Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brad Thompson doesn't like success

Cards Clubhouse Mets preview, 23 June:

Thompson has filled in admirably for the injured Lohse, going 2-1 in four June starts. He has been sent down twice this season; he was positively awful at the start of the season, but quite good since (3.26 ERA after the first of May). It will be very interesting to see if he stays in the rotation when Lohse returns. He’s definitely pitched better than Wellemeyer since 1 May (based on ERA and wPA).

24 June: 5 IP, 5 ER, 1 HR, L
29 June: 6 IP, 4 ER, 1 HR, L

Thanks Brad. Like my credibility needed another hit.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Series Preview: San Francisco

Update:I managed to leave out the 2 July game pitting Zito vs Wellemeyer. Or, perhaps I didn't want to acknowledge that game based on who was pitching and their relative success this year. Either way. I've added that preview to the bottom of this post.

Programming note: the 'Birds Eye View' previews upcoming Cardinal opponents at Cards Clubhouse. I along with 3 others signed up to do these, however, 3 months into the season I'm the only guy consistently posting them. SO, I've taken it over for the rest of the year. We'll see if anyone notices.

The previews will also be posted here, because it's an easy way to make sure I post twice weekly. :)

Having completed the interleague portion of the schedule, the Cardinals welcome San Francisco in for a three-game set. The Giants won 2 of 3 in San Francisco the last weekend in May.

Ah, the Giants. Memories of Jeff Leonard’s ‘one flap down’ and Cardinal back-to-back shutouts to win the 1987 NLCS flood in. We won’t remember the 2002 version, which is easier for me since I was out of the country during that series and didn’t see a single game.

The Giants boast the second best team ERA in the NL. Not exactly the best news for an offense that’s struggling. The good news is that our two best pitchers go in this series, and the Giants are last in the NL in OPS. So, you know, we got that going for us. Mostly well-known tidbits: The Giants have one more NL Pennants (20) than any other NL team, but only 3 since moving to San Francisco. They were more successful than the Dodgers in New York, but far less successful since moving. Maybe NY will take them back if they ask nicely.

Current Snapshot

St Louis: 41-35, .001 out of first place in NL Central (behind Milwaukee). 5-5 in their last 10. A team that’s difficult to figure out. After taking 2 of 3 from a good Tigers team, and sweeping a mediocre Royals team, they lost 3 of 4 to the Mets AAA affiliate and dropped 2 of 3 to the Twins.

San Francisco: 40-34, 7 games back of LA in the NL West. 6-4 last 10. Lost 2 of 3 in Milwaukee this weekend. San Francisco currently leads in the NL Wild Card, a half game ahead of Milwaukee, St Louis, and the streaking Colorado Rockies. They are a team absolutely living off its pitching and playing at home. Only the Dodgers are better at home in the NL. Good thing this series is in St Louis.

Pitching Matchups San Francisco throws its best 3 pitchers at the Cardinals. St Louis responds with their two best, and, uh, Brad Thompson.

29 June: Tim Lincecum vs Thompson. On paper this pitching matchup is as lopsided as Globetrotters vs Generals or Fat Bastard against the lunch menu. Lincecum is the reigning NL Cy Young winner. After a slow start this season he’s 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA. He’s 3-0 against the Cardinals in his career and 2-0 in St Louis. He last faced the Redbirds on 19 Apr 08, tossing 7 shutout innings and besting Joel Piniero 3-0.

Other than that he sucks.

Thompson thanked me for my high praise in the Mets preview by laying an egg, getting knocked out in the sixth and ultimately losing 11-0. He’s 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA as a starter. He’s only started one game against the Giants, at San Fran on 24 May 06; he lasted 2 innings of a game the Cardinals eventually won 10-4. He was pinch-hit for by Jason Marquis to start the top of the third, so it wasn’t an injury that forced him out (at least to my recollection).

30 June: Randy Johnson vs Carpenter. Once again Carp squares off against a former Cy Young Winner. Five-time winner and most recent member of the 300-win club Randy Johnson opposes him this time. Johnson has 15 starts and 4 complete games against the Cardinals, although he’s only 6-7 with a 4.12 ERA lifetime. His last start against St Louis was 23 Sept 08, and he gave up 5 ER in 6 innings on the way to a 7-4 loss. It’s his only start at the new stadium.

Carp is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA against San Francisco. He won his last start against the Giants, which happened to be the only Cardinal in that May series, 6-2.

This should be a good game.

1 July: Matt Cain vs Wainwright. Matt Cain is finally having the year people though he would have all along. He’s posted a 9-2 record with a stellar 2.57 ERA. Having said that, the Cardinals have had pretty good luck against him; he’s only 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in 3 starts. The lone win came this season, 29 May, when he beat Piniero 4-2 (threw 6 1/3, 1 ER).

Weird coincidence: He has the same ERA as Lincecum this year, and he also beat upon Piniero in his last start vs St Louis. Joel must hate the Giants.

