- Winter Preview----St. Louis Cardinals:
Retaining Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan keeps the Cardinals competitive, but did they need this Mark McGwire aggravation? I say no.
What they need: A third baseman; a power outfield bat; bullpen help; another starter.
Free agents: OF Rick Ankiel; INF/OF Mark DeRosa; 3B Troy Glaus; INF Khalil Greene; OF Matt Holliday; RHP Joel Piniero; RHP John Smoltz; RHP Todd Wellemeyer
Ankiel had a rotten year and won't be back.
DeRosa is a player that La Russa would like to keep because of the way he conducts himself and his versatility, but he's in heavy demand and will get much more money than the Cardinals will be willing to pay.
Glaus was injured for much of 2009 and might have to wait until the Adrian Beltre/Garrett Atkins types sign or are traded before finding a home. He's gone.
Greene had issues with depression and played poorly for the Cardinals. Gone.
The Cardinals rolled the dice in giving up top prospect Brett Wallace to the Athletics to get Holliday in the misguided hopes (I thought it was possible too) that Holliday would have a similar affection to St. Louis as Jim Edmonds, Mark McGwire and others had and stay for less money than he'd get on the open market.
Such a belief only goes as far as looking at who Holliday's agent is----Scott Boras----and will be eliminated as reality sets in. Holliday wants to get paid (as is his right) and I see very little possibility of him returning to the Cardinals.
My money would be on Holliday going to Boston as soon as they deal a big contract (Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew).
Piniero was a classic La Russa/Duncan reclamation project who will get bigger offers elsewhere. I think Piniero's going to the Mets.
Smoltz can still pitch as a starter or reliever and he'd be a perfect back-of-the-rotation veteran for the Cardinals. There's a good chance he's back.
Wellemeyer had a horrid 2009 after a solid, across-the-board season in 2008. He might be back.
Players available via trade: RHP Kyle Lohse; OF Ryan Ludwick; RHP Jason Motte; OF Colby Rasmus
Lohse is making a lot of money and had a rotten 2009 after a breakout 2008 under La Russa/Duncan. In fairness, Lohse was hurt and there's every chance of him rebounding. That said, he's due over $30 million guaranteed through 2012 and that's a contract they'd like to move.
Ludwick was a journeyman before getting to the Cardinals. He got a chance to play regularly in 2008 and hit 37 homers; his numbers declined drastically in 2009 and he's arbitration-eligible. He's 31 and the club can use an upgrade.
Motte has a great arm and the only way he and/or Rasmus get traded is if the Cardinals pull off a blockbuster of the Roy Halladay/Felix Hernandez/Josh Johnson variety and it's going to take a lot more than Motte and Rasmus to get such a thing done.
Non-tender candidates: RHP Josh Kinney
Kinney was terrible in returning from Tommy John surgery. He's arbitration-eligible and will be non-tendered, but he could be back as a non-roster invitee.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: LHP Mike Gonzalez (Braves); RHP Danys Baez (Orioles); INF/OF Melvin Mora (Orioles); OF Jason Bay (Red Sox); RHP Octavio Dotel (White Sox); OF Jermaine Dye (White Sox); LHP Joe Beimel (Rockies); 1B/3B/OF Aubrey Huff (Tigers); RHP Kiko Calero (Marlins); 1B/OF Ross Gload (Marlins); SS/3B Miguel Tejada (Astros); OF Coco Crisp (Royals); OF Mike Cameron (Brewers); 3B Joe Crede (Twins); LHP Ron Mahay (Twins); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); OF Johnny Damon (Yankees); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); 3B Adrian Beltre (Mariners); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); 3B Pedro Feliz (Phillies); RHP Chan Ho Park (Phillies); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); OF Randy Winn (Giants); RHP Russ Springer (Rays); 3B/1B Hank Blalock (Rangers); OF Marlon Byrd (Rangers)
I like the Brad Penny signing. He reportedly only got a 1-year guarantee of $7.5 million with $1.5 million in incentives and, if he's healthy, he's just about as good as John Lackey. The history of La Russa/Duncan rehabilitating pitchers will make Penny a more-than-suitable replacement for Piniero and a solid three behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
The Cardinals have some money to spend even though in years past they've been reluctant to spend it unless they were backed into a corner. They're going to have to show Albert Pujols that they're serious about offering him lineup protection, so while Holliday's gone, there's a chance they jump into the bidding for Jason Bay.
