detroit Tigers

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Uniforms: Like
Stadium: Love (one of my favorites)
Fanbase: Haven’t won since 1984 and have come really close over the last 10 years
Guys I like: Ian Kinsler, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson
Dumbass: Miguel Cabrera (Although he’s the greatest hitter on the planet he is also an all-star drunk driver)
World Series Chance: This might be the most balanced team in the majors, flying under the radar because of consistent success.

The Puzzlements

Seattle Mariners

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Uniforms: Like
Stadium: Like
Fanbase: Very good, totally deserve a winner
Guys I like: King Felix, Robinson Cano, Endy Chavez
Dumbass: Fernando Rodney (cue AP and Trout making fun of the arrow shoot)
World Series chance: Looking at their roster, I have no idea how they’re above .500

Toronto Blue Jays

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Uniforms: Love
Stadium: Dislike
Fanbase: Very good if slightly ambivalent
Guys I like: Mark Buehrle, RA Dickey, JA Happ
Dumbasses: Melky Cabrera (steroid suspension), Colby Rasmus (gets traded from Cardinals because of complaints from his Dad and then the Redbirds win the World Series)
World Series Chance: It’s a bad sign when I don’t like any of their position players. I don’t have anything against Jose Bautista but I don’t like him.

The Top Two

Oakland A’s

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Uniforms: Love
Stadium: Meh
Fanbase: Pretty good if slightly ambivalent
Guys I like: Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Scott Kazmir, Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle
Dumbass: Don’t have one
World Series Chance: I’m still not sure how they’re doing this, but I will definitely root for them to win the AL West and make it to the ALCS.

Baltimore Orioles

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Uniforms: Love
Stadium: Love
Fanbase: Solid
Guys I like: Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy, Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis
Dumbasses: Machado, Nelson Cruz (PED suspension)
World Series Chance: Their pitching is iffy at best but their lineup is very good.

That’s the ALCS I’m rooting for and if it happens we all win.