Adam’s 1-2 against San Francisco, but 0-2 as a starter. He’s gone 7 and given up 4 ER in both starts. He’s lost to the immortals Kevin Correia and Merkin Valdez. I’m certain Valdez’s parents didn’t read Webster’s English Dictionary before they named him.

All that said, this also should be a good game.

2 July: Barry Zito vs Wellemeyer. In tonight’s MOTO (master of the obvious) statement, this is not the same pitcher that won the Cy Young in 2002. He’s won 3 of his 4 games on the road, but he’s a much better pitcher in his spacious home park (better ERA, better K/BB ration, better OPS, etc). Barry brings his gaudy 5.20 road ERA into this game. He’s the anti-Lincecum, in that he’s faced the Cardinals 4 times and never beaten them (0-3, 4.57). His last start against St Louis was against Carpenter on 30 May, a 6-2 Cardinal victory.

This would bode well if he was facing someone other than the guy currently impersonating Todd Wellemeyer. Todd’s 2-0 in three starts against the Gigantes, but he hasn’t faced them in over a year – 11 Apr 08 in St Louis. He went 7 in that game allowing only 1 run; the Cardinals held on to win 11-7. Todd's suffering through an awful June; he only retired 7 batters his last time out.

Prognosis: It would take a small miracle for this Cardinal offense to beat Lincecum. The next two games are really toss-ups. Carpenter has been virtually unhittable this season in St Louis, and Wainwright has been consistently good this year. Zito is porous on the road, but Wellemeyer allows almost 2 baserunners an inning. Cards will win 1, and could win 3 of these 4 games; will they? Let's hope so.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cards trade for DeRosa, Mike changes site in celebration

Derrick Goold is reporting tonight the Cardinals shipped Chris Perez to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa.

DeRosa, the Bugs Bunny of players because he can play all over the diamond, has ostensibly been brought in to play third for the Cardinals.

This begs several questions.

(a) Is the Khalil Greene experiment at third base over? Khalil played short in today's 5-3 win, after playing the previous 7 games at third. Why did the team let him work at third if it wasn't a long term solution? Khalil's UZR at third is 0.00, with the usual caveat that a seven game sample is not statistically significant.

(b) Will DeRosa actually play third? He played mostly second while with the Cubs, although he's played either at third or in the OF with the Indians this year. He did play some third with Chicago, and his UZR numbers are good, but he didn't play 60 games there in his two seasons on the north side. He played 42 games at third for Cleveland, with a UZR of -5.4.

For his career he has negative UZR at third. Defensively his best position is RF, which is not a spot we need more candidates for.

Based on his and Khalil Greene's UZR numbers, and assuming he plays the infield where the team needs assistance, I suggest he play short and leave Khalil at third.

(c) where will DeRosa hit in the order? With Cleveland he hit all over - #2 (28 times), #4 (3), #5 (19), #6 (12), #7 (6), and #8 (2). Heck, hit him fourth - only Pujols has more than his 13 HR and 50 RBI this season on the Cardinals (Ludwick is next with 11 and 38, respectively). Never mind he's 1 for 12 hitting cleanup this year, I'm sure that's a statistical abberation.

So, to summarize: Cardinals sent Chris Perez to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa. Don't be surprised if DeRosa plays short and hits fourth tomorrow.


I had some time last night to mess with the site a little bit. You'll notice some improvements throughout the page. Allow me to summarize them for your convenience:

- Added a widget for Blog Talk Radio. Now, instead of having to go to the site, you can listen to all the UCB episodes from here with a click of the button.

- Added a Cardinals schedule widget. You'll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see it; I tried it in the margin, but it doesn't fit well. I assume it will be updated with actual wins/losses as they happen, although early returns don't indicate that'll be the case.

- Added a photo of the Cardinal retired numbers. I've always wanted to inlcude that on the list. I finally 'stole' the one from here, because it's the best one I'd seen.

- Re-ordered the blog links in the margin. All the blogs that were formerly there are still, but I decided to break them into new categories: "recommended", "cardinals blogs (which do not include the couple which are recommended)", and "other sites of interest". I had the title of the last post at each site included in addition to the logo and time since last update, but that got too cumbersome. I don't display all the blogs in those respective categories, but the list does reorder as sites are updated. Also, there's a link you can click to see all the blogs in that particular list.

- Changed the blog archive section. Instead of a pull down menu, it now shows stuff by year, with sub-folders for months. No real reason for doing it other than I thought I'd try it out.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Four Cardinal Events That Made A Difference

This post is brought to you by the United Cardinal Bloggers, as part of the June Project.

I had intended to make this a top 10 list, but instead, I'll make it a little more personal and much shorter. Here are four Cardinal games (or series of games) that made a difference for me.

Dodgers 11, Cardinals 0, August 28, 1977. I've mentioned this one before. My Dad took me to this game, my first. We had tickets in the left field bleachers at Dodger Stadium, and got there early enough to watch batting practice; I brought my glove, as all 7 year olds must, to their first game. I thought the Cardinals looked funny in those blue road uniforms. During BP one of the Cardinals hit a ball into the bleachers, very close to where I was sitting; a guy with no shirt, who was listening to a transistor radio and appeared to be asleep, stuck his hand out and caught it after it bounced in the stairwell. After he caught it, I thought I should have made some effort to get there and catch it, but whatever, more opportunities would come to catch a ball (I eventually did get some BP baseballs, but it would be 18 years later).

