One year ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals made a trade that would have an enormous impact on the history of the franchise. General Manager John Mozeliak remade the bullpen and fortified the rotation and bench by acquiring relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, starter Edwin Jackson, and outfielder Corey Patterson from the Toronto Blue Jays. Shipped up to Canada were pitchers PJ Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller along with centerfielder and former organizational “untouchable” Colby Rasmus.
Personality and hustle issues aside, Rasmus was a young and talented cost-controlled player and three of the four players the Cards received from Toronto would be free agents at the end of 2011. This was a win-now move by Mozeliak, and win the Cardinals did. But both franchises involved in this deal felt immediate impact. In case you need reminding, this trade largely led directly to the following for the Cardinals:
And, not to be outdone, this trade led directly to the following for the Blue Jays:
Well played, Mo…well played.
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It’s Opening Day…Christmas in March. I find myself without a
ticket to the game. But several of my friends have again taken the day off of
work and gathered at by buddy Ken’s house for food, drink, and baseball. We
have two televised games to watch: The Detroit Tigers vs. the New York Yankees,
and of course the San Diego Padres vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. Most of the
Tigers-Yankees game has been spent playing cards, prepping food, checking
fantasy lineups, and having drinks. But now that we’re just a few minutes from
first pitch at Busch Stadium, I’ve cracked open my computer and started a
running blog. Last year’s was a pretty good entry, but we had much better
weather and many more drop-in guests. This year, in addition to Ken, we also
have his brother Ed, other good friends Terry and Zac, and of course Scott the
Cubs Fan in attendance. Let’s play ball!
2:45 – The cavalcade of Cardinals Hall of Famers has begun,
and Stan Musial is in attendance wearing his new Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Red Schoendienst are in
attendance, too…each wearing their brilliant red blazers. Opening Day has
officially begun in Cardinal Nation. I have a glass full of ice and some kind
of aged rum I brought back from Mexico. You might be asking, “Rum and what?”
Just rum, friends…just rum. I have a couple of cigars at the ready, too. Could
be quite a day.
2:55 – The coaching staff and players are being introduced
after their parade around the field in huge pick-up trucks. This isn’t as
exciting on TV. All we’re doing now is hoping none of the trucks stops short,
injuring yet another Cardinal for the season.
2:59 – Speaking of injuries, Adam Wainwright was just
introduced. Pitch a good game today, Ad…wait. Crap.
3:00 – Colby “Boomhauer” Rasmus and Albert Pujols were just
introduced. No boos for Pujols, even without a contract. I didn’t expect boos,
but you never know.
Now that the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast has cut away to
Dan McLaughlin, Al Hrabosky, and Rick Horton, it’s probably a good time to
mention we have a pot of chili, grilled brats, two different taco dips, and
three boxes of Hostess desserts. We expect other people to stop by, trust me.
But it’s a good spread.
Here’s the Cards’ starting lineup, courtesy of the St. Louis
1. Theriot SS
2. Rasmus CF
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Berkman RF
6. Freese 3B
7. Molina C
8. Schumaker 2B
9. Carpenter P
The San Diego Padres are rolling out the following lineup:
1. Venable RF
2. Bartlett SS
3. Hudson 2B
4. Hawpe 1B
5. Ludwick LF
6. Headley 3B
7. Maybin CF
8. Hundley C
9. Stauffer P
3:20 – The first pitch of 2011 from Chris Carpenter is a
ball. It’s officially baseball season.
3:27 – Carpenter gets through an easy 1-2-3 top of the
first, and looks sharp. Cards coming up, no score.
3:29 – After Theriot is robbed of a base hit in centerfield,
Rasmus takes one to the wall in right and Will Venable can’t handle it. In
fact, he looked completely lost. Rasmus ends up on third with a triple and
Pujols is coming up with one out.
3:31 – Pujols pops out in foul territory, and my slightly
liquored friends and I start mock-razzing him, saying things like “Is that’s
what 30 million per year is going to be worth?!?!” We’re hilarious.
