All posts by Brian Walton

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

MLB celebrates keeping fans from seeing games

I was amazed to learn that Major League Baseball is so proud of their ability to restrict fans from seeing game broadcasts that they are protecting the capability. Not only that, they want the world to know it.

MLB Advanced Media, L.P. (MLBAM) is known as the extremely profitable arm that introduced, the online video server for streaming games live and on-demand said to be the most successful subscription service on the entire internet.

The technology used by MLBAM for a system and method that identifies the location of an Internet user has been recognized with a U.S. patent, officially given number 7,486,943.

The purpose of the system is to determine if a user is eligible to receive the video feed of a particular game given television blackout restrictions. The system determines the location of an subscriber using Internet protocol addresses and compares it with a set of predefined rules to determine whether the user will be allowed to access to the requested content.

MLBAM has proudly boasted that it believes the patent is the first issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the baseball industry in the modern era.

You’ll have to excuse me for not joining in the celebration. There are so many areas to be concerned about here that I can barely count them all.

First and foremost, with MLB it is always about money. In this case, it is protecting the golden goose they have raised in Can you imagine the horrors, the tragedy, if one of their paying customers accidentally was able to see a game that MLB deems they shouldn’t?

Let’s say you were caught at work and couldn’t get home to see the game on television. Instead you wanted to tune it in on your computer at the office. Sorry. MLBAM’s world-class technology will ensure you can’t.

After all, why should fans be able to see games they wouldn’t otherwise be able to? In MLB-think, that is apparently bad business.

Wouldn’t it be great if MLB would decide to invest as much energy and resources in fixing their amazingly complex and overlapping broadcast territories and the confusing and frustrating blackouts inherent with them as they do in defending them?

In fact, three years ago, Commissioner Bud Selig promised to get to the bottom of the territorial rights issue.

“I don’t understand (blackouts) myself,” Selig said. “I get blacked out from some games.”

“Right now,” he said, “I don’t know what to do about it. We’ll figure it out.”

“I hear more about people who can’t get the game,” Selig said, “and, yes, I’ve already told our people we have to do something about it.”

Apparently what his “people” have done since 2006 has been to make it even more difficult for fans all over the country to see Major League Baseball games. And now they have the patent to prove it.

And they’re not stopping there. MLBAM has an additional ten patent applications pending approval, likely all intended to generate even more money while further decreasing fan-friendliness.

Congratulations, MLB. You may not seem to care much about fans, but you’re definitely consistent.

The Cardinals organization roster matrix: VSL version

Hopefully, you have been here to the site previously and know what the Cardinals organization roster matrix is all about. If not, here is a quick summary:

The St. Louis Cardinals currently have at least 281 players under contract. The matrix places each one at his current assigned level in the system as well as by position. It is kept updated throughout the season.

The occasion for this refresh is the opening of the Venezuelan Summer League season. Subscribers to can read more about what I’ve written there on the subject, but here we have an overview of the 34-man VSL opening roster.

The next update of the roster matrix should be coming within the next ten days to two weeks as the Dominican Summer League will open. Following that, the players in Extended Spring Training will couple with next month’s draftees to define the 2009 Batavia, Johnson City and Gulf Coast League rosters.

For details behind the codes used in the matrix as well as 2009 transactions to date, check out the earlier versions of the Cardinals organization roster matrix as follows:

Link to previous matrices: January – March, 2009, April – May, 2009


May 19 update: Signed VSL pitchers John De Aguas, Angelo Echeverria, Johnny Polanco, Ramon Ulacio and Dail Villanueva. New total 281.

May 20 update: RHP Chris Carpenter activated by StL, OF Shane Robinson optioned to Mem.

May 21 update: LHP Jonny Bravo to QC DL. RHR Jason Buursma from EST to QC. Mem C Brandon Yarbrough placed on DL eff 5/20. LHR Charlie Manning outrighted off 40-man roster.

May 23 update: OF Jon Edwards placed on QC DL. OF Jairo Martinez from EST to QC. 1B Mark Hamilton to Spr DL. 1B Matt Arburr from PB to Spr.

May 24 update: OF Rick Ankiel activated from DL, SS Tyler Greene optioned to Mem. Spr LHR Joe Williams released. RHR Eduardo Sanchez from PB to Spr. RHR Casey Mulligan QC to PB. New total 280.

May 25 update: RHS David Kopp from PB to Spr. RHR Joel Pichardo from EST to QC. RHR Kyle Mura to Spr DL. IF Donovan Solano returned to Spr from Mem.

May 27 update: RHS Josh Wilson placed on restricted list from QC active roster. RHS Brett Zawacki from EST to QC. Spr RHR Eddie Degerman to DL.

May 29 update: OF Ryan Ludwick activated from DL. SS Khalil Greene placed on 15-day DL. OF Joe Mather activated from Mem DL. 1B Javier Brito placed on Mem DL. Eff 5/31, QC moves to five-man rotation with Adam Veres and Scott McGregor to the pen.

May 30 update: 2B Aaron Luna activated from QC DL and assigned to PB. LHR Kristhiam Linares activated from Spr DL and assigned to PB.

June 1 update: RHS Deryk Hooker activated from QC restricted list and assigned to EST (Batavia). RHS Nick Additon to PB DL, RHR Shaun Garceau to PB DL. IF Oliver Marmol act from PB DL. RHP Elvis Hernandez activated from Spr DL and assigned to PB.

June 3 update: RHS Tyler Herron released from Spr. RHR Eddie Degerman act from Spr DL. New total 280.

June 4 update: RHR Blaine Boyer DFAed. RHR Jess Todd from Mem to StL. LHR Ian Ostlund act from Mem DL.

June 5 update: RHS Kyle Lohse onto StL DL. IF Tyler Greene from Mem to StL. C Blake Murphy act from QC DL and promoted to PB.

June 6 update: C Nick Derba promoted from PB to Spr. RHS Blake Hawksworth from Mem to StL. RHR Jess Todd from StL to Mem. IF Donovan Solano from Spr to Mem.

The St. Louis Cardinals Roster Matrix (effective 06/06/09)

St. Louis (25+5) 40-man (38)
Carpenter Franklin LaRue Pujols Schumaker K Greene (i)
Glaus (i) Ankiel
Lohse (i)
Thompson Molina Thurston Ryan Duncan
Pineiro McClellan Barden Ludwick
Wainwright Motte (4) T Greene (16) Rasmus (1)
Wellemeyer C Perez Stavinoha (35)
Ja Garcia (9iL) Miller (L)
Hawksworth Reyes (L)

Memphis (24+5)

Boyer (DFA) Anderson (3) Brito (i) Hoffpauir Solano Craig (18) Jay (12)
Mortensen (11) Salas (31) Pagnozzi Rowlett Freese (5i) Mather
Parisi (i) Scherer Yarbrough (i) Wallace (2) Shorey
Walters (17) Kinney (20) Robinson (27)
Ottavino (15) Maekawa (L)
Boggs (10) Ostlund (L)
MacLane (L) Manning (L)
Ring (L)
Todd (7)
Others (1)
Springfield (24+8)
Kopp (28) Mura (i) Hill (34) A Brown (i) Descalso Kozma (8) Folli Jones (6)
M Gonzalez T Cruz (36) Hamilton (i) Jo Martinez (37ti) Rapoport
Hearne Degerman Derba C Smith (40) Ant. DeJesus
Fiske (iL) Parise Arburr Henley
Lynn (14) Samuel (21)
Kulik (L) McCormick (i)
Dew (i)
Norrick (L)
Furnish (L)
Maiques (susp)
Palm Beach (25+2)
Broderick Diapoules Rivera Marmol Bolivar Curtis Chambers
R Castillo (19) Eager Vazquez Jo Garcia Sedbrook Pham
Additon (26iL) King Murphy Luna (39) Peterson
Gorgen (22) Reifer (24) Swauger
Fick Linares (L)
Freeman (L)
Garceau (29i)
E Hernandez
Quad Cities (25+4)
Daley, Jr. Carpenter Cutler Morales Toribio Vasquez (13) Parejo
Zawacki Delgado Espinoza A Castellanos Edwards (23i)
Buursma Lilley P Cruz
Bravo (iL) Rosales Toribio Bogany
Bradford (i) M Tapia Mitchell
Nieto Pichardo Ja Martinez
Cardenas (L) Veres
Thomas McGregor
J Wilson (restr)
Ext. Spring (63)
A Cruz A Castillo A Perez D Medina Landin Alvarez Teran Babrick
Ang. De Jesus Castro Rigoli L Mateo Y Castillo R DeLaCruz (38) Gomez
Arredondo Calero Cawley Scruggs Mambell Hage
Blazek Frevert L DeLaCruz Mosquera Ingram
Diaz Maertz Moscatel Obregon
Fornataro Mayes Polanco R Ruiz Lara
Javier Munoz Alcala Valera Rivero
Leach Orozco R Rodriguez
North Ortiz R Rosario
Notti Riportella
R Gonzalez Rondon Shepherd
Rada Russell Swinson
Richardson Y Gonzalez
Rios J Castellanos (L)
Santos Siegrist (L)
Hooker (32)
A Ferrara (L)
G Brown (L)
EST (visa delay 2)
Estalis J Castillo (susp)
Batavia (TBD)
Johnson City (TBD)
DSL (32)
A Tapia Concepcion V Ferreira Pimentel Avila Cabrera Villar Beras
Franco E Rivera L Perez Hiraldo G Hernandez Encarnacion
Jimenez M Martinez Montero J Lopez J Pena
Pasen Pinard W Perez Reyes
Urena D Rodriguez (L) Sandoval
Herrera (L) Mercedes (L) Taveras
L Rosario (L) P Pena (L)
Uribe (L)
VSL (34+1)
Avendano Cedeno Rivas R Perez M Marquez O Medina H Garcia Argenal
Bier F Marquez Viloria Vargas Yegues Cortez
Corpas Guzman Velazco Vivas (susp) H Martina Fonseca
Nieves Polanco Inojoza
Oraa Ulacio A Castellano
Colorado (L) Ramos Martines
Weffer (L)
R Alvarado (L)
De Aguas (L)
Echeverria (L)
Villanueva (L)


(#): My Cardinals prospect ranking from over the winter at

(i): injured – on the disabled list

(t): temporary inactive list

(susp): suspended list

(restr): restricted list

(L) left-handed pitcher

Bold: on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster

(#+#) number of active players on the roster plus number of inactive (i+t+susp+restr) players

Is not signing minor league vets really the Cards’ problem?

In recent days, I have seen several columns in the traditional news media that regularly cover the St. Louis Cardinals engage in what for them is a continuing theme – second-guessing the organization’s commitment to building from within.

What is currently stuck in my craw is a new variation on the theme – complaining over the Cardinals not having signed a gaggle of minor league veterans during the winter to have on the ready at Triple-A Memphis.

Certainly the rash of injuries that the Cardinals have encountered in 2009, already driving them to call upon 11 rookies, is beyond any measure of comfort. In other words, no matter what Memphis’ roster looked like, when you have to promote that many players in such a short period of time, the level of play is destined to diminish. After all, if the minor league players were better, they generally wouldn’t have been down there in the first place.

My fundamental concern is over what I feel is a very questionable assumption inherent in the basic complaint mentioned above. The implication is that when called upon to help out in the majors, a minor league veteran will outperform a younger product of the farm system.

Put aside for the moment the very valid question of whether the veterans would be blocking prospects from advancing up into the top levels of the system and just consider the veterans themselves.

The example of Ryan Ludwick is often trotted out as if he could be the norm, rather than the anomaly he is. (Ludwick joined the organization on a minor league contract for 2007 and by 2008 became a National League All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner.)

If only they all could be so good. Instead, here is a dose of reality.

Looking back 13 months, ten veterans that had been signed from outside the organization to minor league contracts made the roster of the 2008 Memphis Redbirds as they broke camp. They were:

Pitchers: Joe Rogers, John Wasdin, Hugo Castellanos, Ron Flores and Cliff Politte.

