As the season is nearing, the St. Louis Cardinals have themselves an issue with a player.
That St. Louis Cardinals’ player is Kolten Wong. Recently, Kolten has come out in saying that he wants to be the starter or to be traded. This is a bit of a bold request by the young second baseman.
Wong was quoted as saying this to Ben Fedrickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch,
“When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.”
Normally, I would take the case of the player here. However, in this business it’s all put up or shut up. You don’t get a starting position just because you say you want it.
In the case of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, both of those players were on teams who had the luxury of working things out through a long season as they played for struggling clubs at the time. Kolten Wong is playing for a team that is vying for a playoff spot and doesn’t have the advantage to stick with a struggling player for a long period of time with successful players behind him on the bench.
Right now, Wong simply doesn’t have the offensive numbers to back up his case to the starter at second. He’s hitting .190 in spring and was in a continuous slump at the plate last year.
Wong later clarified his comments saying,
“That platoon word is something I don’t get along with real well,” Wong said. “When that came off, obviously I kind of blew off the top a little bit. Just because I’ve put in the work this offseason offensively, defensively, offensively, trying to figure out my swing…To hear that was something that hit me out of left field. I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I didn’t mean it for me to come off seeming like I wanted to be traded or wanted to get out of this organization. I love playing for the Cardinals. If that wasn’t the reason, then I never would have signed that extension.”
For someone who has been a big proponent of Wong getting starts because of his defense, even I know and realize that if he isn’t going to get it done at the plate he’s not going to get his way. He’s going to need to produce to keep his job with Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia available.
Now, with that said, I still think Mike Matheny is going to have to give Kolten Wong a fair shake at things in the regular season. A platoon right away may not bold well for Wong’s confidence.
At the same time it is going to be important for this team to get off to a good start right away and if Wong isn’t going to be successful, someone else needs to play.
It’s nice that Wong is showing the desire to be the guy, but he’s got to realize the team is going to want him to be successful in that role. This isn’t the league of handouts and the St. Louis Cardinals don’t have time to treat it that way either.