All posts by Brian Walton

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

Can the Cardinals sweep 2009 NL individual awards?

With the considerable success of the St. Louis Cardinals team in 2009, it only stands to reason that a number of their players are in contention for individual National League awards. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most prominent ones and where the Cardinals players stand.

Most Valuable Player: Albert Pujols seems to have a comfortable lead in the public opinion vote at least, to take home his second consecutive award and third overall.

Cy Young Award: ESPN’s Cy Young Award Predictor has two Cardinals in the top three and three in the top five. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Ryan Franklin are currently running numbers one, three and five. San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum is in second, just an eyelash ahead of Carp, the 2005 winner.

Rookie of the Year: Colby Rasmus seemed to have the lead at one point earlier in the season but has fallen back. Philadelphia’s J.A. Happ may have taken over as favorite along with Chicago’s Randy Wells, Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson and late-breaking Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh.

Rolaids Relief Man Award: Ryan Franklin is currently first, ahead of Heath Bell, Huston Street and Jonathan Broxton. I find it interesting that the Cy Young Predictor has Broxton fourth, yet he is only fourth in the relief category here.

Manager of the Year: It is easy to look at the five post-season contenders as the pool for this award. While Tony La Russa is deserving of his second NL manager nod, if the Colorado Rockies take the wild card for which they are leading today, Jim Tracy should win. After all, the former Dodgers and Pirates skipper took over a Rockies club left for dead and led them into contention.

Comeback Player of the Year: He won it in 2004. Is there any reason Carpenter can’t win it again? If so, he would join former Cardinals first baseman Andres Galarraga (1993 and 2000) as a two-time winner. (Unfortunately, in 1993, Galarraga was in Colorado, coming back from his only season with St. Louis. It was that bad.)

So, there you have it. If the season ended today, Cardinals would seemingly take four of these individual awards with Rasmus and La Russa remaining strong competitors for their respective honors, too.

That conclusion leaves me with questions, however. “Is that reasonable? Has one team ever taken so many of these awards in one season?”

That takes me to part two of this article.

A look back

Of these awards, the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year is the newest, having been established in 1983. So I went back and collected the National League winners in each of these six categories over the last 26 years and put them in the following table.

Here are some conclusions to be drawn from the data:

  • Never in one season has representatives from one NL team taken even five of these awards, let alone all six.
  • Only twice has members of a single team won four of the honors and neither time was recent. The 1991 Atlanta Braves took MVP, Comeback (former Cardinal Terry Pendleton), Cy Young (Tom Glavine) and Manager (Bobby Cox). It also occurred in 1988 with Los Angeles Dodgers winning the same four.
  • No NL team has ever won the combination of the four awards in which the Cardinals apparently currently lead: MVP, Cy Young, Rolaids and Comeback.
  • It is a bit sobering to note that since 1992, no single club has won more than two of the six awards in any given year and five times, six different teams were represented by the six winners.

Major individual awards, National League, 1983-2008 (team-leading totals on right)

NL MVP NL Cy Young NL Rookie NL Reliever NL Manager NL Comeback Total
2008 Albert Pujols STL Tim Lincecum SF Geovany Soto CHC Brad Lidge PHI Lou Piniella CHC Brad Lidge PHI 2008 CHC/PHI 2
2007 Jimmy Rollins PHI Jake Peavy SD Ryan Braun MIL Jose Valverde ARI Bob Melvin ARI Dmitri Young WAS 2007 ARI 2
2006 Ryan Howard PHI Brandon Webb ARI Hanley Ramirez FLA Trevor Hoffman SD Joe Girardi FLA Nomar Garciaparra LAD 2006
2005 Albert Pujols STL Chris Carpenter STL Ryan Howard PHI Chad Cordero WAS Bobby Cox ATL Ken Griffey Jr. CIN 2005 STL 2
2004 Barry Bonds SF Roger Clemens HOU Jason Bay PIT Eric Gagné LAD Bobby Cox ATL Chris Carpenter STL 2004
2003 Barry Bonds SF Éric Gagné LAD Dontrelle Willis FLA Eric Gagné LAD Jack McKeon FLA Javy López ATL 2003 FLA 2
2002 Barry Bonds SF Randy Johnson ARI Jason Jennings COL John Smoltz ATL Tony La Russa STL Mike Lieberthal PHI 2002
2001 Barry Bonds SF Randy Johnson ARI Albert Pujols STL Armando Benítez NYM Larry Bowa PHI Matt Morris STL 2001 STL 2
2000 Jeff Kent SF Randy Johnson ARI Rafael Furcal ATL Antonio Alfonseca FLA Dusty Baker SF Andrés Galarraga ATL 2000 ATL 2
1999 Chipper Jones ATL Randy Johnson ARI Scott Williamson CIN Billy Wagner HOU Jack McKeon CIN Rickey Henderson NYM 1999
1998 Sammy Sosa CHC Tom Glavine ATL Kerry Wood CHC Trevor Hoffman SD Larry Dierker HOU Greg Vaughn SD 1998 CHC/SD 2
1997 Larry Walker COL Pedro Martínez MON Scott Rolen PHI Jeff Shaw CIN Dusty Baker SF Darren Daulton PHI/FLA 1997 PHI 1.5
1996 Ken Caminiti SD John Smoltz ATL Todd Hollandsworth LAD Jeff Brantley CIN Bruce Bochy SD Eric Davis CIN 1996 SD/CIN 2
1995 Barry Larkin CIN Greg Maddux ATL Hideo Nomo LAD Tom Henke STL Don Baylor COL Ron Gant CIN 1995 CIN 2
1994 Jeff Bagwell HOU Greg Maddux ATL Raúl Mondesí LAD Rod Beck SF Felipe Alou MON Tim Wallach LAD 1994 LAD 2
1993 Barry Bonds SF Greg Maddux ATL Mike Piazza LAD Brett Myers CHC Dusty Baker SF Andrés Galarraga COL 1993
1992 Barry Bonds PIT Greg Maddux CHC Eric Karros LAD Lee Smith STL Jim Leyland PIT Gary Sheffield SD 1992 PIT 2
1991 Terry Pendleton ATL Tom Glavine ATL Jeff Bagwell HOU Lee Smith STL Bobby Cox ATL Terry Pendleton ATL 1991 ATL 4
1990 Barry Bonds PIT Doug Drabek PIT David Justice ATL John Franco NYM Jim Leyland PIT John Tudor STL 1990 PIT 3
1989 Kevin Mitchell SF Mark Davis SD Jerome Walton CHC Mark Davis SD Don Zimmer CHC Lonnie Smith ATL 1989 SD 2
1988 Kirk Gibson LAD Orel Hershiser LAD Chris Sabo CIN John Franco CIN Tommy Lasorda LAD Tim Leary LAD 1988 LAD 4+1
1987 Andre Dawson CHC Steve Bedrosian PHI Benito Santiago SD Steve Bedrosian PHI Buck Rodgers MON Rick Sutcliffe CHC 1987 CHC 2
1986 Mike Schmidt PHI Mike Scott HOU Todd Worrell STL Todd Worrell STL Hal Lanier HOU Ray Knight NYM 1986 STL 2
1985 Willie McGee STL Dwight Gooden NYM Vince Coleman STL Jeff Reardon MON Whitey Herzog STL Rick Reuschel PIT 1985 STL 3
1984 Ryne Sandberg CHC Rick Sutcliffe CHC Dwight Gooden NYM Bruce Sutter STL Jim Frey CHC Joaquín Andújar STL 1984 CHC 3+1
1983 Dale Murphy ATL John Denny PHI Darryl Strawberry NYM Al Holland PHI Tommy Lasorda LAD John Denny PHI 1983 PHI 3

There is a seventh award, Executive of the Year, for which Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak must be considered. However, because this award is given across Major League Baseball instead of just the National League, I did not list its winners above.

But in a way I did include them. Note the plus (+1) signs for 1988 and 1984. In those two years, those clubs’ executives also took the MLB award.

Therefore, the champion to date with four plus one major individual awards is the 1988 Dodgers with MVP Kirk Gibson, Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser, Manager Tommy Lasorda, Comeback Player Tim Leary and Executive Fred Claire.

MLB Executives of the Year, 1983-2008

MLB Executive
2008 Andrew Friedman TB AL
2007 Mark Shapiro CLE AL
2006 Terry Ryan MIN AL
2005 Mark Shapiro CLE AL
2004 Walt Jocketty STL NL
2003 Brian Sabean SF NL
2002 Terry Ryan MIN AL
2001 Pat Gillick SEA AL
2000 Walt Jocketty STL NL
1999 Jim Bowden CIN NL
1998 Gerry Hunsicker HOU NL
1997 Cam Bonifay PIT NL
1996 Doug Melvin TEX AL
1995 John Hart CLE AL
1994 John Hart CLE AL
1993 Lee Thomas PHI NL
1992 Dan Duquette MON NL
1991 Andy MacPhail MIN AL
1990 Bob Quinn CIN NL
1989 Roland Hemond BAL AL
1988 Fred Claire LAD NL
1987 Al Rosen SF NL
1986 Frank Cashen NYM NL
1985 John Schuerholz KC AL
1984 Dallas Green CHC NL
1983 Hank Peters BAL AL

We will know by November whether or not the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals can meet or exceed that 1988 Los Angeles club – both in terms of these individual awards as well as by their results on the field.

As baseball historians know, in the 1988 World Series, the Dodgers defeated the 104-win Oakland A’s four games to one. The losing club’s manager was none other than Tony La Russa.

It only seems right that if the 1988 Dodgers’ record is broken, La Russa and his men should be the ones to do it.

Thursday afternoon live blogging on FOX Sports Midwest

I am returning as a panelist for FOX Sports Midwest’s weekly live blog session to be held throughout Thursday afternoon’s Cardinals-Brewers game. Join in the discussion with me and the galaxy of FSM personalities.

You can participate via FOX Sports Midwest’s website or once the event begins, you can enter your comments and questions right here in the “CoveritLive” area below.

In his third start as a Cardinal, John Smoltz faces the Brewers’ Manny Parra as the Cards try to earn the sweep of their three-game series with Milwaukee and finish the homestand with an 8-1 record.

Thursday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Central.

Trever Miller time is strikeout time

It was a big day for St. Louis Cardinals left-handed reliever Trever Miller on Tuesday even before he took the mound, as the club announced that afternoon that they and the 36-year-old had come to terms on a new contract.

Miller’s new deal is for 2010 with a vesting option for the 2011 season. He will make $2 million in base salary next season with a club option for $2 million in 2011 with a $1 million buyout if Miller appears in 45 games in 2010.

A few hours later at Busch Stadium, Miller time was rapidly approaching.

The Cards had just broken a tie with the visiting Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh inning Tuesday night on Matt Holliday’s three-run home run. Not at his best on the evening, Cards starting pitcher Joel Pineiro was removed to start the eighth in favor of Blake Hawksworth. The rookie then promptly walked number three hitter Ryan Braun.

Manager Tony La Russa had seen enough and called for Miller from the bullpen. Miller’s job was to reprise his usual role – diffuse a dangerous situation by facing the opponent’s toughest left-handed batter with runners on base. Specifically, his mission on Tuesday was to retire dangerous cleanup hitter Prince Fielder, Major League Baseball’s RBI leader.

All Miller did was strike the Brewers’ slugger out. His day done, Miller then saw Kyle McClellan coax an inning- and threat-ending double-play ball from Casey McGehee. Once closer Ryan Franklin completed a shaky ninth, Miller collected his 12th save of the season.

