The St. Louis Cardinals are plainly, self-evidently enduring a period of persistent, chronic dunderheadedness. Nothing makes that more plain than the fact that they’re publicly feuding with one of their own players, but that’s not been the only sign: Tommy Pham, who broke out last season with the Cardinals, in his age-29 season, publicly called out the organization for jerking him around prior to the start of this season; last season stalwart catcher Yadier Molina had to clap back at manager Mike Matheny after Matheny stupidly cited Molina’s baserunning as justification for integrating rookie Carson Kelly; last winter anonymous Cardinals players bitched to a local columnist that the team’s ballyhooed grit was being polluted by players who came up in other organizations.
That’s the context for this report, from The Athletic’s Mark Saxon, that says Mike Matheny has deployed 33-year-old closer Bud Norris as a kind of hall monitor, and that Norris has appointed himself Designated Veteran Asshole for hard-throwing rookie Jordan Hicks. Norris has reportedly been “mercilessly riding” Hicks all season, in an apparent ode to a time when crusty old ballplayers considered it their privilege to torment their younger teammates.
In a perfect Cardinals move, Hicks—the best young arm in the Cardinals organization, and one of the most exciting in baseball—was briefly sent down to minor-league camp this spring over what Saxon describes as chronic lateness, before the team remembered that a pitcher’s job is to throw a baseball and not, you know, to open the store promptly at 8 a.m. Norris, thereafter sensing a deficiency in the young man’s approach to the game, has made it his job to teach Hicks all about professionalism “in the harshest possible ways.” Apparently this doesn’t sit too well with Hicks:
Hicks, the hardest throwing right-handed pitcher in baseball, isn’t a fan of the treatment. Asked if he thinks it will one day pay dividends in his career, he said, “I have no idea. No comment.”
So Hicks isn’t a big fan. But maybe it’s the kind of thing a young player like Hicks will someday look back on fondly and appreciate in hindsight?
“Probably not,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny admitted with a chuckle. “But Bud’s going to continue to do what he thinks is right as a veteran, so you respect that.”
Ah ha. But riding his supremely talented and overpowering young teammate, to unquantifiable and dubious benefit, isn’t the worst of Norris’s grumpy old company-man behavior. Apparently Matheny has also deployed Norris as an inside man, a snitch: Norris reportedly gives Matheny “occasional reports of pitchers not living up to the standards the team set in spring training,” which Matheny subsequently uses to levy fines against his players.
“I get regular updates,” Matheny said. “But that’s good. I invited him into that.”
This is the most St. Louis Cardinals story of all. Norris is snitching on his teammates to their boss; he’s also relentlessly hectoring a younger teammate for goofy, intangible reasons; the teammate isn’t enjoying it at all; even his manager can’t say for sure whether the harsh treatment of Hicks will pay long-term dividends. But, hey, since Norris is going to do it no matter what, you’ve got to respect it. And why?
“I think the game has progressively gotten a little softer,” Matheny said. “Man, it had some teeth not that long ago.”
What a bunch of goobers. Anyway, you should read the entire thing.