I remember very little of the game. I remember being surprised when it was over and Dad told me the Cardinals hadn't scored. As time passed, I remembered being at the game, but forgot the actual date (other than it being in 1977). One day, while my parents were packing to move back to St Louis, Dad handed me a packet - and in it was my ticket stub, his ticket stub, and the parking pass from that game. He had kept it in his desk at the house all these years.

I don't have any pictures of the game, but I have my memories and those ticket stubs. And that's enough.

Padres 1, Cardinals 0, May 16, 1995. MLB players went on strike on 12 August 94; I deployed to WESTPAC on 15 August. So for most of the baseball strike I was so otherwise occupied I didn't pay attention to it (this lack of memory also, for me, applies to the Branch Dividian siege and the Bush/Gore recount). When we got back, the players were still on strike, and replacement players were reporting to spring training. I thought both the union, and the owners, were a bunch of greedy, selfish people and was no longer interested in following baseball at all.

I was talked into going to this game, and somewhat reluctantly went. But what a game. Three cool things happened. One, there were only 6,743 people at Jack Murphy Stadium that night, so you could yell (something random or due to a bonehead play) and they would clearly hear you. Two, it turned into a hell of a game and a hell of a pitchers duel, with the Padres winning in the bottom of the ninth. Three, Ozzie Smith autographed a baseball for me. It was the first time any player had signed anything for me as a keepsake. Later that year I got Red Schoendienst to sign the same ball, and gave it to my Dad for his birthday - a Cardinal Hall of Fame double play combination.

I got my love of baseball back that night.

May 7-13, and September 3-5, 2001. 2001 sucked. And that was before Islamic Fundamentalist Radicals flew two planes into the World Trade Center. Reeling from several personal body blows we won't go into here, my sister talked me into flying to St Louis for a visit, which happened to coincide with a Cardinal homestand, and for which she and her then-boyfriend (now husband) had bought tickets.

To virtually the entire homestand. I think we missed the day game on 10 May, but we went to the rest of them.

I needed a distraction, and what better way to distract than by burying oneself in sports?

Anywho, the Cardinals one the first game. And the second. And the third. And kept winning. They won every game on that homestand. They entered the Cubs series two and a half back of the first place Cubs, and left it with a 1/2 game lead. I remember the fans cheering as a Cardinal employee changed the standings, on the large hand-operated scoreboard at old Busch, after the Sunday game ended. That was cool - took the Cubs down and put the Cardinals up.

So what could get better than a 6-0 homestand? How about a series sweep in San Diego? Went to all three of those games as well. Remember Bud Smith? Threw a no-hitter? Saw it. Saw a no-hitter live.

Six days after that series ended, we were making preps to load weapons and head out to war.

I remember 2001 just like everyone else does, but it's also the year I never saw the Cardinals lose in person. Oh, I wore the same hat to every game. I didn't wear it again until Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, and I haven't worn it since. You don't use a talisman lightly.

Boston 3, Cardinals 0, October 27, 2004. A bad day for Cardinals fans everywhere. A sudden, abrupt end to a magical season. Swept out of their first World Series appearance in 17 years, and the first time they had been swept in the Fall Classic since 1928. So why in the world is it on the list?

I told my Mom, if the Cardinals made the World Series I was going to a game. I bought tickets to St Louis and made arrangements to take time off from work when they made the playoffs. When they won the NL, I flew home, bought some wildly overpriced tickets to sit in the top deck, waaaay out in left field of Busch, and was raring to go.

I also had a surprise. I invited my Dad to go with me.

The Cards fell behind in the first, as they seemingly had the entire series, and fought gamely throughout, but the Sox had all the momentum. When Izzy worked out of a bases loaded, no out jam in the top of the eighth, the stadium loudly came to life; but it was the last hurrah.

Red Sox fans in our section (a) couldn't believe we were tearing the building down, and (b) stood silently when the game ended. I asked one guy why he wasn't celebrating, and he just shook his head. He had tears in his eyes.

We didn't know it at the time, but it was the last game my Dad and I ever went to together. Which is, despite the outcome, why it is special.

I don't have any pictures of the game, but I have my memories and my ticket stub. And that's enough.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I was afraid of that

I mentioned on my radio show Tuesday, Brad Thompson had pitched well since returning to the Cardinals and joining the rotation, and that he merited serious consideration for staying in the rotation when Kyle Lohse comes off the DL (at the expense of Todd Wellemeyer).

Then I noted that because I had said that, he'd probably get knocked out in the second inning of his start against the Mets.

The good news: He made it into the sixth. The bad: He allowed 5 runs in those five plus innings, and the Cardinals got destroyed 11-0. Ugh.

Yep, I was afraid of that.

Carpenter will try to win today and salvage a split of the series.