3:32 – Matt Holliday comes up and rips a single up the
middle, scoring Rasmus. Cards lead, 1-0. This is what I like to see.
3:34 – In his first at bat as a Cardinal, Lance Berkman
strikes out. Cardinals 1, Padres 0 after one inning.
3:41 – Carpenter’s first base runner allowed is a hit by
pitch of Ryan Ludwick. It wasn’t intentional, as far as I can tell. Ludwick is
quickly erased though on a 6-4-3 double play turned nicely by Theriot and
3:42 – Scott the Cubs Fan just informed us his chicken
enchiladas are almost done. Good Lord, I didn’t realize we have even MORE food.
It’s like Thanksgiving. I wonder if I’ll fall asleep with gravy on my face?
3:43 – The sun has FINALLY poked its way through the clouds
here in Belleville IL. We’re sitting in Ken’s oversized garage and just raised
the big door. A quick breeze reminds us it’s still only about 50 degrees
outside, and we promptly close the door again. Smart guys, we are.
3:48 – Schumaker is up, and Terry keeps making fun of him
for adjusting his batting gloves after every pitch. I never really noticed it
before…but it is kind of annoying. Schumaker then reaches first on a dropped
third strike, but Carpenter grounds out weakly to end the inning. Cardinals 1,
Padres 0 after 2.
3:55 – Carpenter again makes quick work of the Padres, and
has faced the minimum through three innings. I love a great pitching
performance, but it doesn’t make for exciting blogging. What am I going to
write? “Hey, another strike! Boo ya!”
3:58 – Theriot knocks a base hit into left, and we give
Scott the Cubs Fan a hard time. “Remember that?” Ken says. “Yeah, and I
remember all the other games, too” Scott replies. Don’t worry, Cards fans…he’s
4:01 – Albert Pujols comes up with runners on first and
second, no one out and grounds into a double play. “Trade him!” lament my sarcastic
friends. Something tells me this will be a theme throughout the year anytime
Pujols makes an out when he has a chance for an RBI, though. That will make
this season really irritating at times. Holliday follows with a groundout.
Cardinals 1, Padres 0 after three innings.
4:06 – As excited as we are for Opening Day, we’ve decided
to play a game of euchre while we watch the game. Maybe it’s a sign of the game
moving kind of slowly so far. Of course, as soon as we sit down at the table,
Will Venable rips a double down the left field line for the first Padres hit of
4:08 – David Freese makes a highlight reel catch on the
third base line and throws out Bartlett at first. Those ankles look pretty
sturdy early on. Freese is easily one of the most important components to the
Cards’ success this year. So far he looks good.
4:11 – After a sacrifice fly, Carp gets out of the inning. Still
4:17 – Three straight hits by Berkman, Freese, and Molina
quickly put the Cards back up 2-1. In perhaps a more important story, no one
got hurt and the speed on the basepaths was BLINDING.
4:18 – Venable makes a great diving catch on a Carpenter
bloop into foul territory to end the inning. Cards 2, Padres 1 after four
innings. Time for more rum.
4:29 -After Ludwick walks, he steals second when Schumaker
can’t hold onto the ball during the tag. Molina threw it perfectly; Schu just
dropped it (Ludwick might have gotten a hand up, but that’s still a ball that
has to be held). Nick Hundley then sends a rocket off the wall, scoring Ludwick
from second. Padres 2, Cardinals 2. We’ve got a barnburner on our hands!
4:35 – Albert Pujols just grounded into another double play.
In three at bats, Pujols has made five outs. He’s off to a great start. And
yes, I realize it’s only the first game of a 162 game season. But he’s on my
fantasy team, and he’s killing me right now.
