Does something already feel not-quite-right about this post? I'm not surprised.
As Daniel takes a well-earned vacation, he has asked me, a Cubs fan, to post on this site in his place. I'm taking over the joint for the next few minutes so sit back, enjoy your tied for second place standing in the NL Central and allow me to ask you one question.
How in the world did you allow Johan Santana to no-hit you the other night?
You do realize the man is one ill-fated pitch away from throwing his arm out for good, yes?
You do realize that these are the Mets we are talking about. The team playing way above themselves, about to hit a reality check road block any second. The team who had never had a pitcher pitch a no-hitter in fifty years of existence. And yet, there you were, poised to disappoint the Mets, their fan-base, their crooked owners and you blew it.
You were bringing back Carlos Beltran. The one guy many Mets fans couldn't wait to boo and cry foul at regarding his time with the team. No matter how great his 41 HR, 116 RBI season was with the team, he will always be remembered as the guy who stood still, not swinging, gone down looking at Wainwright's fastball to end the Mets' run in 2006. You had him there to tick off the Mets fan-base once again and despite kicking up some chalk, you still couldn't stop Santana from making history.
You had Wainwright on the mound. The one pitcher that everyone associates the past few years of failure with. Wainwright's curveball, two collapses and two years of injuries capped off by a Madoff scandal and losing their best player to corrupt finances despite the fact that he delivered their first and only batting title in the history of the franchise. The Mets have put up a fluke of a season and you were there to ruin their best chance at a no-hitter in recent years. You represented the World Champions and even with your World Series hero at the plate, you couldn't stop it from going down.
Could the Cubs have stopped it? Ha. Don't make me laugh.
The Cubs are providing one of the most disappointing seasons to come out of the North Side that fans have seen in a while. Expectations weren't high, but these results are making hope a tough thing to come by as well. We will like shed Soriano and Dempster this season. Actually, the way this year is going, we'll only lose Dempster and we'll be stuck with Soriano. The kids are developing at Wrigley but not quickly enough for the team to compete. I had hoped for a wild card finish but at 12.5 games out on June 7th, it is scary to consider where we may end up. If there were a location lower than last, that's where you'd find us come September.
As for the Cardinals, you will likely figure out your way to the top of the division. I am sure you'll secure at least a wild card spot if not the Central title. Your manager is doing a great job taking over the team after a championship season and your roster has figured out how to survive without El Hombre.
You are getting the best of the Cubs...once again.
However, I celebrated with Mets fans the other night because while they finally landed a pitching performance that will go down in the record books as their first no-hitter in team history, I enjoyed watching Freese go down swinging because hey, as a Cubs fan I had no choice.
Ask Mets fans what else they took away from the evening though. Likely another opportunity to take a jab at Carlos Beltran that he could learn a little something from Mr. Freese. At least he went down looking.
If it had to happen, I'm glad it was you and not the Cubs. The Cubs have had enough bad news this season. Besides, the Cubs lacking hits is not exactly news.
One of the wonderful things about being a blogger is that people want to send you baseball books. Now, personally, I have a motto. My motto is, "Happiness is a pile of unread books". Which means that when people want to send me books, I typically let them. They don't have to be Cardinal books. If they are, great. But if not, if they are baseball books, I'm perfectly fine reading about other parts of the game.
Which is why I just finished reading The Mets: A 50th Anniversary Celebration. I knew of the Mets, of course. While my immersion into baseball has come at a time when the divisions have gone from two to three and the rivalry that the Cards and Mets had has waned, there's still a lot of ties between the two teams. The 1980s was a great time in the history of both squads.
However, this book is great about delving into the real history of the club. From the beginnings as a compromise between MLB and a group trying to start a third league, to their improbable run in 1969, all the way through their disappointing slide as they deal with The Curse of Yadier Molina, the history of the club is laid bare for all of its glory--and all of its warts.
Reading this book, it really helps you realize how blessed we are as Cardinal fans. The Mets have won two championships in 50 years, but more often than not they've been beset with injuries and weak play at times they should have dominated. It's hard to believe that a team in the largest market in baseball has only two titles, one by a team that came out of nowhere and one that could have been prevented, perhaps, if a first baseman fields a ball.
I really enjoyed reading through the whole history of the club. It obviously meant more when you started seeing the names that you recognized, but the Mets have had a lot of famous players even from the very beginning. If you know a Mets fan, this would be a great Christmas gift for them. If you are one that just loves reading about the game, give this some strong consideration before your next baseball purchase.
Another book that I recently went through was A Moment In Time, written by former major league pitcher Ralph Branca. Branca's book traces his life, from his first interest in baseball all the way through the present day.
