Marmol labels O’Neill’s effort “unacceptable” after out at home snuffs out Cardinals’ rally

“That’s not our style of play as far as the effort rounding the bag there,” Marmol said.
St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler O'Neill is tagged out at home by Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy...
St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler O'Neill is tagged out at home by Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Scott Kane)(Scott Kane | AP)
Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 10:47 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A critical out on the bases that ended a scoring threat for the Cardinals in the seventh inning of Monday night’s loss to the Braves at Busch Stadium took on a life of its own in the minutes following the conclusion of the game.

Tyler O’Neill was stationed at second as the lead man on the base paths when Brendan Donovan rifled a two-out, pinch single into right field to keep the line moving in what would amount to the Cardinals’ final legitimate shot at chipping into the 4-1 deficit they faced.

Against one of the best outfield arms in the sport, O’Neill was waved around by third base coach Ron “Pop” Warner. Flashing his elite arm, Braves’ right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. threw out the typically fleet-footed O’Neill at the plate by a country mile.

In search of a second run that was fundamentally meaningless in the context of a 4-1 game, the Cardinals saw their potential rally snuffed out on the bases before it ever got going.

Spectators were bewildered as to what they had just witnessed. The player who ranked 15th in MLB on the Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard in 2022 simply didn’t look the way he normally does when running the bases.

While scrutiny over whether the decision to aggressively send O’Neill to the plate in that scenario lingered, there was also the matter of O’Neill appearing to casually glide down the line toward his inevitable doom.

When he stepped to the podium following the game, Cardinals’ manager Oli Marmol opted to focus on the latter.

“We’ve got a lot of guys playing really hard,” Marmol began. “That’s not our style of play as far as the effort rounding the bag there. It’s unacceptable.”

As to the notion that O’Neill might not have been expecting to be waved around by Warner given that his run wasn’t the one that mattered most in that situation, Marmol was clear that aspect should not have been a factor in the play for the 27-year-old outfielder.

“Bottom line is, that’s not his judgment,” Marmol said. “That’s why we have a coach standing over there. Your effort is 100 percent until you’re told not to.”

For O’Neill’s part, he stated that he had no expectation to be held up at third⁠—though it would have made sense for him to have been.

Marmol had called upon Donovan as the pinch-hitter, which led to Braves’ manager Brian Snitker calling for a left-handed reliever to counter. But Donovan prevailed in the left-on-left matchup, putting the Cardinals in an ideal situation. Tommy Edman and Dylan Carlson⁠—two switch-hitters who feast upon left-handed pitching⁠—were due up in the batting order, giving genuine credence to the potential for a dramatic comeback by the Redbirds.

Yet, instead of a bases-loaded scenario for Edman against lefty pitcher Dylan Lee, the inning was over after Warner’s ill-fated send at third.

Still, Marmol was clear that responsibility for the misplay fell on O’Neill.

“That’s an effort thing,” Marmol said. “That’s not a—We don’t go out there and ‘work on’ running hard.”

“He was pretty blunt about it,” O’Neill told reporters in front of his locker after the game. “He didn’t think I gave the best effort. I’m out here every day, grinding my ass off. Giving it my all and trying to stay on the field for 160 games out here. I’ve just got to get a better jump next time and, I guess, get around the base a little quicker and be in there next time.”

While mentioning several times the notion of the importance of longevity and aiming to stay healthy as a focus for his base running mechanics, O’Neill conceded the possibility that he might have been overthinking the moment rather than allowing his natural running ability to take over.

“Maybe there was a little too much thought process in the play for me rather than just to go get ‘em as I usually would,” he said. “So it’s just finding that happy medium and learning from the experience, for sure.”

Though O’Neill did not bring up the weather or field conditions as a factor, the rain in downtown St. Louis had begun the pick up in the latter innings of the contest, which could have conceivably been on the mind of the player while attempting to time out his rounding of the bag.

Asked directly whether he disagreed with Marmol’s assessment of how the play in question unfolded, O’Neill answered in the affirmative.

“Yeah, I mean I’m trying to score that run, of course,” O’Neill said. “I’m not out there to dog it, at all. Those are pretty strong words from him, so that’s good to know.”

O’Neill shared that he hadn’t necessarily pushed back against Marmol’s description of the moment in the heat of battle as the manager articulated to the player his view of the situation.

“There wasn’t too much that I would say in that conversation, I guess,” O’Neill said when asked whether he shared his differing opinion of the play with his Marmol. “He was very adamant about making his points. It’s not the best of situations to be in, 0-2 in this series here. So I understand the frustration.

“I’m trying to do everything I can to stay on the field here and give it my best effort. I’ve never been known to be a dogger out there, in any caliber, so for him to say that is very strong words.”

The Cardinals will look to avoid a sweep to the Braves in the series finale, scheduled for 12:15 p.m. CT on Wednesday afternoon.