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Playing Pepper 2013: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 2:30 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.     

Toronto Blue Jays 
73-89, fourth in the AL East 

The Toronto GM is Alex Anthopoulos. After this postseason, you'd be forgiven if you thought it was Ty Pennington.

A team that was under .500 last season, struggling with injuries and a tough division, saw an opening during the winter.  They were able to gut the Miami Marlins, making a trade that took days for people to fully comprehend.  (Ironically, the club made this huge trade, then was overshadowed by the team being torn down.)  Then they went for broke, grabbing up a Cy Young winner and a guy in the running for MVP last year until a steroid suspension ended his season.

There are no excuses left for Toronto.  They have pushed all their chips in the middle and are just waiting for someone to call them.  Will this big bet pay off?

Toronto has a very active blogging community and so I've been able to get a lot of responses to that question.  First up is Gideon Turk, writer of Blue Jays Plus and Twitterer @BlueJaysPlus.  He's followed by Ian Hunter, who you should remember from Episode 29 of Conversations With C70 as the author of The Blue Jay Hunter (and is on Twitter @BlueJayHunter).  

Batting third is Jeremy Gibson, whom you'll find at 500 Level Fan and @500LevelFan. He also has his own theme song, which means there's two of us.  Last, but not least, we've got Chris Clements from Infield Fly (@infieldflyrule).

Lots of quality writers here, so stick around to hear them talk about this offseason and where they'll finish at the end of 2013!
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UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
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Playing Pepper 2012: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Toronto Blue Jays
81-81, fourth in the AL East

Where else can you go .500 and wind up trailing three other teams?  (OK, technically they'd have finished a game out of third in the NL West last year also, but that's not quite the same.)  Toronto has to sometimes wonder, "Just what do we have to do to get out of this division?"

Instead of complaining, though, the Jays are quietly building a team that can go head to head with the big spenders of the division, hopefully being ready to exploit any window and rush into a postseason berth, whether by divisional title or one of the wild card slots.  Whether 2012 will be that year remains to be seen.

To shed some light on the team, though, I've contacted a number of Toronto bloggers for their expert analysis.  Ian Hunter is the BBA Toronto Chapter president and writes for The Blue Jay Hunter.  You'll find him on Twitter at BlueJayHunter.  Jeremy surveys the team from the high ground of the 500 Level Fan and Tweets under the same handle.  Chris puts his thoughts down at Infield Fly and on Twitter at infieldflyrule.

Coming up, we talk about the pitcher that will stand out in 2012 and, of course, their thoughts on a former Cardinal.

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UCB Prediction Week, Part I: American League

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Every year about this time, the United Cardinal Bloggers take aim at their predictions for the upcoming season.  It's a great way to look at the divisions, get a feel for what is going on, and write down picks that you will be trying to scrub from any internet search engine by probably July.

I'm far from an expert, so take all of these picks with a grain of salt.  There are few gut picks that don't have a lot of basis in reality, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading them.

Since the American League doesn't really matter as much, we at the UCB just lump it all into one day.  So keep reading to see how I pick the divisions to shake out.
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Happily Ever After

Posted on October 30, 2011 at 1:37 AM
Once upon a time, there was a baseball team.

This baseball team wasn't the richest team, though it wasn't poor by any means.  It wasn't the strongest team and it wasn't by any means the fastest team.  It wasn't even considered the best team within its region, much less in all the land.

This team had many players that made up its merry band.  It had the Warrior, who could battle teams with amazing firepower and also could undermine them with guts and guile, depending on the situation.  It had the Young Gun, a man who started building his legend early and then continued to develop it.

There was the Legend, one known far and wide as the most intimidating, the most amazing, the most everything of players.  Aiding the Legend was the Hired Hand, imported indirectly from the mountain tribes to help the Legend in his times of trial.  To go along with these two was the Rival, a man that had started out as a fierce member of an opposing tribe, only to become a trusted member of this team.

There were others, of course.  The Local, the Phenom, the Lefty, the Poet, the Gunslinger, the Finisher.  All sorts of names and characters made up this unique team.