Catchers: Gabe Johnson and Mark Johnson.

Infielders: Josh Phelps and D’Angelo Jimenez.

Outfielders: Juan Gonzalez (temporary inactive list).

In addition, one could include an 11th player, third baseman Rico Washington (pictured). The then-30-year-old, in his 12th season as a professional, actually made the 2008 Major League club out of spring training as a non-roster invitee due to a training camp injury suffered by Brendan Ryan. Hitting .158, Washington didn’t last three weeks in the bigs.

A 12th veteran signing was starting pitcher Dewon Brazelton, but the right-hander didn’t even make it through spring training camp before being released.

Now, let’s step back for a moment and consider the situation in St. Louis last season to verify there was adequate opportunity for these veterans.

There was. After all, during the 2008 regular season, the Cardinals called up eleven different players from the minors for their first exposure to the big leagues. Washington and Rule 5 pick Brian Barton were the only two that didn’t come up through the Cardinals farm system.

Meanwhile, of the ten minor league vets that began the season with Memphis noted above, not a single one of them received a call to help the big league club last season. Not one.

Instead, the Cardinals selected the rookie every time in 2008 when help was needed.

Phelps and Mark Johnson, both over 30 like Washington, but different in that each had considerable past MLB service time, did receive promotions when rosters expanded in September. They did next to nothing and both departed shortly thereafter.

The others? Rogers and Politte were injured almost all year, Castellanos and Gabe Johnson were released before July was out and Gonzalez never played in the regular season after being injured during spring camp. Like Phelps and Mark Johnson, Wasdin, Flores and Jimenez stuck it out all season, but unlike them, they didn’t earn promotions. Not a one remains with the Cardinals organization today, nor are any missed.

In summary, here are grand totals of the 12 named minor league veterans’ results with the 2008 Cardinals. Johnson’s .627 OPS was the best of the three that made it.

2008 Cardinals Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Josh Phelps 30 19 34 4 9 1 0 0 1 0 2 11 0.265 0.306 0.294 0.600 60
Mark Johnson 32 10 17 1 5 0 0 0 2 0 1 2 0.294 0.333 0.294 0.627 68
Rico Washington 30 14 19 2 3 2 0 0 3 0 3 6 0.158 0.273 0.263 0.536 43

So the next time someone suggests the Cardinals should have signed more minor league free agents this season, ask him or her to show you which ones contributed last year.

If you didn’t know already, now you are aware there weren’t any.

The Milwaukee Cardinals?

Recently, I became aware of a most interesting article by fellow SABR member Gordon Hylton that is especially topical given the current Milwaukee at St. Louis series. The subject is
the potential risk of Major League Baseball losing its antitrust exemption within the context of the sale of the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1953 season.

Specifically, at least one set of interested buyers from Milwaukee, Hylton’s current home, actually outbid August Busch in their attempt to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh (pictured). That group, also led by a beer baron, Fredrick C. Miller of the Miller Brewing Company, appeared to have won at one point during the early months of 1953.

The Cardinals owner had been convicted of tax evasion in Federal court and sentenced to prison time. As such, he was being forced to divest his 90 percent interest in the team, but when push came to shove, Saigh took $450,000 less to keep the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Though history has painted Saigh positively due to his willingness to take less money to avoid moving the Cards, Hylton suggests there may have been another motive – the move to Milwaukee may have been turned down by the other owners. A possible by-product could have been a court test of Major League Baseball’s important antitrust exemption.

At the same time, Bill Veeck’s St. Louis Browns were in serious financial difficulty. Hylton considers how the baseball landscape might have looked had the Browns stayed, the Cardinals left and the Braves didn’t leave Boston for Milwaukee. The impact may have been wide-spread, including how baseball eventually annexed the West Coast.

The article ends with the open question of whether the Milwaukee Cardinals would have moved to Atlanta in 1966 as the Braves did.

For all the fascinating details, check out the link below.

Milwaukee Cardinals Baseball Team v. Major League Baseball (1953): The Antitrust Case That Might Have Changed the Face of the National Pastime

As an aside, Hylton taught at Washington University in the early 1990s and became hooked on the Cardinals during the Joe Torre era. He is now on the faculty of Marquette University’s law school.

Book review: “St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present”

Another new book about the St. Louis Cardinals has hit the bookstores this spring. St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present by Doug Feldmann covers the history of the franchise from its 1880’s roots to the current edition. Perfect for coffee table showing off, the book pictures the players, managers, facilities and fans from over 120 years of Cardinals baseball.

To collect the photos, a number of which I had never seen before, Feldmann not only hit the standard sources like the Associated Press and Getty Images, but also dug into the collections of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the United States Library of Congress.

I didn’t count them, but I would estimate the 9 ¼ inch by 11 inch, 144-page hardcover book averages at least two photos per page, with a mixture of black and white and color as appropriate for the vintage.

St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present includes photo sections with accompanying dialogue of players by position as well as intriguing chapters on such subjects as Gaffes and Controversies, The Rivalries, Bad Boys, Hard-Luck Players, Voices of the Cardinals and much more.

Feldmann’s passion and knowledge of Cardinals baseball really comes through. His parents grew up in St. Louis and southern Illinois respectively, so he appreciates the regional breadth and success of the franchise.

He serves as a professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Northern Kentucky University and knows the game from a hands-on perspective as demonstrated by his part-time role as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds.

A member of the Society for American Baseball Research, Feldmann has written eight books about baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals, including Dizzy and the Gashouse Gang: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and Depression-Era Baseball, Fleeter Than Birds: The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and Small Ball’s Last Hurrah, and El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals.

As we head toward Father’s Day, consider St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present as a very appropriate gift for the most important Cardinals fan in your family – Dad – or just pick up a copy for yourself.

Selected contents can be viewed at

And Maiques makes four and 13 suspended Cardinals

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that St. Louis Cardinals minor league reliever Kenny Maiques (Springfield – pictured) has been suspended 50 games due to a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The commissioner’s office said that Maiques tested positive for “a drug of abuse,” but did not disclose the specific drug.

It is similar wording and result from just one month ago when Quad Cities starting pitcher Deryk Hooker was handed down the same suspension for the same basic reason.

The pair join two other Cardinals farmhands currently suspended. They are catcher Juan Castillo (Extended Spring Training) and second baseman Wilfred Vivas (Venezuelan Summer League).

Since 2005, the Cardinals have seen 13 of their Major or Minor Leaguers face suspension for drug violations. That total ranks as tied for fourth-highest among the 30 organizations and five suspensions above the average of eight.

While all of the Cards 13 hailed from the minors, current Cardinal Rick Ankiel was mentioned in the Mitchell Report as was Troy Glaus, called out for actions before he joined the club. Neither faced any disciplinary action from MLB.

The list of suspended Cardinals players since 2005 follows. Announced reasons vary from performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to specific substances to drugs of abuse, generally considered recreational drugs as opposed to PEDs.

Date Player Name Substance Length
4/4/2005 Sal Frisella PEDs 15 games
5/13/2005 Jeremy Cummings PEDs 15 games
4/18/2006 Yonathan Sivira PEDs 50 games
8/2/2006 Marcos Chavez PEDs 50 games
8/2/2006 Jonathan Gonzalez PEDs 50 games
2/20/2008 Scott Vander Weg PEDs 50 games
7/29/2008 Braulin Beltre Boldenone 50 games
7/29/2008 Andres Beras Boldenone 50 games
7/29/2008 Yedilson Pena Boldenone 50 games
8/25/2008 Juan Castillo Stanozolol 50 games
12/1/2008 Wilfred Vivas Methandienone 50 games
4/9/2009 Deryk Hooker Drug of Abuse 50 games
5/15/2009 Kenny Maiques Drug of Abuse 50 games

Though I have not dug into movement of suspended players in detail, I found it interesting to note the Cardinals also signed four former Seattle Mariners who had previously been suspended, including current Major League closer Ryan Franklin. (The others were Troy Cate, Ryan Christianson and Omar Falcon, none of whom are still employed by the Cardinals today.)

With all the attempts at education, the core issue is driven by decisions made by young men, not clubs and as such, this is not intended to be an indictment of any organization. Also, the number of additional users not caught is of course unknown. Still, being prominently mentioned on this list of total suspensions since 2005 is not where any club would like to be.

Number Clubs
3 Indians, Red Sox
4 Astros, Nationals
5 Brewers
6 Marlins, Phillies, Rays, Tigers, White Sox
7 Braves, Padres, Rockies, Twins
8 MLB average, (none), Angels, D-Backs, Orioles, Pirates
9 Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Yankees
10 Athletics
11 Reds
12 Royals
13 Cardinals, Rangers
14 Mariners
15 Mets
16 Cubs
257 Total

(Note: “none” designates those players not a member of any organization at the time of their suspension.)

It is enlightening to scan the totals by team, with the Chicago Cubs bringing up the rear with the most players caught, 16, over five times the two clubs with the fewest suspensions, the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox at three each.

Of course, this simply indicates the organization of record at the time the player tested positive. For example, the furor over the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez’ recent suspension may have been felt nearly as strongly in Boston, where he helped lead the Red Sox to two World Series championships as in his current employment location, Los Angeles.

Hearty tips of the cap are given to the Biz of Baseball blog and, among the sites where suspension details are maintained.

April highs and May Lohse

The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a disappointing 2-4 road trip as perennial National League Central Division doormats Cincinnati and Pittsburgh wiped their cleats on St. Louis. As a result, the club is on the verge of falling out of the division’s top spot for the first time since the fifth day of the season.

Returning home to face co-NL Central leader the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend, the Cards are asking veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse to right the skid that includes seven losses in their last 11 games. Two of those defeats were taken by Lohse.

While the surging Brewers (17 for their last 22, best in baseball) just added top prospect Mat Gamel to their roster, the reeling and injured Redbirds have had to call on the likes of lesser lights Shane Robinson and Nick Stavinoha for reinforcement that has not yet been delivered.

Lohse will make his team-high eighth start on Friday in the first game of the homestand, but seems an unlikely source to provide a slump-stopping performance.

The Cardinals have fallen in each of the last three games Lohse has started and as noted above, he picked up the loss in both of the last two. His most-recent appearance was last Saturday, May 9 at Cincinnati. The club was defeated 8-3 as Lohse pitched six innings and allowed seven runs.

You won’t find encouragement when you look at Lohse’s past against the Brewers, either. He has made ten career starts against Milwaukee and holds a 3-3 record and a 5.22 ERA. In Lohse’s three starts against the Brew Crew last season, the Cardinals lost each one, though he had help as he did not receive a decision in any of them.

The 30-year-old allowed three runs over eight innings in his last start against Milwaukee on July 22 of last season, as the Brewers scored in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 win. Kyle McClellan took that loss as the Cardinals would go on to be swept four straight at home to close out their first homestand of the second half.

The month of May has not been kind to Lohse to date. After beginning the season at 3-0 with a 1.97 ERA in five April starts, he is 0-2 with an 11.32 ERA so far this month.

In fact, May has always been a problem for Lohse. In 38 career starts during this month, he is 12-17, with the .414 winning mark the worst in any such period over the career 81-82 hurler’s nine-year MLB history. His aggregate May ERA is 4.90.

The right-hander has been pitching through back and knee soreness, dealt with the flu and was recently struck on his non-pitching elbow by a batted ball. Partially as a result, both Lohse and Adam Wainwright were given an extra day of rest this time through the rotation.

The slumping Cardinals badly need a member of their struggling rotation to somehow find a way to come up with a well-pitched victory. During this 11-game period, the club’s starters have made just two quality starts (six innings or more, three runs or fewer).

Friday offers Lohse a turn to take his best shot.

SI: DeWitt third-best MLB owner

On their website,, Sports Illustrated has unveiled their view of the five best and five worst owners in each of the four major professional team sports, including Major League Baseball.

