It’s been an ugly week and a half – season, really – for the Cardinals, and by all accounts, things are not improving in the clubhouse. Well, all accounts except the manager, I guess.
In an article at The Athletic that you should definitely read, Mark Saxon recounts the relationship between 33-year-old veteran closer Bud Norris and 21-year-old rookie reliever Jordan Hicks. Norris apparently “mercilessly rid[es]” Hicks, who doesn’t appreciate the treatment. But Norris was “invited” by Mike Matheny to keep an eye on the relievers and literally report back on how they are conducting themselves, with fines levied based on Norris’s reports.
It sounds awful, and yet the Cardinals’ manager is portrayed as “chuckling” about how Norris treats Hicks, as wanting to “carry on the dying tradition of teaching younger players in the harshest possible ways,” and decrying how the game has gotten “softer” and lacks “teeth.” Despite acknowledging that Hicks probably doesn’t like the treatment, Matheny says, “But Bud’s going to continue to do what he thinks is right as a veteran, so you respect that.”
This is insane. Veterans policing the younger players and helping to teach them how to conduct themselves as professionals – for their own benefit, as well as the team’s – is nothing new, nor nothing bad. It happens on every team, including the Cubs, and there are very positive ways to do it. This, on the other hand, sounds different, especially against the backdrop of the whole Dexter Fowler story, which includes the fact that he reportedly doesn’t speak with Matheny anymore. Read the article at The Athletic and decide for yourself.
Norris is also the guy whom you may recall saying this a few years ago about culture clash in MLB (USA Today):
“This is America’s game. This is America’s pastime, and over the last 10-15 years we’ve seen a very big world influence in this game, which we as a union and as players appreciate. We’re opening this game to everyone that can play. However, if you’re going to come into our country and make our American dollars, you need to respect a game that has been here for over a hundred years, and I think sometimes that can be misconstrued. There are some players that have antics, that have done things over the years that we don’t necessarily agree with. I understand you want to say it’s a cultural thing or an upbringing thing. But by the time you get to the big leagues, you better have a pretty good understanding of what this league is and how long it’s been around.’’
Screams leadership, right? The kind of guy you’d want in charge of getting players in line to play the “right” way? The “Cardinal” way?
Things are rotten in St. Louis. It became abundantly clear with the hacking scandal, and things have just gotten more head-shakingly embarrassing since then. It’s like they’re now the organization that offers up the weekly embarrassing story. (Thanks!)
Oh, and they’re losing, so it’s not even like this old school grind down the young players make them respect my version of the game mentality is even working.