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December 2008

Closing Down 2008

Posted on December 31, 2008 at 1:48 PM
If you've not read it, here's the link to the main post today.  Some great picks on the other sites.

But, as sometimes happens with these big UCB projects, real news that demands--well, suggests, at least--a response happens.  And it looks like that has happened today, with reports indicating that the Angels have finally come to terms with Brian Fuentes.

There are going to be a number of people that complain about the Cardinals not getting him, especially if the contract details are accurate and they are paying him $17.5 over two years.  (Long way from that reported $33 over 3, isn't it?)  And I will say that this contract level should have been in the Cardinals' budget, if they wanted to do it.  (Assuming he'd have taken the same amount to come to St. Louis, since he'd made it known his preference was California.)

That said, I'm glad that they didn't.  It just doesn't make much sense, in my mind, to pay $8 million for something that you can get at least 80% of at $500K (or whatever the rookie minimum is these days).  Jason Motte and Chris Perez may not be as proven as Fuentes, but there's a strong chance that, at the end of the year, they'll be at least within 1 win of Fuentes' value.  The marginal cost just isn't worth it, in my mind.

If the only guy out in that bullpen to take over for Jason Isringhausen was Ryan Franklin, then I'd be right up there wanting Fuentes in St. Louis.  But there are cheap, in-house options that will do the job almost as well, with the potential to be even better.  There is no reason to spend money like that--especially in uncertain economic times--for the return you'd get.

Hopefully John Mozeliak will take that money and use it on a starter.  (Ben Sheets should be what all my regular readers are expecting right here.)  There are still holes to fill.  The first week of January would be a great time to get that done.

On a different note, another Cardinal has lost his way and must put on the punishment of blue pinstripes.  Mr. Grit, Aaron Miles, has signed with the Cubbies.  Maybe they are counting on the ex-Cardinal factor to push them to actually winning a post-season series?

So enjoy your long weekend, Mo.  And get cracking come Monday.  Happy new year to all!

The Top 5 Stories of the Cardinal Year

Posted on December 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM
As we wrap up 2008, the United Cardinal Bloggers are taking a look back and giving their opinions on what the top five stories of the year were in relation to the Cardinals.  There was a lot that happened in the past twelve months and the lists are sure to be very different (but all well thought out and entertaining).  So check out the following blogs for their spins as well:

Cardinal Nation Globe
The Cardinal Virtue
La Beisbolista
Pitchers Hit Eighth
Play a Hard Nine
The Redbird Blog
Redbird Ramblings
Stan Musial's Stance

Coming up with the top five was a tough chore, but here are my selections:

1. The Contending Cardinals

Coming into the season, most everyone expected the Cardinals to be an also-ran.  There were even some picking them last, though expecting any team with Albert Pujols on it to finish behind Pittsburgh really seems to be a stretch.  The consensus seemed to be a fourth-place team and that's exactly what happened.  But the way it happened, that was the story.

The Cardinals came out of the gate red-hot, sporting the best record in baseball for most of the month of April.  Even through the summer, they were either atop the divisional or wild-card standings or very close to it.  It took a late swoon for them to slide out of contention, but the final hammer didn't fall until the last week of the season, something few would have predicted back in March.

2. The Bullpen Betrayal

The reason that final hammer did fall, though, could be laid at the feet of the bullpen, which ranked as one of the worst in baseball.

After a 2007 that led most to believe that he was back, Jason Isringhausen returned to his '06 ways, blowing save after save and finally hitting the DL twice, unable to reach the 300 save milestone he was aiming at.  Ryan Franklin took over the closer role but struggled as well.  Chris Perez was finally called up and had some initial success before blowing a couple of leads.

The only strong points in the bullpen were Russ Springer and the remarkable story of Kyle McClellan, but even McClellan ran out of gas down the stretch and allowed a few games to be lost. 

  Continue Reading

Around the Blogs: Year End Edition

Posted on December 30, 2008 at 9:11 AM
When you can't come up with something original to say, steal from those who do.  Let's see what everyone else is talking about.

This whole gimmick is inspired, in part, by the fact that Fungoes' 12 Days of Christmas is going on right now.  It's a holiday tradition that I've been reading for a couple of years and find it entertaining and informative all at the same time!  Pip does a heck of a job with these, so check it out.

