Thursday, December 31, 2009

UCB Topic - Top 5 Stories of 2009

We bring 2009 to a close with one man's opinion on the Top 5 Cardinal related stories of the year.

I know/assume several posts tomorrow will cover the playoff run, Wainwright/Carpenter and the Cy Young Award, the All-Star Game, the DeRosa trade, the Holliday trade, the Lugo trade, Dave Duncan's hissy fit with the media regarding their treatment of his son, NLDS Game 2, David Freese imbibing enough alcohol to kill a small horse yet still stay semi-coherent (but he doesn't have a drinking problem, nooooo), the Scott Boras/John Mozeliak Mexican Standoff, and so on. Let's take a different tack. Let's look at five interesting events regarding the Cardinal Blogger Community.

(drum roll, please)

IN order, I present the Top 5 Cardinal Blogger Events of 2009.

5. Erik Manning joins Fangraphs
If you're smart, you surround yourself with smart people willing to tell you when you're wrong. If you're dumb, you surround yourself with smart people to keep youself out of trouble. I'll reserve for others to determine where I fall on this scale, but Erik Manning is undoubtedly smart.

The brains behind Future Redbirds for years, Erik joined the Fangraphs team this past June (it's the bottom post on the link; sorry I couldn't get the story to come up solo). I surf over there a lot. I started reading Fangraphs because I liked what Dave Cameron had to say about baseball at U.S.S. Mariner, and he contributes at Fangraphs often. It was a nice mid-season surprise to see Erik's name on the ledger. "HEY! I know that guy!"

Well OK, I 'know' him through the UCB and Facebook, and the occasional interview at the UCB Radio Hour, but still - it's a brush with greatness for all of us. We all knew he was knowledgable; now a whole new audience knows it too. Congrats to Erik (again).

4. Fox Sports Midwest Live Game Blogs with a UCB flavor
This season saw FSMW start doing a live game blog for the Thursday day games. This was a cool idea, and it worked well, at least from my perspective. There was some delay between typing a comment and seeing it in the chat room, and some drop-out issues, but overall it was a positive development for Cardinal broadcasts.

For me personally, it offered the opportunity to interact with other Cardinal fans while watching/tracking the game on my computer. And, the middle innings coincided with my lunch break at work, so I could happily munch on a sandwich while following the game, with a few snide comments and/or insight thrown in.

For the UCB, it offered another forum to promote the group. UCB members were conspicuous during the broadcasts, and on at least one occasion the FSMW moderator mentioned the UCB Radio Hours during the broadcast. I don't think it ever made the actual telecast, but the publicity from the live chat was huge. More exposure, more fans listening, more discussion on the Cardinals. That's why it checks in at #4.

3. Cardinal 70 founds the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, immediately crosses swords with the BBWAA.
The UCB is full of movers and shakers, isn't it? How did I hoodwink them into extending me membership? Let's not ask that question. The UCB has been a big success in it's 2 years, so Dan decided to expand his reach and form a loose coalition of baseball bloggers.

Great idea. Get writers from all the major league teams, as well as some general blogs, together to talk baseball. The BBA has it's own website and everything.

Because we're intelligent people who like intelligent discussion, we decided to offer our own thoughts on who should win the Cy Young, MVP, ROY, and Manger of the Year awards for 2009. Dan then published those results to the media contacts he had in his Rolodex, er, his email address book. Innocent fun, right?

Sure. Until the BBWAA took exception to the BBA 'awarding' the awards, and so stated their angst via email. Clearly Dan's intention was not to try and usurp the BBWAA (right, Dan?), but they didn't see it that way. From my perspective, this event was proof of two things:

A. Media types actually read Dan's email (positive)
B. It was publicity, and any publicity is good publicity (also positive).

2. Interviews, Muffed Interviews, and More Interviews
The All Star Game in St Louis provided a lot of story ideas for both the media and us humble bloggers. Bank of America marketing hit upon the bright idea to use Cardinal HOF and Legends as spokesmen for their MLB Checking, and had these men make appearances throughout the St Louis area.

They also offered them up for interviews, which presented the UCB with the unique opportunity to talk to a Hall of Famer. Members of the guild spoke with Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Lou Brock.

