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February 2008

Good First Step

Posted on February 29, 2008 at 9:08 AM
First off, let me wish you the best for your Leap Day. I guarantee it'll be the best one you've had since at least 2004.

The Cards played a major league team yesterday, taking on the Mets in their Grapefruit League opener.  If yesterday is any indication (and it probably isn't), this year may not be so bad.  (BTW, pictures from the game are here.)

The biggest news, in my book, was the performance of Anthony Reyes.  He really surpassed what I was hoping to see from him.  To throw three scoreless, not walking anyone, was a great way to get back on the radar.  The obvious caveats apply, especially the fact that Cardinal starting pitching was dominant in spring last year before slacking off in the regular season.  Still, the Mets had most of their starting lineup out there and Reyes wasn't beaten around.  It makes you think there is something to the press he's been getting this spring, and if there is..........

It appears that, at least so far, the reports of Juan Gonzalez's demise were a bit premature.  He went 2 for 3 with an RBI.  The offense as a whole was pretty strong and Colby Rasmus still is batting 1.000.  If this keeps up, it's going to be tough to send him back to AAA.

Interesting the reports of Mark Mulder's rehab.  Apparently the players are the ones singing the praises of the pitcher.   I'm not sure if that means any more or not, but it seems to be I'd rather hear that than the front office types saying that he's on schedule.

Today the Cardinals get to be in the eye of a media storm as they face Johan Santana in his Mets debut.  Today's lineup, via Bird Land:
  1. Brian Barton, CF
  2. Chris Duncan, LF
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Troy Glaus, 3B
  5. Juan Gonzalez, DH
  6. Ryan Ludwick, RF
  7. Yadier Molina, C
  8. Aaron Miles, 2B
  9. Brendan Ryan, SS

Starting pitcher: RHP Adam Wainwright. Others traveling: LHP Ron Flores, LHP Jaime Garcia, LHP Tyler Johnson, RHP Ryan Franklin, RHP Mike Parisi, RHP Tyler Herron and RHP Kyle McClellan.

Scuffing Up the Start

Posted on February 28, 2008 at 9:20 AM
It was a glorious day.  The Cardinals--well, at least the Baby Birds--were on the field and creating plenty of highlights.  The big guys were scheduled for the next day, really getting the freshness of spring going.

And then Spiezio happened.

I'm not sure exactly why it took two months for an arrest warrant to be issued in this case.  It doesn't sound like there was a whole lot of debate over what happened.

The worst part, perhaps, of the whole thing was the fact that he wasn't upfront with an organization that had done all it could to help him, plus signed him to a two-year contract in the offseason.  A contract that now they are going to have to eat.

I'm not sure what the Cardinals knew and when they knew it.  Apparently they didn't think it was a big deal but once the whole story came out, that changed.  I have no problems with their quick response in this matter.  Maybe, if last year hadn't happened, you'd have more of a debate about whether he should have been let go or not.  But when you look at the whole situation, it was pretty obvious that he wasn't welcome there anymore.

You note that his lawyer says that Spiezio "has been clean and sober for some time".  Apparently "some time" is less than two months.  And after the incident was apparently downplayed to Cardinal brass, you have to take that with a grain of salt as well, I think.

From a roster standpoint, this benefits Brendan Ryan.  There's really no one else on the team that has experience playing third base.  If he has a decent spring, he probably makes the team, whereas before, he needed a great spring and possibly some extra help.

OK, enough of the down side of yesterday.  Let's look at the positives from the box score.  All the general caveats apply, but it's still worth looking at.

First off, apparently the knee isn't bothering Brian Barton too much.  2-2, a home run and three RBI isn't a bad day.   Especially when you only play about three innings.  He's definitely going to be one to watch this spring.

Michell Boggs could have looked a little sharper, but the rest of the Precamp Six that pitched had very strong outings.

Amaury Marti added to his burgeoning reputation by hitting a pinch-hit grand slam.  With the outfield situation the way it is, he's not likely to play in SL to start the year, but he could be an option if injuries hit.

And the daily Rasmus watch:  2-2, 4 runs and an RBI.  Not a bad day at the top of the lineup, huh?