The relievers mentioned are either popular on the market (Gonzalez) or the types of veterans who are returning from injury and/or are perfect for the La Russa way of putting his relievers in the best possible situations for success. Baez, Springer, Myers----all fill that role.
The Cardinals desperately need a bat at third base and Beltre would be perfect. If they miss out on him (or don't want to pay him), Crede, Blalock or even a shifting Tejada would be a good fit relatively cheaply. People are down on him because of his PED use and the revelation that he's older than he was initially thought, but Tejada can still play.
The lack of dialogue between the Yankees and Damon is curious. The Cardinals won't offer him four years; nor will they probably offer him three, but he could find himself having to accept a two year contract from someone.
Dye's the type of player that La Russa and the Cardinal fans would love.
Via trade: 3B Mike Lowell (Red Sox); RHP Manny Delcarmen (Red Sox); OF Carl Crawford (Rays); RHP Roy Halladay (Blue Jays); RHP Jeremy Accardo (Blue Jays); 3B Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays); 1B/OF Luke Scott (Orioles); RHP Chris Ray (Orioles); OF Delmon Young (Twins); RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); OF/1B/3B Miguel Cabrera (Tigers); 3B Jhonny Peralta (Indians); OF David DeJesus (Royals); RHP Gil Meche (Royals); RHP Kevin Millwood (Rangers); OF Josh Hamilton (Rangers); OF Nelson Cruz (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); RHP Josh Johnson (Marlins); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); OF Ryan Church (Braves); 3B Garrett Atkins (Rockies); 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres); RHP Heath Bell (Padres); 3B Mark Reynolds (Diamondbacks)
There are so many third basemen available that the Cardinals will be able to find a good one. I love Encarnacion's talent, but knowing La Russa's history with players who brainlock, it'd take five spring training games before he wanted to strangle Encarnacion.
The Red Sox want to rid themselves of Lowell's contract and wouldn't ask a lot in return. He's only got one year left at $12 million. Peralta or Cantu would be good fits.
Could the Cardinals replace Holliday with Miguel Cabrera? The Tigers are cleaning house and while the Cardinals farm system is somewhat weak, maybe Rasmus/Motte and a couple of minor league pieces, plus taking the Cabrera contract and a Nate Robertson/Jeremy Bonderman could get it done. That kind of protection in the lineup would mean a triple crown possibility for Pujols.
And what of Halladay?
Like the Mets, the Cardinals don't have the minor league depth to get a deal done unless the price drops drastically. Halladay's not a money-whore so there's a bigger chance of him staying in St, Louis for less money than he'd demand in Boston or New York. Can you imagine a rotation of Halladay/Wainwright/Carpenter?
- Dark clouds looming over the Tigers:
If the discussed three-team trade between the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Yankees is valid, it's worse than expected in Detroit.
The proposed deal would send Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks; Curtis Granderson to the Yankees; and Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke and Michael Dunn to the Tigers.
This is what's classically known as a housecleaning. Scherzer has a great arm, Jackson's a top prospect for the Yankees; but Granderson is the Tigers best asset to deal because of his reasonable contract, that he plays center field, hits for power and can run. If this is an indication of how far the Tigers are going to start a rebuild, they're not just going to be bad for the next 2-3 years, they're going to be hideous. Their farm system is barren because of a series of aggressive and retrospectively ludicrous deals (Jair Jurrjens for Edgar Renteria?) and their payroll is bloated with dead weight.
Is Jim Leyland regretting signing that contract extension yet? At his age and with his resume, does he need the aggravation of nearly 100-losses? We all know the answer to the question.
The Tigers are in deep, deep trouble.
- Brian Bruney? Ivan Rodriguez?
What do the Nationals need with Brian Bruney?
And Pudge Rodriguez? 2-years at $6 million?
Bruney's got a good fastball when he's healthy, but that's the rub. He's always hurt and he's arbitration-eligible.
With Pudge, the Nationals have a young catcher in Jesus Flores who needs to play; Pudge didn't sign for two years to sit.
For a team like the Nats, neither of these moves make any sense at all. None.
- Should I try this?