Branca's book is an easy read. Even though it is written with David Ritz, the style and wording comes across as if Branca is talking to you. That tends to mean that the book is not necessarily as in depth as you might like or any great work of art, but it tells the story well and it gives you some of the details that were going on at the time of the story.
Which is really one of the things that bugged me about the book. Branca would write about remembering seeing in the paper that Jackie Robinson had played his first game. OK, maybe, even though it wasn't a huge part of the paper in his recollection. Other things, though, like the conversation with his future father-in-law, seem stilted, the kind of thing you read in a bad fiction book when they are trying to set the scene. For example, here's a snippit of it:
"So you make movies, Mr. Mulvey?"
"Well, it's actually Sam [Goldwyn] who makes the movies. I make the deals with the distributors. I try to make sure that the movies make money."
"Of all the movies you've been involved with, what's your favorite?"
"Pride of the Yankees. I actually bought the rights to that film from Sam. I own it personally."
Does any of that seem natural? It continues on in that vein for a bit, talking about another movie, name dropping Frank Sinatra. While the gist of the conversation may have happened, I find it tough to believe that you'd have to spell out to a ballplayer and a movie mogul that Pride of the Yankees was about Lou Gehrig.
However, what really tarnishes the book is Branca's inability to make peace with the fact that the New York Giants were stealing signs when they made their comeback run against his Brooklyn Dodgers, a run that culminated in the signature moment that Branca is known for, the Bobby Thomson home run. Even after he has become friends with Thomson, when the cheating news breaks, he's more concerned with making press and nursing that grudge than he seems to be with the friendship he received out of the situation.
Obviously, Branca has a right to be somewhat bitter about it. Without the extra help, there's no doubt that the Dodgers would have been in the World Series that year since the race was so close. That said, even if you know what's coming, you still have to hit it. Branca seems to think that if Thomson, who apparently knew what was coming on that fateful pitch, had been in the dark, he'd have gotten him out. However, it was still a pitch that could be driven out of the ballpark. Thomson still had to hit it, even if he knew it was coming.
It's a good book, don't get me wrong, but I don't think Branca comes off as sympathetic in the whole thing as you would expect from a book bearing his authorship. That might just be my opinion, though--you won't go wrong in picking it up and deciding for yourself.
I've got more reviews coming during the offseason, but I had a little time before finding Tony La Russa on Letterman and David Freese on Leno and thought I'd bring these to your attention. Both are well worth your time!
For the first time in quite a while, the St. Louis Cardinals are not in first place in the National League Central. Uh oh. Everyone brought a pail? No, folks. You don't have to start bailing water yet. The Milwaukee Brewers are red hot. The Reds and Pirates are hanging in there. It's a long, long season and there is plenty of time. Yes, it's possible for the Brewers to keep playing this way all season, but the odds are against it. The Cardinals do have some problems, injuries being one of them. But they aren't broken.
In fact, the Cardinals have several things going for them. First, they have Tony LaRussa. Love him or hate him, his record speaks for itself. Second, they have a solid offense, especially once Matt Holliday returns (which is any day now). Put Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Colby Rasmus against just about every other middle of the order in the National League and you've got something there. Yadier Molina is hitting. We'll get to the rest of the line up in a minute. Lastly, they have plenty of pitching to stay in the race.
What? You are worried about the pitching? You still think the sky is falling? Nah. Some adjustments need to be made. But again, we'll get to them in a minute. For now, let's defer speaking of Chris Carpenter. Kyle Lohse has been very good. Sure, you have to hold your breath at times when he's on the mound, the same as Jake Westbrook. But Lohse is keeping the ball inside the park and keeping free passes to a minimum. That's golden in this writer's book. You have to think about Jake Westbrook as a fifth starter. If your fifth starter can win half his games, that's good. Westbrook gives you that. It may not look pretty. But as a fifth starter, he's a darn sight better than Zach Duke or Doug Davis or a lot of the other options around the league.
Jaime Garcia is a legitimate ace. Yes, he'll have a bad game or two. But for the most part, he's your stopper. And most of the time, he's doing just that. Kyle McClellan was exceeding most people's expectations and his numbers look a whole lot like what Adam Wainwright would be doing if he wasn't rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow. But now McClellan has a strained hip flexor (whatever that is). This is actually a good thing. What!? It is. You had to watch his innings anyway because you can't have a guy who was a reliever pitching 220 innings. You simply can't do that. This gives the Cardinals a built-n chance to rest the guy for a bit.
