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Quick Hits: Gordo on St. Louis sports

WHY DID FRONT OFFICE WAIT SO LONG ON OZUNA?

Marcell Ozuna reacts after flying out during the July 13 game against the Reds. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

QUESTION: Why did the FO wait so long to acknowledge that Ozuna’s shoulder problem was compromising his power, something most fans figured out months ago?

GORDO: Whether the team acknowledged it or not, the shoulder issue was obvious all along. I found it interesting the team shut him down now, given the solid offensive production he was providing. I know roster management and the pending roster expansion played into that, but Ozuna has been pretty helpful at the plate this month.

As for his throwing arm, it hasn’t been there all year. Maybe the front office really believes 10 days rest will make things somewhat better. I’d be surprised.

HINDSIGHT ON THE FIRST-HALF FAILURES

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St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny greets Paul DeJong after he homered April 1 in New York. (AP Photo)

QUESTION/COMMENT: Saw your comment on how the Cardinals’ front office “flunked” the first half of the season. Not buying that one. The majority of this team quit on its manager. … Plus, maybe the front office wasn’t as comfortable bringing in these young players because Matheny wouldn’t know how to use them. Matheny has a .555 winning percentage because he inherited a great situation. When it came time to coach these guys up a little bit, he failed. How can anyone argue his dismissal wasn’t a good move?

GORDO: No, DeWitt, Mozeliak and Co. flunked. And they proved that by purging the bullpen of failures. Fowler is $50 million of deaf money. Fortunately for Shildt, Fowler got hurt.

As for Matheny’s failure to make good use of young players, history tells us Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Kolten Wong, Matt Adams, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Tavares, Stephen Piscotty et al did well on previous teams and DeJong, Hicks, Flaherty, Weaver and so forth have done well for him more recently. Matheny was far more receptive to young players than Tony La Russa was. That started in spring training, when the kids worked side by side with veterans rather than in segregated groups. So this belief that some how Matheny was hard on kids is baffling.

Follow-up: There’s a reason the front office changed the roster after Shildt got the job — they trusted him to use the changes wisely. They didn’t trust Matheny. Also, it was clear he had lost Yadi. You lose Yadi and you lose the team. Time to go.

GORDO: No, the reason front office changed the roster after the managerial change was that the team was still lacking. You could argue that they waited because they didn’t want the team to improve under Matheny, thus forcing them to keep him as manager. Matheny won a lot of games playing kids, in the field, in the rotation and in the bullpen. That said, as noted earlier, Matheny let all the negativity get to him and there is no doubt that his tightness left the team tight. And message fatigue is a thing.

SHILDT’S ROLE IN THE MAKEOVER

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and interim manager Mike Shildt connect before the start of Sunday’s game. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: In terms of the clubhouse vibe, or instilling more enthusiasm, or however you want to frame this new attitude that seems to have taken over the 2018 Cardinals, what is Shildt doing/not doing that Matheny didn’t/did do? Can one man make that big of a difference in one month?

GORDO: Several things happened. Subtracting ineffective players helped immensely. Reducing some roster clutter helped, since players spent less time guessing if they would play. The firing of Matheny signaled a reset for everyone, which eases tension. And give Shildt big-time credit for opening up more constructive communication. This managerial change went as well as possible.

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR BLUES?

Blues goaltender Jake Allen defends against former Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly, who was a key offseason acqusition by the Blues. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: I’m a Blues fan transplanted to KC. What’s the feel around the team this year? Expectations? What should I be watching for in the first month of the season on my package?

GORDO: Expectations for the Blues: Get back into the playoffs, advance past the first round. Expecting more than that for this season without seeing better goaltending from Jake Allen is unrealistic. And if Allen does falter, the Blues would likely try something else by taking advantage of all the talent they have in other spots.

Follow-up: Blues fans need to cut Jake Allen some slack. There was a reason for his swoon last year and it was the players around him. He’ll do just fine if the team around him can play defense.

GORDO: The Blues were very good at shot suppression last season, so some of the heat Jake took last season was justified. He had two terrible starts back to back that gave Hutton is chance to run with the job, then later in the season Allen failed to finish off a good late streak. So, yes, he must find consistency this season or his days as the No. 1 here will end.

