Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years Resolutions Suck

It's New Year's Eve. The boys at Kiss Me Suzy have posted an itinerary for the night that pretty much parallels mine:

"I'll drink a nice toast to the awesome power of my penis, have a Lindt truffle, offer sex to the Mrs., fail, and then call it a night."

Seeing as my day tomorrow will probably be spent moving (with a brief stop to watch Michigan crush the University of Spoiled Children), I'd better get those pesky New Year's Resolutions out of the way now.

This is a fruitless exercise for most. It's like giving up shit for Lent - you usually pick something that either (a) you won't miss at all over the next 40 days, or (b) is sooo hard to give up you break your vow before the week is out. And then you feel crappy for about 15 minutes. Just long enough to finish that 3 pound box of See's Candy. Nice restraint, Mitch.

But I'm serious this year. It's time to be serious. And since this is a Sports Site, you can guess the theme.

The Angry Rant's New Year's Resolutions:

1. I will hit .600 in 2007 (assuming I get the same number of AB as this year, that's 15 more hits. Easily doable).
2. I will learn to dive for sinking line drives.
3. I will learn to drive to the hospital with a concussion after attempting to dive for a sinking line drive.
4. I will run for more than 4 minutes without my back spasming so bad I can barely walk back to the gym (maybe it is the shoes).
5. I will pleasure my wife whenever she askes me to (that's a SPORT, baby!).
6. I will lose 11 pounds in 2007 (see #5).
7. I will swim 450m in under 7 minutes. (shitty competitive swimming time, GREAT Navy time).
8. I will broaden my subject matter to other sports-related topics besides the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Stay safe, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"...and no man is worth more than $12.50."

That's a fraction of a quote I attribute to the late Dan Quisenberry - one of the more cerebral pitchers of recent times (see quotes at the bottom of the link). More on that later.

My wife bought me a new DeMarini F3 for Christmas - nnniiiiiccccccceeeeeeeee. I'll be terrorizing slo pitch leagues in 2007 with that monster. If you want a lightly used, well-loved 2004 F2 let me know. It can be had for the price is right.

Suppan is on the Brewers - 4 years, $42 Mil. Good for him. But I thought he was holding out to see what Zito got? Didn't I read that in the Post-Dispatch earlier this month?

You think he wishes he'd held out now? $10.5M a year is great, but it's not $18M.

Yes, Barry Zito has reportedly signed with the SF Giants for 7 years, $126M. That's $18M PER YEAR. It's the richest contract ever given a pitcher.

Let's break it down, shall we?

Zito's averaged 35 starts and 223 innings a season since 2001. Let's assume that for 2007 he meets those averages. Let's further assume he throws 100 pitches per outing (why? because I'm lazy and it makes the math easy, that's why).

That's $514,285.71 per start.
That's $80,717.49 per inning.
That's $5,142.86 per pitch.

If he throws eight innings, then goes on the DL for the rest of the year with a blown up elbow, then has his contract voided, he will still make more money than I will see the next decade. Listen to your Little League Coaches, kids.

Good for him, right?

Of course, where do you suppose all this scratch will come from? TV, right? TV pays the major sports leagues exorbitant fees based on what they think they can sell advertising time for. Advertisers buy space to push products so Blue Collar Joe will buy them. Oh, I guess I'm paying his salary.

Ticket prices? We pay for tickets.

Concessions? We pay for hot dogs and beer.

Parking? Duh.

Hence the title of this post. No one is worth $18M, least of all a curveball pitcher who's been barely over .500 3 of the last 4 seasons. You'd think the Giants would have enough declining curveballers with Matty Mo on the roster.

I hope Zito enjoys spending my money. Maybe he'll let me stop by and say hello to it every now and then.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Empty Stocking

Today I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and gifts.

But especially with gifts.

You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled...

all, that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up.

The stocking for the Child born in a manger.

It's His birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most and then let each put in his share: loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched-out hand of tolerance.

All the shining gifts that make peace on Earth.

- Re-printed w/o permission from the movie "The Bishop's Wife" (1947)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Top 10 Christmas Carols for the disturbed - Part II

To complete the list started on Monday:

Dementia: "I think I'll be home for Christmas"
Narcissistic: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me"
3. Manic: "Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and Trees and ...."
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: "Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle Bells..."
Paranoid: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town To Get ME"

Enjoy your weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Turd-day Night Football

Always trying to broaden my horizons, I foray into the NFL world with 5 shopping days left to Christmas. On tonight's menu: Minnesota at Green Bay. Whoop de do.

As tonight's game is on the NFL Network (which has less reach than Jay Behar's intellect) the festivities happen at Oggi's Pizza in Mission Valley. My buddy Trickey signs up for the fun.

- Oggi's is in the same strip mall as IKEA. Those crazy Swedes are having a 50% off sale. Not wanting to be run down like a dog by Birkenstock wearing Latte drinkers, I park on the street and walk. Smooth.

- Happy Hour runs from 3-7pm. Fucking sweet. The Scottish Ale is recommended. It's like Newcastle, but better.

- They serve a Belgian Ale here which is EIGHT PERCENT alcohol (by volume). That, sadly, is off the menu tonight; I gotta drive home.

- BONUS: They're showing BYU-Oregon as well. It's a football bonanza!

- BYU quarterback John Buck lists Ty Detmer as his childhood idol. Let's see....Koy's the guy with the wait Ty is the guy with the wait...oh the hell with it. Looks like if this guy makes the NFL he's doomed to be an Eagles backup.

- It's so loud in here I can't hear Gumbel or Collinsworth. Somebody up there likes me.

- Rayner field goal. Yeay. 3-0 Pack.

- Ryan Leaf is sighted on the Oregon sideline. Bro Brady plays for the Ducks. Charger fans everywhere bark at their TV with a finger raised.

- Oregon has, by far, the worst uniforms of any team anywhere. A gold helmet with the logo on it sits atop a jersey that appears to have been run over by the industrial tread truck. Is this a college football team or a bunch of extras from 'The Running Man'?

- Rayner field goal attempt. That frozen tundra isn't so frozen - it goes all Lucy Van Pelt on Ray. We initially thought Rayner had kicked his holder inadvertantly, which would have been much funnier.

- First quarter stats: Green Bay 11 first downs, Minn 1. How is it 3-0 again?

- Ryan Leaf is in the booth now. Have I mentioned I can't hear the TV? This time I regret it.

- The game is so stimulating the guys around me are looking at pictures of Britney Spears' bare cooch on a laptop. After viewing I punch myself in the face for 5 minutes.

- Rayner field goal attempt. He hit the fucking upright square. Packers should get a bonus point for that. How hard is it to hit the upright and not have the ball deflect in either direction? Still 3-0. We're gonna need more beer.

- Food comes. Pizza bread cut into breadsticks. Excellent. Trickster and I power through these as a welcome diversion to the suckitude on the screen.

- Meanwhile, BYU is Killing Oregon. 17-0 Cougars. I just saw a white receiver school the person of color DB. Who knew Mormons were fast? I mean, one knew they had endurance since they trekked from Ohio to Utah to find a place to live where they wouldn't be shot at. (their womenfolk are insatiable in bed too - uh, from what I've heard). But fast? Wow. That DB was just demoted to the swim team.

- Rayner again from 38. Good. 6-0 Pack at the half.

- Some talking head named Adam Schefter reports Art Shell will be fired after the season. The Raider response to this (A. Schefter is a poopy pants) is more passionate than their play on the field at any time this season.

- Still bored. 6-0 Pack. 31-0 Mormons. Yikes.

- Dude shows up with fiance and her mom. Awkward. They have a drink while waiting for their table. Oh, wait; table's ready. Dude says over his shoulder, 'hey pick up my jacket', and walks away leaving the women there. THIS guy needs to get his ass kicked.

- Jerry Tarkanian is in the booth now with the gang on ESPN. This is turning into Bizarro World. We order another pitcher to try and reset the universe into balance.

- Whoa, some Viking offense: Favre does his 'Sexy Rexy' imitation, heaves it down the field, it's picked off by SMOOT (who else?), who returns it for a touchdown. 7-6 Vikes.

- 31-8 Mormons. Oregon gets a garbage TD with less than 10 min left in the 4th. Aren't you folks glad you stole that game from Oklahoma, allowing you to have a trip to Las Vegas and get embarrassed by a bunch of missionaries?

- Favre marches the boys down the field. On 3rd and 5, he completes a pass to Bubba Franks at the 7. First down. Franks fights for the end zone. He gets there! Too bad he left the ball on the 4. Vikings take over.

- I think the Vikes are going to win this game with only 3 first downs and less than 150 yards of total offense. I don't want to imagine how bad Brad Johnson was that this display is an improvement.

- Another fucktard shows up with girlfriend. There is one open seat at the bar. He sits, she stands. I weep for the future.

-Farve driving again. Screen pass for 20 yards! First and goal at the 4! Wait....Bubba Franks strikes again, this time for holding (good call as replays prove). Rayner to try a 44 yard field goal. GOOD! 9-7 Pack.

- Vikings last ditch effort fails. Favre wins. All is right in the world.

- 38-8 BYU. No one cares.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Odds and Ends

Well we are rapidly winding down on the current year. As such, many people like to tie their yearly loose ends up in a nice tidy package . . . so as to clear some room for the next year's drama. Although I've got at least 3 more posts for this year (I can hear the sound of one hand clapping in anticipation of those 3 brillantly constructed columns), this is the 'tidy up' post.

1. If you're waiting for Part 5 of the 2007 Free Agency Preview, you are a silly, silly man. There's not going to be a final post. I intended to do it on the bench, but Spiezio re-signed early on, Miles re-upped at the deadline for tendering an offer, Taguchi was offered a contract, and they have lots of minor league help to fill out the bench. Hey look, I just did it. And it wasn't my usual 1000 words diatribe.

2. My running salary for the 2007 Cards last stood at $101.6M. I need to add Springer's $1.75M contract, up Miles' number from $750K to a cool million, and subtract my projected Payton $4.5M number. So, after the heavy math, the running salary tab stands at $99.1M. And they are still trying to sign another starting pitcher. Why were you just bored with that? Because my OCD control meds aren't working tonight.

3. 34-16 Colts, 3:48 to play. Only a Cincinnati team could come into Indy, against the 41st best rushing defense in the NFL, and score 1 touchdown. Once a Bungle, always a Bungle. I look forward to tomorrow's police blotter after this loss, which puts a severe dent in their playoff hopes.

4. Big Daddy Drew answered my mail question! That's a brush with greatness as far as I'm concerned, like getting published if you're a serious academic. Then BDD let it slip that he 'only' got 24 questions. He posted (and answered) 20. Well, at least my question wasn't one of the 4 that were incoherent, written by a first grader, or over-used the word paradigm. Losers.

5. I can't believe no one was compelled to comment on my McGwire rant. I thought it was pretty good. I got comments when I disparaged Adrian Beltre, fer Cris' sakes. I guess everyone out there agrees with me. Who Knew?

This blog updates on Mondays and Thursdays, but it's late Monday and Thursday (after work, entertaining the 5-month old, dinner, dishes, laundry, bills, fish maintenance, lawn bowling, lawn darts, batting cage trip, putting child to bed, hot naked monkey sex..... you get the picture), so it actually shows up on Tuesdays and Fridays. Just like Bill Simmons. But I'm 100% random friend cameo free and somewhat funny. So keep coming back, ya hear?

And now, to end on a high note:
Top 10 Christmas Carols For the Disturbed:

10. Schizophrenia - "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
9. Multiple Personality Disorder - "We Three Kings Disoriented Are"
8. Borderline Personality Disorder - "Thoughts Of Roasting On an Open Fire"
7. Personality Disorder - "You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, I Might Tell You Why"
6. Attention Deficit Disorder - "Silent Night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?"

Rest of the list Thursday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's the most WONDERFUL time...of the year

Three years ago my sister in StL received an ad from the Danbury Mint for a StL Cardinals ornament. If you are not familiar with the Danbury Mint, check here. These are the folks who sell themed gift items to people whose idea of contemporary decoration is a Team Tiffany Lamp and end table. Anyway, it was a bell. Now, you must understand that at this point in the storied history of my life, I owned exactly one Christmas Tree ornament. One. A tree looks pretty stupid when it has one friggin ornament dangling off it. So I bought it.

As a result, I was inducted onto the 'Danbury Mint Sucker List'. Yes, me, grown up intelligent human being, now lumped together with Mimi the mumu wearing trailer park Mama-san. I get their mailings about once a quarter, and then get a light workout as I throw the brochure right into the round file.

But since my Cardinals won the World Series, I've been swamped - SWAMPED - with offers to sell me crap embossed with a world series logo. And seeing as this is the time for gift giving, I feel obligated to enlighten my public with what's available to get that obsessive Cardinal fan you live with/know/tolerate/beg to shut up about the Cardinals or you'll cleave his head with a tire iron.

So Ho Ho Ho, Here We Go.

1. World Series Glove ($129): If you have a thing for porcelain paper weights, this is for you. Although only 9.25" high, this eyesore will take over your entire cube. One good note - when the 'overly loud cell phone guy' starts screaming the next cube over, you can air-drop this bad boy in and quickly return your workspace to its normal harmonious state. Home plate base is complementary courtesy of your good friends at the 'ol Mint.

2. 22K gold card set ($9.95 each): You say, this looks cool - AP in shimmering gold foil. But you don't know two things: (a) there are 26 cards in this set; (b) AP will be the last card sent. That $260 you wanted to blow betting on Michigan and LSU to win their bowls - gone. Cause that's how they get you. They F**K you at the drive-thru!

3. Cardinal team coin set ($19.95 each, not pictured): Same principle as a
bove, but with pogs, er, coins. Except this will set you back the money you set aside to get that shot for, you know.

More digging on these here internets unearthed even MORE crap for the true fan. If it were
socially acceptable, some people would drape themselves in velvet; others will just cordon off an entire room of their house in homage to their favorite team. For these folks, a few more ideas:

4. Budwiser theme room. It's so wrong it must be right:

There's the must-have bar mirror ($99.95),

A way to tote your beer from room to room in chilly comfort ($79.99), and of course,

Official WS beer to take out of the cooler and drink while posing in the mirror. Clothing optional. If no clothing option is selected, must play 'Preening Buffalo Bill' music from Silence of the Lambs.

Finally, we have some straggler gifts:

6. The Ripper.
And you thought Matt Millen was the only marketing genius who came up with this modification to the surfer wallet. I'd buy it if they stitched 'Bad Motherf**ker' on the other side, but, alas, Bud Selig only allows 'Great Hock!' to be used as a curseword on official MLB gear.

7. Charles Darrow's get rich quick memorial. Only flaw to this game: every Monopoly set shall include a battleship piece, and I shall be the battleship. Why? Because it's my game, that's why. Don't make me go all Lamar Thomas on you.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Free Agency update

News and notes from the last 3 days in the baseball world:

- Cards sign RP Russ Springer to a 1-yr, $1.75M deal. Whatever.

- OF Jay Payton signs with Baltimore for 2-yr, $9.5M. This is slightly less than I predicted, but within 10% of my guess. We will take a short break while I pat myself on the back.

- SP Jason Marquis [snicker] has reportedly signed [mmph] with the Cubs for 3 yr, $28M [ha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahaha]. I can only hope it's to help Lou Piniella steal signs or something from the World Champs (Lou grew up with La Russa so I'm sure it's not so Lou can learn what makes the man tick), because if they really signed that quack to solidify their rotation, oh boy. Of course with our luck Marquis will be 11-15 with a 4.67 ERA next season, but 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA against the Cards.

The Cards now have a real glut of relief pitching - everyone from 2006 is back, and Jocketty's added Rincon and Springer. Expect two of the relievers with starting pitching experience to move into the rotation. That definitely means Wainwright is the #3 or 4 starter next season (depending on where one believes Kip Wells fits).

But who's the other guy?

Brad Thompson? Drafted as a starter, switched to RP to get to the big club faster, had a great 2005 out of the pen but was spectacularly hittable last season.

Jorge Sosa? He gave up 30 HR in 79 IP last year. He'd probably spend most of the season on the DL with neck spasms from watching the ball rapidly leave the yard.

Chris Narveson? 1 ML start (lost @ Houston 22 Sep) in place of Mark Mulder. Hell let the kid compete for the #5 spot in spring training, let's see what he's got.

Braden Looper? [cough]......... Sorry I just choked on a piece of cake. I'll be alright in a minute. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah.

So, that leaves the Cardinals with a starting staff comprised of one proven winner, one (possibly two) reclamation projects, one enigma, and one (possibly two) guys embarking on their maiden season as a full-time starter in the bigs. Eighty-three wins might be a victory for this group.

C'mon Jeff Weaver - listen to the voice in your head instead of the Scott Boras devil on your shoulder. Re-sign.

And how bad has it gotten that I'm rooting for JEFF WEAVER to re-up with the club?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Defense of Big Mac

Based on all the hand-wringing the BBWAA is doing, you'd think they were being asked to formulate a new policy for winning in Iraq. But no, they've been presented the 2007 Hall of Fame ballot. The cause of their angst?

Mark McGwire.

You see, writers, like most people, don't like being suckers. And for some reason, they feel like they were had by McGwire - and all this stems from the great HR chase of 1998. They fawned on McGwire and Sosa, told us how they'd saved the game after the 1994 strike by again sparking interest in baseball among a fan base mostly fed up with multi-millionaires bickering over money.

Then a container of androstenedione, a body-building supplement that is completely legal, was seen in his locker, and whispers of steroid abuse started. Circumstantial evidence (Jose Canseco's book, McGwire's 'testimony' before the Senate Committee) have 'proven' to these journalists that Mark is guilty. So the jealous high-school girl came out of them, demanding they exact some measure of revenge.

