All posts by Brian Walton

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

Cards minors spring game reports – March 19

Thursday’s opponents:
Florida Marlins

Friday’s opponents: New York Mets (Memphis and Springfield at Port St. Lucie with Palm Beach and Quad Cities at home)

lost to New Orleans, 10-4

Memphis pitchers

Justin Fiske 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER

Hyang-Nam Choi   2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER

Shaun Garceau took the loss, 1.2 IP 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

Matt Scherer 1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 K’s

Charlie Manning 1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER

Marco Gonzalez 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER

Memphis hitters

Mark Hamilton, 2-for-4 with two doubles

Brandon Yarbrough, 2-for-3 with double and run scored

Jarrett Hoffpauir 2-run double

Nick Stavinoha was 1-for-4, and was the catcher today.

Springfield lost to Jacksonville, 7-1

Springfield pitchers

Ryan Bird started and took the loss, 2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Ryan Kulik, 2 IP, 2 H, 0 runs, 1 BB, 2 K’s

Elvis Hernandez, 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K’s

Davis Bilardello 1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER

Ken Maiques, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER

Sam Freeman threw one perfect inning with two K’s

Springfield hitters

Steve Hill, 2-for-3 with a HR

Andrew Brown, 1-for-4 with a double

Tyler Henley and Donovan Solano each had a base hit

Palm Beach
defeated Jupiter, 3-2

Palm Beach pitchers

Brian Broderick, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K’s

J.D. Stambaugh, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Pete Parise, two perfect innings with one K

Wayne Daman threw a scoreless inning, allowing one hit

Matt Spade was the winner, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 runs

Casey Mulligan with the save, one perfect inning, one K

Palm Beach hitters

Francisco Rivera, 2-for-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI

Jon Edwards, 2-for-4, run scored, RBI

Blake Murphy RBI double in his only AB

Adron Chambers, Brian Cartie, Jermaine Curtis were all 1-for-3

Aaron Luna, 1-for-2

Oliver Marmol, Curt Smith, Charlie Kingrey were 1-for-4

Quad Cities 1 lost to Greensboro, 10-1

QC1 pitchers

Deryk Hooker was the loser, 1+ IP, 3 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB

Jameson Maj, 2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER

Zach Pitts 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K’s

Gary Daley, 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K

Jason Buursma, 2 IP, 2 H, 3 unearned runs

Jose Rada struck out the side in his only inning of work

QC1 hitters

Domnit Bolivar 2-for-3 with an RBI

Osvaldo Morales, Frederick Parejo and Chris Swauger had the only other hits with a single apiece

Quad Cities 2 defeated Marlins 5th team, 9-6

QC2 pitchers

Brett Zawacki, 2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K’s

Mike Blazek, 2 IP, 3 H, 1 unearned run

Reynier Gonzalez, 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER

Josh Hester, two perfect innings, two K’s

QC2 hitters

Roberto De La Cruz, 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and a walk

Jairo Martinez, 2-for-4 with a HR

Michael Swinson, 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs

Edwin Gomez, 2-for-4

Yunior Castillo, 1-for-2, with a run scored

Nick Vera, singled and had two walks in his three PA’s

These reports are provided through the courtesy of the St. Louis Cardinals by Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch.

Cardinals in the Gulf Coast, Arizona and Pioneer Rookie Leagues

Starting this series was an offshoot of a single event, the Batavia Muckdogs’ 2008 New York-Penn League championship season. That led to a look at system-wide records over time, which opened up the opportunity to look at each level of play across the Cardinals system.

In doing so, the top six minor league levels seemed right, as they are the consistent measures over time. Yet this work also enabled me to fully appreciate the handful of managers that have revolved among the Cardinals affiliates over the years.

In order to have a complete view of the minor league managers, I realized I needed to have a snapshot of the complex short-season rookie leagues as well. Hence the creation of this previously-unexpected report.

Florida-based rookie leagues – 1964 through 1976

In 1964, the Cardinals placed a team in what was called the Sarasota Rookie League. All four league clubs played their games in Sarasota. The next season, the league evolved to six teams, renamed the Florida Rookie League, with games in Bradenton as well as Sarasota. George Kissell’s club finished fifth.

A third name change in three seasons occurred in 1966 as the Gulf Coast League came into existence. Down to five clubs and a 48-game schedule, Kissell’s team finished in fifth. Cardinal Wayne Dees led the league in hits with 48.

In the five years from 1967 through 1971, the Cardinals finished last every other year with only one first-division finish (second in 1968). 1972 and 1973 brought an unusual situation as the Cardinals had two clubs in the same league! Perhaps it watered down the talent too much as neither the Cardinals nor the Red Birds were in contention either season. Hector Eduardo of Ken Boyer’s Cardinals hit six home runs in 1973 to pace the GCL.

Cardinals in Calgary – 1977 and 1978

After another last-place finish in 1975 and a fourth-place return the next season, the Cardinals left the Gulf Coast League. For 1977 and 1978, the Cardinals moved far north and west to the Pioneer League. In their first season, the Calgary Cardinals were led by league leaders Jim Reeves with a .376 batting average and future major leaguer Ty Waller with 96 hits and 77 runs scored.

During the next ten seasons, from 1979 through 1988, the Cardinals’ lowest classification team was Johnson City of the rookie-level Appalachian League.

Six years in Arizona – 1989 through 1994

In 1988, the Arizona League began play, modeled after the Gulf Coast League, still operating without the Cardinals. While the GCL was up to 12 teams, the Arizona League began with just four. The Cards joined the Arizona League in season two, 1989, as it expanded to six teams.

In 1990, Cardinal Jonas Hamlin led the Arizona League in hits (76), home runs (8) and runs scored (45). The next season, Steve Cerio topped the league in hits (80), home runs (9) and RBIs (47). In 1992, there were more Cardinals offensive leaders. Not-yet Super Joe McEwing paced the league with 55 runs while teammate Brian Rupp batted .386, had 80 hits and drove in 40, all Arizona League bests.

While there was plenty of hitting, there wasn’t consistent winning. Since its inception, the Arizona League Cardinals hovered around .500 until 1993. That year, Roy Silver’s Cardinals finished in second, just three games out.

The Cards saved their best for last as 1994 signaled both the end of the Cardinals’ involvement in the Arizona League as well as their only season atop the standings, achieved in their sixth year.

Once again, offense led the way for Scott Melvin’s club. Darren Tawwater hit five home runs, Nate Dishington had 36 RBIs and Jose Lugo’s 70 hits all led the Arizona League in 1994.

Back to the GCL again – 2007 to present

This time, the Cardinals stayed away from the complex rookie leagues for a dozen years until their return to the Gulf Coast League in 2007. Those first two teams struggled badly in the won-loss column (.376), though Cuban émigré and outfielder Ryde Rodriguez was named a 2008 GCL All-Star.

The Cardinals plan to continue to use the GCL in place of Johnson City as the first stopping point for Dominican and Venezuelan graduates as well as many June high school draftees.

Veteran scout Steve Turco is returning to managing after a ten-year absence from the bench to lead the 2009 Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Only during their brief two-year stay in the Pioneer League did the Cardinals participate in a league with a playoff format. In terms of the regular season, the Cardinals have one first-place finish from 25 clubs over 23 seasons since 1964.

Their cumulative won-loss record is 668-737 (.475), with their best run during the Arizona League years. From 1989 through 1994, those Cardinals won at a .526 clip (172-155).

Cardinals Complex Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 64-78, 89-94, 07-08 0.475 668 737 1 0
25 year all clubs 89-94, 07-08 0.489 213 223 1 0
10 year all clubs 07-08 0.376 41 68 0 na
GCL/FRL/SRL record 64-76, 07-08 0.453 425 514 0 na
Arizona League record 89-94 0.526 172 155 1 na
Pioneer League record 77-78 0.511 71 68 0 0
Gulf Coast 2008 0.309 17 38 5 na Enrique Brito
Gulf Coast 2007 0.444 24 30 4 na Enrique Brito
Arizona 1994 0.607 34 22 1 na Scott Melvin
Arizona 1993 0.585 31 22 2 na Roy Silver
Arizona 1992 0.519 28 26 6 na Joe Cunningham
Arizona 1991 0.492 29 30 5 na Keith Champion
Arizona 1990 0.538 28 24 3 na Larry Milbourne
Arizona 1989 0.415 22 31 5 na Luis Melendez
Calgary (Pioneer) 1978 0.536 37 32 3 Johnny Lewis
Calgary (Pioneer) 1977 0.486 34 36 4 Johnny Lewis
Gulf Coast 1976 0.529 27 24 4 na Dave Ricketts
Gulf Coast 1975 0.327 17 35 7 na Fred Koenig
Gulf Coast 1974 0.563 27 21 5 na Tom Burgess
Bobby Dews
Gulf Coast Cardinals 1973 0.455 25 30 7 na Ken Boyer
Gulf Coast Red Birds 1973 0.518 29 27 4 na Le Roy Thomas
Gulf Coast Cardinals 1972 0.458 27 32 5 na Bobby Dews
Gulf Caost Red Birds 1972 0.397 23 35 6 na Julio Gotay
Gulf Coast 1971 0.377 20 33 7 na Tom Burgess
Gulf Coast 1970 0.533 32 28 5 na Tom Burgess
Gulf Coast 1969 0.389 21 33 7 na Tom Burgess
Gulf Coast 1968 0.557 34 27 2 na George Kissell
Ray Hathaway
Gulf Coast 1967 0.439 25 32 6 na George Kissell
Gulf Coast 1966 0.417 20 28 4 na George Kissell
Florida Rookie 1965 0.466 27 31 5 na George Kissell
Sarasota Rookie 1964 0.500 30 30 2 na Fred Koenig

Related articles:

“Cardinals in Triple-A – 1977 to present”

“Cardinals in Double-A – 1966 to present”

“Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present”

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Cardinals minor matters – March 19

With little unreported news of note on current St. Louis Cardinals, it seems a good time to sweep up some miscellaneous items from the last few days about ex-Cards still active across the game.