Additionally, we attempted to interview Al Hrabowsky, but due to technical difficulties that never happened.

Finally, our success with the HOF men opened a door to interview Bill DeWitt III, which we did as a group in October.

That's a big story, and probably would be the biggest blogger story of 2009 if not for the next one.

1. Fungoes selected for ESPN's SweetSpot Network
Rob Neyer is a good writer at ESPN, taking a bit more saber-metric centered approach to his baseball analysis. Sometime during 2009, he decided to create a Network made up of 30 blog authors, one for each ML team.

His SweetSpot Network debuted just before the playoffs started. The first 8 blogs announced were for the 8 playoff teams. Representing the Cardinals was Pip from Fungoes. Pip, like Erik, is undoubtedly smart. And again, his selection reflects well on the UCB.

The fact that ESPN decided to create a Network comprised of fan blogs is testament to the impact bloggers have had on how sports news is disseminated and consumed. One might argue other Cardinal blogs deserved to be selected, but no one will argue Fungoes' selection was a poor or misguided one. Recognition by a mainstream media organization like ESPN is a major step forward for blogging as a whole, and big news in the UCB. Congratulations, Pip (again) - this event is the top Cardinal blogger story of 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Dominoes Start to Fall

Since we last spoke, Mark DeRosa signed a 2-year, $12 million deal with the Giants, and Jason Bay signed a 4-year, $65 million deal with the Mets.

DeRosa stated he was 'Tired of being someone's Plan B'. That's a veiled shot at the Cardinals, isn't it? You know what? I don't blame him for moving on. Even if he waited until Matt Holliday signed, the odds of Mark DeRosa not playing somewhere next season hovered around 0.000001%; the amount of money he would make next season, however, probably rode an inverse proportion relationship with when he signed. The longer he waited, the more anxious he would get about signing on with someone, and the less money he might have been forced to take to play.

To you and me, the difference between $4 mil and $6 mil is like the difference between apple and watermelon Jolly Ranchers - apple is clearly better than watermelon, but in the end they're both pretty darn good. For a guy trying to maximize his earning power using perishable physical gifts, that's a pretty big difference. So Mark took the best deal with a team he didn't mind playing for. Good for him.

One guy out of the LF sweepstakes.

The Cardinals never expressed real interest in Jason Bay, for which I remain thankful. We've had plenty of decent-bat, no-glove guys patrol that corner (see Gant, Ron; Sanders, Reggie; and Duncan, Chris), and I hoped that pattern wouldn't repeat itself with Bay. The more important outcome of Bay joining the Mets is the price tag. He's to make $16.25 mil per year. Since most observers rank Holliday a better outfielder than Bay, I believe we've just firmly established the floor for the Holliday negotiations.

Boras/Holliday won't accept less than $16.25 million per season to play for the Cardinals. The length of contract, opt-out clause, no-trade protection? All just contract language. First, we must agree on price. Chet Novak posted on Facebook his guess: $17 mil per/8 years. If the $18 million figure bandied about before the season ended becomes the high end of the range for Holliday, this is a completely reasonable guess at a per year cost for his services. But boy, I really hope the Cardinals don't ink him for 8 years. Paying a guy $17 million a year for his age 37-38 seasons seems a tremendous waste of money to me. Should the Cardinals go with a 8-year contract, I'd prefer to see a mutual option each year for the last 3 years written into the contract language. That would at least protect the club should a Vernon Wells-type decline in skill start, and not make the contract a millstone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas is much, much more than the retail bonanza it's turned into. The most succinct way of expressing that is one I've published here before, and am repeating again today.

"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)
With warm wishes for a Happy Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rumors, Arrests, and Whatnot

Been an interesting week for rumors, no?

First, Matt Holliday was offered a contract for about $15 million per, 5 years. Then it became 8 years. Then 8 years at $16M per. Now it's back to 5 years, but still $16M per. And today ESPN Insider contains a report he's drawing interest from the Orioles.