Every year, the Lords of Baseball held a contest in the fall of the year, when the leaves were changing and the north winds began to blow.  This contest was to see just which team would be able to hold the title of Best Team and feast on the adoration of those that followed these brave and intrepid men.  Teams came from far and wide, down long and winding roads, to get to the tournament, well knowing that only eight of them would be allowed inside the gates once they arrived at their destination.

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Cardinals Move On

Posted on July 28, 2011 at 9:15 AM
After all the news of the day, it was almost anti-climactic when the Cards had to go out and actually play a game.  Unfortunately, the ending was of the same mold.

There weren't a lot of positive performances to go on, as Bud Norris was at it again.  I'll give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday for his two-for-three performance last night.  You could have also gone with Chris Carpenter, who pitched well again, with eight strikeouts and two runs in seven innings.  Carpenter is showing no signs of turning back into a pumpkin, as it were, so he should give the Cards a significant weapon down the stretch of what is turning into a three-way race.

The Goat would be Mitchell Boggs.  Not only did he give up the deciding two runs in the game, but he was very shaky in his first inning of work as well, being a bit lucky not to have allowed any runs there as he loaded the bases with one out.  Boggs seems to have these kind of games, going from very effective at times to very iffy.  With the new arms coming for the pen and with Boggs having options, it'll be interesting to see if he goes down to make room.  I don't know that he will or that he should, but that doesn't mean much.

Really thought the Cards were going to be able to at least force extras with Albert Pujols up, runners on second and third, and two outs.  A base hit would have been enough, but instead he struck out to end the game and cap his 0-5 night.  It seems to me that Pujols, save for his 4-5 game in Pittsburgh, has been fine with the long ball but isn't hitting for much average.  His season number now is .274, at least seven points off of his season high.  As much as I like the homers, a 3-4 night with a double on a semi-regular basis would not go amiss either.  

Last night the top three hitters in the lineup combined for 0-13.  It's a good thing Carpenter was on his game, because it's not easy to score many runs when that happens.

Of course, today is still a reaction day as the trade continues to be analyzed and discussed. It was interesting to see some of the comments from the people involved.

For example, the main piece in the deal, Colby Rasmus.  I think the takeaway from everything that he said yesterday, besides the boilerplate "It happens, enjoyed my time here, etc." was "I hope he's happy" in reference to Tony La Russa.  

If nothing else, the Rasmus family seems to think that it was La Russa that got Colby out of town.  Cole over at Redbird Report picked up some comments from Tony Rasmus in a Toronto paper that paint a different picture than the official line.  While I think you take some of Papa Rasmus's comments with a grain of salt--he's been known to admit that he likes to stir the pot on line, and I expect an interview would be no different--that combined with Colby's brother (not the one recently drafted by the Cards) Tweeting about "unfair treatment" makes you wonder exactly how things were playing out over there.

One of the other pieces that left was Trever Miller.  Miller made some comments on his way out, and took most of the blame, with the caveat that he though if he'd pitched regularly he'd have been better.  

There's only one problem with that.  When he was pitching regularly, he wasn't getting people out, which is why TLR lost confidence in him and stopped using him.   For example, let's look back at that five-appearance, no-out streak he ran in April.  He threw on 4/17, then 4/23, then three straight days 4/26-4/28.  You can't get much more regular than that for a LOOGY.  It wasn't until July until he really didn't get regular work, but by then the damage was done.

Kyle McClellan was affected by the deal and he says he's fine with going to the bullpen.  Fine might be an overstatement, really.  Watching him on FSMW yesterday it seemed like he was going to take one for the team and he couldn't really complain about it, but he wasn't thrilled.  You can't blame him--he's wanted to be a starter for a long time now and got a chance to do it this year.  He didn't completely pitch himself out of the job (though if he was still going like he was going in April, the Cards either don't make this move or don't get him out of the rotation) and has to be pleased that he at least showed the team (and other teams) that he could do it.

He strengthens the bullpen now, though, and that's a positive from this situation.  Most likely, with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook next year already set with Chris Carpenter looking like he might return and the Cards talking about making new guy Marc Rzepczynski a starter, McClellan could become a trade chip in the offseason and he's done nothing to damage his value.