The only National League club represented on the “best” list is the St. Louis Cardinals. Chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr. (pictured) was singled out as the third-best owner in MLB, after John Henry/Tom Lerner/Larry Lucchino of the Boston Red Sox and Arte Moreno of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The NL has two owners among the “worst” five, though neither is from the Central Division. They are Ted Lerner of the Washington Nationals at five and Jeffrey Loria of the Florida Marlins as fourth-worst.

The method used took into account both objective and subjective measures. Among the criteria:

  • Willingness to spend money to improve the team
  • Stability and capabilities of the front office and management
  • Amenities at the team’s venue
  • The club’s culture and interactivity with fans
  • The team’s success or failure on the field

In recent years, several local media personalities and a vocal segment of Cardinals followers have hounded DeWitt for his alleged cheapness in matters of player payroll to the point of childish and unprofessional name-calling and worse.

They will be the last to accept the fact that team ownership is being recognized nationally as one of the best. Chances are the critics haven’t followed the club long enough to remember the Cardinals of the early 1990s, underfunded and non-competitive on the field.

Worse than that, how would they like to Cards to change owners with the cross-state Kansas City Royals, for example? (Hint: The Royals’ David Glass is number three on SI’s “worst” list.)

Some folks just don’t know when they have it good. Sadly by the time they realize it, it will be too late. The rest of us should continue to enjoy and appreciate the consistent competitive, winning baseball this ownership group has enabled over the last decade and a half.

In doing so, Cards fans do not have to stop yearning for improvement. I bet ownership would be the first to agree that they want the same. Yet expectations need to remain realistic, as in each season, 29 of 30 teams are destined to fall short.

Those who try to paint all Cardinals fans into one of two polarized corners – either “Kool-Aid drinkers” or “nay-sayers” – are as clueless as Baltimore’s Peter Angelos, baseball’s worst owner.

Wellemeyer underscores Cards starting pitching woes

Anyone who caught Tuesday’s St. Louis Cardinals series opener in Pittsburgh witnessed Todd Wellemeyer get hammered 7-1 by a badly slumping Pittsburgh Pirates club, losers of eight straight and 12 of their last 13 games coming in.

It was such a bad evening that when Wellemeyer tried to retaliate against a pair of Cardinals hit batters by firing a pitch up at Freddy Sanchez, he missed the second baseman entirely, throwing behind him.

But the subject of this post isn’t to complain about Wellemeyer, who allowed seven runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings. Instead, it is a quick look at the troubles of the Cardinals starting pitchers as a group this season to-date.

In the big picture, Chris Carpenter remains on the disabled list, Adam Wainwright is consistently allowing too many baserunners, Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro were sick then off their respective games and Mitchell Boggs remains youthfully inconsistent.

On one hand, even with the Tuesday loss, the starters in aggregate have a 15-8 (.652) record, among the best in the National League.

A look at their numbers in greater depth illustrates some of the problems. The table below lists the NL starting pitching stats by team coming into Tuesday’s game ranked by ERA. I then added Wellemeyer’s Tuesday line into the totals, giving the up-to-date Cardinals a second line.

1 LOS ANGELES 14 6 0.700 3.70 33 185 149 776 80 76 12 84 153 0.224
2 SAN FRANCISCO 11 10 0.524 3.96 31 179.2 160 764 82 79 21 82 175 0.241
3 ATLANTA 13 12 0.520 3.99 32 189.2 176 812 93 84 20 73 162 0.246
(4) St. Louis (5/11) 15 7 0.682 4.00 32 189 205 811 96 84 14 64 125 0.281
4 PITTSBURGH 11 13 0.458 4.04 31 189.1 183 803 91 85 18 70 100 0.261
5 ARIZONA 8 16 0.333 4.14 33 193.1 184 814 92 89 29 65 148 0.250
6 CINCINNATI 17 11 0.607 4.14 32 198 188 843 99 91 25 76 150 0.251
7 HOUSTON 7 12 0.368 4.17 32 172.2 178 741 84 80 13 67 124 0.274
8 MILWAUKEE 10 10 0.500 4.19 32 187 170 803 93 87 27 75 145 0.242
9 CHICAGO 13 8 0.619 4.22 31 185.2 176 791 91 87 27 70 171 0.251
10 St. Louis (5/12) 15 8 0.652 4.24 33 193.1 214 836 103 91 16 67 129 0.285
11 NEW YORK 15 8 0.652 4.42 31 175 167 767 91 86 18 82 138 0.253
12 COLORADO 9 11 0.450 4.59 30 170.2 169 747 94 87 20 74 121 0.259
13 FLORIDA 8 12 0.400 4.61 32 183.1 196 809 104 94 19 65 141 0.271
14 SAN DIEGO 5 11 0.313 4.71 32 179.2 174 772 99 94 16 80 144 0.259
15 WASHINGTON 9 11 0.450 5.16 31 167.1 199 770 116 96 22 78 96 0.295
16 PHILADELPHIA 7 10 0.412 6.28 29 157.2 196 722 110 110 38 58 114 0.308

On Monday, the Cards starters were fourth in the league in ERA at an even four runs per game. Once Wellemeyer’s Tuesday performance was added in, almost a quarter run per nine innings was lumped on the starters. That would drop them all the way from fourth down to tenth in the NL.

Another indication of the concern is the batting average of the opposing hitters. Prior to Tuesday, the Cardinals starters were touched for a .281 batting average, third-worst in the league. Wellemeyer raised that to .285 on Tuesday.

There is some positive news in that Carpenter is inching closer to a return, perhaps taking the mound in rehab later in the week, but the current five starters seem to be struggling all at once. With Monday’s day off, instead of skipping Boggs this time through, Tony La Russa instead decided to give Lohse and Wainwright an extra day of rest. It seems early for that, but given everything it is probably a good thing.

As a result of the difficulties, the Cardinals are playing only .500 ball over their last ten games. Obviously, over the long haul, that won’t be good enough. While St. Louis is still on top of the NL Central, they are also just two games out of where they finished last season – in fourth place.

The Cards’ 25th man, the DH and MLB indecision

Over on the message board, there is a lot of angst over the use of the final, 25th spot on the St. Louis Cardinals active roster. As the season began, it was deployed in the traditional manner, on a position player, but as the club headed into a brutal stretch of consecutive games, manager Tony La Russa went to eight relievers and 13 pitchers overall.

With a short bench, starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer made a pinch-hit appearance in a bunting situation on Sunday, following fellow rotation member Adam Wainwright in being called upon to hit on a day off this season.

A number of fans have been critical of carrying the extra pitcher, with some in favor of simply shifting the roster balance back from pitching to hitting, dumping a pitcher such as Brad Thompson (pictured) in the process. Others with a more radical and longer-term view want to see MLB rosters expanded beyond 25.

While the Players Association would likely be all for such an idea, ownership would surely be just as against bearing the additional costs inherent in adding another 30, 60 or 90 major leaguers in perpetuity.

Putting money aside, I am apparently in the minority, but I kind of like the fact the current roster size forces managers to make creative tradeoffs late in games. Others seem to enjoy what I feel are more robotic moves common in the American League due to the long-time deployment of the designated hitter.

For those who want to see change, a way to perhaps negotiate expanded roster sizes would be in dealing with the DH disconnect once and for all. While I obviously have a personal bias in one direction, I am even stronger in my opinion that the two leagues should have a uniform rule.

Show me another major sport anywhere that has such an important difference in basic rules between leagues. It is nutty – a three-year trial that never ended. Either adopt it universally or dump it.

I see this issue as the poster child of the reign of Bud Selig – the master of indecision and inaction.

Then again, if you would argue in favor of replacing this problem with inconsistent and self-governed umpiring, rampant unchecked use of performance enhancing drugs, inexplicable television broadcast territories that arbitrarily restrict fans from seeing their team’s games or any number of other broken parts of America’s Pastime, I couldn’t disagree.

La Russa’s coaching legacy: Part two

In part one of this article, I introduced the question of whether a factor in assessing a manager’s lifetime impact should include the number of future managers he developed. It is an not an area in which St. Louis’ Tony La Russa has excelled compared to some of his most prominent peers.

More prolific MLB managerial breeders such as Bobby Cox and Mike Scioscia were cited as well as a look at several more expansive coaching trees in the National Football League.

In La Russa’s 31-year managerial career, he has employed at least* 41 different coaches. Only two of them later became first-time managers, Jim Leyland and Jim Lefebvre. Neither occurred in the last 20 years.

Also note the ages of these gentlemen. They are contemporaries of La Russa, not younger men mentored by the manager.

Current age Years managing
Tony La Russa 64 30+
MLB manager post-TLR Current age # years with TLR Hired mgr
Jim Lefebvre 67 2 before, 2 after 1989
Jim Leyland 64 4 before 1986

Since 1979, La Russa also employed four others who had been Major League skippers prior to joining his staff.

In one case, that of Rene Lachemann, the individual returned to coaching for La Russa after having been fired as a skipper elsewhere but later left the staff for his third MLB managerial shot. Two of them, Doug Rader and Bobby Winkles, were only with La Russa for a short time some years years ago.

Current Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae managed both Kansas City and Tampa Bay in the past. He is now in his fifth season in St. Louis. Notice again the ages of all these coaches compared to La Russa.

MLB manager pre-TLR Current age # years with TLR TLR years
Hal McRae 63 4+ 2005-current
Rene Lachemann 64 9 87-92, 97-99
Doug Rader 64 1.5 1986, 1992
Bobby Winkles 79 3 1979-1981

The positive side of this story is related to the clear benefits received through a staff that has remained together over a very long time. Yet some see it as ideal with no downside to La Russa’s approach.

I disagree.

It has been years since the Cardinals organization has rewarded one of their minor league coaches with the visibility of a spot on the big league staff. Specifically, it hasn’t happened since Joe Pettini (front left, pictured with La Russa) joined in 2002. Technically, he had been minor league field coordinator since last coaching in the minors in 1996, La Russa’s first year in St. Louis.

When La Russa added a new position to his staff prior to last season, assistant hitting coach, he brought in one of his former Oakland players, Mike Aldrete, instead of promoting from within.

I have no way of knowing why La Russa adopted this approach, whether it is his legendary attention to detail, tenacity or something else, but I do see this as one area in his sure Hall of Fame career in which he has lagged behind.

Even when third base coach Jose Oquendo is given his managerial chance, it will not dramatically open up La Russa’s notoriously dry pipeline.

Following are the year-by-year details of La Russa’s 31 years of coaching staffs. The ages of the current coaches are noted in parentheses below. Those who were MLB managers at some point are in bold.

StL Pitching Bench 1B 3B Hitting Bullpen
2009 Dave Duncan (63) Joe Pettini (54) Dave McKay (59) Jose Oquendo (45) Hal McRae (63) Marty Mason (51)
2008 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2007 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2006 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2005 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Hal McRae Marty Mason
2004 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2003 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2002 Dave Duncan Joe Pettini Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mitchell Page Marty Mason
2001 Dave Duncan Mark DeJohn Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Easler/Page Marty Mason
2000 Dave Duncan Mark DeJohn Dave McKay Jose Oquendo Mike Easler Marty Mason
1999 Dave Duncan Jose Oquendo Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Mike Easler Mark DeJohn
1998 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Dave Parker Mark DeJohn
1997 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Rene Lachemann George Hendrick Mark DeJohn
1996 Dave Duncan Ron Hassey Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds George Hendrick Mark DeJohn
1995 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Jim Lefebvre Art Kusyner
1994 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Jim Lefebvre Art Kusyner
1993 Dave Duncan Carney Lansford Dave McKay Tommie Reynolds Greg Luzinski Art Kusyner
1992 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Doug Rader Art Kusyner
1991 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Rick Burleson Art Kusyner
1990 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Merv Rettenmund Art Kusyner
1989 Dave Duncan Tommie Reynolds Dave McKay Rene Lachemann Merv Rettenmund Art Kusyner
1988 Dave Duncan Bob Watson Rene Lachemann Jim Lefebvre Jim Lefebvre Mike Paul
1987 Dave Duncan Joe Rudi Rene Lachemann Jim Lefebvre Bob Watson Mike Paul
1986 Dave Duncan Bob Didier Dave McKay Ron Plaza/Joe Rudi Bob Watson Jeff Newman
1986# Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Doug Rader Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1985 Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Mike Lum Jim Leyland Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1984 Dave Duncan Ed Brinkman Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Joe Nossek Art Kusyner
1983 Dave Duncan E. Brinkman/L. Babe Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Charlie Lau Art Kusyner
1982 R. Schueler/K. Silvestri Dave Nelson Jim Leyland Charlie Lau Art Kusyner
1981 Ron Schueler Dave Nelson Vada Pinson Bobby Winkles Art Kusyner
1980 Ron Schueler Loren Babe Orlando Cepeda Minnie Minoso Bobby Winkles Art Kusyner
1979 Fred Martin Joe Sparks Bobby Winkles

* I said “at least” because I relied on Retrosheet data for the identities of La Russa’s staffs in Oakland and Chicago and that information was not always labeled clearly, especially when changes were made during the season. Also as a result, the coaching roles in the 1980’s and late 1970’s may not be completely accurate, though I have no reason to believe the names are not.

# Two additional coaches in 1986 were hired (and later reassigned out) by then-Chicago White Sox GM Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Moe Drabowsky and Willie Horton.

Cardinals youth movement ahead of 2008 pace

We are just over a month into the 2009 season and the St. Louis Cardinals have already employed the services of ten rookies, the most in the Major Leagues. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and San Diego Padres are next, having both deployed nine rookies to this point.

The difference is in the bottom line as neither of the other clubs have a winning record. The second-place Angels came into Saturday at .500 in the American League West, while the woeful Padres, coming off a 99-loss season, are four games under .500 in the National League West.

Seven of the ten rookies are currently still with the Cardinals and five of the ten made their Major League debuts this season. Six rookies were on the Opening Day roster for the club.

Rookie position players Brian Barden, Colby Rasmus (pictured) and Joe Thurston along with pitcher Jason Motte opened the 2009 season with the club and remain there.

They were later joined by pitcher Mitchell Boggs, infielder Tyler Greene and outfielder Shane Robinson.

The three rookies now in Triple-A are third baseman David Freese and reliever Josh Kinney, both of whom were on the Opening Day roster, and starting pitcher P.J. Walters, who was called up and later returned to Memphis.

The five who made their first Major League appearance this year have been Freese, Greene, Rasmus, Robinson and Walters.

Rookies have taken 1/4 of all the at-bats for St. Louis this season at 26% (265 of 1034 ABs) and are hitting a combined .242 (64-for-265). Rookie pitchers have made four starts and thrown 43 2/3 IP.

That makes 16 Cardinals first-timers to have arrived on the scene over the last season plus one month, as 11 Cardinals rookies made their MLB debuts in 2008. They are Kyle McClellan, Brian Barton, Rico Washington, Mike Parisi, Chris Perez, Joe Mather, Boggs, Nick Stavinoha, Jaime Garcia, Mark Worrell and Motte.

That was the largest number of first-timers to don the Cardinals uniform in any single season since the second year of the Tony La Russa era, which began in St. Louis in 1996. 12 players debuted in 1997.

2009 offers a decent chance to exceed the 2008 mark as at this point last year, only four of the 11 had been called up – McClellan, Barton, Washington and Parisi.

Quad Cities alters tandem rotation

After starting the season with five pairs of tandem starting pitchers, the St. Louis Cardinals’ A-level club, the Quad Cities River Bandits, have dropped the pairings down to four, effective this weekend.

In the process, the Midwest League club moved one pitcher down to Extended Spring Training, George Brown, and slid two others into the bullpen. They are Miguel Tapia and Andres Rosales. In addition, 2008 River Bandit then surprise retiree Josh Wilson is back, promoted from Extended Spring Training to take Brown’s place.

Bravo was promoted from EST one week ago when Chuckie Fick was bumped up to Palm Beach. With the arrival of Wilson, that tandem pairing has both Quad Cities newbies.

These pairings remained the same:

Adam Veres and Gary Daley

Kevin Thomas (pictured) and Hector Cardenas

These changed:

From Jonny Bravo and George Brown

To Bravo and Josh Wilson

From Miguel Tapia and Scott McGregor

And Andres Rosales and Arquimedes Nieto

To McGregor and Nieto

With Tapia and Rosales to relief

Wilson was to have his first tandem start of the season following Bravo on Friday, but the game was suspended in the second inning due to rain, to be resumed on Saturday. Veres/Daley take the hill for Saturday’s regularly-scheduled contest, then Thomas/Cardenas go on Sunday, the first pair to come off three days rest. In the previous five-pairing system, the latter turn would instead have been taken by Rosales/Nieto.

After a day off on Monday, Tuesday’s double-header at Peoria is driving a very minor adjustment, with both tandems getting a start. McGregor will take the mound in game one while his tandem partner, Nieto, will start in game two. The normal four-man rotation of Wilson/Bravo and so on will follow.

Following are the stats for the Quad Cities starters this season coming into Friday’s game ordered by ERA. “T1” etc. shows the new tandem pairings in order, with “BP” denoting those shifted to relief. “PB” is for Palm Beach and “EST” is for extended spring training.

Adam Veres T4 2 0 0.54 6 3 0 16.2 12 4 1 0 0 12 20 1.44
Kevin Thomas T1 2 0 1.31 7 2 1 20.2 12 4 3 0 0 5 13 0.82
Arquimedes Nieto T2 0 2 3.26 6 2 0 19.1 17 9 7 1 3 6 23 1.19
Andres Rosales BP 2 1 4.08 6 2 0 17.2 14 8 8 2 3 11 18 1.42
Chuckie Fick PB 0 2 4.24 4 3 0 17 21 9 8 1 0 4 13 1.47
Miguel Tapia BP 0 2 5.03 7 3 0 19.2 20 13 11 2 0 9 21 1.47
Hector Cardenas T1 2 1 5.40 5 3 1 18.1 21 17 11 1 0 5 14 1.42
George Brown EST 0 2 6.16 8 3 0 19 21 16 13 1 1 10 14 1.63
Scott McGregor T2 1 1 6.75 6 3 0 18.2 26 17 14 1 0 5 18 1.66
Gary Daley T4 2 0 10.54 7 2 0 13.2 20 19 16 3 0 12 19 2.34
Jonny Bravo T3 0 0 36.00 1 0 0 1 1 4 4 0 0 6 3 7.00
Josh Wilson T3

For current rosters and up-to-date transactions at all levels of the Cardinals minor league system, don’t forget to check out the Roster Matrix.

Where is La Russa’s legacy being passed? – Part one

Sports Illustrated
’s Jon Heyman has published his yearly take on the top managers in Major League Baseball. After a year at number two in the rankings, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Tony La Russa is back on top here in 2009.

Key reasons cited are his roster management, teams that play hard and results. Heyman also wonders out loud about La Russa’s contract status because of his relationship with GM John Mozeliak without noting the manager’s long-standing support from ownership. Another glaring omission was any acknowledgement of the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Albert Pujols, as the MVP relates to the manager’s future in the Gateway City.

Among the often-heralded MLB managerial veterans who fell outside Heyman’s current top ten are Jim Leyland and Bobby Cox.

One rising managerial star I particularly admire is Tampa’s Joe Maddon. What’s not to like? Maddon has been an avid Cardinals fan virtually his entire life. Heyman notes his second-ranked skipper Mike Scioscia of the Angels is Maddon’s mentor. Scioscia is also a strong supporter of Don Wakamatsu of the surprising 2009 Seattle Mariners after the younger man coached in the Halos organization.

That reminded me of something that has bothered me for some time.

I am not quibbling about La Russa being among the top managers year upon year, nor am I particularly worried about his contract status.

What I have wondered about is the lack of successful Major League managers groomed by La Russa.

In his 14th season managing St. Louis and 31st year in the big leagues, the skipper turns 65 years of age this fall. Though he has not shared his future plans publicly, I am among those who believe he will continue to manage at least until he collects the 284 wins needed to pass John McGraw with the second-highest victory total in the history of the game. If so, that would keep La Russa in a big league dugout somewhere for at least three more seasons after this one.

Just about any article that mentions La Russa also gives proper credit to his Tonto, pitching coach Dave Duncan. In an article I will be running on starting on Friday, La Russa makes this interesting observation about Duncan: “He wants to coach longer than I want to manage.”

Content with his role and disinterested in putting up with the “B.S.” that goes with being the man in front, Duncan is the quintessential sidekick – the best at what he does, but with no interest in becoming the lead performer himself.

One might say that about almost all of Tony’s coaching staff. While each is an excellent coach in his own right, they don’t seem to be on the managerial fast track. Instead of taking on hard chargers as he was early in his career, La Russa has primarily surrounded himself with contemporaries, baseball lifers seemingly content to stay right where they are.

Of them, only hitting coach Hal McRae has been a major league manager in the past and after speaking with him about it, I am quite sure he won’t be back in that role. Again, McRae says it is primarily driven by distaste for the B.S. inherent in the job.

First base coach Dave McKay has been with La Russa for 24 years and has always been a coach. Bench coach Joe Pettini once served as the Cardinals’ minor league field coordinator, but hasn’t managed in the minors since 1996. Ten-year bullpen coach Marty Mason has always been a pitching-related coach – never a manager.

That leaves Jose Oquendo as the lone potential exception and the only coach on the staff under 50 years old. Though he has just one season as a professional manager, way back in 1998 in short-season ball, Jose has gained international experience in winter ball and in the World Baseball Classic representing his homeland of Puerto Rico. Renowned as an infield teacher, “Secret Weapon” has interviewed for managerial openings in San Diego and Seattle, but has yet to be given a shot.

Don’t get me wrong – the continuity of coaches is one important factor that helps set the Cardinals apart in their excellence. Still, I can’t help but wonder to which future managers La Russa has been passing his considerable knowledge down.

Shouldn’t one important measure of coaching greatness be the number of descendents a manager/head coach fosters?

Not every manager can be like the NFL’s Bill Walsh, whose coaching tree is legendary. Championship coaches like Mike Holmgren, Jim Fassel, Sam Wyche, Dennis Green and George Seifert all received their starts under Walsh, with them later spawning another couple of dozen NFL head coaches.

The La Russa football connection is in front of mind as Tony is best buddies with another pair of NFL coaching greats, Bill Parcells and his one-time protégé, Bill Belichick. Despite having put in just nine years as the leader of the Pats, Belichick has launched the careers of at least six NFL head coaches. His protégés include three current top dogs – Eric Mangini (Cleveland), Josh McDaniels (Denver) and Jim Schwartz (Detroit).

Closer to home, Cox may be considered La Russa’s closest comparable, both in terms of time in the job and managerial victories. Since 1978, Cox developed current MLB managers Fredi Gonzalez and Cito Gaston along with former skippers Ned Yost and Jimy Williams. Cox also has his own version of in-house successor-in-waiting Oquendo in hitting coach and former Cardinals third baseman Terry Pendleton.

In Rob Rains’ new book,“Tony La Russa: Man on a Mission”, the importance of certain individuals in La Russa’s own early development jumps off the page. Specifically, keys were Loren Babe, his managerial mentor and then-White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, who gave La Russa his first big league job.

In turn, where are the examples of future Major League managers whose careers were started by working under La Russa?

In part two of this article, we will review La Russa’s coaching staffs since he was initially hired as a major league skipper in 1979 and focus on the subset who later became first-time MLB managers.

There have been only two in 31 years.

Was Boggs’ hook too quick?