Today, the Cardinals really get it going, facing the NL East favorite Mets in a 12:05 CST start.  Per Derrick Goold, here's the lineup:

  1. Adam Kennedy, 2B
  2. Rick Ankiel, CF
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Troy Glaus, 3B
  5. Chris Duncan, LF
  6. Juan Gonzalez, DH
  7. Skip Schumaker, RF
  8. Cesar Izturis, SS
  9. Jason LaRue, C

Starting pitcher: RHP Anthony Reyes.

And out of the bullpen: RHP Hugo Castellanos; RHP Kelvin Jimenez; RHP Jason Motte; RHP Mark Worrell; LHP Jaime Garcia and, as depth, RHP Tyler Herron.

Really interested to see what Reyes does today.  I'd like to see a couple of innings, a hit, a couple of strikeouts, at the most one run given up.  We'll see what develops!

Today's Game

Posted on February 27, 2008 at 12:40 PM
If anyone is interested, you can follow the game here or you can listen from the official site.

Today's lineup, per the CCH game thread:

1. Colby Rasmus, CF
2. Brian Barton, DH
3. Joe Mather, RF
4. Josh Phelps, 1B
5. Cody Haerther, LF
6. David Freese, 3B
7. Brian Barden, SS
8. Matt Pagnozzi, C
9. Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B


Starting pitcher: RHP Mitchell Boggs. Pitching plan: Boggs (2 innings); RHP P.J. Walters (2); RHP Clayton Mortensen (2); LHP Jaime Garcia (2); RHP Chris Perez (1)

Baseball, glorious baseball!


The Kids Are All Right

Posted on February 27, 2008 at 9:23 AM
At least, we hope they are.  The youngsters get to take first swings today as a lineup of prospects takes on the college kids from St. Louis University.

Mitchell Boggs gets the first start of the year for the Cardinals.  It's not likely that Boggs will see St. Louis this year, but the team is definitely taking an interest in him.  He was one of the Oceanic--er, Precamp Six who got some personal attention with pitching coach Dave Duncan.  In fact, today's a sort of graduation for those guys, as five of them, everyone but Adam Ottovino, are scheduled to take the mound against SLU.

Colby Rasmus has gotten started.  He homered in yesterday's coach pitch game.  Granted, smoking one off Dyer Miller isn't quite the same as taking Johan Santana yard, but anything that gets people's attention can't be a bad thing.  Some of LaRussa's comments seem to indicate Rasmus has a real shot at making the team, but I still think that with some of the logistical problems (Rule V, etc.), he'll probably wind up in Memphis for a bit.  That doesn't mean people won't be watching, though.

The pitcher is returning to the eighth spot this year.  And the Cardinals may not be alone in trying it out, if rumors out of Brewers' camp are any indication.  Revolutions have to start somewhere, right?

Mike Matheny has left Cardinal camp now, but the farewell he gave Anthony Reyes should help give a little more hope to those that are thinking maybe this is Reyes's year.  Matheny predicted a big year out of Reyes.  Hopefully there was more to it than just trying to build confidence.

Joe Strauss Live! returns today at 1:00 pm.  Get your questions in early and maybe the Chatmeister will deign to answer.

You'll notice on the blogroll that there is a new blog added to the United Cardinal Blogger group.  I'm pleased to welcome Don from The Redbird Blog to our group.   If you want to join up with the UCB, just e-mail me at the address above.  We have a big project slated for next week.  Predictions and writeups of all the teams, starting with the AL on Monday, the NL West on Tuesday, the NL East on Wednesday and wrapping with the NL Central on Thursday.  The more the merrier!

Time To Get Serious

Posted on February 26, 2008 at 9:37 AM
One more day with no scores to report before we finally start seeing some baseball.  Granted, Wednesday's game vs. St. Louis University won't exactly be a big event worthy of hoopla, but at least we'll have some numbers and stats to start talking about.

I've not seen any lists of who is supposed to play in tomorrow's game.  I know it's a "prospects" game so it won't be any big stars, but it'd be interesting to know if it is a top prospects kind of thing (Rasmus, Anderson, Garcia) or more mid-level players.  Maybe Derrick Goold will have something in his blog today about it.

ESPN has listed the games that are going to be on XM for the next week or so.  If you are interested, I've summarized them into a schedule here.  Should be easy to print out and put somewhere accessible.  It's great to know that there will be baseball on the radio starting tomorrow!