Tony La Russa continues to insist that the team shouldn't choose a manager over a player and that he had nothing to do with the deal.  Perhaps that's true, but there have been a number of players (J.D. Drew, Adam Kennedy, Scott Rolen, Brendan Ryan) that got into that doghouse and none of them are still here while the manager is.  With the comments from Tony Rasmus and the fact that the Cards were working on an extension with Rasmus before TLR ruined it with his public comments, there's no doubt that he's been significantly involved in this decision.  For some, that's a failure of being a manager and I'm not going to say I disagree.

I do want to take issue with one point, though, that was brought up in the UCB Radio Hour last night and probably will be mentioned by a number of people aggravated with La Russa's actions.  Tony La Russa is a very good manager.  Doesn't mean he's always right, doesn't mean that he was right in this case.  However, a person doesn't stay in the game managing 30+ years with no gaps without knowing what he is doing.

You look at the two teams that were affected by the death of a teammate, in '02 and '07.  Both of those teams were able to overcome that, though the '07 team fell short of the playoffs.  Look at this year.  With all the injuries, most Cardinal fans would have been ecstatic with second place if you'd told them all of these players would go down before the season.  No matter the personnel, the TLR era in St. Louis has been a rousing success and we should remember that.

Does that mean that it's not time for TLR to go, that he should continue to be manager in perpetuity?  I don't know about that.  I think there should be some sort of accountability when comments are made that change the whole course of an organization.  What that should be is up to the powers that be.

Finally, this from John Mozeliak: "Was there a chance he [Colby] was going in the wrong direction?  I'll let you answer that."  It seems that the club realized there was a chance that he wasn't going to get any better.  If he doesn't, if he doesn't come out of his shell being outside of St. Louis, perhaps we'll look back on this trade much differently in 4-5 years.  I remember the outcry when the Mark Mulder deal was made.  People were so worked up about it because they couldn't believe the Cards would trade such a prospect.  Of course, that was Daric Barton, who has done little to warrant that gnashing of teeth in his career.  If it wasn't for the fact Dan Haren blossomed, that trade would just be a footnote.

One last point I want to make about the deal.  While there seems to be little thought that these players to be named later will be much of anything (they've been described as low-level prospects), either they or the "significant" cash that are coming back must be key.  I feel like there's a player in Toronto's system that Mozeliak really wants, and he did pretty well picking out David Freese from San Diego for Jim Edmonds and Makiel Cleto from Seattle for Brendan Ryan.  

To me, that's the only reason you turn down the Tampa Bay offer of Jeff Niemann and JP Howell and a prospect.  The story is that Mo was holding out for James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, which I understand, but that's not the quality he got from Toronto.  I don't think anyone puts Edwin Jackson in the same class as those two, and the differences in contracts is significant as well.  Niemann would be under team control for five more years at a fairly minimum salary, something that'd be good when you are budgeting for Albert Pujols.  It's true Howell would have a free agent at the end of the year, but easier to resign him than Jackson.

Tampa Bay's package, on the face of it, was a much better blend of the now and the not yet.  I have to believe that the PTBNL will give us some of that "not yet" out of this deal as well.

Lance Berkman got an injection in his shoulder yesterday and should be back in the lineup today.  The outfield depth has taken a hit, so we really need Berkman to be healthy down the stretch.  Hopefully that will be the case.

Couple of lefties go today.  Jaime Garcia at home is a good thing, as we all know.  Here's him against the Houston club:

Carlos Lee 9 7 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 9 2 0 1 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .778 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .375 .571 .946 0 0 0
Jason Bourgeois 6 6 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .833 1.333 0 0 0
Bud Norris 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 6 6 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 4 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .750 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Downs 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 64 59 22 4 1 1 9 3 9 .373 .397 .525 .922 0 0 0
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.

These guys have hit Garcia hard. Not a lot of extra base hits and a small sample size, but that average jumps out. 

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cardinals has always been a tough matchup.

