"Bernie Bits: Ailing Rolen needed a conservative approach"
by Bernie Miklasz - St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com)
After returning from surgery on his left shoulder last month, Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen was a ghost of the offensive machine that cranked out 34 homers and 124 RBIs last year. In 26 games, Rolen had only five extra-base hits in 87 at-bats. His slugging percentage in this power outage dipped to .264. He was overwhelmed by pain, overmatched by pitchers. Rolen screamed in agony multiple times while swinging the bat Tuesday vs. Milwaukee. Everyone could see the absurdity of playing him ... everyone, that is, except for the men who make decisions for the Cardinals.
Why did manager Tony La Russa insist on playing Rolen? The Cardinals have a comfortable lead in the NL Central. Having Rolen pain-free and peaking for the postseason should have been the goal, the priority. Why did the team doctors and training staff continue to clear Rolen to play? Why didn't general manager Walt Jocketty intervene? And why did Rolen silently suffer? We commend Rolen's work ethic and desire to be a team player, but if he can't function, it makes no sense to play. The Cardinals need Rolen to be a hero in October. Not now.
On Friday, finally, the Cardinals and Rolen stopped the fight. Rolen, finally, went to La Russa and confessed. Rolen told La Russa that he no longer felt capable of churning out enough quality at-bats and needed to back off. The medics, finally, nudged La Russa to ease up. And La Russa, finally, agreed to put Rolen on the 15-day disabled list.
This was mishandled from the start. Rolen came back too soon. He should have gone on a minor league rehab assignment for a test drive instead of trying to get healthy and strong at the major league level. And the Cardinals should have placed Rolen back on the DL at the All-Star break, when Rolen first tried to drop the hint that he couldn't play at his accustomed level.
La Russa means well. His competitive hard drive is appreciated. It's among Tony's finest qualities. But in this case, the Cardinals needed to take a more conservative and cautious approach to getting Rolen healthy. I truly believe La Russa cares about his players. But the attempt to always maintain, and sharpen, that winning edge can be counterproductive. La Russa says he doesn't second-guess himself. Still ...
"After watching him take at-bats (recently), I think people are saying this is something that should have been done several days ago," La Russa said. "I can definitely understand why someone would have that opinion. But that wasn't my opinion or I would have done it."...
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