Other news: On that same Tuesday radio show we broke the news that all 6 living Cardinal HOF will be throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star Game on 14 July. Later that same night, the White House and MLB announce President Obama will be throwing out the first pitch.

Great. The first 'news scoop' of my 'journalistic career', and I'm squashed like a bug on a windshield as the President's motorcade drives by.

It remains to be seen how the Cardinals and MLB will coreograph this; most likely, the 6 Cardinals will throw out a first pitch, and that will be seen by the fans in attendance, then the President will do it for the National TV audience. At least having the President at the game will help boost ratings just befort the game starts and who knows - maybe those folks will stick around and watch the game.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Bruce Sutter Interview

Here's the link to the interview. It is downloadable to your computer or iPod (if you are so inclined).

Mr. Sutter reported the six living Cardinal Hall of Famers will throw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game. That would be Brock, Gibson, Musial, Schoendienst, O. Smith, and Sutter. I didn't know that; if you didn't either, now you do.

My thanks to Bank of America for the opportunity to speak with Mr. Sutter, and my thanks to Bruce for dialing in.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Feel Good Weekend

Nothing like visiting Kaufmann Stadium to set everything right in the world.

Outscoring the Royals 29-11 on the way to a series sweep. Khalil Greene returns to the team and homers in each game (and let's hope he's back in the lineup on Tuesday following the HBP today) Albert Pujols? Yeah, he's pretty good.

And, thanks to Detroit taking 2 of 3 from Milwaukee, the Cardinals are back in first, 1.5 games ahead of the Brewers.

Jeff Gordon discussed Yadier's at bat in the first inning against Verlander, and how it affected that entire game. Looks like the confidence that at brought has spread through the offense, and it's about time after a miserable May.

So it's off to New York to face the Mets. Keep it going, fellas.

Hope you can tune in Tuesday when I interview Bruce Sutter, as reported in this earlier post.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Guess Who's Interviewing Bruce Sutter?

As I mentioned in this post, the United Cardinal Bloggers were offered a chance to interview a couple of Cardinal Hall of Famers. The first of those interviews took place last Tuesday.

I expressed interest in doing an interview. After several emails, and some last minute coordination today, I am happy to announce I will be talking with Bruce Sutter on 23 June.

Bruce was inducted in 2006. His plaque reads:

A dominant closer who revolutionized the split-fingered fastball, which confounded batters, earned 300 saves and posted a 2.83 ERA while often pitching two or more innings. A six-time All-Star selection, ranked among the top ten in National League MVP and Cy Young voting five times each and led the league in saves five times. Won the 1979 N.L. Cy Young, posting 37 saves while striking out 110, allowing 67 hits in 101.1 innings. Saved two games and recorded the final six outs for the 1982 World Champion Cardinals.

I've set up a special edition of the UCB radio hour for the interview. Here's the link. Bruce should be dialing in at 1030 Central Time. I hope to have about 20 minutes to talk with him; we're at the mercy of his schedule, so it might be more, and it might be less.

I must admit I'm excited about this opportunity. My first fond Cardinal memory is the first baseball game I ever went to with Dad, despite the outcome. My next one is the 1982 Championship. I think I still have a bumper sticker from that victory somewhere. Talking to the man who closed it out will be a treat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tony LaRussa: Man on a Mission (a review)

Continuing our sporadic reviews of Cardinals-themed books. I was recently offered the opportunity to read Rob Rains' latest treatise and post my thoughts on the same. Mr. Rains was also kind enough to submit to a United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour grilling, and that shining beacon of interviewing expertise can be found here. Tony LaRussa: Man on a Mission is an unauthorized biography of the Cardinal manager, although LaRussa did review the manuscript (and I'm sure offer suggestions and clarifications) before it went to publication.

Since this is the third such review I've done, I've developed a simple metric for evaluation: was I entertained, did the book achieve its stated goal, and would I recommend it. So, without further adieu:

- Was I entertained? Yes. This book is a light read; I started and finished it on a cross-country flight. It kept my attention well.

Some folks read for pleasure, some for knowledge. Happily Man on a Mission delivered both. I did not know LaRussa has managed 6 Rookies of the Year (Walt Weiss, McGwire, Ozzie Guillen, Ron Kittle, Canseco, Pujols). The entire discussion of the 2002 season was quite interesting. I did not know he was offered a minor league managing job by the Cardinals in 1978 (pg 32). I was not aware of the 'place a mediocre hitter in the #2 slot' idea (pg 81); that's something I disagree with, but it was interesting to see another perspective. I did not know Ankiel broke Dizzy Dean's club record for strikeouts by a rookie in 2000. I had forgotten about the hamstring injury Ozzie Smith suffered at the tail end of spring training in 1996, which may have been another reason Royce Clayton got the starting job coming out of the gate. And, the explanation of why Ankiel pitched Game 1 of the 2000 NLDS helped my understanding of what happened.

- Did the book achieve its stated goal? Sort of. Based on the title, and the prologue, it tries to dig into what drives LaRussa, why he competes the way he does, and why he loves the game. I didn't come away with a better understanding of what drives the man. I'd come to the conclusion, after years of watching him manage St Louis, that he's an alpha male who competes at everything and hates to lose. This book says essentially the same thing. However, this book is a chronological treatment of LaRussa's managerial career, starting with his first job (White Sox AA farm Knoxville) and running through his stint with the Cardinals. Rains covers LaRussa's childhood and playing baseball career in 32 pages. It does not 'delve into...the upbringing and sheltered personal life that helped shape LaRusssa...' (quoted from the press release). The book covers all the major events of his managerial career, but not very deeply, so I didn't come away with any new understanding of LaRussa's philosophy or life view.

I found one errata in the book. On page 221 Rains states the Cardinals won the first two games of the season-ending series against Houston, then lost on the last day of the season (which caused the tie and subsequent relegation of St Louis to the wild card). That's not quite correct. St Louis lost the opening game of that series 2-1 (5 Oct 2001), then split the next two to finish in the tie.

There are some areas I wish he had addressed further. Why did LaRussa put up with some guy's antics (both in the clubhouse and out) and not others? If he makes a point of talking to every one on the roster every couple of days (see page 120), how could he not know if there was steroid use in his locker room? LaRussa is fiercely loyal to his inner circle (Duncan, Weinberg). But some guys he never gave a chance to get there (ex-Cardinals trainer Gieselmann) (see pg 196). Why is that?

- Would I recommend it? Yes. Looking for an anthology of LaRussa's managerial career? This is the book. And, there are some interesting tidbits in the book as well (as discussed above). Again, it is very readable, and most folks will enjoy the read.

The book lists for about $25, but you can probably find it for less than $20 at booksellers everywhere. It's a great gift for Dad, brother, boyfriend, boy-toy - whatever role that oh-so-special Cardinal fan fills for you.

Programming Note: I'm hosting the Radio Hour tonight (7:30 PDT). Hope to hear from you then. If you're too lazy to click the link, the dial in number is (646) 929-1758.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quick Programming Note Regarding Inteviews

The United Cardinal Bloggers have been offered a unique opportunity, and that is to interview a couple of Cardinal Hall of Famers. These opportunities have been made possible by Bank of America, who is promoting their MLB Checking program.

I had not heard of this program before getting the emails on the subject. So BofA's 'get the word out' campaign is already successful.

Anywho, Dan from Cardinal70 will be interviewing Ozzie Smith tomorrow at 1130 PDT. He'll be using the blogtalkradio (hereafter abbreviated as BTR) vehicle for the interview, which means if you can't listen live, you can download it and listen at your leisure.

Some pertinent links:

Dan's understandably giddy post announcing the interview
Bank of America explains the MLB banking program
BTR link for the interview and downloading instructions (files are typically available for download about an hour after the show concludes).

(I thought this was more exciting than discussing getting no-hit for 7 innings by Cliff Lee)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Those Darn Bloggers!

Albert Pujols hit 2 home runs, and the Cardinals beat Cleveland 3-1 Saturday. Amazingly, or perhaps because Milwaukee's achilles heel (starting pitching) has returned to haunt them, St Louis finds itself only a half game out of first in the division.

The Redbirds are also only a half game out of the wild card (behind the Giants of all teams), even though its still too early to start tracking their position relative to the wild card. I typically don't start paying attention there until August 1.

We get to watch them play tonight in the nationally televised game against Cleveland. Carpenter vs Lee. Should be a good one.

Let's talk about blogging for a minute, as it was thrust into the national limelight this past week. I'm referring to the article speculating about Raul Ibanez steroid use, immediate reaction, the 'Outside the Lines' appearance by the author, and the subsequent fall out.

First, the fact that something written in a blog became a national story in less than 24 hours is exciting for all those who toil online (even this author, although I don't live with my mother and I don't have a basement). Much like the actress yearning to be discovered, or Roy Hobbs, this incident points out there is still a chance other people outside our immediate families and friend circles are reading what we write, and who knows where that will lead.

Second, the position that one should be very careful about accusing someone else in a concrete way (either on the air or in print) is valid, and correct. Hard evidence better be what I have before I make a statement like "Albert Pujols uses steroids", because if I can't back that up once the spotlight hits me, my credibility is gone forever - not to mention the punitive costs I will have to pay.

However, the prevailing opinion of the mainstream media that bloggers should be held to the same journalistic standards as they are is ridiculous. I am not compensated in any way for what I publish here. I don't get to sit in the press box game after game inhaling hot dogs and soda. I don't get to prowl the sidelines or dugouts of professional games, looking for snippets of information and getting 30 second sound bites every few innings. I don't have the funding to get tan sprayed on a regular basis and buy John Phillips suits.

I do this because I want to, and when I can fit it in around family and work responsibilities.

And, because the First Amendment guarantees me the right to free speech.

What was expressed by Jerrod Morris, and what you find in spades on this site, and on thousands of sites around the blog-o-sphere, is opinion. That's all it is. And I am entitled to my opinion. If you don't like my opinion, that's fine - read something else. But don't get 'holier than thou' about journalistic standards and responsibility. And don't tell me I have to attend courses on journalism before I can start posting, as if that would guarantee I'll follow moral and ethical codes of conduct. I'm sure most of the political correspondents on the New York Times staff went to journalism school, but they sure conveniently ignored those guidelines while repeatedly compromising national security with articles during the Bush Adminstration.

Specifically on steriod use. Did you know allegations of steroid use surfaced as early as 1988? Yep, surrounding Jose Canseco (see Rob Rains' book Tony LaRussa: Man On A Mission). Someone asked the question, then it was ignored by the mainstream media for 10 years, until someone saw a can of andro in Mark McGwire's locker and asked "Hmm, is that legal?". If the media in 1988 had the same courage that Jerrod Morris had this week, to at least put some thought into the question, the history of the last 21 years might have been different.

Oops, someone will probably take the preceeding paragraph and extrapolate I'm accusing Raul Ibanez of steroid use. I'm not. I'm pointing out those who seek to muzzle the blogger community do so not because they believe they do the job better, but because they're worried about job security and the status quo. That's it.

Ibanez's reaction to the story makes more sense if you understand his experience with the blogger community in Seattle. USS Mariner made no secret of their opinions regarding Ibanez's defense, which they backed up with defensive metrics (UZR, for example) widely accepted by the baseball community. Ibanez's '42-year old blogging in his mother's basement' comment is something he had said before about that website's authors. I think Raul is really sensitive to criticism from bloggers, which he believes is unjustified. For the record, USS Mariner had high opinions of Ibanez's hitting skill.

In short: we're here, and we're staying. If Ken Rosenthal, Geoff Baker, or any other writer doesn't like it, too bad. And if players like Raul Ibanez don't like the innuendo they could be using steroids when their offensive numbers show drastic improvement from one year to the next, then start demanding the Player's Union stop stonewalling on drug testing and make it more open - and public. Something that would go a long way to restoring the public's trust would be publishing the names of the 103 players who popped positive with Alex Rodriguez, then publicly testing every player in MLB - and releasing the results. At least then we would have a better feel for who used, and who is currently using, in MLB.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Transactions, and the United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour

In no particular order, at least, not in the order of the title.

Great discussion today over on the United Cardinal Blogger Talkradio show. We spent the better part of an hour dissecting the MLB draft's first 2 days (and 23 rounds), then touched on a variety of topics. Wednesdays at 1930 PDT (7:30 pm for those of you in the military). If you haven't checked us out, you should. There's a dial-in number for commenting, as well as a chatroom for discussion/questions.

I am probably going to be hosting the show every other Wednesday starting 17 June; if not hosting, then calling in. You are cordially invited to call in and/or chat during those shows. If your voice would shatter glass, or you have a deep philosophical issue with chat boards, email me your questions/comments at stanmusialsstance@yahoo.com. I will do my best to get your questions on the air (so far, I'm batting 1.000 in that category).

The Cardinals designated Blaine Boyer for assignment on 4 June, and he was claimed by Arizona 9 June. Boyer was out of minor league options, so he couldn't have been sent down. There are some discrepancies as to what actually happened to Boyer; some sites report he was DFA'd, others that he was placed on waivers. The waiver placement makes more sense as he was claimed by Arizona; otherwise, AZ would either have to trade someone to St Louis to get him, or wait until his unconditional release and sign him.

If he was placed on waivers, that's simply a case of the Cardinals trying to sneak someone through and getting burned. If he was actually DFA'd, then we gave Brian Barton to Atlanta for nothing. Why? Boyer didn't exactly tear it up in St Louis; before his 5 inning, 1 earned run outing against the Reds on 3 June, which lowered his ERA by a full run, he had appeared in 14 games, had an ERA of 5.56, a WHIP of 1.24, and a WPA of -0.22. Actually his WPA got slightly worse after the Reds game. It makes me wonder why the Cardinals acquired a guy who made exactly 3 high leverage appearances (7th inning or later, ahead/behind by less than 3 runs) in 6 weeks.

Questions surrounding that transaction pale in comparison to those surrounding Khalil Greene. Greene was brought in to replace Cesar Izturis, who hit .263/.319/.309 mostly in the 9-hole. Prognosticators predicted Greene to be a significant upgrade with the bat over Izturis. Additionally, Greene's defensive reputation indicated he was probably not as good as Izturis, but it was a small drop-off between the two.

In his time at shortstop, Izturis was worth 11.3 runs (based on baseball-reference.com's Rtot/yr metric). In 551 chances at shortstop, he committed 11 errors.

Greene in 2009? .200/.287/.295, hitting mostly seventh in the order. Not enough data to calculate Rtot/yr. 130 chances, 7 errors.

By all measures so far, Greene is a significant drop-off from Izturis.

Then the issues with the anxiety disorder surfaced. And the questions on what the Cardinals front office knew about Greene's health.

Paul DePodesta, who is, I believe, a special assistant to the Vice President for Baseball Operations with the San Diego Padres, keeps a blog, in which he discusses various hot topics of the day. Recently I asked him if the Padres had any indication of Greene's anxiety condition when he was with the team. DePodesta did not answer, at least, he hasn't answered to date, which doesn't surprise me; it's a sensitive question.

