All posts by Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.

Could Glaus miss two months?


St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Troy Glaus may miss up to five weeks of the 2009 regular season, not two as the club claimed, due to surgery to smooth or debride a muscle that runs from his upper chest to his right, throwing shoulder, according to Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch on Friday. An earlier report that the labrum was involved was later corrected.

Since then, I have heard back from my injury expert, Rick Wilton of baseball-injury-report.com. With a long history in the area of baseball injuries, Wilton has an update of his own after spending part of the day Friday chasing down information.

It isn’t good.

Wilton has confirmed the labrum was not involved in Glaus’ surgery, which is positive, but notes there aren’t many similar muscular cases against which to refer.

“The good news is it does not include the labrum. The fact it does involve the muscle makes it a bit more complicated, only because there is not a lot of examples of this type of surgery involving only the muscle,” Wilton told me Friday afternoon.

The fact that it is a recurrence of an earlier problem is a major part of the reason for Wilton’s concern.

“Considering the fact he had issues with the same shoulder late last year tells us it is a chronic situation,” he explained.

Wilton has seen the club’s 12-week estimate and wonders if that may be a hitting/throwing milestone and further suggests even the five weeks to return to the lineup is most likely optimistic.

Considering the recurrence, type of procedure, recovery and rehab time, which could easily include some period in the minor leagues, Wilton summed up his view of when Glaus will be back this way:

“I’m guessing he will miss up to two months (or return in late May),” Wilton concluded.

Ouch and double ouch!

The 2008 All Ex-Cardinals Team


Several days ago, I unveiled the St. Louis Cardinals’ “Let ‘em Go” Team, made up of 18 players that were allowed to leave by the Cardinals via free agency this decade. The common thread was that once out of St. Louis, most all of the players were paid more money than they were worth and delivered less results.


I received some comments about the choice of the team, questioning whether I wasn’t ignoring several players the club let go that did better after leaving.


I would say that sticking to the original criteria of free agency, the answer is “no”. When also including players involved in trades, the list of solid players increases slightly in size, but the ultimate conclusion remains the same. One must also remember that those traded Cardinals did not represent a total loss to the organization, since players also came in the other direction.


Major league losses


In creating the “2008 All Ex-Cardinals Team”, the goal was to be complete by listing every former Cardinals major leaguer that suited up for any one of the other 29 major league clubs in 2008. With considerable assistance from Cardinals Best News Links’ Josh Jones, I was able to identify at least 41 such players.


I then selected my starting nine, noted in
bold below. I submit that only four, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, J.D. Drew and Dan Haren (pictured) would be starters if they were members of the 2009 Cardinals. Yet, only one of them left St. Louis as part of what I would now call a bad move.


With the benefit of hindsight, of the four, only Haren was a deal that I would not do today. Of course, he went to Oakland with two other players for
Mark Mulder prior to the 2005 season. Haren has all the makings of being a star for years to come.


The others ultimately worked out fine for the Cardinals, as Polanco was part of the price of
Scott Rolen. Rolen was once an All-Star, but was significantly outplayed in 2008 by Troy Glaus, who the Cardinals received in trade for him from Toronto.


Renteria went into a decline and didn’t earn his $40 million, while the Cards picked up 2006 World Series MVP
David Eckstein instead at about half the price plus got top organizational prospect, outfielder Colby Rasmus as part of the compensation for losing Edgar.


Drew went to Atlanta for just one season as the Cards received
Adam Wainwright as part of the take. Cardinals fans still thank you very much, John Schuerholz!


Including my other five “starters” in
bold below along with the remainder of the 41 names, there are few that would even make all that great of reserves on the 2009 Cardinals. In other words, the majority of the still-active players that have left St. Louis aren’t that badly missed.

Player Pos Yrs StL 2008 MLB
Infield Gary Bennett C 2006-7 Dodgers
Mike DiFelice C 1996-7,2002 Rays
Mark Sweeney 1B 1995-7 Dodgers
Dmitri Young 1B 1996-7 Nationals
Marlon Anderson 2B 2004 Mets
Ronnie Belliard 2B 2006 Nationals
Miguel Cairo 2B 2001-3,7 Mariners
Mark Grudzielanek 2B 2005 Royals
Placido Polanco 2B 1998-2002 Tigers
David Eckstein SS 2005-7 Blue Jays/Dbacks
Hector Luna SS 2004-6 Blue Jays
Edgar Renteria SS 1999-2004 Tigers
Russell Branyan 3B 2007 Brewers
Abraham Nunez 3B 2005 Mets
Scott Rolen 3B 2002-7 Blue Jays
Fernando Tatis 3B 1998-2000 Mets
Outfield J.D. Drew OF 1998-2003 RedSox
Jim Edmonds OF 2000-7 Cubs
So Taguchi OF 2002-7 Phillies
Starters Dan Haren SP 2003-4 Diamondbacks
Jason Marquis SP 2004-6 Cubs
Matt Morris SP 1997-2005 Pirates
Jamie Moyer SP 1991 Phillies
Anthony Reyes SP 2005-8 Cardinals/Indians
Sidney Ponson SP 2006 Rangers/Yankees
Jeff Suppan SP 2004-6 Brewers
Brett Tomko SP 2003 Royals/Padres
Kip Wells SP 2007 Rockies/Royals
Relievers Kiko Calero RP 2003-4 A’s
Brian Falkenborg RP 2006-7 Dodgers/Padres
Ray King RP 2004-5 Nationals
Mike Lincoln RP 2004 Reds
Kent Mercker RP 1998-9 Reds
Darren Oliver RP 1998-9 Angels
Troy Percival RP 2007 Rays
Al Reyes RP 2004-5 Rays
Ricardo Rincon RP 2006 Mets
Jorge Sosa RP 2006 Mets
Julian Tavarez RP 2004-5 Red Sox/Brewers/Braves
Mike Timlin RP 2000-2 Red Sox
Jamey Wright RP 2002 Rangers


Minor league losses


In addition to the 41 former Cardinals major leaguers above, another 15 ex-Cardinals minor leaguers appeared somewhere in the majors during the 2008 campaign.


We can’t quite field a full lineup from this group, as there is no third baseman, for example. In addition, the number of former minor league outfielders and starting pitchers that put on an MLB uniform last season is very small at two and one, respectively.


With the exception of
Jack Wilson and Coco Crisp, traded away almost a decade prior, eight and nine years ago respectively, there are no real impact players among this group. As such, any real damage the Cardinals caused by minor leaguers being traded away was initiated a long time ago.


For all the gnashing of teeth at the time over prospect
Daric Barton going to the A’s in the Mulder deal, to date Barton has arguably been as big of a disappointment in Oakland as Mulder was in St. Louis. As noted above, Haren was the big loss.

Player Pos Yrs StL Highest level 2008 MLB
Infield Robinson Cancel C 2005 Memphis Mets
Michel Hernandez C 2006 Memphis Rays
Danny Ardoin C 2007 Memphis Dodgers
Daric Barton 1B 2003-4 Peoria A’s
Edgar Gonzalez 2B 2007 Memphis Padres
Jolbert Cabrera 2B 2007 Memphis Reds
Jack Wilson SS 1998-2000 Arkansas Pirates
Outfield Coco Crisp OF 1999-2001 Potomac Red Sox
Emil Brown OF 2004 Memphis A’s
Pitchers Chris Lambert SP 2004-7 Memphis Tigers
Matt Ginter RP 2007 Memphis Indians
Joe Nelson RP 2005 Springfield Marlins
Vladimir Nunez RP 2005 Memphis Braves
Rich Rundles RP 2006 Springfield Indians
Les Walrond RP 1998-2003 Memphis Phillies


The newest ex-Cardinals


The final group presented is the new additions to the first list for 2009 – at least the ones that can find MLB jobs next season will be. This group of 15 players all saw action for the 2008 Cardinals (or were on the disabled list all year) but left the organization following the season.


Other than outfielders, of which there is only one,
Juan Encarnacion, a full lineup could be fielded from these departed 2008 Cardinals. One, Kelvin Jimenez, left via a waiver claim. Three, Rico Washington, Mark Johnson and Josh Phelps, became minor league free agents after they were also dropped from the 40-man roster. Two more, Aaron Miles and Tyler Johnson, were arbitration-eligible, but were non-tendered instead.


The other nine were granted free agency, of which six are pitchers, two are infielders and the last is outfielder Encarnacion, who suffered a career-ending eye injury late in the 2007 season.


Of the nine, it is most interesting to note that all six free agent pitchers are still looking for a place to play in 2009. The only two to have signed are the middle infielders
Felipe Lopez (Arizona) and shortstop Cesar Izturis (Baltimore). Non-tendered middle infield utilityman Miles also wasn’t out of work very long.


That seems to be a combination of a soft pitching market and the relative scarcity of decent middle infielders. Otherwise, it is pretty safe to say demand has been weak for the more recent group of departing Redbirds.

Player Pos 2009 organization
Infield Mark Johnson C Cubs
Josh Phelps 1B Giants
Aaron Miles 2B Cubs
Felipe Lopez 2B Dbacks
Cesar Izturis SS Orioles
Rico Washington 3B FA
Outfield Juan Encarnacion OF FA
Pitchers Braden Looper SP FA
Mark Mulder SP FA
Randy Flores RP FA
Jason Isringhausen RP FA
Kelvin Jimenez RP White Sox
Tyler Johnson RP FA
Russ Springer RP FA
Ron Villone RP FA


In conclusion


While there are a handful of still very fine players among the 71 ex-Cardinals organization players listed here, most are not difference-makers. Instead, for the vast majority, it is probably better both for them and the Cardinals that they are playing their future ball elsewhere.

Cardinals minor matters – January 22


Glaus surprise shoulder surgery held

The Cardinals announced Thursday that third baseman Troy Glaus underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday, January 21 for the debridement of his right shoulder.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, California.  Glaus will begin physical therapy next week and his recovery is estimated by the club to be 12 weeks.

The late timing of the surgery in the off-season means Glaus will miss at least the first two weeks of the regular season. That opens the door for a pair of third base prospects, David Freese and Brett Wallace, to compete for a first-time ever MLB roster spot. Outfielder Joe Mather is also scheduled to see time at third base during spring training and though primarily a middle infielder, Brendan Ryan can also play there.

GM John Mozeliak will meet with the press this afternoon to answer the obvious question, “Why now?” Glaus just returned from last weekend’s Winter Warm-up, where there was no indication of injury or impending surgery.

Update: The Post-Dispatch reports Glaus had been troubled by the shoulder since last season and rest was prescribed. His discomfort returned as he began preparations for 2009 and he informed the club several weeks ago. A recent injection did not help, so surgery was set.


Templeton Golden again

The Long Beach (CA) Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League announced that former Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton will return to the league as manager of their team for the 2009 season. A former skipper in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League (2001-02), Templeton also managed in the GBL from 2005-2007.



Laying down the prospect Law

In a Wednesday ESPN Insider article, baseball analyst Keith Law ranks the Cardinals’ system number six of the 30 MLB organizations. Comments are positive about three top “star” prospects, which include Colby Rasmus (#12), Brett Wallace (#19 – pictured) and Daryl Jones (#50). Chris Perez also made the list at #80. System depth and impact are complemented.

I did see one other thing worth noting. Law seems very excited about the (#1) Rangers’ integration of amateur, professional and international scouting along with their baseball operations staffs. He notes the Red Sox (#7) and Rays (#2) have also gone down this path. In what seems an oversight, Jeff Luhnow and the Cardinals are not mentioned, however.

Law’s remaining top 100 prospects have now been posted, with prospects #1-25 free and the remainder subscriber-only content, providing a welcome diversion during an increasingly-tedious off-season.

I’ll update this section later if I have anything more to say after seeing Law’s full descriptions.


Jay McGwire
squeals for cash

I had already posted this link on the La Russa/Mc Gwire thread, but wanted to call it out here, as well.

I’m not a fan of Deadspin’s brand of internet “journalism”, especially after they had to recant their slanderous steroid accusations against Albert Pujols’ trainer that therefore indirectly implicated Albert.

Now they have another Cards-related ‘roids story – this one about Mark McGwire’s brother Jay’s proposed new book. The estranged little brother and body builder seems to be in a debate with Jose Canseco over who injected Big Mac first.

It’s really sad what people will do for money…


Legends camp tightening security

Although I can’t imagine why other than the possibility of autograph hound control perhaps, the annual Cardinals Legends Camp being held this weekend in Jupiter, is being closed to the public. Family members will still be allowed, but that is it, according to the TC Palm.

The Mets’ nearby camp, running in parallel to the Cards’, is open to all, although I would imagine the over-30 fantasy campers themselves are not the attraction. Instead it would be the former major leaguers invited to coach.

For the Cardinals, the invitees included Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog, Jack Clark, Danny Cox, Ken Dayley, Bob Forsch, Tom Herr, Rick Horton, Al Hrabosky, Mike LaValliere, Dave LaPoint, Tom Lawless, John Mabry, Ted Savage, Scott Terry, and Todd Worrell. Of course, since camp is closed, we may not know which ones showed up!

For those considering this splurge next year, the prices this time around ranged from $4,295-$7,495 for five days of action. More info here.


Crusin’ again?

Another annual event that occurs after Winter Warm-up and Spring Training is the Cardinals Cruise. This year, the sold-out event departs from Ft. Lauderdale on February 1 and returns on the 8th. 2010 information is not yet available but I am told by the folks at Altair Travel and Cruises that their brochures will be available in one month.


Wainwright/Pence win Darryl Kile Awards

Over at Scout.com, I saluted Adam Wainwright, this year’s winner of a rarely-noted, but most important piece of recognition voted upon by Cardinals players and run by the local Baseball Writers of Association Chapter, the Darryl Kile Award.

The Astros also initiated a similar “Good Guy” Award upon Kile’s passing with their first winner being his former Houston teammate Jeff Bagwell. This past weekend, outfielder Hunter Pence took their 2009 honor.


Vuch picks up award

Speaking of good guys, MLB.com’s recap of Monday’s St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner mentioned another award winner, Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch. He was given the Harry Mitauer Good Guy Award – a most appropriate choice.

“I would have been flattered if they just told me my name came up in the conversation, let alone being the recipient,” Matthew Leach reported the humble and talented Vuch as saying.

Congratulations, John!


Liga Paralela results

For those interested in the how the Cardinals recruits fared this winter in the Liga Paralela in Venezuela, check out Josh Jones’ series of detailed reports over at Cardinals Best News Links. He has covered the hitters so far, with the pitchers up next. This is information you can’t get anywhere else.

How Glaus began his professional career in Venezuela


News item:
Preston Gomez dies at 86; consultant was with Angels for 27 years

In a sad note, Preston Gomez passed away a few days ago. The former major league pitcher, coach and consultant had been a member of the professional baseball community since 1944, most recently with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In 1969, baseball pioneer Gomez became just the second Latin American manager in the history of MLB when he was hired to lead the expansion San Diego Padres. After his 1972 firing, he also managed the Houston Astros (1974-75) and Chicago Cubs (1980).

Prior to Gomez, the only other manager born in Latin America was a fellow Cuban, Miguel Angel “Mike” Gonzalez, who led the St. Louis Cardinals on an interim basis in 1938 and 1940, reported the LA Times.

Gomez first joined the then-California Angels organization in 1981 as their major league third-base coach. After four seasons in the role, he became a special assistant to the general manager in 1985.

Gomez was also very active in baseball in Latin America, first leading the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan League back in the winter of 1972-73 and serving several stints in the role.