Worrell wounded

San Diego reliever Mark Worrell, unhappy with the Cardinals over a lack of opportunity, received his with the Padres this spring. The sidearmer had pitched well enough that he was expected to make the team.

That was before elbow soreness hit. Now he is shut down with this ominous comment from manager Bud Black, after talking with team doctors.

Black said, “It doesn’t look great.”

No news yet on the second player to head to the Padres in the Khalil Greene trade, but whoever it is, I still like the Cardinals side of the deal.

Perdomo still fighting among Giants

Taken in the December Rule 5 Draft, Luis Perdomo is one of nine relievers vying for two spots in the San Francisco Giants bullpen. It he doesn’t make the team, he will passed through waivers and if unclaimed, will return to the Cardinals minor leagues.

Izzy’s first outing with Rays

Nobody is getting too excited in Tampa Bay yet, but Jason Isringhausen made his first spring appearance the other day. Not dominating, nor should it have been expected with Izzy coming off elbow surgery.

Still, there is hope that Izzy can be part of the pen mix and given closer Troy Percival’s age and health risk, this could be a good place for the exiled Cards all-time saves leader to get his career back on track.

Julian brutally honest

After turning down an earlier offer from Washington, former Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez accepted this time – a non-guaranteed minor league deal with a spring camp invite.

Since leaving the Cardinals after the 2005 season, the 34-year-old right-hander has pitched (and departed from) Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. If he makes the cut, Washington will become his 11th MLB club.

Never known for taking things very seriously, here is what Tavarez said about joining the Nationals:

“Why did I sign with the Nationals?” Tavarez told a group of reporters. “When you go to a club at [4 a.m.], and you’re just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J. Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It’s [4 a.m.]. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me.”

“I would like to be a starter, but it’s like my father said: ‘You want Jennifer Lopez, but does she want you? No.’ You just take whatever she is giving to you. So I just take whatever they give to me … They give to me as a long man, I take it as a long man. Set up man, I take it. Starter, I take it. I can do whatever.”

The Kipper is back!

I had recently been dogging the Toronto Blue Jays as the destination for old Cardinals to die. Perhaps that is now the Washington Nationals. Ray “Burger” King passed through there on his way out of the game and Ronnie Belliard and now Tavarez are there today.

There is another recent addition – former Cardinals starter Kip Wells. The Nats’ brass are tantalized by his 90-93 mph fastball and movement on his slider. Right.

Since leaving St. Louis, where he was an awful 7-17 in 2007, Wells couldn’t stick with Colorado or Kansas City, either. He hasn’t had a winning season since 2003. Wells can earn $500,000 if he makes the team.

Good luck with that.

Maroth to minors, Clement doing ok

Speaking of Toronto, left-handed pitcher Mike Maroth was sent down to the minors by the Jays. No surprise there. He surrendered five runs, four earned, and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings in his first start on Saturday.

One of the players that beat him out was another former Cardinal, Matt Clement. He’s still in camp, having allowed three runs in six innings. For the Jays, that is good, I guess.

Haerther hits the field as Rolen sidelined

In his first action of the spring, outfielder Cody Haerther went 2-for-2 and drove in two runs for the Jays on Wednesday. If the former Cardinal minor leaguer can ever put the injuries behind, he has a chance to eventually make it as a reserve outfielder.

In response to a reader question, though he was taken in the Rule 5 Draft last December, Haerther does not have to be returned to the Cardinals when he is sent down. That is because he was on the Springfield roster and was taken in the minor league phase of Rule 5.

Former Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen has been eased into spring action with just 13 at-bats so far. He had to leave Wednesday’s game due to a sore back that is not supposed to be serious.

There were rumors that the Jays were hoping for a hot spring from Rolen to attract trade interest. With him being owed $22 million for this season and next, there aren’t going to be any takers.

Sir Sid’s groundhog day

The Kansas City Royals signed pitcher Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training.

They want to see if he “has anything left in the tank”. If that means ample food and drink, the answer is “yes”. If they mean the ability to pitch consistently well, the answer is “no way”.

Though I didn’t peg the team, the first part of my earlier prediction has come true. I figured Sir Sidney would pitch well enough in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands (Dutch Aruba, remember?) that he would be signed somewhere.

Step two will be to pitch well in a game or two. Step three is to revert to being himself. Step four is to be waived. Step five is to be re-signed by the Yankees, before a repeat of steps two through four.

By the way, Ponson finally settled with the Orioles on his grievance based on being released in 2005 with a $10 million deal for 2006 in place. There were those alcohol-related problems…

Rico to China

Last year’s Joe Thurston-come-from-nowhere to make the team feel-good story was career minor leaguer Rico Washington. He made the 2008 opening day roster due to Brendan Ryan starting on the disabled list and lasted less than a month in the bigs, but he did make it after a dozen years of trying.

Rico is on a different career trajectory now, having signed with defending champion Uni-President Lions in the Chinese Professional Baseball League for 2009.

Pomeranz back on the mound

The White Sox signed former Cardinals right-hander pitcher Stuart Pomeranz. It was a minor league deal, of course.

The 24-year-old was the Cards’ second-round pick in 2003 and at one point, was a top-ten prospect in the organization. He never made Triple-A, though he did pitch in the Arizona Fall League in 2006.

Pomeranz’ shoulder was injured for most of 2007 and after being released last spring, he didn’t play the rest of the season as far as I can tell. I assumed he had retired.

Spivey-man sighting

Now, here is one that floored me. The Mets signed second baseman Junior Spivey to a minor league contract.

I don’t know what was more surprising – that Spivey is still playing or the fact that he was given a professional contract. After spending 2005 with the Nationals, he came to Cardinals camp in 2006 hoping to win the second base job, but spent the entire season in Memphis. That is a good thing. After all, I don't think I could have survived a whole season of Mike Shannon calling him "Spivey-man".

Junior played in indy ball in 2007 and also had a short Triple-A look-see with the Red Sox that season. Where he was last year, I have no idea. Maybe hanging out with the "Simo-man".

is limping back

Speaking of indy ball and retired guys I thought I would never see again, Preston Wilson signed with Newark Bears in the Atlantic League. (What the heck? They also signed Pete Rose Jr. and have Carl Everett on the team, too.)

Wilson’s chronic knee problems must have improved enough to hobble out there. He last played in 2007 and managed just 64 at-bats for the Cardinals.

(A tip of the cap to Cardinals Best News Links for the Rico and Wilson news.)

Cards minors spring game reports – March 18

Like other sites, I receive daily reports on the Cardinals minor league spring training games, courtesy of Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch. It is easy to post them here, but I am curious if you find them of value.

As I attend games starting on Sunday, I will post eye-witness commentary and photos at and here at TCN, but are these summary reports worth seeing here, too? Of course, these will always be focused on positive outings, which is understandable considering their source.

Your comments appreciated.

First games against real opponents are today, Thursday, 3/19. Prepare for lots of Marlins, Mets and more scrimmages like these this spring.

Memphis/Springfield – 4  Palm Beach – 3

Mem/Spr pitchers

Blake Hawksworth 4 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs, 0 BB, 2 K’s

Royce Ring one perfect inning, 1 K

Brad Furnish 2 hitless innings, one walk, one K

Ian Ostlund 2 scoreless innings, 1 hit, one K

Russ Haltiwanger one perfect inning

Chuckie Fick 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 BB

Mem/Spr hitters

Jarrett Hoffpauir 2-for-2, 2 RBIs

Antonio DeJesus 2-for-5 with a triple

Brett Wallace 2-for-5 with an RBI

Brandon Buckman doubled

Amaury Cazana was 1-for-3 with an RBI

Tyler Henley, Bryan Anderson, Casey Rowlett, Mike Folli and David Freese also had hits

Palm Beach pitchers

PJ Walters 4 IP, 4 hits, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K’s

Luke Gregerson 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 R

Lance Lynn 2 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 K

Nick Additon 2 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 1 K

Mark Diapoules 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run 1 BB

Palm Beach hitters

Curt Smith hit a two-run HR

Oliver Marmol and Charlie Kingrey doubled

Pete Kozma singled in his only AB

Jonathan Edwards was 1-for-3

Quad Cities #1 – 10, Quad Cities #2 – 0

QC #1 combined for a 2-hit shutout.  Hector Cardenas, George Brown and Ramon Delgado each threw two hitless innings, while Adam Veres allowed two hits in his two scoreless innings.

QC #1 hitters

Alex Castellanos was 3-for-5 with two doubles a run scored and an RBI

Niko Vasquez was 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs scored and an RBI

Ryde Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a double, run scored and two RBIs

Beau Riportella and Osvaldo Morales each doubled

QC #2 pitchers

Eric Fornataro 2 IP, 2 ER

Anthony Ferrara 2 IP, 2 ER, with 4 K’s

Kevin Thomas 1.2 IP, 3 R, 2 ER

Dan Richardson, one scoreless IP

Jorge Rondon 1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER

QC #2 hitters

Brett Lilley  1-for-3 with a walk

Yunior Castillo 1-for-2 with a walk

Cardinals’ financial onion peeled back

In a Wednesday article, creatively entitled “Cards payroll is going down”, the Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss describes a discussion with St. Louis Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and provides additional supporting detail on the status of the team’s finances apparently not directly sourced from DeWitt himself.

This is an area of increasing interest to fans, especially given an off-season of reduced spending on players.

As if they were DeWitt’s talking points, I have extracted the key bullets from the article without editorial comment in the areas of 2008 and 2009 payroll, roster implications, expense/revenue last year with this year’s forecast along with ticket sales information.

2008 payroll

  • The 2008 season-opening player payroll total was $101.8 million, but included $26 million paid to players that didn’t contribute materially last season.
  • (As another reference point, USA Today ranked the Cardinals at number 11 in MLB at the start of 2008 with an opening player budget of $99.6 million.)
  • The club reasserts all 2008 in-season trades considered were not made were due to prospects demanded, not because of money limitations.
  • The 2008 end-of-season payroll was over $110 million.

2009 payroll

  • The team has committed an estimated $93.2 million to the 2009 opening-day roster. (link to P-D‘s player-by-player figures behind the total)
  • Ownership forecasts the Cardinals will rank among the top 10 or 11 payrolls in MLB.
  • DeWitt reiterated his commitment “to have a payroll commensurate with revenue”.

2009 roster

  • The two-year/$18 million offer spurned by closer Brian Fuentes was heavily backloaded. The expense assumed would probably have driven a salary dump trade of either Ryan Ludwick or Rick Ankiel.
  • Despite the uncertainty at second base, after eating the $4 million contract of Adam Kennedy, the club could not pursue free agent Orlando Hudson for financial reasons.
  • Yet the recent signing of reliever Dennys Reyes is cited as an example of the club’s financial flexibility.

2008 expense/revenue

  • Overall revenue in 2008 exceeded $200 million.
  • Expenses exceeded $150 million.
  • Operating profit was $23 to $25 million prior to servicing $17 million of stadium debt.
  • DeWitt states that any “excess” money the past few years has been re-invested in the operation.

2009 expense/revenue

  • The club is not assured of a 2009 operating profit beyond its ongoing debt service on the stadium.
  • The Cardinals are “very sensitive” to attendance due to broadcast contracts that are much smaller than large-market clubs.

Ticket sales

  • 2.7 million tickets have already been sold for the 2009 season.
  • The club will not sell 3 million tickets prior to opening day for the first time in the four years since moving into the new ballpark.
  • The worst-case scenario in which attendance only reaches 2.8 million in 2009 will be exceeded.
  • Sales are down for all-inclusive and premium-seating areas typically bought by corporations and community groups.
  • The club is projecting 3 million in attendance (which would be down 14% from the 3.43 million achieved in 2008).

All-Star Game impact

  • The Cardinals will receive no direct revenue from the All-Star week activities.
  • The 90 percent renewal rate among season-ticket holders to date is expected to grow to 92-93% based on fan interest in All-Star Game tickets.

OK, folks. There you have it. The Cliff’s Notes version of the Post-Dispatch article.

I am going to withhold my comments as I am interested in what you think. Does it make sense? Does the story hold together or is it just a shell game?

Does it matter what the team makes or spends as long as they are competitive? Should the owners have to disclose their finances in an attempt to maintain/restore the confidence of their fan base? How much profit is fair?

What do you think?

Ballpark Village site to get softball field

Cardinals press release

ST. LOUIS, March 18, 2009 – The St. Louis Cardinals today announced that groundbreaking will begin soon on a softball field and expansion of a paved parking lot on the future site of Ballpark Village in advance of this summer’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in July.

The softball field and parking lot are temporary but fan-friendly enhancements to the property as the process for approval and financing for construction of Phase 1 of Ballpark Village continues.  Both the softball field and parking lot will be available during at least the first half of the regular 2009 season, and through the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 14.  Once the bonds for the larger Ballpark Village project are sold, the softball field and parking lot will be taken over by the construction of the larger project.

“The softball field and parking lot are temporary but welcomed improvements designed to provide additional amenities to our fans as we wait for final approvals on the larger Ballpark Village plan,” said Bill DeWitt, president of the St. Louis Cardinals.  “The softball field will be a great draw for groups and charities and the new paved area will accommodate the All-Star Gala tent and Sponsorship Village during All-Star week.

“A food and beverage area designed by SportService will also serve the entire area with a ‘taste of the ballpark.’  These amenities will showcase downtown St. Louis in the best possible light and create anticipation for the exciting future plans for Ballpark Village.”

The regulation-size softball field will be on the west side of the site – on roughly the same location as the old Busch Stadium playing field.  It will be available for groups to rent for special events on both game-days and non-game days.  Completion of the softball field and parking lot expansion is expected by Opening Day or shortly thereafter.

For information on how to rent the field, please call the Cardinals Special Events department at 314-345-9357.

Franklin’s blown saves – joke or no joke?

In a Monday article acknowledging Jason Isringhausen’s first outing with his new Tampa Bay club, the AP added some sour grapes commentary from Izzy’s former bullpen mate Ryan Franklin.

The gripes weren’t about Isringhausen – they were about how Franklin’s 2008 stint as the St. Louis Cardinals closer has been remembered. Despite having lost the closer’s job for the same reason Izzy did, ineffectiveness, Franklin has his own unique perspective on what exactly happened.

Said the AP:

Franklin is a bit defensive about his statistics last year, noting at least a couple of his blown saves came in games where he had virtually no shot. He entered one with the bases loaded and gave up a tying sacrifice fly. Another occurred in the sixth inning.

“There were some joke blown saves,” Franklin said. “You kidding me?”

Who is kidding who?

Having a different recollection than Franklin, I decided to get to the bottom of this by a simple view of his 2008 performance as seen through the game logs from his blown save contests.

First of all, the cold, hard facts say that Franklin made good on just 17 of his 25 save opportunities for a conversion rate of 68%. In other words, he basically blew one of every three chances presented him.

As such, I can see why Franklin might be sensitive. After all, his record was simply not very good. Yet as bad as Isringhausen’s 2008 season was, his save mark was very close at 63%.

Now I will look at each of Franklin’s eight blown saves and call them as I see them – either “joke”, meaning the blown save was not justified, or “no joke”, meaning Franklin got what he deserved.

We’ll tabulate the score at the end.

April 1: Franklin took over to start the eighth inning on opening day, protecting a 1-0 lead. He coughed up a single and a ground rule double. A no-out error allowed the first run in. Franklin was pulled after giving up a walk to the next batter, still with no outs.

After collecting two strikeouts, Randy Flores walked in the winning run. Two unearned runs were charged to Franklin as he took the blown save and loss. Because Franklin created the mess, I have to call this no joke, despite what he may think.

April 21: Franklin came in to open the eighth in a one-run game. He allowed a run on two hits and a one-out error then gave up another hit before getting out of the inning. He took the blown save, but the Cardinals came back in the ninth to grab the win. No joke.

June 5: The Cardinals had fought back to take a 9-8 lead in the top of the tenth inning. Franklin opened the bottom of the frame by yielding a single and a walk off two-run home run to end the game. No joke.

June 26: Protecting a one-run lead, Franklin opened the ninth inning. A one-out solo home run tied the game, which Mike Parisi lost in the tenth. No joke.

July 24: Franklin took over with two out in the eighth and the bases empty. He collected the third out and remained in for the ninth to protect the Cards’ one-run lead. After a single, a two-run home run turned the tables. Franklin took the blown save and the loss, his second in a row. The previous evening’s defeat was not in a save situation. No joke.

July 26: The Cardinals turned the ball over to Franklin to open the ninth with an 8-7 lead. The first batter hit a home run. Franklin took the blown save in a game that the Cardinals eventually won in 14 innings. No joke.

August 5: Franklin took over for Isringhausen with one out in the ninth. The bases were loaded and three runs were already in to turn a 4-0 lead into a 4-3 nail-biter. Franklin yielded a sacrifice fly to tie the game and as such was charged with the blown save. The Cards eventually won in the 11th. Finally, a legitimate joke.

September 26: Franklin was given the ball with one out in the ninth to protect a two-run lead. A single, a stolen base and a two-run home run erased St. Louis’ margin. Franklin picked up a vulture win when the Cardinals broke the tie in the bottom on the ninth. No joke.

Many closers say they put the previous game out of their mind, whether good or bad. I can understand that line of thinking, but I don’t really believe it. Perhaps in this case however, Franklin has in fact selectively forgotten all the bad.

By my count, seven of Franklin’s eight blown saves in 2008 were not a joke, despite what his revisionist version of history might say.

The AP apparently bought into the excuse. As noted above, they mentioned both the bases-loaded “joke” game as well as a mystery contest in which Franklin supposedly took a blown save in the sixth inning. I could find no such game.

By throwing the single legitimate “joke” game away, Franklin’s 2008 save percentage would have rocketed all the way from 68% up to 71%. In a point of comparison, through all the times of good and bad, Izzy’s Cardinals career save mark was 85%.

Data point number two. Last season, Franklin’s overall ERA was 3.55. In his 49 lower-pressure appearances, his ERA was a nifty 2.94. In the 25 crunch time, save-situation games in 2008, it was 4.72, almost two runs worse.

Who is kidding who?

Ludwick backs off 50-homer talk and other Cardinals strugglers

Of the many stories that came out of the St. Louis Cardinals Winter Warm-Up fan festival just two months ago, one focused on two Cardinals outfielders who hit the weight room over the winter and appeared noticeably bulked up.

One was top prospect Colby Rasmus. In an AP article in January, this was said about Colby:

“The 22-year-old Rasmus has been doing eight bench-press repetitions at 275 pounds all winter while working out at home with his brother and dad. He’s also done a lot of sprint work and said his speed has not been compromised by the injury.”

The outfielder has been given plenty of opportunities to impress this spring, but so far, has fallen short of the lofty expectations placed upon him. Rasmus’ current line is .244/.326/.366. His 13 strikeouts in 41 at-bats lead the team.

The other prominent lifter is fellow outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The same January 22 AP article mentioned this:

“His bench press routine of eight repetitions at 285 pounds, a 30-pound improvement over last season, helps him set the bar for 50 homers in 2009 with a straight face.”

At the time, Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch also commented. He seemed unsure if the comments were made in jest.

“Ludwick ought to get stronger and was able to increase, for example, his bench-press reps by 30 pounds. He then semi-joked that he’d ‘like to hit 50’ home runs.”

Manager Tony La Russa was not amused at the time. “That’s a dumb thing for Lud to say,” he was quoted as saying to the Belleville News-Democrat. The manager wisely wanted the outfielder to let the power come to him.

Struggling so far this spring with a .147/.275/.206 line after 12 games and 34 at-bats, Ludwick is now waving off the 50 home run talk.

From a Sunday AP article, “Ludwick emphasizes that he never predicted 50 homers.”

“I said ‘I dreamed about playing in the big leagues so why can’t you dream about hitting 50 home runs in the big leagues?”‘ Ludwick said. “Do I think I’m going to hit 50 home runs? No. I’m just trying to play to my capabilities.”

With that, I have decided to offer my mid-spring view of how the remaining players in big league camp have performed to date. All players are placed into one of three groups – rising, flat or falling.

These are my personal views and several weeks remain for these to change. Here’s hoping all the fallers rise during the second half of camp.