With his team riding a three-game losing streak, their first of the season, St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Mitchell Boggs was given the ball for his third start in 2009 and his ninth in his two years as a major leaguer. His Wednesday evening opponent was the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

Following an Albert Pujols home run in the first, Boggs coughed up the lead on a pair of singles bookending three free passes. Only a double play kept the score tied in the top of the second.

The Cardinals offense picked up three more in the bottom of the fourth on a Chris Duncan triple off the top of the right field wall and a Khalil Greene sacrifice fly in which a daring Duncan surprised Pirates’ centerfielder Nate McLouth by tagging up.

Staked to a three-run lead, Boggs walked the leadoff man as the fifth got underway. After a fly out and a stolen base, an RBI double cut the lead to 4-2.

With the tying run coming up to the plate in the form of Bucs’ cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche, Tony La Russa pulled Boggs from the game. He was two outs short of having gone the necessary distance to qualify for a win.

In his post-game comments, Boggs took full responsibility. “I am not pleased with the way I pitched…. I didn’t want the bullpen to have to cover that many innings…. I didn’t have the command that I did before tonight.”

FOX Sports Midwest’s Dan MacLaughlin observed on air that Boggs would not have been taken out so quickly had he been a veteran.

I agree with Dan and have often been unhappy in the past with La Russa sticking with his starting pitcher too long, risking a chance for a team win in what appeared to be an effort to get his starter the “W”. I haven’t felt that way often lately, but it hasn’t been all that uncommon in past seasons.

Apparently, Boggs hasn’t yet secured the confidence of his manager.

La Russa’s eight-man bullpen may have played into his decision. In this case, both Trever Miller and Kyle McClellan were required to get out of the fifth, which they did without allowing further damage.

In the sixth, McClellan loaded the bases with the help of an error, but escaped his own jam. Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin finished off the Pirates in the 4-2 victory.

After the game, La Russa had this to say about Boggs: “I think it’s a learning experience for him…. A guy tries to be too careful…. He walked the leadoff man and had struggled already, so I had to come and get him.”

Over half of Boggs’ pitches on the evening were out of the strike zone, 43 of 85. He walked five in his 4 1/3 innings of action, equaling the number of hits allowed.

It was a return to his past problems that had not appeared to date in 2009. Over his previous three outings totaling 13 2/3 innings including two starts, Boggs had walked just four opposing batters in total.

That represented a significant improvement over his somewhat disappointing 2008 rookie introduction. He had a walk-free outing in just one of his eight games, during his two-inning MLB debut. In performances reminiscent of Wednesday evening, Boggs issued ten free passes over his final two MLB starts last season.

Overall, Boggs walked 22 opposing batters in 34 major league innings in 2008, which is likely a big part of the reason he ended up back in Memphis, not to be recalled in September when rosters expanded.

So, what do you think? Was La Russa’s quick hook justified? If so, should he do it more often with other starters or does Boggs simply need to earn that trust?

Palm Beach tandem starters done

2009 marks the third year of the St. Louis Cardinals’ use of the tandem starter system at Class A, implemented by two full-season clubs, Palm Beach of the A-Advanced Florida State League and Quad Cities of the A-level Midwest League.

The primary benefit is to enable the organization to develop eight starting pitchers rather than five by pairing four groups of pitchers. The two in each pair take turns starting every fourth day, with the other following in relief. The starter might go five innings or 70-80 pitches, with the second starter scheduled to take over in the sixth.

Just as in 2008, the system has first been abandoned at A-Advanced Palm Beach, though this time around it occurred 19 games or about three weeks earlier than last season. The flash point was the promotion of ace Lance Lynn (pictured) to Double-A Springfield last weekend, but as one Cardinals official explained, “it wasn’t working as well this season as last.”

At the time the deployment of the tandem starters ended last season, the Florida State League club had played 40 games. The club’s record was a stellar 25-15 (.625), the second-best mark in the league and a major contributor to their four-game lead in the FSL East Division.

This season, the final game of the approach occurred on May 1, or about three weeks into the season. The club had a losing record, at 9-12 (.429). In all fairness however, it is difficult to assess the amount of blame for the decline to be placed on the tandem system itself. Clearly the club was looking for a change as when the switch was made, the Cardinals had lost 11 of their previous 13 games.

As the following table shows, the 2009 tandem starters did not earn a single win, in significant contrast to 2008. They had just five decisions in 21 starts. The piggyback starters managed a .500 record but blew four of five save opportunities this season, not performing as well as in 2008. The true relievers are doing slightly better in 2009 in terms of wins and losses, but do not seem to be the difference-makers in terms of this year-to-year comparison.

Looking at the offensive support provided helps to confirm the problems are not all pitching. The hitters’ scoring is down year-to-year between a half and three-quarters of a run per game. The Palm Beach offense is in the bottom third of the league in scoring this season despite them being third in batting average.

2008 40 games Won-Loss No-decisions Saves/opps Runs/game
Tandem starters 9-8 23
Piggyback starters 10-2 6 of 8
Relievers 6-5 not avail
Offense 4.28
2009 21 games
Tandem starters 0-5 16
Piggyback starters 5-5 1 of 5
Relievers 4-2 5 of 6
Offense 3.67

In terms of the pitchers themselves, here are the initial pairings from the start of the season:

Mark Diapoules / Ryan Kulik

Brian Broderick / Lynn

David Kopp / Nick Additon

Shaun Garceau / Richard Castillo

Thomas Eager was the first starter candidate to move into relief as he was the odd man out from the nine potential starters coming out of spring training. Eager has been very busy out of the pen with a dozen appearances since.

This starting group remained intact until April 27 when Kulik was called up to Springfield. Scott Gorgen, coming off minor shoulder surgery, was promoted from Extended Spring Training to replace him.

Next was Lynn’s promotion on May 2. Chuckie Fick, who had been starting at Quad Cities, was the replacement. However, he went directly into relief upon joining Palm Beach.

The other tandem starters now moved to the bullpen are Garceau and Diapoules, leaving Gorgen, Broderick, Additon, Kopp and Castillo as the five-man rotation going forward.

Looking at the following table, sorted by ERA, one can understand how the decisions were made, as the two pitchers with the highest ERAs were reassigned to relief. Kulik’s ERA was not tidy, but check out his strikeout to walk ratio – same as Lynn’s 17-to-3 when he was promoted.

Those currently starting are denoted with an “S”, those promoted with a “P” and the pitchers moved to relief are labeled with an “R”.

The remaining guys really need to cut down on the free passes. As a team, the Cardinals currently lead the FSL with 107 walks, a bloated total that is 26% higher than the second-worst team and 41% above the league average.

Scott Gorgen S 0 0 1.29 2 1 7 2 1 1 3 6 0.71
Lance Lynn P 0 0 2.30 5 2 15.2 16 4 4 3 17 1.21
David Kopp S 1 2 3.18 6 4 22.2 25 8 8 9 17 1.50
Brian Broderick S 2 1 3.65 6 4 24.2 22 10 10 3 10 1.01
Nick Additon S 0 1 4.82 6 3 18.2 16 17 10 13 12 1.55
Richard Castillo S 0 3 5.14 6 3 21 26 17 12 11 8 1.76
Ryan Kulik P 1 1 5.25 4 2 12 15 7 7 3 17 1.50
Mark Diapoules R 1 1 5.79 6 3 14 18 10 9 14 11 2.29
Shaun Garceau R 0 2 6.16 6 3 19 15 14 13 9 12 1.26

It remains to be seen if the change can help right the Cardinals’ ship, but at least most of the way the first time through, it hasn’t yet helped the bottom line.

Since the tandem system was scrapped, four more defeats have ensued on 18 total runs allowed. That has extended Palm Beach’s skid to seven in a row and 15 losses in their last 18 games.

Hopefully, the Cardinals brass can come up with a way to tweak the offense too, as they scored just 11 runs in the four games, or fewer than three runs per, a trend that is not heading in the right direction.

For current rosters and up-to-date transactions at all levels of the Cardinals minor league system, don’t forget to check out the Roster Matrix.

Note that Future Redbirds has also posted a Palm Beach “Club Check” in the last 24 hours with additional information on the team worth checking out.

Los cincos de los Cardenales de San Luis

Today marks the fifth of May, 5/5, so what better time to recall and recognize some of the greats and not-so-greats who donned the number “5” jersey for the St. Louis Cardinals over the years?

Of course, there is only one place to start. That is with today.

The current and most likely last Cardinals player to ever wear number five is Albert Pujols. While I have written recently about his greatness, it remains a target that is constantly moving forward. The following indicate El Hombre’s current position on the National League 2009 leaderboard as of this Cinco de Mayo*:

Runs 1st 25
Home runs T-1st 9
Slugging 1st 0.700
OPS 1st 1.160
Total bases T-1st 63
Runs batted in 1st 29
Grand slams T-1st 2

Most ironically on this day, if Pujols isn’t leading a stats category, he is most likely in fifth place in the NL:

Batting average 5th 0.344
Walks 5th 19
On base percentage 5th 0.460
Extra base hits T-5th 14

In addition to the more standard stats, here are a few other areas where Pujols is among the NL leaders:

Hardest to strike out 4th 14.1 plate appearances per strikeout
Intentional walks T-2nd five
At-bats per RBI 1st 3.1
At-bats per home run 2nd 10

Though Pujols was assigned number 68 for his first big-league camp (see photo), he was “upgraded” to number five before the 2001 regular season. In the process, he became the 34th Cardinal to wear the number.

Outfielder Thomas Howard had sported “5” during the two seasons prior to Pujols’ arrival and fellow veteran outfielder Ron Gant had the number during the three years before Howard. (Those 1996-1998 seasons also happened to be number ten’s first three as manager of the club.)

The other number fives during the 1990s were Danny Sheaffer, Stan Royer and coach Jim Riggleman. While ten different men donned the 5 uniform during the 1980’s, only infielder Mike Ramsey (1981-1984) kept it for more than one season.

This decade also marked the only times before Pujols that a player of Hispanic origin wore the jersey. Both were middle infielders, yet neither Jose (Gonzalez) Uribe (1984) nor Fred Manrique (1986) are Mexican. Uribe hails from the Dominican Republic as does Albert while Manrique is Venezuelan.

Another seven individuals had been assigned number five during the 1970’s. It was often given to players who excelled elsewhere before joining St. Louis late in their careers such as Ed Brinkman, Willie Davis and Willie Crawford. Infielder Mike Phillips (1977-1980) was its longest holder during that era.

Only nine Cardinals players wore number five over the previous three decades, from second baseman Don Gutteridge in 1937-1940 through coach and skipper Johnny Keane (1959-1964) and coach Dick Sisler (1966-1970).

The number originated with Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley and third baseman Milt Stock as the club first experimented with small numbers on their left sleeves in 1923. The team did not begin full-time use of numbers until 1932, when their deployment was in the now-familiar location of the uniform back.

Stock did play an indirect part in the Cardinals’ Hispanic heritage as he was dealt to the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1924 for catcher Mike (Miguel) Gonzalez (pictured). It was the Cuban native’s second tour of duty with the organization, having previously played with them from 1915-1918. At that time, he became their first-ever player of Hispanic origin.

Gonzalez later finished his playing days with St. Louis, returning once again in 1930-1931 before starting a long coaching career. When he served as interim manager of St. Louis for 16 games to close the 1938 season, Gonzalez experienced an even bigger first. He became the first minority to lead a professional sporting team in the United States as head coach/manager. He remained a coach at the major league level for the Cards through 1946.

Though it would have provided the perfect bow to tie around this article, sadly Gonzalez did not wear number 5, at least not exactly. Yet in every one of his 14 years as a Cardinal during the time in which uniform numbers were worn on their backs, Gonzalez donned either 15, 25 or 35.

