13 Pitchers and Aaron Miles in Outfield

Jul 24, 2008 at 10:17 am

Can somebody please tell me why this team insists on carrying thirteen pitchers?

Last night, we saw Aaron Miles playing in the outfield. Now, I realize that Miles is supposedly very valuable because he can play all over the diamond. And you know what? I'm willing to completely ignore the fact that that statement isn't really true for the purposes of this discussion. (Just because a player is capable of standing at a given spot on the field does not mean he's able to play the position.)

Aaron Miles is a utility infielder. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an outfielder.

The problem here, of course, is that thirteen members of the Cardinal roster currently happen to be pitchers. Apparently manager Tony La Russa is so worried about the state of the bullpen and the number of innings they've thrown that he has to carry eight -- count 'em, I say, count 'em -- eight relievers. Unfortunately, that leaves the Cards with an awfully short bench. A bench with only four players on it, to be exact.

And so last night, with Rick Ankiel out sick, the Cardinals had Aaron Miles play the outfield late in the game. Just about the time you would normally see La Russa going to a defensive replacement, instead we saw a career utility infielder taking fly balls.

Absolutely asinine.

Of course, it wouldn't have come to this if La Russa hadn't already insisted on double-switching one of his outfielders out of the game. You already have a short bench, with the outfield shortest of all, and you're going to double switch an outfielder? I realize you were trying to get two innings out of Jason Isringhausen to save the 'pen, but isn't the point of carrying those thirteen pitchers to have the extra arms available?

That's what I find most confusing about all of this. The Cardinals are carrying a full two pitchers more than what is traditional in a bullpen, yet they seem to still not have enough arms to get by. Although, I suppose when you have both a lefty (Randy Flores), and a righty (Izzy), that you can't trust to get outs on a consistent basis, it does sort of ruin the point of carrying a ton of extra relievers.

Two nights ago, with the Cardinals down in the ninth inning, we saw Braden Looper pinch-hitting. I can understand it in the fifth or sixth inning of a game occasionally. You think you may need some extra players late in the game, so you don't want to use up all of your good position player bullets early. So, you go to an Adam Wainwright or a Looper to pinch hit. They're both decent hitters, and it saves a bench player. Makes sense, right?

When you're looking at trying to make a comeback in the ninth inning in one of the biggest games of the year, though, guess who you don't want to see pinch hitting? And last night, in what was still a very close ball game, we saw a player with virtually no experience in the outfield standing out there in left. Aaron Miles.

Unless baseball decides to go to a 30-man roster, La Russa badly needs to learn to stop putting his team, and himself, behind the eight-ball with his bizarre roster decisions. There's absolutely no reason for a team to have to carry thirteen pitchers. Unless, that is, the manager just can't help but make ten pitching changes in every game simply for the sake of feeling like he's accomplishing something. We shouldn't see players playing positions they have no experience at because all the other options have already been used up.

La Russa has long been known as a manager who puts his players in the best possible situation to succeed. Looking at the way he's using players lately, though, I have to admit to having some serious doubts as to whether or not that's true at the moment.

- Aaron Schafer