McClellan threw a bullpen session and is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday. This writer would hold him out another week or two. Lance Lynn did a fine job and despite a 5.23 ERA, his numbers were actually better than that. A little luck here and there and his run total would look a lot better. His strikeout to walk ratio was just fine. He only gave up the one homer. Give him two more starts and give McClellan a break. Get McClellan good and healthy and he can knock out the rest of the year.
Okay, we need to discuss Chris Carpenter. He's 1-6. Chris Carpenter one and six. Seems strange doesn't it? Would you believe the old Fan if he were to claim Carpenter's results as a fluke? The only statistic that looks out of place are his hits allowed and his home run to fly ball ratio. Everything else is the same as always. Let that last line sink in. The home run percentage is 1.0 per nine innings. That's pretty much out of character for Carpenter. But it isn't terrible and can be easily remedied. But what about all those hits? It's about defense.
This old Fan is completely convinced that other than a few homers, the only difference between Chris Carpenter this year and any other year is the defense behind him. Need proof? Okay. Just look at his BABIP. The last two years, Carpenter's BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, has been in the .284/.285 range. This year, it's sitting at .332. The difference is subtle on ground balls (his bread and butter). Last year, his BABIP on ground balls was .223. This year, it's .235. That doesn't seem like much, but it is a difference. Add to that fact is that the line drives hit off of him are also finding more holes. Last year, his BABIP on line drives was .670. This year, it's .746. As wonderful as Lance Berkman's season is going, he simply isn't going to get to some of those gap shots like other outfielders will.
So what should the Cardinals do when Carpenter starts? Put your best fielders on the field. Give Berkman a day off or put him at first and Pujols at third. When Nick Punto comes off the disabled list (which is soon it seems), put him at short on games Carpenter starts and avoid putting Schumaker at second. Give the team every chance to field the ball and Carpenter will give you what he's always given you. Plus, Carpenter, despite his record, has been very good so far in June.
The infield has been a bit of a mess, hasn't it? This writer said it before the year started and will state it again: Signing Ryan Theriot to play short was a bad idea. The guy has been fine (for him) on offense. But his defense is not good. He has little range, little arm and few instincts. Baseball-reference.com gives him a WAR this season of 0.1. He does a little better with Fangraphs, which gives him a WAR of 0.5. This writer doesn't really have a problem with Theriot as your second baseman. But not at short. Never at short.
The problem for the Cardinals is that their minor league system doesn't have anyone ready to play short. Pete Kozma is the regular at Triple A and he lacks range too and Theriot is a better hitter. Taking a quick peak at the Double A level is pointless because the Cardinals would never go that deep in a pennant race. A trade seems the only solution. Tyler Greene isn't the answer, that's for sure.
David Freese breaking his hand was unfortunate for the Cardinals. He's a good third baseman and can hit when healthy. But that's always been the problem. Until (and if) he gets back, a platoon of Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso works just fine.
It's sort of ironic that in the beginning of the year, the bullpen was atrocious and the Cardinals (despite five blown saves) managed to obtain first place. Now that the bullpen has come together, the team has fallen out of first. But the good news is that the Cardinals have figured out the bullpen. Fernando Salas is among the league leaders in WAR for relief pitchers. He has three wins (against no losses) and eleven saves and a sparkling 1.82 ERA. Establishing Salas as the closer set up the rest of the bullpen. Eduardo Sanchez and Jason Motte have been terrific. Mitchell Boggs has come on strong and has very good peripherals. Brian Tallot (when he is used properly and isn't giving up homers), can get lefties out. That's a good core for your bullpen. No worries there. Seriously.
In conclusion, yes, it was a bad series in Milwaukee. Pujols got quiet again after it seemed he got hot again. But Holliday is on his way back, Lance Berkman has been an on base machine. Colby Rasmus has learned the strike zone and this team will score runs. The rotation is pretty solid and the bullpen is exceptional now. Figure out the infield and there is no reason this team can't roll along and compete well with the Brewers and anyone else in their division. Put those pails away, folks. There's only a little standing water in the good ship, Cardinals.
William J. Tasker writes every day as the Flagrant Fan over at his site. A generalist, he's not a Cardinal fan but has fallen in love with the team's fans and writers. That growing respect for the Cardinal Nation lead to this guest post for this site's featured writer, who is on vacation.
Earlier in the week, I broke the standing policy not to post pictures. Today, I'm posting the first video because it is vital to the rest of the post. You know you want to watch it, so click and sing along. I'll wait.
OK, now that you've watched it (a few times, I'm sure), let's see just how savvy those On the Run folks are.
Below is a table of how often the Cardinals have scored six this year, whether it was at home or on the road, and whether they won or lost, plus the gap between "serious" games.
