Always be closing: Miller sliding away from starting role, Cards -

Always be closing: Miller sliding away from starting role, Cards need answer

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) - Here’s a tortured analogy to illustrate how pitching staffs are constructed in the major leagues and why Shelby Miller was exiled from the starting rotation, at least for now.

And after I’ve explained that, I’ll tell you what I think the Redbirds need in the trade market. You might be surprised.

Assume the St. Louis Cardinal organization is a big car dealership and assume the pitchers are the salesmen.

On the big, white, dry-erase board, car salesmen’s total sales for the month are posted, just like the statistics for the starting pitchers.

More sales – like more wins – puts the best salesmen on top. Linger too long at the bottom and the lowest achieving salesman is replaced.

That’s the way it is in the major leagues. The lowest achieving pitchers drift to the bottom of the dry erase board and are replaced by others. Need proof? Remember Michael Blazek, Maikel Cleto, Keith Butler, John Axford, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski, Victor Marte, Fernando Salas and John Gast? 

Sure, you know they all pitched at one time or another for the St. Louis Cardinals.  But do you realize that they all pitched for them last year?  That’s in addition to the starters and the rest of the bullpen who essentially sold enough cars to keep their jobs this year.

So, sentiment aside, Tyler Lyons, for example, had opportunities, but couldn’t close enough deals to make himself a compelling option. Neither has Miller in the last half dozen starts. So he goes to the bullpen, which is the used car lot of the major league club.

When Kevin Siegrist returns from the DL, a salesman will have to be let go. Nick Greenwood sold a couple of Cadillacs while he was up, but pitching is about being consistently good, not occasionally great. Randy Choate’s usefulness has diminished with the emergence of Sam Freeman. One might have to go. Four lefties in the pen would be too many.

But what of Miller, formerly a cherished salesman? Well, he isn’t really a relief pitcher and has no role in the current bullpen makeup. And, apparently, he isn’t a starter either. So what happens when the schedule demands five starters?

If Michael Wacha can return full-time, Miller’s role will have essentially vanished, meaning he shouldn’t sign any extensions on his apartment lease.

And if Wacha can’t return? Sometimes when sales are falling, we need an experienced car salesman from another dealership. Jake Peavy might have been that guy a year ago, but unless it’s a gift, acquiring Peavy makes little sense for a team that has 17 shutouts and a shaky offense.

By the time the fifth starter is needed, two events will have occurred; the Cards will have a clear idea when/if Wacha will return and the trade deadline will be upon them.

The smart money says the Redbirds won’t make a dramatic move. I think they will because this team as constructed is missing a key ingredient, what I call the rabid dog. Not necessarily a starter, he’s the guy who plays the game like he has rabies. The Cardinals are a thoughtful, hard-working but exceedingly staid group of really nice young men. The only player close to the rabid dog is Matt Holliday who plays hard every pitch. But I’m talking about a guy who plays like he has six months to live. The Cardinals have talent, they have no inspiration. If Peavy has any role, that might be it.

GM John Mozeliak does not like to trade young talent like Shelby Miller and the cadre of young performers that populate the minor league system. But talent is like money; it’s no good unless you can get something you want for it. 

But unlike money, unused talent loses its value over time. 

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