Fast forward to 1997 when UCLA shortstop Troy Glaus became the Angels’ first-round pick in the June draft, taken third overall. After long negotiations, he finally signed in September, receiving a substantial signing bonus of $2.25 million.

As a result of the late signing, Glaus first headed to Arizona for the Halos’ fall instructional league camp. There, in a most unusual move, Gomez convinced Glaus to travel to Venezuela to make his professional debut for La Guaira that winter.


It was feasible for Glaus to take such a step because of his advanced development as a player. He had been the San Diego Padres’ second-round pick coming out of high school in 1994, but did not sign. With the Bruins, he led his club to the College World Series, batted .344 over three seasons, was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and shattered Mark McGwire’s single-season conference home run record.


In the 1996 Olympics, Glaus was the starting third baseman for Team USA and among his accomplishments was hitting four home runs at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, then the Atlanta Braves’ home park. His minor league career would only last four months before his first call up to Anaheim in July, 1998.


Though the media guides of the various clubs for which Glaus later played do not acknowledge this, he became the first and only future major league player to make his professional debut when he suited up for La Guaira in the 1997-1998 Venezuelan Winter League, according to the Sharks.


As it turned out, Glaus’ memories of the event were not fond ones. According to reports at the time, Glaus battled stomach ailments during his stint in Venezuela and lost 25 pounds. Accordingly, his on-field results were less than stellar, as he hit only .233 with two home runs in 50 games.

The food and water were bad,” Glaus told the LA Times at the time, “but it made you learn how to try to be successful even when you don’t feel very well.”

Fast forward to today. Ironically, one of the top candidates to replace Glaus as the Cardinals third baseman in 2010, David Freese, was among organizational farmhands sent to Venezuela this winter.


Like Glaus, Freese’s Latin American stint was generally unfulfilling. The 25-year-old hit .235 with three home runs and eight RBIs in 14 games playing for the Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan League.


One report out of Venezuela was that Freese’s services were terminated due to results on the field. Another article hinted of a financial dispute. Freese himself attributed his early return home to a left wrist injury that required examination in St. Louis.


Whatever the reason, the Cardinals as an organization remain committed to Venezuela all year round.


Under the watchful eyes of former Cardinals Gulf Coast League manager Enrique Brito and Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dan Radison, a number of farmhands played there this winter, including Springfield’s Luke Gregerson and Jose Martinez. The Cards also had scores of younger players competing in a pair of winter minor leagues in the country.


The Cardinals have 38 players under contract on their Venezuelan Summer League roster, most of whom are natives. Up the line in the Cardinals system, there are another two dozen Venezuelans, including second baseman Martinez as well as a pair of exciting teenagers, pitcher Richard Castillo and outfielder Frederick Parejo. Former Cards shortstop Cesar Iztruis also calls the country home.

Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez told me this recently: “Our plan is to build an academy in Venezuela, operate in the same manner as we do in the Dominican Republic and our goal is to produce players. We feel there is talent to be had there,” Rodriguez said.

Note: For more details on Cardinals players competing in winter ball, make sure you check out the “Cardinals Winter League Notebook” at Cardinals Best News Links.

Arbitration update: Ankiel and Ludwick figures


Rather than start a new discussion, I appended Tuesday’s arbitration amounts for outfielders Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick and my reaction to the earlier post where I had predicted the final salaries for the players. This post is simple a reminder to join the discussion there.

A brief summary of Tuesday’s news:

Ludwick: $4.25 million, Cardinals: $2.8 million (midpoint: $3.525 million)
My earlier estimate: $4 million (will probably end up too high if they settle pre-hearing)
Actual salary: TBD

Ankiel: $3.3 million, Cardinals: $2.35 million (midpoint: $2.825 million)
My earlier estimate: $3.25 million (will probably end up too high if they settle pre-hearing)
Actual salary: TBD


Please click on the highlighted link to head over to the January 6 post entitled “What might Ludwick, Ankiel, Wellemeyer, Thompson and Duncan make via arbitration?” to read much more on the subject and comment there to keep the related discussion in one place. As always, your perspectives are encouraged.

In the arbitration process, the next steps are as follows:

  • Each player may continue to negotiate with the club if both sides so choose.

  • A hearing date for sometime during the first three weeks in February will be scheduled.

  • If there is no resolution prior to that date, both sides will present their case to a three-person team of arbiters.

  • The panel will select one amount or the other for a one-year contract – the amount the player submitted on Tuesday or the club’s amount – with no compromise allowed.

Mac declines La Russa’s suggestion to speak up


This spring, former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire has once again chosen to remain out of the spotlight, even as Tony La Russa continues to encourage him to return to the game. Now, his former manager has upped the ante on the heels of McGwire’s failed 2009 Hall of Fame candidacy and eroding voter support.

Knowing this story has not yet reached its conclusion, La Russa is now publicly advocating an approach to unlock the ex-slugger’s moribund Hall chances that I have pushed for years – speak up for yourself, Mark!

Having played the role of McGwire’s chief public defender since the player went underground following his embarrassing March 2005 Congressional testimony, La Russa has finally suggested the player answer questions about his past – precisely what Big Mac wouldn’t do four years ago.

Since then, the baseball landscape has changed with the Mitchell Report, enhanced testing and other players able to move on after admitting various PED-related activities in their pasts. Yet McGwire remains silent in his self-imposed purgatory.

Again this spring, La Russa invited McGwire to be a spring training coach, which would also offer the vehicle for McGwire to clear the air – the familiar and comfortable environment of the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida, where access can be controlled.

In Monday’s New York Times, La Russa said this:

“I think if he came to spring training and was seen, so the writers and the fans could say, ‘There’s Mark,’ and answer whatever they want,” La Russa said, “I think that would go a long way, in my opinion.”

However, once again, McGwire has declined to come to Florida with the Cardinals in 2009. Undaunted, La Russa vowed to keep inviting him every year. With 12 more possible years on the HoF ballot, apparently McGwire is in no hurry.

Mac is still out there in the shadows. As recently as this past weekend’s Winter Warm-up fan fest, outfielder Skip Schumaker acknowledged his winter regimen includes hitting with McGwire in California. The ex-Cardinal told La Russa he is still in playing shape today, not that it matters anymore.

Big Mac’s long-time skipper reaffirmed his Hall support of his ex-player, noting the retired slugger’s numbers make him worthy.

“I believe this: His production, I think, is Hall of Fame quality,” La Russa asserted.

Of course, even Tony knows the real issue isn’t about numbers; it’s about refusing to discuss the past.

“If it’s a question of what did he do to make himself stronger that wasn’t legal, and that’s kind of a character-and-integrity issue,” La Russa said. “If it’s a character-and-integrity issue, how many guys do we know who did what Mark did?”

La Russa went on to cite the example of McGwire walking away from the game with money remaining on his contract as a character reference, as if that would somehow magically negate the steroid allegations.

Coach Dave McKay’s strength and conditioning programs were also again defended by the manager, asserting McKay ran a “100 percent straight” workout program in Oakland. Yet in what seems to be a moderation of past comments, La Russa admits lack of 24-hour supervision meant all may not have been known.

“Now, as José (Canseco) said, when you go to the toilet or you leave the ballpark, Dave didn’t control that,” La Russa said.

Previously, La Russa’s platform was that neither he nor his coaches saw any questionable activity by McGwire and because Mac said he was innocent, therefore he was. Instead, the above comment seems much more realistic, as any parent of teenagers might attest.

Speaking of control, there isn’t any more La Russa can do to control Hall of Fame voters to alter their lack of support of McGwire. With the exception of one or two comments perhaps, Tony has made these same points in defending McGwire many times.

For the first time in my recollection, and I have followed this story closely for some time, La Russa has publicly urged McGwire to clear the air.

I say “bravo” to that. McGwire belongs in the Hall, but it doesn’t look like he is going to get there unless he takes responsibility for change.

Cardinals television update – 01/19/09


This the time of year when news of television schedules for all major league clubs start to trickle out. Of course that includes the St. Louis Cardinals. This post is an update of my January 8 report.


MLB Network and spring games

Probably the main reason for this post is my excitement over the MLB Network’s television plans for spring training. Starting on February 25, their published schedule lists three live spring games at 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm Eastern on most days.

Teams are not yet announced, but it seems logical that MLB Network might pick up some feeds from team-oriented networks. Of course, the schedules could change, but I consider this very good news.

MLB Network will also provide televised coverage of selected World Baseball Classic games, as well.


Cardinals to be featured on MLB Network

MLB Network plans to travel around to all 30 clubs’ spring training camps and will be running a daily program covering one team per day. The Cardinals’ day in the spotlight will be on Friday, February 27.

The one-hour program will run four times, three times on the 27th with the first actually scheduled at 11:30 pm Eastern the night before, on February 26.

“An In-Depth Look at the 2009 Team Featuring Player, Coach and GM Interviews; Expert Analysis on Personnel and Other Decisions for the Upcoming Regular Season,” says their program schedule.


First opponent spring TV game

The Minnesota Twins have announced their spring television schedule with their Sunday, March 29th game against the visiting Cardinals among the telecasts. The game will start at 1:05 pm ET and will be on local Minneapolis-St. Paul WFTC-29 and Fox Sports North.


Big FOX regular season games

The Cardinals are already scheduled on the national FOX network for nine regular season Saturday afternoon games, including three during April. This is in addition to the April 19 Cubs game previously put on the ESPN schedule. In fact, five of the ten national games are against the Chicagoans.

The games:

Sat., April 11 vs. Astros FOX

Sat., April 18 @ Cubs FOX

Sun., April 19 @ Cubs ESPN

Sat., April 25 vs. Cubs FOX

Sat., June 14 @ Indians FOX

Sat., July 11 @ Cubs FOX

Sat., July 25 @ Phillies FOX

Sat., August 1 vs. Astros FOX

Sat., September 12 vs. Braves FOX

Sat., September 19 vs. Cubs FOX

We also now know that Fox Sports Midwest will be covering 130 regular season games this coming season. Assuming all 162 games will be televised, that leaves 21 contests that are likely candidates for local KSDK Channel 5. Typically they are Sunday afternoon games.


Winter Warm-up specials on FS Midwest

Remember that starting tomorrow Tuesday, January 20, Fox Sports Midwest kicks off their 2009 coverage of Cardinals baseball with two 30-minute specials recapping the Cardinals Winter Warm-up and looking ahead to the upcoming season. Details here.

Is there a business reason to play Colby?


Other than the perceived cheapness and inaction of ownership, arguably the biggest St. Louis Cardinals story of this long 2008-2009 off-season is the timing of the long-awaited arrival in the major leagues of top prospect Colby Rasmus.

To date, almost all of the Rasmus discussion has been rightly focused upon the on-field issues. This article is going to look at the subject from the business side, rather than the baseball side only.

I have stated on many occasions my reasoning as to why the outfielder would likely not make the major league club coming out of 2009 spring training. The net version is this:

  • There are five or six outfielders ahead of Rasmus.
  • The Cards could control Rasmus from a free agency perspective one year longer if he starts his first MLB season in the minors.

Recent comments from general manager John Mozeliak have begun to erode my resolve slightly, as the GM has acknowledged that he can envision a scenario in which six outfielders, including Colby, could come north with the Cardinals.

Of course, the players still have to play in spring training and nothing is set.

Shaky business environment

On the business side, certainly we’ve heard concerns about the economy’s potential impact on Major League Baseball in 2009 from the commissioner down to the “keeping their powder dry” owners of the Cardinals.

From all appearances, the Cards are preparing for a decline in revenue for the 2009 season. I’ve heard of special incentives being offered to fans when purchasing one of the many ticket packages available. The AP has observed down attendance at the Cardinals Winter Warm-up fan fest.

One way to put fans in the seats is to offer a shiny new facility. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have already done that with the opening of the new Busch Stadium in 2006.

Another approach is to field a sure-fire winning team steaming toward the post-season. Sadly, the reality is that the Cardinals have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, despite playing winning baseball. I am not alone in my on-paper analysis that the 2009 club will again have to fight for the wild card to secure the opportunity to keep playing into mid-October.

Yet another sure way to get customers into the ballpark is to have a compelling storyline unfold, such as Mark McGwire’s 1998 quest to break the single-season home run record. Alas, unless you consider the likelihood of Albert Pujols competing for his second consecutive National League Most Valuable Player award, sadly an event taken for granted by many, prospects of such a 2009 draw seems unlikely.

Then I got to wondering. Could the presence of the hottest new rookie in the league put rear ends in the Busch Stadium seats?

Specifically, is there potential business value to the Cardinals to placing Rasmus on the major league roster and letting him play all season long?

Might such an act also come back around to potentially address some of the bad feelings permeating the team’s fan base?

Now I want to make it clear up front that I realize there are many factors, some much more compelling, that come together to determine how many fans will attend a club’s home games each season.

I am also not saying Rasmus is a lock to become the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year. Yet I cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with my assumption that he could be a prime candidate if he was actually in the big leagues and playing his kind of baseball every day.

Looking back

I began by looking back at the home per-game attendance numbers during the initial season of each of the recent Rookie of the Year award winners across both leagues. I wanted to determine if there are any trends that might link a top youngster with a change in attendance.

I took as my sample the dozen most recent rookies of the year across MLB. I documented their club’s per-game home attendance during that season as well as the club’s turnstile ranking among the 30 MLB clubs. I compared that to the same numbers from the year before the rookie arrived on the scene.

I had to exclude one player from the group. Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004. Due to a different seating capacity and first-year excitement, attendance counts were skewed badly. Certainly the change should be attributed to the park, not the player. Therefore, Ryan Howard’s 2004-2005 comparison is purposely omitted.

Year Lg ROY Tm Att year Att rank Att yr -1 y-1 rk Att chg Rk chg
2008 AL Evan Longoria TB 22,259 26 17,130 29 5,129 3
NL Geovany Soto CHC 40,743 7 40,153 6 590 -1
2007 AL Dustin Pedroia Bos 36,679 11 36,189 10 490 -1
NL Ryan Braun Mil 35,421 12 28,835 17 6,586 5
2006 AL Justin Verlander Det 32,048 13 25,306 21 6,742 8
NL Hanley Ramirez Fla 14,372 30 22,871 28 -8,499 -2
2005 AL Huston Street Oak 26,038 19 27,179 19 -1,141 0
NL Ryan Howard * Phi
2004 AL Bobby Crosby Oak 27,179 19 27,365 17 -186 -2
NL Jason Bay Pit 21,107 27 20,983 26 124 -1
2003 AL Angel Berroa KC 22,732 22 17,182 27 5,550 5
NL Dontrelle Willis Fla 16,290 28 10,038 29 6,252 1
Total 15,385 14
Avg. per game 1399 1
* new ballpark

In eight of the eleven cases, attendance rose during the player’s rookie year compared to the prior season.

On the average, the difference was a one-place improvement in the MLB attendance rankings and 1,400 fans per game. However, to be fairer, we need to determine the general increase or decrease in per-game attendance across all of MLB and subtract it out to come up with our theoretical rookie-only impact.

Here are the MLB average attendances per game by year and compared to the previous year.

Year Attendance/game MLB YTY change
2008 32,543 -242
2007 32,785 1,360
2006 31,425 451
2005 30,974 573
2004 30,401 2,349
2003 28,052 -82
2002 28,134

Now we will combine the two tables. We can see that of the 1,400 fans-per-game increase across MLB, 764 of them were general growth that all teams on the average saw. The portion we might attribute to the presence of the rookie is the difference, 634 people per game.

Yr vs. Yr -1 Lg Rookie att change MLB att change Difference
2008 vs 07 AL 5,129 -242 5,371
NL 590 -242 832
2007 vs 06 AL 490 1,360 -870
NL 6,586 1,360 5,226
2006 vs 05 AL 6,742 451 6,291
NL -8,499 451 -8,950
2005 vs 04 AL -1,141 573 -1,714
NL
2004 vs 03 AL -186 2,349 -2,535
NL 124 2,349 -2,225
2003 vs 02 AL 5,550 -82 5,632
NL 6,252 82 6,170
Total 15,385 8,409 6,976
Avg / game 1,399 764 634

Over the course of an 81-game home slate, that works out to an attendance increase of 51,354 for the regular season. With the Cardinals’ average ticket price of $28 (per Forbes), that could bring in another $1.44 million in gate revenue alone.

Not a bad return for a player that would cost just $400,000 in salary, also surely less that the player he would be replacing on the roster.

Looking ahead

To continue the look and possibly provide additional substantiation, I did a similar analysis for these same 12 rookies, but this time looking ahead to the next season following their respective rookie campaigns instead of backward.

One might speculate that part of the rookie’s halo effect on fan attendance may carry over into the next year. If you can buy the year one connection offered above, the data does seem to support a year two impact, too.

Of course, this removes the two 2008 Rookies of the Year from consideration, since we don’t know yet how their clubs will draw in 2009.

Year Lg ROY Tm Att year Att rank Att yr +1 y+1 rk Att chg Rk chg
2008 AL Evan Longoria TB 22,259 26 TBD
NL Geovany Soto CHC 40,743 7 TBD
2007 AL Dustin Pedroia Bos 36,679 11 37,632 10 953 1
NL Ryan Braun Mil 35,421 12 37,882 9 2,461 3
2006 AL Justin Verlander Det 32,048 13 37,619 9 5,571 4
NL Hanley Ramirez Fla 14,372 30 16,619 30 2,247 0
2005 AL Huston Street Oak 26,038 19 24,402 26 -1,636 -7
NL Ryan Howard Phi 33,316 13 34,200 11 884 2
2004 AL Bobby Crosby Oak 27,179 19 26,038 19 -1,141 0
NL Jason Bay Pit 21,107 27 23,003 27 1,896 0
2003 AL Angel Berroa KC 22,732 22 21,031 28 -1,701 -6
NL Dontrelle Willis Fla 16,290 28 22,091 26 5,801 2
Total 9,534 -3
Avg. per game 953 0

Seven of the ten clubs saw an increase in attendance the year following their player’s Rookie of the Year season, averaging 953 more fans per game. Ironically, after taking out the general attendance increase across MLB, the remainder which we are claiming to the benefit of the presence of the Rookie of the Year is 635 fans. That is basically identical to the 634 incremental fans noted in year one.

Yr vs. Yr +1 Lg Rookie att change MLB att change Difference
2008 vs 09 AL TBD TBD
NL TBD TBD
2007 vs 08 AL 953 -242 1,195
NL 2,461 -242 2,703
2006 vs 07 AL 5,571 1,360 4,211
NL 2,247 1,360 887
2005 vs 06 AL -1,636 451 -2,087
NL 884 451 433
2004 vs 05 AL -1,141 573 -1,714
NL 1,896 573 1,323
2003 vs 04 AL -1,701 2,349 -4,050
NL 5,801 2,349 3,452
Total 9,534 8,982 6,353
Avg / game 953 898 635

Assuming no ticket price increases, those 635 additional people every game would potentially generate the same $1.44 million in ticket revenue alone the season following the rookie year.

In addition, the fan goodwill generated by promoting Rasmus right away cannot be measured, but it could be substantial.

If the Cardinals decide to go this way and Rasmus brings his “A game” to start the season, the resulting positive impact would surely stretch beyond the numbers on this page.

Pujols recovery tangles WBC participation


In a report published on Monday by ElHeraldo.com.co, a Barranquilla, Colombia newspaper, Stan Javier, the general manager of the Dominican Republic team for the World Baseball Classic, was quoted as saying that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is one of six of his country’s players that may be out of the games due to recovery from injury.

Javier, a former major league player and son of former Cardinals second baseman Julian Javier, was interviewed on the Dominican Republic’s Channel 13’s “Sports Week” on Sunday. El Heraldo apparently picked up that report, which includes direct quotes attributed to Javier. The other Dominican players mentioned are David Ortiz, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Pena.

I should reinforce that this news should be considered unofficial and has not yet been verified. At times in the past, news reports out of the Caribbean have been erroneous. The telephone-like chain in this case adds to the risk.

We may know very soon, however. At 6 pm EDT today, Monday, provisional rosters for each of the 16 countries participating in the WBC will be released. These 45-man rosters are not the final 28 players that will be active for each team in the tournament. That list is not due until February 24. However, the final 28 must be selected from the 45-man provisional lists.

In Pujols’ specific case, he is speaking this afternoon at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-up fan event in St. Louis and I hope to confirm or refute his part of the report later today.

The second World Baseball Classic will run from March 5-23.


Update
(1/19, 3:15 pm CST): Speaking at WWU, Pujols acknowledged there is an insurance-related hold up over him (and others) coming off injury. However, he reiterated his excitement about playing in the WBC.

One would think that if the players want to play, these issues will be resolved.

Pujols said that he is already hitting but hasn’t thrown yet, and will not do so until spring camp. If he feels any twinge in the elbow, he will pull out of the WBC.


Update #2
(1/19 6:00 pm CST): Here is a first look at provisional WBC rosters. I will add others as I get them. Remember that not all these guys will necessarily play.

USA: Ryan Ludwick
Puerto Rico: Joel Pineiro, Yadier Molina
Dominican Republic: Albert Pujols


Update #3
(1/19 6:45 pm CST): Matthew Leach has all the details: link. He thinks Pujols may not play after all, and Ludwick will decline.

“The provisional rosters also include five Cardinals Minor Leaguers. Pitcher Blake Hawksworth is on the Canadian roster, infielder Curt Smith is on the Dutch roster, and infielder Isa Garcia and pitcher Arquimedes Nieto are on the Venezuelan roster. Pitcher Adam Ottavino is on the Italian provisional roster.”


Update #4
(1/20 6:30 am CST): Joe Strauss fills in the insurance liability details. To their credit, the original Colombian/Dominican report was right on, in Pujols case at least.


Update #5
(1/20 1:30 pm CST) This is taking on a life of its own. An ESPN Deportes report in Spanish notes the first wave of Dominican players have arrived in camp in Jupiter, including Big Papi. Stan Javier is quoted as saying that Pujols and A-Rod are expected around the 27th or 28th. No mention of the insurance issue, though…

The Cardinals “Let ‘em Go” Team


Monitoring some of the squabble over on the Scout.com message board over the St. Louis Cardinals letting players go like utility infielder Aaron Miles, reliever Russ Springer, starter Braden Looper and even closer Jason Isringhausen seems an extension of the grilling general manager John Mozeilak has received at the Winter Warm-up fan fest this weekend.

Like so many of the off-season concerns expressed recently, they aren’t new. Yet over time, the facts seem to support the view that the Cardinals have done a pretty good job of letting players leave before they hit bottom.

The jury will be out for some time as to the wisdom of any of the recent departures including Miles’ case, the one that currently seems to be most anger-causing.

In the meantime, I thought I would put together a Cardinals “Let ‘em Go” Team from this decade, just to remind us all that the guys in charge of the team generally do seem to know what they are doing.

To qualify for this team, the Cardinals player had to leave St. Louis as a free agent since 2000 and sign a subsequent contract with a new organization. In some cases, the Cardinals may have been in the bidding, but at some point, another club bested their offer. Other times, St. Louis may never have made a serious bid for the player to return. In selecting players, strong preference was given to players that turned out to be overpaid and underperforming in their new locales.

With the late addition of first baseman John Mabry, I was able to build a full lineup, including five starting pitchers and a reliever throwing from each side. Given the middle infield churn in recent years, it wasn’t surprising that five of them are on the team. Outfield was the biggest challenge to fill, but ultimately, three examples could be found.

While most of these moves occurred on the watch of former GM Walt Jocketty, Mozeliak was previously his top assistant and seems to have adopted a similar stance in such matters.

I’ve been around long enough to remember each one of the situations listed below and recall at least some considerable segment of the Cardinal Nation complaining about the team’s loss every single time. Yet the reality is that it is a necessary part of the game.

In StL New tm New team $ Comp pks Results
Starters
Matt Morris 1997-05 SF + 3 yrs/$27M Perez Went 20-30 with a 5 ERA in 2+ years before abruptly retiring.
Furnish
Woody Williams 2001-04 SD + 1 yr/$3.5M Went 29-32 with 4.66 ERA for 3 years before retiring at 40.
Jeff Weaver 2006 SEA + 1 yr/$8.3M Went 7-13 with 6.20 ERA for ’07 Mariners. Now in minors.
Jeff Suppan 2004-06 MIL 4 yrs/$42M Mortensen 22-22 with 4.78 ERA in 2 years; 15 ERA in one playoff game.
Kopp
Jason Marquis 2004-06 CHC + 3 yrs/$21M More of same with CHC; booted from rotation & traded to COL.
Relievers
Julian Tavarez 2004-05 BOS + 2 yrs/$6.7M Left off BOS ’06 playoff roster, now a journeyman free agent.
Steve Kline 2001-04 BAL + 2 yrs/$5.5M Unpopular in BAL after wishing he’d stayed in StL.
Catcher
Mike Matheny 2000-04 SF 3 yrs/$10.5M Herron Due to concussions, played in just 181 games before retiring.
Infield
John Mabry 2004-05* CHC + 1 y/$1.075M Hit .205 for ’06 Cubs, got 34 ABs with COL in ’07 and retired.
Fernando Vina 2000-03 DET 2 yrs/$6M Hit .226 in 115 ABs for DET in ’04. Later comeback failed.
Craig Paquette 1999-01 DET 2 yrs/$5M DET got 280 ABs at a .189 rate before he retired.
Tony Womack 2004 NYY 2 yrs/$4M Lasted 108 gms in the Bronx. 28 more G in ’06 & was done.
David Eckstein 2005-07 TOR + 1 yr/$4.5M Already on 3rd team since StL. Signed w/SD for $850K for ’09.
Edgar Renteria 1999-04 BOS + 4 yrs/$40M Rasmus BOS paid $11M to get ATL to take him. On 4th team since StL.
McCormick
Abraham Nunez 2005 PHI + 2 yrs/$3.35M Hamilton Batted .221 next two years in PHI. Trying to get back to MLB.
Outfield
Reggie Sanders 2004-05 KC 2 yrs/$10M Only 408 ABs in KC due to knee and hamstrings, then retired.
So Taguchi 2002-07 PHI + 1 yr/$900K .220 avg in just 91 ABs for ’08 world champs. Now a Cub.
Eric Davis 1999-00 SF 1 yr/$1.5M Batted .205 in 156 ABs for ’01 Giants before hanging them up.

+ denotes having played with multiple clubs since leaving the Cardinals

* third and final stint with St. Louis

In many cases, the big savings was in money not spent. Matt Morris (pictured – $27 million) and Edgar Renteria ($40 million) are good examples of this.

For other ex-Cards, the savings came in the form of negatives avoided as the player’s results on the field dropped off badly upon leaving St. Louis. For example, among the starting pitchers, only Jason Marquis had an above-.500 record after leaving the Cards and he was recently booted out of the Cubs rotation before being shipped to pitching purgatory, otherwise known as Colorado. The Cubs also paid the Rox $875,000 to take him.

Other benefits were gained down the line in players received via compensatory draft picks. For example, the reason Chris Perez is the favorite to become the Cardinals closer is because the team received a supplemental pick when Morris signed with the San Francisco Giants. Even better is top prospect Colby Rasmus, selected with Boston’s first-round pick in 2005 forfeited when the Sox signed Renteria.

Finally, some gains were achieved in roster savings such as when popular outfield reserve So Taguchi departed, making room for a younger, more talented player such as Skip Schumaker.

Not all the divorces were amicable, as several of the departing players grumbled about having been left in limbo by the organization. In other words, their feelings were hurt over not being told their services were no longer required as the club evaluated alternatives.

Still, with the full benefit of hindsight, when looking at the end results is there a single player on this list that the Cardinals should have kept?

So rather than complain about Miles and the other 2008 Cardinals that are gone for 2009, at least wait until next season is over to pass judgment.

Cards minors strength and conditioning intern program continues


Prior to the 2007 season, then assistant GM John Mozeliak brought forward an innovative proposal with business case to add strength and conditioning interns at every level of the St. Louis Cardinals organization’s minor league system.

The idea was to not only focus on development of the prospects, but also to free up the existing minor league trainers for their primary job of injury prevention and of course treatment.

When introduced, the plan was for a group of locally-based interns to execute a consistent organization-wide conditioning program under the direction of the major league club’s longtime strength and conditioning coach Pete Prinzi.

The organization must be pleased with the results as they are continuing this program for a third season in 2009. They currently have posted job openings for strength and conditioning interns in both Memphis and Jupiter for the Redbirds and Palm Beach Cardinals, respectively.

Responsibilities include: “Work and travel with team, lead daily stretch and conditioning, supervise weight room, record weigh-ins, report to coordinator regularly.”

The positions pay $1100 per month plus meal money. If you’re qualified or know someone who is, more information can be found here.

Cash-strapped Post-Dispatch parent sold Cardinals stake


The reporters and columnists from St. Louis’ only daily newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, can no longer move about this weekend’s Cardinals Winter Warm-up as if they own the place.

Their parent company, the financially-strapped Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, sold their partial ownership stake in the St. Louis Cardinals, apparently to the majority ownership group led by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William O. DeWitt Jr. The media company had assumed a 2.7% share of the club via their 2005 purchase of Pulitzer Inc, then-owner of the newspaper.

At the time of the original 2001 acquisition, it was reported that the Cardinals ownership shares of Pulitzer Inc. and chairman Michael Pulitzer, who also held a personal interest in the team, totaled nearly 4%. No word that the recent transaction affected Pulitzer’s individual stake.

The amount generated by Lee’s sale, which reportedly occurred last summer, and exactly which of the other 14 members of the team’s ownership group picked up the 2.7% were not announced.

Yet, we can estimate the value of the transaction, based on Forbes’ annual valuation of all 30 MLB clubs. In their annual report on the Business of Baseball released in April, Forbes established the value of the Cardinals at $484 million. Therefore, a 2.7 percent stake would be worth just over $13 million, not enough to put a dent in the huge financial problems facing Lee Enterprises.

The biggest news as part of Friday’s announcement, as reported in the Post-Dispatch, is that Lee has been given a waiver until the end of the month on $306 million of debt. It was reported that Lee and their creditors are actively working on an extension with the waiver buying more time to complete the negotiations and keep the company from defaulting on their debt agreement.

Note: Link to December 18 article, “Cardinals Minority Owner in Serious Financial Trouble

The lost art of Cardinals strikeouts


Though no one knew it at the time, June 13, 2006 would become a milestone for the St. Louis Cardinals. On that evening in Pittsburgh, reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter fanned 13 Pirates in seven shutout innings of work.

Since then, the Cardinals have gone 422 games and counting without a ten strikeout performance by any pitcher. Unless Carpenter is able to return to his previous proficiency level in 2009, the prospect of the drought being broken any time soon seems unlikely.

Maybe that was partly what Carp was thinking about when he told the Boston Globe the following last weekend:

“After two very frustrating and miserable years, I just want to feel healthy again. I feel if my arm and elbow are fine, I’ll be able to do what I’ve always done.”

One of the things the Cardinals ace has always been able to do on the mound is to get the big strikeout in a crucial situation.