That's why McGwire didn't win the MVP in 1998 (dressed up as his team didn't make the playoffs). And that's why we've seen a proliferation of stories in national media from guys with votes who say they won't elect McGwire to the hall. They want to send a 'Statement'. Remember, this is the same organization that didn't vote Ted Williams (arguably the greatest hitter who ever dug in) into the Hall on his first ballot because he was 'mean to the media'.

Which. Pisses. Me. Off.

You want make a 'Statement'? Let's start here. Work to indict these people with malicious negligence and conduct detrimental to the game:

1. Donald Fehr, Bud Selig, Fay Vincent, Bartlett Giamatti - the men entrusted with running the league who allowed steroid abuse to start and fester.
2. All those team employees in positions of authority and responsibility (managers and GMs) who knew about the steroid abuse and DID NOTHING TO STOP IT.

Have the following personnel brought up on manslaughter charges: Those who employed Ken Caminiti and allowed him to abuse his body with steroids, which indirectly led to his death.

Work to remove the MVP awards for players 'suspected' to have used steroids (Bonds, Caminiti, Sosa, Tejada, Juan Gonzalez, da-da da-da da-da). Hell, if we're going to pick on McGwire based on circumstantial evidence, let's pick on everyone.

But no, it's so much easier to crucify McGwire.

You say this is a moral issue? McGwire 'violated the trust of the game'? Fine. Then I expect the organization to work with the HOF and remove those already ensrined people who exemplified low moral fiber. Here's a short list:

Babe Ruth (alcoholic and womanizer), Cap Anson (Racist), Ty Cobb (Racist), Fergie Jenkins (Pothead), Orlando Cepeda (Pothead), Grover Cleveland Alexander (alcoholic), Rogers Hornsby (curmudgeon), John McGraw (curmudgeon), Reggie Jackson (general principle).

But no, we can't do that - they deserve to be there based on their STATISTICS, right?

May I remind you of some pertinent facts on Mark McGwire:

1987 ROY
12-time All Star (1987-1992; 1995-2000)
Finished in top 6 for MVP 4 times (1987 6th; 1992 4th; 1998 2nd; 1999 5th).
3-time Silver Slugger Award (1992, 1996, 1998).
Gold Glove (1990)
583 Career HR.
Single season HR record holder (1998-2001).

Those look like HOF numbers to me.

Mark is also made of sterner stuff than those folks listed above. McGwire donated $3 Million dollars of his 2001 contract extension to 'start a foundation to aid abused and neglected children'. He will not participate in any autograph enterprise where he charges people money to get his autograph. AND, when called in front of the 'green table' (Navy slang for Captain's Mast), he refused to incriminate himself (oh yeah, that's a protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment), but did so without lying (unlike Rafael Palmerio).

How can you not vote this man in?

Monday, December 04, 2006

2007 Free Agency Preview - Part 4 (Pitching)

I'm exhausted, I've had family here all weekend from out of town, I'm not sleeping, so I'll have to keep this short.

First, news of the day: Carpenter signs a 5 year extension for $65M. That's $13M a year, folks, starting next season.

I'm downright giddy. One of the few aces in the NL and an actual competitor on the mound will remain a Cardinal for the balance of his career. Good Move, Walt Jocketty!

I was afraid the Cardinals would skimp on starters because they didn't want the new pitcher to make more than Chris, who's base salary was to top out $7M this season. Looks like that's no longer a concern.

Let's break this down into Relievers and Starters:

Relievers: Stay with the group used at the end of the season. Rincon will be an addition, coming off a major injury and rehab. The only question is what to do with Adam Wainwright? For now, he needs to remain in the mix as the closer. I know all the reports state Izzy is ahead of schedule, but I don't believe it's prudent to plan based on reports and what Izzy is saying. Wainwright stays the closer through the start of spring training. No other changes are needed.

Starters: Carp, Reyes, Wells fill 3 of the 5 slots. Still need 2. Options:
a. Re-sign Mark Mulder. I've been saying this for a while now. Mark is damaged goods, and not projected to be MLB ready until July. He should be looking at next year as a 'prove I can pitch at the level of my pre-2006 stats' season and then make big money on the open market later. I'd sign him to a incentive laden deal with a 2008 option (because as Jocketty says, we don't want to go through the pain of rehabbing a guy and then get very little in return on that investment as an organization), say $4M this season with an option for $9M next year. Just throwing numbers out there.
b. Sign Jeff Weaver. Things going for StL in this discussion: (a) pulled him off the scrap heap and saved his career; (b) obviously working with Dave Duncan has helped his mechanics and confidence AND there seems to be a genuine rapport there; (c) he's a competitor and will rise to the occasion; (d) he has stated he'd like to stay in StL. Things going against StL: Scott Boras is his agent. Now if I were a player I'd loooovve to have Scott as my agent - he has a demonstrated knack for negotiating large contracts for his top tier clients. If I were a GM, well, let's say seeing him dive off a cliff near Big Sur in a spectacular one-car accident wouldn't break my heart. The problem is how much money will Weaver command/demand, especially in a market where Adam friggin Eaton is worth EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS a season: $10M? $11M? Cardinals can't afford him at that price. Hopefully (a) through (d) will tip the scales toward a, let's say, 3-yr deal at $7M/$8M/$10M (so $25M).
c. Promote from within. Isn't there ANYBODY else in the farm system close to being ready to pitch in the majors? (crickets chirping)
d. Sign one of the following. Since the last item is probably wishful thinking, I'd target one of the following 3 pitchers, all reasonably young, all with WHIP at or below Marquis' level: Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, or Mark Redman. All pitched capably for awful (Nationals and Royals) teams. Jocketty could probably get them to sign for Kip Wells type money for one year. Look at it this way: They're a stop-gap until Mulder is ready to return.

Updating our running salary amount.

Start: $75.45M
Add: Wells ($4M), Kennedy ($2.5M), Bennett ($0.9M), Spiezio ($2.25M), Carp (add'l $6M), Projected Mulder ($4M), Weaver ($7M), and one of the 3 amigos ($4M) Equals $30.65M.

Total (19 players): $106.1M

The final free agent post will look at the bench.

UPDATE 12/5: I was slightly off on the value of Carp's contract. I'll default to Cot's on this one as far as how much he's making next season, so I'll adjust his number down from $13M to $8.5M. That reduces our bottom line by $4.5M to $101.6M.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

AP - off the deep end?

Memo to Mr. Pujols: Next time the Dominican Republic Sports Ministry offers to host a press conference for you, decline.

Obsess much? Of course you do. Why else would your beginning of career offensive numbers be better than anyone else in the history of baseball? A colleague of mine is fond of saying, "Some people succeed because they're destined to. Others succeed because they're determined to." (if he ripped that off from someone else, sorry for not acknowledging the originator). AP succeeds because he's determined to.

I will pass summary judgement on your comments in a moment. But first, let's explore what may have led to this outburst.

Number 5 started this season offensively better than anyone else had started a season in the history of baseball. Until his oblique muscle quit playing well with others, he was on pace to shatter both Bonds' season HR mark and Hack Wilson's season RBI mark.

He went on the DL 5 June, came back 23 June, and didn't hit particularly well the rest of the way to the All-Star Break,and still wasn't passed for the NL HR and RBI lead until JULY. Yet what did we hear going into the AS Break?

David Wright was the NL MVP. Oh, you forgot that syruppy spread on Wright in SI?

Ryan Howard unquestionably played excellent baseball after the All-Star Break, particularly so after Abreu was dealt to the Yankees. He did will the Phillies into the Wild Card race with his bat until the last week of the season, and vaulted himself into MVP consideration. Over the course of the season, his numbers are very good. But let's face it: he won the award based on two months of work, August and September.

Oh, one more item on Howard: in the September series Philly had to have against the Nationals (second-worst team in the NL), the team dropped 2 of 3. Howard hit .250 (3-12) in that series, 1 extra base hit, 6 strikeouts, 1 friggin' RBI. Entered tied for the wild card lead, left 2 back, never recovered. Didn't really carry the team there, did he?

Without Pujols, StL surrenders the NL Central to Houston. Period. End of discussion. Primary Exhibit: September 27 against the Padres.

Let's go a little deeper.

Here are Pujols' CAREER numbers (6 full seasons, courtesy Baseball Reference):

933 3489 748 1159 260 12 250 758 36 17 493 394 .332 .419 .629 2193 31 98 48

Albert's career average, OBP and slugging percentages are better than the average NL MVP since the beginning of divisional play (average MVP numbers: .323/.418/.601).

In fact, since 1968, only 13 times has the MVP's batting average been better than AP's career average, 16 times has the MVP's OBP exceeded AP's, and 14 times has the MVP's SLG exceeded AP's 'average' season.

Basically AP has put up MVP numbers every season of his 6-year career, and only won the award once.

