Cardinals can do better than Randal Grichuk in right field

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That Randal Grichuk started and hit second against Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner in Saturday’s shutout loss wasn’t actually a problem. It will be a problem if he finds himself anywhere near the two hole in the next three games of the NLCS for the Cardinals.

Grichuk, who unofficially became the Cardinals’ primary right fielder with about a week remaining in the regular season, was responsible for the first highlight of NLDS play last week when he took Clayton Kershaw deep in the first inning of Game 1 against the Dodgers. However, he’s 2-for-19 with no extra-base hits, no RBI and an 8/1 K/BB ratio since that homer, having started every game as the Cardinals’ No. 2 hitter.

The problem is that Grichuk really only hits left-handed pitchers. In Triple-A this year, he came in at .325/.376/.505 in 123 at-bats against southpaws and .233/.286/.403 versus righties. His splits weren’t quite as pronounced in previous years, but they were still significant. In the majors, he wasn’t particularly good against either lefties (.242/.254/.435 in 62 AB) or righties (.250/.308/.354 in 48 AB), but all of his homers did come off lefties.

Besides, there’s another benefit to sitting Grichuk versus right-handers the next three games; he’d be the one potentially scary option off the bench against lefties the Cardinals possess. Right now, they’re reduced to using Tony Cruz or Peter Bourjos as a late-game bat against Jeremy Affeldt or Javier Lopez. Grichuk would be much more of a threat.

So, ideally in Game 2 on Sunday, it’ll be Oscar Taveras in right field, perhaps with Kolten Wong batting second. Using Bourjos in center field and Jay in right, as they did a few times last month, is also an option, but a less likely one.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.