However, I have a co-worker who's nephew plays for the Chicago Cubs. Actually plays in the majors. Probably the closest I'll get to greatness (I also had a buddy at a previous Navy command who played college ball with a current member of the Padres), at least, the closest I'll get until my sons get drafted #1 in consecutive MLB drafts (go boys - you're my retirement plan). A recent conversation with the co-worker turned to Khalil Greene, and he didn't seem surprised Greene's health issues had popped up. It was implied he had arrived at that conclusion based on conversations with his nephew.

(He also said Mark DeRosa was a vocal leader in the Cubs locker room, and they miss that leadership, but that's neither he nor there.)

Let's assume what he said is true. I ask a couple of casual questions in a work place conversation and find out Greene's anxiety disorder might have been known outside the Padre organization months before he's traded to St. Louis. How is it possible the Cardinal front office had no indication Greene was sick? Those guys research players and make deals for a living. I am to investigative journalism what Mr. Magoo is to visual acuity.

Greene got a physical before the deal was finalized, right? Rumors persist he's a cutter. How did he explain those scars away? Did the Dr. just not notice? I've blogged previously about some of the work the medical staff for the Cardinals has done, and how it's suspect (Scott Rolen's shoulder, Mark Mulder's shoulder, etc). Is this another case of sloppy work?

If the Padres withheld this information they should be taken to task for it. Using the old Realtor line of 'you didn't ask, so I didn't tell you' doesn't fly. If the Cardinals didn't do their 'due diligence' in investigating what happened with him last year, and verifying his mental and physical health, well, I hope that failure is duly reflected in their Christmas bonuses.

Best of luck to Khalil Greene in conquering whatever demons he's fighting. Pragmatically, however, at this point, DeWitt's pissed away $6.5 million dollars because his medical/personnel acquisition staff were asleep at the switch.

Friday, June 05, 2009

St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present (a Review)

Back on 22 April I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Doug Feldmann about his new book, St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present. The interview can be downloaded here.

Unfortunately I didn't receive the book until 2 days after I did the interview, and due to a variety of circumstances, I didn't get a chance to finish reading it until I was on a plane Monday. But I did make it through the book, and as I agreed to do when I accepted my copy, I offer this review.

The book is billed as a coffee table volume on Cardinals history, and it definitely delivers on that score. Past and Present is chock full of photographs, which span the rich history of the club. Lots of them brought Cardinals memories of mine, some long buried, back to the surface. Ozzie Smith's backflip (pg 7). Those ugly blue road uniforms. Andujar losing his mind (pg 23 and 102) in the 1985 World Series. Jack Clark's follow through on his '85 NLCS home run (more on that event during the next UCB topic). Rick Ankiel and John Tudor pitching. And so on.

However, to me the most interesting photos are the defensive action shots. They show just how much the game has changed over the years. It used to be a much more physical game on the bases. Witness Red Schoendienst vs Johnny Pesky (pg 62), or Marty Marion vs Eddie Stanky (pg 65), and compare those plays to the Renteria/Eckstein photos on page 67. Guys tried to take people out routinely to break up double plays; now, when Mark Teixiera does it (like he did last night against Texas), it's news.

The writing is clear and concise. However, this is a high level look at Cardinal history. It's a great book for someone who doesn't know anything about that history, or is a casual fan of the team. Hard core followers of the Redbirds will be familiar with much of what Dr. Feldmann presents.

To be fair, although I consider myself a hard core fan, I did indeed learn some new things. I never understood why Johnny Keane left the Cardinals to become the Yankees manager after the 1964 season; Feldmann sheds some light on that event (page 33). I did not realize the Cardinals were the last of the original 8 NL teams to appear in a World Series (pg 15). And he presents an interesting spin on Curt Flood's reserve clause challenges.

There are some inconsistencies in the book. His statement that Ozzie Smith 'graciously' split time at short in 1996 with Royce Clayton isn't supported by the facts, at least not those remarks Ozzie made to the press then and since. On page 8, he states the Cardinals were the western and southern most franchise until 'expansion in the 1960s', which is wrong; the Dodgers and Giants moved west in 1958. Later in the book (page 126), he corrects his page 8 error. However these items don't detract from the book overall.

In short, I enjoyed St Louis Cardinals: Past and Present and recommend it for the pictures alone if nothing else. It makes a nice addition to any Cardinal fan's personal library. Amazon.com, among other locations, offer it for something less than $25.00.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Calls get louder for Mo to make a move

You may be familiar with the word 'precipitous'. As an adjective, it means steep, and is typically used to describe long drop-offs (like half-dome at Yosemite). An alternate meaning for the word is 'extremely rapid, hasty, or abrupt'.

I was introduced to this word while stationed onboard my second submarine, in a critique of a evolution gone bad (not one I was involved in, mind you) by our XO. His point was, just because you have to take action doesn't mean you should do the first thing that comes to mind; there is time to think (albeit a short time) and consider options.

As the calls get louder for Mozeliak to make a move and improve this Cardinals team, I'm reminded of that event. And word.

