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A Busy Day in Cardinal Nation

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 8:41 AM
Filed Under: Heroes and Goats | Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals | Washington Nationals
Losing a game in the ninth inning is enough fodder for debate.  A trade, by itself, makes for a big day.  Put them together and you've got a lot of unrest and discussion going on in Cardinal Nation.  Let's take the game first before delving into the move of Chris Duncan to the Boston Red Sox.

Last night was a game the Cardinals really needed to win.  Having lost the first two of the series against a divisional foe that is feeling confident about a late season run, stopping the bleeding was a top priority.  Thankfully, Chris Carpenter was on the mound.  Carpenter put together eight strong innings and put the team in a great position to win.  He worked out of trouble in the seventh, though he did allow a run.  I thought they'd pull him there, but he went back out in the eighth and made quick work of the Astros.

So you've got a one-run lead in the ninth and, at least this year, that's pretty much where you want to be.  However, as happens at times, the closer got a hiccupRyan Franklin allowed two runs and the game was over.  It's really tough when you realize that Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee weren't any part of that ninth inning and Miguel Tejada could have been avoided if the Cards had executed correctly.

I wasn't able to watch the whole game, but one moment that I saw stuck out to me.  The Cards were tied at 1 in the top of the sixth when Skip Schumaker doubled to start the inning.  Next up is Colby Rasmus.  Now, I know Rasmus is in a bit of slump, though he did get a hit in this game.  For some reason, Tony LaRussa figures this is a great time to sac bunt.

Rasmus bunts, but they get Schumaker at third, and then Albert comes up and raps into a double play.  While I know that Oswalt is a dominant pitcher, what exactly is the point here?  If it works, you have a runner on third...and Albert is walked.  If you let Rasmus swing away, the most likely worst situation is a grounder to short or a strikeout, leaving Skip at second...and Albert is walked, giving you two on with one out.  More likely, Rasmus gets Skip over with a grounder or actually drives him in with a hit.  To me, it seemed like a terrible bit of managing and may have wound up costing the team the game.

The Cards now only sit one game ahead of Houston and Chicago and two ahead of Milwaukee.  After this quick stop in Washington, the Cards have to go to Philadelphia for three.  As close as this division is, they could find themselves looking up at a lot of teams very quickly.

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Of course, it would take a game like that to break through the shadow of yesterday's bigger story, the swap of Duncan for Julio Lugo.  Controversy swirled throughout the day, as Viva El Birdos first reported the deal, then indicated the deal was off due to strong opposition from Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan.  Bernie Mikalsz later Tweeted that the holdup was negotations on how much of Lugo's salary Boston was going to pay and John Mozeliak denied any interference from TLR and Duncan.

While Dave Duncan doesn't seem to be extremely happy with the deal, it was probably for the best that Chris Duncan moved on.  There's always a whipping boy for the fan base, whether it's deserved or not.  I remember JD Drew getting the not-so-great treatment due to his many injuries, ignoring the fact he usually produced on the field.  Jason Marquis came next in line, both early (undeserved) and late (deserved) in his tenure here.  Adam Kennedy moved to the head of the line after that until his trade to Tampa Bay.  Finally, it settled on Chris Duncan.  Joe Thurston is the heir apparent.

The difference this time is that Tony's doghouse guy and the fan whipping boy aren't the same person, one of the few times that's happened.  TLR always seems to have someone he's not big on.  In the past, his opinions have aligned with the fan base (or the fan base was shaped by his opinions, one of the two.)  This time, though, LaRussa had a fondness for Duncan, understandably so, while parts of the fan base couldn't get past a nepotism charge that was pretty bogus to start with.

If Duncan hadn't been as successful in 2006 and the first half of 2007 as he was, his leash with the management staff might have been shorter.  It's funny that a town that celebrates the gritty underachiever couldn't get behind a guy that played in so much pain they put a titanium disk in his neck during the offseason.  It wasn't a season-threatening injury, it was a career-threatening one.  Duncan worked his way back, though, and had a good start to this season.

Here's hoping that he has good success in the Red Sox organization.  He's got much better numbers on the road, so that could help him.  Looks like a classic case of where change of scenery is beneficial.