Miller wasn’t the most visible star of the game Tuesday. All he did was what he has done pretty much all season long – get his man. Like Fielder, over one out of every three outs Miller collects is via the strikeout.

Miller’s already strong stats improved on the evening as his ERA fell to 1.75, his WHIP dropped to a microscopic 0.89 and he added his 38th strikeout in just 36 innings of work.

In other words, Miller has struck out 9.5 batters per nine innings this season. In the history of the franchise, that is the seventh-highest rate posted by any Cardinals pitcher with at least 35 innings of work in a season.

Further, Miller is one of only 20 Cardinals pitchers ever to strike out one batter or more per inning in a season (nine per nine innings).

Each of the 20 occurrences has been in the last 50 years, all but three in the last 20. Note that all are/were relievers, with one notable exception – Rick Ankiel in 2000. (As an aside, the mention of Ankiel the pitcher is a sad reminder of what could have been.)

That’s right. Even the franchise’s greatest starters known for strikeouts such as Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean and Steve Carlton were never able to sustain this high of a strikeout rate over an entire season.

Kiko Calero registered the best single-season rate in club history with just under 12 strikeouts per nine innings back in 2003. He is also the only pitcher to make this list in two different years, in 2003 and 2004. He was traded to Oakland following the second of those two seasons and is now in the Florida Marlins’ bullpen.

Footnote: In his first two starts as a Cardinal, John Smoltz has amassed 15 strikeouts in 11 innings. If the future Hall of Famer could sustain that 12.27 per nine innings rate for at least 24 additional innings, he would supplant Calero at the very top of this list.

Strikeouts per nine innings, season, Cardinals, 1901-2009 (35 innings minimum)

Rank Player K/9 IP Year Age
1 Kiko Calero 11.97 38.1 2003 28
2 Rich Croushore 11.05 71.2 1999 28
3 Mark Littell 11.00 106.1 1978 25
4 Rick Ankiel 9.98 175 2000 20
5 Tony Fossas 9.82 36.2 1995 37
6 Al Reyes 9.62 62.2 2005 34
7 Trever Miller 9.50 36 2009 36
8 Jason Isringhausen 9.37 65.1 2002 29
9 Kiko Calero 9.33 45.1 2004 29
10 Ken Dayley 9.30 61 1987 28
11 Randy Flores 9.29 41.2 2005 29
T12 Tyler Johnson 9.17 36.1 2006 25
T12 Lee Smith 9.17 68.2 1990 32
14 Al Hrabosky 9.16 56 1973 23
15 Chris Perez 9.07 41.2 2008 22
T16 Ron Villone 9.00 50 2008 38
T16 Russ Springer 9.00 66 2007 38
T16 T.J. Mathews 9.00 46 1997 27
T16 Todd Worrell 9.00 64 1992 32
T16 Marshall Bridges 9.00 76 1959 28

Thanks to Tom Orf for the data.

Pujols, Wainwright on way to triple milestones

By Bill Gilbert

For the last several years, I have tracked the players who hit with power and enough consistency to record seasons with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a batting average of .300.  In the year 2000, 26 players reached all three, but the number has fallen off to seven or eight the last few years.

With a month to go in the 2009 season, three American League players and four National League players are on target for a batting average of .300, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.  Seven players achieved these levels in 2008 but Albert Pujols is the only one who is repeating this year.

In addition, there are four additional players, two from each league, who are close and appear to have a realistic chance to reach these levels.

American League Players on Target – .300-24-81 (with stats as of 9/1)

  • Miguel Cabrera, Detroit (.335-27-82) – Has done it twice before.
  • Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels (.311-30-94) – Big time breakout candidate this year.
  • Adam Lind, Toronto (.300-25-81) – Borderline in each category.

National League Players on Target

  • Albert Pujols, St. Louis (.320-41-110) – Ninth straight year.  Only Ruth, Gehrig and Manny have more.
  • Prince Fielder, Milwaukee (.300-36-119) – Has the HR and RBIs.  Needs to keep average up.
  • Ryan Braun, Milwaukee (.310-28-95) – Part of Brewers one-two punch.
  • Chase Utley, Philadelphia (.304-29-84) – Made it in 2006.  Close several times.

American League Players Who Are Close -.290-22-76

  • Joe Mauer, Minnesota (.367-25-79) – Clear MVP choice in AL.  Leads AL in BAVG, OBP and Slugging Average.
  • Justin Morneau, Minnesota (.290-29-96) – Made it in 2006.

National League Players Who Are Close – .290-22-76

  • Ryan Zimmerman, Washington (299-27-90) – Should make it for first time.
  • Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs (.294-25-87) – Made it in 2005.

Here are the six players that achieved triple milestones in 2008 that are falling short this year:

  • Alex Rodriguez – (270-23-70) – Lowest BAVG since 1995.
  • Mark Teixeira – (.284-32-101) – Has everything except BAVG.
  • Aubrey Huff – (.241-13-73) – Not even close to last year.
  • Josh Hamilton – (.268-8-46) – Injuries a major factor
  • Manny Ramirez – (.310-15-49) – Suspension too much to overcome.
  • David Wright – (.324-8-55) – Can’t reach seats in new park.

Pitchers also have milestones to shoot for (20 wins, 200 strikeouts, ERA <3.00).  Adam Wainwright of St. Louis (16, 164, 2.47) is on target to become the first pitcher to achieve all three milestones since Chris Carpenter in 2005.

Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

1800’s AA player stats ok, but team stats are not

“It makes little sense, but apparently that is just the way it is.”

So went the response I received from another member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) when I polled over 1,200 baseball historians asking about the incongruity over how stats from the 1882-1891 American Association (AA) are handled.

Individual players’ results are included while their team results are excluded from the history books.

As you already know if you are a regular reader here, the issue surfaced when the St. Louis Cardinals recently won their 10,000th game as a franchise. The club disagreed, reiterating an earlier position that they do not recognize their years during the 1880s as a member of the AA.

The team’s position is a consistent one as none of the other three former AA teams still surviving in today’s National League consider their AA years to be part of their respective histories, either.

Complicating matters is the fact that major baseball history sites such as and include the AA standings in team records; hence the attention over 10,000 wins, about 800 wins sooner than the Cardinals recognize.

Since my last post, I have confirmed that MLB does recognize player stats accrued during the years of the American Association. So what we have here is a league whose individual stats are ok, but their teams’ results are not.

In 2007, an article about the AA (a good summary read) made this very definitive statement:

“Eventually, the American Association was recognized as a full-fledged Major League and all of its players’ statistics and career highlights are counted accordingly in the annals of Major League history.”

I made what would prove to be an incorrect assumption that MLB would be the ones to define the details of their own history. To that end, I contacted a friend, Director of Stats Cory Schwartz. My intent was to learn the logic behind this decision from the guy who controls the numbers.

Cory begged off, saying that the Elias Sports Bureau “maintain the historical records and are the final arbiters of what is ‘official’ or not”.

At that point, I grabbed my copy of the Elias Book of Baseball Records off the bookcase shelf. The confirmation was instant. The very first record on the very first page is held by an AA player. Deacon McGwire owns the official record for the most major league seasons with 26. He spent his first, in 1884, and four of his 26 campaigns playing in the AA.

My next call was to Elias researcher Ken Hirdt, who seemed to be the right person when he acknowledged he knows “as much or more than anyone around here about 1800’s records”.

Hirdt understood the inconsistency, but wrote it off as being “lost to history”, going on to characterize the late 19th Century as “a murky time” for baseball records.

From there, my last stop was the esteemed members of SABR, as noted above. None of the game’s most avid historians could shed any more light on the situation.

And with nowhere else to turn, that is where I left it – a most dissatisfying conclusion.

My guess, and it is a guess only, is that when the four American Association clubs were accepted into the National League, the NL made a decision not to recognize the AA, considered an outlaw league. This would explain the consistent posture by all four teams to not accept their AA results, including the Cardinals.

Later on, perhaps the decision to count AA player stats was made independently from the NL, maybe by Elias. As an aside, for most of baseball’s history, the league offices had considerable power. Only in recent years was all decision-making consolidated in the MLB offices.

Related posts:

“Not recognizing 10,000 wins ignores American Association”

“Cardinals assert team history began in 1892”

Wainwright extends Cards starters stingy streak to 11

With his win on Sunday against the Washington Nationals by a 2-1 score, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright became the first 16-game winner in Major League Baseball this season.

In addition to strengthening his 2009 National League Cy Young Award candidacy, Wainwright extended a Cardinals-best season streak that he began three starts ago.

Starting with Adam’s August 19th outing in Dodger Stadium, Cardinals starting pitchers have now allowed three or fewer runs in 11 consecutive games and counting. It is not surprising that the team has gone 9-2 during this stretch.

The starters themselves are 7-1 with three no-decisions as six different starters have contributed to the streak. They include Wainwright (three), Chris Carpenter (two), Joel Pineiro (two), John Smoltz (two), Kyle Lohse (one) and Mitchell Boggs (one).

Starting pitcher allowing three or fewer runs, consecutive games, longest streak, 2009 Cardinals

Gm Pitcher Date Opp G StL Opp App Dec IP H R ER BB SO
11 Adam Wainwright 8/30/2009 WSN W 2 1 GS-6 W 6 3 1 1 3 7
10 Mitchell Boggs 8/29/2009 WSN W 9 4 GS-6 W 6 8 3 3 1 1
9 John Smoltz 8/28/2009 WSN W 3 2 GS-6 6 4 1 1 1 6
8 Chris Carpenter 8/27/2009 HOU L 3 4 GS-6 6 5 2 2 2 4
7 Joel Pineiro 8/26/2009 HOU W 3 2 GS-8 W 8 7 2 2 0 5
6 Adam Wainwright 8/25/2009 HOU W 1 0 GS-8 W 8 3 0 0 0 5
5 John Smoltz 8/23/2009 @SDP W 5 2 GS-5 W 5 3 0 0 0 9
4 Chris Carpenter 8/22/2009 @SDP W 7 0 GS-7 W 7 3 0 0 3 6
3 Kyle Lohse 8/21/2009 @SDP L 0 4 GS-4 L 4 4 3 3 2 3
2 Joel Pineiro 8/20/2009 @SDP W 5 1 GS-8 W 7.2 4 1 1 2 7
1 Adam Wainwright 8/19/2009 @LAD W 3 2 GS-7 7 4 2 2 1 3

The previous longest streak by the Cardinals staff this season was nine games, started exactly three months earlier on May 19, running through May 27.

Starting pitcher allowing three or fewer runs, consecutive games, previous longest streak, 2009 Cardinals

Gm Pitcher Date Opp G StL Opp App Dec IP H R ER BB SO
9 Todd Wellemeyer 5/27/2009 @MIL W 3 2 GS-6 W 5.1 6 2 2 1 5
8 Adam Wainwright 5/26/2009 @MIL W 8 1 GS-7 W 7 5 1 1 2 9
7 Chris Carpenter 5/25/2009 @MIL L 0 1 GS-8 8 2 0 0 0 10
6 Joel Pineiro 5/24/2009 KCR L 2 3 GS-7 L 7 8 3 3 0 3
5 Kyle Lohse 5/23/2009 KCR W 5 0 GS-8 W 8 4 0 0 0 6
4 Todd Wellemeyer 5/22/2009 KCR W 5 0 GS-6 W 6 4 0 0 3 3
3 Adam Wainwright 5/21/2009 CHC W 3 1 GS-9 W 8.2 5 1 1 1 7
2 Chris Carpenter 5/20/2009 CHC W 2 1 GS-5 W 5 3 0 0 2 4
1 Joel Pineiro 5/19/2009 CHC W 3 0 SHO9 W 9 3 0 0 0 5

A tip of the cap to Tom Orf for his research.