I'm having a hard time imagining Holliday with the Orioles. Not saying Camden Yards is a bad place to play, or the people of Baltimore are somehow lesser humans than the rest of us; although they did take away the Browns. Even that, I guess, could be considered a good thing depending on your point of view. It's just that Baltimore has a lot of young outfielders on the roster already - Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Felix Pie - under cost-effective control for a while still. Baltimore needs a third baseman and those guys who throw strikes and get people out. Plus, as I mentioned last night on the UCB Hour, AL teams likely remain a little leery of Holliday's bat in their league, given how he struggled in Oakland the first half of 2009.

So I think this becomes nothing other than "more posturing" by Holliday's representation.

What is interesting is the lack of rumor out there regarding other teams most thought might make a run at Matt, like the Yankees, Mets, and Angels. I don't believe a guy with Holliday's skill isn't in demand with teams other than the Cardinals, but you wouldn't know it based on the RUMINT out there.

The other big news item this week revolves around David Freese's drinking. Or rather, his drinking and driving. David, arrested for DWI, reportedly blew a 0.232 BAC, 45 minutes after his arrest. David stands 6 foot 2 inches tall and weighs 220 pounds. If I remember correctly, the story reported David admitting to drinking 7 beers. I don't know the time frame; let's assume from 8pm to 2am (he was arrested at 2:4am). That's 6 hours. The chart below shows BAC based on number of drinks and body weight.

OK. Twelve drinks would give an average 220 pound man a BAC of .205. The body burns approximately .015 alcohol per hour, and his BAC was taken approximately 1.5 hours after his last drink. If he'd had 12 drinks, his BAC should have been (.205 - (.015 x 7.5)) = .0925. It was close to three times that value. Which means (a) he drank for less than 6 hours, and/or (b) he had more than 7 beers, and more than 12 drinks.

I'd say David Freese has a drinking problem. Especially since it's recently come to light he was cited for public intoxication while in the Padre minor league system.

I have two thoughts on this. First, I'm glad to see the Cardinals and Freese have decided David needs professional help, and taken steps to provide that. Second, seeing as this becomes the fourth substance abuse issue to hit the Cardinals in the last 2 years, they club has a problem. And they need to aggressively move to squash it.

No reasonable person would recommend the club can David Freese, or deny him a shot at the everyday third baseman job. He didn't (luckily, I know) hurt anyone driving drunk. We will probably not know the full details of what the club does, but I wouldn't be surprised (and frankly expect) he'll pay a fine imposed by the club, and be 'asked' to perform some community service, like talking to high school students, something like that, in addition to whatever John Law throws his way.

And on that sober note, this will probably be my last post until after Christmas. Should some large story develop between now and 31 December, like Holliday signs with St Louis or signs somewhere else, or they pry Cliff Lee from the Mariners, I'll put some thoughts up here. There is a UCB topic coming up - top 5 Cardinal stories of 2009 - that's collectively to be posted 31 December, and I'll be involved in that.

And there may be a story of an empty stocking here on Christmas Eve.

But until the calendar starts to turn, to echo the Christian tradition my ancestors bequeathed me, Peace to You and Yours, and a very Merry Christmas.

[update] I fixed the formatting issues. Sorry about that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Posturing

Well according to several sources, talks between the Cardinals and Matt Scott Holliday Boras are heating up. John Mozeliak confirmed tendering an offer for Holliday to Boras before departing Indianapolis last week, but terms weren't disclosed and nothing was heard from the Boras, er, Holliday camp.

Since historically Boras seemed to like conducting his negotiations in public, this lack of news was somewhat disconcerting. The lone leak reported Mo's contract offer didn't approach the $18 million per year the Rockies offered Holliday (which he subsequently rejected).

Late last night more news broke. Seemed the Cardinals and Boras have talked since the winter meetings broke up, and the Cardinals sweetened the pot a little. Holliday's contract offer is now reported to average about $16 million per. That doesn't approach the Teixiera-level money Boras set as a benchmark for this negotiations. Perhaps there are other considerations being made. The Post-Dispatch story talked about guaranteed money, an opt-out clause, and full no-trade protection as possible contract language to make the 'lower' figure more amenable to Holliday.*

*As an aside, is there really that big a difference between $16 million and $18 million a year? Would one's quality of life suffer terribly if compensated 11% less per year than one wanted?