The guys over at Future Redbirds are revealing their top prospect list.  Today, it's numbers four through six.  In related news, the Cardinal minor league system has moved up to number eight in the Baseball America rankings, an impressive result since they were dead last just a few years ago.  While the change in personnel and focus is the major cause of that, I think Future Redbirds should get a little credit as well.  It's helped the fan base stay informed and demanding better results, plus I wouldn't be surprised if those front office types don't check FR to confirm (or challenge) their own thinking on a prospect.

The lack of activity has riled up Bugs and Cranks, taking their ire out on the ownership group.  I think that case would be stronger if there was just this flurry of activity and the Cardinals weren't any part of it.  But before the winter meetings, the Cards were one of the more active teams.  Since then, not much has happened (save the Yankees buying all the good players, but that has nothing to do with St. Louis ownership).  It'd be nice to see some activity but I'm far from applying the "greedy" tag to them.

La Beisbolista has continued her "John Mozeliak goes shoe shopping" series.  Johnny Boy finally gets him a new pair, but not the way you expect.

The Redbird Blog tackles the ownership question as well, using a Bernie Mikalsz column as a jumping off point.  I'm in agreement that the moves made so far, coupled with the economic uncertainty, make sense from a competitive standpoint.

With the news of the improvement in the minor league strength of the Redbirds, Viva El Birdos takes a look at the top prospects of 2005, the year of the draft that signaled a change in approach.  And, as a longtime reader of Dan's last blog, it's nice to see that Chris Lambert knew where to find him.

Lots of different stories at the Cardinal section of Bleacher Report.  There's a comparison of the Astros and Cardinals, a discussion about how long Albert Pujols will be a Cardinal, and, yes, another blogger blaming ownership.

Though he's not a part of the UCB (yet), Brian Walton is taking a look at the year's top stories.  He goes beyond the Top 5 you'll see in this space tomorrow, though, as he has #11-15 up at the moment.

And, of course, you can always talk Cardinals at CardsClubhouse.

That'll do it for our trip around the blogs.  Check back tomorrow as we close down 2008 with the UCB project and get ready for 2009.

No Hot Stove For St. Louis

Posted on December 29, 2008 at 9:38 AM
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.  It's not like you missed anything if you were out of the internet loop the last few days.  I know that Josh from Cardinals Best News Links insists there is some Cardinal news out there, but you've really got to look to find it.

Brad Penny is off the board, signing with the Red Sox.  I know a number of people were interested in bringing him into St. Louis and it would have been an interesting idea.  But Penny's health issues I'm sure scared off the Cardinals, as apparently Ben Sheets's have done.

The commish answered some more questions on his blog.  Thankfully, he doesn't think the Cards would go with Carpenter or Wainwright in the closer role.  He also terms Sheets as "another project", which seems a bit off-track.  Sure, Sheets has had injury problems in the past, but it's not like he's a Chris Carpenter, a Matt Clement, a Mark Mulder that is going to need rehab before he can ever play for the Cards.  As far as I know he's perfectly healthy now and ready to go.  It's even conceivable that he lasts the whole season.  That's not the definition of a project to me.

Speaking of projects, the UCB returns Wednesday with their top 5 stories of 2008!

Twas the Night Before Christmas, Cardinal-Style

Posted on December 23, 2008 at 5:45 PM

This isn't necessarily one of my better parodies (I mean, it's no Pujols At The Bat) but I liked it enough for a Christmas break that I thought I'd share.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!


Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land

Cardinal Nation was waiting on Mo and his band

Albert's stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that a big bat would soon be found there

LaRussa was nestled, all snug in his bed

While visions of victories danced in his head

And Mo with his necktie and Blackberry in hand

Heard from Fuentes with one last demand

When out in the blogs there arose such a chatter

He ran to the Net to see what was the matter

Three windows he opened as quick as a flash

VEB, Fungoes and his own e-mail stash

The words on pages as white as new snow

Gave the luster of stats to theories below

When what to his wondering eyes should appear

But C70 ranting about his rotation fear

With PHE posting so lively and quick

He knew that he'd have to listen to Nick

More rapid than eagles the comments they came

Wanting Ben Sheets of Milwaukee fame

"We've got Jason and Chris and Trever and Kyle

But Adam and Lohse need help with some style

To the top of the rotation, please don't tell us no

Now dash away, dash away, dash away, Mo!"