5:03 – Took a break from the log to eat more food, finish
the euchre game, and refill my rum. In the meantime, Dan showed up. He
compliments my chili and enjoys a swig of my rum. Chris Carpenter has pitched 7
strong innings, a great start for this early in the season. He’s due up second
in the bottom of the 7th so he’s likely finished for the day.
5:08 – I’m right about Carp; after Schumaker led off the
inning with a single, Daniel Descalso pinch hit and bunted Schu over to second
base. But a Theriot groundout and Rasmus strikeout later, the inning is over.
We’re still tied 2-2.
5:23 – We just got into a lengthy discussion about baseball
salaries. Ed doesn’t seem to think Pujols is worth $25 million or more; he
thinks Pujols should do just play for $15 million. We’re fairly certain he’s
drunk or crazy. Even Scott the Cubs Fan laughed. I had a hard time convincing
Ed that the CBA doesn’t allow players to be paid based on their performance
year over year. I know what he’s trying to say. It’s easy to talk about what
would be “nice” or “right” but reality is harsher. I’ll need another drink to
finish this conversation.
5:42 – Matt Holliday just snuck a solo home run over the
wall to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Scott the Cubs Fan said it would be
Pujols who was the hero after his awful day at the plate, but once again he was
wrong. Ed just asked how much Holliday makes, so I shook up a beer and opened
it in his face.
5:50 – Ryan Franklin is brought in to close the game out.
The first two outs were relatively easy, though Headley did give one a ride.
But Cameron Maybin spoiled the party at Busch by cranking a solo homer to dead
center. Franklin is on the hook for his first blown save of the year. Is that
Jason Motte I see warming up in the bullpen? This is not how today was supposed
5:57 – The Padres bring in Chad Qualls for the bottom of the
9th. Molina, Schumaker, and Jay (after a double-switch) are due up.
6:01 – Jay smokes one up the middle that Qualls gets a glove
on but can’t hold on to. Jay is on with two outs. Theriot is up….
…and lines out. Extra innings on opening day!
6:06 – Brian Tallet makes his Cardinal debut, and I do a
quick image search for some of his epic pics from when he was a Toronto Blue Jay.
Dan drops the first Goose Gossage reference of the day.
6:10 – Tallet mows down the Padres, and looks good doing it.
Due up for the Cards: Rasmus, Pujols, Holliday. Go Cards!
6:14 – Leadoff walk to Rasmus. Mike Shannon must be going
nuts in the radio booth right now.
6:15 – Pujols grounds into ANOTHER double play. That’s eight
outs for him on the day. That’s just awful. Has he ever had a day like this? Oh…ask
and you shall receive. They just flashed a graphic that states Pujols has never
grounded into three double plays in one game. Good thing we’re not keeping
track of GIDP in the fantasy league.
6:17 – Holliday walks. Up comes Allen Craig. Come on, kid…we
need a hero.
6:18 – Craig fouls out to Venable, who is having a heck of a
game. Time for the 11th inning…and more rum.
6:23 – Hundley gets a two out single off of newly promoted
Cardinal Brian Augenstein. Not good.
6:25 – Maybin also singles; Hundley to third. But Ryan Theriot
blows the relay and Hundley makes it home on his terrible throw to the plate. The
Padres take the lead 4-3.
6:28 – 5-3 Padres. FML. More rum.
6:31 – Ed asks Dan why he smokes Marlboro Reds instead of
lights. Then he asks Scott the Cubs Fan why he smokes Marlboro menthols. I then
ask Scott the Cubs Fan why he’s such a woman. All conclusions can be drawn from
his Cubs hat and shirt.
6:33 – The Cards now face one of the best closers in the
league, Heath Bell. Ugh.
6:36 – Schumaker lines out to end an uneventful bottom of
the 11th and the game.
