Lost in the endless debates about what ails the St. Louis Cardinals is a tug-of-war between them and the club’s AAA affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. An unusual pattern of instability has emerged as the team has tried to get its struggles under control. First, after having won the 2B job in spring training, Kolten Wong was sent back to Memphis after only 20 games, handing the job to Mark Ellis.
Secondly, the club has called up Randal Grichuk and sent him back down, only to replace him with a far less promising player in Joey Butler. They also called up Greg Garcia to replace Grichuk and then sent him back down to recall Wong. Confused yet? This is in addition to the revolving door that the bullpen has become. However, back to the most worrisome yo-yo, Wong. Many people feel Wong has tremendous, even perennial All-Star upside to his talent. However, manager Mike Matheny has been reticent to fully embrace his youngsters.
It is widely speculated that Matheny and GM John Mozeliak are distrustful of Wong’s maturity level — a refrain also leveled at uber-prospect Oscar Taveras. This is troubling, as one thing prospects very much need is confidence, and managerial faith in their abilities go a long way towards instilling that confidence. That the club’s top two prospects are being questioned mentally gives one pause as to management’s true intent.
Does Mozeliak intend to integrate Wong into the club’s future? At what point will Wong be given the full faith of the organization and the keys to 2B? Wong is young and emotional, but he’s a standup young man and a hard worker. Yet it is unclear if Matheny has the intestinal fortitude to trust him and bench, or release, Ellis. A bad approach here could wreck a supremely talented young man’s career, or at least severely impede its progress.
For the Cardinals, or any organization to thrive, turnover is a necessary component. Ideally your manager does not hang onto veterans past their spoilage date and understands when a fresh infusion of young talent is required. Does Matheny? That is unclear. But what is clear is that it’s important that he does not make the wrong decision when handling his impetuous, but talented infield prospect, but the Wong one.