Complicating matters is Jason Bay. Reports on ESPN indicate Mike Cameron has signed a 2-year deal to play for Boston. Which OF spot Cameron will mann remains to be seen; he is a gold-glove center fielder, but I hardly think Boston will shift Ellsbury to left and install Cameron in center. So pencil Cameron into the LF slot. That means Bay won't be returning to Boston. As the popular choice for second-best bat on the 2009 free agent market, where he goes will limit Holliday's options if he doesn't accept St Louis' offer.

All of this is cause for one to shake his head. Matt: you could do a lot worse than play baseball for $16 million a year. If you want to play in St Louis, take the deal. Work out the specific contract language you want, but take the money. If you don't want to spend a hot summer on the shores of Big Muddy, that's fine - just say so.

All this posturing is quite silly.

A quick final word on Ben Jukich. He was taken in the 13th round by Oakland in 2006. He hasn't pitched in the major leagues yet. He's spent the better part of 3 seasons at AAA.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cards lose Parisi, gain Jukich

Rule V Draft is in progress, but here are the early results:

Major League Phase:

Mike Parisi is a Cub.

Cardinals acquire LHP Ben Jukich from Cincinnati.

AAA Phase:

Memphis Redbirds acquire Matt Meyer from Cleveland.

AA Phase: In progress.

Rule V draft results can be followed here. Cards Clubhouse has a thread on Parisi's loss, and some data on Jukich, AND some data on the Rule V draft process.

More info later today, as time allows.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Arbitration Results and Brad Penny

I thought Matt Holliday would decline arbitration, but that DeRosa and/or Pineiro might accept. Holliday did indeed decline, and so did Mark and Joel. So that's that.

No one reading these words should be surprised Holliday declined. He's 26 and $cott Bora$ is his agent. He's about to become a very rich man. DeRosa's move to decline was perhaps influenced by the big deals Placido Polanco (3 yrs/$18M with Philadelphia) and Chone Figgins (4 yrs/$36M with Seattle) signed. Erik Manning posted an article over at Fangraphs today which neatly summarizes DeRosa's value. I think Mark saw the two aforementioned deals and realized he could command between 7-9 million dollars, even while coming back from wrist surgery. Can't blame him for chasing the funds.

Pineiro, well, he had expressed interest in staying a Cardinal. However, he probably thinks based on this past season he'll get something north of the $6.5M he made in 2009, and get a multi-year deal. He may be right. Again, he's chasing the money and long-term security.

There is still a chance Joel could return to the Cardinals, but that chance became a lot longer based on the widely reported imminent signing of Brad Penny. There had been discussion about bringing a veteran pitcher on a short term deal like a 1-year contract. John Smoltz dominated that discussion. Ben Sheets also seemed a viable candidate. But Brad Penny? Wow.

Why would the Cardinals give Penny $7.5M in base salary after he struggled for most of last year? Penny finished 11-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 173.1 innings for the Red Sox and Dodgers. Doesn't seem to make sense. Let's look a little deeper. His FIP was 4.46. That's not great; in fact, it's the fourth highest FIP of his career (his worst FIP season was 2008 - 5.27). His K/9 was 5.66, the second lowest of his career. BB/9 ratio? 2.14 (fifth BEST of his career, and best since 2006). K/BB (2.14) and BABIP (.307) were right on his career averages (2.17 and .303 respectively), and his HR/9 ratio was slightly elevated (0.88 career vice 1.14 in 2009).

Other than his strikeouts being down, what caused his bad year last year? Well his fly ball percentage was the worst of his career (38.4%), and in a park as small as Fenway is, that probably killed him. Guys also didn't swing at his stuff out of the strike zone as much as they did in years past, which would also explain his lower strikeout totals.

Penny becomes an intriguing guy for next year's rotation. He won't be as good as he was with the Giants (and in their pitching-friendly ballpark), and he won't be as bad as he was with the Red Sox (and their hitting-friendly park). Not sure if he's worth $7.5M, but Mozeliak is a better judge of market pricing than I am.

Welcome, Brad Penny.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Whitey Herzog Elected to the Hall of Fame

On this sober anniversary, a piece of good news. Whitey Herzog has been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee.

Obviously I'm excited by this. Whitey managed the Cardinal teams of my teenage years, the teams that left an indelible mark on my fandom and cemented the Cardinals as my team of choice. The 1982 team won it all, the 1985 team was my favorite, the 1987 team gets less credit than it should, and the 1989 team was headed to the post season too until a Labor Day series in New York derailed it.