What’s the bigger story today: Pujols 0 for 5 with three
GIDP, or Franklin’s blown save? I have a feeling we’ll see more of Franklin’s
performance than Pujols’ performance, especially when you realize that Pujols
has NEVER had that kind of a day. In fact, not many ever have…according to
ESPN, it’s the first time since 1920 anyone has grounded into three double
plays on Opening Day. Closers blow saves…it happens. But wasting a Carpenter
start as good as the one he put on is really tough to watch. Bottom line is, this
was game 1 of 162. The Cards got off on the wrong foot, but they have a chance
to right the ship Saturday.
Every year, the United Cardinal Bloggers cast ballots on all the best the St. Louis Cardinals and its merry band of citizen journalists has to offer. My picks are bolded & underlined, and some explanation for each vote appears in italics below it. I didn’t offer any commentary for my votes on the blogs because I believe you, the reader, should visit them. I think you’ll see, in each case, the blog I voted for speaks for itself.
Cardinal Bloggers Awards
1. Player of the Year
Like there’s ever any doubt.
2. Pitcher of the Year
He’s the Cardinals’ ace. He’ll be here for a while, and they need to build the rotation around him.
3. Game of the Year
-April 5 at Cincinnati-Opening Day, 2 HR from Pujols, slam from Molina
-May 30 at Chicago-Pujols three home runs
-July 18 vs. Los Angeles-Five runs in eight and ninth to win
-July 19 vs. Philadelphia-Four home runs
-August 10 at Cincinnati-Brawl, home run from Molina
I think this game represents the best of the 2010 Cardinals; unfortunately it was also a turning point in the wrong direction.
4. Surprise Player of the Year
I think “cautiously optimistic” is the most anyone would say about Garcia before the 2010 season. In 2011, the question will be whether he can still be an effective #3 starter. That’s quite a jump in perception.
5. Disappointing Player of the Year
What was most disappointing about Ryan was that stretch where even his defense wasn’t good. Ryan’s increased offense in 2009 was probably an aberration, unfortunately. Now we know.
6. Rookie of the Year
There’s really nothing to say here…easy call.
7. Acquisition of the Year
In April, the Penny signing looked like it was going to make the Cards the favorite to go all the way. The rotation looked completely unstoppable. But that didn’t last very long. Westbrook brought stability, and now he’s a Cardinal for at least two more years. That may not have happened without being traded to STL in 2010.
8. Biggest Off-Field Story
-Jaime Garcia’s shutdown without him knowing
-Mark McGwire’s return to baseball
-Colby Rasmus’s trade request
This was just weird. Rasmus looked bad, Tony LaRussa looked bad, and the team suddenly appeared even more chaotic than everyone speculated. It will be interesting to see how things play out next season.
9. Most Anticipated Cardinal
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Shelby Miller will make his St. Louis Cardinals debut in 2012, and will be a full member of the rotation in 2013 alongside Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia. We may see the other two guys before then, but Miller is a lock. Write it down.
10. Best Individual Cardinal Blog
11. Best Team Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: Joe Sports Fan
12. Best Media Blog
13. Best UCB Project
-Cardinal All-Decade Team
-Progressive Game Blog
The roundtable discussions really are my favorite. I love getting a preview of everyone’s thoughts on a topic, especially how those thoughts relate to my own. It’s the closest thing to live debate we have at UCB.
14. Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: C70 At The Bat
15. Funniest Cardinal Blog
-Write-in: Cards Diaspora
16. Rookie Cardinal Blog of the Year
So I’m a fan of Bill Simmons over at ESPN.com. Even though he’s an annoying and unapologetic Boston/American League homer, his writing is great. One of the better gimmicks he uses is the Running Diary, where he watches a sporting event and keeps an ongoing tab of the event and some of the things going on around him while he watches. When my friends talked me into taking a vacation day to join them in watching the Cardinals’ first game of the year, I thought an homage was in order. I ended up throwing in some highlights from the Cubs’ game too, for good measure. Away we go…
12:01…..Getting ready for the beginning of the game at my buddy Ken’s house. Scott the Cubs fan is here too, wearing a Cubs hat and jersey and socks. That’s right, Cubs socks. We’ll call that “Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move”#1. I smoked some ribs this morning and we’re getting ready to throw brats on the grill. First pitch is only a few minutes away. Merry Christmas, baseball fans.
12:08…..First pitch of 2010 is swinging strike to Skip Schumaker. I’ll take this moment to list out today’s starting lineup for the Cards:
1. Schumaker – 2B
2. Ryan – SS
3. Pujols – 1B
4. Holliday – LF
5. Rasmus – CF
6. Ludwick – RF
7. Molina – C
8. Freese – 3B
9. Carpenter – P
12:13…..After Aaron Harang strikes out Schumaker and Ryan, Pujols jacks one over the wall in left center. Cards color analyst Al Hrabosky mentions how many home runs Pujols hit on the road last year, then asks how many he has today. That would be one, Al.
12:24…..Carpenter has little trouble with the Reds in the first, even though he had to learn what home plate umpire Mike Reilly’s strike zone was. We’ll see how consistent it is. Carpenter looked ticked after Joey Votto’s single but settled down to get Brandon Phillips. Cards lead 1-0 after one.
12:44…..Hrabosky just commented that Carpenter has a great body…for a pitcher. Read into that what you will. Carp also had a conversation with the ump over the baseballs, reminiscent of the issue John Smoltz had last year in Cincy when the balls were not properly rubbed up. Stay tuned for more on that situation. So far we have two innings in the books and I have two tequila & OJs in the belly. Cards still lead 1-0 after two; more updates on my buzz a little later.
12:48…..More wisdom from Hrabosky, talking about how often Ryan will bat second: “Tony LaRussa likes power in that second hole.” Dirty.
12:55…..Mention was made about the Reds’ history. The first game in their franchise was played in 1869. Think about that…when they first played baseball, the Civil War was still a fresh memory. Their closer that year, ironically, was Al Hrabosky. By the way, Hrabosky’s broadcast partner Dan McLaughlin just mentioned that the most important thing for a pitcher is getting a first-pitch strike. That was in response to Hrabosky saying that keeping the ball in the park and limiting walks are keys to effective pitching. These guys have done this before.
12:59…..Carpenter is dealing. He’s struck out only two, but some of the Reds’ hitters have looked completely lost when swinging at Carp’s breaking pitches. Cards still up 1-0 after three.
1:14…..Rasmus just golfed a homer about 10 rows deep into right field, and a few hits later the Cards added another run. The highlight of the inning? Yadier Molina going first to third on a single. I may call CNN to get that on their Breaking News feed.
1:24……The Reds decided to start hitting and tacked on a couple solo home runs of their own (Votto & Rolen). But Carp gets out of the inning after giving up a couple more hits. Cards still lead, 3-2.
1:30…..Dan & Al talk about Pujols facing David Weathers of the Reds a couple years back and hitting his NL record-tying 5th grand slam of the season. Scott the Cub Fan faults Reds manager Dusty Baker for the fateful move of inserting Weathers into the game. That’s not a Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move, but Baker did manage the Cubs and likely destroyed both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. No one else here cares. Oh, and another friend of ours, Jim, just showed up. I’m on my 5th tequila & OJ (don’t worry, they’re tall and heavy on the juice). Life is good with friends, liquor, and baseball.
1:42…..Ryan, Schumaker and Pujols turn a nifty double play to end the fifth. It looks like Carpenter has settled back in. And Scott the Cub Fan continues to berate Dusty Baker every time he’s shown on TV. Now it’s officially Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move #2. Baker’s not the only reason the Cubs suck, man.
1:46…..Baker pulled Harang after 5 innings. Scott’s hatred-filled bashing of Baker continues. CFQMM #3 for not being over something that happend seven years ago. We seriously may have to punch this guy in the stomach soon, and the Cubs game hasn’t even started yet.