Unlike leaves that before the wild hurricane fly

This new idea didn't pass John Mo by

Up to his contacts the cursor it flew

With an offer for Sheets, $30 million over two.

And then, in a twinkling, he got a reply

And a call from the agent as quick as a sigh

As he drew back his hand and was turning around

In the door came Mr. Dewitt with a bound

He was dressed all in red from his head to his foot

Looking not at all like a man with much loot

A World Series jacket he had on his back

And he looked like he was just Joe Six-pack

His eyes, how they focused on the bottom line

His nose could detect when nothing was fine

His droll little mouth then opened to speak

"I understand that you have payroll line to tweak."

The stump of a pen he held tight in his hand

Along with a checkbook, the money of the land

He had a stern face that didn't seem merry

Which meant Mo with his reason didn't tarry

"The bloggers, they're right, even Scott (who's an elf)

I have to agree, in spite of myself."

No winks of his eye, no turns of Bill's head

And soon John Mozeliak was filled with some dread

Bill spoke not a word, but went straight to his work

His owner duties he would not seem to shirk

And taking the time to read Tom's latest vent

He arose from the chair and out the door he went

He sprang to his car, to his driver gave a whistle

Then threw out some words that hit Mo like a missile

"Hang the expense," he declared ere he drove out of sight

"Merry Christmas to all, sign Sheets tonight!"

Subtle Market Shifts

Posted on December 22, 2008 at 8:51 AM
Another weekend with no Cardinal news.  While not unexpected, it doesn't mean we have to like it.

The only thing that could have relevance to St. Louis's plans would be the news that the Angels have withdrawn their bid for Mark Teixeira.  Presumably, that would leave them more money to fill their other needs, one of which is in the closer position.  It's widely thought that Brian Fuentes is just waiting on the Angels to give him a yea or nay and now they'd be more likely to give him positive affirmation (as well as go the three years).

If that's the case, it's possible the Cardinals turn to a starter and let the bullpen work itself out.  With Ben Sheets still not getting a lot of interest, it would seem logical to turn to him, but that doesn't mean it'll happen.

I'd guess the teams are really starting to shut down for the holidays and odds are, I will as well.  The Cardinal Nation Ticker is up running today, so head over there if you want to talk Cardinals.  If I'm not back tomorrow, have a wonderful Christmas everyone!

Holding Pattern

Posted on December 19, 2008 at 9:49 AM
Yesterday was my ninth wedding anniversary, which explains why there was no blog post.  The total lack of Cardinal news didn't hurt either.  I was hoping that the day I was away from the internet, something would shake loose, but it was not to be.  As much as I want something to happen, I continue to expect little if any business will be done before the fifth of January.

There were a couple of things I found over at MLB Trade Rumors that could have indirect bearing on the Redbirds.  There is nothing specifically linking the stories to the Cardinals, but in light of some of the things that have been bandied about in the Cardinal blogosphere, they become interesting.

First, the Yankees probably aren't going after Ben Sheets.  Apparently only Texas and the Braves have been linked to him and neither one all that strongly.  I can't find where I read it now, but there was a story that indicated John Mozeliak would spend for a reliever or a starter.  If Brian Fuentes continues to drag his heels or winds up somewhere else, it could be that Sheets comes into play for the Cardinals.  We can hope, at least.

Second, it appears that the Mike Cameron to the Yanks deal is pretty much off the table.  Which may mean that Rick Ankiel becomes a Yankee target for outfield help.  There's been a lot of talk about Ankiel for Ian Kennedy, which would seem to work well for both teams, which is why it probably won't happen.

Posting will likely be light next week unless the Cardinals make a move.  There's a UCB project scheduled for the 31st, so be sure to look for that.  If you are traveling this weekend, stay safe! 

Scraping for Cardinal News

Posted on December 17, 2008 at 8:59 AM
Well, the Cardinals finally made a signing.  Just not exactly what everyone was looking for.

St. Louis signed Joe Thurston, a utility infielder that started out in the Dodger organization, and catcher Justin Knoedler as they continue to wait, with a hint of impatience, on Brian Fuentes.  Thurston may provide the necessary grit that's necessary for Cardinal utility players, though it remains to be seen if he's closer to Aaron Miles or D'Angelo Jimenez.

