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Commentary: If performance really does matter, it’s time for the Cardinals to follow DeJong demotion with more major changes

The demotion of shortstop Paul DeJong should just be the first of a series of moves. There are at least five reasons why the time for change is now.
Credit: AP
St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong catches a line drive by San Francisco Giants' Curt Casali during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 8, 2022, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals may not want to move Gold Glove second baseman Tommy Edman to shortstop. They may not want to promote Nolan Gorman from Memphis. They may not want to make a change with their golden-boy hitting coach, Jeff Albert.

They may soon have no choice but to make all of those changes – and a few more.

The Cardinals have a lineup that is growing more stagnant by the day – except for the recent performance of Juan Yepez  – and there doesn’t seem to be any real sense of urgency coming down from the front office to make significant changes that need to be made – and some that should have already been made.

The demotion of shortstop Paul DeJong should just be the first of a series of moves. There are at least five reasons why the time for change is now.

Tommy Edman can play shortstop

He played the position all his life – until he got to the major leagues. He has logged more than 2,000 innings at the position in the minor leagues. The only thing Edman will need to do to be ready for the switch is some pre-game work on the mechanics needed to make the longer throw to first base.

Yes, Edman won a Gold Glove playing second base last year. But how do the Cardinals know that he can’t win a Gold Glove at shortstop as well?

The argument that the Cardinals shouldn’t make the switch because of how well Edman is doing offensively has no merit either. Edman is smart, on and off the field. He graduated from Stanford. Making a change in defensive positions isn’t going to affect how he performs offensively. It wasn’t all that long ago that Edman would come to the ballpark being ready to play any of four positions, and he played them all well.

The way shifts are employed on almost every pitch now – until they are banned next year – decreases the importance of defense at second base. With the shifts, Edman likely will still be on that side of the base a good percentage of the time. Will Gorman make as many spectacular plays? It’s not likely as of now, but he will make the routine ones. And the upgrade he will provide the offense, especially the way this team struggles to score runs, will be more than worth whatever minor defensive dropoff comes with the change.

Gorman has nothing left to prove in Triple A

The Cardinals have already said it a couple of times this season: “performance matters.” Does it really? It’s time to show it. Gorman has done everything he can do at Memphis. It’s time to find out if he can repeat that success at the major-league level.

Could Gorman struggle in the early stages? Sure. It wouldn’t be the first time, or would not be the last, that a top-rated prospect comes up the majors, sees what is different about the game at this level, and if he has to, goes back to Triple A – actually with something to work on, to make those adjustments.

Maybe that won’t be necessary, however. Maybe Gorman will come up and hit for power, and for average, and show that he can build off his 12 homers and .298 average in 27 games at Memphis. The answer will remain unknown until he’s given a much-deserved chance.

 Admit the signing of Corey Dickerson has been a bust

Even if DeJong was still playing shortstop, and playing well, it’s time to admit the signing of Corey Dickerson was a $5 million mistake. He has nine hits, eight of them singles, and is hitting .184. Is there any reasonable observer who doesn’t think Gorman can produce better numbers than that?

The timing of the Dickerson signing in spring training made no sense from the beginning. The signing of Albert Pujols was different, even if their performance has been similar. Maybe it was the shortened spring, and the slow starts for Lars Nootbaar and Gorman, that prompted the decision. If there are quick decisions made on spring training performances, however, how can the front office justify just watching a player go out and repeatedly fail to perform during the season? If they can drop DeJong for that reason, then Dickerson should go too. Performance matters, right?

The overall performance of the team’s designated hitters was a disaster until Yepez arrived. Pujols isn’t going anywhere, but putting Gorman in that role on days he isn’t playing second base can only provide an improvement to the 5-of-38 performance from the left side, with just one double and three RBI.

Realize that Edmundo Sosa isn’t the everyday answer at shortstop

Performance matters, right? Sosa has four hits, all singles, in 25 at-bats. He is OK defensively at shortstop, but Brendan Donovan is more than ready to take over the role of being the backup infielder who can play anywhere he is needed. His first four starts with the Cardinals came at a different infield position.

Is there really anybody watching the Cardinals who thinks Sosa would be a better option as the everyday shortstop than Edman?

It’s time for Jeff Albert to go

This would be the ultimate move, but in reality, it’s the one that needs to happen if the Cardinals really want to get their offense moving in the right direction. Jeff Albert has had more than enough time to show what he can do as the hitting coach. The answer is there for all to see – look at the team’s box scores on a daily basis.

If DeJong was the only player struggling on offense, that would be one thing. But he wasn’t. Other than Edman, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, a case could be made that none of the Cardinals hitters are performing as they should. At some point, the person responsible for that needs to be held accountable.

It will never be known what changes the Cardinals would have made last winter had they not gone on the record-setting 17-game September winning streak – but one of those changes well could have been dismissing Albert. That streak could very well have saved his job. It shouldn’t save it any longer.

Firing Albert, of course, would be an admission by John Mozeliak and his analytic-loving lieutenants that they made a mistake, which they hate to do. This time, however, they may have no choice.

Performance matters. Or does it? We will soon find out.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains