I want to write a quick word of thanks to everyone making the decisions at MLBlogs for having Bird Brained as the Featured Blog today. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw my face on the MLBlogs home page. I shared my excitement with a lot of my friends and family and they all thought it was great too. The jump in my page views and comments was an awesome feeling, so thanks to all of you readers, too! Come back often, because I will write often!
I just finished watching MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” featuring the St. Louis Cardinals. This show covered all the bases, so to speak. Featuring an expert panel of former Major Leaguers Joe Magrane and Sean Casey, Special Advisor to the Texas Rangers John Hart, and hosted by St. Louisan Greg Amsinger, “30 in 30” provided a ton of analysis and interviews. I really have yet to be disappointed by MLB Network and this show keeps that streak alive.
Most of what was said has been said or written before. The panel discussed what the Cards’ recipe for success in 2009 must have: player health, a strong rotation, and better bullpen pitching. Of course, this is true of every team. But the interviews were relevant and not necessarily biased. Featured in sit-down conversations are Tony LaRussa, Chris Carpenter, John Mozeliak, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel. Video highlights included a lot of Spring Training footage and some 2008 footage.
The show concluded with a “Best Moments in Cardinal History” video compilation, followed by the panel’s predictions on where the Cardinals will finish this season. Casey, Magrane, and Hart each thought the Cards were a lock for 2nd in the National League Central. Let’s hope that, if these experts are right, it comes with a Wild Card berth.
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.
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…
Wow…I almost forgot I had this blog. I looked at my last post (of a robust 2) and it was before the 2005 season. A lot has changed since then. Here’s a quick review:
- In 2005, the Cardinals won 100 games but lost in the NLCS to the Houston Astros. The Astros were then beaten by the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
- The Cards moved into a new version of Busch Stadium, which is spectacular. No one will ever forget the memories of our old cookie-cutter, but this new home is beautiful.
- THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS WON THE 2006 WORLD SERIES!!!
- 2007 and 2008 have been down years when compared to the glory days of 2004-2006. Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and David Eckstein are gone. Jason Isringhausen is not likely to return. Mark Mulder turned out to be a bust. But a new crop of youngsters have come through the system, and with some surprises (namely Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick) this team is watchable if not exciting.
So this offseason, the Cards find themselves in the position of having money to spend and prospects to trade. So far, they’ve brought back Kyle Lohse and Jason LaRue, signed Trever Miller, and traded for Khalil Greene. The remaining holes to fill? The Cards still need a second baseman, a closer, and some insurance in the rotation because, let’s face it, counting on Carpenter will be just as much a mistake in 2009 as it was in 2008. They need to make whatever he contributes a nice bonus, not a glaring necessity.
Greene is a nice low-risk/high-reward guy. He only has one year left on his contract, and he’s in desperate need of a fresh start. Miller will fill the need for a lefty reliever nicely, as long as his shoulder holds up.
It’s great to be back but I’m going to have to wrap this up for now. I’ll be posting as often as I can. Next week’s Winter Meetings should be pretty active. Check back for more info…