WHAT’S BEHIND SENDING MARTINEZ TO THE BULLPEN?

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Cardinals relief pitcher Carlos Martinez works against the Colorado Rockies in Friday’s game. (AP Photo)

QUESTION: Cardinals say they’re putting Carlos Martinez in the bullpen because he doesn’t have enough time to build up his stamina to start, yet they are doing the exact opposite with Michael Wacha in the same time frame. What does this say about how the Cards currently feel about Carlos? Not sure I buy their spin. He is supposed to be their ace. 

GORDO: There could be a bit of a wake-up all in there, but two things:

1. Martinez has proven himself in relief before, and coming back in the bullpen allowed him to return to active duty much sooner than Wacha will.

2. Wacha in short relief doesn’t hold much appeal. Wacha in long relief? That will be Wainwright’s job when he comes back.

WILL WAINO BE A FACTOR THIS YEAR?

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Adam Wainwright (left) and Carlos Martinez listen to catcher Yadier Molina break it down between innings of the Cards-Phillies game on May 17. (Chris Lee photo / Post-Dispatch)

QUESTION: Adam Wainwright has looked good so far in his rehab assignments. Big if, of course, but if healthy could he actually be a factor for this team? Does he have a shot at the playoff roster if he’s healthy?

GORDO: The playoff roster would be a stretch. I’m guessing he will work in long relief. Experience aside, he will have lots of guys ahead of him. He will have to turn back the clock a few years to get a spot IMO. Could happen, but it will take some work.

Follow-up:Liked your answer about Waino, but would your answer be different if Mike Matheny was still the manager? I don’t mean this badly, but I think he would fight to have Adam on the roster out of respect for his contributions.

GORDO: Mike tended to protect veterans, yes, but he also put young guys in prime position on teams that won postseason series. So I’m guessing Wainwright would have won a tie for a spot under Matheny, but I doubt Mike would take him over a younger player who starred in high-pressure, late-season games.

EIGHT OR MORE WINS FOR MIZZOU?

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Missouri quarterback Drew Lock scrambles out of the pocket in last season’s game at Arkansas. Mizzou won 48-45. (AP Photo)

QUESTION: Quarterback, kicking game, and defensive penetration are probably the most important on-field areas for winning, and the Tigers look very solid in all three. They should be competitive in every game, and should win at least 8. Too simple of a calculation?

GORDO: Fans seem to think eight victories is a fair mark. To me, it will take a notable upset to get to eight. And it will take a good road victory just to get to seven. I want to see if the Tigers can get outside pressure at defensive end and if the secondary can hold up. The offensive line and ground game should set up Drew Lock nicely and he has a mix of speed and size for his targets.

Follow-up: What game do you see as the most pivotal on Mizzou’s football schedule? A 3-game stretch with Georgia, SC and Bama looks like potentially 3 losses. Hoping they can get to 8/9 wins. Do you see that?

GORDO:I pick them to win seven, losing at Purdue and South Carolina, among other places, and scraping out a victory at Tennessee. Maybe they can win at Florida, but then maybe they can lose at Tennessee. Now, if they could beat Purdue early, that would be the pivotal game that gives the group more belief.

WHO MIGHT BE ON THE MOVE THIS OFFSEASON?

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St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Dexter Fowler drops a ball hit by Miami Marlins’ Starlin Castro for an error in the sixth inning during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins at Busch Stadium on Thursday, June 7, 2018, in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: Who could be on the move from the Cardinals this offseason?

GORDO: A lot of the movement has already happened. And a lot of the successful fill-ins have options left, so there will be no rush to make changes. Fowler is the guy the team would love to move, but there is that contract in the way. So while the team could shop for an impact bat or impact fielder at shortstop, the success of the current mix allows management to be picky. As currently constructed this team is playing better than almost anybody this side of the Boston Red Sox (although they just got swept by Tampa Bay).

Follow-up: What do you think about Fowler’s future? Would like to see the Cards add a lefthanded bat for right field this winter. They could add a stopgap 3B, but I’d be OK with them adding a new RF, and keeping Gyorko and Adams for a platoon with Carpenter playing the other slot.