Why has he won just the 2005 award? Well he started his run at the height of the Barry Bonds love-fest amongst members of the BaseBall Writers Association of America (BBWAA). I personally don't think there's any question Bonds was the MVP of the league in 2001 and 2002. I think Bonds won in 2003 due to the 'halo effect' of those two years (his numbers were comparable). 2004 Pujols lost votes because Rolen and Edmonds had such good years it was difficult to determine who was the best player on that Cardinal squad, so sane BBWAA decided to default to Bonds. Insane writers voted Adrain Beltre runner-up. Yep, he who has not hit above .290 or slugged over .500 but for that one summer in 2004, his walk year with the Dodgers.

And that's the other reason AP has but the one MVP award. He is competing for the votes of a bunch of guys who live in the Impulse Zone. Show them the shiny new star (Howard, Wright), give them a flash in the pan (Beltre), and they go all agog.

"Wow, look! A blue car!"

So I can see why AP would be a bit frustrated with the selection process for MVP.

But having said all that, I must say this. Mr. Pujols, you did yourself no favor with that comment yesterday. I respect you immensely for saying what you think, but you will now be portrayed as a whiny little bitch by many sportswriters and various 'Underground sports sites'. You'd have been better off keeping that opinion private and not airing it out to the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Transaction update - 4 signings

Looks like the Cardinal front office was awaiting the conclusion of my preview as well. Perhaps they resigned themselves to moving once I passed the half-way point on my preview, because today the club announced the signing of 2B Adam Kennedy, SP Kip Wells, C Gary Bennett, and the recently declared dead Eli Marrero.

As I said earlier, I didn't think Kennedy was the best fit for this team and I still don't. True, he was a serviceable second baseman for the Angels, and as vivaelbirdos pointed out, his paltry .193 average against left-handed pitching is probably an aberration vice a trend. But if Jocketty is really ready to go to spring training with these 8 starters (Pujols, Kennedy, Eckstein, Rolen, Molina, Duncan, Edmonds, Encarnacion) I think he's rolling the dice. Rolen hasn't played a full season since 2003. Edmonds' offensive numbers are declining. We can't expect Molina to hit next season the way he did during 16 playoff games, in all seriousness. So who carries the load on this team if AP has an off-year? Not Encarnacion. Not Duncan. Not Eckstein or Kennedy, two Punch and Judy hitters. Yikes.

I'd have been a lot happier with Loretta at second - good hitter, can drive in a run - as another bat in the lineup to provide offense.

I will say this, though: Kennedy is an upgrade overall over Aaron Miles, who is better suited to be a bench player and provide the occasional off day for the middle infielders.

I guess Eli Marrero didn't drop off the map. Good. Glad to see him garner an invite to Spring Training.

Gary Bennett re-signing is a good move, too. I thought he did well enough last season as Molina's back-up that there was no search for a new #2 catcher necessary. On board that signing as well.

Kip Wells? 57-74? The next Jeff Suppan? We'll see. Dave Duncan has had more projects than Tim Taylor in the starting rotation, with some notable successes (Ken Bottenfield, Suppan, Jeff Weaver, Darryl Kile) and some notable failures (Sidney Ponson, Jason Marquis, Dustin Hermanson, Garrett Stephenson). I don't think Kip Wells is the next Jeff Suppan. I think he's the next Neil Allen - all promise, no results.

I guess time will tell. Until next time.

Monday, November 27, 2006

2007 Free Agency Preview (Part 3) - Left Field

Didn't quite make that 11 Nov deadline, did I? Life lesson for all of you: If no deadline is set, no work will get done. I didn't set a deadline, which meant it was all too easy to blow off the ol' blog. No more.

I will update this blog on Mondays and Thursdays. New articles may appear on the other 5 days if something comes up I have to write about, but most definitely Mondays and Thursdays, starting today.

Which brings us back to our free agency preview. The best thing about procrastinating is, you wait long enough the workload goes down. This is one of the 3 basic tenets of government service ('establish an alibi' and 'when accused, make counter-accusations' being the other two). I previewed the available free agent outfielders in Part Two. Here's their current status:

F. Catalanotto - Signed with the Texas Rangers
C. Lee - Signed with the Houston Astros (for obscene money)
A. Soriano - Signed with the Chicago Cubs (for even more obscene money)
J. Valentin - Re-signed with the NY Mets
D. Roberts - Reportedly signing with the SF Giants (according to the SF Chronicle this past Saturday. That would make sense since he liked playing for Bruce Bochy).
R. Ledee - on the Reserve list (Minors) with the NY Mets.

Jose Cruz Jr, Eli Marrero, and Terrence Long were designated for assignment during the regular season and not picked up by anyone. Terrence Long is still in the Yankee organization (at Columbus), but is listed as a free agent; I think Cruz is playing for Leones de Ponce in the Puerto Rican league; and Marrero has dropped off the map. Which means their careers are probably over. But it also means they can be had for a song. Not a song girl, though - sorry.

This narrows our list of potential replacement left fielders to 12. Let's break down the list:

Bonds (42)
- NO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I don't care if he's one of the great hitters of all time, or that having him and Pujols in the middle of the order would be a devastating 1-2 punch. The man is a cancer in the clubhouse and a genuinely nasty human being. Not on my team.
David Dellucci (32) - appeared in more games as a pinch hitter (69) than at any one position (he played 45 in LF). Hit a measly .200 against lefties; not a good fit for a team that has trouble against left-handed pitching. Made $950K last season.
Cliff Floyd (33) - left-handed hitter who struggles against lefties (.179), so would be a platoon-type situation; not much of an upgrade from last year. A's have expressed an interest (per SF Chronicle of 22 Nov). Made $6.5M last season.
Luis Gonzalez (39) - Still a good hitter (.259 vs left; .277 vs right); had 50 doubles last season in spacious whatever-the-hell-they-call-it-now D'Back Park. BELOW average outfielder. Made $10.67M last season.
Jay Payton (33) - Listed as a RF on, but anyway. Good hitter (.296 vs right and lefthanded pitching). Pretty good defensive outfielder. Versatile; split time at all 3 OF positions last year (62 games in LF, 46 in CF, 45 in RF). Spark guy at the top of the order. Made $4M last season.
Dave Roberts (34) - Odds are good that he'll follow Boch to SF, but I like this guy. Career year last season with SD. .292 vs lefties, .293 vs righties. Played the majority of his time in LF (Gold Glover Mike Cameron covered CF for the Pads), but can play CF well. Made $2.25M last season.
Shannon Stewart (32) - Currently on the Twins' 60 day DL with a strained left plantar fascia (the AP affliction from two years ago). Good hitter (.288 vs lefties, .295 vs righties). Fielding numbers are comparable to Jay Payton. Made $6.5M last season.
Preston Wilson (32) - Spent most of his time in RF with StL, but since Encarnacion is projected to play in right next season he would shift over to left. Good hitter for average (.292 vs lefties, .255 vs righties), but a free swinger of the Sammy Sosa persuasion without the power. Strikes out an awful lot. Average plus fielder; played well in playoffs last season. Made $4M.
Eric Young (39) - Too old at 2B. Also too old in LF, where you run more and have to throw farther.
Ryan Klesko (35) - Think Chris Duncan, but with a bigger contract.
Todd Hollandsworth (33) - Former NL ROY. Not too good against lefties (.174), so would be another platoon situation. Average minus OF (my impression). Made $900K last season.
Rondell White (34) - Mostly a DH last season. Has trouble against righties, a concern since most pitching staffs are right handed. .271 vs lefties, .235 vs righties. Only 176 fielding chances the last 2 seasons, so probably better suited to DH/PH roles. Made $2.5M last season.

After careful consideration of these potential suitors, I think the Cardinals would be best served with a corner outfielder who can also play CF well in case Edmonds breaks down over the next 2 years. Since Dave Roberts will most likely sign with the Giants, this means targeting Jay Payton. I am not aware of any personality (a la Milton Bradley) issues he had in his time with the Mets, Red Sox or A's; so he could well be a good fit in StL. Unfortunately with the way salaries are spinning out of control this off-season (Catalanotto, a spectacularly average outfielder, signed for $6.5M a season with the Rangers), the Cardinals would be forced into signing Payton for similar money - and with the holes in next year's starting rotation, I don't think they can spare that expense. That would mean praying Chris Duncan loses his fear of line drives and learns to play the outfield in winter ball.

This free agent preview is becoming pretty boring, isn't it?

Well the hell with boring. Let's say that Jocketty pursues Payton and signs him for 2 years, $10M, a 20% raise from last year with the A's, but still less money than Catalanotto will make. With the terms of Edmonds' contract disclosed, We need to update our running total:

Running total: $68.45M (11 players)
Add $2M (Edmonds value for 07 actually $8M, not the $6M we projected) and Payton at $5M: $7M

New total (12 players): $75.45M.

Next installment we will discuss starting pitching.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jimmy's Staying!

As reported today by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Edmonds signed a contract extension through 2008. Terms were not fully disclosed, but it appears he will make somewhat less than $10M per year. Much of the money is deferred, which makes sense given the Cardinals' priority to sign starting pitching for next season.