Refocusing

Posted on February 25, 2008 at 9:32 AM
Hey, CATB is back and perhaps better than ever, depending on your opinion of the actual quality here.  Sorry for the delay--most of last week was spent away from the computer coughing up a lung and just wanting to sleep.

Things are picking up now.  By the end of the week, it will be March and the Cardinals will have spring training games under their belt.  We will have some more data points to discuss and be a little more ready to tell whether the glowing, spring-like talk is going to be backed up or not.

The major issue in Cardinal camp right now, apparently, is pitching.  Bernie Mikhasz rails about the staff (and his requisite shots at ownership) in his most recent column.  Heck, even Roger Clemens's name has been floated about, which is completely crazy for more than one reason.  (Well, I thought it was, at least, until the next story.)

Last I checked, Matt Clement's arm didn't actually fly off, knocking down half the remaining starters and putting them all in the hospital.  You can never be terribly sure with the Cardinals and injuries, I am aware, but if Clement and Mark Mulder are ready to go mid-May, having another body in the rotation--and basically, that's all that are available, no one that has a lot of upside or could really turn things around--will cause a number crunch and more wasted money. 

I've mentioned before that I don't think the pitching situation is as dire as some would make it out to be.  The pitching was terrible last year, but a lot of the deadweight is gone and there is some optimism on who is left.  And if the laser surgery did what it seems to have done for Anthony Reyes, there's a nice front of the rotation with him, Wainwright and Pinerio until the rehab corps is ready.  If we have to plug in a Hawksworth for a few starts, it's not the end of the world.

Then, I see where LaRussa thought about buying Bonds.  Got to say, it's nice to see that he doesn't have the rubber stamp we thought he did.  Having the distraction of Bonds is really the last thing the team needs.  I understand the attraction of Bonds's offense, though that is declining as well, but when you put it together with everything else, it's too many cons, not enough pros.  If nothing else this season, let us have a team we can root for, not one that has such a polarizing figure on it.

The rotation for the week has been set up.  Wednesday's game against SLU will be prospects-only, probably not only on the mound but also in the field.  Thursday, the Cardinals open the Grapefruit League against the Mets.  Anthony Reyes gets a chance to show if it's all been talk so far this spring.  Friday, the Cards get the Mets again and thrown Adam Wainwright.  He's going against some guy the Mets got in the offseason, doubt you've heard of him.

We've got games on KTRS and the Cardinal Radio Network this weekend against the Marlins.  Heck, there's even a game on ESPN (non-Cardinals, but still baseball) on Friday.  It's time to get excited!

Excitement

Posted on February 19, 2008 at 12:48 PM
All together now.  Eh.

Honestly, I'm not sure what the real purpose of signing Ron Villone is.  The bullpen was one area that was fairly steady, unless there are injuries out there that haven't been disclosed.  I can't say there's much chance of him making the Opening Day roster, but I guess there's always a chance he pitches lights out in spring.

Even so, will he really push Tyler Johnson or Randy Flores out of the mix?  I find it hard to believe that could happen.

More From Jupiter

Posted on February 19, 2008 at 9:50 AM
Well, at least John Mozeliak is saying the right things when it comes to the pitching staff.

"Nothing has really changed as far as how we view our rotation," Mozeliak said. "We're looking at this short term, but also long term. Do we have somebody here who can take advantage of the opportunity? And what happens when X, Y, Z becomes healthy again? We want to be able to keep some flexibility."
There are a number of internal options to fill in, assuming that Clement and Mulder actually will be ready by sometime in May.  (That's a big if, I realize, but go with me.)  Why would you spend $7 million on a Kyle Loshe when you have cheaper options in Blake Hawksworth, Todd Wellemeyer, Brad Thompson and Anthony Reyes?  And, like Mozeliak said above, what would you do with them when the injured start to return?

If the injuries were worse than have been reported (always a possibility) or you really thought you had a strong chance to win the division this year, maybe you do it.  Even so, though, with not needing a fifth starter but a couple of times in April, it probably wouldn't make much sense then either.

Anthony Reyes is apparently looking pretty good.  LaRussa says the bullpen sessions have been impressive.  Plus, do you really want to mess with a SWAT guy?

Reyes really is a key for the Cardinals this year.  A return to his prospect form will help a lot in keeping the long losing streaks away.

And the new guys are in camp.   That's got to be both nerve wracking and some fun at the same time.