This was interesting. In today's NY Times, there's an article about a man named Jesus Leonardo who's known as a "stooper"----link. A "stooper" hangs around racetracks and horseracing parlors, sifts through discarded tickets searching for winners that were unknowingly discarded. He makes a living at it.
Should I give that a shot?
It's an idea and given my luck at the track, I'd undoubtedly do better as a "stooper" than I do with my bets----and that's not saying much. Maybe going to the track is a waste of time for me, but at least I get some fresh air and a little rush from the action. That's something.
I'm not ready to "stoop" to digging in the garbage for the off chance I find a winner. Things aren't that bad----yet. Give me time though.
- Viewer Mail 12.8.2009:
Gabriel writes RE Roberto Alomar:
I wonder if Alomar is going in as a Blue Jays member. I'd certainly be very happy about it.
I don't see what other cap he'd wear. Toronto was where he made his star. He didn't win any titles with the Padres, Orioles or Indians and forget about his other homes as he bounced around at the end. He's a Blue Jay. No question.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Don Mattingly:
I'd love to see Mattingly get in, but I agree that he probably won't. Well, no "probably" about it. He won't.
It's such a shame he hurt his back. If it'd been any other body part, he would've maintained a semblance of his greatness. Mattingly was a one-man-gang in the mid-80s; the epitome of a wrecking machine.
Charley at Hawk4theHall writes RE Andre Dawson:
Awesome post Prince. Finally someone that agrees with me that Andre's low career OBP% shouldn't keep him out of the Hall. You're right it wasn't his job. Do you know that he is 10th all-time in sacrifice flies, I take that over a walk any day of the week.
My argument for Dawson has been that throughout baseball upon his arrival, on base percentage wasn't as much of a focal point as it is now, for better or worse. When a young player like Dawson gets to the big leagues with the rep as a power bat who drives in runs, his old-school manager (Dick Williams) isn't going to want him taking pitches with runners on base. Back then, it was either do what the manager says or don't play.
The same argument that applies to Bert Blyleven as his strikeout/ERA numbers outweigh his mediocre won/lost record applies to Dawson in the opposite direction. He did what he was asked to do----swing the bat and drive in runs. Just as Blyleven's numbers are meant to put him into a Hall of Fame context, the same type of nitpicking stats are excluding Dawson from his rightful place as a Hall of Famer.
I think he's getting in this time anyway.
John Seal writes RE Harold Baines:
If I had a Hall of Fame vote, I would vote for Harold Baines because my wife would kill me if I didn't. She gave him perhaps the best baseball nickname ever: Honey Bear (she thought he looked like the animated spokes-creature for Super Sugar Crisp breakfast cereal). Other A's nicknames we created together over the years: 'Peanut Butter' Blanton (because I think young Joe resembles a chubby Elvis), 'Butt Gut' (former rookie sensation Brent Gates, who Tony La Russa promised A's fans would compete for batting titles for years), and Double Play Kendall (self-explanatory). Yeah, I know that last one isn't very imaginative, but it really summed up Kendall's contributions to the A's nicely.
Considering some of the reasons that voters come up with to exclude players (Jim Rice was punished for years because he didn't say "good morning"), voting for a guy because of a rational fear of one's wife isn't out of line.
Can't get enough of "Super Sugar Crisp"!
The thing about Baines is that the Hall wouldn't implode if he was inducted. Had he won an MVP; been an integral part of a championship team; or played the field with any regularity, he'd be in the same position as Dawson and have many more boosters.
Bringing up La Russa's hyperbole regarding Brent Gates is one of the few faults you can find for La Russa as a manager. Like Sparky Anderson, he occasionally found a young player and saddled him with expectations that Joe DiMaggio couldn't have fulfilled. He did it with Rick Ankiel too.
As for the nicknames, I've never been great at creating ones that stick. Although when I was in college, we had a catcher named Caesar, and he was little; therefore, courtesy of yours truly, he became "Little Caesar" which in turn became "Pizza Pizza".
Then there was the nickname that I (all on my own) gave Michael Barrett in which he became known (in my world anyway) as Michael "The Right Hook" Barrett after firing what was one of the best punches ever thrown on a baseball field square to the jaw of White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Not only did that punch make Barrett an Internet sensation, but it probably got him a load of free beer from all the other players around baseball that wanted to do the same thing to Pierzynski, but never got the chance.