We had a spirited discussion during the UCB radio hour about this, both on the air and in the chat room. Bernie's post today gets more into the argument. Losing 9-3 last night, with Lohse leaving after 39 pitches, doesn't help the mood, and in effect turns the heat up a little.

There are real holes to fill on this team. Third base is an offensive vacuum. Schumaker, bless his heart, is one of the worst defensive second sackers in baseball. Our outfielders aren't hitting. We have two and a half reliable starters at the moment (Carp, Wainwright, and the Mr. Hyde personal of Piniero). So what should we do?

Most analysts believe Mo has been working the phones and trying to get a deal done. It is a good assumption. His whole job revolves around his ability to field a winner. I have not been a GM; I've never even walked through a Major League team's front office. But I know how my office would be set up if I sat in the big chair:

- On this wall, would be my current 4o man roster.
- On that wall, would be every minor leaguer I controlled who was projected to be ML-ready within 2 years.

Then there would be binders. Oh, lots of binders. Who will be free agents at the end of the year, organized by position (and in position, organized by age). Each organization's 40 man roster. Each organization's farm system, highlighting guys we think could help us. And most importantly, each organization's weak areas - so I know what players to offer in a trade. Because, with rare exception, we're not dealing with idiots out there, and you're not going to get Babe Ruth for cash anymore.

So I'm sure Mo's done his homework. And I'm sure he's as frustrated as we are with the team's skittishness recently.

Bernie makes the case to make a move now. I got into an argument on the chatboard last night - although I can't remember which blog Tom writes for - concerning when a move should be made. Tom advocated 'soon, very soon.' I don't.

Because here's the point: the Cardinals are only 1 game out of first starting play tonight. One. As bad as the offense has been since 1 May, with the defensive holes we have, with only 2 reliable starters, we're only 1 game out. Clearly this team, as currently built, isn't going to make a deep run in October - or perhaps not even make it to October. But we certainly aren't in a 'make a move now or we're completely buried' position. At least, not yet.

Remember 2004? The Cardinals got swept in the World Series. By and large, one of the reasons cited (in addition to scoring 3 runs the last 3 games) was the lack of a power pitcher in the rotation (remember, Carpenter missed that post season due to a nerve injury in his pitching arm). There were calls for the Cardinals to make a move.

Then on 16 Dec that year the Braves traded for Tim Hudson. I happened to be home visiting my family when that happened; it was the lead story on the news. KMOX talk shows lit up with people clamoring. What's Jocketty doing? Why haven't the Cardinals made a move too?

Two days later we traded for Mark Mulder. Anyone out there still think trading Dan Haren for Mulder was a good move?

That was a precipitous move.

We don't need to repeat that mistake again.

Take your time, Mo. Make the trade that makes us better for the long term. Flip one of our mediocre outfielders for a third baseman or starting pitcher. Please don't trade Mitchell Boggs for 4 months of Joe Crede's bad back (as an example).

(And, if you're not tuning into the Wednesday United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour, you're missing out.)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

On The Road Again

No, not the Cardinals - me. From deep in the heart of Red Sox Country. The cool thing is, I've got the Red Sox game on the TV (Inge just singled to load the bases with no outs in the ninth - good luck Papelbon), and the Cardinals on MLB.com Gameday Audio.

Apparently, Holiday Inn offers the audio free to guests. Might as well take advantage, eh? Molina on third, Thurston on first, sixth inning.

Also in progress today, my fantasy team (the good one, not the UCB team) is working on the team sombrero. Yep, 0-19 so far today. Here's how ridiculous it is: I have A-Rod. Yanks are winning 12-3. A-Rod is 0-3. I'll keep you posted.

Cards just scored two to take a 4-2 lead on Stavinoha's double. Arroyo knocked out of the box. aaand my gameday audio just died. Ugh. Switching to the Reds feed. I had to do this right after Pujols' RBI double.

Speaking of the Reds, and that hit, Marty Brennaman (lead broadcaster) took exception to the scoring of AP's double. He thought, and stated on the air, if Adam Rosales' hit to Thurston was scored an error, so should have AP's. He then launched into a mini-tirade about home town scoring. I don't listen to WLW, and I don't live in the Armpit of America, so I don't know if ol' Marty gets as upset about the scoring in the Great American Bandbox as he does in St Louis, but he's out of the box.

Hey Marty: of all the things wrong with baseball in 2009, you're going to launch into a tirade about a judgement call by a guy who probably makes 1/10 of what you make if he's lucky? Go suck an egg. It's called 'scorer's decision' for a reason. Do you dispute the hit, or the bobble which led to the play being scored a double? Sounded like a clean hit on the radio. Have you not been paying attention to AP's season? He's stealing bases, taking the extra base, and legging out hits. Maybe, just maybe, you should give the benefit of the doubt to the guy who will watch 4 times as many Cardinals games as you will when it comes to scoring.

AP's double is up on Gameday.com. There were 2 out; Oquendo was waving Schumaker around even before Reds LF Nix let the ball get past him. Looks like an RBI to me.