We are all probably ever-so familiar with the Tony La Russa/Dave Duncan “pitch to contact” philosophy. I am not here to bash that, as it has worked for them. It also may at least partially be a reflection of the strengths of a majority their personnel.

On the other hand, is there a more macho play in all of sports than the strikeout – one on one, pitcher against hitter? When the hurler dominates, the batter is returned meekly to his dugout.

Let’s face it. Would the final out of the 2006 National League Championship Series have been remembered even a week later if Adam Wainwright had retired the Mets’ Carlos Beltran on a 6-3 grounder instead of looking at an amazing curveball?

Better yet, Wainwright also polished off the Detroit Tigers’ Brandon Inge on another K to secure the last out of the 2006 World Series. But who remembers the first step, the NLDS win? Yet had that not occurred first, the rest would never have happened. For the record, San Diego’s Dave Roberts grounded out to Albert Pujols. How utterly boring!

Back on point, statman extraordinare Tom Orf pulled some lists that illustrate the dying art of the Cardinals double-digit strikeout performance.

In the last 50 years, since 1959, team pitchers have registered 194 performances of ten strikeouts or more. While that averages almost four per year, the reality is that without Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, who retired following the 1975 season, the Cardinals half-century total would be a meager 120.

To help put those counts into perspective, one man alone, albeit MLB’s leading active strikeout pitcher and second all-time, Randy Johnson, has amassed some 212 games of ten or more Ks since his 1998 debut.

Closer to home, despite the strikeout-averse reputation of the current Cardinals coaches, at first blush, the TLR/DD years look fairly normal. Since 1996, St. Louis pitchers have amassed 60 ten strikeout games. Upon further analysis, however, over 75% of them occurred in the first five seasons of the La Russa reign behind the Benes brothers, Todd Stottlemyre and yes, Rick Ankiel. Andy had ten, Todd eight and Alan and Rick six.

Of course with Ankiel, I am referring to his superb 2000 season, a year in which he registered all six of his ten K performances. That total represents the Cardinals’ highest single season count of such games since Gibson’s seven accrued thirty years earlier, back in 1970.

I already mentioned Gibson’s career total of 74 ten strikeout games. As good as Ankiel was in 2000, Gibson had six different seasons as good or better, led by his magical 1968 campaign, during which he fanned ten or more batters 11 different times.

While Ankiel reached ten six times, he did not fan as many as 12 in any one game. In contrast, over his 17-year career, Gibson fanned 12 or more on a single day 30 different times.

Since 1903, Gibby is also the Cardinals post-season king, with five of the club’s seven 10 or more strikeout games. Mort Cooper and Grover Cleveland Alexander also cracked that list.

Gibson’s top playoff performance was in Game One of the 1968 World Series. On October 2, 1968, he fanned 17 Detroit Tigers while leading the Cardinals to a 4-0 shutout. It was arguably the greatest-pitched game in the history of the old Busch Stadium (Busch Stadium II), and shattered the World Series record of 15 that had been held by Sandy Koufax.

But as many Cardinals fans may know, Gibson doesn’t hold the club’s single game record. That is 19 Ks, collected by Steve Carlton on September 15, 1969. Ironically, the Cardinals lost 4-3 to the Mets that evening. Carlton had set his own team record of 16 two years prior, on September 20, 1967.

Though “Lefty” pitched for St. Louis for just five full seasons, he owned three of the top four highest one-game regular season strikeout totals in team history at the time he left the club. And he still does today. Carlton fanned 16 again on May 21, 1970 and ironically two days later, Gibson repeated the feat. Carlton did it in just eight innings, while Gibson went a full nine.

The Cardinals opponent in that pair of games was none other than the Philadelphia Phillies. Less than two years later, over a salary dispute, Carlton ended up a member of that very club, where he would remain for over 14 years. Lefty went on to finish fourth all-time in Major League Baseball history with over 4000 strikeouts.

Once Gibson retired, the Cardinals’ double-digit strikeout games essentially dried up. For the 12 years from 1976 though 1987, including the “Whiteyball” success years, the club had just three 10 K games. That was an amazing dry run considering the span was of almost 2000 games in duration.

After three years of Jose DeLeon logging a total of nine ten-plus strikeout games from 1988 through 1990, the final five years before La Russa’s arrival for the 1996 season saw six more such contests.

For the years 2001-2004, Matt Morris led the club each season, but totaled only eight 10 K games. Carpenter followed with four in his Cy Young Award 2005 season, which brings us right back to where we started – June 13, 2006, his only ten strikeout game that year – 422 games ago and counting.


Again, a special thanks to Tom Orf for his research, the basis for this article. His lists follow.

St. Louis Cardinals

Most ten or more strikeout games in a season

1959-2008

Year Pitcher #
1968 Gibson 11
1969 Gibson 9
1965 Gibson 8
1970 Gibson 7
1962 Gibson 6
1967 Gibson 6
2000 Ankiel 6
1963 Gibson 5
1964 Gibson 5
1966 Gibson 5
1969 Carlton 5
1972 Gibson 5
1997 An. Benes 5
2000 Kile 5
2001 Morris 4
2005 Carpenter 4

St. Louis Cardinals

Ten or more strikeout games by season

1959-2008

Team Year Pitcher # Pitcher # Pitcher # Pitcher # Pitcher #
3 1959 Gibson 1 Broglio 1 Mizell 1
4 1960 Broglio 3 Mizell 1
2 1961 Gibson 1 Sadecki 1
8 1962 Gibson 6 Broglio 1 Simmons 1
8 1963 Gibson 5 Broglio 1 Sadecki 1 Washburn 1
6 1964 Gibson 5 Sadecki 1
9 1965 Gibson 8 Sadecki 1
5 1966 Gibson 5
9 1967 Gibson 6 Carlton 2 Hughes 1
12 1968 Gibson 11 Briles 1
14 1969 Gibson 9 Carlton 5
11 1970 Gibson 7 Carlton 3 Torrez 1
8 1971 Gibson 2 Carlton 2 Reuss 2 Cleveland 1 Guzman 1
8 1972 Gibson 5 Spinks 1 Wise 1 Santorini 1
2 1973 Gibson 2
2 1974 Gibson 1 Siebert 1
3 1975 McGlothen 2 Gibson 1
1 1976 McGlothen 1
0 1977
1 1978 Urrea 1
1 1979 Vukovich 1
0 1980-1985
1 1986 Conroy 1
0 1987
3 1988 DeLeon 3
4 1989 DeLeon 4
3 1990 DeLeon 2 Magrane 1
0 1991
3 1992 Cormier 2 Osborne 1
0 1993
1 1994 Tewksbury 1
2 1995 Al.Benes 1 Petkovsek 1
6 1996 Al.Benes 2 An.Benes 2 Stottlemyre 2
12 1997 An.Benes 5 Al.Benes 4 Stottlemyre 3
5 1998 Stottlemyre 3 Morris 2
2 1999 Bottenfield 1 Oliver 1
14 2000 Ankiel 6 Kile 5 An.Benes 3
7 2001 Morris 4 Kile 3
4 2002 Morris 2 Finley 2
1 2003 Morris 1
3 2004 Morris 1 Williams 1 Carpenter 1
5 2005 Carpenter 4 Mulder 1
1 2006 Carpenter 1
0 2007
0 2008
194

St. Louis Cardinals

Ten or more strikeout games

1959-2008

19 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 Total
Bob Gibson 1 2 3 10 14 18 26 74
Steve Carlton 1 2 4 1 5 13
Matt Morris 1 3 6 10
Andy Benes 2 2 6 10
Jose DeLeon 1 8 9
Todd Stottlemyre 2 1 5 8
Darryl Kile 2 6 8
Alan Benes 4 3 7
Chris Carpenter 1 1 2 2 6
Rick Ankiel 4 2 6
Ernie Broglio 1 1 4 6
Ray Sadecki 1 3 4
Lynn McGlothen 3 3
Chuck Finley 1 1 2
Rheal Cormier 1 1 2
Vinegar Bend Mizell 2 2
Jerry Reuss 2 2
Scipio Spinks 1 1
Dick Hughes 1 1
Mark Mulder 1 1
Pete Vukovich 1 1
Al Santorini 1 1
Woody Williams 1 1
Darren Oliver 1 1
Joe Magrane 1 1
Tim Conroy 1 1
Sonny Siebert 1 1
Curt Simmons 1 1
Mark Petkovek 1 1
Bob Tewksbury 1 1
Donovan Osborne 1 1
Nelson Briles 1 1
Ray Washburn 1 1
Mike Torrez 1 1
Reggie Cleveland 1 1
Santiago Guzman 1 1
Rick Wise 1 1
John Urrea 1 1
Kent Bottenfield 1 1
Totals 1 3 2 4 17 27 44 96 194
Strikeouts 19 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 Total

St. Louis Cardinals

Six or more strikeout games – Postseason

1959-2008 17 13 12 10 9 8 7 6 Total
Bob Gibson 1 1 3 2 1 1 9
John Tudor 1 1 2 4
Chris Carpenter 1 2 3
Danny Cox 1 2 3
Andy Benes 1 1 2
Matt Morris 2 2
Todd Stottlemyre 1 1 2
Woody Williams 1 1 2
1903-1958
Bill Hallahan 1 2 3
Burleigh Grimes 1 2 3
Dizzy Dean 2 2
Max Lanier 1 1 2
Mort Cooper 1 1 1 3
Pete Alexander 1 1 2
Totals 1 1 1 4 4 5 8 18 42

Could Mather at third help unlock Colby in the outfield?


To be honest, until recently I hadn’t been all that energized over the potential of seeing many pitched battles in spring training for roster spots on the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals. Instead, I was thinking more about likelihood of gauging the health of Chris Carpenter daily and interpreting its impact in solidifying the rotation and bullpen.

However, that was before recent comments coming out of the Cardinals brass that actually have me gotten me kind of excited.

Why? Colby Rasmus and Joe Mather are why.


Rasmus considerations

For two reasons, I had previously felt quite strongly that top prospect Rasmus would not make the team out of spring training no matter how well he played. That may still be the case, but the door has now been opened a crack.

First, there are the five incumbent outfielders ahead of Colby – Rick Ankiel, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick, Chris Duncan and Mather. Six if you count 2008 Rule 5 pick Brian Barton. Sure, one or more could be traded, but that hasn’t happened yet and very well may not. I also never take the easy way out in roster questions by assuming players will become injured. I consider that a copout to avoid making tough calls.

The second Rasmus reason is clearly still valid. That is financial. Ensuring Colby does not spend his entire first season in the bigs would prevent his free agency from occurring a year sooner than would be the case otherwise. While we are talking about six years from now, it is still very significant – a whole additional season under team control.

But this post isn’t about Rasmus as much as it is about Mather. One of my secondary concerns about Rasmus making the team was that if he did so over Mather, it would overbalance the outfield with four lefty hitters and just one righty (Ludwick).


Mo and TLR introduce a scenario

It seems the Cards are considering the chances of having their Rasmus cake and eating their Mather dessert, too. I offer these revealing comments that GM John Mozeliak volunteered to Hall of Famer Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch last week.

“Mozeliak ruled out nothing but also said that the Cardinals’ opening day roster might include all of the aforementioned outfielders plus rookie Colby Rasmus and Joe Mather, who last year filled a utility role, a role that might be expanded to third base and perhaps even second base this spring,” Hummel reported.

This section of the article also included a direct Mozeliak quote.

“But he (Mo) added, ‘I do think there’s a way that all these guys (the six at the big-league level) make it. There is a scenario.’”

The very next day, a Derrick Goold piece quoted manager Tony La Russa jabbing at the second base idea, but essentially backing the rest.

“After a joke about 6-foot-4 Joe Mather playing a little second base during spring training and becoming one of the tallest ever to play the position, La Russa says Mather will see time at first base, in the outfield and, yes, even third base.”

So, what is the scenario at which Mozeliak hinted?

Mather makes the team as more of an infield reserve than an outfield reserve, that’s how.


How does it all fit together?

Let’s step back for a second and consider the way the 25-man roster is typically constructed coming out of camp. The good news is that it is pretty consistent from year to year.

There are five starting pitchers, seven relievers including two lefties, and 13 position players. From there you have the eight starters and five reserves. One back up is a catcher, two are outfielders and two infielders.

We’ve already discussed the outfield situation. The reserve catcher, Jason LaRue, is set. Brendan Ryan, a middle infielder by training and out of options, is very likely one infield back up. That leaves one spot, generally to be considered the position vacated by Aaron Miles, someone who could play all over the field.

The list of current candidates for that spot is woven from an unproven, somewhat uninspiring fabric, headed by non-roster invitee and former Dodgers prospect Joe Thurston. Others in the mix are Brian Barden and Tyler Greene.


Where could Mather fit?

With Ryan able to play second, short or third, could Joe Mather handle that other infield reserve job, also providing the ability to play outfield and deliver some much-needed pop off the bench?

From the Memphis perspective, the answer is “yes”, with Thurston taking over the D’Angelo Jimenez veteran middle infielder role, and Barden, Greene and Jarrett Hoffpauir also competing for Triple-A at-bats.

Another player that will likely be considered for a St. Louis opening is third baseman David Freese. He has a nice bat and is a more accomplished third baseman, though he seems to lack Mather’s versatility.

Let’s go around the diamond with Mather. We don’t know if he can pitch an inning in a blowout like Miles but he may be able to serve as third-string emergency catcher. Mather played behind the plate in at least one game in 2007 with Memphis.

We also know that he can play all three outfield positions quite handily as well as cover at first base, providing a right-handed hitting reserve to complement the lefty-hitting Duncan behind Albert Pujols.

As La Russa noted, the 6-foot-4 Mather would be a tall second baseman and Joe has apparently never played there. On the other hand, Cal Ripken, the same height as Mather, single-handedly destroyed the myth that shortstop has to be a “short” position.

Mather grew up playing the infield, specifically on the left side, and still considers that his first love. Yet since he has rarely played shortstop professionally, he still has to be considered only an emergency option there.

“In high school, I played third base my junior year and shortstop my senior year. When I signed, my first year with the Cardinals in ’01, I played third and short,” Mather reminded me Thursday.

Third base is really the wild card. While starter Troy Glaus was a durable performer in his first year in St. Louis in 2008, he has had injury problems in the past. Ryan can play the position defensively, but is a bit erratic there and lacks the power of a Mather.

While having manned at the hot corner in the past, it has been a long time for Mather. First, I asked him if the rumors from St. Louis had reached Arizona.

“Yeah, my Dad and my sister got a hold of that and called me right away… I think that would be great. I would definitely welcome it. I grew up playing shortstop and third base so any time I can get in there I’d love it and hopefully I’ll prove I can still play there,” he explained.

Next, I probed a bit more about his third base history. Officially, Mather played some there professionally from 2001 through 2004. I believe his last official regular season game action at third prior to 2008 was a single appearance in 2005 while he was still in A-ball at Palm Beach.

I had forgotten that in one of his 54 major league games last season, the 26-year-old did make his MLB debut at third base. He had no chances defensively, however. I asked Mather his comfort level playing at the hot corner.

“I am pretty comfortable. They put me there in a couple of spring training games at Triple-A. I played third. I ended up getting a couple of balls and made the plays. I think one of those things that I’ve done my whole life to a point I can get back to being decent over there pretty quickly. When it comes to maybe being an all-star, that might take a few years,” he cracked.

“Getting back into it and taking as many reps as I can; I think that with a little work, I can be good enough over there to play in the big leagues,” Mather concluded.

My nagging concern is how he is going to get those needed third base reps in spring camp. Will it be in major league games? If so, how short will his leash be?

Last March, I recall probing this same exact line of thinking, asking La Russa point blank if Mather was going to play at third base in spring games. His reply was a curt, direct, “Not here”.

As noted above, Mather did see some time at third base with Memphis, though not in even one actual game. Still, he is ready to do anything needed to remain with the Cardinals, even if it is as a reserve infielder/outfielder.

“Absolutely, I’ll take that role. Any role in St. Louis is going to be better than a role in the minor leagues. I’ve played in the minor leagues for a few years (starting in 2001),” the outfielder understated.

It is a year later and with different variables, but it seems the pressure could be squarely on Mather early in camp to prove his mettle at third base. Doing so would really improve his chances of making the season-opening MLB roster for the very first time.

At least tangentially, it could also help grease the skids for his pal Rasmus.

“I’m great friends with Colby. We’ve roomed together for I think the last two or three years and it would be great to have us both up there. I know that Colby is chomping at the bit to get up there and prove how good he is,” Mather concluded.

All he wants is a chance to prove himself like Joe Mather did in 2008.


Note:
Scout.com subscribers can listen to the entire Mather audio interview in his own words here. Among the other topics are how and when he was injured, why his problem won’t be coming back, his workout plans in the off-season, a trip back to his old high school that led to a contest and an honor, his plans to attend Winter Warm-up and more!

Cardinals minor matters – January 15


For those who haven’t embraced the news reader age but are pressed for time (who isn’t?) and don’t want to check many different St. Louis Cardinals-related websites, a perfect answer is “Cardinals Best News Links”. There, a short description and links to many of the top Cards stories of the day are offered in one place.

With the computer of its proprietor, Josh Jones, out with a winter virus, I thought I’d pinch hit with a few of the more off-the-wall, out of the way links to articles I’ve run across in the last 24 hours or so. CBNL will be back up to date very soon.


Where are they now? – Pitts, Bialas, Riggins, Leyva and Riggleman

The current whereabouts of five ex-Arkansas Travelers, the old Cardinals’ Texas League affiliate are provided. Mark Riggins left the Cards for the Cubs in the big changes around the time of the Walt Jocketty departure. Jim Riggleman was treated a bit rudely in Seattle, but is in another Washington, DC, now. In a move one could see coming, Gaylen Pitts was recently replaced as Palm Beach manager and is now a roving instructor for the organization.


Scully’s commentary of Larsen’s perfect WS game

If you’re like me, you’ve taken a shine to the new MLB Network. The network’s inaugural broadcast was of the telecast of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In a nice touch, they had the battery of Larsen and Yogi Berra in the studio to comment between innings.

Yet the then-28-year-old broadcaster who covered the final innings on television that day, the Hall-of-Famer Vin Scully, was noticeably absent. MLB should have had Vin there, plain and simple.

The next best thing happened when the LA Times interviewed Scully after he watched the MLB Network replay. It is well worth the read.


Springfield at Quad Cites

The Cardinals Double-A club will invade the Quad Cities for an exhibition game on April 5th. The teams will already be well-familiar with each other, having just flown north from training camp in sunny Florida.


Winter Warm-up: during and after

The Cardinals have released the signing times and speaking slots and locations for this coming weekend’s fan event in St. Louis. The entire Winter Warm-up schedule is too unwieldy to fully reproduce here, but MLB.com has highlighted the top speakers at the link provided. If you have further questions, drop a comment below and I will try to assist.

Our friends at Fox Sports Midwest just announced their WWU plans. Starting on Tuesday, January 20, they kick off their 2009 coverage of St. Louis Cardinals baseball with two 30-minute specials recapping the Cardinals Winter Warm-up and looking ahead to the upcoming season.

For those who cannot be there in person, these two specials will be the next-best thing and even if you do attend, you can catch all you missed. Details here.


Duncan clears waivers

As I mentioned the other day, Chris Duncan’s brother Shelly was booted off the New York Yankees’ 40-man roster in favor of some guy named Teixeira. Shelly cleared waivers and is now in Triple-A.


Izzy groundswell in Detroit?

This is especially good timing coming off my account yesterday of Jason Isringhausen’s final Cardinals save. The Detroit Free Press is endorsing the Tigers signing Izzy to help fill their closing need. For a club that stuck with shaky Todd Jones for years, Izzy seems a natural fit for Jim Leyland’s Tigers.


“Can Jason Varitek Escape his Predicament?

Scott Boras/Jason Varitek passed up an almost assured $10 million via arbitration for Boston’s catcher and now could be forced to sign a minor-league deal. Few if any starting catching jobs are open and Pudge Rodriguez is among those also still looking.

The concept of Type A free agent ‘Tek having to sign a minor league deal because no club is willing to lose their first/second round draft pick in signing him is intriguing.  It could apply to pitcher Juan Cruz, too, a guy the Cards might be interested in if the price is right.

I wonder if Boras doesn’t do better with the biggest names than with mid-tier guys like Kyle Lohse and Varitek. Given Varitek’s career decline, passing up arbitration looks like a terrible miscalculation for the esteemed Super Agent.


Interesting P-D editorial

Already interesting on its own, but even more so since it originates from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor, the subject of this piece is the quality of sportswriting. Wonder who he had in mind?


At Scout.com

Recently, I’ve written about the Cardinals abandoning their bid to purchase the Memphis Redbirds and posted a pair of detailed articles about Cardinals prospects and the club’s comparative position to their NL Central peers.

The latter two are subscriber-only and cover the extensive work of minor league expert Deric McKamey. His fourth-annual book, the Minor League Baseball Analyst, is now out and is a must-read for minor league fans.

I will offer just one tease. Here are McKamey’s overall system rankings across MLB for the NL Central organizations: Cardinals (10), Reds (11), Brewers (13), Pirates (20), Cubs (27) and Astros (29). I am probably doing a disservice with this snippet, as what is most interesting are the comprehensive details behind how those numbers were developed. It is a much more rigorous process than most every set of system ranking systems that I have seen.

In comparing our top 15’s, we actually agree on 14 of the 15 players. Ones Deric ranks higher than me: Daryl Jones, Pete Kozma, Mitchell Boggs, Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Richard Castillo and Niko Vasquez. Players I put higher: Jason Motte, Jess Todd, David Freese, Jaime Garcia and Adam Ottavino. Where we agree exactly: Colby Rasmus, Brett Wallace, Bryan Anderson and Clayton Mortensen. What would an off-season be without prospect lists to discuss and debate?


Password problems

In an administrative note, the one regret I have so far in starting this blog is in the number of password-related problems you all have had to deal with. The system that my platform, WordPress, uses is unwieldy to be polite. I have tried to document how to change passwords, but if you can’t get in, you can’t make your change.

If you are stuck in that boat, email me at brian (at) thecardinalnation.com and I will reset your password so you can log in. Again, I apologize for the difficulties.


MyYahoo news reader

I am also fighting an incompatibility problem between WordPress and the MyYahoo RSS news reader. I am not alone with the problem, but as of yet, have not developed a solution. All other news readers are working fine. (I’d much rather write about baseball than battle technology, but it seems to go with the territory!)

2008 Cardinals-Phillies weirdness


Even before the Philadelphia Phillies were crowned the world champions of baseball for 2008, I had been thinking about the number of unusual occurrences during the very few games in which they played the St. Louis Cardinals last season.

Here are some of the milestone events that were marked as the two clubs were on the field together during 2008:

  • June 13: Mark Worrell‘s last Cardinals appearance
  • July 8: Joel Pineiro‘s first win in over two months
  • July 9: Mark Mulder‘s first and last 2008 start
  • August 1: Jason Isringhausen’s last Cardinals save

During Spring Training 2008, the odds the Phillies would win the World Series were 20/1 (the Cardinals were 40/1). Seven months later, the Phils captured their first World Championship since 1980.

Along the way, the St. Louis and Philadelphia clubs faced off in three series totaling nine games, six at Busch and three at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils took the season series five games to four.

In each of the three series, there turned out to be one or more defining event for the 2008 Cardinals.


Worrell goes down and out – Series one, game one – June 13 – Phils 20, Cards 2

The December 4 trade of disgruntled reliever Mark Worrell to San Diego in the Khalil Greene deal means that the 25-year-old pitched in his fourth and final contest wearing the birds on the bat uniform on June 13.

The previous evening, in the closing game of the prior series in Cincinnati on June 12, Worrell had his first bad outing after his initial two scoreless outings as a major leaguer. Still, it seemed trouble was on the horizon as the right hander had allowed two runners per inning pitched.

In the sixth, with two Ron Villone runners on base, Worrell was brought in to get the final out and he did. With one out in the seventh though, Worrell gave up a double and a walk. Randy Flores came in and allowed both his inherited runners to score, charged to Worrell.

Moving on to June 13th game, the first of the nine between the Cards and Phils, starter Todd Wellemeyer had served up three consecutive home runs in the first. By the fourth, Wellemeyer and Villone had the Cardinals down 13-1.

Worrell entered in the sixth with the score 14-1 and gave up three more runs. As part of a 3-for-5 day with two home runs and five runs batted in, Ryan Howard launched a three-run shot. In his defense, Worrell remained in the game to complete a total of two innings on the mound, striking out three.

Some bad blood ensued when reliever Russ Springer hit Howard with a pitch the next time up, in the eighth. The reliever and his skipper, Tony La Russa were ejected from the game. When the Phils dusted Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the frame, acting manager Jose Oquendo was also sent to an early exit.

Following the game, Worrell was sent packing, too – back to Memphis. While not defending his results, I do want to note that Worrell didn’t pitch as badly as the box score indicates. He was actually only the third least-effective pitcher for the Cardinals that evening. In his worst outing of the season, Wellemeyer was charged with eight runs and Villone six. Springer and Ryan Franklin yielded three more between them.

In the final weird occurrence that night, infielder Aaron Miles became the only St. Louis “pitcher” that day to escape unscathed when he tossed a scoreless ninth.


Pineiro’s first win in over two months – Series two, game one – July 8 – Cards 2, Phils 0

Former general manager Walt Jocketty rightfully earned his reputation as the master of the trade. This one didn’t rank highly among them. At the July, 2007 deadline, he picked pitcher Joel Pineiro off Boston’s scrap heap for minor league outfielder Sean Danielson.

After Pineiro finished the 2007 season with his best 11 games in at least the last four years, Walt’s successor and his former right-hand man John Mozeliak awarded Pineiro with a two-year, $13 million contract. Mo, still acting GM at the time, completed his first deal which both then and now looks to be one year too long and a million or two per year too high.

Fast forward to July 8, 2008. Pineiro, making $5.5 million that season, had not won a game in well over two months, since April 29. After yielding just five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings, he finally earned the decision.

Again, it wasn’t all the pitcher’s fault as he had gone 0-2 with seven no-decisions in his previous nine starts. Pineiro allowed three runs or fewer five times in that span, but couldn’t get a victory. Needless to say, the Cardinals’ shaky pen had a lot to do with that long, dry spell.


Mulder’s end of the line – Series two, game two – July 9 – Phils 4, Cards 3

The next afternoon ended quickly in what would be Mark Mulder’s final start of an extremely disappointing four-year stretch as a Cardinal. Trying to return from shoulder problems, the lefty had not looked especially good in his rehab outings, but it seemed time to find out if Mulder had anything left.

He didn’t.

The now-31-year-old had not made a major league start in over two years. On this day, two walks preceded by a strikeout ended Mulder’s start, his season and his tenure with St. Louis. Coming in with a supposed new release point, the results were pretty much the same, as the lefty complained he could not get his arm up into the proper slot.

In a bad continuance of one of Jocketty’s worst deals ever, Mulder signed a two-year extension for $13 million (what is it about those numbers?) prior to the 2007 season. In return, the Cardinals received 12 2/3 innings with an ERA well over ten.

Perhaps Jocketty was pressing in resigning Mulder after giving Oakland three players, Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton, for the lefty prior to the 2005 season. But for whatever reason, the Mulder era in St. Louis has to be considered a colossal failure.

After working with a celebrity trainer and a yoga master, Mulder is supposedly ready to go for the 2009 season, according to recent press reports offered by his agent. Mulder is currently unsigned.


Izzy’s last cheers – Series three, game one – August 1 – Cards 6, Phils 3

No one can take away the fact that Jason Isringhausen is the Cardinals’ career save leader. However, his disastrous early 2008 led to his loss of his job, an embarrassing banishment to the minors (rehabbing an injury, of course) and ultimately, his return as a general arm out of the bullpen.

Not receiving save opportunities was one downstream result from Izzy’s problems, as he was only given two chances after his June 17 return. He blew the first, on June 25. In fact since his last previous save, Izzy had blown four, taking three losses.

Upon saving Kyle Lohse’s 13th win in getting the final four outs on August 1st, Izzy still may have seen the handwriting on the wall through his post-game comments. “It’s not over yet. I’ve got to keep going out there and getting the job done or I won’t be in that role. It could be on borrowed time, so I’ve got to go out and give it my all every time,” he told the AP.

That Busch Stadium save not only represented Izzy’s first one in almost three months, it would also prove to be his last. His final 2008 appearance would occur two weeks later. Elbow surgery ensued in September, followed by free agency.

August 1 was notable for another reason. It was the last time the 2008 Cardinals were as close as four games away from the National League Central lead as they eventually fell as far back as 15 ½ games before settling in at 11 ½ games behind the Cubs to end the season.

Earlier speculation that Izzy might be offered a chance later in the off-season to return to St. Louis in 2009 has pretty much been quashed. At this point, it seems more likely that this August 1 save will forever be his last wearing the Cardinals uniform.

It was Izzy’s 12th of the season, 217th as a Cardinal and 293rd as a major leaguer.


By the way, in case you want to mark your calendars, the Cardinals and Phillies will meet only five times in 2009: two games in early May in St. Louis and three in late July in Philly. All things considered, perhaps that is for the better.

Cardinals LOOGYs: Isn’t there more to it?


“Did the Cardinals improve their lefty relief?”

That is the very question Derrick Goold set out to answer at his fine “Bird Land” blog earlier this week. As always, he assumed a calm, fact-based tone to try to either support or dispel the feelings of some about one of many volatile issues this winter – that the St. Louis Cardinals’ left-handed relief corps for 2009 is a downgrade from the crew rostered the previous season.

Goold went beyond the obvious factors of salaries, health concerns and the basic stats to consider the primary role for the three newcomers, Trever Miller, Charlie Manning and Royce Ring – how they have fared against left-handed hitters previously. The term used in support is “LOOGY”, or Lefty One-Out GuY.

After looking at measures like batting average, slugging, walk and strikeout rates, as well as mix of pitch types thrown, Derrick’s conclusion is that this 2009 crop could be just fine against lefty hitters. A few supporting quotes:

“Miller is clearly the lefty specialist they desired. With the others, the Cardinals cannot be sure of their roles or their expected contributions, as (pitching coach Dave) Duncan said, ‘yet.’”

“Both Manning and Ring have the look of a lefty who could perform in a more specified role.”

This is a well-presented case that might go a long way in soothing the concerns, especially of those who look first at salaries to judge a player’s worth. In fact, it was Derrick’s third article reviewing different aspects of Miller’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters.

At first blush, I accepted the conclusion and moved on to other matters. Yet the more I thought about it, the less comfortable I was that the analysis was complete enough for me to hang my hat on.


Is there more to consider?

Sure, getting out left-handed hitters is the primary textbook-defined role of a left-handed reliever. I readily accept that.