Albert Pujols 49 40 9 3 0 1 6 9 1 .225 .367 .375 .742 2 0 2
Yadier Molina 38 37 8 2 0 0 3 1 6 .216 .237 .270 .507 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 33 31 10 4 0 1 1 2 0 .323 .364 .548 .912 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 31 29 8 1 1 3 7 2 6 .276 .323 .690 1.012 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 24 24 6 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 1
Colby Rasmus 13 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .077 .000 .077 0 0 0
David Freese 8 7 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 .143 .250 .286 .536 0 0 1
Kyle Lohse 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 7 6 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .571 .667 1.238 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Nick Punto 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
P.J. Walters 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 225 206 48 12 1 5 20 17 26 .233 .291 .374 .665 2 0 6
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.

Albert's always had his troubles against Rodriguez, though it's been better lately. Rodriguez has often been a Cardinal killer and they'll have to step up their game tonight.  It won't look good to their new teammates if they lose the first two games after the trade, would it?

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Keeping You Informed: Rasmus To Jays

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 3:32 PM
Here's the official release:





ST. LOUIS, Mo., July 27, 2011 - With Major League Baseball's non-waiver deadline approaching this Sunday, July 31, the St. Louis Cardinals today announced a multi-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

The Cardinals have acquired right handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, right handed reliever Octavio Dotel, left handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-CHIN-ski), outfielder Corey Patterson and three players to be named later or cash considerations.   St. Louis sends outfielder Colby Rasmus, pitchers P.J. Walters, Trever Miller and Brian Tallet to Toronto.   The Jays acquired Jackson earlier today in a deal with the Chicago White Sox.

"We feel that this deal strengthens us in a number of key areas," said Cardinals' Senior Vice President/ General Manager John Mozeliak.  "Trades of this nature are never easy to make, but we felt that it was important to solidify a number of areas on our ball club to better position ourselves for what looks to be a highly competitive divisional race."

Jackson, 27, was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA for the White Sox this season.  He's compiled a career mark of 55-58 with a 4.53 ERA, winning 14 games in 2008 for Tampa Bay and 13 games in 2009 for Detroit.  He threw a no-hitter for Arizona on June 25, 2010 at Tampa Bay.

Rzepczynski, 25, was 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 10 Holds for Toronto this season and he has been used as both a reliever and starter since debuting with Toronto in 2009.

Dotel, 37, had a 2-1 mark, one save, four Holds and a 3.68 ERA in 36 games for the Jays this season and he has 106 career saves, combining for a career-high 36 in 2004 with Houston and Oakland.

Patterson, 31, was batting .252 this year with 6 homers, 33 RBI and 13 steals.  His career marks include a .253 BA with 118 HR's, 428 RBI and 218 steals.  Patterson hit a career-high 24 homers for the Cubs in 2004 and he swiped a career-best 45 steals for Baltimore in 2006.

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Worldview Shaking

Posted on July 27, 2011 at 3:23 PM
I'm a positive guy.  I give people the benefit of the doubt, figure there are things that aren't in evidence that I don't know, and generally expect that people running a business or a baseball team or anything of that nature know what they are doing.

Which is why the earth has apparently tilted on its axis today.

I was waiting to write anything until it was official.  Lots of rumors and talk out there, especially as the deadline gets closer.  You never want to come out and talk about something that doesn't actually happen.  However, with PJ Walters tweeting about Toronto and Colby Rasmus's brother doing the same, it's a pretty safe bet that the trade, as we know it, will be happening.

So it's Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller (who is expected to be flipped to the White Sox), Brian Tallet, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson (whom the Jays received earlier today from the White Sox), Marc Rzepczynski (whose name I will never spell right without looking it up), Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.  There is apparently money changing hands as the commish has to approve it (as he does with any trade involving more than $1 million), but so far, nothing has changed to indicate that isn't the case.  (Late note: Apparently the Cards could get another reliever from the White Sox if Miller is dealt.)

That's the deal.  That's what John Mozeliak has apparently signed off on.  Then it was like a million voices cried out at once on Twitter and nothing is going to silence them.

The blog posts are already being written and keep trickling in.  Colby Rasmus is a trending topic.  And I have to agree with the prevailing sentiment, which is, "That's it?  That's the deal?"

