The St. Louis Cardinals were active at the non-waiver trade deadline this season. The moves shook up the clubhouse by sending two clubhouse favorites, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for John Lackey and Corey Littrell. News reports quickly surfaced, such as this one from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, that players were unhappy with the deal.
The Cardinals have struggled at the plate. One of the most glaring examples was Craig, who saw a dramatic decline from his former production. Meanwhile, the team's top prospect, Oscar Taveras, continued to struggle in a part-time role. General manager John Mozeliak saw the opportunity to eliminate the platoon in right field while also bolstering his pitching staff.
Many assumed it would be Taveras who would be on the move.
Joe Buck suggested during a Fox Sports 1 telecast this weekend that Taveras is not well liked among Cardinal players. Joe Strauss, who covers the Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, echoed those sentiments when he joined local CBS Sports Radio 920's morning show, "The Morning After," via Brendan Marks.
Strauss states that players don't appreciate the lack of work ethic from the youngster. He also casts stones at Taveras' sense of entitlement, which appears to be based on his pedigree. Each of these things are concerning for fans.
Lost in the shuffle is the throwaway comment from Buck and Tom Verducci that the Cardinals lack the leadership of someone who can say something directly to Taveras. Indeed, that is the major difference between this Cardinals team and those of years past.
The veterans on this club are a bit different. They are players, like Adam Wainwright, who show tremendous support to each other. They are the strong and silent types, like Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. Gone are the Chris Carpenters and Lance Berkmans.
Most significantly, gone is Albert Pujols.
Pujols, possibly more than most players, seemed to be the leader who would pull guys aside. He would address their work ethic. He set the example, and he expected players to follow it. He was often the voice of reason within the clubhouse.
Molina needs to be that player now. A protege of Pujols while he was in St. Louis, Molina blossomed under the tutelage of Albert. He has proven to be the field general the young pitching staff so desperately needs.
The Cardinals need a leader. The Cardinals need someone willing to get in the face of the young guys and tell them what is expected of them when they wear the Birds on the Bat. The Cardinals need someone to step into that role.
That someone likely needs to be Yadier Molina.