Pitchers Mitchell Boggs Late start, but four shutout innings.
Rising Chris Carpenter So far, so good.
Ryan Franklin Save the bullets for the season!
Blake Hawksworth A 4.22 ERA is an improvement.
Josh Kinney 4 walks in 5 scoreless IP only minor blemish.
Charlie Manning Too many walks, but hasn’t been bad (1.69 ERA).
Jason Motte Hasn’t walked anyone in 5 IP.
Joel Pineiro No ER in 10 IP!
Adam Wainwright Not yet at an ace level, but improving each time.
P.J. Walters Quietly entering sixth starter race.
Pitchers Kyle Lohse Sorry, but 3.60 ERA is expected for $41 M.
Flat Trever Miller No surprises is a good thing for veteran.
Adam Ottavino WBC game was nice, but Cards results less so.
Fernando Salas 3 ER and 3 BB in 5 IP. Expectations low in 1st camp.
Matt Scherer Slowed by injury, but 1st IP good. Could rise.
Jess Todd 3 BB, 3 ER in 6 1/3 IP. He’ll be back, though!
Dennys Reyes Yet to appear, but not dominating in WBC.
Pitchers Kyle McClellan 7.56 ERA concerning, but should end up in pen.
Falling Chris Perez How bad is the heel bothering him?
Royce Ring 2 HR in 5 1/3 IP.
Brad Thompson 5.19 ERA not impressive for veteran swingman.
Todd Wellemeyer Only 7 IP, so time to improve on 5.14 ERA.
Catchers Jason LaRue Seeing a lot of time, but only batting .208
Flat Yadier Molina Away at WBC. He will be fine.
Matt Pagnozzi Hitting .200, but stayed longer than expected.
Catchers Bryan Anderson Not hitting (.154) and runners are stealing on him.
Infielders Brian Barden Hitting a quiet .350.
Rising Allen Craig Batting .476! Should be slugging 1B at Memphis.
Khalil Greene May be dark horse surprise of 2009 team.
Joe Mather Leads in RBI, but average remains a concern.
Joe Thurston Versatile and contributing.
Infielders Albert Pujols .333/.489/.455 line is expected.
Flat Skip Schumaker Bat is just fine. Position change still open issue.
Infielders Troy Glaus When will he really be back at 100%?
Falling Tyler Greene Glove good, but 8 Ks in 35 ABs and .229 average.
Brendan Ryan Needs to get healthy and hot. 3-for-10 not enough.
Outfielders Rick Ankiel Batting .333, drawing BBs, but Ks still a bit high.
Rising Chris Duncan Power seems back.
Jon Jay One of camp surprises. Can he hit enough for COF?
Outfielders Brian Barton .192 with 9 Ks in 26 ABs.
Falling Ryan Ludwick Still has plenty of time to get ready for season.
Colby Rasmus Uneven play to date isn’t forcing his way onto team.

P.S. A Sunday article stated that Brendan Ryan is out of options. That is incorrect.

Cardinals in Triple-A – 1977 to present

The last quarter century of results posted by the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A franchise, currently the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League, offer an interesting contrast.

On one hand, the highs were the highest, as none of the other Cardinals franchises have won as many league championships as the Triple-A club, yet none of the clubs at the top six levels have delivered a poorer cumulative won-loss record, either.

Cardinals system records – New Orleans/Springfield (IL)/Louisville/Memphis

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Most league championships club one 5-way tie: Mem/TN/PB/QC/Batavia
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Worst cumulative record club 0.481 1722-1860 1984-2008 Memphis/Louisville (Triple-A)
Most league championships club four 84,85,95,00 Memphis/Louisville (Triple-A)

Though the recent years in Memphis have been lean in terms of victories, results have actually been very consistent over time. It is interesting to note that the team’s .481 winning percentage is identical whether you review the last ten years or the most recent 25 years.

Following are the year-by-year details of the Cardinals Triple-A teams since 1977, with 25-year and 10-year subsets as well as by-league totals for the Pacific Coast League and American Association.

Cards Triple-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 77-08 0.489 2214 2318 9
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.481 1722 1860 6
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.481 687 740 1
PCL record 98-08 0.484 761 810
AA record (partial) 77-97 0.491 1453 1508
Memphis 2008 0.528 75 67 2 Chris Maloney
Memphis 2007 0.389 56 88 4 Chris Maloney
Memphis 2006 0.403 58 86 3 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2005 0.497 71 72 3 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2004 0.507 73 71 2 Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2003 0.448 64 79 4 Tom Spencer
Danny Sheaffer
Memphis 2002 0.500 71 71 4 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 2001 0.434 62 81 4 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 2000 0.576 83 61 1 WCL Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 1999 0.536 74 64 3 Gaylen Pitts
Memphis 1998 0.514 74 70 2 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1997 0.406 58 85 4 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1996 0.417 60 84 4 Joe Pettini
Louisville 1995 0.514 74 70 4 WC Joe Pettini
Louisville 1994 0.521 74 68 4 L1 Joe Pettini
Louisville 1993 0.472 68 76 3 Jack Krol
Louisville 1992 0.510 73 70 3 Jack Krol
Louisville 1991 0.357 51 92 4 Mark DeJohn
Louisville 1990 0.507 74 72 3 Gaylen Pitts
Louisville 1989 0.490 71 74 4 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1988 0.444 63 79 4 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1987 0.557 78 62 2 L1 Mike Jorgensen
Louisville 1986 0.464 64 74 4 Jim Fregosi
Dave Bialas
Louisville 1985 0.521 74 68 1 WC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1984 0.510 79 76 T4 WC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1983 0.578 78 57 1 LC Jim Fregosi
Louisville 1982 0.541 73 62 T2 Joe Frazier
Springfield (IL) 1981 0.485 66 70 2 L1 Tommy Thompson
Springfield (IL) 1980 0.551 75 61 1 WC Hal Lanier
Springfield (IL) 1979 0.537 73 63 2 Hal Lanier
Springfield (IL) 1978 0.515 70 66 3 Jimy Williams
New Orleans 1977 0.419 57 79 4 Lance Nichols

WC = won championship

WCL = won league title, but lost in Triple-A World Series to International League champion

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

As long-time owner A. Ray Smith ended his club’s and the Cardinals’ long-standing relationship with Tulsa, leaving the city and the Oilers behind for the 1977 season, the report begins.

That season, the short-lived New Orleans Pelicans entered the American Association, playing in the cavernous 62,000 seat Superdome. One of their infielders was a minor league veteran in his final season as a player and first as a coach. Tony La Russa batted .188 in 50 games.

Dane Iorg found the club’s new home in Springfield, Illinois to his liking in 1978 as the future major leaguer lead the AA with a .371 batting average. Hal Lanier’s 1980 club, led by Alan Olmstead’s 2.77 ERA, took the league championship.

Smith was sued by Springfield officials when he reneged on a deal to remain there after the locals had invested in stadium renovations.

Loved in Louisville (1982-1997)

The Redbirds arrived in Louisville, Kentucky in 1982. Packing fans into 33,000 seat Cardinal Stadium regularly, the club broke a 36-year-old minor league record by 200,000 in drawing a total of 868,418 fans.

The next season, Louisville became the first minor club ever to draw over 1,000,000 fans, outdrawing three MLB teams in the process. Jim Fregosi’s squad had the best record in the league but lost in the first round of the playoffs.

In the 1984 regular season, the Redbirds tied for fourth, but won a tie breaker game and eight more to capture Louisville’s first Cardinals-affiliated crown. Speedster Vince Coleman led the American Association with 97 runs scored. MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn canceled the Triple-A World Series due to concerns over its planned locale – Las Vegas.

1985 brought another first-place finish and a second consecutive championship for Louisville. Todd Worrell paced the league with 128 strikeouts. Smith sold the team to a local group after the 1986 season following 26 years of ownership.

The current bench coach for the big league Cardinals, Joe Pettini, presided over a short burst of playoff baseball after a seven-year absence. Though the 1994 Redbirds lost in the first round, next season’s club took the American Association flag. Both clubs finished the regular season in fourth place, but came on when it counted most.

In 1994, 22-year-old Alan Benes won 17 games while 1995 AA saves leader Cory Bailey logged 25.

1997 became the final season of the American Association and the end of the Cardinals’ run in Louisville as well. Gaylen Pitts, who had previously managed the club in 1990, was back in 1997 and remained through 2002. His six-year consecutive run is tied for the longest in the system at any level since at least 1981 with Steve Turco of Johnson City (1994-1999).

Walking in Memphis (1998-present)

The new Memphis club, owned by a not-for-profit foundation, aligned with the Cardinals for their dual debuts in the Pacific Coast League in 1998. In the third of three consecutive winning seasons in their new city, the Redbirds took their only PCL championship to date, but fell in the Triple-A World Series.

Those 2000 champs celebrated in their new $80 million, AutoZone Park in downtown Memphis, considered then and now to be one of the finest minor league facilities. That season, Bud Smith took the PCL ERA title at 2.17 with teammate Britt Reames (2.28) placing third.

In the eight seasons since, the Redbirds have posted just two winning campaigns, but things are looking up. 2008’s 75-67 (.528) set the high water mark during that period.

Even with spotty team records, Memphis continued to feature strong individual performances by future major leaguers. In 2004, Dan Haren was tops in the PCL with 150 strikeouts and Adam Wainwright led the league in innings pitched (182) the following season.

The Memphis franchise was recently ranked by Forbes as the second most valuable in all of the minor leagues at $26.1 million, yet the club is carrying a heavy debt due to the construction costs of AutoZone Park.

Last fall, the Cardinals and Redbirds announced a letter of intent for the big league club to purchase the Memphis team. Ultimately, the organization called the deal off due to the complexity of the transaction and the weakened economy though the team remains for sale.

Related articles:

“Cardinals in Double-A – 1966 to present”

“Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present”

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Khalil Greene’s springs point to regular season success

Until he blasted his first home run of the 2009 spring in Friday afternoon’s split squad game, new St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene had been quietly flying under the radar.

With more controversial stories all over camp, from Joel Pineiro to Chris Carpenter to Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus, there just wasn’t much to say about the stoic new guy. Steady, doing his job.