So, out of their 47 games, the Cards have reached the six level 14 times, or almost 30% of the time. That was brought down significantly, though, with their 13 game drought that was snapped last night. Before then, it was up around 41%, which means almost every other day before this power outage, you could get a cheap drink.
The Cards are 11-3 when they put up six runs or more, which is what you'd expect. If a team is losing a lot of 6 run games, they've got some serious pitching issues to address. Interestingly, though, they are only 6-3 in these games on the road compared to 5-0 in Busch Stadium. Those three losses, though, came in Arizona, Chicago and Philadelphia, which have never been confused with "pitcher's parks."
I have no idea what a regular drink costs at On The Run, but I'm guessing $1.25, which means that if you'd bought a drink every time, you'd have saved yourself $14, unless, of course, you wouldn't have bought one otherwise, in which case you've cost yourself $3.50.
Don't worry, I'll continue to keep an eye on this and I'm sure you'll see periodic updates on this crucial part of Cardinal fandom.
A month or so ago, I received in the mail a copy of Doug Feldmann's St. Louis Cardinals, Past and Present. It came at a pretty busy time for me, so while I immediately sat down and started poring over the book, I wasn't able to get around to publishing a review of it until now.
I'm also breaking from my normal tradition of keeping posts unillustrated, because this picture of my kids and I points out one of the strongest points of this book--the ability to educate the coming generation about the great history of the Cardinals.
Feldmann, who sat down with us on the UCB Radio Hour a month back, has put together a great historical reference book, filled with photographs of the great Cardinals of the past and present (hence the name--shocking, huh?). From the turn of the last century all the way through 2008, Feldmann does a wonderful job of hitting the high points and finding pictures of those players, managers and owners that he's talking about.
This is not a book for those looking for details and elaborate discussions of the past. It's 140 pages and chock full of pictures, so the writing is limited. What writing there is in it, though, is done very well. You move seamlessly from, for example, Branch Rickey to Bing Devine to Whitey Herzog to Walt Jocketty to John Mozeliak. The book is presented in sections, so you can trace the line of Cardinal first basemen or shortstops or starting pitchers.
Other sections include The World Series, The Rivalries, Down on the Farm, and The Great Teams and the Dynasties. If you can think of the angle, Feldmann seems to have covered it in this book.
For older Cardinal fans, this is a great way to bring back memories of watching the Cardinals. It was great to see the old Busch in its pre-1996 configuration again. To see pictures of Jack Clark and Tommy Herr. To revisit the controversy of 1985.
As I noted before, though, it also works great as an introduction to Cardinal history for the younger set. My four and a half year old loves looking through the pictures. When I can show him some of the players that he's learning about in his other Cardinal book, it only reinforces things and helps him at least start learning names of the past. Later on, he'll be that much further along to being an educated Cardinal fan. (My two year old just likes pointing at all the Cardinals and saying, "Albert Pujols".)
There's not much downside to this book. Obviously, it wouldn't have been a terrible thing if it were longer, but you'll never find a Cardinal book that's long enough for me. Since it was designed as an overview, you don't get a lot of depth in any one topic. On the whole, though, I'd definitely recommend this book for young and old alike.
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 outfield....you 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!
First off, John Mozeliak shot down the Burnett idea, which isn't terribly surprising given since the team doesn't really want to deal out too many long-term contracts right now. Especially with one that may have some injury issues. I know the talk is that they don't want to limit their flexibility with Carp, Wainwright and Lohse all signed long-term, but you'd have to think that continuity is fine if everyone is healthy and good. It worked for the Braves in the '90s, didn't it?
Moving an outfielder is still on the priority list, but it looks like it won't be Ryan Ludwick. Which makes sense in a lot of ways, mostly because every other outfielder in the system, it seems like, is a left-handed batter. Problem is, like BrewCards noted in yesterday's comment thread, there are just so many questions around everyone else that it'll be tough to get adequate talent back for them. I don't believe they'll move Rasmus (unless completely overwhelmed), people have to decide if Schumaker is for real and they can live with the lack of power, Ankiel is a free agent after this season, and Chris Duncan is coming back from injury.
Apparently the braintrust is rethinking the closer position as well. Either they aren't convinced Perez and Motte can handle it even with a year of seasoning or they want to keep their options open now that the closer market seems to be coming back to them. Getting a FA closer on a two-year deal (if they could) might open trade possibilities next offseason.