The Cardinals have traded a young, cost-controlled (to a degree--Rasmus will be arbitration eligible after this year, I believe), quality player at a premium position for a rental pitcher and some relievers?  You trade a guy that could have been part of the core of the team for three more years for, at best, a LOOGY and a draft pick past this season?

There is just not that much to like about this deal.  Yes, the Cardinals needed left-handed relief help.  We get that and I agree wholeheartedly.  Rzepcynski has been very effective against lefties this year and he's not been that bad against righties, either.  However, if you go into this year's splits (and it's small sample size, true), he's been worse away from Rogers Center and been worse on grass by significant margins.  For his career it's the same way, though it isn't as pronounced.  I'll give you that he fits a need, but he's not worth giving up Rasmus for.  Apparently, the club thinks he can be a starter (he's been one in the minors) because they've determined that no matter what your position in the majors, it's the wrong one.

Pip did a great breakdown of why you don't trade Rasmus for Jackson yesterday, showing that yet again the man is on the bleeding edge of things and that apparently the front office isn't reading the blogs as much as we thought they might.  To get someone that projects, as Pip says, "between Lohse and Westbrook" for the rest of the year isn't exactly the impact player that we thought the team was looking for before it moved the centerfielder.  With Scott Boras as his agent and the state of the pitching staff in the next couple of years, I can't imagine any way Jackson is back with this team next year unless someone gets traded.

As for Octavio Dotel and Corey Patterson.....nobody told me we'd gotten into a time machine and shown up in 2004.  Dotel's been passable this year, I guess, but he's 37 years old and has been up and down.  Not sure who he'd be an upgrade on.  He's not going to take Lance Lynn's place in the 8th, I don't think.  He's not better than Jason Motte or Mitchell Boggs.  Where does he fit?

Corey Patterson, well, ugh.  Besides the whole "former Cub" thing, he's one of those guys that's hung around long enough to get the "veteran" tag that apparently is so appealing to some parts of the Cardinal decision making tree.  He's been better the last couple of years, but the last time he was in the NL Central, with both the Reds and the Brewers, he was a disaster.  He's filler, a guy that plays once a week or so on a lot of teams (which means he'll likely start tonight, but that's another story.)

(Now, since things move fast and I don't write that way, a couple of things have happened since I started this.  The first is that it has been officially announced.  I'll post the press release when I get it--actually, just got it so it'll go up after this post.  The second is that the Cards get either three players to be named later or cash.  If they are able to get some quality from the PTBNL list, perhaps this deal doesn't look as bad.  Flip side of that is if there were top prospects on that list, chances are the Cards get them now rather than later.)

As Bernie Miklasz Tweeted, there's little upside to this deal.  Does it help the Cards this season?  There's an argument there, I would guess.  It depends on what Jackson does in the starting rotation, because I don't think the bullpen was as bad as it was earlier in the year and so the moves probably not do much for it.  It's a gamble, though.  Can Jon Jay hit like he's been hitting on a regular basis?  Remember his tail spin last year after Ryan Ludwick was moved.  Can Allen Craig step in and be a dependable fourth outfielder?  There's a chance the offense is a bit weaker, especially if Rasmus still had a positive streak in him.

This was not an overwhelming trade, which is what Mozeliak said would need to happen to move Rasmus.  This, for all intents and purposes, was Scott Rolen all over again.  (We could hope that it's JD Drew and that one of the PTBNL is an Adam Wainwright, but I think that's pushing it.)  Rolen had to leave because he and TLR couldn't get along anymore.  It happened with Brendan Ryan this last season.  Which means that it begs the question: who actually is running this team?

I've been a La Russa fan for a long while, but I said back with Rolen that you can't let the manager get a situation to the point where you have to give up on a player that can help you.  Especially in this situation, when TLR might not be back next year and Rasmus could be a future contributor, you don't give him away for spare parts.  Yet that seems, right now, exactly what they've done.  There's a dynamic in play in St. Louis decision making that doesn't seem to be anywhere else and I don't think it's a positive one for the club.

We knew Rasmus was going to leave sometime, though.  If nothing else, he'd have walked as a free agent in a few years and he probably did need to go somewhere else to have his potential realized.  It's just....this way?  When the reports are you could have gotten a starter, a lefty reliever, and a prospect from Tampa Bay?  Are the draft picks that apparently were such a focus better than current young talent?