On Friday, Greene’s mammoth two-run shot that reportedly landed on a field beyond the left field fence helped power the Cardinals to a 6-5 victory over the home Baltimore Orioles, their ninth win of the spring in 14 games. The 29-year-old added a single in three at-bats to raise his Florida average to .367.

Even prior to Friday’s outburst, I had been looking at Greene’s spring training results going back to his first camp with San Diego in 2003. I was wondering if his springs might say anything about his regular seasons to follow.

After all, considering Greene’s terrible 2008 regular season with the Padres (.213/.260/.339), I was hoping to see a positive trend of some kind. While I did, the spring extremes I found were surprising.

In seven major league springs, including 2009, Greene has been either boom or bust, with absolutely nothing in between.

He has yet to post a March average anywhere in the range between .224 and .339, with four springs below. Three are above, including so far here in 2009.

The right-handed hitter has not registered a March OPS between .733 and .956, a huge gulf if there ever was one. If you throw out his five at-bat introduction in 2003, Greene’s spring OPS canyon expands from .678 to .956.

I find that amazing.

2009* StL 0.367 0.406 0.567 0.973 11 30 3 11 17 3 0 1 9 2 1 1 0 1
2008 SD 0.191 0.231 0.447 0.678 19 47 6 9 21 6 0 2 5 3 18 1 0 3
2007 SD 0.424 0.424 0.763 1.187 20 59 10 25 45 5 0 5 17 0 12 1 0 2
2006 SD 0.224 0.239 0.433 0.672 23 67 11 15 29 8 0 2 7 2 15 0 0 4
2005 SD 0.188 0.278 0.292 0.570 18 48 4 9 14 2 0 1 5 4 14 1 1 0
2004 SD 0.339 0.408 0.548 0.956 22 62 10 21 34 3 2 2 16 7 15 0 0 0
2003 SD 0.200 0.333 0.400 0.733 5 5 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1

*through 3/13 Game 1

As the highlighted data above indicates, Greene’s big springs prior to this one were in 2004 and 2007.

How did he do from April until October those years? The answer is “pretty darned well”.

During his 2004 introductory season, his first as a full-timer in San Diego, Greene finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He posted what are still his regular-season career bests in three important offensive categories – batting average (.273), on-base percentage (.349) and OPS (.795).

The 2007 campaign is the one that probably generated the most attention for Greene, however. That year, he slammed his career best of 27 home runs and drove in 97 runs, also his high water mark. His 2007 slugging percentage of .468 is his highest to date.

While there remains plenty of time during spring training 2009 for Greene’s trajectory to change, based on his past results, one might draw the conclusion that he seems on the way to an offensive turnaround during the 2009 regular season.

Duncan a student of swing doctor McGwire

The New York Times was able to secure the unthinkable – an interview with exiled slugger Mark McGwire, something the Californian had declined previously. Of course the ground rules were that there was to be no discussion about the past.

The focus was the former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman’s new life as a hitting instructor, a doctor of swings. One of his prize students, Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan, is enjoying an especially strong spring to date.

The article, which I encourage you to read, offered several interesting tidbits.

  • McGwire agreed to assist the Cardinals as a spring training instructor in 2008, but had to back out at the last moment due to a family matter.
  • Big Mac left the door open to it in the future if it didn’t interfere with his family life, but as previously reported, did not accept Tony La Russa’s offer this spring.
  • McGwire shrugged off the steroids controversy surrounding him by saying, “I’m such an easygoing guy. I don’t need to sweep away any bitterness.”
  • His four students this winter were Matt Holliday and Bobby Crosby of the Oakland Athletics, along with Duncan and Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals.

It was known that Holliday moved to Southern California to work out with McGwire at the University of California at Irvine and Schumaker is from the area. A June, 2008 USA Today article also notes McGwire often appears at Total Baseball in Huntington Beach, California.

Though they’re from Arizona, Chris Duncan’s brother Shelly of the New York Yankees also spent a week getting pointers from McGwire in October, 2006.

The weighting of the various possible causes for Chris Duncan’s encouraging rebirth this spring cannot be simply determined, but the results speak for themselves. Through 12 games and 30 at-bats, just three off the team lead, the 27-year-old is smacking the ball all over Florida parks.

His line is a most impressive and mathematically pure .333/.400/.600, for an OPS of 1.000. That includes three extra base hits, a triple and two home runs. Duncan’s RBI total of ten only trails Joe Mather’s 13 among Cardinals.

In addition to the offensive results, Duncan’s defense at his natural position, first base, was praised by Cardinals radio broadcasters John Rooney and Mike Shannon on Thursday. Duncan was given a start there in place of resting Albert Pujols.

Following the removal of a herniated cervical disc in his neck with a titanium replacement inserted last August, Duncan is apparently healthy for the first time since 2007. The first-ever type surgery for a professional athlete seems to have been entirely successful.

As such, an already crowded St. Louis outfield derby is getting even tighter.

Duncan could be another Cardinals player hoping that Schumaker will succeed in his difficult attempt to convert to a second baseman. Though different kinds of players, both are left-handed hitting outfielders capable of starting in the one remaining outfield position up for grabs on the 2009 Cardinals.

Along with Schumaker at the top of the lineup, La Russa has often discussed his desire for “danger” in the number two spot in his batting order in front of Pujols. Duncan has been tried in that spot before and could be placed there again once the season begins.

If Chris Duncan is truly back, he certainly would have reason to thank his doctors – Dr. Daniel Riew, the surgeon who repaired his neck, along with his swing doctor, Mark McGwire.

Rasmus still has time, but needs Skip’s help

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it. I believe Skip Schumaker’s success or failure at second base will have as much or more impact on top prospect Colby Rasmus making the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals out of spring training than will Rasmus’ own play.

The problem is that Rasmus’ chances are hitting on neither cylinder right now.

The outfielder is sidelined, for what is said to be short-term in duration, due to hamstring soreness. The 22-year-old has missed almost three games after leaving after one at-bat on Sunday against Florida. Even so, Rasmus is still leading the Cardinals in at-bats with 33.

The top prospect is batting just .242 for a Cardinals club that is leading all Florida spring training clubs in run scoring. Of the 18 players in Cards camp with at least ten at bats coming into Wednesday, only four have a lower batting average.

Two of them, Jason LaRue (.200) and Ryan Ludwick (.130), are assured of jobs. The other two, like Rasmus, are playing for their roster spots – Brian Barton (.208) and Joe Thurston (.182).

Even worse for Rasmus is that the Schumaker experiment at second base is drawing more fire as the errors mount. Rather than repeat it, I will simply link to Joe Strauss’ Wednesday article from the Post-Dispatch.

I will highlight just one point. Even with generous amounts of home-cooked scoring, Schumaker’s fielding percentage currently sits at .826. Just as there is time for Rasmus’ bat to come around, there is also time for Schumaker’s defense to improve.

Not too much time, though.

With spring elongated by a week due to the World Baseball Classic, Schumaker would never have a longer period to try to learn the position on the fly, but no one should have expected it to be successful. Hope, yes, but expect, no.

As one would assume, manager Tony La Russa doesn’t want to talk about it, because realistically there is nothing he can say.

Tony knows he doesn’t want to risk injury to his franchise first baseman as an errant Schumaker throw on Sunday almost caused. The skipper also understands he needs to maintain the confidence of his ground ball-inducing pitching staff. That group won’t be able to deal with unearned runs on a regular basis, such as the two that scored due to Skip’s most recent miscue on Tuesday.

Todd Wellemeyer, Tuesday’s victim, was likely speaking on behalf of all the Cardinals pitchers when he made the point abundantly clear after the game.

“During the season, it’s not acceptable. It’s all there is to it. I don’t think Tony will have it,” Wellemeyer said.

La Russa has already announced that Schumaker is taking a game off from playing in the field on Thursday. He has scheduled the 29-year-old to be his designated hitter against the Boston Red Sox, potentially blocking off one avenue for Rasmus to get back into the lineup in the process. Friday’s split squad games seem a good alternate target for Colby’s return.

The Skip to DH move, even as temporary as one game, should allow several of the other second base candidates to receive some more meaningful playing time at the position. Currently, “Plan B” for second base is very unclear.

In another interesting tidbit, Derrick Goold reports that Skip has requested spring time in the outfield to ensure he is ready to play there. La Russa seemed fine with the idea of Schumaker moving between infield and outfield if needed. Yet this shouldn’t be necessary unless doubts are creeping in as to the permanence of the second base shift.

La Russa admitted as much when he told Strauss the following:

“If good things happen, then you keep giving him a chance because it means a lot to him. If it doesn’t do it, we gave it the ol’ college try.”

If the Cardinals have to permanently abandon the Schumaker move, how might the dominoes fall?

A trade of outfield surplus for a second baseman would be just as ideal now as it was last fall, but the same old problems remain, along with a new one.

First of all, will a decent player become available from a club that matches up with St. Louis in terms of need? Second, what is the chance that second baseman won’t cost more in salary than the player(s) the Cardinals would give up in return?

Another recent Strauss article quoted an organization source that the signing of reliever Dennys Reyes last week exhausted all the payroll flexibility in the team’s budget until at least mid-season. Unless an exception would be made, that may narrow what few options general manager John Mozeliak could unearth over the next three weeks. Money would also seem to rule out signing an aging free agent stop-gap such as former Cardinal Mark Grudzielanek or Ray Durham.

Skip is set offensively as the club’s leadoff hitter and despite the defensive challenges, is still batting .333 this spring. With no minor league options remaining, there will be no temptation to send him down to Memphis to get more work at the position.

Who would play second?

Of the four other candidates, as noted above, Thurston isn’t hitting. Brendan Ryan, slowed by injury earlier, is just 2-for-8 (.250). I have felt those two would have the inside track, with Thurston especially interesting because he bats from the left side.

Brian Barden had two hits Wednesday and is batting .429, but has been given limited action (just 14 at-bats). Tyler Greene, one of the early surprises of camp, has seen his spring average drop to .269. Neither has been eliminated, nor is Jarrett Hoffpauir (6-for-15, .400) entirely out of it, either.