Will Duncan end up like Rolen?

Let me say right up front that I have the utmost respect for Dave Duncan as a coach and a person.

The long-time St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach has been all over the news this summer, not only for the right reason – due to the considerable successes of his 2009 mound charges – but also because of controversy over his son, former Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan.

As trenches are dug deeper and deeper, the St. Louis future of Dave Duncan seems to be getting cloudier, perhaps to the point the coach will or has already decided not to return for 2010.

I could not help but think about another prominent Cardinals story from recent years in which off-field disputes became bigger than the team, leading to an important cog in the club’s machine to leave town.

The story of the trade of Scott Rolen almost two years ago resurfaced earlier in the month when the third baseman returned to St. Louis, wearing the uniform of the Cincinnati Reds. Rolen went out of his way to visit Tony La Russa in the manager’s office on August 10th in an attempt to clear the air between the two.

Duncan’s circumstances are very different in that his dissatisfaction seems to have stemmed from his son’s treatment by segments of the fans and media and the club’s front office while Rolen had conflicts with his manager and the team’s medical staff.

I don’t know Duncan well, but I do know that he is a straight-shooter and a very principled man. That may not have served him well when his comments critical of the Chris Duncan trade itself, the club’s front office and the players in their farm system received widespread attention and put the coach in an unfavorable light.

Just a few days earlier, Duncan’s longtime friend and boss La Russa had lashed out at those critical of Chris Duncan, saying the negative treatment of the slumping slugger made him “want to vomit”.

Earlier this month, Duncan instituted a blackout policy against the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, apparently over articles written about the younger Duncan. In reference to Chris, Dave also noted the “talk-show guys will have to find a new whipping boy.”

Based on Chris Duncan’s struggles and subsequent release after one month with Boston’s Triple-A club in Pawtucket, it is clear he is not right. Whether a winter of rest and recovery will fix what ails him remains to be seen, but only the coldest of the cold would not wish a return to past success for Chris.

Looking at the Chris Duncan trade from a baseball perspective, most unbiased observers can see its merit from the Cardinals side. Not Dave Duncan, however.

It may be far more difficult, if not impossible for Dave Duncan’s situation to be repaired. The depth of his feelings are illustrated in his comments at the time of the trade. Those remarks may have been amplified by surprise since he reportedly was not informed of the impending trade other than by La Russa. Still, they seemed the words of a disappointed father, rather than coming from the professional coach that he is.

“The way I look at it is he was traded for a player who had very little (leverage) … he (Julio Lugo) was designated for assignment,” Duncan said. “It’s highly unusual for a major-league roster player to be traded for somebody like that. So somebody wanted to get him out of the organization, and they’ve accomplished what they wanted to accomplish.

“Either that or we don’t have anybody in the minor leagues that they wanted for (Lugo). One or the other.”

Duncan was back in the headlines when he asked for a personal day off this past week but declined to explain why. Frankly, it is none of our collective business, but it just added fuel to the “Duncan is leaving” fire.

The Post-Dispatch’s Cardinals beat writer Joe Strauss has his finger on the pulse of the club as much or more than any non-team employee. Strauss states flatly that “Many close to Duncan do not expect him to return (in 2010).”

It would be a shame if that happens, just as it was when Rolen and La Russa decided they could no longer work together.

Yet, Dave Duncan is just one month from his 64th birthday, a time when many Americans are considering retirement. He has been in a professional uniform for over 45 years, with the last 30 years as a major league pitching coach, the longest such stint in MLB history.

Strauss reports that Duncan’s contract option for 2010 is a joint one. In other words, for him to return, both the coach and the front office would have to agree.

If Duncan can’t satisfactorily salve that which is causing his itch, whether it was due to the fans of St. Louis, the media, his own bosses or all of them collectively, then as difficult as it would be for everyone, perhaps he should leave after the season. Having to remain in a job that you no longer enjoy is no place to be.

If that is what transpires, we can only hope that the passing of time will not lead to the principals to look back with regret over how they handed themselves in the heat of the moment.

As Rolen himself observed earlier this month:

“They say time heals all wounds, but at the same time things happen and you don’t rewrite those things. You either accept the way it went down and you accept the changes that were made for the better. Or you harbor negative feelings and have a tough time putting your head down at night.”

After all Dave Duncan has done for the Cardinals, he deserves to be able to put his head down at night. Here’s hoping he can and will continue to be able to do so.

Smoltz’ fast Cardinals start approaches… Andy Rincon?

Andy Rincon’s
major league career consisted of just 20 appearances. John Smoltz is currently at 718 and counting.

Yet Rincon set a St. Louis Cardinals record at the tender age of 21 that Smoltz, with twice as many years on his body at 42, could tie his next time out.

Called up in September, 1980, Rincon spun a complete-game win on just one run at Wrigley Field in his MLB debut. The right-hander quickly picked up two more victories, going eight innings and allowing only one run each time before yielding six runs in six starts in his fourth and final start as the 1980 season concluded.

In doing so, Rincon became the only Cardinals hurler since at least 1954 to allow one run or less in his first three appearances of five or more innings in duration.

With a six-inning, one-run performance Friday on top of his five-inning shutout debut last Sunday, Smoltz has joined six other then-new Cardinals with a pair of such games.

Making this list did not guarantee baseball immortality, however. In fact, some like Rincon are downright obscure. Bigger names like Jerry Reuss (1969) and Kyle Lohse (2008) also appear.

As the day Smoltz is approaching, several were at what would be their career’s end, including Sal “The Barber” Maglie (1958), Alex Kellner (1959) and Glen Hobbie (1964), all of whom made their reputations elsewhere before finishing out their MLB years with the Cardinals.

With Smoltz wanting to pitch again in 2010, time will tell whether or not he will follow the other three in ending his career with St. Louis. But with one more stellar start, he can join long-since forgotten Andy Rincon with the best first three appearances of any new Cardinals hurler in at least the last 55 years.

Games pitching five or more innings, allowing one run or less to start Cardinals career (1954-2009)

StreakStart Streak End Games W L GS CG IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Andy Rincon 9/15/1980 9/26/1980 3 3 0 3 1 25 16 3 3 4 18 1 1.08
Kyle Lohse 4/1/2008 4/6/2008 2 1 0 2 0 12 7 0 0 4 5 0 0.00
Jerry Reuss 9/27/1969 6/22/1970 2 2 0 2 1 16 11 1 1 5 10 0 0.56
Glen Hobbie 6/5/1964 6/10/1964 2 1 0 2 1 16.1 8 2 2 3 7 0 1.10
Alex Kellner 4/25/1959 4/30/1959 2 1 1 1 0 12 11 1 1 2 7 1 0.75
Sal Maglie 6/22/1958 6/28/1958 2 2 0 2 1 16 10 2 2 8 3 1 1.13
Jim Brosnan 5/25/1958 5/30/1958 2 2 0 2 1 15 14 2 2 4 5 1 1.20
John Smoltz 8/23/2009 1 1 0 1 0 5 3 0 0 0 9 0 0.00
8/28/2009* 1 0 0 1 0 6 4 1 1 1 6 0 1.50
* current streak 2 1 0 2 0 11 7 1 1 1 15 0 0.82

Bonus coverage

Smoltz has also tied four other then-new Cardinals with the record of six or more strikeouts in a pitcher’s first two games with the team.

Since at least 1954, no Cardinals hurler has fanned six or more in each of his first three outings. Smoltz will get his chance this coming Thursday afternoon, facing Milwaukee to close out the current homestand.

Games striking out six or more to start Cardinals career (1954-2009)

StreakStart Streak End Games IP SO
John Smoltz 8/23/2009 8/28/2009* 2 11 15
Kip Wells 4/3/2007 4/8/2007 2 13 14
Chuck Finley 7/21/2002 7/26/2002 2 12 15
Joe Magrane 4/25/1987 5/1/1987 2 14 13
Sonny Siebert 4/6/1974 4/12/1974 2 15 13
* current streak

Thanks to regular contributor Tom Orf for providing the data tables.

Why would La Russa be a candidate for Mets GM?

I don’t know if ESPN’s Buster Olney has been having some really bad dreams or he has actually found the pulse of one of baseball’s strangest franchises – the New York Mets.

In an ESPN Insider article on Thursday, Olney lists seven men he sees as logical candidates to become the next general manager of the Metropolitans. To begin to try to understand, one must get past the fact that club ownership has already said the incumbent GM, Omar Minaya, will be back next season.

Devastated by injuries, the Mets are much closer to last place than first as this season nears its end. As the losses have mounted, the pressure increases for someone to blame.

Less than 12 months ago, Minaya was given a new three-year deal that covers the 2010-2012 seasons with club options for two more. Apparently that can be taken to the bank (as in financial commitment), but should not be taken to necessarily mean Omar will be in the same chair come 2010.

Another factor that seems to put Olney out on a limb is the precarious position of Mets owner Fred Wilpon. A Friday FOX Business article says Wilpon lost $700 million in the Bernie Madoff scandal and will be forced to sell the team as soon as next year as a result. Why would the financially-strapped Wilpon want to eat another contract?

Still, anyone who has seen Minaya in action in front of the press has to wonder how he managed to secure that extension in the first place, despite his nice-guy reputation. Several of his public appearances have been downright uncomfortable and at times, embarrassing.

Specifically consider the circumstances surrounding the firings of then-manager Willie Randolph at 3 a.m. and VP Tony Bernazard. During the press conference to announce the latter, Minaya accused a sportswriter of angling for Bernazard’s job. (see video)

I won’t steal Olney’s thunder by sharing his entire unrealistic list of “candidates”, many of whom are under multi-year contracts elsewhere and therefore are not even available. Oddly, three of his seven are managers with no GM experience, including one Tony La Russa.

Olney does acknowledge the risks of putting La Russa and the New York press together (see Minaya problems above) but also makes the very questionable assumption that pitching coach Dave Duncan would be part of a package deal. Do GMs need pitching assistants?

In fairness, Olney’s broad thought is not original – others have previously floated the idea of La Russa as a future GM, too.

I admit that I didn’t see it then and I don’t see it now. La Russa is a West Coast man, turning 65 years of age this fall.

His teams have amassed over 2,500 wins and he is fewer than 230 victories away from the second-most all-time, passing John McGraw.

The fire to win each and every game is what seems to drive La Russa year after year. That could not be stoked by sitting in a GM’s chair anywhere, especially in New York.

Even without the mess with the Mets, why would La Russa even consider such an idea?

I just don’t think he would.

Best minor league markets: Quad Cities at 31, Batavia ranked 48th!

Here is an example of what appears to be a flawed study.

Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, a weekly industry newspaper, has just published a ranking of the best markets for minor league sports, a repeat of earlier efforts in 2005 and 2007.

Factors that go into the rankings include each community’s paid attendance for minor league sports along with the longevity of the franchises. Also included are a number of economic and demographic factors, including unemployment and per capita income.

Let’s see how the St. Louis Cardinals minor league affiliates fared.

On one hand, the Quad Cities scored very high, ranking 31st among 239 markets that have minor league teams in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer and/or lacrosse.