The First Drop In The Bucket

Posted on February 18, 2008 at 9:06 AM
Cardinal fans have known for a while that, for 2008 to be an sort of a successful season, not much can go wrong.  So it's not encouraging to read that Matt Clement won't be ready for opening day.  The first drop in the bucket?

Notice what Bernie Mikalsz says in the comments in that link:

No one, including me, should EVER under ANY circumstances believe it when the Cardinals insist during the offseason that so-and-so pitcher is mending beautifully and will be ready to go by Opening Day. This organization really has a problem being forthright about injuries.
I'm not always one to agree with Bernie, but he seems to have hit the nail on the head with this one.  I've always thought that this organization didn't really know how to deal with injuries.  They'd sit a guy for almost two weeks, thinking that rest would do it, instead of putting him on the DL.  Pitchers almost always return months after they were originally scheduled to pitch.  It's one reason I wouldn't be shocked it Carpenter didn't pitch at all this season.

I wish I could find the link, but I swear once at VEB I read an interview where someone said that the Cardinals were doing some cutting-edge things in the front office dealing with injuries.  Being up front with them, or at least getting a good handle on them, doesn't appear to be it.

People are still harping on the Pujols news.  I heard on "Mike & Mike" today Buster Olney put the Cardinals in the "ugly" category because Carpenter might not pitch until mid-season (which showed some lack of knowledge, I thought--no one expects him before then.  If he pitches in July that's a major plus) and the possibility of Pujols elbow apparently blowing out and taking the first row of fans with it.  I think some of the AP stuff is overblown--according to the PD story he's had the injury in one form since 2003--and that he'll be able to be Pujols for most of the year.

'Course, if that elbow does cause problems, we go from a drop in the bucket to the bucket being half full.

The Worst Team in the NL?

Posted on February 16, 2008 at 12:16 PM
Saw that ESPN had up their fantasy baseball breakdown of the Cardinals.  It wasn't very flattering:

Only six National League teams finished 2007 with a worse record than the Cardinals' 78-84 mark, and this season there could be even fewer.
This could easily be the worst team in the National League.
Yikes.  Talk about not being optimistic!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one that says there is some big bias inherent at ESPN.  I've seen some similar comments a couple of other places.  The Cardinals are expected to fall and fall hard this year.  BP has their PECOTA standings out, and they show the Cardinals at 72-90 for 2008

I see where the media types are coming from.  When you take a look at the roster, you can easily see where a combination of negative events could send this team into a tailspin.  If Pujols goes out or Clement doesn't rebound or Pineiro gets figured out, it could be a pretty long season for Cardinal fans.

However, when you compare what is even reasonably possible vs. what happened last year, with the terrible pitching and the numerous injuries and, through all of that, a .500 season was possible, you have to think that "worst team in the NL" would seem to be a stretch.  Even if Glaus doesn't go for his normal 30, he's still going to give more than Rolen was able to last year.

(I do take a little bit of exception to the author of that ESPN bit continually talking about "suppressing right handed power."  The park is two years old and the only constant right handed power source on the home team has been Pujols.  Can you really make the blanket statement that right handed power doesn't work in Busch?  I mean, it's not like there's a huge sample size.)

Then, as a nice throw-away line, there's this bit:

Expect La Russa and Pujols to land with another franchise soon so that the rebuilding can commence in earnest.
This, to me, is just shoddy work.  (Honestly, I was less than enamored with the whole bit, but at least some of it had backup.)  Did you not see LaRussa sign the two-year extension this offseason?  I wouldn't expect a national writer to know the relationship TLR has with ownership, in which he basically has a job here until he's 90 if he wants it.  But the general fact that he just re-signed should give you a clue that he's not going anywhere.

That is reasonable, though, compared to the Pujols bit.  Why in the world would you trade a player you have for a couple more years under fairly reasonable terms that's only 28 and, by the way, the best hitter on the planet when healthy?  The Cardinals are not some small-payroll team that is forced to move him.  It would make the most sense to use him as the pillar to rebuild around, wouldn't it?  If he was 35 or so, I might understand where the writer was coming from, but when he's just reaching his prime, that's having no clue.

Speaking of fantasy, I'd like to set up an ESPN fantasy league (probably H2H) with CATB readers.  If you are interested, post here in the comments.




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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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