The St. Louis Cardinals have long been a team of rich history and respect. The phrase "The Cardinal Way" has become well known. It stands for the way a player handles himself on and off the field. It also seems to give insight into why the franchise loses faith in some players.
The Cardinals bring in numerous instructors to spring training every year. The history of the franchise comes to life to help the stars of tomorrow succeed. The coaching that is provided from both veterans on the roster and former players serving as special instructors can become invaluable to a young player coming into stardom. The team fully expects players to take advantage of the help and to trust in the system provided.
Many players have come through the system only to be traded away. Some were labeled "clubhouse cancer," others were simply unwilling to be coached. Most of the time, those details begin to surface after the player and team have parted ways.
During the 2013 postseason, fans were confused by the absence of Shelby Miller. He was on the roster but was not used by manager Mike Matheny. Miller was reportedly healthy but remained unused for most of the playoffs.
Miller had his problems in the minor leagues. He found himself suspended indefinitely in 2011 for reported incidents involving alcohol, according to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Even after that, the team seemed willing to move forward with the pitcher.
Miller, now a member of the Atlanta Braves, recently spoke with Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. During the conversation, Miller spoke highly of St. Louis and described the move to Atlanta as a great step for him and his career. Cunningham shares a bit of information that provides a look into Miller's relationship with the Cardinals:
Miller said he’s been a 'stubborn pitcher' in the past, sticking to what he knows even when teammates and coaches who might know better offered him advice. That included Miller sticking with a four-seam fastball that opposing batters constantly fouled off, raising his pitch count.
Suddenly, Miller's situation in St. Louis gains some clarity. If he was unwilling to change his approach, the team would have likely seen that as a problem. Carrying him on the postseason roster may have only been a move to ensure the team had a pitcher there for an emergency.
It is likely that Matheny did not trust Miller in high-leverage situations. Edward Mujica shared his thoughts with Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com after a blown save in 2013. He explained what many others felt at the time, you simply throw what Yadier Molina tells you to throw. The game plan is well laid out.
Miller wasn't willing to throw what Yadi was calling. He continued to stick with his four-seam fastball. He was, in his own words, stubborn. That simply is not the "Cardinal Way".
Miller's folly can benefit some of the young pitchers coming through the Cardinals organization. Youngsters like Marco Gonzales and Michael Wacha will benefit from listening to their mentors during their time in the system. Veteran leaders and former players will continue to lay out the plan for success for these young men.
Not listening seems to be how young prospects find their way out of St. Louis.