Adam Kennedy looks to be the starter next season at second base. When you look at his numbers, they really weren't as bad as everyone seems to have in their head. While an Orlando Hudson would be an improvement, there really isn't any way to get him if Kennedy is still on the roster, and there doesn't seem to be any mechanism for getting him off of it that works for the Cardinals. He'll be a free agent, so maybe we'll finally get to see what the Cardinals were looking for two years ago.
Strauss talks today at noon from Vegas, so I'm sure he'll elaborate even more on these points then.
Apparently the Cardinals have been looking at Scott Downs from the Blue Jays and have considered sending either Ankiel or Joe Mather to the Braves. A quick glance at Downs looks interesting, especially his last two seasons. He's been playing in a tough division as well, so moving to the NL Central might even help. I'm a little surprised the Cards would move Ankiel, especially for someone like Mike Gonzalez, but they've got to clear a spot somehow. Looks like he'll be a popular chip, with the Yanks, Rays and Giants all asking about him. (Isn't he a little young to be a Giant?)
In fact, the rumor of Ankiel for Ian Kennedy is a little intriguing. Kennedy, who was actually drafted by the Cardinals in 2003 but didn't sign, has been a top prospect for a while in the Yankee organization. And, while we all know that Yankee prospects have a heck of a hype machine, his minor league numbers backed a lot of that up. He struggled this year in the majors, but he will turn 24 next week and still has a long way to go before he hits his prime. He'd be a long term committment, but a cheap one. If that's an offer out there, I think (even though I'm a huge Ankiel fan and would hate to see him go) that Mo should take it.
A reminder that the special edition of the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour will be coming to you tomorrow night at 10:00 Central time. Yours truly is scheduled to be a guest in the first hour.
So the Cardinals decided not to offer arbitration to any of their free agents. As we discussed yesterday, the only options were Springer and Looper, really. The case against Springer stems from his age and the fact that the right side of the bullpen has a lot of in-house options. If they really thought Springer would accept the offer, then I can see why they didn't offer.
There really did seem to be no downside on offering Looper, though. Do you really think he's not going to get multi-year offers somewhere else? Even if he accepts, would it be such a bad thing to have a starter/reliever combo in the same person? Right now you have Wainwright, Lohse, Wellemeyer and Pineiro in the rotation. Your own pitching coach doesn't think we'll see Carpenter in '09, at least as a regular rotation member. Does Mozeliak really have plans that will come to fruition this week for the rotation, making the offer to Looper such a huge risk? Is the market really that slow for him?
It just seems like we've heard so much about building up the minors and gaining strength from the draft, so when the team turns down the opportunity to get more draft picks, it's a little strange.
It also looks like the Trever Miller saga is not coming to an end either. Apparently something showed up on the physical that they didn't like. As always, when it comes to the Cardinals and injuries, it's always a murky path.
I was talking to cards4life from Redbird Ramblings last night and the question was posed that, if two weeks from now the Cardinals are in the same situation, with no signings or trades, do you start getting restless and where does the blame lie? He leaned toward DeWitt, which a sizable portion of the fanbase would, while I thought the blame would probably rest on Mozeliak.
Hopefully it's a moot point, though. I still have a feeling that the Cards will be signing Renteria pretty soon and you'd think activity would pick up now that the arbitration deadline has passed and the Winter Meetings are next week. Something's going to happen.....right?
My schedule has me out of the office the rest of the week (though that's always subject to change) so if I don't get a chance I wanted to mention again the next UCB show. There should be plenty of discussion about the arbitration decisions and what comes next. Should be a great night!
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and long weekend. I battled some junk the last couple of days and haven't been online at all, which is unheard of for me!
Obviously I picked the right days to be unplugged, since absolutely nothing happened over that time span. That'll change today, though, as it's the deadline for offering arbitration.
Russ Springer, Braden Looper, Jason Isringhausen are the big ones that have to be decided, due to their Type A or B status. There's no way Izzy gets arbitration, mainly because of the 20% cut limitation. Izzy's contract for next year is going to be a lot less, no matter who hires him.
I'd probably offer to both Looper and Springer. Looper isn't likely to come back for a one year deal, so he'd decline and you'd get the draft pick. Even if he does, having him around for insurance couldn't be a terrible thing.
As Leach notes in his article, Springer could be a question mark, but I think you offer to him because odds are he's going to come back to St. Louis anyway. If he doesn't, then you've got the picks, especially since he's Type A.
After everyone sorts out the arbitration stuff, I think we'll hear more about moves, etc. I honestly expect the Cardinals to sign Edgar Renteria once the Tigers decline to offer him. Between this and next week's Winter Meetings, the stove is going to start cranking soon!
Remember, we've got another UCB radio show this Wednesday at 10:00 pm. More on that tomorrow!