* On a side note, Cinco de Mayo, which is Spanish for the fifth of May, is a much bigger deal here in the US than in Mexico, as we have turned the day into a general celebration of Mexican culture. South of the Border, it is considered a regional holiday as it is not Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16. Cinco de Mayo recognizes the Mexican army’s defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Forbes: Busch tenth-best ballpark

Part of the annual series of Forbes articles on the game of baseball is an assessment of what they call “America’s Best Ballparks”. A process was developed to rate all 30 major league baseball stadiums in four primary categories – affordability, accessibility, fan participation and quality of concessions.

The St. Louis Cardinals came in at the end of the top third in MLB in tenth place. The National League Central had a very good showing as the Cards placed just fourth in their division. Pittsburgh’s PNC Bank Park was third overall, Wrigley Field fourth and Milwaukee’s Miller Park came in ninth. Behind Busch are Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, ranked 14th, with Houston’s tricked up Minute Maid Park at 22nd.

The affordability measure came from the 2009 Fan Cost Index compiled by Team Marketing, which I highlighted here recently. The FCI combines standard prices for a family of four to purchase tickets, concessions, parking and souvenirs at each stadium.

Each ballpark was rated on accessibility based on the number of different types of transportation available for fans. Fan participation is a simple capacity-filled measure – each stadium’s average attendance as a percentage of capacity over the past three years.

The ballparks were assigned to a numerical ranking from one to 30 in each of the four categories and the four were averaged to form the overall list. Rather than stop there, they created a scorecard that looks to be a bit convoluted by changing each ranking into a letter grade from A to D. Rather than try to describe it, you can read the details here.

Here are the scores for Busch, with a fifth measure, called intangibles:

Intangibles: B+
Fan Participation: A-
Accessibility: B+
Affordability: B-
Food: B

Not surprisingly, the fans power Busch’s best ranking while the prices are least competitive, yet they are still viewed to be better than most.

Cardinals Washington Whispers – 05/03/09

To close out the 4-2 road trip, we waited multiple hours for the rain to stop in Washington on Sunday. Here is a rough approximation of the events.

1:00 p.m. Announcement of 1:35 p.m. start, but the tarp wasn’t even off yet. Steady rain.

1:30 p.m. Tarp removed, Kyle Lohse pulled from start in favor of Kyle McClellan, who as the union rep was also a part of the decision. New start announced for 2:00.

2:00 p.m. Tarp back on, no announce time. Rain slows shortly after.

2:30 p.m. Nats president Stan Kasten talks with the press. Still wants to try to get game in.

3:15 p.m. Tarp drained off and put back on.

3:30 p.m. Game finally called with no makeup date yet.

3:45 p.m. Rain stopped – at least for a short while.

Tony La Russa spoke with the press prior to Sunday’s game as always. I will forego the details of the discussion about how he wanted to play the game since it is moot.

I will share one comment. One writer asked Tony if the weather dictated any of his line up choices. His reply: “I should put the guys out there I don’t care about?” Then he answered the question with Pujols as the example. “Albert didn’t start yesterday because his legs were achy, but he’s playing today. These guys just have to play under control.”

It is interesting to note the manager’s comments on P.J. Walters, who tossed two innings on Saturday and was the only reliever not “hot” on Sunday. After these comments, the decision was made to send Walters back to Memphis with Brad Thompson returning to St. Louis. Look for that to be announced on Monday.

“He (P.J.) hasn’t thrown the ball as hard in relief, which is a bit surprising. Normally when you only pitch an inning or two, you can really let it go. I still think he’s probably learning the role. He’s got the weapons to do that job. Try to settle into it. He’s a starting pitcher we’re using as an innings guy…. I don’t want to set him back, either. He’s got a chance to pitch in this league.”

When asked about a swap between Walters and Thompson:

“We’re evaluating the roster all the time. I’m not going to get into that daily thing. Start getting him paranoid and getting Thompson’s hopes up. I think Brad pitched a couple of good games but the last one wasn’t as good. He’s just got to take care of his business.”

When asked about whether he’d rather play the other division clubs more often (balanced schedule) in the context of making reschedule of games like Sunday’s easier:

“I don’t spend any time thinking about it. The guys that make the decisions are the ones thinking about it. What good is there to think about it? It doesn’t change anything. What they give us is what you’ve got to play with.”

On the bullpen:

“They’re all settling in, understand what is expected and what they have to do. They’re making some progress. What I think about the bullpen is what I think about the whole club. If we don’t improve – if this is the best we play all year – it won’t be good enough. We’ve got to improve.

“When we came out of spring training, I had an idea, Dunc had an idea what Chris (Perez) had to do to get better. Every one of those guys. At the beginning of the season, you see what’s working. Keep tweaking it. Pat them on the back when they do well. That stuff never changes.

“It’s a long season and they each have adjustments. They’ve each had enough success, they feel like they could be a contributor. I don’t think anybody is scared to go out there.”

On the aftermath of Rick Ankiel’s crash into the wall Saturday:

“I know he had a whiplash. I didn’t know if he was going to be able to go today, but he said he was good to go.”

On the ideal back up catcher:

“A guy that understands and accepts his role. A guy that takes a lot of interest and pride in working with a staff. To know it’s the responsibility of the catcher to get something out of the pitching staff that day. A guy that is going to work well with the regular catcher – not sitting there eating his heart out that the other guy will go 0-for-4 or 0-for-12 so he can play.

“The only thing that could make Jason (LaRue) a better fit for us is if he hit left-handed. But that’s not really important. Jason LaRue is everything you want to look for. He catches great. He throws well. Between him and Yadi (Molina), they’re tough to run on. He’s a veteran, a winner.

“A dad comes up to me and asks me how his kid should get noticed. I tell him to be a catcher. That’s the way to get to the big leagues,” said the manager.

I like to watch

Every year when I cover the Cardinals in our Nations’ Capital, I stay with my friend Trace Wood and his family. Trace is a good friend and a fine baseball writer and as such, it gives me another reason to anticipate this trip.


Yet I feel badly that I head off to the ballpark every day when here while Trace remains home, following a number of games simultaneously on MLB Extra Innings.


Even before my laptop’s monitor died on this trip, I suggested to Trace that we attend one of the four-game series as fans. That would allow us to talk more baseball together.


The designated day was today, Saturday, made even more appropriate given my machine malfunction made working at the ballpark impossible anyway. (OK, so I did take my camera with me and will share those shots once I am back to equipment normalcy.)


As we approached Nationals Park, Trace pointed out an underpass and street where parts of the Peter Sellers movie Being There were filmed. The lead character, Chance the Gardener, a.k.a. Chauncey Gardiner is one of my all-time favorites, hence this post’s title.


As it has all three games so far, rain threatened, but stayed away. While warm and humid, the cloudy skies kept the temperature bearable.


If only Saturday’s game had been as pleasant.


We sat in the third row, between the screen behind home plate and the Nationals dugout – excellent seats. It also afforded me a clear view into the Cardinals dugout.


Other than Albert Pujols and injured Khalil Greene, the Cards sent out their best men into battle. Chris Duncan moved to his “natural” position, first base, while Colby Rasmus manned left.


It was Hispanic Heritage Day at the park. I found it most coincidentally interesting that the battery was Joel Pineiro and Yadier Molina with Angel Hernandez the home plate umpire. Of course, many more Hispanic players competed in the game.


Among those seated in the $375 per person Lexus Champions seats right behind home plate was former Cardinal Bobby Bonilla, now an exec with the MLB Players Association. He shared a long conversation with Nats employee and former Blue Jays outfielder Devon White. White’s Toronto World Series ring was most visible.


The story of the game was starting pitcher Shairon Martis of the Nats, who first came into prominence when pitching a no-hitter in the 2006 World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands.


This game was all about the fifth inning.


Relying almost exclusively on a changeup and a fastball that topped out at 93 mph, Martis had pitched 4 2/3 perfect innings before Yadier Molina shot a clean single up the middle.


In the bottom of the inning, Molina made a stellar defensive play on a bunt by Martis. Yadi fired to second, nailing the runner Anderson Hernandez. Shortstop Brian Barden did a great job holding on after the hard, but clean slide.


Still in the fifth, Nick Johnson blasted a ball to deep center. Rick Ankiel had trouble adjusting to the slice as he ran full speed toward the track, Catching the ball to his left, then crashing into the wall, Ankiel was almost able to double the runner off first.


With two out, Ryan Zimmerman’s easy pop foul was dropped by Duncan. That opened the door for Adam Dunn’s three-run home run launched majestically into the second deck which gave the home team a four-run lead.


The Cards got onto the board with Colby Rasmus’ first career home run, a line drive shot that traveled as far as Dunn’s blast, though not as high. Sadly for the Cardinals, the bases were empty. It was on Martis’ first pitch of the seventh.


St. Louis had another chance in the eighth. With Joe Thurston on second, Khalil Greene pinch hit for Pineiro. The shortstop’s scorching liner to the left side was stabbed and turned into a double play.


Austin Kearns had a triple in the bottom of the inning off P.J. Walters as Ankiel inadvisably dived at a ball he couldn’t have reached. The ball rolled to the wall, giving Kearns another base. The runner on first scored easily. Kearns scored on an Anderson Hernandez single afterward.


By my count, the game would have been 2-1 with a better defensive showing. The three runs following Duncan’s drop were unearned and the second of the runs charged to Walters could have been avoided.


Still, you have to tip your cap to Martis. Despite only having two pitches working, he tossed the first complete game by a Nats pitcher since August 2006. Martis fanned six and walked no one in his 110-pitch gem.


Played in just two hours, seven minutes, despite its outcome, I liked to watch.

Cardinals Washington Whispers – 05/01/09

Sadly, I am running on a borrowed laptop donated very temporarily by an amazingly nice press box compatriot so this may be it in terms of updates this weekend. We shall have to see. However I did have an interesting and productive afternoon speaking with Cardinals players and coaches. I am especially happy to share it with you.

I spoke with P.J. Walters about his successful ninth-inning stint on Thursday. He and Ryan Franklin warmed up with Walters coming in since it is a non-save situation. P.J. says he can warm up quickly and can pitch on consecutive days as he did with State College back in 2006. Yet he is the only reliever shown as not available on Tony La Russa’s Friday lineup card.

Speaking of Franklin, La Russa finally broke down and admitted what we all could see. “At this point, he is the closer…. He was always the guy,” pronounced the skipper.

Spoke with Walters and Jason Motte about eyeglasses. Jason wears his trademark prescription specs on the mound and likes them because he can see all angles. P.J. had LASIK surgery two years ago and is very pleased with it, noting he experienced immediate improvement. Motte said he considered the procedure only for “a split second”. I may be a wimp, but I agree with him.

La Russa had penciled Jason LaRue into the lineup initially because catcher Yadier Molina “had a tough night, threw up” on Thursday. Yet when Yadi reported to the park, he told the skipper he was ok to go.

Thursday night’s home plate ump Jim Reynolds was not as fortunate. Beaned by a Blaine Boyer warmup pitch, he was unable to answer the bell on Friday. Substitute umpire Kevin Causey took over at third.

La Russa noted that his team’s fast start “has to do with what the players put in during spring training“ both in terms of drills and game experience.

TLR on Todd Wellemeyer (pre-game): Not as sharp as he can be. Will get better and better as he goes on.

TLR on Rick Ankiel: Once he is sharp, he is a potent bat. Started out ok but not surging as well as Ryan or Chris. He can be a number four hitter in MLB. Last three game key hits means he gets another start. Really been overtrying. When he relaxes more, he has better focus.

TLR on Khalil Greene: Emergency player in the field only for the remainder of this series. Injury to throwing arm, but no consideration of DL because he is pretty good pinch-hitter.

Khalil spoke about the role of being a pinch-hitter actually requires him to concentrate more over the details of the game from the bench than when he is actually playing. He watches the status of the pitchers on both sides so he is not surprised when he is given the heads-up to get ready. When he is in the game, he is less focused on the opposing pitcher, since he figures he will be hitting either way.

As a result, Tyler Greene is again getting the start in day two of his MLB career. Having been a little busy, he was unaware of the other shortstop moves in the system resulting from his promotion. Tyler concurred that the Double-A step Pete Kozma is making is the toughest due to better control and fewer mistakes by pitchers at that level.