I think this is a good signing. Yes, I'm aware of Edmonds' declining offensive numbers; he is not the hitter he was 2 years ago. Not even close. But I have felt for a while that at some point, organizations have to show a little loyalty to their employees, folks who have given a lot to the company brand either through excellent salesmanship, sustained superior performance, or that intangible 'leadership' quality. I am not naive enough to think that Edmonds' rah-rah shtick during the playoffs now anoints him as the leader of this team. What worked for a 16-game playoff run probably won't fly during a 162 game season. But Edmonds is a core guy; he's the longest tenured Cardinal on the club, having bled Cardinal Red since 2000; he is (at times) a spectacular center fielder; and although diminished, he still is a dangerous left handed bat. It sends an important message to the current and pending free agents on the team: we will take care of you if you play well for us (Weaver? Suppan? Carpenter?).

It also makes my OF free agent analysis much easier, and the odds of my wife wringing my neck because I spend too much time on the computer much longer. So thanks Walt.

Because terms of his contract were not fully disclosed, I'm going to do some guestimating on it. My assumptions: this is a 2 year deal for $17M. I interpret 'Significant' money deferred to mean $6M this season and $11M next, because that keeps room freed up for starting pitching this season. To update our salary tracker:

Starting point (AP, Rolen, Izzy, Carp, Encarn, Eck, Rincon, Loop, Yadi, Miles): $62.45M.
Add Edmonds @ $6M.

Running Total: $68.45M (11 players).

LF preview/teaser: The list of LF free agent help currently looks like this: Ba. Bonds, F. Catalanotto, J. Cruz Jr, D. Dellucci, C. Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, R. Ledee, Carlos Lee, T. Long, E. Marrero, J. Payton, D. Roberts, A. Soriano, S. Stewart, P. Wilson. R. Klesko, J.D. Drew, J. Valentin, E. Young. More analysis is forthcoming.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2007 Free Agency Preview (Part 2)

Today, as I have some free time and Veteran's Day off (that's tomorrow - a Federal Holiday. You know, one where the Government says you should not work. Remember to pass that along to your parasitic boss.), I'm going to look at the Cardinal infield and their choices therein for improving through free agency. This wholly unscientific look will be much more incoherent than, say, Jerry Crasnick and Peter Gammons' take, but I'm a fan, I'm not getting paid to do this, so if you don't like it stick it! HAH!

Planning out the infield for my Redbirds is pretty easy (which is why I'm starting there). AP, Rolen, and Eckstein are all signed through next year; AP and Rolen through 2010. So the only holes are 2B and C.

Catcher is a no-brainer. Re-sign Yadier Molina. He is the reason perennial Gold Glove Mike Matheny was allowed to leave and become a Giant (how's that working out, Mike? At least you get to see the circus every day). According to published reports, Molina is not signed for next year. He needs to be. Yadi will never tear it up at the plate; I think if he becomes a .250 hitter (and he should have a world of confidence now following the 2006 playoffs) it's a benefit. Expect him to hit 7 or 8 in the order. He's the everyday catcher because of his defense. And he needs to be signed to a reasonable contract. I think 3 years for about $5M per would be appropriate. I'll say that his first year will be the $3.5M variety, and I'll use that number in my total payroll calculation.

Second Base is a tougher story altogether. StL used (with Hector Luna now in Cleveland) Miles and Belliard for the majority of starts at 2B. Here's a sampling of their work from last year:

Miles (30): .291 (v. Lefties)/.256 (v. Righties), .975 FP, 5.50 Range Factor, .822 Zone Rating (I don't know what ZR means, but I'll throw it in for fun).
Belliard (31): .220/.295, .984/4.97/.794.

Miles is also a switch-hitter which helps him in my opinion. You see that Belliard is better defensively although Miles has more Range (which seems like a ridiculous statement after watching the playoffs). Miles made $350K last season, Belliard $4M. These are the folks Walt Jocketty is looking to improve on next season. I miss Mark Grudzielanek.

As of 0001 (that's midnight for those of you with cushy CIVILIAN jobs) this morning there were 10 (less Belliard) declared Free Agents who listed their primary position as 2B: Adam Kennedy, Mark Loretta, Lou Merloni, Eric Young, Kaz Matsui, Tony Graffanino, Jose Valentin, Chris Woodward, Todd Walker, and Ray Durham.

Let's break down the list:
Merloni: 35. Has been a utilityman throughout his career. Only had 19 At Bats at the ML level in 2006 (Cleveland).
Young: Actually old (39). Played mostly LF for San Diego and Texas. Cannot hit right handed pitching anymore (.134 last year).
Matsui: 31. Rumor mill has him playing in Japan next year. WAY too expensive ($8 mil last season). Can't hit lefties (.119).
30. Left handed hitter, not so good vs the southpaws (.193). .984/4.47/.805 compares favorably with Belliard's numbers. Made $3.5M last season. Former teammate of Eckstein and Spiezio.
Loretta: 35. Professional hitter. .274/.290; .994/4.88/.805 for last year. Lots of interest from the Mets may make him expensive. Made $3.25M with Boston in 2006.
Graffanino: 34. Another utility guy most of his career. .275/.274, .989/4.35/.849. $2.1M last year.
Valentin: 37. Had a career year with the Mets. Can't hit lefties (.219). other numbers look good (.288 vs righties; .988/5.52/.873).
Woodward: 30. Will be coming off surgery in spring training. Not much of a hitter (.226/.209).
Walker: 33. Ex-Cub. Played a lot of 1B this season with the Pads. Death to righties (.302), a sacrifice against lefties (.204). .978/4.57/.835 with the glove.
Durham: 35. Other than Matsui the most expensive guy on the list - made $7M last year with SF. Switch hitter (.341/.277). .982/4.85/.808 with the glove.

Let's start the elimination round!

On a team that struggled against left handed pitching last year I don't think we want another guy who can't hit a decrepit, half-blind lefty. So that eliminates Kennedy, Matsui, Woodward, Belliard, and Walker right off the bat. Salary will be a concern, so Durham's probably out too - I don't see him taking the 'StL pay cut' to play for the world champs. Valentin had a career year (as mentioned), and he's old; great bench guy, not your everyday second baseman. Did I describe a guy my own age as old?!? Yikes. EY is even older, so he's out. Merloni - playing out his career. Out. That narrows the list to: Loretta and Graffanino.

Loretta would be a major upgrade at the position, but he will be expensive. I figure $3.25M will be a starting point, and with Minaya (Mets GM) in play that number will go up to, say, $6M per year. Graffanino is an acceptable alternative - he's relatively cheap, he had a good year at the plate in 2006, he's a defensive upgrade from Belliard and Miles (although his range is not as good as Miles'). Maybe $2.5M per year if we sign him.

In a perfect fan world, though, I'd pursue Loretta. It would fit into their plans if they decide to let Edmonds go and go after, say, Dave Roberts, as their everyday CF. Pursuing Roberts would mean that the team would need another bat in the middle of the lineup - because let's face it, Roberts does not carry Edmonds' power bat, and Encarnacion is too slump-prone to hit #5 behind AP and Rolen. Loretta as your #5 hitter is pretty darn attractive.

Unfortunately, Cardinal ownership hasn't shown any willingness to pay second basemen these kind of salaries. Remember Grudzielanek (I spelled it that time from memory) wanted $1M per year and they told him to get lost? I don't think the team will spend this off-season for a 2B either, not while needing to fill 3-4 spots in the rotation. This means we're looking at a lost-cost alternative, and Aaron Miles will probably be penciled in as the starting 2B come spring training time. He's due a raise from last year's contract; $750K probably isn't out of line for a one-year deal.

So at this point our salary number looks like this:
Starting point (AP, Rolen, Izzy, Carp, Encarn, Eck, Rincon, Loop): $58.2M.
Add Molina and Miles: $4.25M

TOTAL: $62.45M (10 players).

Next, we'll look at the outfield. Comments to this post are always welcome.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why not call it 'award for the top 3 CF's'?

Recently (as in last week) the Gold Glove Award winners for each league were announced (3 and 4 November, to be exact. I know, I'm slacking - work has been a bitch lately). I don't pay attention to the American League, as it is an inferior league - and don't think I'm not enjoying the fact that that opinion has a lot more credibility since my Cardinals hung a Tiger head on the wall - take THAT, AL homers! But in the NL, I noticed something interesting:

Gold Glove OF: Andruw Jones, Mike Cameron, Carlos Beltran.

Hmmmm. Those guys all play center.

According to their website, Rawlings established the Gold Glove to "recognize the best fielders at each position". So why 3 center fielders? What, no one playing Left or Right displayed superior glove work? They're all a bunch of Reggie Sanders' and Chris Duncan's out there?

I dug a little deeper. It turns out, over the past 27 years (1980 is a nice round number), out of 81 Gold Gloves awarded in the NL, 51 went to centerfielders, 21 to right fielders (Walker 7, Gwynn 5, Dawson 4, Mondesi (!) 2, Abreu 1, Jose Cruz Jr 1), and 9 to left field (Bonds 8, Dusty Baker 1). Voters have only had a true 'best outfield' 5 times over that span, the last time being 1998 (Bonds, A. Jones, Walker).