1:54…..Scott the Cub Fan finally comes up with something useful after a particularly mindless exchange by the Cardinal broadcasters: “I don’t know which is worse…Dan & Al arguing or Dan & Al getting along.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m about ready to find a radio and just deal with the 5 second delay.
1:56…..Rasmus robs Rolen of his second homer of the day. Colby went way up above the centerfield fence to bring the ball back. Play of the game and maybe of the day. Cards still up 4-2 after six.
2:02…..Pujols just hit his 2nd home run of the day, a two run shot. Dusty Baker comes out to make a pitching change, and Scott the Cub Fan spits on the TV. CFQMM #4. I make another drink and plot his demise.
2:26…..After Dennys “Moons Over My Hammy” Reyes comes in and does his job, Jason Motte comes in and gives up hit after hit. Last year he earned the closer’s job in Spring Training and blew the save on opening day, clearing the way for Ryan Franklin to become the closer and be an All Star doing it. Not real sure how Motte’s status will be affected by today’s performance. He eventually gets out of the inning after allowing only one run. Cards lead 6-3 after seven innings.
2:40…..Just broke the seal.
2:53…..That was one long 8th inning. McClellan came in and did his best Jason Motte impression, giving up several hits and a run but getting out of the inning. These Reds are good, and the Cardinal bullpen is far from impressive so far. My tequila, on the other hand, has been quite impressive. I brought half a bottle over and it’s gone. Time for bottle number two, which I will be sharing with my pals. Scott the Cub Fan has backed off his Dusty Baker soapbox but is now complaining because the Cardinal game is taking a long time and the Cubs game is starting soon. What a jackass.
3:02…..Rasmus is up, and FSN just showed highlights from his big day. Right before the leaping catch where he robbed Rolen, the graphic said “Glovely.” Wow. Scott the Cub Fan is mortified, and I cannot disagree. Our friend Dan has joined us, and two other buddies made a cameo about 20 minutes ago. Jim brought over his roommate’s new puppy and it just threw up all over the garage floor. Quite a day in Belleville, IL.
3:05….Yadier Molina just hit the first Grand Slam of his career. Gotta love Opening Day. I think I need more tequila. This game is in the bag, and next I have to sit through a Cubs game.
3:18…..We’re in the 9th, and Ryan Franklin has given up two runs. Of course, Scott the Cubs Fan has him on his fantasy team, so now he’s bitching about that too. I love this guy; he’s one of my oldest friends. That’s the only reason he’s still alive.
3:20…..Franklin gets to a chopper and tosses to Pujols for the third out. Cards win, 11-6. Now we’re flipping to the Cubs game, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue this blog. I guess it will depend on our conversation and the way the game goes. But it’s great to see the Cards get the win; it’s their first Opening Day win since 2006…and we all remember how that year turned out.
4:17…..Well, the Cubs are getting shanked by the Braves but it’s still relatively early. Rookie of the Year favorite Jason Heyward hit a home run–the first of many, I’m sure–in his first major league at bat. Carlos Zambrano was pulled after 1.1 innings and eight earned runs. But the story of the day here is that Scott the Cub Fan has changed Cubs hats like twenty times. We haven’t killed him yet, but the plans have been drawn out. I’m halfway into my next fifth of tequila and feeling saucy. For a little more salt in the wound, the White Sox won their game today too (and pitcher Mark Buehrle took the “Play of the Day” honors from Rasmus with this gem). It’s a bad day to be a Cubs fan…and it can only get worse from here. Cheers.
5:01…..The Cubs are still losing, and Scott the Cubs Fan is on his fifth hat (not exaggerating this time). You ever notice that people who root for terrible teams always find the most obscure things to blame their team’s failures on? “Hey, guys…I wore the socks. But I cannot believe they’re still losing! Maybe I should change my hat…again!” In other news, I’m feeling no pain. I think it would be wise to call a cab. Otherwise it will be a long, confusing walk home.
5:06…..Samardzija. There we go.
5:16…..Seven hats. SEVEN HATS!!! Cubs fans have issues.