K. Greene told me that in his first impression, he likes the new ballpark in DC. He was injured when the Padres traveled there last season and was not with the team. Khalil also liked the hitting background in the old RFK Stadium despite its large dimensions.

TLR on playing Joe Thurston vs. Brian Barden at third: Jokingly flipped an imaginary coin. Seriously, he mentioned he looks at how the opposing pitchers perform against right-handed batters (like Barden) and left-handed (Thurston). Both will continue to play a lot. Need extra pen man with 35 games in 36 days to start season.

TLR on his emergency catcher: “Probably one of the young, aggressive guys, maybe Thurston.” He said a definitive “no” when I jokingly suggested former catcher Motte.

Thursday’s winning pitcher Chris Perez says his heel still is giving him no problems at all, but expects his spring training shot will wear off soon. When he feels pain again, the plan is to do the injection on an off day.

On all the televisions in the clubhouse was the Marlins-Cubs game. I happened to catch Denise Richards do such a terrible rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that it made Ozzy seem good.

A team official noted the club has sold about 29,000 full and partial season tickets, which was kept flat by the added attraction of the 2009 All-Star Game. As noted elsewhere, the higher revenue premium tickets and corporate spending are down.

Mitchell Boggs was not surprised by his nine strikeouts Friday as he noted the Nationals are an aggressive team. He was surprised when I told him that he took over the 2009 team single-game lead from Walters, who had seven against the Cubs. Mitchell noted that he expects Adam Wainwright to claim the lead sometime very soon.

Albert Pujols mentioned his wife Deidre is heading to the Dominican Republic later this month to deliver the rest of the 200 beds he is donating to needy families.

I mentioned to Ryan Ludwick Thursday evening that La Russa said he would be starting here on Friday. Ryan said he expected it, but admitted that in the two games in Atlanta, he did not feel good at all.

Forgot to mention that Chris Duncan almost choked on his chewing gum in the dugout before the game. I asked him how many months it has been since he used tobacco. He counted out to nine. Great for him! Duncan took a lot of heat in some quarters for his use, so he deserves kudos for quitting.

Wellemeyer credited Dave Duncan with a mechanical adjustment with his hips that he said helped with his better outing on Friday.

Cardinals Washington Whispers: 04/30/09

Newest Cardinal Tyler Greene arrived in Washington about 11:45 a.m. and taxied over to the team hotel. As evidenced in this photo and about a dozen others I took, the new number 27 can’t stop smiling. Hard to blame him. Other than a handshake and a “congratulations”, I decided to leave him alone before the game. Already enough going on.

Tony La Russa on what he told Greene: “It’s what I tell all the young players when they come up here. Just trust your ability and not try to do too much. Nothing too complicated.”

TLR on why he started Greene on his first day: “You usually bring up a guy when you need him. If he’s a spare part, then I don’t find a way to start him, but I have two shortstops hurt. I think it’s good to get him out there.” No, I didn’t ask him what that says or doesn’t say about how he feels about Brian Barden at short.

We may see Blaine Boyer pitch Thursday evening, as he is one of the “hot” relievers. TLR: “The best laboratory is actual games.”

TLR on Chris Carpenter “feeling better” and his work in the training room: “I’m encouraged…. But no predictions when he can play.” As I was coming off the field before the game, Carp was standing on the stairway watching the pitchers take batting practice in the cage under the stands. I asked the obvious – “Wish you were out there?” The answer was equally predictable.

I am posting up for subscribers a discussion I had today with Brendan Ryan about his hamstring injury. He thought he had clearance from the trainer to take batting practice today, but as I was talking with bench coach Joe Pettini, he told Ryan “no”. Khalil Greene concurred with the decision. A former MLB middle infielder himself, Pettini has a lot of experience with this kind of injury. On a side note, Ryan’s brother Paul had to scrap his planned trip to DC for the weekend with “The Boog” placed on the DL.

I asked Colby Rasmus about the outfield turf in Atlanta. Not making an excuse in any manner, he answered the question by holding his hands about a foot apart saying that the ball actually “snakes” to the left and right as it passes through the grass. Rasmus acknowledged that it is not easy to spot on television. He had an estimated 150 friends and family from Russell County, Alabama in Atlanta. Colby exclaimed that fortunately he didn’t have to buy all of the tickets! P.J. Walters also mentioned that he had a contingent up from Pensacola, Florida.

Hitting coach Hal McRae was giving some tips to Joe Thurston before the game. I asked the coach how his recovery from the flu is going and if it is spreading through the team. On the latter question, he said, “Thankfully, not yet.” He just took his fifth daily dose of antibiotics but is expecting a total of seven to ten days with it “no matter what”. Ryan Ludwick’s minor ailment is apparently unconnected.

Did you notice that Yadier Molina is wearing a different style batting helmet than the rest of his teammates? I did, so I asked about it. It is one of the modern-looking Rawlings Cool Vent models with indentations and slots on the sides. Turns out Yadi tried it out during the World Baseball Classic and decided to keep it. Says it keeps his head cooler. Whether real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. The rest of the club opted to stay with the traditional models when asked several years ago when they first came out.

I passed Nats television play-by-play man Bob Carpenter in the tunnel and we exchanged greetings. The former Cardinals broadcaster looks great. His sister Judy Carpenter-Barada is a long-time key member of the Cardinals front office with the official title of Director of Major League Administration.

Cards-focused scribes on this assignment include Joe Strauss from the P-D and locally-based Lisa Winston of USA Today Baseball Weekly and fame covering for Matthew Leach with Look for their articles during this series. The FOX Sports Midwest crew includes producer Tom Mee and his fine crew in the truck as always, along with Dan, Al and Pat Parris. Rick Horton is also with the club along with John Rooney on the airwaves.

Minors matters
: I updated the Roster Matrix with the latest moves, including the activation of outfielder Paul Cruz with Quad Cities. Unfortunately catcher Blake Murphy’s elbow is causing him problems again, so he returned to the DL.

Donovan Solano was promoted from Springfield to Memphis to replace Greene. Pitcher Marco Gonzalez moved in the opposite direction. That keeps Springfield whole, but Memphis would seem to still be one player short. Here’s how that was apparently solved. Outfielder Shane Robinson is shown on the DL by while catcher Brandon Yarbrough and reliever Fernando Salas are now active.

Shortstop Pete Kozma is heading from Palm Beach up to Springfield on Friday, reports Ray Mileur at Kyle Mura is moved onto the Springfield DL with Trey Hearne taking his spot in the rotation. Springfield now has five players on the disabled list and one on the temporary inactive list. Palm Beach’s addition to replace Kozma is not yet known. (Edit: See update below.) I did notice that regular Domnit Bolivar (currently hitting .224) is out of the Quad Cities lineup on Thursday evening, but that could be coincidence (Edit: It wasn’t!).

On a personal and negative note, I am having monitor problems with my laptop and am hoping that far away from home, my machine will be kind to me this weekend. If I do disappear, do not assume foul play is involved!

Cardinals short bench cut in half

The St. Louis Cardinals’ already-short bench has reached a critical stage.

Infielder Brendan Ryan, in the midst of an impressive defensive series in Atlanta, had to leave Wednesday evening’s rubber match against the Atlanta Braves with what was characterized as left hamstring tightness.

The 27-year-old was injured in the fifth inning when running down the first base line after what turned out to be a foul ball. Brian Barden finished the at-bat for Ryan and took over defensively at shortstop. More information about the severity of Ryan’s injury should be made available on Thursday.

Part of the reason for Ryan’s opportunity was that regular starting shortstop Khalil Greene was out of the lineup with a sore right forearm. The veteran, in his first season with St. Louis, is expected to miss a few days.

With the club carrying 13 pitchers, the available bench of position players shrinks from an already-short four down to an unworkable two because of the pair of wounded infielders. The ready reserves are catcher Jason LaRue, always saved for emergency purposes, and the fourth outfielder, who on Wednesday evening was Ryan Ludwick.

If either injury is expected to linger more than one or two days, the club may need to call on Triple-A Memphis for help. Even if neither player is hurt enough to hit the disabled list, a pitcher could be sent down to make room for a position player.

If they go this route, the most likely hurler to be sent out is rookie P.J. Walters, who was given just one start before yielding the turn to Mitchell Boggs. Boggs was impressive in his first start against Chicago and is the scheduled starter in Washington on Thursday.

Another possibility would be to wait until Boggs completes his outing and option him out, despite how well or poorly he performs. Without an injury elsewhere, any player sent down would be required to remain there for at least ten days.

The 2009 Memphis club is off to a very poor start offensively. Their team batting average of .222 is tied for worst in the 16-team Pacific Coast League, while their OBP (.310) and slugging (.315) are dead last. They are last in runs scored with ten fewer than the 15th-best club and a whopping 50 behind league-leader Omaha (72 to 122, each in 19 games).

Still, there are a few offensive standouts on the Redbirds who could be considered candidates for a call up.

Shortstop Tyler Greene has been an underachiever in past years, but received positive reviews in spring training. He is already on the club’s 40-man roster and can play all over the infield. Greene’s current slash stats are .296/.412/.423 with Memphis. The right-handed hitter leads the Redbirds in both strikeouts with 17 and walks with 12.

A longer shot would be corner infielder Allen Craig, who blistered the ball in Florida. He is second on the club in batting (.313), slugging (.453) and OPS (.842). Craig also can play some outfield but is not on the 40-man.

Then there is banished David Freese, who made the big league team out of spring training, but didn’t produce offensively. The third baseman has been struggling through his first 27 Triple-A at-bats this season with a line of .148/.179/.185.

Another option could be to return to a more traditional roster make up with a fifth outfielder. While Joe Mather has a place on the 40-man, he is not hitting well with a .123 average.

Shane Robinson is the Redbirds’ leading hitter across the board this season to date with a .375/.434/.479 line but had not even been invited to major league spring camp. Based on the last three weeks of play, he seems deserving of a chance, but would have to be added to the 40-man first.

Jon Jay may have been the most impressive non-roster outfielder in spring camp other than Colby Rasmus, but he hasn’t carried it over to the regular season. His stat line is .208/.275/.222 and he has fanned 12 times with just five walks in 72 at-bats.

The path of least resistance in the outfield may be Nick Stavinoha. With MLB experience last season, the right-handed hitter’s current line is .246/.359/.385. Stavinoha is the primary run-producer as the only player on the Memphis club to have reached double digits in RBI at 15.

Who takes the Cards-Braves series?

After two low-scoring contests in games one and two of their current series in Atlanta, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a position to take the road series on Wednesday, improving their road record above .500 (4-4 now) and bolstering their overall tally to 15-7. They move on to Washington for a four-game set this weekend, where I’ll be catching up with the club.

In a match-up of a pair of veteran front-liners, Adam Wainwright takes on Javier Vazquez on Wednesday evening at Turner Field.

Vazquez is in his 12th season as a major league hurler, having debuted with the 1998 Montreal Expos at the tender age of 21. The Puerto Rican native pitched in the American League in four of the last five years, so many of the current Cardinals have not faced him extensively. The right-hander was brought in to Atlanta along with Derek Lowe over the winter to bolster an injury-devastated rotation.

Those Cardinals with a history facing Vazquez have decent results, with two of the four having collected home runs against him, Khalil Greene and Albert Pujols. Injured Troy Glaus also has a long ball off Vazquez, likely from their time together in the American League. In addition, the two were teammates in 2005 as each spent a single season with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Vazquez G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP BAA
Career vs. StL 9/9 58 1/3 2-6 4.01 1.22 0.237
2008 vs. StL none
Career at Turner Field 12/12 76 1/3 5-5 3.54 1.09 0.225
Start ’em
Khalil Greene 3-for-9 (.333) 1HR, 2K
Jason LaRue 2-for-5 (.400) 1BB, 3K
Albert Pujols 5-for-13 (.385) 1HR, 3K
Yadier Molina 1-for-3 (.333)
Sit ’em

A player the Braves wish they had back is Wainwright. The 27-year-old native of Brunswick, Georgia was Atlanta’s first-round pick in the 2000 draft. The right-hander became a Cardinal in the J.D. Drew trade in December, 2003, a deal made by former Cards GM Walt Jocketty with then-GM, now-president of the Braves John Schuerholz.