That seems to make sense as the new owners of the River Bandits of the Midwest League have aggressively promoted their club and set a new post-renovation mark for single-season attendance when the team passed the 2008 figure with six games remaining in 2009. The club reports that ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales and sponsorships are all up over last season, which was one of the best in team history.

On the other hand, consider Batavia, New York, home of the Cardinals’ New York-Penn League affiliate. The team averages fewer than 1,000 fans per game and has been losing money for at least the last several years. Even with the future of the town’s only minor league franchise in serious jeopardy, Batavia still ranks in the top 20 percent of all markets at 48th.

Go figure.

It turns out that the longevity of the franchise, called the “Tenure rank” is two-thirds of each market’s grade. As such, it overly-skews the results in Batavia’s favor, a founding member of the New York-Penn League in 1939. Seeing the Cardinals’ longest-running current affiliate, Johnson City, Tennessee, ranked at number 36 in tenure and 46th overall tends to confirm that weighting.

Going further, “Attendance rank” is a five-year view of percentage of filled seats. Amazingly, astonishly, Batavia ranks highest of all Cardinals franchises at 28th of the 239 markets in this component of the overall score.

Now, I have nothing against the Batavia market or the fine people who live there, but compare Batavia to the homes of the other Cardinals minor league franchises and see if the overall market rankings make sense to you.

Take Springfield, Missouri, for example. Forbes recently ranked the Springfield Cardinals in the top 20 of all minor league baseball franchises in value. Yet, the market barely cracked Street & Smiths top 100 at only 99th-best.

Another way to look at it: If the Batavia market is so strong, why is the team doing so poorly?

Conversely, why is Springfield so successful if their market is so weak?

Rank Market Tenure Attendance Economy
31 Quad Cities (Ill, Iowa) 21 45 33
46 Johnson City, Tenn. 36 83 52
48 Batavia, N.Y. 42 28 55
99 Springfield, Mo. 107 20 109
127 Palm Beach County, Fla 116 163 140

Source: Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal

Note that Memphis does not appear on the list because of their major league status due to their NBA team, the Grizzlies.

To see the rankings of all 239 minor league markets, click here.

Thursday afternoon live blogging on FOX Sports Midwest

I am returning as a panelist for FOX Sports Midwest’s weekly live blog session to be held throughout Thursday afternoon’s Cardinals-Astros game. Join in the discussion with me and the galaxy of FSM personalities.

You can participate via FOX Sports Midwest’s website or once the event begins, you can enter your comments and questions right here in the “CoveritLive” area below.

Chris Carpenter faces the Astros’ Brian Moehler as the Cards try to earn the sweep of their three-game home series with Houston.

Thursday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Central.

Where to get in-depth Cardinals prospect news fast

Some people have questioned why they need to come to The Cardinal Nation at and check this site, The Cardinal Nation blog, when they think they can get the same information elsewhere.

Here is a good example looking at how four main sources rolled out the news this week of the St. Louis Cardinals prospects selected to play in the Arizona Fall League.

Note the times and dates of the articles as well as the number of words devoted to Cardinals prospects. Articles are listed in time sequence of posting.

Tuesday, August 25
: 1:00 p.m. (CDT)

Strasburg, top picks highlight AFL

0 words (general AFL article did not mention any Cardinals, but rosters were posted elsewhere on site)

The Cardinal Nation
: 1:28 p.m. (with a 2:30 p.m. update with individual capsules on all eight players)

Jones Leads Eight Cards to Arizona Fall League

1330 words

Future Redbirds blog
: 1:48 p.m.

Arizona Fall League 2009

87 words

Wednesday, August 26

: 10:16 a.m.

DG’s 10@10: The Cardinals’ Three-Headed Monster

228 words (item number six in a multi-subject blog post)

The Cardinal Nation blog
: 2:28 p.m.

Cardinals early Arizona Fall League leftovers

908 words

: 3:11 p.m.

Eight Cardinals prospects to go to Arizona

169 words (article)

Cardinals AFL coverage Tuesday words Wednesday words Total words 0 0 0
The Cardinal Nation/TCN blog 1330 908 2238
Future Redbirds 87 0 87
Post-Dispatch 0 397 397

So, there you have it. If you haven’t already, click on the article titles and check them out. Are they all equal in timing and depth of Cardinals-related content delivered?

Further, which one will be reporting live from Arizona for the seventh year in a row and which ones will be following box scores? And don’t forget our best-of-breed Cardinals Minor League Notebook, provided free seven days a week.

Sure, some articles on are subscriber-only (the ones referenced here were not), but sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Think about it.

Cardinals early Arizona Fall League leftovers

I have received a few emails since the first wave of Arizona Fall League players were made public on Tuesday. Because some of the information and opinions may be of interest to others, I decided to share them here.

Just for completeness, eight members of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system have been invited to participate in the 2009 AFL as members of the Surprise Rafters. They are pitchers Lance Lynn, David Kopp, Adam Reifer and Mike Parisi along with catcher Bryan Anderson, infielder Daniel Descalso and outfielders Daryl Jones and Tyler Henley.

Q: Why do the Cardinals get so many players on the roster? Shouldn’t they only have five?

A: In a normal year, the rosters consisted of six players from each of five organizations plus each got an additional taxi squad player from A ball. This year to cover for the loss of Hawaii League, they each get a second A player. That makes eight per organization.

Q: You mentioned the organization being able to select players from Single A since the Hawaii league closed. However, your link to the team roster only included 25 players. If five teams feed into that roster, shouldn’t each organization only be supplying five players?

A: My article isn’t about the other organizations, but I did point out that some of the other clubs have not yet finalized all their invitees. So the team roster isn’t complete. That is why some organizations have more players listed than others. The rosters will fill out over the upcoming weeks. Players don’t report for another month.

Q: It is not at all intuitive that a team would need a 40-man roster for six weeks of play. What do the extra three players do? Why would they need such a large squad?

A: The reason the number of AFL players per organization was expanded from 5+1 to 6+1 a few years ago is because the organizations would not send top pitchers for fear of overuse. More pitchers mean shorter outings.

Starting pitchers typically don’t usually go more than three or four innings in the AFL. For example, 2008 AFL Player of the Year Tommy Hanson of the Braves made seven starts, but threw only 28 2/3 innings. As an aside, his AFL ERA was 0.63. After I saw him pitch there, I became a believer.

Another reason for larger rosters is that guys get hurt during the AFL season and it is not like the regular season where there is a lower level farm team with ready replacements already in game shape one day away. At least that is the case until/if they get the Hawaii-replacement A-level fall league in place in 2010.

Q: You mentioned that even though the Cardinals’ AFL allocation appears to be complete, you wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of these first eight players don’t actually suit up. Who and why?

Obviously Daryl Jones, Bryan Anderson and Mike Parisi are just a few days into their respective rehabs, so they would need to finish the regular season without any setbacks.

I like the choices of Tyler Henley and Daniel Descalso and I hope Adam Reifer is ready to hitch it up. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports that Henley will be on the Rafters’ taxi squad. That means he can only play on Wednesdays and Saturdays unless an opening is created by the injury or departure of another.

As an aside, I wonder if those angry that Descalso is stuck behind Jarrett Hoffpauir with Memphis are the same ones who were ready to give Hoff the second base job in St. Louis based on an OBP of over .400 between Springfield and Memphis in 2007? He hasn’t been back near that lofty territory since. So far, Descalso has one standout half-season, in Double-A. Let’s see if he can do better in Arizona than Hoff did in 2007 (.236/.358/.255).

David Kopp is another good selection – if he is healthy. That is far from a sure thing. When he was bumped back down to Palm Beach from Springfield, there were whispers that the right-hander’s velocity isn’t back to where it was before his shoulder problems resurfaced. Unless Kopp is right, sending him to Arizona seems questionable.

Lance Lynn has earned an AFL spot based on his fine season with Palm Beach, then Springfield. However, this is just his first year of full-season ball and he has already thrown 130 innings.

Given, the Double-A Cards’ regular season runs through September 7, Lynn would have four more regular turns plus at least one and likely more additional starts in the playoffs. Springfield is already in the post-season based on their first-half title.

Assuming Lynn will continue to average six innings per start, five-plus more outings would add at least 30 more innings to his 22-year-old arm’s running total.

What may be fatigue is already showing. Lynn picked up his 11th win Tuesday, going six innings and allowing just one run on three hits. However, his walk rate has been increasing. Lynn issued four free passes Tuesday and has given out 14 in his last 16 2/3 innings and three starts.

Let’s put those pre-AFL 160 innings into context.

With that total last season, Lynn would have led the entire Cardinals minor league system in innings pitched. Only three pitchers even had as many as 140 – P.J. Walters, Jess Todd and Brandon Dickson.

When Tony La Russa was referenced in a recent Post-Dispatch blurb about the instructional league cancellation saying he was concerned about sending players to fall ball after a long regular season, it seemed out of context for instructs, but it surely could apply here to Lynn.

Jones leads eight Cards to Arizona Fall League

On Tuesday, the tentative rosters for the 18th Arizona Fall League (AFL) were released.

Eight members of the St. Louis Cardinals minor league system have been invited to participate. They include pitchers Lance Lynn, David Kopp, Adam Reifer and Mike Parisi. Catcher Bryan Anderson, infielder Daniel Descalso and outfielders Daryl Jones and Tyler Henley fill out the Cardinals’ tentative group.

For more details, check out my free article at The Cardinal Nation, “Jones Leads Eight Cards to Arizona Fall League”.

TCN blog’s Carp K:BB article featured on KSDK Channel 5

On Sunday, August 23, our recent article about Chris Carpenter’s prolific strikeout to walk ratio pace, “Carpenter’s historic strikeout-to-walk ratio”, provided the basis of a segment of the “This Week in Cardinal Nation” television program. The “Cardinal Nation” show is shown twice every Sunday during the baseball season on KSDK Channel 5 in St. Louis.

We are very proud to have been selected a third time this summer to be highlighted by our good friends at Channel 5, the Sunday home of the St. Louis Cardinals.

See the video below.

Earlier segments:

Pineiro carries the load

Pujols’ multi-home run and RBI games

Cardinals fall ball changes may not be for the better

The St. Louis Cardinals have canceled their yearly fall instructional league camp for 2009 with future plans to be determined, reports the Post-Dispatch. General Manager John Mozeliak offered up this vague explanation:

“I’m not sure the old model works with what’s going on down there.”

The P-D article partially rationalizes the decision by noting that some members of the organization, including Major League manager Tony La Russa, have questioned assigning players to Instructs after they have competed over a full summer season.

Fair enough, but I don’t see that being the purpose of Instructs. The players primarily on La Russa’s radar screen are Triple-A and perhaps Double-A players. These older, more experienced players are not the Instructs’ target group.

The organization drafted and signed 43 brand new players between mid-June and mid-August, some fresh out of high school. These newbies were dropped onto various rosters from Quad Cities to the Gulf Coast League in the midst of those teams’ seasons. Allowing coaches to work with the new players in the less-formal environment of Instructs before their first winters off as professionals offer advantages that may become evident the next season.

It is true that some of the 2009 draftees also played a full high school or college season before signing. Those players viewed to have reached maximum levels of innings pitched, for example, could still benefit from instruction, conditioning and drills.

A number of players already in the system missed considerable portions of the 2009 summer season due to injuries. Instructs offers them the opportunity to get more innings or at-bats, again in a controlled environment.

Finally, Instructs could provide players ready to graduate from the Latin American academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela a vehicle to begin to be oriented into play in the USA.