However, what's done is done.  Harping on it won't help anything, won't get it undone.  Years later there are still people talking about the Mark Mulder deal and, while this one has the potential of that one, there's nothing the fan base can do about it.

Although Joe Strauss now suggests the Cardinals could move Motte and Boggs for Heath Bell.  We might be doing this same up-in-arms reaction again before it's all said and done.  It's not over until the buzzer sounds on Sunday.  Remember, though, you can talk about it tonight during the UCB Radio Hour!

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Struggling For Silver Linings

Posted on June 26, 2011 at 3:46 PM
It's Sunday afternoon and, as I write this, the Cardinals are still playing the Blue Jays, though it just got a bit out of hand and odds are we now know how it is going to end.  I want to recap the last few days before talking about the state of the team.

Hero: Lance Berkman.  Two of the team's six hits.

Goat: Matt Holliday.  0-4 on a night when they really needed his bat.

Notes:  I actually had written this game up on Thursday, but got the weirdest error ever when I went to use the Baseball Reference linker, replacing my post with one from Tomahawk Take.  (It was easily the best post I've ever written, full of insight, deep thinking,, not really.  You didn't miss much.)  Kyle Lohse pitched pretty well, but made a couple of mistakes and that was all the Phillies needed with Cliff Lee on the mound.  I'm fairly sure Lee remembered his last time, when he walked six, and was determined not to do that again.

Hero: Chris Carpenter.  Carp's had his rough times this year, but he was on this night.  Seven strikeouts in seven innings with just one run allowed.  The more you look at Carp's numbers outside of win/loss, the more picking up his option might be the best thing for the club.  Even if you get outings like this just 60% of the time instead of 90%, it still is worth it.

Goat: Daniel Descalso.  Everyone's getting hits, most people are getting two, but Descalso can't break through with a knock.  Did get a walk, though, so his evening wasn't a complete waste.

Notes: Berkman goes yard, Holliday gets two hits, everyone is just hunky-dory.  Even when you factor in that Roy Oswalt went on the DL after this game, you still had to be pretty positive about the game, since the Cards hit just about every pitcher Philadelphia threw at them.

Hero: Matt Holliday.  His two-run homer late in the game looked like it could be the thing the Cards needed to come back in this game.

Goat: Fernando Salas.  Salas has really struggled this month with the long ball.  Sure, it was Jose Bautista, who is crushing everyone, but it's a tough thing to live with after the team had rallied to tie it up.

Notes: Nice to see Colby Rasmus go yard, even if it was his only hit.  Some great work by Mitchell Boggs (who only went 2/3rds of an inning, but the two strikeouts he got were key) and Lance Lynn, who in a just world would have had the Cards pull out a win for him.

Hero: Jon Jay.  Two for three with a run scored on a night where the offense didn't do a lot.

Goat: Jaime Garcia.  Descalso's throwing error didn't help matters at all, but Garcia did walk the pitcher--an American League pitcher at that, though Carlos Villanueva has been in the NL before--and allowed the long ball that put the Jays well in command.  Garcia in the past has talked about letting his focus slip and it seemed to in that inning.

Notes: 0-fers for Holliday and Berkman, so when your 3-4 guys can't get anything done, it's going to be a long night.  (Holliday did drive in the first run, but it was on a double play after the first two batters had reached.)

Hero: Mitchell Boggs.  1.2 innings of scoreless relief.  He's definitely looked good in his return from Memphis, though he didn't look bad before he went down.

Goat: Kyle McClellan.  After giving up a second-inning homer, it looked like McClellan would settle down.  After a while, though, he either ran out of gas or the Jays figured him out, as he 

Notes: It's always going to be a tough assignment to go up against Ricky Romero, but it'd been nice if some of the bats had shown up.  Berkman's error was an issue as well, but McClellan just couldn't get out of the inning.

So now the Cards have lost five of six since Albert Pujols went down.  They've done it in a mix of ways, by being dominated by good pitching, by losing due to the bullpen, and by just not being good enough to get over the hump.  They are still in the pennant race, of course, but this weekend didn't help them out much.  Milwaukee is working on finishing off the sweep of the Twins, so the Cards would be three back going into their off-day tomorrow.