*5:47 Scott the Cubs Fan Here (please hold your applause). This is ugly. All’s I have to say is 162 games. We can do this. This is the year. *stifiling laughter*. It’s a long season and the best scenario I can think of is Cards vs. Cubs in October. All I hope for is a healthy, competitive season for both teams.
*5:50 I changed my mind. F the Cardinals. I hope Pujols gets hit in the nuts with a pickoff throw from Yadier Walton and is out for the season. I hate you all.
5:52……With that, I think it’s safe to say Scott the Cubs Fan is wasted. In case you’re wondering, the “Yadier Walton” thing references the TV show “The Waltons,” who had a bunch of kids, and compares it to the trio of Molinas in MLB. Good one, dude. We’ve subdued him with a wiffle ball bat and he’s in the corner chanting “Kerry Wood is the Savior…Kerry Wood is the Savior.” I’m half in the bag, but I’m still coherent enough to realize that bad baseball is bad baseball. The Cubs lost this game and the Cards won theirs. Opening Day was a success. I’m going to do another shot of tequila and look up the phone number to the closest cab company.
And there you have it. Definitely a fun afternoon. I have to add a disclaimer, just in case any kids or people with no sense of humor are reading: we did not bludgeon Scott the Cub Fan with a bat, and no one drove drunk. We like to have a good time, but we’re not stupid. You shouldn’t be either. Go Cards!
What a week! Spring Training games have begun! But more on that later. Tuesday was the greatest day of 2009 so far, because the season tickets arrived!
After telling my girlfriend Sarah, I had to e-mail my buddy Scott The Cub Fan. Scott gets as giddy about baseball as I do. He asked me to describe my feelings of this glorious day, and here was my reply:
I actually didn’t get to open the box. I let Sarah do that since she pays for them. But she told me a few days ago that she got the shipping notification, so I knew it was coming. I was working from home and heard the UPS truck pull up. It was a lot like hearing the ice cream truck approach…you know it’s in the vicinity, but is it on your street or the next one over? I ran down the stairs like a kid who still wonders if Santa came last night, and found the box on the front porch. I actually did a pretty good job of not thinking too much about them all day; it was enough to know that they were here and all was well. But then I started wondering what games we had: How many day games? How many Saturday games? Do we have the Thursday day game on my birthday?
Then Sarah came home and all questions were answered. I sat twitching while she opened the box and flipped through the little book. And then she handed it to me. I hugged it like Robert DeNiro hugged the fake Mr. Jinx that Ben Stiller found at the animal shelter in Meet The Parents. Hopefully my expectations for the team this year don’t turn out to be as unrealistic as a cat with a spray painted tail.
Now, on to the game!
The St. Louis Cardinals opened Grapefruit League play yesterday with a 5-5 tie after 10 innings against the Florida Marlins in Jupiter, Florida. Blake Hawksworth started the game for the Cards, going 2 2/3 innings and allowing no runs on three hits. Rick Ankiel was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Colby Rasmus was 2 for 5 with a walk and a run scored. Skip Schumaker went 2 for 4, scored twice, and played an errorless 2B. For more, see the full box score here. Today the Cardinals square off against the Baltimore Orioles in Ft. Lauderdale. Game time is 1:05 EST.
