Yesterday the Cardinals sent Felipe Lopez home, releasing the 30-year-old veteran with two weeks remaining on his $1 million contract. The initial spin was that they made the move to create playing time for younger players, but general manager John Mozeliak later admitted that Lopez showing up late for Monday’s game was the final straw:
He was late, and it was not the first time. When you think about what we’re trying to accomplish here, we brought up a lot of young players with our September call-ups, and we wanted to make sure they understand the message we want heard. It really came down to a tipping point and it was either just not play him or allow him to go home.
It was one thing, I think, the coaching staff had been very tolerant of, and they came to a point where they’d had enough. Obviously with two weeks left in the season you would prefer not to have to make these kind of decisions or react in this way, but I understand why we did it. I think it really sends a strong message to the younger players on what our expectations are.
I agree completely with Mozeliak. Lopez certainly isn’t the first chronically tardy baseball player, but when you’re a 30-year-old backup infielder hitting .231 with a .651 OPS showing up late gets you fired. And it should.
Tony La Russa identified himself as Lopez’s “biggest advocate” and was probably largely responsible for the Cardinals bringing him back for a second stint with the team, no doubt because he had fond memories of the .385 batting average he produced over 43 games in 2008. However, even the manager decided he’d had enough of Lopez:
He’s healthy. He’s just not going to get starts and not going to come off the bench. He was told and he said, “OK.” There was no reason for him to be around. He’s had a tough year.
Between his terrible season at the plate, always shaky glove, and ugly exit from St. Louis my guess is that Lopez may have a difficult time securing more than a minor-league contract this offseason.