The P-D article notes the Cardinals’ Jupiter partners, the Florida Marlins, have also canceled their instructional league camp. That leaves the New York Mets as the only spring training club within roughly 100 miles and two hours.

I am in the midst of conducting an informal poll of my publisher peers covering other MLB organizations to learn if the Instructs cancellations are widespread. Responses from at least seven Arizona clubs and three Florida Gulf Coast teams indicate their fall programs are continuing as planned.  Other than Florida, St. Louis and the Mets, nearby in Port St. Lucie, I am unaware of any cancellations.

For the Cardinals, the geography concern is real.

With the relocation of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Vero Beach to Arizona, the next nearest team to the Cardinals after Florida and New York is Washington. Their home in Viera is 110 miles and 1:55 away from Jupiter. The minor leaguers do not travel that far in the spring, so there is no reason to expect they would in the fall, either.

This is a real problem, one that is much larger than Instructs. With only two teams against whom to compete in the spring (and fall), the Marlins and Mets, one of the three clubs’ minor leaguers have no one to play other than themselves on any given day.

As Major League teams continue to vacate Florida for the greener pastures of Arizona, the problem can only worsen. In contrast with Arizona, where at least a dozen teams are within a reasonable drive from one another in the Phoenix area, Florida clubs remain scattered all over the state. For example, to play the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, the Cardinals would have to take a 208-mile bus ride of four hours and 45 minutes each way. That is totally impractical.

While the Major League Cardinals, Marlins and Mets seem firm in their current locales, they have seen the nearby Dodgers and Orioles depart in the past two years with no prospects of replacements coming in.

In terms of Instructs, despite the valid geographic concerns, the decision to cancel camp feels more financially-motivated than player development-oriented.

Not recognizing 10,000 wins ignores American Association

The Cardinals aren’t the only club to not recognize play during the 1880s while in the American Association, but not doing so muddies the historical water.

Yesterday I posted an item that explains in detail the St. Louis Cardinals’ official position regarding the origin of their franchise. The reason for its timing is that the next victory by the club will be their 10,000th according to a number of historical sources, yet will only be the 9,219th according to the organization.

It all gets down to how strongly you believe the 1882 through 1891 St. Louis Browns of the American Association were linked to the 1892 and beyond St. Louis Browns/Cardinals of the National League and whether AA stats should be included with NL results.

While many baseball historians (including me) take the former position, I am not here to debate the Cardinals and MLB on the way they recognize their lineage. Given the Cards dedicated the entire 1992 season to a celebration of the team’s centennial, that horse has long been out of the barn.

Let’s start with what seems to be the prevailing view of historians. The highly-respected sites and are among the many that go with the 1882 date as the Cardinals’ origin.

Even if one accepts that the Cardinals’ victory over San Diego on Thursday was number 9,999 in their history, St. Louis would become just the fourth major league club to reach the 10,000 plateau – or maybe only the third. More on that in a moment.

MLB wins, history (record through Friday, August 21)

Team 1st year wins losses win pct.
Giants 1883 10,323 8,869 0.538
Cubs 1876 10,143 9,582 0.514
Dodgers 1884 10,033 9,100 0.524
Cardinals 1882 9,999 9,325 0.517
Braves 1876 9,832 9,865 0.499
Reds 1882 9,797 9,534 0.507
Pirates 1882 9,741 9,550 0.505
Yankees 1901 9,549 7,280 0.567


Now we will switch lenses and consider how the various teams view themselves.

The top two teams’ positions remain unchanged.

Having been a charter member of the National League in 1876, there is no debate about when the Cubs became the Cubs. Chicago won their 10,000th game on April 23, 2008.

Same with the Giants, as they entered the NL as the New York Gothams in 1883 and have played each season since. They were the first to reach 10,000 victories, in July, 2005 and have the most wins by any count, currently at 10,323.

Let’s look into some of the discrepancies, starting with St. Louis.

By using the 1892 date instead of 1882, the Cardinals’ historical win percentage drops below the Cubbies, moving from .517 down to .509, compared to Chicago currently at .514.

Using the 1892-based win count of 9,218 also lowers the Cardinals from having the fourth-most wins in the history of major league baseball to eighth. With 9,549 wins, the most successful founding member of the American League, the New York Yankees, are among the four teams that move ahead of the Cardinals.

Earlier this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the same exact situation as the Cardinals. They won their 10,000th game if you believe their beginning was in 1884. The Dodgers’ predecessor, the Atlantics/Grays/Bridegrooms, competed against the Browns in the American Association from 1884 through 1889.

Like the Cardinals however, the Dodgers recognize their founding to have been at the time they joined the NL in 1890.

One club actually goes in the other direction timewise as the Cincinnati Reds officially celebrate their beginning with the National League in 1876. They were expelled from the NL in 1880 and helped found the startup AA, which began play in 1882. The Reds rejoined the NL in 1890.

In their team stats, the Reds include their NL results, including 1876-1880, and exclude the AA years from 1882 through 1889. Retrosheet, B-R and the others simply start with 1882.

Further, the Pirates recognize their founding to have been in 1887 when the Pittsburg Alleghenys joined the NL, excluding the five years prior during which the club competed in the AA.

Following is the revised listing based on how the clubs each view their respective histories.

MLB wins, history, club view (record through Friday, August 21)

Team 1st year wins losses win pct.
Giants 1883 10,323 8,869 0.538
Cubs 1876 10,143 9,582 0.514
Braves 1876 9,832 9,865 0.499
Dodgers 1890 9,623 8,746 0.524
Yankees 1901 9,549 7,280 0.567
Pirates 1887 9,505 9,254 0.507
Reds 1876* 9,368 9,354 0.500
Cardinals 1892 9,218 8,893 0.509

* 1881-1889 AA results excluded. Bold year indicates change from first table.

As I said at the start, it all gets down to whether or not you give the American Association respect as having been a major league.

Cardinals assert team history began in 1892

The following is a St. Louis Cardinals media advisory, with my commentary following.

ST. LOUIS, Mo., August 21, 2009 – The city of St. Louis has long had a rich history with the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals National League baseball club is proud to be a part of that. While the St. Louis baseball community thrived in the 1870’s and ‘80’s, the current St. Louis Cardinals team considers their history to have begun with the 1892 charter membership in the newly re-organized 12-team circuit of the National League.

With questions surrounding the Cardinals approaching the 10,000 win mark, the club thought it important to relay our official stance in accordance to the history we recognize. The number of wins the team officially claims is 9,218 (from 1892 through games of Aug. 20, 2009). Not until the current club achieves 10,000 wins as an N.L. franchise from 1892 forward will the Cardinals be celebrating the incredible feat of 10,000 victories. The club has always acknowledged and celebrated our roots, but there is a line of demarcation regarding statistics that is an important boundary the club has chosen to observe.

In 1992, the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated their continuous membership of 100 years in the National League, beginning in 1892. With that decision, the team made some choices about how we recognize our heritage, namely that we regard our history as separate (including records) from all of the various teams that played prior to 1892, while still recognizing their historical importance. Modern baseball rules were not established until 1893 and the modern era of baseball play is recognized as starting in 1900. Therefore, the Cardinals base our official records off rules in play by 1900. With this in mind, the Cardinals honor our heritage as a continuous franchise since 1882 as a team, yet look to our membership in the National League beginning in 1892 as the time we begin tracking official records.

Early baseball history had many teams in St. Louis that formed, dissolved, re-grouped and skipped from one league or association to another. For example, the American Association St. Louis Browns won four consecutive pennants in the AA in 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888 and claimed a “World Championship” in 1886.

However the World Series as we know it began in 1903 and Major League baseball does not recognize any post-season championships that took place (as early as 1884) as part of their World Series history. For that reason, and based on when the current rules of baseball were established alluded to earlier, the 1886 AA championship is not considered part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 10 World Championships, nor are any of the wins from the AA Browns included in the current club’s historical win total.

Below is a listing of baseball teams and the leagues they were affiliated with in St. Louis. The teams the Cardinals track throughout their National League membership and include in their records are bolded.

National League

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1876-77

St. Louis Maroons – 1885-86

St. Louis Browns – 1892-98

St. Louis Perfectos – 1899

St. Louis Cardinals – 1900-Present

Union Association

St. Louis Maroons – 1884

National Association

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1875

American Association

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1882

St. Louis Browns – 1883-91

American League

St. Louis Browns – 1903-1953

Hall-of-Famer Charlie Comiskey was the face of the 1880s St. Louis Browns
Hall-of-Famer Charlie Comiskey was the face of the 1880’s St. Louis Browns

Brian Walton’s take: I have followed this particular question off and on ever since it came into my consciousness when the Cardinals chose to celebrate their centennial in 1992. Many baseball historians disagree with the club, instead tracing the team’s direct bloodline in this manner:

  • St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882)
  • St. Louis Browns (1883 – 1898)
  • St. Louis Perfectos (1899)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (1900 – current)

The key to the team’s position seems to be their view that their statistical history begins with the day the American Association folded and the Browns moved to the National League, in 1892. This despite consistent ownership between the pre-1892 AA Browns and the NL Browns of 1892 and later.

This has additional significance as the Browns reached the World Series for four consecutive seasons during the decade in question, with one title (1886), one tie (1885) and two losses (1887 and 1888).

Further, this keeps greats like Hall of Famer Charlie Comiskey, the team’s player-manager during these years, and Parisian Bob Caruthers, who won the ERA title in 1885, out of Cardinals team recognition.



Rasmus youngest to share Cardinals walk-off record

In the history of the franchise, no St. Louis Cardinals player has ever hit three walk-off home runs in the same season.

A single player had two game-ending long balls in one year two dozen different times over the years. Stan Musial did it in three different seasons, Jim Edmonds did too. So has Albert Pujols.

Mark McGwire managed the feat only once. Now, Colby Rasmus has joined them.

Of the now 25 occurrences, Rasmus is the youngest in terms of calendar years at the age of 22 and tied for youngest in terms of Major League Baseball experience. Bill Virdon was also a rookie when he hit two walk-off home runs for the 1955 Cardinals.

Rasmus’ second walk-off in his first season was also the most recent appearance by the San Diego Padres Friday’s starting pitcher Clayton Richard. Last Sunday in St. Louis, the Cardinals outfielder homered with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Padres closer Heath Bell, ending the game and cementing the series sweep.

There is still time for Rasmus to hit his third in 2009 and re-write the record book in his very first season. Who knows? Maybe he will do it against Richard or Bell on Friday.