Defensively, Schumaker would undoubtedly step back into the starting left field job, at least the majority of the time, against right-handed pitchers. With Rasmus and fellow outfielder Chris Duncan also hitting left-handed and with incumbent starters Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick set at the other two outfield positions, there would be no place for Rasmus to start. Add spring RBI leader Joe Mather back into the outfield mix once Troy Glaus reclaims his job at third base and… well, you get the idea.

Clearly, the Cardinals don’t want Rasmus on the bench, whether in St. Louis or Memphis.

Like Schumaker already doesn’t have enough pressure playing for himself; he very well may be playing for Colby, too.

Mudslingers again take aim at Pujols

With Alex Rodriguez’ reputation damaged by his admission of steroids use, the sights of those aiming to take down more big game have been re-aimed at St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.

Pujols took the offensive in the March 16 issue of Sports Illustrated via a cover article entitled, “Don’t Be Afraid To Believe In Me”. As told to Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star, Pujols addresses the question of public perception over whether or not he used steroids.

“… They’re going to say, ‘Well, he probably did it back then. He just didn’t get caught.’ I know that is what they’re going to say. And you know what, man? It is sad, but at the same time it doesn’t matter. I know who I am. …”

A blogger named “Andrew R” is among those reacting just as Pujols predicted. Andrew, whose bio states he is “attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a first year journalism major”, has been given a national platform through a website called “Bleacher Report”, which is associated with both and On Tuesday, Andrew published an article entitled “Albert Pujols: Juicer or Clean Player?”.

Although Andrew states his place of birth to have been in the USA, I can only assume that was a mistake. It must have been somewhere outside the free world since he is obviously unfamiliar with the most basic tenet of human rights. “The law presumes that persons charged with crime are innocent until they are proven by competent evidence to be guilty.”

In his expose’, Andrew offers the following examples of “evidence” that baseball players from this era may be guilty, specifically Pujols, because they cannot be proven to be innocent.

  • “Do you remember the last guy with his build? He played first base for the Cardinals, too, and he hit 70 home runs in 1998.”
  • “Pujols’ name was linked to the Mitchell Report before it was published, but his name never did end up appearing in it.”
  • “Albert Pujols is the greatest example of how steroids have ruined baseball the last twenty years.”

It is a double-edged sword giving attention to such careless writing, yet it never ceases to amaze me how these types of accusations reach the mainstream.

Some believe that Pujols should remain silent and not dignify the charges being whispered against him. Yet, it is too late for that. His name has already been dragged through the mud.

Pujols was slandered by the blog Deadspin in June, 2006 when the site erroneously fingered Pujols’ personal trainer Chris Mihlfeld as a supplier to caught user and former MLB pitcher Jason Grimsley. Even though Pujols was not a part of the story, connected only circumstantially by his trainer and with apparently nothing to do with Grimsley, it was Albert’s photo that Deadspin ran. Apparently, they couldn’t locate one of Grimsley or Mihlfeld (wink, wink).

The accusations were picked up nationally, including what I recall to have been a particularly scathing report by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Though the Deadspin writer, Will Leitch, a professed Cardinals fan, four months later published an apology (to Mihlfeld, not Pujols) when he was proven by the Los Angeles Times to have been dead wrong in his accusations, damage to the reputations of Pujols and Mihlfeld was already done.

That summer, I recall booing of Pujols on the road where I had never heard it before. It was more than just begrudging respect for an opponent, a slightly milder version of Barry Bonds-like hazing that made me sick.

Whenever I start to become critical of Albert’s standoffishness toward the media, I stop and remind myself of the Deadspin incident. Then I get sick all over again.

I can only imagine Andrew R’s career aspiration is to become a writer for Deadspin. If so, the young man seems to be making good progress in his studies.

Cardinals in Double-A – 1966 to present

In putting together a piece on the St. Louis Cardinals’ Double-A teams, I was faced with a tough decision – where to begin. The organization’s participation in the Texas League stretches back to at least the 1959 Tulsa Oilers with only a four-year break.

1966 was a year of major change at the A-Advanced level with the creation of the St. Petersburg Cardinals; so was it the year the Arkansas Travelers entered the Double-A Texas League in an association with the Cardinals that would last for 35 years. That is where this article begins.

As will be detailed in the following, the Cardinals had some early success in the Texas League and reached their heyday in the late 1970s with three championships in four years.

Results during the 1980’s leveled off, but as late as 1991, the club was still over .500 over the period since 1966. A very poor decade of the 1990s put the Cardinals Double-A record since 1966 in the current hole, which is 39 games under .500 at .497.

Interestingly, subtracting a four-year interlude in the Eastern League during 2001 and 2002 and the Southern League in 2003 and 2004, the Cardinals’ Double-A Texas League record is almost exactly .500 (2657-2660).

Much progress is being made in recent times. Since 2002, the team is 29 games over .500 for a .515 winning mark (500-471), including four playoff appearances during those seven years and one shared title.

Cardinals in Double-A Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 66-08 0.497 2919 2958 15
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.486 1668 1763 7
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.484 674 718 4
Texas League record 66-00, 05-08 0.500 2657 2660
Southern League record 03-04 0.505 141 138
Eastern League record 01-02 0.431 121 160
Springfield (MO) 2008 0.547 76 63 1 Ron “Pop” Warner
Springfield (MO) 2007 0.537 73 63 1 LC Ron “Pop” Warner
Springfield (MO) 2006 0.478 66 72 3 Chris Maloney
Springfield (MO) 2005 0.500 70 70 3 Chris Maloney
Tennessee (Southern) 2004 0.493 69 71 3 TC Mark DeJohn
Tennessee (Southern) 2003 0.518 72 67 2 L1 Mark DeJohn
New Haven (Eastern) 2002 0.532 74 65 2 L1 Mark DeJohn
New Haven (Eastern) 2001 0.331 47 95 6 Danny Sheaffer
Arkansas 2000 0.489 68 71 2 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1999 0.421 59 81 4 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1998 0.571 80 60 1 L1 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1997 0.486 68 72 2 Rick Mahler
Arkansas 1996 0.479 67 73 4 Rick Mahler
Arkansas 1995 0.519 70 65 2 Mike Ramsey
Arkansas 1994 0.504 68 67 3 Chris Maloney
Arkansas 1993 0.489 66 69 2 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1992 0.447 59 73 4 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1991 0.360 49 87 4 Joe Pettini
Arkansas 1990 0.412 56 80 4 Dave Bialas
Arkansas 1989 0.585 79 56 1 WC Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1988 0.493 67 69 3 Jim Riggleman
Darold Knowles
Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1987 0.533 72 63 2 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1986 0.500 67 67 3 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1985 0.478 64 70 3 L1 Jim Riggleman
Arkansas 1984 0.456 62 74 3 Dave Bialas
Arkansas 1983 0.507 69 67 2 L1 Nick Leyva
Arkansas 1982 0.500 68 68 3 Gaylen Pitts
Nick Leyva
Arkansas 1981 0.394 52 80 4 Gaylen Pitts
Arkansas 1980 0.596 81 55 1 WC Sonny Ruberto
Arkansas 1979 0.571 76 57 1 WC Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1978 0.583 77 55 1 L1 Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1977 0.485 63 67 2 WC Buzzy Keller
Tommy Thompson
Arkansas 1976 0.437 59 76 3 Jack Krol
Arkansas 1975 0.467 63 72 3 Roy Majtyka
Arkansas 1974 0.560 75 59 2 Jack Krol
Arkansas 1973 0.493 69 71 3 Tom Burgess
Arkansas 1972 0.468 65 74 3 Fred Koenig
Arkansas 1971 0.540 75 64 1 WCLD Jack Krol
Arkansas 1970 0.500 67 67 2 Ken Boyer
Arkansas 1969 0.489 66 69 2 Ray Hathaway
Arkansas 1968 0.586 82 58 1 LC Vern Rapp
Arkansas 1967 0.450 63 77 5 Vern Rapp
Arkansas 1966 0.579 81 59 1 L1 Vern Rapp

WC = won championship

WCLD = won league title, but lost in Dixie Series to Southern League champion

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

Time with the Travs – 1966 through 2000

Other than a championship, what better outcome could there be than to post the best record in the league in your first season? The latter is what Vern Rapp’s 1966 Arkansas Travelers accomplished. Larry Stubing paced the club with a league-leading 25 home runs.

The Travs reached the 1968 finals, where they fell to El Paso. Pitcher Joe DiFabio led the Texas League with 13 wins and a sparkling 2.17 ERA.

In 1971, a one-year experiment called the Dixie Association was held during which the Texas and Southern Leagues played an interlocking schedule. Each league had their divisional playoffs, then the two league winners met. Jack Krol’s Arkansas club was the Texas League champion, the franchise’s first, but lost in the Dixie Series.

Future major leaguer Hector Cruz led the Texas League in 1973 in home runs (30), runs scored (94) and RBI s (105), accumulated during a season of just 140 games.

Despite a losing record in 1977, the Travs rode the second-half divisional crown through a perfect post-season. The club would play in the next three playoffs, too, winning two more times. Three championships in four years are a system record at any level since at least 1966 and likely longer.

In 1989, Arkansas closed out the decade as they began it, with a Texas League crown. Gaylen Pitts’ club was powered by a pair of outfielders headed for St. Louis. Bernard Gilkey paced the league in runs with 104 while Ray Lankford’s 158 hits was tops. Pitcher Dave Osteen chipped in with a league-high 15 wins.

The decade of the 1990’s plus the 2000 season, the Cardinals’ last in Arkansas, was a long, dry spell. Only three of the 11 clubs managed a winning record and the lone playoff appearance, in 1998, ended in a first-round sweep by their opponent. Joe Pettini and Chris Maloney, both in the organization today, managed the Travs for seven of the 11 seasons with Maloney being named the league’s Manager of the Year in 1998.

Four stops in six years – 2001-2004

For the 2001 season, the Cardinals parted ways with Arkansas and picked up the Eastern League New Haven Ravens from the departing Seattle Mariners. The team played in historic, but ancient (1927) Yale Field. That seemed ironic since one reason the Cardinals reportedly left Little Rock was because they wanted a replacement for aging Ray Winder Field, built in 1932.