Whitey is elected for the sum total of his managerial expertise, and success, so his years in Kansas City can't be ignored (although his year in Texas will be). 5 Divisional championships, 3 League Championships, and the 82 World Series.

A good start to the week, despite the local rain. Congratulations Whitey!

Seeing as the Winter Meetings start today, we'll keep tabs on what's happening and comment as events dictate.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Arbitration Offers

During a recent UCB interview, when asked which Cardinals would be offered arbitration, Matt Leach ( replied he thought only Matt Holliday would get an offer. Here's the quote (question starts at 17:25 on the recording):

"I think that this front office has shown that it has a real hesitation to offer arbitration to anybody who even might accept that they might be worried about having to pay the salary. I think that they have pretty consistently shown that. Each of the past two years I have been surprised at some of the decisions, and I have yet to be surprised with them offering to somebody. If I had to guess I would guess that there's a pretty good chance that Holliday is the only guy they offer to. They've just shown themselves to be very risk adverse when it comes to the possibility of somebody accepting arbitration.

Now if the negotations start going somewhere that kinda leads you to believe things are different, that's one thing - but also remember that under the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] that not offering arbitration is not the sort of 'death knell' in negotiations that it once was. So to some extent, not offering is no longer the risk that it was. Again, this is one area where I actually disagree with them - I think that you should be willing to take those risks. I think the draft picks are so valuable. But I think they have shown themselves to be very, very risk adverse when it comes to the possibility of players accepting arbitration."

Apparently the Cardinal Front Office has reconsidered their position and decided to accept the risk, because today they offered arbitration to Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and Joel Pineiro. According to's baseball page, that's all the Type A/B free agents the Cardinals had this season.

What are the implications? Baseball's arbitration rules are summarized here. Bottom line is Holliday, DeRosa, and Pineiro have until midnight EST on 7 December to accept/reject arbitration. If they accept, they go back on the Cardinals 40-man roster even though they do not have a contract in place yet, and negotiations for compensation continue. If they reject they return to the free agent pool. The Cardinals will get a compensation pick (or two in the case of Holliday, a Type A free agent) when/if they sign with someone else.

My take on the why.

Prospect Replacement. The Cardinals traded away a large chunk of their high value prospects to acquire DeRosa and Holliday. If in the worst-case all 3 reject arbitration, the Cardinals would receive 4 compensation picks. They traded away 5 in 2009 (Perez, Todd, Wallace, Mortensen, Peterson), so those 4 picks would go a long way to evening the scales in the minors. Granted, picking up raw talent to replace MLB-ready guys like Perez/Todd/Wallace isn't a fair swap or comparison, but at least there will be some return on the DeRosa/Holliday investment.

Third Base Situation. At the start of the off season there was a lot written about David Freese getting a real shot to play third next season, and although no one in the Cardinal organization anointed him the starting third baseman in 2010, it 'seemed' to be the case. Freese may not be ready. Bringing DeRosa back would allow him to develop a little further in the minors, and perhaps hold down a bench position on the major league club while learning. Call it risk mitigation going forward for the big club. Not a bad move.

Who Wouldn't Want These Guys On The Roster? Holliday is a bona-fide power hitter giving the Cardinals additional thump in the lineup. DeRosa should - will - hit much better in 2010 when fully healthy than he did the second half of 2009 with a bum wrist. And Pineiro thrived last year under Duncan, using his sinkers to force hitters into pounding the ball into the dirt (Career year concerns do exist for Pineiro, but his ground ball dominance continued a trend he's had for a couple of years, and is a repeatable skill in my opinion).

Prognosis. Holliday is due for a big payday this off-season if he stays a free agent. I would expect Holliday to reject arbitration. Pineiro already expressed interest in returning to the Club for 2010 and beyond. I think Pineiro accepts as well. DeRosa, with the bum wrist, isn't as desirable this off-season as he was last. The Cubs may make a real run at him; if they've already been in contact with DeRosa, and have a tantalizing offer on the table, he'll probably reject arbitration. Absent that I would expect DeRosa also returns.