(Also, I must confess my hubris as, before the series, I poked some fun at our resident Blue Jays fan in these parts.  Don't ask me how he got this far South, something about forgetting to return home for the winter.  Anyway, I believe he enjoyed this weekend way more than he should have.  Would have appreciated the Cards bailing me out!)

The Cards haven't been completely complacent, though, shuffling the bullpen around.  Miguel Batista was released since last we talked (part of that post that got erased) and Raul Valdes has been called up as well as Lynn, with Makeil Cleto being sent down.  Save for Salas's issue in the ninth on Friday, the bullpen has been pretty solid.  Ryan Franklin gave up a run in his now-infrequent appearance on the mound and there have been runs allowed here and there, but they haven't factored into the decision, for the most part.

Speaking of Franklin, why exactly is the team carrying 13 pitchers if Franklin's only going to pitch once in a blue moon?  If you can't ever use him, why is he on the roster?  I think I saw where Jake Westbrook had more appearances this month than Franklin does.  He's well and truly buried, so does that really help the club?

While we are on the topic of player usage, what is up with Mark Hamilton?  When Pujols went down, they brought Hamilton up with the idea that, while he probably wouldn't play every day and there was the idea that first would keep Berkman healthier (though Berkman said that he though the outfield was easier, without having to run back and forth to the bag all the time), Hamilton still would see some time in the field.  Since he came up, the Cards have played six straight games and, in all six (save today, where as of this moment he still hasn't appeared), he's only gotten one pinch-hit at-bat.

I don't know if Hamilton can hit in the bigs.  He's had great success in the minors, though, and remember that Allen Craig didn't really start hitting the ball until he got some regular playing time.  I get that Hamilton wasn't in there today because Romero is a lefty.  But why not have him in there last night against Villanueva?  Either rest Berkman a bit or put him back in the outfield.

I'm sure there is some reasoning to all of this, but it seems right now that Hamilton should have stayed in Memphis and someone else (don't know who, of course) promoted.  I'm guessing that, with the DH in play when the club goes to Baltimore and Tampa Bay, Hamilton will get some time at first while Berkman DHs (or vice versa).  Then again, with David Freese coming off the DL on Tuesday, it's possible that Freese will DH to get him up to speed and we'd have the same situation.  (Also possible Hamilton goes down when Freese comes up, though it'd make more sense for it to be Andrew Brown.)

Bill Ivie and I will be on Gateway To Baseball Heaven tonight at 9:30 Central and I'm sure we'll talk some about all of this.  The Cardinals are coming to the end of June at a crossroads.  They can't afford to get too far back, but what can they do about it?  What should they do about it?  Join us in the chat room, if you want, to give your opinions.

Cardinals get to take on the old Browns on Tuesday.  We'll look at the starting pitchers Monday night or Tuesday and talk about whatever roster gyrations are done to get Freese and Nick Punto into Cardinal red then as well!

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Playing Pepper 2011: Toronto Blue Jays

Posted on March 17, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Toronto Blue Jays (85-77, 11 GB and fourth in the AL East)

85 wins.  In the AL West, that would have put the Jays second and third in any other division.  Yet since they have the misfortune to play in the powerhouse AL East, that eight-games-over-.500 mark was just good enough to beat out Baltimore.  At times, it just doesn't seem fair.

It's possible that misery, or at least misfortune, does love company because Toronto is one of the largest chapters in the BBA.  I was able to get three of those quality writers to sit down with the Playing Pepper questions.

Chris writes Infield Fly, a baseball blog with Toronto tendencies.  You can follow him on Twitter for a little north of the border flavor.

The Blue Jay Hunter is written by Ian Hunter, the president of the Toronto chapter of the BBA.  As with Chris, you can also follow him on Twitter to get his thoughts.

Finally, Jeremy writes from the cheap seats at his blog 500 Level Fan.  Along with the other two, he has Twitter but also has a Facebook group as well.

Jose Bautista and other nuggets of info after the jump!
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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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