  • Yet especially on a Tony La Russa-managed club, is there really such a thing as a LOOGY?
  • Is potentially choosing from among three options for a LOOGY the best question to ask?

(By the way, the population of competitors is four if you include minor leaguer Ian Ostlund, who has yet to appear in the majors, but did score an invite to major league spring training. With no MLB results, Ostlund is excluded from the work that follows.)

We all know that in some cases, opposing managers will send up pinch hitters to disrupt the lefty-lefty match-ups, yet one could assume the left-handed reliever is being asked to come into the game and get out an important opposing batter, one that would not be taken out of the game.

Yet how often does a La Russa-Dave Duncan left-hander come in to pitch to just one left-handed hitter and then exit the game?

Certainly some outs are more crucial than others, but if the pitcher remains on the mound for more than one enemy batter, odds are high that next hitter is going to be a right-hander. Further, that next man up could easily be in just as crucial of a game situation as the previous left-handed batter.

In other words, my hypothesis is that the Cardinals need lefties that can get out right-handed hitters almost as badly as they need ones that can retire left-handed hitters.

Obviously, if that is the case, considering stats against lefties only is not going to provide the full picture.


How often did Ron Villone and Randy Flores face lefties?

I am going to use 2008 results to help me demonstrate this. I submit that the La Russa-Duncan usage patterns for left-handed relievers are pretty set at this stage of their coaching careers. Therefore the ability to assume 2009 deployment from 2008 usage seems reasonable, especially when considering the long course of 162 games.

We’ll start with the usage of the two from 2008, Ron Villone and Randy Flores.

2008 Cards Game appearances % Game App Batters plate appearances PA/App % PA
Ron Villone 74 229 3.1
vs. LHH 68 92% 108 1.5 47%
vs. RHH 43 58% 121 1.6 53%
Randy Flores 43 131 3.0
vs. LHH 37 86% 64 1.5 49%
vs. RHH 32 74% 67 1.6 51%
Total 117 360 3.1
vs. LHH 105 90% 172 1.5 48%
vs. RHH 75 64% 188 1.6 52%

First, note that when the two appeared in games, they each faced at least one left-handed hitter (LHH) 90% of the time. Check.

While Flores went up against right-handed hitters (RHH) more often than Villone, it is worth noting that in almost 2/3 of their collective appearances, the two left-handed relievers also faced at least one right-handed hitter.

So much for LOOGY-ness.

Going on to the right of the table, we see that they both averaged three batters faced per appearance in 2008. In terms of pure numbers of batters faced, the pair of lefties actually pitched to MORE right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters last season.

LOOGY what?


Put aside pure LOOGYness then; how did they do in facing just one batter?

Now, we’ll pull out the game logs of the two from last season. In this analysis, we are not looking at the handedness of the batter. Instead, the view is of how the LH relievers were used and how they fared in single-batter outings.

In other words, when Villone or Flores came in to face just one batter, whether righty or lefty, did they get their man?

2008 Cards Game appearances One-batter appearances % 1ba One out gotten % 1out
Ron Villone 74 32 43% 17 53%
Randy Flores 43 14 33% 8 57%
Total 117 46 39% 25 54%

To clarify, note that I did not show how each pitcher fared against their first batter faced in EVERY appearance, regardless of duration. Instead, I looked at their results in appearances when only one batter was faced. Of course, none of this assesses the cruciality of the situation.

Therefore, this is clearly just a subset of what the full first-batter results were, but still are enough to further deflate the LOOGY myth, I believe.

Last season between the two, they faced just one batter slightly under 40% of the time. In other words, Villone and Flores were NOT used as a “one-out guy” over 60% of the time.

In terms of results in their one-batter outings, collectively the two were able to secure the out only 54% of the time.

In Flores’ case, I noted an interesting pattern. From the start of the season through June 1, he was a perfect 6-for-6 in getting that one out. The rest of the way, he went an awful 2-for-8.

Now, we’re getting closer to the essence of the real issue, I think.


How do the new guys stack up?

Let’s shift gears to the new lefties and see how they compare, using their 2008 regular season results.

2008 Game appearances One-batter appearances % 1ba One out gotten % 1out
Trever Miller 68 20 29% 15 75%
Charlie Manning 57 16 28% 12 75%
Royce Ring 42 19 45% 15 79%
Total 167 55 33% 42 76%

The first thing to note is that these three were used less frequently to face one batter than did the Cardinals pair from 2008, 33% vs. 39%. So this analysis is over an even a smaller subset of their total body of work than it was for Flores and Villone.

It obviously says nothing about the results when any of these pitchers are left in to face more than one hitter in a given game, which is exactly what happens the vast majority of the time (2/3). So it should not be considered an indicator of total results in any way.

Yet, in the one-third of the time they were used against one batter in 2008, the three new Cardinals collectively came through over 75% of the time. Needless to say, that is considerably better than the 54% mark from the Cardinals’ departed pair from last season.

It might offer a ray of hope if I could get past the fact that these pitchers are likely going to see far fewer one-batter appearances with St. Louis than they did in their previous pitching locales. I have no way of projecting if those rates would continue on a different team at a higher frequency of deployment in the situation.


How about first batters retired of all types and inherited runners?

Straying even further away from the LOOGY definition, we will conclude with first batter-retired efficiency in all outings of all durations as well as inherited runners that scored.

I believe these two measures are better gauges than most everything else presented here previously.

2008 Cards Appearances 1st batter retired % efficient Inh runners IR scored % scored
Ron Villone 74 48 65% 43 10 23%
Randy Flores 43 31 72% 26 10 38%
Total 117 79 68% 69 20 29%
2008 Appearances 1st batter retired % efficient Inh runners IR scored % scored
Trever Miller 68 49 72% 37 6 16%
Charlie Manning 57 39 68% 35 8 23%
Royce Ring 42 27 64% 34 6 18%
Total 167 115 69% 106 20 19%

Together, the two 2008 Cardinals retired their initial batter about 2/3 of the time, with Flores coming in 7% better than Villone. The three newbies in total are basically the same as the 2008 bunch, with Miller equivalent to Flores and Ring lining up with Villone at the low end. Among this group, Manning is average.

Where the new Cardinals really shine is in the important area of inherited runners scoring. Miller leads the way at a stingy 16%, with Ring right behind. The worst of the three, Manning, was the same as Villone at 23%. As Cardinals fans likely remember, Flores was simply awful in 2008, as almost 40% of the runners that were on base when he came in eventually crossed the plate.

Had Villone and Flores managed to deliver a 19% rate in these situations last season, seven fewer runs would have been charged to them and to the Cardinals.

Finally, something I can get a little more excited about!


My conclusions:

  • Most of the time, St. Louis Cardinals’ left-handed relievers are not deployed against just one batter, whether lefty or righty, making LOOGY an exception.
    • Last season, the length of Cards lefties appearances were greater than one batter 60% of the time, averaging slightly over three batters each.
    • These lefty relievers actually faced more right-handed hitters over the course of the 2008 season.
    • Therefore, using results against left-handed hitters only as a predictive measure of success would seem incomplete, at best.
  • Using an very narrow approach of looking at only one-batter outings to remain true to the spirit of LOOGY, we found that the three 2009 Cardinals newcomers were substantially more efficient in that specific role in 2008 than were the two departed left-handers.
  • While the three new left-handers allowed first hitters-faced, whether lefty or righty, to reach base last season at basically the same rate as Villone and Flores, the new Cards were markedly better at stranding inherited runners.

To get back to the initial question, “Did the Cardinals improve their lefty relief?” To date, my reply is “perhaps”, though not necessarily for the exact same reasons as Goold.

McGwire’s Hall of Fame Support Erodes


The 2009 Hall of Fame voting is in. Congratulations to Rickey Henderson, who received 94.8% of the votes in his first year of eligibility and especially to Jim Rice, who just made it across the 75% line in his 15th and final year of eligibility at 76.4% of the vote. The former Red Sox star had fallen just 16 votes short last year. I’ll leave it to others to argue whether Rice was very good or truly great, however.

C’mon, what were the other 28 writers thinking that didn’t vote for Rickey? I’ve said it many times before and I will continue to repeat that Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) members just damage their own organization’s credibility when they cast dissenting ballots for no-brainer picks like Henderson just to uphold a stupid tradition of no ex-player scoring 100%. Those 28 non-voters are lemmings at best.

Former Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, coming off yet another year of silence and seclusion following his botched 2005 Congressional testimony, isn’t improving his Hall chances. This time around, Mac received ten fewer votes than in 2008 and 2007 and in the process, dropped a couple of percentage points down to 21.9% support.

HOF McGwire Ballots Named Percent Place
2009 539 118 21.9 9
2008 543 128 23.6 9
2007 545 128 23.5 9

McGwire seemed to hold firm in ninth place, but that really means others are passing him, since five have now been inducted since he first joined the eligibles in 2007. They are Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn (2007) plus Goose Gossage (2008) and now to be joined by Henderson and Rice.

While he is in no danger of dropping off the ballot, the stark reality is that Big Mac is closer to that insult than he is to joining Henderson and Rice up on the stage in Cooperstown. It is no one’s fault but his own that he has become such a polarizing figure and remains on the outside looking in.

Rather than repeat an earlier rant, I will simply link to my earlier articles:

Giambi Is What McGwire Isn’t: Honest” (2007)

Has Big Mac Hit Bottom and Can He Rise Again?” (2006)

And in a more positive note, two years ago, we at Scout.com voted McGwire the 22nd greatest Cardinals player of all time. Despite the cloud, I personally voted Big Mac # 19. In an indication of the diversity of opinion, one of our panel refused to vote for McGwire.

Cards All-Time Top 40 – Mark McGwire #22” (2007)

The Cardinals Organization Roster Matrix: Preseason 2009


Note: This post has been superseded by a new version of the Roster Matrix dated 4/10 which is available via this link.

What follows is a project I have considered for a long time, but I guess I needed the cold and snow of winter to motivate me to finally undertake it.

Following is a complete listing of all players currently known to be under contract in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Initially, there are 306 players from the 40-man roster down through the Venezuelan Summer League.

Because we are all impatient types, I am going to list the rosters first, with all the explanation, caveats, etc. following. Before you post comments or send notes with mistakes or corrections, please take the time to read the explanations that follow the matrix, as many of your questions may already be answered. Also, don’t forget to read the comments afterward and add your own!

For future reference, as this article falls off the front page, remember to bookmark this URL. If you forget how to find it, just put your cursor on “Players/Staff” at the top of the page and then “Depth Charts”, and you’ll be back here. Plus, the search box at the upper right is always active.

One final request. Like everything here at The Cardinal Nation, the matrix is provided at no charge. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a lot of work to create and maintain. Please be respectful and link back here if you want to reference the matrix rather than copying it elsewhere.

Updated 2/4/09: Reliever Hyang-Nam Choi signed to a minor league deal and added to Memphis roster. New total 307.

Updated 2/9/09: 2B Adam Kennedy released. New total 306

Updated 2/28/09. P Mitch Harris signed. Likely on restricted list due to active Navy service so not listed here.

Updated 3/2/09: C Ismael Cardona (Batavia) released. The contract of pitcher Jose Vicente Campos (VSL) was voided. New total 304.

Updated 3/5/09: LHR Dennys Reyes signed. 305 players under contract.

Updated 3/15/09: Minor league LHP Kristian Linares added. New total 306.

Updated 3/18/09: RP Mike Sillman and OF Luke Gorsett retired. Total 304.

Updated 3/23/09: RP Luke Gregerson traded. IF Nick Vera, LHS Joe Rogers, 2B Isa Garcia, RHP Miguel Flores and C Christian Rosa released. New total 298.

Updated 3/26/09: Released RPs Hyang-Nam Choi, Russ Haltiwanger,Zach Pitts, Matt Spade, Wayne Damon, Jose Mateo, Jon Mikrut, Jameson Maj and 3B Brian Cartie. Total 289.

Updated 3/27/09: Royce Ring removed from 40-man and accepted assignment to Memphis.

Updated 3/31/09: Released Cs Justin Knoedler and Rickey Noland and Ps Ryan Bird, J.D. Stambaugh, Davis Bilardello, Dylan Gonzalez and Josh Hester.

The St. Louis Cardinals Roster Matrix (as of 3/31/09)

St. Louis (23) 40-man (34)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Carpenter Franklin LaRue Pujols Schumaker
K Greene Glaus Ankiel
Lohse Kinney (20) Molina Ryan Duncan
Pineiro McClellan Ludwick
Wainwright Motte (4) Mather
Wellemeyer

Thompson
Reyes (L)
Miller (L)


Memphis (27)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Boggs (10) Haltiwanger Anderson (3) Hoffpauir Barden Freese (5) Barton
Hawksworth Mikrut Knoedler Thurston T Greene (16) Cazana (Marti)
Mortensen (11) Scherer Pagnozzi Jay (12)
Parisi (i) Manning (L) Yarbrough Rasmus (1)
Todd (7) Maekawa (L) Robinson (27)
Walters (17) Ostlund (L) Stavinoha (35)
Ja Garcia (9iL) Choi
Rogers (L) Ring (L)
C Perez
Springfield (22)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Dickson Dew Brown I Garcia Jo Martinez (37) Craig (18) Jones (6)
Hearne M Gonzalez Buckman Descalso Solano Wallace (2) Rapoport
Mura Gregerson (30) Hamilton Rowlett
Ottavino (15) Salas (31) Shorey
Fiske (L) McCormick
Furnish (L)
Palm Beach (27)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Bird Daman Derba Hill (34) Folli Kozma (8) Cartie DeJesus
Diapoules Degerman Vasquez Arburr Marmol T Cruz (36) Luna (39)
Garceau (29) E Hernandez Henley
Herron (25) Maiques Kingrey
King J Mateo
Kopp (28) Mulligan
Additon (26L) Parise
Norrick (L) Samuel (21)
Bilardello (L)
Freeman (L)
Linares (L)
Quad Cities (23)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
R Castillo (19) Bradford J Castillo Rivera Bolivar Chambers
Broderick Daley, Jr. Espinoza Smith (40) Vasquez (13) Edwards (23)
Fick Frevert Murphy Ingram
Hooker (32) D Gonzalez Pham
Lynn (14) Rondon
Maj Sanchez
McGregor Spade (L)
Kulik (L) Stambaugh (L)
Batavia (29)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Delgado Buursma Rosa Scruggs A Castellanos Lilley Curtis Gomez
Eager Lugo Cutler Jo Garcia Sedbrook Morales Ja Martinez
Gorgen (22) Mayes L DeLaCruz Landin Vera Parejo
Hester Reifer (24) Peterson
Nieto Riportella
Pitts Swauger
Richardson
M Tapia
Veres
Brown (L)
Cardenas (L)
Johnson City (29)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Arredondo Carpenter Castro Rigoli L Mateo Alvarez Bogany
Blazek Flores Cawley Toribio Y Castillo P Cruz
Fornataro C Gonzalez Noland Hage
R Gonzalez Maertz Lara
Leach Pichardo Mitchell
North Bravo (L) R Rodriguez
Rosales
Santos
Thomas
Zawacki
Peralta (L)
GCL (28)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Diaz Calero Moscatel H Medina Hiraldo Mosquera Teran Babrick
Javier Concepcion A Perez Obregon Buck
Notti Munoz R Ruiz R Rosario
Rada Ortiz Shepherd
A Cruz Penaloza Swinson
A Ferrara (L) Prange
Russell
J Castellanos (L)
Siegrist (L)
DSL (37)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
De Jesus Estalis V Ferreira Pimentel J Lopez G Hernandez H Martina Beras
Franco Pinard L Perez Avila Cabrera R DeLaCruz (38) A Castellano
Jimenez A Castillo Polanco W Perez Villar Martines
Urena E Rivera Reyes
Pasen M Martinez Sandoval
A Tapia Mercedes (L) Encarnacion
Herrera (L) Uribe (L) J Pena
L Rosario (L) D Rodriguez (L) Taveras
P Pena (L)
VSL (37)
SP RP C 1B 2B SS 3B OF
Bier R Alvarado Alcala R Perez M Marquez Mannbel H Garcia Cortez
Avendano Y Gonzalez Montero Vargas O Medina Yegues Fonseca
Nieves Guzman Rivas Vivas Valera Inojoza
Corpas F Marquez Viloria Rivero
Noguera Solarte Velazco Argenal
Rios Orozco
Weffer (L) Cedeno
Colorado (L) Oraa
Brito
Ramos

The matrix: What it is

While some of the players’ levels may look odd (four catchers in Memphis and none in Springfield, for example), they are placed where the Cardinals have assigned them. Of course, once working rosters begin to be “worked” in Jupiter in March, there will be changes, many of them.

