Aaron Miles, Brendan Ryan, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, and Josh Phelps. What do all of these players have in common?
That's right. Tony La Russa is playing his infielders in the outfield. The only question is, is this out of need or to make a statement?
I'm of the school of thought that it is, in fact, a statement.
I'll first hit on the necessity school of thought first.
The Cardinals are in a major rut. They have a lot of injuries and the need has arisen. It's also not completely out of the ordinary.
Before Kennedy was traded to the then Anaheim Angels for Jim Edmonds, La Russa was going to play him in left field. Lopez played left field for the Washington Nationals to hide his bad infield glove.
With Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, and Joe Mather done for the season, the Cardinals need some outfielders. Nick Stavinoha is a joke on offense and defense, so he's out. Ryan Ludwick is a mainstay and so is Skip Schumaker.
That's two. Where's the third?
Well, there's the necessity part.
Brian Barton has proved to be a potent bat and a good defender, but isn't getting the time because he's either in La Russa's doghouse, or La Russa just plain doesn't like him.
There's your third outfielder, and that's the problem.
Since La Russa refuses to play Barton, he has had to get creative with the left field job.
Miles had played two-third innings (spanning three games) in the outfield. He had more pitching innings than innings picked up in the outfield.
Kennedy has played 2 1/3 innings in the outfield, prior to 2008. Ryan is almost in the same boat, as he had zero innings in a Major League outfield. He had only started playing the outfield when he wa demoted to the minors in August.
Josh Phelps? Zero. Felipe Lopez? Zero.
So, yeah, it's somewhat out of necessity.
Now, it's time for my school of thought: a statement.
It's hard to give the other side of a story when you're one side and you don't like the other side. So pardon my semi-vagueness on the necessity.
The statement that I keep talking about is to the front office. The Cardinals were extremely strong through the entire first half of the season. They were just insane. They had only lost one series and were never swept.
They were running out of gas and the entire Cardinals team wanted some help. Maybe a bullpen patch, or a new bench bat. What did they get on July 31?
It was August 5 when the front office did do something. They signed Felipe Lopez, a weak bench bat. He's a very good player with a good bat, but he's not what this team needed.
The team crapped out and started a tailspin. They are in a 17-23 skid since the front office didn't make a deadline deal, and are currently in a seven game losing streak.
The Cardinals battled the first four months of the season and were in a strong position to take the Wild Card, then were given no help. So, La Russa has decided to give the front office a statement:
You are the reason we're this bad
He's playing infielders in the outfield to represent the lack of help. The Cardinals were one solid bench bat that plays the outfield away from being good. They were one Brian Fuentes away from being great.
Nope, the front office said, "Thanks for making more money by being better than what we wanted. We like to be mediocre, so here's Felipe Lopez. Enjoy!"
La Russa didn't like that, and now he's putting it all on the front office.
There are your two schools of thought. Pick a side. There is no middle ground. Either the Cardinals are playing infielders in the outfield because they have to, or they're doing to make a statement to the front office.