Two walk-off home runs in a season, Cardinals history

Age Yrs Game 1 Inn Opp Score BI Final Game 2 Inn Opp Score BI Final
Pepper Martin 29 5 5/22/1933 10 Bos 0-0 3 3-0 7/29/1933 10 ChC 6-6 3 9-6
Joe Medwick 25 6 6/19/1937 9 Bos 4-5 3 7-5 7/27/1937 9 NYG 8-8 1 9-8
Stan Musial 25 5 7/14/1946 12 Bro 1-1 1 2-1 8/22/1946 12 Phi 6-6 1 7-6
Erv Dusak 25 3 7/16/1946 9 Bro 2-4 3 5-4 9/24/1946 10 Cin 1-1 1 2-1
Stan Musial 27 7 8/26/1948 9 NYG 5-5 2 7-5 8/28/1948 12 NYG 4-4 1 5-4
Enos Slaughter 36 12 6/1/1952 9 NYG 7-7 1 8-7 9/6/1952 10 Pit 4-4 3 7-4
Bill Virdon 24 R 4/14/1955 11 Mil 7-7 1 8-7 5/10/1955 10 Phi 3-3 2 5-3
Joe Cunningham 25 3 7/28/1957 11 Pit 8-8 1 9-8 7/30/1957 9 SF 3-3 4 7-3
Ken Boyer 27 4 5/31/1958 12 SF 9-9 1 10-9 6/11/1958 12 Cin 2-2 1 3-2
Stan Musial 38 18 5/7/1959 9 ChC 3-3 1 4-3 8/7/1959 9 Phi 1-1 2 3-1
Ken Boyer 30 7 8/8/1961 9 Cin 5-5 1 6-5 9/14/1961 11 ChC 5-5 1 6-5
Darrell Porter 32 14 5/20/1984 9 Cin 1-2 2 3-2 7/18/1984 11 SF 4-4 4 8-4
Jack Clark 31 13 6/18/1987 10 Pit 6-6 2 8-6 7/10/1987 13 SF 3-3 2 7-5
Ray Lankford 27 5 5/10/1994 11 ChC 6-6 1 7-6 6/4/1994 9 SF 1-1 1 2-1
Tom Pagnozzi 33 10 6/1/1996 10 Hou 4-4 1 5-4 7/21/1996 10 ChC 5-5 1 6-5
Willie McGee 38 16 4/8/1997 9 Mon 1-1 1 2-1 7/2/1997 10 Min 1-1 1 2-1
Mark McGwire 34 14 4/2/1998 12 LA 5-5 3 8-5 7/11/1998 11 Hou 2-3 2 4-3
Jim Edmonds 30 8 9/1/2000 9 NYM 5-5 1 6-5 9/3/2000 9 NYM 3-3 1 4-3
Jim Edmonds 33 11 5/1/2003 10 NYM 5-5 1 6-5 8/21/2003 9 Pit 3-3 3 6-3
Albert Pujols 23 3 7/12/2003 11 Pit 7-7 2 9-7 9/20/2003 13 Hou 2-2 1 3-2
Albert Pujols 24 4 6/18/2004 10 Cin 3-3 1 4-3 8/4/2004 9 Mon 4-4 1 5-4
Jim Edmonds 34 12 4/29/2004 13 Phi 4-4 1 5-4 10/20/2004* 12 Hou 4-4 2 6-4
Albert Pujols 26 6 4/16/2006 9 Cin 6-7 2 8-7 7/13/2006 14 LA 2-2 1 3-2
Ryan Ludwick 29 6 5/17/2008 10 TB 8-8 1 9-8 8/5/2008 11 LA 4-4 2 6-4
Colby Rasmus 22 R 7/1/2009 10 SF 1-1 1 2-1 8/16/2009 9 SD 4-5 2 7-5

* Post-season

Thanks to Tom Orf for the base stats above.

Roger Dean Stadium name to remain

Local automobile dealer Roger Dean Chevrolet has renewed its contract to remain the naming rights partner of the Jupiter, Florida baseball facility for the final eight years of the current lease, through until the end of 2017 Florida State League season.

Roger Dean Stadium houses the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals for Spring Training as well as the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals, the organizations’ Class A-Advanced affiliates in the Florida State League.

The Florida Marlins have been at Roger Dean Stadium since 2002 when they replaced the Montreal Expos. The Cardinals have been there ever since the stadium’s opening in 1998, when they relocated from their long-time spring home in St. Petersburg.

Pujols’ four-on-base, no-hit oddity

Here in 2009, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is competing for another National League batting title to go along with his 2003 crown. His .321 average places him fourth in the race, but Pujols has a large gap to close, currently trailing leader Hanley Ramirez of Florida by 37 points.

Despite being on base four times Wednesday night, Pujols actually lost ground to the Marlins’ shortstop.

How could that be, you ask?

In a statistical oddity, although Pujols reached base four times, each was accomplished without the benefit of a hit. He walked three times, none obviously intentional, and was hit by a pitch. In the other plate appearance, his only official at-bat, Pujols struck out in the sixth inning. He finished the night 0-for-1.

I would be remiss if I did not note that Pujols’ final plate appearance was the key to the game. His ninth-inning walk against Jonathan Broxton led to him stealing second (pictured), reaching third on a throwing error and scoring on a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly.*

That gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win and a two-games-to-one series edge over the home Los Angeles Dodgers. The accomplishment against a playoff-caliber opponent added to the excitement.

With the able assistance of Tom Orf, we can put Pujols’ strange evening into some historical context.

Since at least 1954, no Cardinals player has ever reached base five times in a game without having a hit, but Pujols’ feat of four has been accomplished 35 times in the last 55 years.

Oddly, the Cardinals had eight such games in Tony La Russa’s first three years as manager, from 1996 through 1998, including five during the third season of the three. Yet it has taken the 11 years since for the team to log eight more four-on-base-with-no-hit games.

Not surprisingly, Pujols has the last four, including two this season, and the only ones by a Cardinals hitter since the first two weeks of the 2003 season. Pujols is also only one of four to also steal a base. The others were Ozzie Smith in 1984, Joe Cunningham in 1958 and Stan Musial in 1954.

Cardinals on base four times without a hit, 1954-2009

Albert Pujols 8/19/2009 @LAD W 3-2 5 1 1 0 0 3 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Albert Pujols 4/26/2009 CHC L 3-10 5 1 0 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0
Albert Pujols 4/30/2006 WSN W 9-2 5 1 1 0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Albert Pujols 5/27/2004 PIT W 6-3 5 0 1 0 1 4 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
Scott Rolen 4/12/2003 @HOU W 3-0 5 1 1 0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fernando Vina 8/10/2002 NYM W 5-4 5 1 1 0 0 2 4 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
J.D. Drew 10/4/2001 @MIL W 10-3 6 2 3 0 0 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Eli Marrero 8/31/2001 @LAD W 5-1 4 0 2 0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ron Gant 9/7/1998 CHC W 3-2 4 0 0 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fernando Tatis 1998-08-21(1) @NYM W 10-5 5 1 2 0 0 3 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Mark McGwire 8/14/1998 PIT W 10-5 4 0 2 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mark McGwire 6/6/1998 SFG L 4-5 7 3 1 0 0 3 4 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mark McGwire 5/2/1998 @CHC L 3-4 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ray Lankford 9/18/1997 @CHC L 3-4 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mark McGwire 8/20/1997 @MON W 6-3 5 1 0 0 0 3 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ron Gant 9/19/1996 CHC W 5-4 6 2 1 0 0 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jack Clark 1987-07-08(2) LAD W 8-7 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Andy Van Slyke 4/20/1985 PIT W 4-3 4 0 1 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Ozzie Smith 9/26/1984 @MON W 5-0 5 1 2 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Ozzie Smith 8/2/1982 PIT L 2-4 8 4 0 0 0 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Darrell Porter 7/23/1982 HOU W 6-2 4 0 1 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bobby Bonds 1980-06-08(1) @MON L 4-6 5 1 2 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Phillips 9/23/1979 @NYM W 7-4 5 1 1 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ted Sizemore 8/12/1974 SDP W 6-5 7 2 1 0 0 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lou Brock 9/3/1971 CHC W 6-1 6 2 2 0 0 4 4 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tim McCarver 8/17/1969 @ATL W 5- 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Cunningham 4/26/1961 MLN L 1-8 4 0 0 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Cunningham 4/18/1961 @LAD L 4-5 5 1 1 0 0 3 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Grammas 7/11/1959 @PHI W 4-3 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Joe Cunningham 1958-06-08(2) PHI L 4-6 6 2 1 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Wally Moon 1957-08-04(1) PHI L 4-5 6 2 1 0 0 3 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Hank Sauer 6/9/1956 PIT W 8-3 5 1 0 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ken Boyer 1955-05-01(1) @PIT W 4-3 4 0 1 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Solly Hemus 9/11/1954 @PIT W 7-2 5 1 2 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stan Musial 5/3/1954 NYG W 8-2 5 1 2 0 0 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

* Bonus obscure factoid: Prior to Wednesday, the Cardinals’ most recent game-winning sacrifice fly in the team’s final inning at-bat was on April 10, 2007 in Pittsburgh by Skip Schumaker in a 3-2 win.

Cardinals happily serve as Red Sox dumping ground

Listening to St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak discussing the club’s acquisition of future Hall of Famer John Smoltz (pictured) Wednesday afternoon made me think about the recent success of the Cardinals in restoring the luster to Red Sox castoffs.

The deep pockets of Sox principal owner John Henry and his partners enable them to eat massive contracts like Big Papi consumes… t-bones. It amazes me that while his growing number of mistakes get run out of town, Boston GM Theo Epstein continues to be issued free passes.

A lower-revenue team like St. Louis cannot afford nearly as many missteps. It seems for every Tino Martinez or Adam Kennedy contract the Cardinals have to swallow, the Sox quietly dispose of a handful of Edgar Renterias. The former St. Louis shortstop was sent away from Boston after one year of a four-year deal with $11 million cash pinned to the front of his uniform.

In just the last two years alone, the Cardinals have picked up three Beantown busts. Oddly, the first name of each of the three begin with the letter “J”.

At the 2007 deadline, the Sox were happy to send Joel Pineiro to St. Louis in return for a minor leaguer, Sean Danielson. The former Seattle starter had been signed to a $4 million base deal loaded with closer-type incentives that previous winter.

After failing in Boston, Pineiro had been optioned to the minors at the time of the trade. Less than 90 days after joining St. Louis, he signed a two-year deal for $13 million that looked like a mistake in the first year but is a bargain today.

Shortstop Julio Lugo, like Renteria before him, wore out his welcome with the tough Red Sox crowd. After having designated him for assignment, the Sox ate the remaining $13.5 million on Lugo’s four-year, $36 million deal signed before the 2007 season.

In return for slumping outfielder Chris Duncan, who has since been removed from Boston’s 40-man roster, the Cardinals picked up a year and a half of Lugo’s services with no salary obligation attached. So far, Lugo has posted a line of .343/.392/.567 in spot duty for the Cardinals.

Desperate for shortstop help since dumping Lugo, the Sox unsuccessfully tried journeyman Chris Woodward and now have acquired veteran Alex Gonzalez from Cincinnati. Both are lesser players than the one they already had – Lugo.

Then of course we have Wednesday’s addition of right-hander John Smoltz. The 42-year-old, coming off June 2008 shoulder surgery, signed with the Sox this past winter. He struggled as a starter and did not want to go to the minor leagues to return to relieving, a role in which he excelled previously.

When the Sox released Smoltz, they remained responsible for the remainder of his contract. It has a $5.5 million base, with the Cardinals only liable for a prorated portion of the $400,000 per year minimum salary, about $100,000.

I am conveniently forgetting about a fourth Red Sox reject, pitcher Matt Clement, a name I thought I would never write about again. After having rehabbed him for the better part of two years, the Sox made no effort to re-sign Clement following the 2007 season. The Cards snapped up the former Cubs starter in January, 2008 for $1.5 million. Clement never reached St. Louis and was released from Triple-A Memphis that August after underwhelming results on the mound.

The right-hander had an audition with Toronto this spring, but is now retired from baseball. Clement has become the coach of the men’s basketball team at Butler (PA) High School, his alma mater.

Still, three of four successes wouldn’t be bad, would it? Getting another shot at the Sox with a chance to atone for the 2004 World Series disappointment would be the icing on the cake. No doubt the three jilted “J’s” would receive special satisfaction from participating in an October beatdown of the Beantowners.