Players with injuries that appear to be season-ending are noted with (i). The number in parentheses after each club’s name is the quantity of players assigned there.

The one area where I did make adjustments is in my view of the likely end-of-spring distribution of the players on the 40-man roster between St. Louis and Memphis. Otherwise, there wouldn’t yet be much of a roster in Triple-A. Like everything else, this will be fluid come spring. The 40-man players’ names are listed in BOLD.

(In that vein, I initially listed 26 players for St. Louis. I know that is one too many. I predict that one of the three lefty relievers isn’t going to make it and same with one of the righties. One the plus side, another infield reserve will be required. 26 minus two plus one will get us to 25, eventually.)

After some players’ names, you will see a number in parentheses. They denote my personal ranking of the player in the annual Top 40 Cardinals Prospects voting at Scout.com. (At The Birdhouse, my individual scores as shown here were weighted one-fourth in determining the final Scout.com ranking.)


What it isn’t

When assigning positions, I put players in just one column. My attempt was to acknowledge where they spent the majority of last season. For example, I know that Steven Hill and Tony Cruz are being tried behind the plate. That’s no different from last year, yet both ended up playing far more games at other positions.

For the pitchers, I started out with separate columns for the left-handed starters and relievers, but the table just became too big. So instead, I adopted the practice of placing the lefties at the end of the starters and relievers lists, designated by the letter (L).

Don’t read anything into the order of the names within any column, other than the LHPs at the end. I started alphabetically, but at the lower levels, I backed off. At this point, they have no correlation to playing time, duration on the roster or anything else. Step one was simply to get everyone in the right box.

This isn’t the final source on the spelling of players’ names. I have tried to remain consistent with what we use at Scout.com and what is designated at MiLB.com. Especially with the academy players, the information from the Cardinals themselves can even include mistakes.

Don’t forget the wealth of (free) information about each player that we maintain in the Scout.com player data base. It is too unwieldy to include and keep current every link to over 300 player profiles directly from the matrix, but do keep using the Scout profiles as the source for detailed information on individual players.

I will always designate the most current date when the matrix was last updated, but I am not planning to maintain a log of every transaction that occurs across the system all year. The good news is that I don’t have to. UConnCard already does that over on the Scout.com message board. My goal will be to stay in sync with that list of moves visually. So remember the link to the transaction log, especially if/when questions come up.


What it may be later on

Once the 2009 regular season begins, I hope to be noting players:

  • on the disabled list
  • sharing jobs in the tandem pitching rotations in A-ball
  • performing the role of closer

Perhaps I may even undertake re-ordering the players in some sort of recognition of playing time, but that remains to be seen.


What you can do

Let me know what you think about this project. Putting in the time to create and maintain it is only of value to me if it is of value to you.

Speak up if you see errors or have questions. The more eyes over the map, the more accurate it will be.

I’d like to thank CariocaCardinal and UConnCard for being the initial set of proof-readers/correctors. In addition, jrocke217’s reports on the DSL and VSL were invaluable.

In fact, Carioca’s first comments led me to the article about the releases of Carlos Pupo, Ross Oeder and Nick Peoples. So, other good can come from this kind of project, too.

Cardinals release a dozen minor leaguers


This is the time of the year when organizations are seriously taking stock in the players they have and comparing that with what they need to start the 2009 season.

As a result, the St. Louis Cardinals now have three fewer players in the fold in the US as they released first baseman Carlos Pupo, infielder Ross Oeder and outfielder Nick Peoples. All three played a majority of their time in 2008 with the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. With the bat last season, none were able to reach the Mendoza Line.

Nine other players from their overseas academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela have also been cut.


The USA three

Carlos Pupo. The well-traveled first baseman leaves the Cardinals organization after just one complete season. The 23-year-old played for four different colleges in four years, ending with Purdue in 2007, where his line as a senior was a not-so-lusty .175/.262/.298.

Not surprisingly, Pupo went undrafted. He played locally in Florida where he caught the eye of a Cardinals scout. After working out in Jupiter with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, he was offered a contract. After 11 solid games in the GCL, the right-handed hitter skipped up to Quad Cities, more appropriate for a player of his age and experience. In the Midwest League, he struggled. In 38 games and 141 at-bats, Pupo hit just .184/.223/.319 with four home runs and 17 RBIs.

Ross Oeder. A utility infielder, Oeder, 23, was taken by the Cardinals in the 28th round of the 2007 draft from Wright State University. That season, the Ohio native batted .270 with no home runs and eight RBI in 148 at-bats for the short-season class-A Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn League.

In 2008, Oeder did not make a full-season team initially, instead joining Quad Cities in mid-June. His line was .183/.252/.349 in 109 at-bats over 32 games.

Nick Peoples. The outfielder/second baseman played college ball in his hometown of Austin for the University of Texas. A broken collarbone in the 2007 NCAA Regionals caused Peoples to remain on the draft board until the Cardinals took him in the 19th round.

The injury delayed the 24-year-old’s professional debut until the 2008 season. Peoples also did not come north with a full-season squad, instead remaining behind in Extended Spring Training. He was assigned to Quad Cities in late May, but didn’t deliver with the bat. Peoples’ season line was .183/.270 /.272. The right-handed batter had just ten extra base hits in 180 at-bats and struck out 46 times.


Nine away from LA

In addition, it is not a major surprise that the Cardinals have trimmed nine players from their Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League rosters. After all, I’ve documented many of the organization’s recent signings in Latin America, both in July and during the fourth quarter. (Sorry, the second article is Scout subscribers-only.)

It only stands to reason that when new players arrive, others must leave. While handfuls have made the big step up to play in the US, others miss the cut, either due to poor performance or Father Time. These academy players may only remain under contract for up to four years before either being required to either move up or out.

The nine cut loose include one Nicaraguan, four Dominicans and four from the Venezuelan roster. The contracts of two were technically voided due to questions about their identity and/or date of birth, including one of their July 2nd signings in 2008. They are:

DSL Home Pos Comments
Dennis Montero Dominican RHP July 2 sign. DOB 11/20/91 reported. Commanded four pitches. FB 88-90.
Walter Santos Nicaragua LHP 6.19 ERA over two DSL seasons. Career opposing BA: .324.

The other seven were simply released:

DSL
Juan Jaquez Dominican RHP 6.59 and 6.75 ERAs in second and third DSL seasons.
Carlos Mejia Dominican RHP 2.10 ERA this summer. Only one here to play in DWIL this winter.
Randy Santos Dominican LHP 21 BB in 22.1 IP and .306 opposing BA in debut.
VSL
Billy Bolivar Venezuela OF Hit .214 in 3rd VSL season coming off .215 BA in 2007. 6 OF errors in 54G.
Peter Jaspe Venezuela OF Career .191 BA over two VSL seasons.
Miguel Lopez Venezuela LHP 39 K, 36 BB in 61 pro innings over two years. 4.87 career ERA in relief.
Wilson Perez Venezuela OF Improved from .096 BA in 2007 to .275 in 2008. Apparently not enough.

In a side note, in the Dominican Winter League stats I published at The Birdhouse (sorry, subscriber-only again), the Randy Santos there (DOB 8/21/88) is the older one, a right-hander who pitched for Johnson City in 2008. The alleged birthday of the released Randy Santos, the left-hander listed here, is 6/4/91.

Glad we’ve got that cleared up. Now, if we could just do something about the two Angel Tapias!


New! Roster matrix coming very soon

Even after these moves, the organization still has 306 players under contract from the 40-man roster down through the academies. In a new feature coming Monday, I will be sharing (and maintaining throughout the year) a roster matrix of all these players, by position and level, from top to bottom – all ten teams, all in one place.

This is a feature you simply won’t find anywhere else. Look for the roster matrix this coming week exclusively here at The Cardinal Nation.

Cardinals Winter Warm-Up gauges player popularity


No, this isn’t a serious, in-depth article about player valuation techniques or anything like that.

Still, the other day, I received my package with the autograph details for the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up to be held next weekend and that got me to thinking.

While the prices demanded for autographs of course do not reflect true player value, they do indicate fan value in a way. At least they do to the extent that whoever in the organization sets these policies and prices has properly measured the collective pulse of the Cardinal Nation.

For those players most in demand, the only way to ensure getting an autograph is to secure a ticket via the “Early Bird” order process. That defines both the price and number of autographs allowed and ensures some order in a process that could be chaotic and frustrating without some bounds.

The first valuation point that caught my eye is the pre-imposed limit of autograph tickets per player per person is three – for most of those who will be signing, that is.

Yet, there are three players for whom a more-restrictive two-ticket limit has been imposed. They are Rick Ankiel, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

At the top of the pecking order are not one, but two current Cardinals. Joining Albert Pujols with a limit of one autograph ticket per person is none other than Yadier Molina. Apparently based on his 2008 WWU popularity, the catcher evolved from the two-ticket limit last year to just one this time around.

The more interesting assessment is in the prices of the signatures themselves, all of which goes to charity by the way, to the fine folks at Cardinals Care.

Following are three lists of autograph prices – starting with current Cardinals and then two of past Cards. We next have the players who left the organization since last year and following is a group of old-timers signing at this WWU.

I listed the current players in pricing tiers based on their 2009 amounts. The section labels are my own. If they signed last year via the Early Bird process, their 2008 prices are also shown. My commentary follows.

Top dogs 2009 2008 Commentary
Albert Pujols $175 $175 Held prices flat despite winning every award in sight.
Yadier Molina $100 $90 Breaks the $100 barrier for the first time!
Second tier
Rick Ankiel $60 $55 Modest YTY increase in what could be his last WWU.
Chris Carpenter $60 $75 Ouch! Loses 1/5 of price after second injury-filled season.
Adam Wainwright $60 $80 Odd. I guess the World Series excitement has worn off.
Solid contributors
Troy Glaus $40 Reasonable.
Ryan Ludwick $40 $10 Up $30! You should have gotten to Ludwick 12 months ago!
Tony La Russa $30 $30 Consistent but underpriced.
Colby Rasmus $30 $30 Will definitely be looking to move up in 2009.
Skip Schumaker $30 $5 How about this jump? Six times higher than last year!
Middle of the pack
Kyle Lohse $25 Seems out of sync with four years, $41 million, doesn’t it?
Chris Duncan $20 $40 Loss of 50% in autograph price mirrors real value.
Khalil Greene $20 Newcomer can and should do better.
Brendan Ryan $15 $10 Slight increase for 2009 infield wild card.
Todd Wellemeyer $15 He will do better in arbitration than this!
Heading up or down
Ryan Franklin $10 $10 When all the ups and downs are considered, this feels right.
Kyle McClellan $10 One of three newcomers vaulting into this tier.
Jason Motte $10 Nice debut.
Chris Perez $10 Could be next year’s Ludwick in terms of autograph price.
Joel Pineiro $10 $20 Feeling the heat of inconsistency.
At least worth $5
Brian Barton $5 May be signing in Memphis soon, too.
Adam Kennedy $5 At least he is supposed to be coming to WWU.
Josh Kinney $5 $5 Who isn’t pulling for a nice 2009 comeback?
Jason LaRue $5 He and Molina average $52 between them!
Trever Miller $5 Hoping he signs with his right hand!
Brad Thompson $5 $10 Sliding down popularity ranking but was tendered a contract.

Though Albert’s signing price is flat this year, they’ve added an online auction from now through Wednesday to be guaranteed one of the first ten spots in line for the MVP’s autograph. It will be interesting to see how high these go for.

Looking at the players that signed at last year’s WWU who are no longer Cardinals, seeing Scott Spiezio on top offers another sad reminder of what he threw away. Izzy seemed to be a bargain 12 months ago, illustrating a rapid fall of a different kind.

The departed 2008 Commentary
Scott Spiezio $50 He really blew a good thing in his life and in StL.
Jason Isringhausen $40 No booing this year.
Braden Looper $25 Underappreciated trouper, Braden Looper.
Matt Clement $20 Can I have my money back?
Aaron Miles $15 I wonder if Mozeliak put in a late $10 bid?
Randy Flores $10 Had a better career than I ever expected.
Anthony Reyes $10 Do they even have a WWU in Cleveland?
Tyler Johnson $5 What could have been…

Moving to the final for-fee group, the Cardinals old-timers, it is nice to see a stronger selection of autograph opportunities here in 2009. Four Hall of Famers head the bill, headed by Bob Gibson.

Hall of Famers 2009 2008 Commentary
Bob Gibson $125 Don’t be intimidated – too much!
Bruce Sutter $100 Engine #42 is hot right now.
Lou Brock $100 An always cordial Cards hero.
Red Schoendienst $75 $60 Get it while you still can. A true great.
Almost Hall worthy
Whitey Herzog $40 $50 Guess memories are fading for some.
I remember you!
Bernard Gilkey $15 May still live in the area.
John Tudor $10 Is he still a cranky Yankee?
Jack Clark $10 As seen on FOX Sports Midwest.

Not to be forgotten are a major batch of current and former Cardinals who will be signing for free. There are some nice names in here, so don’t think you have to drop big money to snare good autographs. For example, Brett Wallace won’t be free next year.

Bryan Anderson Brett Wallace Rich Hacker Bob Sykes
Brian Barden P. J. Walters Rick Horton Scott Terry
David Freese George Altman Ron Hunt Mike Tyson
Blake Hawksworth Alan Benes Charlie James Ray Washburn
Jarrett Hoffpauir Andy Benes Mike Jorgensen Todd Worrell
John Jay John Costello Jeff Lahti
Daryl Jones Danny Cox Mark Little
Charlie Manning Chuck Diering Greg Mathews
Joe Mather Cal Eldred T.J. Mathews
Mike Parisi Neil Fiala Ed Mickelson
Royce Ring Curt Ford Ken Reitz
Nick Stavinoha Bob Forsch Jerry Reuss
Joe Thurston Phil Gagliano Stan Royer
Jess Todd David Green Ted Savage

The 12th Annual Winter Warm-Up, a three-day event, will take place on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend; Saturday, Sunday and Monday, January 19-21, 2008. Times are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday, and 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday.

For full WWU information, including signing schedules and ticket prices, follow this link.

Most influential Canadians in baseball include three Cards


When I read that the Toronto Sun documents the Top 100 Most Influential Canadians in Baseball every year, I thought the same thing you likely did – “They probably don’t have enough people to fill out the list!”

Of course, that isn’t really the case. In fact, as I scanned the list, I saw a number of familiar names, with news included for several of them.