Let me say this much before I move on to the other side of the trade.  I really want to believe that LaRussa and Duncan did not try to pull rank, as it were, on GM John Mozeliak during this deal.  While there is no reason to doubt the VEB sources, the official explanation of things fits how things went down as well.  If TLR and Duncan did try to sabotage the deal, though, that brings up numerous points, most of which we talked about on UCB Radio Hour last night.

The first is that the power struggle that appeared to be healing is nowhere close to over.  When Walt Jocketty left, I expected TLR to be out the door as well.  He stayed and has seemed to try to work with Mozeliak for the most part, though he's been known to make public statements that put his boss in tough situations.  Still, things looked like people were on the same page.  This might not be the case anymore.

Second, if this was or could be taken to be Mozeliak trying to indicate who was in charge, what does that do for TLR at the end of the season?  His contract is up and he's always taken a while to decide whether the players want him back.  Will he decide that it's not worth working for this organization anymore?  This is one of the few setbacks he's had with this ownership group.  Perhaps that relationship isn't as strong anymore?

If LaRussa does go and goes out on bad terms, what impact does that have on the resigning of Albert Pujols?  Because basically everything done in the next two years needs to be filtered through that prism.  Pujols is very fond of LaRussa, being that he's the only major league manager he's played for, so if he sees TLR being mistreated (in his eyes) does that make it harder for him to come back?  If a team like Cincinnati signed TLR, would they then become intriguing to AP?

I'm sure there will be much more on this in the coming days.  Right now, though, it's time to look forward. 

Obtaining Julio Lugo is an interesting move.  The stated reason is the lack of depth behind Brendan Ryan, which may mean they are not very sanguine about the return of Khalil Greene or the prospects of recalling Tyler Greene.  Lugo's mainly a middle infielder with just enough versatility to give LaRussa ideas.

It sounds like Mark DeRosa will stick at third and there's not much likelihood of Schumaker returning to the outfield, so Lugo may just pick up starts here and there and I'd be shocked if he doesn't get at least a couple of games in left, because everyone has to play out there eventually.

Wanna know more about the newest Cardinal?  Check out Pitchers Hit Eighth's summary post.

In other news, Troy Glaus sat out the Memphis doubleheader with back spasms.  Whether that's just from doing too much after such a long layoff or an indication of a bigger problem, we'll have to wait and see.  Hopefully he'll get back on the field today and relieve any of those worries.

Todd Wellemeyer is making at least one more start, according to the manager. As we talked about last night, it seems incredible that no one like Blake Hawksworth or Clayton Mortensen or MItchell Boggs couldn't do as well or better than Wellemeyer has been.  You are going to start him against a potent offense in a bandbox park this weekend.  That should go well.

(Insert my regular "Get Roy Halladay!" spiel here.)

Shelby Miller, the Cardinals' first round draft pick, was at the game last night.  Sounds like it's going to cost some money to sign him, especially after he saw what they gave the Dominican teenager.  The Cardinals will have to do it, though, because they don't have any ace-like prospects down on the farm and they need one.

The Cardinals go into Washington today to make up the rainout from May 3.  Adam Wainwright is going for the Birds, but he's had some trouble with these Nationals hitters.  The team is hitting over .300 against him, trade rumor target Adam Dunn is also over .300 with a homer, and Ryan Zimmerman sits at over .400.  It could be a tough night for Wainwright unless he's got everything working.

The Nationals were going to throw Jordan Zimmerman, but wound up placing him on the DL and brought up pitcher Collin Balester.  He'll be making his season debut, though he threw 15 games last year.  Didn't face the Cardinals, though, so he'll be entirely new to them.  Which usually doesn't bode well for this team.  Hopefully the offense will get clicking and give Wainwright enough to win the ballgame.  


2 Comments | Leave a comment

Personally, I don't think LaDuncan will be back next year, unless the team goes out and gets someone like Holliday or Halladay(but we all know that's unlikely to happen). And unless the job goes to Oquendo(which would be the right move, IMO), Albert doesn't sign an extension, and is gone after '11. Just a feeling...

I'm really thinking TLR and Duncan will be exiting stage right at the end of this year, especially if they miss the playoffs. That'd be three years in a row, something that they've not done since '97-'99.

I think Oquendo would make AP happy, though I'd hate to see the Secret Weapon fail in SL. Lots of expectations for him.

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