Looking into John Smoltz, circa 2009

By Ian Walton

I for one am quite pleased with the Cardinals’ signing of John Smoltz. Now granted, I also happen to be a Vikings fan, so I may simply be in an optimistic mood when it comes to the arms of old men, but I do have a few reasons to be hopeful.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The Red Sox didn’t just release Smoltz on a whim. The man does sport a 8.32 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP behind a fully justified 2-5 record on the season. Dustin Mattison summed up his weaknesses quite well over at The Cardinal Nation when displaying his line against left-handed hitters (.440/.490/.758) and his line when facing batters the second time through a lineup (.388/.397/.657). These numbers scream situational right-handed relief, so despite his initial role as a fifth starter, we all know where he will end up by the time the post-season rolls around should the Cardinals qualify. And heck, with their play of late, why shouldn’t they?

Let’s take a look at Smoltz’ performances start by start this season:

6/25 5 5 5 1 0 7
6/30 4 1 2 1 0 3
7/6 6 5 3 1 0 10
7/11 5 1 7 1 0 4
7/20 5.2 6 5 0 3 9
7/26 5 6 6 1 1 9
7/31 6 5 2 0 2 8
8/7 3.1 8 3 4 2 9
Total 40 37 33 9 8 59

His strikeout to walk ratio seems right on pace with his career numbers at approximately 3:1. His problems clearly lie in his hits and home runs allowed and those numbers clearly point to some bad luck. Opposing hitters have swung to a tune of a .343 batting average propped up by a .386 batting average with balls in play. Over his career, Smoltz has given up steady .237 and .287 marks respectively so things should start to even out soon.

I can offer no explanation for why he gave up so many home runs in his last four starts after giving up none in the previous four, but a move to Busch certainly won’t hurt in that department. I can offer an explanation for why he gave up nearly half of his walks this season in his final start, however. Take a look at his release points from the view of the catcher:

The green points were thrown for balls and it is very clear to see that at least seven of them were due to faulty mechanics. I didn’t see this wildness in any of his other starts, so hopefully it is something that Dave Duncan can address in short order.

Smoltz holds a career ERA of 3.32 and a career WHIP of 1.18 and I don’t see anything to suggest that his complete inability to match those numbers in 2009 is due to anything other than bad luck and some poor mechanics in his final start that caused him to be designated for assignment.

The Cardinals have made a number of mid-season additions that have really helped to spark their team to new heights and I see no reason to doubt this addition either. On the other hand, I do see every reason to question the Red Sox’ patience after seeing them recently acquire the mighty Alex Gonzalez (.209/.255/.295) following their dump trade of Julio Lugo (.307/.367/.443).

Thanks for financing my team’s playoff run, Boston!

Release point graph courtesy of Brooks Baseball.

Batavia franchise may be nearing its end

It seems time to admit that the New York-Penn League’s Batavia Muckdogs aren’t going to draw enough fans to survive.

Deep in six-digit debt two years ago, local ownership brought in the successful management team from the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings in a noble attempt to breathe some life back into the founding member of the league back in 1939.

Last season, the parent St. Louis Cardinals more than did their part, providing the players and coaches that brought the town exciting, winning baseball, culminating in their first NY-Penn championship since 1963.

While the result of the field was good, the result on the books was just the opposite – a quarter of a million dollar loss was absorbed by the Red Wings for 2008 operations of the Muckdogs franchise.

Here in 2009, the situation seems to be deteriorating. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle ran a somber news item on Tuesday, likely with information sourced from a member of the Rochester Community Baseball organization. The message is that RCB has not yet decided their future involvement with the money-losing Muckdogs following this season, at least publicly.

Though it was in the sports section, not with the obituaries, the end seems near.

Despite coming off their championship season, the Muckdogs are averaging only 988 fans over their first 29 home games here in 2009. That ranks them 13th in the 14-team NY-Penn League, a league in which the average attendance is three-and-a-half times higher, 3,616. That average rises to 3,818 if Batavia is excluded.

The 988 average attendance figure is down from 1,199 last year and 1,230 in 2007, reports the Democrat and Chronicle. In what seems more like gallows humor than anything, The Batavian labeled the Rochester report “idle speculation” and gamely observes that the 2009 figure is not apples and oranges since it reflects the actual attendance, not an inflated figure as in past years.

No matter how you cut it, the signals are bad.

What clinched the deal for me was a line in the Rochester news article that Rochester Community Baseball will receive 10 percent of the proceeds if the Muckdogs are sold. I had not seen that factoid before, but its inclusion brings the situation into focus.

Let’s do the simple math.

How many years of losing $250,000 per year can be covered by a 10 percent stake of a franchise likely worth in the range of $3 million to $5 million?

Two years times $250,000 equals a half-million dollars lost. Ten percent of $5 million is half-a-million dollars gain. Hmmm…

Rochester Community Baseball did not sign up to run the Batavia Muckdogs as a charity exercise. Assuming they can see no end to the continued flow of red ink, as intelligent businesspeople, what choice would they have other than to cut their losses?

If RCB cannot succeed running the team and the locals already failed in their attempts, who else would see any potential in coming in to make a third try in 2010 and beyond?

The logical and obvious conclusion, as painful as it is for the Batavia faithful, is the sale and relocation of the Muckdogs.

If that happens, the Cardinals affiliation would move with the team. St. Louis is contractually committed to the Muckdogs franchise via their Player Development Contract that runs through the 2010 season.

If Batavia fans want to ensure they catch their team in action, time is running out. The club has only nine home dates remaining in the 2009 season. Beyond that, we shall see.

Cardinals crush classy closers

Over just the last three weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals have come from behind four times in the final innings to either tie a game or win it against four top National League closers. The victims have been the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton, the Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez, the Pirates’ Matt Capps and most recently, the Padres’ Heath Bell.

Let’s look into each contest. Notice how several of the closers’ seasons seemed to have taken a downturn after they failed against St. Louis.

Sunday, August 16 at Busch: Cardinals 7, Padres 5 – Bell rung

Both teams waited through two rain delays totaling two hours and 19 minutes before the Cardinals scored three in the ninth to come from behind to win. Key blows against Bell were singles by Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina and a two-run walk off home run by Colby Rasmus.

Bell was the losing pitcher and took a blown save too. It was his first outing in St. Louis since having also taken the defeat in the 2009 All-Star Game at Busch last month. In his favor, Bell came back to earn a win against the Cubs on Monday – a doubly good outcome.

The August 16 victory gave the Cardinals a three-game sweep of the visitors and capped a 5-1 homestand. It helped the team reach two milestones as it was the first time St. Louis had been 15 games over .500 this season (67-52) and their first five-game lead in the National League Central Division race.

Sunday, August 9 at Pittsburgh: Cardinals 7, Pirates 3 – Capps blasted

In the eighth, a two-run home run by pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker gave the Cardinals the lead against Capps. A controversial plunking of Albert Pujols followed, an act which caused Capps to be ejected. A two-run double by Ludwick and a run-scoring single by Khalil Greene then padded the Cardinals’ lead.

Capps took the daily double with both the blown save and the loss. He had converted 21 of 23 save opportunities prior to that. In the eight days since, pitching for the woeful Pirates, he hasn’t had another chance at a save, though he did yield three runs in just 2/3 of an inning last Thursday.

The come-from-behind victory sent the Cards 11 games over .500 for the first time all season and put them two games ahead of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, at the time their largest edge since July 21.

Tuesday, August 4 at New York: Cardinals 12, Mets 7 (10 innings) – K-Rod clobbered

The Cardinals rallied from two runs down in the final inning of regulation against Rodriguez. Julio Lugo and Schumaker delivered two-strike, run-scoring hits off K-Rod in the ninth inning, with Skip’s tying the game at 7-7. After K-Rod exited, Mark DeRosa plated the game winner on a hit-by-pitch and Pujols broke out of a slump with a grand slam in the tenth to put it away.

K-Rod took the blown save, only his fourth of the season in 28 opportunities at that time. Since that night, in five save chances, he has blown two (including one loss).

Wednesday, July 29 at Busch: Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2 (15 innings) – Broxton bashed

The Cardinals were down to their last strike, losing 1-0 in the ninth when Rasmus’ broken-bat, opposite-field RBI single off Broxton sent the game into extra innings. In a marathon that lasted 15 innings over 4 hours, 53 minutes and included 453 pitches, St. Louis eventually won the game against former Cardinals starter Jeff Weaver in the 15th.

The blown save ended Broxton’s run of 12 consecutive saves and was just his third blown save of the season in 26 chances. Since, he has blown two of his four save opportunities and of course could be facing the Cardinals again on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Dodger Stadium.

Carpenter’s walk stinginess

A couple of days ago, I wrote here about Chris Carpenter’s historic strikeout-to-walk ratio. As Carp prepares to take the mound at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, I thought (with the help of Tom Orf) that I would delve a bit deeper into the bases on balls component of the St. Louis Cardinals star’s ongoing success.

First, we will look at this season only. Carpenter is working on a run of 19 consecutive starts in 2009 of walking two or fewer batters. His teammate Joel Pineiro is tied with Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels as the current MLB leader with the former at 21 and counting.

(In the tables that follow, an asterisk (*) next to the end date denotes a current streak.)

Two or fewer walks, consecutive starts, MLB 2009

Teams Start End Gms W L GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Joel Pineiro STL 4/22/2009 8/15/2009 * 21 9 9 21 3 2 143.1 141 59 49 12 67 4 3.08
Cole Hamels PHI 4/10/2009 8/2/2009 21 7 6 21 1 1 123 139 66 64 23 107 18 4.68
Chris Carpenter STL 4/9/2009 8/12/2009 * 19 12 3 19 2 0 130.2 109 34 33 19 97 7 2.27
Danny Haren ARI 4/17/2009 7/23/2009 18 10 3 18 3 1 130 94 33 31 16 130 12 2.15
Carl Pavano CLE-MIN 5/11/2009 8/8/2009 16 8 5 16 1 1 101.1 115 57 52 15 70 15 4.62
Zach Duke PIT 4/8/2009 6/29/2009 16 8 6 16 2 1 112 107 41 39 26 54 11 3.13
James Shields TBR 5/3/2009 7/17/2009 15 4 4 15 0 0 100.2 117 48 42 16 76 9 3.75
Roy Halladay TOR 4/6/2009 6/29/2009 15 10 2 15 3 1 109 100 33 31 14 95 7 2.56

From a career perspective, Carp has logged an even more impressive 35 such starts in a row, dating back to July, 2006. Of course, he missed much of the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to injury, but has still managed to maintain his streak.

Over at least the last 55 years, Carpenter’s current run of 35 games with two-or-fewer bases on balls per start is 14th longest anywhere in Major League Baseball and is the only top streak still active.

To become number one, Carpenter would need to maintain his run for the equivalent of two entire seasons. That is how long it would take to eclipse the amazing streak of 99 such games put together by Carlos Silva from late 2003 into 2007.

