Q&A with Derrick Goold: Reds v. Cardinals Preview

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took some time to discuss the Reds' next opponent with us. He provides his perspective on the rivalry, this weekend's match-up, and the outlook on the rest of the season.

The baseball fans in the St. Louis area are spoiled in many ways. Over the last 10 years they have be privileged enough to see 4 division titles, Albert Pujols in his prime, and 2 World Championships. The folks of St. Louis are also blessed with some of the best local sports journalists in the country, such as Bernie Miklasz and Derrick Goold. The latter is the lead beat writer covering the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and author of the Bird Land blog where he's been writing since 2005. We put together some questions for Goold which he was kind enough to answer for us. In doing so, Goold give his take on the "Cardinal Way," their talented young pitchers, possible dead-line moves, the Reds/Cardinals rivalry, and much more.

Red Reporter:

The Cardinals are currently the best team in baseball, and many of us are left to wonder what magic dust they're using. Sports Illustrated calls it the "Cardinal Way." In your view, how does this organization continue to succeed despite all the obstacles they've faced in recent years (i.e. losing Pujols, La Russa, Duncan... Injuries to Carpenter and Garcia... etc...)?

Derrick Goold:

It was called “The Cardinal Way” long before Sports Illustrated mentioned it. A couple years ago the Cardinals undertook an organizational effort to commit to paper the Cardinal Way. The result was a handbook that every player gets when he enters the system and that every manager and coach has with him all the time at the ballpark. That handbook is called “The Cardinal Way.” I've written a few articles about the book, which is not available to the general public. Mike Matheny wrote the entries on catchers. Dave Duncan helped mold and shape and influence the chapters on pitching. George Kissell’s fingerprints are all over the bunt plays and relays. The book covers everything from specific drills and movements on the field to the overall organizational philosophy. The Cardinals have also taken this into acquiring players. They focus on not just the analytics and scouting reports, but also try to seek out information on the person, the personality. They learned from a few years ago when they had a good team but chemistry was lacking and cliques emerged in the clubhouse. They don’t want “choir boys,” as Matheny says, but they are looking for similar traits. It doesn’t take long in the Cardinals clubhouse to see the overlaps in personalities from Adam Wainwright to Jake Westbrook to Chris Carpenter to Joe Kelly to Shelby Miller to Michael Wacha, or from Yadier Molina to Jon Jay to Carlos Beltran to Matt Holiday … The Cardinals have been able to create continuity from the lowest levels to the highest levels, so that players at High-A are learning the same things that will be there in the majors and players in Class AA are presented the same expectations that will see in the majors. Oscar Taveras, for example, has won a league title at every level he’s played since coming the State, and that has been a priority for the Cardinals. How the Cardinals have created that consistency, what they look for to develop power pitchers, and even how they use Musial as a model for some decisions was the main thrust of our 2013 season preview, where The Cardinal Way was explored in great detail. Those stories are still available online:

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/cardinals-preview/collection_92f471ea-493c-5de9-92e1-93eb843bfc1e.html

RR:

The Cardinals seem to have an endless supply of talented young pitchers, all of whom have seen varying levels of success. The organization and fans must be thrilled with what they've seen from Wacha, Miller and others; but is there a fear that their success is unsustainable? Should we expect any sort of innings limit on these guys?

DG:

The Cardinals won’t fall trap to publicizing an innings limit, and there doesn’t appear to be a hard and fast and specific one that has been slapped on each pitcher. But there is concern. The Cardinals do not want Michael Wacha to make an absurd jump in innings because only a year ago he was the Friday starter for Texas A&M. They have researched past use of young pitchers and set up a model for Wacha that is protective of his arm. That model has been altered here, of course, because he’s in the majors before they expected him to be. Wacha, Miller, Lyons and the others are certain to see some modifications in their schedules. They may be skipped later in the season when off days permit. They will certainly see some truncated starts when maybe five innings will do instead of pushing on through seven. The quality of pitching the Cardinals have had overall is unsustainable at the current level, and already you are starting to see some regressions to the mean. The rotation is good. It could be the best for the Cardinals in several years, even with the rookies. But it will sore wear quicker and the results will settle eventually.

RR:

Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams are unknown to most fans outside of St. Louis, yet they are contributing in big ways to the Cardinals offense. Just how good are these guys, and should Matheny get more creative in order to get Adams more playing time?

DG:

Matt Carpenter should be an All-Star. There is an argument to be made – as I tried to do earlier this week – that Carpenter’s contribution to the Cardinals’ lineup has been the most valuable when compared to what they received last year. He took a position that lagged well behind the league average and made it an offensive force for the Cardinals. No position has seen a greater increase in production than second base from 2012 to 2013, and he’s done it by also rescuing the Cardinals’ leadoff spot. That could have been a hole in the lineup with Jon Jay’s struggles, and instead it’s a strength. Adams hasn’t had the ideal amount of playing time to get a chance to flash his power. An injury interrupted his chance to play earlier in the season and there’s a limit to how creative Matheny can get if he’s choosing who to sit from the trio of Holliday, Beltran, or Craig.