GORDO: Fowler has all that contract left, so moving him will not be easy. Barring a miracle — another team willing to eat some of that salary — the team will need to play Fowler some next year in hopes of getting mileage from him or moving him.

Follow-up: J. Martinez is a top-notch hitter who belongs in the lineup in right field beyond this year. No room at the inn for D. Fowler, right? Have to eat the contract.

GORDO: That is a LOT of contract to eat (around 50 million bucks). Not sure Bill DeWitt has the appetite to consume even most of that. We shall see.

ANY OF THESE PITCHERS MOVING OUT?

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Cardinal pitcher Luke Weaver throws in the first inning on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in a game against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: Will John Gant, Luke Weaver, or Brett Cecil be on the Cardinals roster next year? Is there any value there for anything other than prospects? 

GORDO: I could see Cecil back as a lefty specialist. … Why not? It’s not like teams are dying to take that contract. Weaver is a big-time asset. Lot of value there, both for the Cardinals or another team. I would leave him in the bullpen and challenge him to go after hitters. Gant is a handy depth guy who stepped up big-time, but can he survive the numbers crunch?

TRADE FOR A THIRD BASEMAN, OR WAIT FOR GORMAN?

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Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft, takes the field at Busch Stadium for a workout on June 11. (Derrick Goold photo / Post-Dispatch) 

QUESTION: Do you see the Cards trading from their pitching depth to acquire a third baseman in the offseason?

GORDO: First-round draft pick Nolan Gorman’s quick adaptation to pro ball impacts the long-term picture there. If the Cardinals believe he can play third base, the front office might not want to block him for the long-term. Might the team go for a stopgap? Perhaps. But Gyorko has held up OK and Munoz intrigues. What if the team can add a slick defensive shortstop and move DeJong to third base with Gorman eyeing first base down the road? Given what’s out there at third base, that might be an option.

CHEMISTRY AND THE BLUES

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Blues newcomers are introduced on Sunday during the club’s Icebreaker event at  Ballpark Village. From left: Ryan O’Reilly, Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: How much of a concern will locker room chemistry be for the Blues after all the roster turnover? How will the new acquisitions fit in with the established stars on the team?

GORDO: The Blues missed the playoffs last year, so the hope is the chemistry changes for the better. Tyler Bozak has a great rep and Ryan O’Reilly is known for his competitiveness. David Perron knows the group, obviously. Patrick Maroon is known to play well with good players, doing their dirty work. IMO, the chemistry can only improve.

WHO STAYS, WHO GOES ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER?

Cardinal infielder Patrick Wisdom celebrates a hit in a game last week against the Nationals. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: When the players on the 60-day DL get healthy, who gets taken off 40-man roster.

GORDO: There are many options. Patrick Wisdom played great as a fill-in, but he wasn’t on the 40-man roster until late. Now that Matt Adams is here, is Wisdom blocked? On the pitching side, Giovanny Gallegos is on the 40-man roster and he could go. So could Conner Greene, who has shown some promise after coming onto the roster. But is there any interest in using either at the big league level in September? Derian Gonzalez is a guy the team would like to keep away from the Rule 5 draft but there may not be a way.

PLAYER AWARDS IN THE CARDS?

Kolten Wong gets a high five from Matt Carpenter during the April 24 game against the New York Mets. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

QUESTION: If the Cards finish with the most wins in the National League, any chance we would get the MVP in Carpenter? They’re two wins off the pace, though they have played more games.

GORDO: Carpenter’s MVP pace is certainly helped by the team’s push. This has been a down year for big-name players and what this team has done has drawn lots of attention. A few weeks back I didn’t see Carpenter as MVP, but the team just kept winning.

Follow-up: Will Wong get the Gold Glove he rightfully deserves taken away because he doesn’t hit enough?

GORDO: I believe a bigger problem is that he was a platoon guy for a huge chunk of the season. His defensive runs saved stat will get the attention of a lot of folks, but the fact he was in and out of the lineup under Matheny could be a big negative. But … a big finish with the Cardinals in the playoff race spotlight could help overcome that.

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