There seems to be a common refrain among Cardinals fans and even the media, it seems. Oscar Taveras isn’t getting an opportunity to play in St. Louis. Mike Matheny is showing his loyalty to Allen Craig by giving him most of the playing time. That’d be all well and great. If it were true. Funny how nobody bought the concept that there wasn’t playing time for him in April and May. It was all about Super Two!
Oscar Taveras was called up July 1st. Since that date there have been 17 games played. Taveras has started 10 of them and pinch hit in another 5. Allen Craig has started 11, yes that is one more start, but I expect Taveras to start tomorrow night. After all, we’re talking about a fairly even split in playing time.
If Taveras wants more playing time, the solution is simple because he controls his own destiny. He needs to hit! It shouldn’t surprise anyone that with fairly equal performance, he’s getting an equal split of playing time with Craig.
The argument is that Taveras has the potential that comes with him tearing up the Pacific Coast League and he’s our top hitting prospect. He can’t hit if he doesn’t get playing time. Except that that argument goes both ways. Craig can’t hit either if he doesn’t get the playing time. And when it comes down to it, I’ll put more stock in Craig’s last three seasons in the Majors, where he hit .312 over 328 games.
Craig is the incumbent starter. He has the job until someone has proven they can take it from him. And he has left the door mat out for Taveras, hitting just .146 now in July after tonight’s game. Taveras, after his pinch hitting appearance, is now up to .209 since his July 1st call up.
Neither man is playing right now like he deserves the position. And that’s really the problem.
Some want to hang their hat on Oscar’s potential in the hopes that it will eventually win out and hand him the position full time. But what guarantee is there that he hits? What has he done to prove that he’s capable of it? Wasn’t the complaint that many had with the handling of Colby Rasmus that he was handed the starting job without any competition? That’s what many of us claimed as a reason why he never reached his full potential in St. Louis before he was dealt away in 2011.
Personally, I’d be more inclined to give Taveras a bulk of the starts to prove himself if he hadn’t struggled so mightily when he got his first opportunity in June. He hit .176 over those 10 straight games he played and wasn’t showing any signs of life at the end of it. It’s my belief that if he had hit well over those 10 games he would be our regular right fielder today. But he didn’t.
This isn’t to say I’m giving up on Oscar. Or that I think Taveras is the second coming of Rasmus. I still believe that Oscar will be a very good player in the Major Leagues eventually. I’m just saying that Craig has earned the right to split playing time until Taveras distinguishes himself. Taveras hasn’t earned more playing time than he’s gotten. If Taveras is hitting .300, or even .250, this is a very different discussion.
If he wants more playing time, he has to hit. Bottom line.