At number 17, down from number 11, is none other than former Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker. From the looks of it, the 42-year-old may be splitting his March time between two spring camps, that of the Cardinals as well as Team Canada as they prepare for the World Baseball Classic.

If they all suit up, players like Justin Morneau (#4 on the top 100), Ryan Dempster (#16), Russell Martin (#32), Jason Bay (#35), Matt Stairs (#36), Joey Votto (#54) and Jeff Francis (#56) should help make the Canadians be competitive at least.

Still, while Pool C games will be at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Team USA is in the same bracket as the Canadians, making the team from the North a longshot to survive into the second round.


17. Larry Walker, former NL slugger, coach Team Canada (11).

He lives in Jupiter, Fla. and is a part-time coach with the Cardinals each spring. He will be north of the border: Jan. 24th for the Baseball Canada banquet; in March, with the WBC team and in July when he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The Maple Ridge, B.C. product is the finest Canadian position player the country has produced.

Interestingly, Walker was already inducted into “Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame” in late 2007, so this one is undoubtedly for baseball only. Yet the website of the baseball Hall of the northland says inductees aren’t announced until February. Perhaps Walker is such a lock, the paper is counting it as a done deal. At any rate, good for him.


Long-time Cardinals first base coach Dave McKay is up 12 places this year to number 23. In case you missed it, for Boxing Day, MLB.com ran a nice feature about Cody’s Dad and La Russa’s confidant.

23. Dave McKay, coach, St. Louis Cardinals (35).

The first base coach is in his 13th season with the Cards and his 23rd season with manager Tony La Russa. When McKay talks in organizational meetings, La Russa listens.”

I don’t know that the Canadian writer who typed this has ever actually been in a Cardinals organizational meeting, but his assertion is likely valid nonetheless. I would add that I honestly believe that McKay is one of the nicest guys around.


And what list of Canadian Cardinals would ever be complete without Stubby Clapp, the second baseman whose number 10 was the first ever retired by the Memphis Redbirds, the club for which he played from 1999 though 2002?

Despite turning 36 years old next month, the ever-popular veteran of numerous international competitions is going to play for Team Canada once again.

43. Stubby Clapp, hitting coach, class-A Greenville (27).

Though the Windsor, Ont. native is coaching, the Astros were good enough to give him time off to play in the pre-Olympic qualifier in Taiwan, the Olympics and he’ll be around for the WBC in a back-up role.”


One other name caught my eye at #95, that of Hazel Mae (her real name), a personality for the new MLB Network. A former commentator on the Red Sox’ network NESN, the Philippine-born Toronto resident definitely seems up to her big new assignment.

Smith over Ford, August 1986


Dear Brian,

Please help me settle a wager. I am sure you recall the great catch that Ozzie Smith made while running into the outfield and laying out to catch the ball while diving over the incoming outfielder. I believe Mr. Buck’s call was, “He caught it! Ozzie caught it!”.  The wager involves the outfielder who Ozzie dove over. My brother believes it was Willie McGee while I maintain it was Curt Ford.

Could you please supply me with anything to support the answer?

Thank You

Robert Gould

Walton’s take: Robert, it is so weird you sent this tonight. Not five minutes ago, I swear I saw this very play on the new MLB Network. (Maybe you were watching it, too?)

The commentators were discussing the seven-year anniversary of Ozzie being voted into the Hall of Fame and the chances of Omar Vizquel of making it. Not surprisingly, Ozzie was the measuring stick and Vizquel was falling short.

The answer to your question is “Curt Ford”, though it is often mistakenly said to be Willie McGee. Yet, I can’t stop there since you require proof to collect your bet. (Of course, I can’t condone betting, though I thoroughly understand family baseball arguments. I live them every week!)

From Ozzie’s biography in the annual Cardinals’ Media Guide:

“Smith’s most eye-popping play came on August 5, 1986 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium. He took off on a short fly ball to left field hit by Von Hayes and with his back to home plate, flew parallel to the ground and completely stretched out to make the catch.”

It doesn’t say who the left fielder was, though. And, as it turns out, the esteemed Media Guide is off by one day. The play in question actually happened in the top of the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie game the night before, on Monday, August 4.

Courtesy of Retrosheet, here is the link to the box score from that game. Clean-up hitter (!) Ford played in left the entire game. McGee was out due to injury and did not appear.

Here is the clincher – from the play-by-play account of the game per Retrosheet. (Note the bolding of the text below is not mine!)

PHILLIES 9TH: WORRELL REPLACED KNICELY (PITCHING); Schmidt singled to shortstop; Wilson struck out; HAYES BATTED FOR SCHU; Hayes popped to shortstop; Ozzie makes incredible catch diving over sliding Ford; Russell made an out to shortstop; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Phillies 2, Cardinals 2.

To top it off, Ozzie scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Terry Pendleton sacrifice bunt, giving the win to Todd Worrell.

By the way, three years ago, ESPN selected the top web gems of all time by team. The play to which you refer is their #1 for the Cardinals.

Thanks for writing and for the chance to take a trip down memory lane!

Cardinals spring training: Reporting for duty


I received a question about when pitchers and catchers report and how the World Baseball Classic changes Spring Training. Rather than put it in a reader mail item, I decided to make it into a blog post so more will see it.

Here is the link to my article at The Birdhouse with all the details, but following is a quick summary:

February 14 – Pitchers and catchers for the Cardinals and WBC teams must report to spring training.

February 17 – Cardinals and WBC position players must report.

March 5-23 – World Baseball Classic (link to brackets and schedule)

So, the WBC players (official rosters not yet announced) could be joining their MLB camps anywhere from about the 12th (when the first round teams are eliminated) until the 24th or later depending on travel. That is a big reason spring training is running a week longer than usual.

Of course there is no free lunch. Because of this, the regular season runs through October 4, delaying the post-season into November. If needed, World Series Game 7 will be played on November 5, the latest ever.

Also the Cardinals have just one scheduled day off during the first five weeks of the regular season, on April 20. Including spring training, the team will play a total 70 games from February 23 through May 10.

Albert Pujols and the Dominican Republic WBC team will be training in Jupiter along with the Cardinals and Marlins. They will clear out before the minor leaguers report. The Cards play a spring training game against the Dominicans on March 5 at RDS, of course.

Oddness in the minors

Speaking of, here are the corresponding dates for the Cardinals minor leaguers:

March 9 – Pitchers and catchers report

March 11 – Position players report

March 18 (approx.) – First games

Note that due to the Dodgers having departed Vero Beach, there are an uneven number of clubs in a reasonable proximity to Jupiter. Really only the Mets at Port St. Lucie and the Marlins, who share the Roger Dean complex with the Cardinals are available.

While the schedules aren’t done yet, it looks like the minor leaguers are going to be having as many intersquad games as they will actual spring contests. There is also a possibility that the clubs will split up on any given day, with Triple-A and Double-A playing in one place and the Single-A players somewhere else, for example.

Even during “camp” days, the numbers are still odd. Typically with over 160 players invited, after about a week, the Cardinals break up into five working rosters, including two Quad Cities teams. So the Memphis and Springfield clubs could face off but Palm Beach can play only one of the two Quad Cities teams, for example.

Of course, there will only be one real Quad Cities club that breaks camp, with the others staying behind for Extended Spring Training.

Everyone will get their spring work in, but the situation could be more ideal.

Cardinals television update


First confirmation of a televised 2009 game

Just got a peek at the ESPN/ESPN2 schedule for MLB games for the first two months of the season. Only one Cardinals game is among the 14 games listed. That is the Sunday, April 19 game at Wrigley that was originally planned to be a 1:20 pm start. It will be moved to 8 pm for ESPN.

The schedule

In case you don’t have your 2009 Cardinals one-page printable schedule for the regular season, you can download a copy here. Most game times are known, though some of the weekend games are subject to the whims of the television networks, which will include the new MLB Network for the first time in 2009.

Regular season TV schedule a couple weeks away

Note that none of the televised games are listed yet. We are still a couple weeks away from spring and regular season schedules, say our friends at FOX Sports Midwest. As soon as they release them, I will get them posted.

WWU coverage on FS Midwest

Speaking of FS Midwest… They are planning two post-Winter Warm-Up shows. For those who can’t attend the real thing, this will be the next best alternative. No dates and times yet, but I should have those details soon.

Spring schedule reminders

For those with satellite television, I will also be watching the Cardinals’ spring opponents’ plans as they announce which games they plan to televise. For those who didn’t see it the first time, here is the link to the Cardinals’ full spring schedule, including all the exhibition games and local times.

MLB Network gets early thumbs up

I was a bit skeptical coming in, but have been impressed with the MLB Network programming in their first week. I especially enjoy their nightly Hot Stove show, with Harold Reynolds proving to be a decent ringmaster. He even made Scott Boras squirm a bit when probing him about having been cut out of the A-Rod negotiations last winter.

One minor complaint is that I have noticed that they seem to endorse every move the clubs make. Too early to tell, but I imagine they will not be allowed to be critical of teams, ala MLB.com. Still, the historical shows are worth the price of admission. Here is the link to their daily programming schedule.

Historical DVDs of note

I’ve noticed several of the MLB Network shows this week feature content also available on DVD. The off-season is the perfect time to bring these out and watch them over again.

Here are a few in my collection that I recommend. (Note: This is not an endorsement of any business, but instead one example is offered where you can find these items.)

Ken Burns’ Baseball – I watch this documentary every off-season. $109 for ten discs at Shop PBS or you can also get the book, which is really nice, and an audio CD for $40 more.

Greatest Games of Busch Stadium: 1966-2005 – Six classic home games from 1968 through 2004. $31.95 at Amazon.com.

2006 World Series Collector’s Edition – NLCS Games 5 and 7, all five World Series games and a bonus disc. $45.95 at Amazon.

1942, 1943 and 1946 World Series Highlights – Three disc set of the news reels assembled for overseas servicemen and women. One of my favorite sets. $26.99 at Amazon.

If you have others you like, please call them out in the comments.

Jerry Hairston, Jr.: Cards come up short again



In a winter where St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak has already taken a lot of heat in the press for his various characterizations of the Cardinals plans to retool for 2009 and perceived lack of substantive action, another disappointment was received Wednesday.

According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals have failed in their push to sign free agent infielder-outfielder Jerry Hairston, Jr. to replace lost utilityman Aaron Miles. Instead, the 32-year-old right-handed hitter spurned St. Louis’ offer to re-sign with ex-Cards GM Walt Jocketty’s Cincinnati Reds.

Skip Schumaker tries to take out Miles at second base (AP/Bill Boyce)
Skip Schumaker tries to take out Hairston at second base (AP/Bill Boyce)

Numerous St. Louis misses this winter include a failed trade for outfielder Matt Holliday, rumored losing bids for free agent closers Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes, a second-best, too-late offer for Miles after they non-tendered him in a questionable move and more.

Rosenthal says Hairston’s decision was more about the chance to start regularly at shortstop for the Reds than it apparently was about money. He signed a one-year deal for $2 million with a chance at another $2 million in incentives.

Thr former Baltimore Oriole (1998-2004), Chicago Cub (2005-06) and Texas Ranger (2006-07) is a decent top-of-the lineup alternative, something the Cardinals are lacking. Leading off for the Reds last season in 177 at-bats, Hairston’s line was an impressive .362/.427/.537. In 273 games leading off over his 11-year MLB career, his on-base percentage is .339. Defensively, he can play virtually all over the diamond, though he originally came up as a second baseman.


Walton’s take: In a continuation of a familiar theme this winter, the Cardinals continue to bargain shop and miss out. Hairston would have been a nice step up from Miles, but it isn’t going to be. Back to his Baltimore days as the Cards employed a revolving-door policy at second base, I had always felt Hairston would have been a good fit in St. Louis.

Apparently Hairston isn’t familiar with the recent histories of Adam Kennedy and Khalil Greene or Tony La Russa’s ample use of infielders in the outfield or he shouldn’t have had fear about playing time with St. Louis in 2009. Let’s hope it really wasn’t about the money.

The good news, if there is any, is that the Cardinals still seem to be trying to improve, though the size and therefore competitiveness of the Cards’ rumored bid to Hairston is unknown. Recent comments by Mozeliak have instead suggested the Cardinals may be content to stand pat until spring training.

Chalk Hairston up as another missed opportunity, albeit not a major one. Yet in a winter seemingly full of them, it provides one more data point.

Ex-Cardinals: Where are they now? – John Rodriguez



A couple of players with ties to the St. Louis Cardinals are in the news for the Pinstripers from New York.

First baseman/outfielder Shelley Duncan, son of Cards pitching coach Dave and brother of outfielder Chris, has been designated for assignment by the Yankees. It wasn’t a huge surprise, as the 29-year-old has a meager career .221/.299/.435 line in 131 MLB at-bats over the last two seasons, not to mention the fact the New Yorkers need roster space for all their new, high-priced free agent talent.

The designation means Duncan is off New York’s 40-man roster, but could be claimed by another organization. If not, he will likely report to the Yanks’ Triple-A club in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

At the same time, the Yankees added a former Yankee farmhand and Cardinals major leaguer, John Rodriguez, who some Yankees watchers think might play into the Duncan replacement equation. However, Rodriguez was signed to a minor league deal, so would have to play his way into the picture in the spring.

A Staten Island resident, Rodriguez originally joined the Yankees farm system after signing as a non-drafted free agent 13 years ago, in 1996. He slowly worked his way up through the Yankees minor leagues for eight years before becoming a minor league free agent for the second straight year following the 2004 season.

Instead of returning to the Yanks’ Triple-A club for a third straight year, he instead signed a minor league deal with the Indians in 2005. After being traded to the Cardinals that July for a major league catcher named Javier Cardona, Rodriguez smoked the ball in Memphis.

He batted .342 with 17 home runs in 34 games in Triple-A before making his MLB debut on July 18, 2005, replacing DL’ed Reggie Sanders. Rodriguez continued on fire, hitting in his first six games and ten starts.

The self-styled “J-Rod”, never short on confidence, couldn’t quite back up the swagger during his remaining time in the Cardinals organization. Known more for his bat than his baserunning or defense, Rodriguez still was given a decent amount of playing time through the rest of 2005 as he delivered a solid .295/.382/.436 (BA/OBP/SLG) debut. His stay in the headlines was more of Bo Hart-like in duration.

Rodriguez broke camp with the Cardinals in 2006, his only year to do so. He eventually batted .301 overall, but didn’t see regular playing time. The left-handed batter pinch-hit in 47 of his 102 games played and was returned to Memphis from early August until rosters expanded on September 1. He still led the club with 11 pinch-hits but went 0-for-6 in his second year of post-season action.

Partially squeezed out by the off-season signing of Preston Wilson and later plagued by shoulder and knee injuries in 2007, Rodriguez spent the entire season on Memphis’ roster, with at least three prolonged stints on the disabled list. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in late July which ended his season and his Cardinals career.

Ultimately, the emergence of Chris Duncan, then Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel and Skip Schumaker coupled with his own injuries pushed him out of the Cards’ major league picture. When Cesar Izturis was signed in November 2007, Rodriguez was designated for assignment, then released by the Cardinals.

Rodriguez, who turns 31 in two weeks, signed a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for 2008. He was invited to major league camp, but was sent back to the minors. Last season, the left-handed hitter managed just 210 at-bats in 69 games between the Rays’ and Mets’ Triple-A clubs. Rodriguez had been released by the Rays in June and quickly signed with the Mets. He was again a minor league free agent this winter.

To date, Rodriguez’ career 332 major league at-bats were all amassed with the 2005 and 2006 Cardinals. “J-Rod”, if that is still what he is calling himself today, has an uphill battle to make it back to the show again.