No matter how you cut the numbers, Wainwright has pitched very well against his former organization. With good-hitting catcher Brian McCann on the disabled list, his replacement David Ross ironically has an identical 2-for-9 history against Wainwright. Ross does have a home run, but also fanned 1/3 of the time. As has been proven many times in the past and reinforced in the first two games of the series, pitching around Chipper Jones seems a worthwhile consideration.

Wainwright G/Starts IP W-L ERA WHIP BAA
Career vs. Atl 6/3 24 3-0 1.13 0.96 0.195
2008 vs. Atl 1/1 6 1-0 1.50 1.00 0.238
Career at Turner Field 2/1 9 1-0 1.00 1.11 0.182
Start ’em
Gregor Blanco 1-for-3 (.333)
Matt Diaz 2-for-3 (.667)
Chipper Jones 3-for-5 (.600) 1BB, 1K
Sit ’em
Yunel Escobar 0-for-5 (.000) 1BB
Jeff Francoeur 1-for-5 (.200) 2BB
David Ross 2-for-9 (.222) 1HR, 3K
Kelly Johnson 0-for-8 (.000) 2K

Why cutting Cardinals errors is important

Coming into Monday’s contest, the St. Louis Cardinals were last in Major League Baseball with 20 errors in their 19 games played. Their fielding percentage was “only” 29th in MLB as their upcoming weekend opponent, the Washington Nationals, had an even lower mark (.971 to .973).

This situation is causing uneasiness in some quarters, while others, including the club’s manager, offer explanations which label the current results as an outlier – an aberration that will apparently soon pass.

Let’s hope so, because if not, it does not bode well for the Cardinals’ 2009 post-season hopes.

Committing an error per game as are the Cardinals is a pace faster than any major league club over a full season since at least 1995. However, the rate is far from unprecedented.

The expansion 1962 and 1963 New York Mets both committed a modern major league record 210 errors, the most since baseball moved to a 162-game schedule. In recent years, the Mets of 1996 were only three errors under making one per game for the season and the 1999 Montreal Expos were just two short.

If carried over the entire season, the Cardinals current fielding percentage of .973 would also be MLB’s worst in at least the last 15 years and probably longer.

The following table shows the MLB team leader in errors in each season along with that club’s fielding percentage. I covered the Tony La Russa era in St. Louis plus one more year.

Only twice in those 14 years did the club with the most errors also not have the worst fielding percentage, but even in those cases, the team finished 29th, or second to last in fielding.

Committing the most errors in MLB generally means that club will be sitting at home in October. Yet, it can be overcome.

The 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers is the most recent team to pull off the rare feat of leading the game in miscues while still making the playoffs. In fact, Tommy Lasorda’s last full-season Dodgers team won their division, albeit in a 144-game strike-shortened year.

Not that I expect the Cardinals will continue in this manner, but even if so, there still would be a glimmer of hope.

Most errors # Errs G E/G Flding % FPct rank Playoffs
2009 St. Louis 20 19 1.05 0.973 29
2008 Texas 132 162 0.81 0.978 30 no
2007 Florida 137 162 0.85 0.977 30 no
2006 Washington 131 162 0.81 0.978 30 no
2005 Kansas City 125 162 0.77 0.979 30 no
2004 Detroit 144 162 0.89 0.977 30 no
2003 Cincinnati 141 162 0.87 0.977 30 no
2002 NY Mets 147 161 0.91 0.976 30 no
2001 San Diego 145 162 0.90 0.976 30 no
2000 Anaheim 134 162 0.83 0.978 29 no
1999 Montreal 160 162 0.99 0.974 30 no
1998 Montreal 155 162 0.96 0.975 30 no
1997 Boston 135 162 0.83 0.978 29 no
1996 NY Mets 159 162 0.98 0.974 30 no
1995 LA Dodgers 130 144 0.90 0.976 30 yes

Next, I looked at the error counts and fielding percentages of La Russa’s Cardinals teams plus one year. His third St. Louis club, the 1998 edition, committed 142 errors and posted a .978 fielding percentage – both La Russa team worsts.

Interestingly, his best defensive club, at least using these metrics, was the 2003 team. Yet betrayed by their pitching, that 85-win club missed out on the post-season. So just being solid defensively is not enough.

After a run of a half dozen years of ranking in the top half of MLB in both stats, the 2007 Cardinals were among the poorest defensive clubs in the league. David Eckstein (20 miscues), Aaron Miles (14), Brendan Ryan (10) and Scott Rolen (10) led the team.

After considerable roster turnover, including the departure of Eckstein along with long-term Gold Glovers Rolen and Jim Edmonds, the 2008 Cardinals bounced back defensively. That group again ranked in the top quarter of MLB teams, but they still missed the post-season for the second consecutive year.

StL errors Error rank StL FPct FPct rank Playoffs
2008 85 T5 0.986 7 no
2007 121 28 0.980 28 no
2006 98 T10 0.984 12 yes
2005 100 13 0.984 13 yes
2004 97 9 0.985 7 yes
2003 77 2 0.987 4 no
2002 103 T13 0.983 15 yes
2001 110 T16 0.982 11 yes
2000 111 15 0.981 17 yes
1999 132 24 0.978 26 no
1998 142 29 0.978 25 no
1997 123 22 0.980 19 no
1996 125 17 0.980 19 yes
1995 113 23 0.980 23 no

Time will tell as whether or not errors continue to be a topic of discussion for Cardinals fans this season, but do note that the team has not made the playoffs under La Russa when finishing in the bottom third of MLB in errors and fielding percentage.

Breaking the early Cardinals-Cubs “tie”

As most who are reading this know, the St. Louis Cardinals invaded Wrigley Field to take on the Chicago Cubs two weekends ago and the two switched roles this past Friday through Sunday. These were the first six of what will be 16 individual battles between the two archrivals this season.

In each of these initial series, the home club took two of three (with the final of the original four-game Chicago series rained out and rescheduled to July 12). As a result, the clubs’ season series against each other is knotted at 3-3.

Not being totally satisfied with that, I decided to take a look at comparative stats over the six contests. Sure, some players have been out due to injuries on both sides, but this is an accurate representation of the results by those able to suit up.

The data is reflected in terms of hitting splits, yet some pitching conclusions are evident in this context, as well.

2009 thru 6G H2H AB RBI BA OBP SLG
StL hitters 203 34 0.271 0.359 0.483
ChC hitters 218 30 0.275 0.342 0.413
StL LH hitters 84 10 0.238 0.323 0.369
ChC LH hitters 91 17 0.297 0.356 0.451
StL RH hitters 119 24 0.294 0.384 0.563
ChC RH hitters 127 13 0.260 0.331 0.386
StL two outs 60 7 0.183 0.269 0.283
ChC two outs 68 14 0.279 0.380 0.426
StL RISP 70 25 0.271 0.338 0.414
ChC RISP 59 22 0.237 0.338 0.390
StL pinch-hitters 9 2 0.444 0.583 0.778
ChC pinch-hitters 8 0 0.125 0.300 0.125
vs. ChC starters 139 22 0.266 0.329 0.475
vs. StL starters 132 18 0.288 0.347 0.386
vs. ChC relievers 64 12 0.281 0.418 0.500
vs. StL relievers 86 12 0.256 0.333 0.453

The Cardinals hitters drove in more runs and accumulated higher on-base and slugging percentages. The Cubs’ left-handed hitters were more productive than were St. Louis’, but the Cardinals’ right-handed batters, who of course saw more at-bats, had a bigger edge in stats.

Though the Cubs two-out hitters were more productive, the Cardinals out-produced them with runners in scoring position. The weakened position of the Cubs’ bench is evident in the pinch-hitting results.

In terms of pitching, the Cubs starters yielded more runs than did the Cardinals starters, despite having better batting average and OBP against. Where the Cubs fell down is in slugging, where the Cardinals hitters had a significant advantage.

Looking at the relievers, the Cardinals group allowed the same number of runs as their Cubs peers, but they registered superior slash stats in all three areas despite facing considerably more opposing hitters.

To bring this point home, here is a summary of the respective pitching staffs’ results through the six games. The Cardinals pitchers clearly come out on top.

2009 thru 6G H2H ERA BB K
StL pitchers 4.77 22 54
ChC pitchers 5.67 25 45

Overall through two series, I would have to give the imaginary stats tiebreaker to the Cardinals. There are ten more regular-season games to go, with the next match ups coming on May 19-21 in St. Louis.

A Decade of Cardinals Grannies

On Saturday afternoon, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols did it again – slugged his second grand slam home run in just two weeks. This time, his seventh-inning heroics turned a close game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium into a comfortable and satisfying 8-2 victory.

In a record-breaking career that began in 2001, it became Pujols’ eighth grand slam, the most of any Cardinal player during this decade. Jim Edmonds is next with five. As a team, the Cardinals have 49 over the period.

Saturday’s slam was Pujols’ first against the arch-rival Northsiders, but the team’s eleventh Cub-breaker this decade, the most for the club against any rival, almost doubling their quantity against the next-most common victim, Cincinnati.

As it should be…

Special thanks to Tom Orf for the data pull that follows. Pujols and Cubs slams in bold.

St. Louis Cardinals grand slams: 2000 through 2009

Date Cardinal Versus
4/25/2009 Albert Pujols Chi
4/11/2009 Albert Pujols Hou
9/19/2008 Adam Kennedy @Chi
8/6/2008 Albert Pujols LA
7/20/2008 Aaron Miles SD
6/21/2008 Troy Glaus @Bos
8/31/2007 Rick Ankiel Cin
7/26/2007 Chris Duncan Chi
6/16/2007 Chris Duncan @Oak
8/27/2006 Gary Bennett Chi
8/22/2006 Albert Pujols @NYM
8/9/2006 Jim Edmonds @Cin
4/3/2006 Scott Rolen @Phi
9/30/2005 Albert Pujols Cin
8/7/2005 David Eckstein Atl
6/4/2005 Reggie Sanders @Hou
5/20/2005 John Mabry @KC
8/22/2004 Larry Walker Pit
8/17/2004 Larry Walker Cin
6/9/2004 Edgar Renteria @Chi
4/21/2004 Jim Edmonds @Hou
9/3/2003 J.D. Drew @Chi
8/2/2003 Bo Hart @NYM
6/8/2003 Scott Rolen Bal
5/9/2003 Fernando Vina @Chi
9/17/2002 Tino Martinez @Col
9/4/2002 Edgar Renteria Cin
8/31/2002 Eli Marrero @Chi
8/18/2002 Edgar Renteria @Phi
8/10/2002 Albert Pujols NYM
6/11/2002 Albert Pujols @Sea
5/6/2002 Fernando Vina @Pit
4/17/2002 Jim Edmonds @Arz
9/21/2001 Albert Pujols @Pit
9/9/2001 Jim Edmonds LA
7/7/2001 Mark McGwire @Cle
6/15/2001 Bobby Bonilla ChW
9/24/2000 Will Clark @Chi
9/20/2000 Jim Edmonds Hou
9/16/2000 Fernando Tatis Chi
7/25/2000 Fernando Tatis Arz
7/14/2000 Eduardo Perez @ChW
7/13/2000 Shawon Dunston @ChW
5/30/2000 Shawon Dunston @Arz
5/7/2000 Eric Davis @Cin
4/23/2000 Placido Polanco Col
4/20/2000 Eli Marrero SD
4/11/2000 Thomas Howard @Hou
4/6/2000 J.D. Drew Chi