I read Joe Strauss's article to mean that the Cards may have an internal timetable and if Fuentes doesn't sign by that time, they'll move on to other options.  I still have hopes that they are at least in contact with Ben Sheets's agent and can make an offer there before he makes his final decision, but there's no indication that's the case.

I also found it interesting (if a potential nightmare as a blogger, having to continually spell these names) that the Cardinals had been in contact with a couple of Japanese pitchers.  Both of those pitchers sound like they'd be a fit in the Cardinal pitching philosophy and probably wouldn't be the big expense some of the superstars of Japan would be.

If you are a big spring training fan or if you are planning a trip to Florida around that time, the Cardinals have released their spring training schedule.  Now Christmas has another gift--it'll be exactly two months until the first spring training game!

Be sure to check out the Greater St. Louis Cardinals of All-Time from VEB yesterday. If nothing else, it's a nice trip down memory lane.

Also, if you have some time in the afternoons or evenings, be sure to check and see if the Cardinal Nation Ticker is running.  We had some discussions yesterday afternoon and you'll never know exactly when we'll turn up.  Along the same lines, UCB Radio has its last show of 2008 tonight, so listen up!  Tom from CardinalsGM is tonight's host, with scheduled guests Deaner from Cardinal Nation Globe and cards4life from Redbird Ramblings.

Winter Blahs

Posted on December 16, 2008 at 9:37 AM
Being in Arkansas, it's fairly rare that I have to spend an hour trying to get my car drivable, but yesterday's sleet/freezing rain combo lasted well into the nighttime hours, so that was how I spent my morning.  How you Northerners do it all the time is beyond me.

Right now, coming up with blog posts is similar to that car de-icing.  You chip away, chip away and hopefully when you get some news, you are ready to go.  So consider this a chipping away entry as we wait to hear what the Cardinals are going to do next.

First off, if you liked yesterday's roundtable answers, check out all of the entries in one place.  There are some really amazing bloggers on the network that know their teams well.

Chet from 4thebirds has set up a new blog called Cardinal Nation Ticker.  Basically, it's a place to host some live blogs during the week.  I joined the crew last night as we talked about Brian Fuentes and whether he should sign, the bullpen in general, the know, the topics that continued to get hashed about in our waiting period.  The next one is set for Thursday, so feel free to come over and join the discussion.  If you are needing some Cardinal talk before then, though, head over to CardsClubhouse and start talking!

Over at Bird Land, Derrick Goold has restarted the prospect voting.  Right now he's taking votes for number 19, so make your voice heard!

The news of the day seems to be Rafael Furcal going to the Braves.  Which is not nearly as interesting as what it means for Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson.  The Cardinals had talked about swapping an outfielder for one of those earlier in the winter, but with Khalil Greene in the fold and Adam Kennedy basically untradable, there may not be anything there.  Then again, those guys are cheap enough in salary to be able to have Kennedy as a bench/platoon guy, so maybe something will happen.

The Mike Cameron to the Yankees deal may not be happening (again).  If the Rick Ankiel for Ian Kennedy swap was anything more than internet rumor, it might flare up again.

You may have noticed that there's a player for the UCB Radio Show up on the right side of the blog.  You can listen there or, if you'd rather be mobile while listening, we now have it set up on iTunes.  Thanks to everyone that is working on that, from Tom at CardinalsGM who set it up to Chet who is doing a lot of hosting to Nick at Pitchers Hit Eighth who finally got it on iTunes.  Great work, guys!

The Roundtable Arrives: Four Questions About the Cardinals

Posted on December 15, 2008 at 4:28 PM
If you've noticed the last few days, something's been going around the Blogs By Fans community.  No, not a cold bug (that's probably next) but a roundtable.  We're pretty familiar with roundtables around these parts, but this type is a bit different.  Instead of numerous blogs answering the same questions, this time the questions are posed by one blog and answered on another.  Part 1 can be found at Loge 13, Part 2 at El Lefty Malo, Part 3 at In Mo We Trust.  After that, head around to The Halo Is Lit, Arin It Out and Tremendous Upside Potential if you want to follow them in order.

Rickhouse from TUP has posed the following questions for me to answer.  I'll be posing some for Brian (also at In Mo We Trust) in the near future.

TUP: Do you think Khalil Greene will be able to regain the form he showed in 2007?

