It wasn't that long ago that I slobbered all over the Cardinals and nuzzled them and hoped that they would mark me with their scent. It was an article in search of the best organization in baseball. The Cardinals won the made-up honors.
Wouldn't take that back, either. The Cardinals aren't starting Shelby Miller, their high-first-round-super-prospect-rookie-sensation this series because they have other options. Other options? What kind of team has other options at this time of year. Allen Craig isn't playing in the NLCS, and no one cares because Matt Adams is basically Craig's spirit-platoon animal. They combine internal development with external acquisitions like no other team in baseball. They have the decoder ring.
And their outfield defense is a salmonella outbreak with six legs.
That's not entirely fair. Carlos Beltran still has a strong arm. But he's 50. He still has the best range in the Cardlnals' outfield.
The Cardlnals lost Game 3 on Monday for a lot of reasons. Just one of them was Jon Jay's defense. He's not a scapegoat. But, to be fair, it was completely dreadful defense from a center fielder. Three GIFs, and I seem to remember a couple more from the same game:
The good news is that Matt Holliday plays left field like he's wearing steel pants. So here you go, the smartest team in baseball, starting an outfield filled with Delmons and night terrors.
And now we wonder … maybe they aren't the smartest team in the land?
I made up a list of the teams with three qualified outfielders with negative defensive WAR since the start of the 20th century. Do you know who had negative dWAR this year? Mike Trout. So, no, I don't treat these numbers as gospel, either. There's a lot of brow-furrowing that goes along with a list like this. But it's a star, and if your'e looking for the full table, it's here. Note that the one of only two teams with four outfielders in one season also developed Bobby Bonds, Garry Maddox, and Gary Matthews in the same decade before frittering them away.
The most recent team to field three sub-par outfielders? The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals. Jay was worth -1 win in the field, Beltran was -1.5, and Holliday was worth -2. They were the only team in 2013 with three, you know. It takes a lot of defensive flubbery to cost a full win, too, so don't underestimate those numbers.
I wanted a list of teams that made you laugh. A team of Astros and Marlins and never the twain shall meet. Except something weird happened with the list. There were World Series winners and division winners. The full list since 2000:
The average record of those 28 teams? 86-76. Twelve of the 28 were playoff teams, and two won the World Series. Nineteen out of the 28 were over .500. Just looking at the list, you can see clankmitts stacked upon clankmitts. It's clankmitts all the way down. You start with Ben Grieve and end up at Jon Jay. In the middle somewhere is a hilarious Hideki Matsui/Bernie Williams/Gary Sheffield combo. That won 97 games.
That's the point. Maybe sticking clankmitts in the outfield is Moneyball for teams smart enough not to announce what their undervalued-Moneyball-asset strategy really is. Heck, my Giants won a championship with Pat Burrell in the outfield, and he was hot defensive stink when he was in his early 20s.
If the Cardinals could inject Jay with Carlos Gomez serum tomorrow, they would. If they could shoot Holliday with magic bad-outfielder-b-gon rays, they would. But enough smart teams have done good things with wacky defensive alignments over the years that I'm wondering if it's easy to make too big of a deal out of this.
It's mostly a moot point, as Oscar Taveras is about to impose himself on your baseball-loving consciousness. Until then, the Cardinals have a wretched outfield defense, and it was most certainly on display on Monday. But maybe that doesn't matter that much.
I dunno. I predicted a Blue Jays/Nationals World Series, I think. So don't look at me. Just found this curious, is all. Bad outfield defense will kill you. Until you win your division and/or the World Series, apparently.