The .331 mark (47-95) of that 2001 club set a Cardinals system futility record for the period back as far as 1966.

However, that downturn was righted quickly. Mark DeJohn arrived and took the team into the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, including one shared title in 2004.

The 2002 Ravens were led by first baseman John Gall, who led the Eastern League and the entire Cardinals system in hits (166), doubles (45), extra-base hits (68) and total bases (277). He was named the organization’s Player of the Year and repeated in 2003.

As early as that 2002 season, there were rumblings the Cardinals wanted to bring their Double-A club closer to home, with Springfield, Missouri rumored to be the destination. Yet when the Cardinals’ two-year Player Development Contract with New Haven expired, the organization signed up with the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League for 2003 and 2004. The Smokies had been a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate prior.

The only opponent the 2004 Smokies could not defeat was Hurricane Ivan. The storm pre-empted the Southern League finals, with Tennessee and Mobile declared co-champions.

Brad Thompson was the other story in 2004. In his second professional season, he set a Southern League record for consecutive scoreless innings (49). Including 2003, the right-hander had a 57 2/3 inning scoreless streak that fell just 1 1/3 innings short of a record that had stood since 1907. Skip Schumaker led the offense and the league with 163 hits.

A new ballpark and team in Springfield

In August, 2004, the Cardinals purchased the El Paso Diablos, which had been the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate, from Brett Sports and Entertainment, headed by Hall of Famer George Brett, for an estimated $9.8 million.

The organization immediately moved the club to Springfield, where they first owned a team during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Stan Musial was among the future stars to play in Springfield the first time around. He led the Western Association with 26 home runs in 1941, the year after a shoulder injury ended his pitching career. From 1932 through 1946, the Cardinals won four league titles.

Businessman John Q. Hammons had announced back in February, 2002 his plan to build a new $32 million ballpark even before a team was committed to play there. Starting in 2005, fans have filled Hammons Field seats at the rate of nearly 7,000 per game, with attendance consistently among the highest at the Double-A level.

In 2007, Ron “Pop” Warner’s Cardinals took both the first and second half North Division titles, but lost in the finals. Outfielder Colby Rasmus led the league in three offensive categories, including home runs (29), extra-base hits (69) and runs scored (93) and picked up his second consecutive Player of the Year award for the system. Chris Perez earned 27 saves prior to his promotion to Memphis.

Despite posting the best full-season record in the division, the Cardinals missed the 2008 playoffs on a tie-breaker. Fernando Salas led the league in appearances with 60 and saves with 25.

The Springfield franchise, in bad shape in El Paso, was recently ranked by Forbes as the 18th most valuable in all of the minor leagues and second highest in all of Double-A at $16.8 million. The club was named the Texas League Organization of the Year each of the last three seasons as the sky seems the limit for the Springfield Cardinals.

Cardinals system records – Arkansas/New Haven/Tennessee/Springfield

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Year Club
Worst single season club 0.331 47-95 2001 New Haven Ravens (Double-A)

Related articles:

“Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present”

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Molina’s bigger moment

I didn’t say “biggest” moment as St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is just 26 years old, with years of baseball excitement and accomplishments still ahead of him. Steadily improving as a hitter, quietly moving up the Cardinals batting order each year and already the game’s best defender at his position, the sky is the limit for the Puerto Rican.

On Monday evening, manager Jose Oquendo’s Team Puerto Rico was clearly “in dutch” with the Dutch. With less than two innings remaining, his club was down 1-0 and en route to an embarrassing and potentially damaging defeat at the hands of a lightly-regarded Netherlands team.

Up stepped Molina to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning. Always a player to be relied upon in tough situations, the catcher came through again as he shot a two-run double sharply down the left field line and into the corner.

After the Puerto Ricans won the game by a 3-1 score, advancing to the second round of the WBC, cameras focused on Molina. Normally a stoic sort, his grin was so wide it put the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal of Batman’s nemesis The Joker to shame.

In this case, however, the only people who saw Molina as a bad guy were the citizens of the Netherlands.

The big hit evoked memories of 2006, as the Cardinals were on the verge of being eliminated from the NLCS by the New York Mets. Molina’s two-run home run saved the Cardinals season and propelled them into the World Series.

One of the most divisive issues across baseball this spring is this second World Baseball Classic. Fans either love the competition or see it as a major distraction to preparation for the 2009 MLB season.

What many Americans do not seem to understand or appreciate is how important this WBC is to these players and to the nations of the world. At a time when baseball seems to be losing ground in terms of overall popularity, this tournament draws global attention to the game like no other event could.

Molina is the only Cardinals front-line player in the 2009 WBC, playing for his homeland. The youngest of the three catching Molina brothers wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, his comments after his winning hit Monday placed this event ahead of his 2006 Mets’-killing blow.

“To play before your family, before your own people, there are very different emotions than playing a World Series before almost 50,000 people. It is really exciting, but here in front of your own people, your family. I believe this is my World Series and I enjoy it more here,” Molina excitedly said.

That doesn’t make Molina any less of a St. Louis Cardinal or any less committed to his professional duties. It does however underline the importance of these games to the players.

Personally, I am disappointed that some MLB clubs openly discourage their players from participating and serving as worldwide ambassadors for the game in the process. No, the timing isn’t ideal, but there isn’t a better time. Sure, players risk injury, just as they do in spring training.

With the Olympics having decertified baseball, these games stand alone as the true Series of the World.

The memory of what happened Monday night will be with Molina forever.

“It’s one of the greatest moments of my life. The double that I hit tonight is going to be in my heart all my life,” Molina exclaimed.

Good for him. Good for baseball.

September: Time for Cardinals streaks

In a recent post, I looked at St. Louis Cardinals history in terms of long winning and losing stretches. This time around, I am going to focus in on the most recent five seasons to see what streak information might tell us.

Following are the club’s results in terms of wins over the last five years as well as the timing of their longest winning and losing streaks. From part one, you may recall that the club’s all-time records in terms of consecutive wins and losses are 14 and 12 respectively, each set over seventy years ago.

Where there were multiple streaks of the same length, the months of each streak are listed separately.

Winning and losing streaks – St. Louis Cardinals – 2004 through 2008

Year Wins Longest win streak Month Longest losing streak Month
2008 86 6 September 7 September
2007 78 5 August 9 September
2006 83 7 July 8 June
2005 100 6 April 3 May
2004 105 9 Aug-Sept 4 September

I am not sure what I expected to see, but in terms of sheer numbers, the fact that not even the 100-plus win clubs of 2004 and 2005 were able to string together at least ten wins at a time surprised me a bit. While the most winning clubs generally had longer streaks, the data is not all that compelling.

Looking at losing streaks seems to say a little more. In each of the last three seasons, long losing skids of from seven to nine games occurred. On the other hand, in the two previous winning seasons, the runs of consecutive losses were effectively capped at four or fewer.

Consider 2005. I find it amazing that club endured a season-long worst stretch of only three consecutive losses, but even more so that it occurred only three times all year long. There was some very consistent winning going on.

What is probably my main takeaway from this data can be seen in the calendar information. Of the six months of play each season, September has clearly been the one month for streaky behavior in recent seasons – both good and bad.

Half (three of six) of the longest winning streaks in each of the last five seasons occurred in September. It is just as striking when looking at the losing runs. In that case, four of eight of the worst stretches occurred during the final full month.

Why are half the longest streaks coming during just one 30-day period each season?

One might try to wash this away by suggesting the reason for streaky play late is due to the team being out of pennant contention or because of increased reliance on less-proven players promoted from the minor leagues for the final month.

I don’t think I buy it. With the added incentive of the wild card, the Cardinals have remained in the chase late in almost every recent season, including 2008. Compared to other clubs, it seems to me that the Cardinals use called-up players less extensively during the final month than their opponents, though that is a gut feeling. I have not made formal comparisons with other teams.

Could it be that the hard-driving Tony La Russa begins to wear thin as the days shorten? Are the players just tired? Aren’t the other teams tired, too? Do the Cardinals have more late-season injuries than other clubs?

It could be one factor or a combination of many.

Still, when considering the recent streakiness exhibited by the Cardinals, they seem to avoid reaching too high or falling too low for the majority of the season, at least until the final month.

I am quite sure that if the coaching staff knew how to fine tune their behavior to maximize the positive results and minimize the negative, they would quickly adjust their routine accordingly.

If only it was so simple…

Rasmus microfocus feels excessive

The most visible prospect among the St. Louis Cardinals’ improving stash is outfielder Colby Rasmus, in major league camp as a non-roster invitee. One of the biggest roster questions for the club is whether there will be room for the 22-year-old to make the team.

One by-product of all that attention is that the player’s every move is analyzed and often over analyzed. On Saturday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article about Rasmus in which they highlighted a recent run of eight spring plate appearances through his first at-bat of Saturday’s game.


The headline screamed, “La Russa talk appears to have paid off for young St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals outfielder Rasmus”. Whew!

Conclusions drawn:

  • The player may no longer be pressing.
  • A talk the manager had with the player must have worked.
  • A drop to the ninth spot in the order must have worked.
  • All is right with the world.

Ok, I added the final point, but hopefully, you get the idea. Eight plate appearances aren’t enough to determine anything. Unfortunately, spring training is as long for the writers as it is for the players and coaches.

For the record, Rasmus went 0-for-3 with a strikeout over the rest of Saturday’s game following the eight cherry-picked plate appearances trumpeted in the P-D article.

Even my colleague Ray Mileur at declared this morning that Rasmus has appeared to have made the team – with almost four weeks of exhibition games to go.

While Rasmus has been given the most at-bats on the Cardinals team, and in fact, the most of any player in any club’s spring training, he is hitting just .250. With his usual good eye at the plate, his on-base percentage is .351 due to five walks taken. Three extra base hits put Rasmus’ slugging mark at .375.

In other words, with only about 30 more points of spring OPS, Rasmus can reach Aaron Miles’ 2008 regular season mark of .753.

Am I suggesting Miles is Rasmus’ equal as a hitter? Of course not. But making pronouncements over 32 spring at-bats, let alone eight, is microanalysis at its best, or should I say, worst.