Two or fewer walks, consecutive starts, MLB 1954-2009

Teams Start End Gms W L GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Carlos Silva PHI-MIN 8/2/2003 5/10/2007 99 36 34 99 3 1 610.2 760 328 302 84 238 89 4.45
Brad Radke MIN 4/18/2003 9/18/2004 62 24 17 62 4 2 404.1 442 188 176 42 247 51 3.92
David Wells SDP-BOS 8/13/2004 4/29/2007 59 25 14 59 2 0 355.2 423 189 178 43 206 47 4.5
Bret Saberhagen NYM 10/4/1992 5/14/1995 48 21 13 48 8 1 350.2 329 128 120 36 253 28 3.08
Zane Smith MON-PIT 7/25/1990 9/21/1991 45 22 12 45 9 5 308.1 284 110 88 35 172 17 2.57
Jon Lieber CHC-NYY-PHI 5/29/2002 4/21/2005 43 21 13 43 2 0 286.2 340 146 130 25 167 35 4.08
Andy Sonnanstine TBD-TBR 8/5/2007 9/21/2008 42 18 12 42 1 1 247 278 142 130 47 163 26 4.74
Shane Reynolds HOU 7/30/1998 9/4/1999 42 21 13 42 4 2 283 301 120 112 36 270 27 3.56
Lary Sorensen MIL 7/1/1978 7/23/1979 40 19 18 40 20 5 301 304 124 111 39 70 31 3.32
La Marr Hoyt CHW-SDP 9/11/1984 5/17/1986 39 18 12 39 8 3 256.1 267 116 110 22 109 29 3.86
Mike Mussina NYY 9/18/2007 9/28/2008 37 22 9 37 0 0 219.1 235 94 84 34 163 17 3.45
Bill Hands CHC 9/11/1967 4/13/1969 37 17 9 37 12 4 265.2 221 92 78 36 149 29 2.64
Robin Roberts PHI 5/7/1960 5/20/1961 36 11 20 36 14 2 258.1 277 115 107 34 135 34 3.73
Chris Carpenter STL 7/30/2006 8/12/2009 * 35 17 9 35 6 2 238.1 208 81 77 35 176 15 2.91

Bonus Carpenter coverage:

Though not related directly to bases on balls, it is worth also noting that on Monday night, Carpenter is going for his fifth consecutive start that ends in a win decision.

His is the second longest current streak in MLB after Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee at six. Carp’s Cardinals teammates broke San Diego’s Mat Latos’ consecutive start winning streak at four as they pinned a loss on the rookie on Friday night.

A fifth win Monday would tie Carpenter for the third-longest streak in MLB this season, behind leader Jorge de la Rosa of Colorado with seven. Pineiro had a comparable four-game stretch this April.

Victories in consecutive starts, MLB 2009

Teams Start End Gms W L GS CG SHO IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Jorge de la Rosa COL 6/21/2009 7/30/2009 7 7 0 7 0 0 46.2 35 14 14 16 40 3 2.70
Cliff Lee CLE-PHI 7/16/2009 8/13/2009 * 6 6 0 6 3 0 49 38 7 7 6 37 2 1.29
Matt Cain SFG 5/17/2009 6/14/2009 6 6 0 6 3 0 41.2 34 9 8 14 36 3 1.73
Zack Greinke KCR 4/8/2009 5/4/2009 6 6 0 6 3 2 45 30 3 2 8 54 0 0.40
Jamie Moyer PHI 6/23/2009 7/16/2009 5 5 0 5 0 0 29.1 24 12 12 8 15 5 3.68
Aaron Cook COL 6/6/2009 6/28/2009 5 5 0 5 0 0 36 31 7 7 6 22 4 1.75
Rick Porcello DET 5/5/2009 5/27/2009 5 5 0 5 0 0 30 22 5 5 10 20 1 1.50
Matt Palmer LAA 4/23/2009 5/19/2009 5 5 0 5 1 0 31.2 23 16 15 13 18 4 4.26
Roy Halladay TOR 4/26/2009 5/17/2009 5 5 0 5 1 0 39 36 11 9 5 31 1 2.08
Mark Buehrle CHW 4/12/2009 5/7/2009 5 5 0 5 0 0 33 24 9 9 8 21 2 2.45
Chris Carpenter STL 7/27/2009 8/12/2009 * 4 4 0 4 1 0 31 34 8 8 3 21 3 2.32
Mat Latos SDP 7/24/2009 8/8/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 25.2 16 6 6 8 19 5 2.10
Joba Chamberlain NYY 7/19/2009 8/6/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.2 14 6 6 15 24 3 2.03
Randy Wells CHC 7/18/2009 8/3/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.1 26 8 8 6 12 2 2.73
John Lackey LAA 7/12/2009 7/29/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 30.2 16 5 5 10 23 2 1.47
Jarrod Washburn SEA 7/6/2009 7/23/2009 4 4 0 4 1 1 29.2 15 2 2 4 12 0 0.61
Wandy Rodriguez HOU 7/2/2009 7/21/2009 4 4 0 4 1 1 29 21 2 2 5 27 1 0.62
Danny Haren ARI 6/30/2009 7/18/2009 4 4 0 4 1 1 30 19 5 3 4 33 1 0.90
Tim Lincecum SFG 6/23/2009 7/9/2009 4 4 0 4 2 1 31.2 15 4 4 8 37 1 1.14
Ricky Romero TOR 6/21/2009 7/6/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 28.1 21 5 5 11 25 1 1.59
Randy Wells CHC 6/21/2009 7/6/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.2 23 7 7 4 17 3 2.36
Ricky Nolasco FLA 6/18/2009 7/5/2009 4 4 0 4 1 0 28 15 5 3 3 32 2 0.96
Tommy Hanson ATL 6/12/2009 6/28/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 23 18 2 2 16 13 0 0.78
Jered Weaver LAA 5/27/2009 6/14/2009 4 4 0 4 1 1 30 17 4 4 9 29 0 1.20
Matt Harrison TEX 4/27/2009 5/14/2009 4 4 0 4 2 1 30 22 6 6 2 18 0 1.80
Derek Lowe ATL 4/25/2009 5/11/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 25.1 24 12 12 9 17 2 4.26
Scott Richmond TOR 4/15/2009 5/3/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.1 20 8 6 10 22 3 2.05
Joel Pineiro STL 4/10/2009 4/27/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.1 30 11 11 6 6 1 3.76
Chad Billingsley LAD 4/8/2009 4/23/2009 4 4 0 4 0 0 26.1 14 6 6 9 26 0 2.05

Molina approaching Cards catching single-season steals leaders

As often happens in my writing, one event leads to investigating another and before I know it, I have wandered over a considerable portion of the baseball universe.

Such is the case resulting from St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s recent exploits.

His pickoff of San Diego outfielder Will Venable during Saturday’s top of the seventh sapped the life from the visitors’ rally. Five straight Padres had reached base with two out and the tying run was just 90 feet away from home.

Just after pinch hitter Oscar Salazar took another ball from reliever Kyle McClellan, Molina turned the game on its ear with his arm. The offense then quickly scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh and the Cardinals were on their way to a 7-4 victory.

It was Molina’s seventh runner picked off first base this season and the 33rd of his career.

During the next inning, Molina may have traveled a bridge too far as he was caught trying to steal home. That cane on the heels of Molina’s seventh stolen base on Friday night.

He is now seven-for-nine this season, a total that matches his steals over his entire professional career prior to 2009. Molina had four stolen bases in the majors from 2005 though 2008 and another three as a minor leaguer in 2001 and 2002.

The Cardinals media notes, picked up by several news services, credit the team’s record for stolen bases by a catcher in a season at nine. Their co-leaders are Tom Pagnozzi, 9-for-22 in 1991 and Tim McCarver at 9-for-15 in 1966.

That seemed surprising to me, so I fired up my invaluable copy of Lee Sinins’ Complete Baseball Encyclopedia.

Specifying a few quick parameters gave me a list of the top stolen base seasons by catchers in team history. Yet as I soon learned, players are categorized by their primary position. Stats presented are their complete results from all positions played.

Stolen bases by a catcher, season, top 30, St. Louis Cardinals history

Rk Catcher Year Steals
1 Jack Boyle 1891 19
T2 Doggie Miller 1895 18
T2 Ivey Wingo 1913 18
T4 Ivey Wingo 1914 15
T4 Mike Grady 1905 15
T6 Mike Gonzalez 1918 14
T6 Doc Bushong 1887 14
T6 Art Nichols 1901 14
T6 Lou Criger 1899 14
T10 Roger Bresnahan 1910 13
T10 John Munyan 1891 13
T12 Doc Bushong 1886 12
T12 Heinie Peitz 1893 12
T12 Klondike Douglass 1897 12
T12 Mike Gonzalez 1917 12
T16 John Munyan 1890 11
T16 Roger Bresnahan 1909 11
T16 Jack O’Neill 1903 11
T16 Eli Marrero 1999 11
T16 Jack Boyle 1888 11
T21 Jimmie Wilson 1928 9
T21 Ed Phelps 1910 9
T21 Jimmie Wilson 1932 9
T21 Tom Pagnozzi 1991 9
T21 Heinie Peitz 1895 9
T21 Tim McCarver 1966 9
T27 Ivy Wingo 1912 8
T27 Tim McCarver 1967 8
T27 Jimmie Wilson 1930 8
T30 Wilbert Robinson 1900 7
T30 Ed McFarland 1896 7
T30 Frank Snyder 1916 7
T30 Dick Buckley 1892 7
T30 Yadier Molina 2009 7
T30 Jack Boyle 1887 7
T30 Jack O’Connor 1899 7
T30 Ed Phelps 1909 7

There are quite a number of pre-1900 players on the list, headlined by the man that may be the true franchise leader, Jack Boyle, who accumulated 19 steals in 1891. Turns out that while he played 91 games at catcher, his predominant position, Boyle also logged another 41 games in the infield and outfield.

Lacking splits, I cannot confirm how many of Boyle’s 1891 steals were made as the catcher – without undertaking the lengthy process of going through individual game logs, that is.

Among those following Boyle are colorfully-named, but long-forgotten Cardinals pioneers Doggie Miller, Doc Bushong, Heinie Peitz and Klondike Douglass, each with a dozen or more thefts in an 1800’s season. Yet they all played multiple positions those years.

The undisputable king is 1899’s Lou Criger, who swiped 14 bags and only took the field behind the plate for St. Louis that year.

Post-1900, Ivey Wingo most likely had the most stolen bases by a Cardinals catcher with 18 in 1913 and 15 again the next season. I say “most likely” because Wingo played a total of ten games at first base and the outfield over those two seasons. Still, 168 games logged behind the plate means he is the likely leader.

Later to become the first Hispanic manager in the history of Major League Baseball, Cardinals catcher Mike Gonzalez swiped 12 bags in 1917 and 14 the next year. Ironically, the Cuban native also caught 168 games those two seasons, but because he spent parts of eight games at first and in the outfield, the above games-played caveat again applies.

Further, catcher Jimmie Wilson joined the Cardinals in 1928. Playing exclusively behind the plate, he stole nine bases in his St. Louis debut season. Wilson matched the total in 1932, although he did appear in the infield during four games that year.

Even if the contemporary definition of “history” begins in 1918, one recent name on the above list stands out. According to the CBE, catcher Eli Marrero logged 11 stolen bases in 1999.

Further analysis helps to clarify. In addition to the 96 games Marrero started behind the plate that season, Eli also played 20 games at first base, including three as the starter.

Using the valuable tool Retrosheet, we find that Marrero was 11-for-13 in steals that season. He logged one 1999 steal as a pinch runner and one as the first baseman, leaving a nine-of-11 success rate accumulated while catching.

Therefore, to be accurate, Pags and McCarver must share with Marrero and Wilson the club’s modern season record for stolen bases by a catcher at nine.

With just three more this season, Molina can pass them.