The AL is even worse. Since 1980, 58 Gold Gloves went to center field, as compared to 19 to right (Ichiro 6, Dwight Evans 5, Winfield 3, Jesse Barfield 2, Buhner, Shawn Green, Dye 1 each) and only 5 to left (Winfield 2, Willie Wilson, Ricky Henderson, and Darren Erstad 1 each). The last time a 'best outfield' was represented in the Junior Circuit was 2000 (Erstad, Bernie Williams, Dye), and the only time since 1983 that a LF, CF, and RF have won the award in the same year.

Since 1980 no 2 left fielders have one a Gold Glove in the same year. Two right fielders have won twice in the NL (1997 and 1987), and 3 times in the AL (1987, 1985, 1984; 1985 4 Gold Gloves were awarded).

I know that left field is typically the weakest outfielder of the three (usually the slowest and possesses the weakest arm), but you can't tell me that no one is playing a decent left at the major league level. Right fielders get more respect, but not like the fellas playing center. Rawlings should either change the election process so voters are required to vote for someone at each position, as the award intended, or change the award for outfielders to read 'best 3 outfielders in the league regardless of position'.

This post would carry more weight if I had a LF or RF who got snubbed this year, but I don't. However you the reader might. Feel free to pontificate in the comments.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2007 Free Agency preview (Part 1 of 5)

I hope to have all 5 posts done by 11 Nov when the declaration period ends. This post will focus on the StL playoff roster (including Jason Marquis) and their contract status. The Cardinals actually have more than 26 personnel under contract (by my count, 41), but we will focus only on those on the playoff roster (again, plus Jason Marquis).

In the next few days, I'll break down what I think the club should do with each pending free agent by position (infielders, outfielders, and pitching) and finish with potential new signings to fill holes in the roster.

Cardinals under contract for 2007:

Albert Pujols ($15M), Scott Rolen ($12M), Jason Isringhausen ($8.75M), Chris Carpenter ($7M), Juan Encarnacion ($5M), David Eckstein ($4.5M), Ricardo Rincon ($1.45M), Braden Looper ($4.5M).

Pending options: Jim Edmonds (2007 option for $10M, $3M buyout), Preston Wilson (option for 3 years at $8M per through 2009, $500K buyout).

Pending Free Agents (bold indicates filed as of this post):

Infielders: Ronnie Belliard, Aaron Miles, Gary Bennett, Yadier Molina (unconfirmed reports show him under contract for 2007 at $450K), Jose Vizcaino.

Outfielders: Jim Edmonds (filed conditionally today), Scott Spiezio, Chris Duncan (unconfirmed reports show him under contract for 2007 at $400K), John Rodriguez, So Taguchi, Preston Wilson.

Pitchers: Jason Marquis, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan, Randy Flores, Josh Hancock, Adam Wainwright (unconfirmed reports show him under contract for 2007 at $350K), Tyler Johnson, Josh Kinney, Anthony Reyes (unconfirmed reports show him under contract for 2007 at $350K), Jeff Weaver, Brad Thompson, Jorge Sosa.

Note that the club has already obligated $58.2M in contract money for next year in 8 players. Add the unconfirmed contract values for the 4 players in italics and that number raises by $1.55M to $59.75M. If they pick up Edmonds' and Wilson's option that number jumps up to $77.75M. That's a lot, considering going into 2006 the total amount obligated in salary was just over $86M, and why there's been soooo much talk about whether or not to exercise the option with Edmonds. My understanding is that either the club exercised its buyout of Wilson's contract, or that option became void when he was designated for assignment by Houston (not sure which - clarification would be appreciated), so I believe that $8M is off the table.

I think Cardinal management needs to realize their final salary number will be between $90 and $100M next season in order to put a competitive product on the field. That's the range I'll analyze their options in as I fill out the roster.

Holes the Cardinals will need to fill for next season: 3-4 starting pitchers, most of the bullpen, 2B, RF, LF, possibly CF.

Next post we will look at infield options.

Monday, October 30, 2006

You must read this article

Scott at Cardnilly alerted his readers to this article. I must agree with him, it's fantastic. If you haven't read it, you should.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

2006 postscript

Where to begin.

Last night's victory ended the longest stretch in franchise history without a title since it's inception in 1892 (they went 34 years before their first appearance in the series - a win - in 1926). It also ended the longest stretch in franchise history without someone on the team who had won a title as a Cardinal (7 years since Willie McGee retired; the previous had been 3 - the time between Lou Brock's retirement in 1979 and the 1982 title). That will suffice as the 'randomly obscure fact' for the day.

The baseball world was shocked by the Cardinals title only becasue of how difficult the season had been following Pujols' oblique strain. Saint Louis had the best record in the NL when he went down (a fact which was conveniently forgotten until they had a 2-1 series lead). This team, at it's core, was still the same dangerous team that had won 205 games the previous two seasons. Injuries had hit the team hard, as they had last season, but this year the team did not play well for long stretches like they were able to do last year. In the end, only getting into the post-season mattered. After that, the team was able to field a reasonably healthy lineup, and they started to produce around AP against the Padres and really against New York, and never stopped, leading us to this result.

Other random thoughts from the clincher:

- So Taguchi becomes only the third Japanese League star to win a World Series Title, joing Hideki Irabu (NYY, 1998-1999) and Tadahito Iguchi (ChiSox 2005).

- Fox still sucks. Graphic as the Cardinal lineup was announced: Cardinals are 9-12 in World Series elimination games. Not quite. Cardinals were actually 14-14 in those games going into last night (15-14 now). You may say, but they've only won 10 titles, so how can they be 15-14? Because in 1926, 1934, 1946, 1967, and 1982 the team was down 3-2 in the series and came back to win. Also, anyone else besides me half expect Jeannie Zelasko to take off her jacket and start slapping Mr. Dewitt in the ass while screaming 'SAY MY NAME! SAY MY NAME!' during the trophy presentation? What a tart. Dewitt and Walt Jocketty looked a little non-plussed at her idiocy, although they handled it well.

- David Eckstein was a pretty good choice for MVP. But he won it based on two games worth of excellence (he started the Series 0 for 11). I think any of the below would have been a better choice: Scott Rolen: .421 Average, 5 R, 3 2B, HR, 2 RBI (first and last), .476 OBP, .736 SLG. Only player with a hit in every game of the World Series; his post-season hit streak stands at 10. Yadier Molina: .411 Avg, 3R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, .500 OBP, .473 SLG. Think the HR in Game 7 gave him a world of confidence? It would appear so. Let's see if he can keep it going next season. Sean Casey: .529 AVG, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .894 SLG, .529 OBP. The only truly dangerous bat in the Tiger lineup (other than Guillen). Cardinals Bullpen: 1 ER in 10 innings (0.90 ERA). Seem silly to give it to a group of guys? The 1981 MVP went to a trio of Dodgers following their win over the Yankees.

- Pitching, pitching, pitching. It all starts there. Viva El Birdos does a great job showing the improvement the playoff Cardinal staff had as compared to the regular-season staff.

- I would like to know the real reason why Kenny Rogers didn't pitch last night. Jim Leyland is a good manager, but Verlander's first inning is exactly why I didn't think he should start. Why would you go with a rookie instead of the 18 year vet in the biggest game of the season? Seemed strange at the time and still does. I wonder if he was goaded into that decision based on the rumor that Carpenter would start Game 6 - his thinking: that Rogers was the only pitcher he had that stood a chance of matching Carpenter's excellence. We'll never know now.

I'll take a little time off to absorb everything that's happened in October, before I start taking a look at the free agent market and what I think the Cardinals should do roster-wise going into the winter meetings. I also look forward to seeing who's the Cy Young (my money's on Hoffman, although Carpenter was the best pitcher in the NL the whole season) and MVP (AP is the MVP, but based on TSN MOP and the Hank Aaron Award, it will probably be Ryan Howard) winner in the NL for 2006. That, and trying to figure out how to transfer Game 5 to a DVD for permanent inclusion in the archives.

Congratulations to the 2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Friday, October 27, 2006


We'll talk once I sober up.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cards/Tigers - Game 4

Easily the most exciting game of the 4 played to date. And I'm not just saying that because the Cardinals won it on a run in the bottom of the eighth. Three lead changes and a lot of tension throughout.

First, let me dig into this big plate of crow for ever implying Preston Wilson can't play defense. My bad. One dazzling play in LF, and a great job cutting off Pudge's 8th inning double on a wet field. I hope he starts out there tomorrow. I don't expect Encarnacion will see any more action in the starting lineup this season, so Duncan will probably be in RF the rest of the way.

Talk about some self-destruction out there on the mound. Detroit's pitchers are killing them, but not because they're leaving fastballs up or letting breaking balls back up over the heart of the plate. These guys either don't know how to field their position (Jones), don't know how to play their position (Zumaya) or just run into bad luck (Rodney). Really too bad for Rodney, he was filthy in the 6th inning (albeit against Miles and J-Rod), but will be remembered for shot putting the throw to get Taguchi's down the RF line.

