It’s painful to have to write this stuff but it is absolutely true. The Cardinals have a culture of winning that started long ago and is from the top-down. It used to be true with the Dodgers. Not so much anymore.
Dave Duncan set the standard that the Cardinal pitchers have followed for almost two decades. The pitching staff just has a mindset that they are going to win… and they do. They lose their ace whether it be Carpenter or Wainright and they win. They lose their closer (Mott) and they win. They lose their shortstop (Furcal) and they just plug in a rookie. They lose Albert Pujols and they plug in Allen Craig and when they lose him they plug in a rookie like Matt Adams.
Except for Adam Wainright and Randy Choate, the rest of the pitching staff is in their early twenties. “Well, they just get good players” you might say. They certainly do, but from the time that pitcher gets in the organization until they join the big club is often very short and I think it is the infusion of the right culture into that player. It’s a mindset – “throw strikes, pitch – don’t just throw, be confident in yourself, because we are.”
They aren’t afraid to make moves either. Matt Carpenter had never really played 2B until this year – now he’s the regular 2B and one of the TOP 10 MVP Candidates. Yadier Molina gets better with age because they expect it. This isn’t by accident. The front office makes trades and drafts players wisely. They have a huge number of homegrown players while the Dodgers have a just few. But, that isn’t enough. The Cardinals believe in their youngsters and promote them with a passion.
Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly are “old school” – they think rookies have to pay their dues and they show their disdain for them. Case-in-point: Yasiel Puig hits .515 in spring training and they send him down. If he were a Cardinal he would have made the roster. Michael Waugh, Joe Kelley, Shelby Miller and on and on.
John Axford was a journeyman in Milwaukee, but he comes to St. Louis and turns his career around. It’s the culture. Their young pitchers are confident and all have live arms. It’s the culture.
The Cardinals have a culture of winning. The Dodgers don’t. The Cards have a smart manager who is a nice guy. The Dodgers have a nice guy as a manager. Ned Colletti, the Dodgers GM is a “died-in-the-wool” old school guy. John Mozeliak is a new breed of GM, not just a stat geek but a bright baseball guy who knows the value of keeping young players. He has surrounded himself with a bunch of younger scouts and advisers and the Cards are always relevant.
The Dodgers are trying to get there, but they are lacking in the intelligence department. Don Mattingly is not the brightest light in the house. Cases in point: (1) using Dee Gordon in the 7th inning in game 1. That was way too soon and I was yelling at the TV about it; (2) he should have saved Gordon and could have put him in for Mark Ellis when he tripled. Gordon would have beaten the throw; and (3) Ellis was never tagged at the plate. Mattingly should have asked for help. Maybe the ump would not have obliged, but I think he would have if Mattingly Ellis wasn’t tagged. I’m sure Lopes and the 1B Umpire saw it. I was screaming that he wasn’t tagged. I’m surprised they couldn’t hear me. Some have said that it’s the “vicinity play.” NO! I have seen many runners called safe when it was overruled that they did not tag the runner. I’ve seen it when they have the ball in their hand and tag the runner with their glove. I think it would have gotten overturned if Metheny was manager – he’s just a smart guy! The umps know Donnie’s IQ!
In game one, Dodger hitters were at the plate 26 times with runners on base and they could only score 2. That’s .070! Yesterday, they were in that position 12 times and scored ZERO. The Cards were in that position 6 times and scored one. Even though the Dodgers are 0-2, they have out-pitched the Cardinals. The Dodger hitters have just been pathetic. It’s the culture. Don Mattingly was a great hitter, but in my opinion he is a mediocre hitting coach and a poor manager. It’s the culture.
I know that this is a streaky team and they can come back and sweep the Cards, but right about now, that seems unlikely. I hope they do, but my reality meter says NOPE! I’m pulling for them, but unless there’s some kind of culture shock, this is over.
When the season is over, the first moves I make if I am Kasten and Johnson is to replace the GM, Manager and coaching staff and the training staff, including Conte. It’s time for a culture counter to what the Dodgers have.