RR:

Speaking of Matheny, he's certainly filling some large shoes vacated by Tony La Russa. Obviously, the results are hard to argue with but what is the general opinion of the job he's done in St. Louis? Is it possible that he's more popular among the fans than La Russa?

DG:

He certainly is more popular in his first two seasons at manager than La Russa was, but that’s because Matheny had a head start. He played for the Cardinals. He was beloved as a player for the Cardinals. And he has called St. Louis home for years. He moved here to marry a St. Louis girl he met in college and lived here before he became a Cardinal. That said, La Russa has two World Series titles for the Cardinals. Rings are the things. He’s plenty popular now.

RR:

From an outsiders perspective, it seems that Matt Holliday doesn't get the credit he deserves from Cardinals fans? Is that an accurate assessment, and if so, why do you think that is?

DG:

I think there is a vocal minority that fixate on the times that he fails. When I try to engage them on Twitter or in emails about why, inevitably they mention the fly ball he dropped in LA during the 2009 playoffs. Or, they mention that he didn’t play in Game 7 of the World Series. They conveniently ignore all the things that he did to get the team to that point. I have a theory that a small slice of Cardinal Nation – perhaps a group not even large enough to be incorporated as a county – would watch Holliday go 12-for-15 in a playoff series, drive in seven, and bemoan the time he struck out with the bases loaded in a game the Cardinals lost. Even though they won the world series. But again, that’s the squeaky minority. Overall, I think fans recognize the player they have – and many are hip to the reality that the Cardinals actually got a reasonable deal on his contract when compared to the other outfielders that received similar contracts.

RR:

The Cardinals have a wealth of talent in the minors. Do you anticipate the Cardinals making a trade to bolster the bullpen or any other holes before the deadline? Or are they content with the team they have?

DG:

The Cardinals have the assets to make a trade happen. They also have needed to reach into that minor-league system more often and deeper than hoped already this season. The performance at shortstop by Pete Kozma and the availability of starters like Lyons and Wacha mean the Cardinals can be choosy when it comes to the deadline. They won’t limit their attention to bullpen help. They will look at the available starting pitchers. If they can find an upgrade there – a rotation-enhancer or October-changer – they will make it work. They’ve done that in the past. They’ll be active before the deadline but unlike the past two years they may be able to target the player they want and make a deal happen, not spend their talent on the trade they need.

RR:

In Cincinnati, many of us view the Cardinals as our biggest rival. Do the fans and media in St. Louis have the same view or are the Reds still seen as the "little brother?"

DG:

Nope. The Reds are the Cardinals rival now. The players feel that way. The media covers it that way. Little brother? There’s nothing little about being the defending division champ.

RR:

Outside of Joey Votto, which Reds player is most "feared" in St. Louis? In other words, with the game on the line, who's the last guy the Cardinals want to see at the plate for the Reds?

DG:

Feared? I don’t hear that word to often. Brandon Phillips gets the most attention because of his comments, his approach, and the damage he’s done to the Cardinals through the years. With the game on the line, I would imagine Cardinals fans don’t want to see Phillips up there. One, because he’s likely to produce. Two, because he’s likely never to let them hear the end of it.

RR:

These two teams seem to be similar in many ways. Strong starting rotations with potent offenses and bullpens that leave plenty to be desired. The Cardinals lead the division as of today, but do you see either team having a distinct advantage the rest of the season?

DG:

I don’t. I was always struck by this notion presented by some writers that the Cardinals had to close the nine-game gap on the Reds. I had a hard time seeing it that way. The Cardinals didn’t have to close all of that nine-game gap. The Reds received career years from many arms in the rotation last year and had the kind of starting pitching that often lines up with a 100-win season. They were exceptional. But repeating that is difficult. Look no further than Cueto, and trying to keep him in the rotation. The Reds could end up being a better team than last year’s group, but not have the starting pitching necessary to have a better record. This is going to be a fight to the finish.

RR:

Parting thoughts on the upcoming weekend series in Cincinnati?

DG:

I’m looking forward to it. These teams bring a lot of talent, a lot of success, and, of course, a lot of acrimony to the ballpark. These series are great to cover because of the storylines that come into it and the stories that develop during it. Drama is assured. If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you know what I hope to see. The Reds have a great team. Their greatest rival is coming to town. The division standings could change as a result of this series. Schools are out. Weather should be OK. All the elements are there to not only assure great games but also draw great crowds. Every time I got to Cincinnati I hope to see the size of crowd that Cincinnati’s team deserves.

Thanks for including me in this. I hope these answers help. Should be a great weekend. Enjoy the games.

__________________

We'd like to extend a huge thank you to Derrick Goold for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to follow him on twitter @dgoold and check out Bird Land to read more of his work.

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