Getting the sense that this is the Cardinals year? Ever since Game 2 of the NLCS I've had a feeling. Not the gnawing hunger or 'what is the name of the girl next to me' sinking feeling, but, a slowly forming on the edge of my consciousness feeling that we're destined to win this one. Off-days line up to give Carpenter 2 starts in 4 games against San Diego. Taguchi homers off Wagner (who hadn't blown a save against StL since 1998). Suppan divines Gibson (1ER in 15 innings) in the NLCS. Duncan homers off a lefty (Feliciano). Chavez makes a rip-your-heart-out catch in Game 7, and the Cardinals win anyway. Reyes sets down 17 in a row. The Tigers start helping the cause with key miscues that lead to runs. Now Granderson falls down in CF chasing an Eckstein fly ball that leads to 2 runs, and Eckstein's next batted ball is juuuuuuust out of Monore's reach.

I won't count chickens before they hatch. There's still a lot of baseball to play, and I think La Russa is really rolling the dice moving up Carpenter to Game 6 (if it gets that far - boy that feels good to say), but that feeling won't go away. My 'Retire #51' shirt remains safely unwashed in my room, the 1968 World Series Press Pin I broke out has brought luck (we've won both games I've worn it), and even Will Leitch can't jinx us.

Of course, to bring me back to reality, Fox runs the 'last time StL held a 3-1 series lead: 1985' graphic. Thanks. Somewhere Don Denkinger's phone rings. Cardinal fans the world over would like to thank Fox for picking at that old emotional wound.

High probability of thunderstorms tomorrow. We'll see if the weather cooperates to allow Game 5.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cards/Tigers - Game 4 preview

Don't pinch me. Don't revive me, snap your fingers to clear my hypnotic state, take me off the demerol drip, do anything that will put my conscious mind back in charge. Leave me alone.

Carpenter was dealing last night. That's your 2005 (2006?) NL Cy Young Winner. That's the pitcher I wish the Cardinals had available two years ago against Boston - it might not have changed the final result, but StL might have avoided the sweep.

Odds and Ends from last night:

- Gotta love a team who's lineup introductions are done to the old Budweiser theme. Awesome.

- Couldn't believe Wilson was starting - until the 'vs. Robertson: 5 for 5, 2 HR' graphic appeared. Good call, Tony! And reminds me: is there anywhere on line I can find these types of statistics? Say I want to know the batting average, after the seventh inning, of sons of former major leaguers. Where can I find this information? If I have to break down and buy the Elias Sports Book, I will, but since people can find porno of virtually any mammal combination copulating on the internets I should be able to find out Ronnie Belliard's career statistics against Bonderman.

Wilson did strike out once (it's in his contract to strike out once per game, I'm sure), but he lined out hard to second and started the 4th inning rally with a sharp single.

- My boy So started! He made 2 good plays in RF (he didn't overrun the ball Ordonez hit; righties with an inside/out swing who hit to the opposite field will impart enough spin on the ball so that it tails back towards the line, and that's what happened on that ball), and was involved in the eighth inning rally. Wish he'd done more than pop-up to short in the 4th with the bases loaded, but oh well.

- Explain to me again why Belliard hit fifth? Nice o-fer. Belliard tore the cover off the ball in the NLDS but has disappeared since. Belliard should not hit higher than seventh the rest of this series, and with Molina hitting the ball pretty well Belliard should probably hit eighth.

- I don't share the hate for Tim McCarver found in other corners of the blogosphere, but no one can beat a dead horse like McCarver. Tim: I know Zumaya made a bad play. You don't have to tell me 60 times for me to get it. Move on. Or, stick to color commentary from the catcher's perspective, which I always find insightful.

- Do you think someone had the 'last time the 1-5-3 DP was turned was 1923' factoid at their fingertips, or was it a look-up? I envisioned they contacted some monk in a cubicle, bent over a book, researching obscure baseball facts by candlelight, as the source for that gem.

Let's not get too comfortable with this 2-1 lead. The boys in red were 2-13 last night with RISP. Looking deeper into the numbers, StL has scored 13 runs this series, with 5 a direct result of Detroit miscues (2 on Inge's error, 2 on Zumaya's, 1 on Miner's WP), and another as an indirect result (Jones' error in the ninth of Game 2 allowed Encarnacion to reach and the inning to continue). Cards need to hit better in run scoring situations, because if Detroit tightens up their defense it may get dicey.

Rain is forecast tonight. I think a rainout will hurt the Cardinals more than Detroit; StL has all the momentum in the world right now; hopefully Mother Nature will not give the Tigers a chance to re-group with a rain day.

Suppan is the man on the bump for Game 4. He's 8-2 at home this season, and 1-1 in the playoffs. I would expect Encarnacion to be back in the lineup tonight, and probably also Duncan's left handed bat against Bonderman. So here's my projected line-up tonight (this is fun, that's why I've started doing it):

Eckstein SS
Duncan LF
Pujols 1B
Rolen 3B
Edmonds CF
Encarnacion RF
Molina C
Belliard 2B
Suppan P

See you after the game.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cards/Tigers - Game 3 preview

Despite their 3-1 loss to Kenny 'stickum' Rogers on Sunday, the Cardinals find themselves in a pretty good position. As I've said before here, all the road team in a 7 game series wants out of the first two games is a split. Obviously, if you can take 2, that's awesome, but realistically the split is what you shoot for. StL accomplished that.

Now it's a best-of-5 series, and the Redbirds have home field advantage.

It gets better: their best 2 second-half pitchers will start the next 2 games. The possibility that Reyes could start Game 5 with a chance to win the Series is no longer a pipe dream, it is a distinct possibility. Players play all season for a chance like this; now's the time to reach out and take it.

Some things I hope to see tonight:

1. The game. I've still only seen about 2 innings total through the first 2 games. Look for that to change.

2. Cardinals play from ahead. The opponents have scored first in the last 6 games, and in the first inning in the last four. The good news is that StL has split the last 6 games playing from behind. However, after watching Detroit swing at anything thrown towards the plate (including hot dog wrappers, spittle, very small rocks, and vitriol) during their Game 1 loss their free-swinging ways don't play well when trailing. Let's jump ahead tonight. Carp is tough anyway; Carp pitching with a lead is unhittable.

3. Taguchi in LF over Preston Wilson. Viva El Birdos laid out a pretty good argument as to why Encarnacion should get a rest. Although both he and Wilson are swinging at any pitch which might be in the strike zone over it's first 4 feet of travel, I have more faith in Encarnacion's defense than Wilson's. Besides, Taguchi had the key at-bat in Game 1. Without his protecting Molina (who went on a hit and run) by essentially throwing his bat at the pitch, Molina's out by 40 feet, and that entire inning's different. That play is #2 on my unsung key plays in this post-season (#1 is sending Wilson on a 3-2 pitch with Pujols at the plate in Game 4 of the NLDS. Pujols' grounder to third is a DP ball. Instead, Wilson gets to second with 2 out, and eventually Belliard ties the game with a single. Look it up.).

My proposed line-up for St. Louis:

Eckstein SS
Taguchi LF
Pujols 1B
Rolen 3B
Edmonds CF
Encarnacion RF
Belliard 2B
Molina C
Carpenter P

See you after the game.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cards/Tigers - Game 1

Yesterday a very good friend of my wife's got married in a simple ceremony at Kate Sessions Park in Pacific Beach. I'd never been there, but the view of Mission Bay and downtown is pretty spectacular, so if your in God's Country I'd recommend it. Afterwards, about fifteen or so of us adjourned to a nice restaurant for dinner and drinks.

Seems pretty off the sports path, right? Why would I even mention it? Because as a result of this I missed Game 1. Initially the ceremony was to be at 1630 (4:30pm. All future times here will be military time, deal with it), then dinner, and I figured, well, there'll be a bar in the restaurant I can monitor, and at any rate, I'll see the end of the game. Except the event didn't start until 1800 (bride was late - couldn't find any shoes to match the dress, so she had to buy some), and we didn't start ordering dinner until 2000 (bride and groom took 1.5 hours to drive about 30 blocks. No further comment necessary). We didn't get home until 2230. Flaky people piss me off.

Which meant I saw the Tigers score their first run, and Rolen's HR in the second. I heard Duncan's RBI double in the third, and Edmonds' RBI single in the sixth, while in the car from one location to the other, but that was it. Which is why this column will be bereft of it's usual 'penetrating' analysis. But, when I found out what the final score was, I was quite pleased. Giddy, in fact. Or that could have been the wine and Remy Martin talking.

Anyway, as if to prove a thought strand from my last post, StL again showcased superior starting pitching. 8+ allowing 2 ER. Retired 17 straight hitters at one stretch. Well done, Anthony Reyes. Additionally, Rolen and Edmonds went 4-8 in this game with a HR, 2 RBI, and 3 R scored. If they've returned to even a semblance of the form they displayed 2 years ago during the regular season, this has suddenly become a very dangerous team. You can't pitch around AP if Edmonds and Rolen continually make you pay. Sweeps are created that way (although I will not be silly enough to float that possibility).