So far, so good. The Cardinals have announced that the starting rotation is set: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, and Joel Piniero have been anointed, barring any unforeseen events. And some not-so-surprising hints about the everyday lineup have started to trickle out as well. It looks like Tony LaRussa is planning on batting the pitcher 8th again this season, and the most obvious choices for batting 9th are Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, or Colby Rasmus (depending on the make up of the rest of the lineup on any given day). In Ryan, the Cards have a guy that is quite capable defensively but hasn’t quite put it together at the plate. He can play anywhere in the infield. Schumaker was the leadoff hitter almost all of 2008, and is currently working on a switch from the outfield to second base. Rasmus, of course, is the golden boy prospect who has been described as a five tool guy and the Cards’ centerfielder of the future…possibly the very near future. If LaRussa can find a way to not only keep these guys on the roster but also find them adequate playing time, this team may have the most balanced combination of power and speed they’ve had in the past decade…and it’s been a pretty successful decade for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now I suppose the biggest question mark is who will close…
The baseball chatter around St. Louis today is centering around the comments made by Albert Pujols regarding his pal Manny Ramirez still being unsigned. Pujols seems to think that the Cardinals should bring Ramirez into the fold, hopefully more for his offensive presence than his defensive liabilities. Cards GM John Mozeliak promptly (and publicly) shot down the idea, as expected. I first saw the story on mlbtraderumors.com on Wednesday; it wasn’t long before the story gained enough traction to get ink on both the Cardinals’ and St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s websites.
The idea that Ramirez would be a great bat to put behind Pujols isn’t lost on anyone. But I think the people calling for the GM’s head if the Cards don’t sign the free agent need to take a deep breath and consider a few things:
- The Cardinal outfield is more crowded now than ever. Last year’s regulars–Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel–all had great seasons in 2008 (minus Ankiel’s injury woes) and are all back for 2009. The Cards also got extended looks at Joe Mather and Brian Barton in 2008; both will be looking to parlay that Major League experience into a strong Spring Training. Remember Chris Duncan? Yeah, he’ll be back as well. And I’m pretty sure a guy named Colby Rasmus is pounding on the door of opportunity this year. So where do they put Ramirez? This isn’t beer league softball…only three outfielders allowed.
- Let’s just pretend the Cardinals did sign Ramirez. Let’s say it was a 3 year deal for $40 million for the sake of argument. Relatively speaking, that’s not an unreasonable amount of jack for a guy with Ramirez’ offensive output (when healthy and interested). Will Cardinal fans buy into the phenomenon of “Manny being Manny” for three years? Ramirez has a penchant for not being the greatest clubhouse guy, and apparently likes to give up near the end of his contract. Are we really willing to accept all of that considering it will probably cost the Cardinals at least 3 of the outfielders mentioned above?
- If the Cardinals did sign Ramirez, and were able to effectively figure out the logjam of outfielders, a question might still remain: Is it enough? Could that $10 million+ have been better spent on pitching, a clear pain point on the 2008 team and a lingering concern going into 2009?
With all these questions, I’m really not convinced that bringing Ramirez in would be worth the costs and risks. It would certainly be an about-face for the front office after all this talk about player development.
OK, fine. Let’s have a little fun here. I’ll go out on a limb and theorize how this deal could get done. I’m not saying I advocate it, and I’m not saying the Cards aren’t trying when these things don’t get done (because they won’t). So here goes:
- Sign Manny Ramirez for no more than 3 years, options included.
- Shop a package that includes 2-3 outfielders (Ankiel, Schumaker, maybe Barton?) and 1-2 young pitchers not named Chris Perez, Jason Motte, or Kyle McClellan, and acquire 2B Brian Roberts from the Orioles. Perhaps add Adam Kennedy to the deal and pay half his salary.
- Make every effort to extend Roberts and Khalil Greene through 2011, which is also when Pujols’ contract is up (Ramirez too, if this theory holds up).
- Rely on the development of young players just now emerging to enable the Cards to re-sign Pujols before he hits the open market after the 2011 season. This means that between now and then, the following players will be allowed to walk without being replaced: Joel Piniero, Todd Wellemeyer, Troy Glaus, Chris Duncan, Ryan Franklin, and maybe more.
So the lineup would look like this:
- Roberts (2B)
- Rasmus (RF-CF)
- Pujols (1B)
- Ramirez (LF)
- Ludwick (CF-RF)
- Freese/Wallace/Glaus (3B)
- Molina (C)
- Greene (SS)
…or some variation.
Maybe this isn’t such a crazy idea after all…