COMMENTARY | Allen Craig had a X-ray yesterday to reevaluate his sprained foot.
After weeks in a walking boot, the St. Louis Cardinals' cleanup hitter and runners-in-scoring-position marvel may still be unable to plant and pivot on what is quickly becoming the most talked about foot in recent Cardinals memory.
Unfortunately, for fans chewing Alka Seltzer tablets by the handful, the Cardinals' front office has elected not to talk about Craig's X-ray results until today, presumably to wait until more members of the media can be in attendance at Busch Stadium.
But there may yet be a plan underneath all the radio silence.
A Role to Fill a Gaping Hole
Hesitant to identify a timetable for Craig's return, general manager John Mozeliak has appeared cautiously hopeful that the slugger could get at-bats during the regular season -- at least, his words have been hopeful. His tone, on the other hand, carries what sounds more like deceptive optimism. It's entirely possible Mozeliak and Matheny accepted Craig's fate long ago.
Allen Craig will not return to a major league game before the end of the regular season -- but the postseason may still be attainable.
With Matt Adams putting on a power display at Craig's position, the Cardinals are becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of sticking with Adams at first base throughout the National League Division Series (NLDS) and National League Championship Series (NLCS). While it's possible Craig could certainly give an anemic St. Louis bench a boost as a pinch-hitter in October, the offense as it stands appears capable of enduring.
But let's not forget about everyone's favorite "this time it counts" rule surrounding the All-Star game. Because the American League won the 2013 Midsummer Classic, home-field advantage in the World Series goes to the AL squad. That means up to four games in a best-of-seven series played in an AL ballpark. It also means 16 to 20 or more at-bats for a designated hitter in a seven-game series.
The leading contenders for that additional bat on the Cardinals' roster right now: Shane Robinson, Brock Peterson, Kolten Wong and Adron Chambers.
With a .248 average, .348 on-base percentage, two home runs and invaluable experience at the MLB level, Shane Robinson stands the greatest chance of success in such a role -- but let's not fool ourselves. No one is getting overly excited about handing a slew of meaningful World Series at-bats to a hitter that looks like he could have taken a skateboard to the stadium.
But if Allen Craig could go -- well, that's a bird of a different feather.
Reports of a potential simulated game or two and some at-bats in the Cardinals' Florida instructional league suggest some sort of plan for getting Craig ready to step into at-bats in October, even if his foot is not completely healed. But if he can't comfortably and consistently plant, he can't play first base.
Pinch-hitting and DH-ing, however, is an entirely possible outcome. And a role Craig has filled before.
In the Cardinals' legendary October run of 2011, Allen Craig hit just .243 in a part-time role, but a .391 OBP, .622 slugging percentage and four home runs -- three in the World Series alone -- made him a potential postseason MVP candidate nonetheless.
The Cardinals may be envisioning more of the same during their postseason run in 2013.
Manager Mike Matheny may not get his All-Star first baseman back in time for the Fall Classic, but he could very well get his coveted cleanup hitter -- and his .454 average with runners in scoring position -- back just in time to win the Cardinals' 12th World Series championship in 2013.
Kevin Reynolds is the author of Stl Cards 'N Stuff and host of The State of the Nation Address podcast at Cards 'N Stuff. He's been writing and podcasting about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2007 and can be found chatting about baseball on Twitter (@deckacards).
- Sports & Recreation
- Allen Craig