Life is much more manageable if you set small goals. Starting off with a goal of, "I want to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the 200 butterfly" may not be met because it's so lofty a goal, it's difficult to measure progress towards that goal. However, smaller goals to help you along the way keep you going: 'I want to have a AAA time in the 200 fly by the end of the year. I want to qualify for Senior Nationals in 2008'. That sort of thing.

The Cardinals exemplify that latter philosophy. Start by getting into the post-season, because anything can happen after that. Then win the NLDS. Then the NLCS. Then win one of the first two World Series Games in Detroit. Now's the time to up the ante. StL can cripple the Tigers with a win in Game 2. And, Jeff Weaver may indeed have a chip on his shoulder about proving something to his original franchise. He's pitched well in Coamerica once already this year (3 May loss when with Anaheim: 7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER), so why not do it again?

Looking forward to tonight's effort. Especially since the Jag-Hags knocked me out of my suicide pool today. Nice effort, bozos.

Lastly, to Mark: Thanks for the note and complement. Although not on your team, I do work with an elite group. Thanks for your service, which ensures my wife and son can live in peace and freedom.

Friday, October 20, 2006

And now, a rebuttal

Yes, today dawned a beautiful day. The sun was just a little bit warmer and friendlier than yesterday, a pleasant warming breeze coming off the desert to take the winter chill off the landscape one last time. Ah, a lazy Friday in God's Country, with St. Louis in the Fall Classic.

Then I read this.

And this.

[Anger rising.........tranquility disturbed........MUST..........RESPOND...........deep breath]

OK. Ready to rumble.

First, the Mets did not lose the NLCS. The Cardinals won it. Just like the Padres didn't lose the NLDS; the Cardinals won it. San Diego hit 2-32 with runners in scoring position. New York was what, 5-48? Under the Mendoza line, certainly. So 2 consecutive series where the opponent couldn't drive in a runner from second or third (or both). That's superior pitching, folks - of a kind I wouldn't have thought possible 3 weeks ago.

More pitching: Cardinal starters gave up 6 ER in the LDS (ERA 2.22), and 14 ER in the LCS (ERA 3.02). Additionally, the starters road ERA in the post-season is 2.82; home 2.61. Again, superior pitching. Superior pitching in the post-season will carry you a long way. Cardinals won both series vice the other team losing it.

Any talking head who decries the winner by saying 'the other team lost it' insults the effort of the winner. Cards won 4-3. They won 2 road games, including Game 7 - the franchise hadn't won a road Game 7 in 39 years (Gibson over Lonborg in the 1967 World Series). So respect the Mets. But even more so, respect the Cardinals.

Second: I am personally soooooo tired of AL teams from the NorthEast. My casual dislike for them has developed into a great hate. It's bad enough I have to suffer through every single Yankee/Red Sox game being broadcast on national TV (ESPN? NESN? what's the difference?), all the boo-hooing from fans of the teams with the 2 largest payrolls in the game, the A-Rod circus, Manny being Manny, blah blah blah. Now our league is constantly referred to as AAAA by the remaining Page 2 gasbag. Listen up, AL fans: if I want to watch a softball game I'll go down to the local rec center. Or better yet, I'll sign up and play in one. (I know your thumbs are well conditioned from all that PS2, gasbag; any idea how to swing a bat?)
Why would I want to watch a bunch of fat steroid-heads play HR derby? At least Bonds still plays the field.

All this from a guy who has ALREADY TURNED on the GM that led Boston to their only WS title since Wilson was President. Nice, jackass. I agree with a little constructive criticism, but the bile is just appalling.

Next thought: Who are the 'best' managers in the AL right now? Joe Torre (cut his teeth in the NL as a player/manager), and Jim Leyland (cut his managerial teeth in the NL).

Next thought: from 1960-1987 the AL won 4 All-Star games (1986, 1983, 1971, 1963). Based on the stars in the AL over that span, I don't think anyone would refer to them as AAAA. NL currently has stars of similar wattage. Perhaps the current AL run of success in that event is more due to the cyclic nature of life? Or luck (two
blown saves by two of the best relievers of this generation, Gagne and Hoffman)?

Next thought: any comparison of World Series victories is always skewed by Yankee success. AL teams have won 60 of the 101 WS played. Take out the most successful AL (Yankees) and NL (Cardinals) team, the numbers drop to 34 (AL) and 32 (NL). Lotta parity there, eh? And despite winning the last two, AL vs NL is only 3-2 in the WS since 2000. Yeah, NL is a bush league all right.

I want StL to win because I've been a fan of this team since I first learned to read a box score, so I have a biased opinion. But for all of you fans of the National League: Detroit is a great story. However, you follow BASEBALL. Searching for someone to back tomorrow? Back your league. I know this is hard for Dodger and Padres fans, and especially painful for Mets fans, but aren't
you tired of the constant sniping at this league?

And for the Page 2 Gasbag: See below.

yes! Yes!! YES!!!

(Note: This post was intended to be up last night, but crashed around 1100 PDT. So we're forced to post today. We apologize for any inconvenience .... to whoever is actually reading this.)

First, I am beside myself with satisfaction at the 3-1 Cardinals win. This SOOOOO makes up for last year's disappointment. And it had to be the Tigers. We've had a horrific World Series record since 1968 Game 5, and I for one would like to see that curse ended. Enough with the losing. Enough with the moral victories. I've waited 24 years for another WS win, and now is as good a time as any to get it.

My Mom's family is mostly full of Red Sox fans; on my Dad's side, they all root for the Cardinals. This made the 2004 WS a lot of fun. Initially. Not so much fun as it developed. And I've never heard the end of it from that side of the family. In fact, I enjoyed the endless teasing so much that when I met a Red Sox fan I found tolerable on a deep personal level I married her - and now never hear the end of it 24/7 vice 12/5. Nice. You want to know annoying? Try getting every available Red Sox-logoed infant clothing for the mini-Rant. From all corners of the family. As well as the Mrs's fanatical Boston transplants out here in God's Country. At least he has the Fredbird mobile over his crib, otherwise he'd be lost in a sea of Red Sox angst.

So it figures that, here in the magical year of 2006, the Cardinals play the Tigers. Did I mention my Mom's family is mostly Red Sox fans? Guess which team the rest of the family backs? So here we go again.

Couple of odds and ends from tonight's game:

First, Endy Chavez. Unbelieveable. Fantastic. Spectacular. Tremendous. Phenomenal. Great, great play. Easily the best catch in a big spot I've ever seen. This trumps the ball Jimmy E ran down off Ausmus' bat in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS - because of the difficulty in making the catch. Wow. I still can't believe he caught it. The Associated Press description of the play, by the way, is much, much better than I can do.

- Preston Wilson: sleep well tonight, and forget about this game. Three horrible at bats. If LaRussa should pencil him into the #2 spot for Game 1 of the WS, he should pause, walk back into his private bathroom, slap himself for 5 minutes, then erase the name and stick someone - ANYONE - else in there. I prefer Taguchi, but I'm not the manager.

- Scott Rolen has hit 3 balls hard (with 2 hits) out of his last 5 at bats. That's very encouraging. We really need him to get hot for the World Series. Right now none of the options (Encarnacion, Edmonds, or Rolen) are particularly attractive in the 4-hole protecting Pujols. We need you, Scott. Keep swinging the bat. Oh, and it was nice to see him and LaRussa hug and share an encouraging word on the field after tonight's game. Thank God. Now we can stop hearing about the high-school girl tiff between the two of them in the press.

- Jeff Suppan with a yeoman-like effort. Who would have guessed he'd be the best pitcher on the staff in this series? But he was. A well-deserved NLCS MVP. The only downside of this is, he's probably pitched himself out of the Cardinals' tax bracket, which is too bad. He's had 3 good years for the Redbirds, and eats up a ton of innings (200+ this season). I've enjoyed rooting for the Crespi High School Alumnus, even though it is a rival high school. Never thought I'd pull for a 'Critter'. Nicely done, Jeff.

How will LaRussa stack his rotation? As I've stated previously, Marquis should not pick up a baseball the rest of this season. Of course, that means Reyes starts Game 1 on normal rest. LaRussa has thrown the book out the window during these playoffs (see: Duncan pinch-hitting against Feliciano in Game 5), but he hasn't had his mind wiped. So I don't think so with Reyes. I foresee Jeff Weaver starting Game 1 on short rest, Carpenter Game 2 on short rest, Suppan Game 3 on regular rest, then possibly Reyes Game 4. Lines the rotation up nicely for the rest of the series.

Final thought on this most gratifying day. 24 years ago my brother entered the world, making it a much more interesting and enjoyable place. That fall the Cardinals won the World Series. This year the mini-Rant entered the world, making it a much more interesting and enjoyable place. This fall the Cardinals are in the World Series. Do I believe in coincidence? You bet I do.

Cards in 6. Carpenter WS MVP.