C70: Greene's 2007 line was .254/.291/.468 with 27 HR and 97 RBI.  There are reasons to believe that he could approach that, foremost being that he is out of Petco Park and his road splits have been more favorable than his home numbers in the last few years.  That said, I don't think anyone expects 20+ home runs out of him.  His average could probably be in the .250 range, and if he adds 10-15 HR and plays stellar defense, the trade will easily be worth it.  (Until we know who the other PTBNL is, of course.)  There's a lot of debate on what the Cardinals are going to get out of Greene, but I tend to be optimistic that he'll have a solid season.

TUP: What's the deal with Colby Rasmus?  He was spectacular at AA in 2007, but seemed to regress at bit last year. When will he be able to contribute at the major league level?

C70: Colby had a remarkable spring training last year, but really became a victim of the numbers.  Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel were fairly established, enough that they weren't going anywhere.  (Granted, Ludwick was though of more of as a platoon guy instead of an MVP candidate, but he was going to take a spot.)  The Cardinals had selected Brian Barton in the Rule V draft, which meant he had to stay in the majors all year.  So it came down to Rasmus vs. Skip Schumaker, and since Rasmus had less time in the minors, he was sent to Memphis.

From all accounts, he didn't take the demotion very well.  A notoriously slow starter anyway, his slump lasted well into May as, it appears, he thought he had nothing left to prove.  He fired it up during the summer, only to be felled by a knee injury.  He returned before the end of the season, though, so there is no real injury issue.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals GM, has said that he easily could see Rasmus in the major leagues on Opening Day and, if Rick Ankiel is moved as rumored, that becomes almost a certainty.

TUP: What's it like to watch Albert Pujols in his prime every day?  When it's all said and done, will he be the greatest Cardinal of all time?

C70:  It's almost indescribable having a guy like Pujols on the team.  He's amazingly clutch, he plays spectacular defense, he can go on amazing home run tears, he even puts on a show on the basepaths (occasionally it's much more of a tragedy, but it is still representative of his will to win).  He doesn't talk about money or rip his teammates.  He is well-regarded for his off the field work.  You know every day that you are going to see his best.  It may be an 0-4, but he's going to work at that.

Right now, he's probably the second-greatest Cardinal hitter ever and in the top five overall.  This summer, St. Louis columnist Derrick Goold solicited suggestions for a Cardinal Mount Rushmore.  The four that made the final cut were Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and Pujols.  If he continues for another 10 years, all in Cardinal red, I do believe he'll surpass Musial as the greatest ever.

My father's generation had Musial wearing #4.  My generation has Pujols wearing #5.  I can't wait to see who wears #6 for my son's generation!

TUP: Are you worried about the rotation for next year?  Can Todd Wellemeyer and Kyle Lohse be as good as they were last year?

C70: I'm not sure that there's a team out there that doesn't have some concern about their rotation.  (Which will probably be a question I need to ask to Yankees fan Brian.....)  There is a lot of concern about the staff, but it's not as much about those two.  Wellemeyer has been stellar ever since he came to St. Louis and they moved him to the rotation.  In 2007, he had a 3.11 ERA in 63.2 innings in 20 games (11 starts).  Last year, a 3.71 ERA with 13 wins.  I'd think he'd probably be able to do about what he did last year.  An ERA in the 3.75-4.00 range and double digits in wins. 

I don't think there is any doubt that Lohse will come back to earth, at least somewhat.  If last year is any indication, he's a streaky pitcher.  He had two spots where he just was pounded for about three games, but then righted the ship.  His numbers will probably be pretty similar to Wellemeyer's when it's all said and done.  It seems like whatever Dave Duncan has worked with him on has worked so far and it probably will continue to do so.

The key to the rotation is obviously Chris Carpenter.  The team is saying all the right things about his rehab and his recovery schedule, but until he gets into spring training and shows no problems, few are going to get their hopes up.  The Cardinals aren't necessarily the best when it comes to figuring out injuries or at least making the extent of them known to the public.  If Carpenter actually is healthy, though, a rotation of him, Adam Wainwright, Lohse and Wellemeyer (with Joel Pineiro probably in the fifth slot) wouldn't a bad thing to go with.  The Cardinals have to sign another pitcher, if only to insure against a Carpenter injury.  I'd like to see them get Ben Sheets as his price continues to drop, but he doesn't seem to be on the radar.  It wouldn't be surprising to see them pick up Braden Looper and run with a similar rotation as last year's.





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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)

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%)

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%)

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%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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