If one could take spring performances to date to the bank, Allen Craig, a man without a clear home defensively who realistically will be fighting to make the Memphis roster for the first time, should be starting at first base for St. Louis ahead of .286-hitting Albert Pujols. After all, Craig’s current line is a lusty .438/.526/.688.

One of the early worries was whether Rasmus, seemingly being pushed by the front office, would see enough at bats in Tony La Russa’s camp. Those fears were unfounded.

With an assist due to regular starting centerfielder Rick Ankiel being slowed by Achilles tendon soreness, Rasmus has seen action early and often this spring, including time in centerfield, as noted above.

As camp began, La Russa tossed out the idea of hitting Rasmus ninth in his order, but started spring games with Colby seeing action at or near the top instead. For the last several days, Rasmus has been in that ninth spot, as originally suggested.

Let’s move on to the broader landscape, which I assert affects Rasmus’ immediate future on the club as much or more than his own play. Inherent in the question of whether he makes the Cardinals are several other still-open issues related to other incumbent outfielders:

  • Will Skip Schumaker be able to execute a successful transition to a major league-capable second baseman on the fly, thereby opening a left-handed outfield spot?
  • Will Joe Mather start the season at third base, making a bit more room in a very crowded outfield?
  • Will the Cardinals finally engineer a trade to relieve some of the outfield surplus to address other needs after a winter of attempts and failures?

Here’s hoping that Rasmus does well this spring, but let’s check back on his progress in a few weeks, not in a few more at-bats.

So, how is Chris Carpenter doing today?

The seventh man in the Cardinals bullpen

Despite all the off-season roster churn, the St. Louis Cardinals have relatively few battles for roster spots this spring.

Sure, the middle infield is muddled and there is a scrum (or perhaps there will be) over who takes over temporarily for Troy Glaus at third base. Colby Rasmus’ immediate major league future may depend as much on Skip Schumaker’s successful conversion to second base as it does him pulling out of a mini slump to start camp.

The rotation is set. The catching is set. The infield and outfield are getting lined up. Until Thursday, the bullpen seemed aligned, too. Yet the concern remained about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the contenders for the second left-handed spot behind Trever Miller.

That concern was addressed with Thursday’s announcement of the signing of Dennys Reyes to a two-year contract. While that is yesterday’s news now, several of the aftershocks attracted my attention.

One is that Miller is going to be tried in the ninth inning, according to an idea of pitching coach Dave Duncan, as shared with the Post-Dispatch. It would not be to displace the winner of the competition between hard-throwing right-handers Jason Motte and Chris Perez, but instead to offer a different look from the other side.

The 35-year-old Miller is a veteran of over 500 MLB games and has accrued a total of ten saves, with three the most gained in any season, at least until now. Miller’s first shot in the ninth was during Friday’s tie game. He yielded the winning run on a pair of hits and a walk.

The presence of Reyes also raised another question as to the identities of the seven members of the bullpen or the 12th pitcher as camp breaks.

Here is what Tony La Russa said to on Friday. You may have to read it a second or third time, however…

”… we have that [last] spot. It could go to a third left-hander, or it could go to a right-hander. If somebody wants a gift of a spot on the roster, that’s not the kind of guy you want on the club. You have to earn it. It just goes from two spots open — one spot open and one maybe — to one maybe.”

While La Russa did not identify the six spots taken, let’s take a run through the candidates to see what the manager and pitching coach may be thinking.

First, we have the relievers whose spots seem very secure. They include:

1. Ryan Franklin

2. Miller (L)

3. Reyes (L)

Then we have two returnees whose jobs seem pretty safe:

4. Kyle McClellan

5. Josh Kinney

I believe that McClellan will be on the team, but there remains a small chance he could be needed to start. As of today, his official status is as a starter, though that is expected to change at some point when all five members of the rotation seem fully healthy and ready to begin the season. If Mitchell Boggs can continue to build upon his solid spring debut, he may also ease the McClellan shift back to relief.

Kinney has been struggling with his command and location, but that is likely an early spring issue that will be worked out. Though the righty missed most of the last two seasons following dual elbow surgeries, he returned for an impressive, though short, re-audition last September.

Next we have the closer. It seems things continue to line up such that there will be room for one of the two of Perez and Motte on the opening roster, but not both. Let’s assume that for now.

6. Motte/Perez

Are these the manager’s six filled positions?

In a traditional La Russa/Duncan pen, the final spot is a long reliever-spot starter. I don’t want to read anything into early spring performances, but I did note with interest Franklin’s three-inning outing the other day.

Having spent most of his career as a starter prior to arriving in St. Louis, the 36-year-old wanted to compete for a rotation spot when he was signed two years ago. Perhaps it is nothing, but coupling this with the idea of using Miller in the ninth inning might free up Franklin for a longer role in 2009.

Coming into camp, Franklin was most often mentioned as the fallback for a Perez-Motte dual failure. Franklin did not shine as the closer last season, however.

7. To be determined

I see at least three paths here, labeled Options A, B and C. They involve four pitchers in a fight for one job – Brad Thompson, Royce Ring, Charlie Manning and one of Perez and Motte.

Option A: The long man

That Franklin-Miller scenario would put incumbent long-reliever/spot starter Brad Thompson on the hot seat and potentially open up Option B or C below.

Thompson seems to be a guy never able to lock down a role, yet offers a manager a lot of flexibility. For whatever reason, when Thompson starts, the club wins. Since coming up in 2005, the right-hander has started 24 games, during which the Cardinals went 17-7.

Option B: The third lefty

I have noted in the past that the Cardinals have not broken camp with three left-handers in the pen since the short-lived and ill-fated Bill Pulsipher experiment in 2005. That lasted five games for Pulse. The previous case was 2001, a time when another non-roster invitee, Jeff Tabaka, made the team. That lefty remained longer, but it wasn’t an entirely satisfactory result.

The third season in La Russa’s 13 in St. Louis in which the team came north with three left-handed relievers was 1999. That year, in an oddity, the club began the season with three lefties starting (Kent Mercker, Donovan Osborne and Darren Oliver) and three more in the pen (Mike Mohler, Lance Painter and Scott Radinsky).

Back to the here and now, so far in camp, neither lefties Charlie Manning nor Royce Ring have pitched themselves off the team. Both are on the 40-man roster and either could nail down that final spot, a point to which La Russa alluded in his quote above. Maybe the competition is real and maybe it is designed to head off any potential post-Reyes letdown by the pair.

Option C: The second closer

It would be unfair to Motte and Perez to not acknowledge that if each impresses all month long, the club could decide to keep them both.

Speaking of options, let’s discuss options as they relate to the club’s ability to ship these players to the minors. All of the players in question except Ring have an option remaining, which include Motte, Perez, Manning, and even Thompson, though the latter would have to pass through revocable waivers first. This is likely a formality that should not inhibit the decision-making process. Even McClellan and Kinney have options in the unlikely event it gets to that.

All in all, this gives La Russa and Duncan maximum flexibility to shape their pen and decide who to name as that seventh man.

Reyes exhausts Cards’ dry powder

The St. Louis Cardinals’ signing of reliever Dennys Reyes on Thursday was initially met with positive reaction from many across the Cardinal Nation, as the club moved to shore up their shaky left-handed relief situation.

I wrote about the signing yesterday at, so I am not going to rehash that here. Yet several comments in Joe Strauss’ follow-up article Friday warrant further discussion.

While the Cardinals nicely structured Reyes’ deal such that the majority, $2 million, is payable next season with $1 million due in 2009, it seems this small move is it for the club until at least July.

The Cards wisely ensured they have protection in case Reyes is injured in the World Baseball Classic, already underway.

“The deal is contingent on Reyes passing a team physical after his participation with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. During the tournament, Reyes will be covered by an insurance policy obtained by the corporation that owns the event.”

The next quote offered is about yesterday’s Pedro Martinez rumor. The story painting him as the 2009 Cardinals potential closer had shorter legs than an aspiring tadpole.

“Intrigue over approaching former Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez as a potential closer will go no farther. The club now views projected set-up man Ryan Franklin as its alternative to Chris Perez and Jason Motte should the younger pitchers not assert themselves this spring.”

I don’t really care too much about that, though positioning Franklin as the closer fallback isn’t really news, is it? This third quote is the one that really concerns me.

“Signing Reyes virtually eliminates any remaining financial flexibility the team has until at least midway through the season, according to an organizational source.”

Taken at face value, this is an incredibly limiting position for the team to have placed themselves. Trades are difficult enough to pull off without them having to be either neutral or positive in terms of cash flow and cutting off the possibility of any signings before even understanding what they might be seems short-sighted.

The team as currently constructed is heavy on outfielders, especially left-handed ones, and lacks depth at second base, in right-handed relief and potentially in starting pitching.

If the Skip Schumaker at second base experiment fails, the club would seemingly be committed to Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan or the like for at least the first half of the season. If so, the real likelihood that stronger options might come available over the next month would be ignored, despite potential need that may arise.

As already noted above, if the kids can’t handle the ninth inning, the club will have to make do with Franklin, who was not up to the same job last season.

If Chris Carpenter (or any of the other starters) does not remain healthy, then the in-house candidates such as Kyle McClellan, Brad Thompson or Mitchell Boggs will seemingly have to be good enough.

I am not suggesting any particular deals be done now and I realize that sticking to budget is important for any business. Still, an aspiring championship club is foolish to close any possible doors of improvement even before the season gets underway.

In this scenario, one would have to hold out hope the team can remain competitive until the second half and that even if so, some help will be added. That would be in contrast to 2008, when the party line was that the cost of doing every possible trade was cost-prohibitive in terms of prospects to be given up.

Finally, if such a decision to stop spending was made after the Reyes signing, it seems dangerous to communicate it, even informally. On one hand, it can surely help tamp down expectations, both internally and externally.

On the other, it can fan the flames of discontent with team finances that is already consuming a number of vocal Cardinals watchers. At least some of them are the very ticket buyers the club is continuing to court here on the day single-game regular season tickets went on sale.

What was already a difficult balancing act seems to be getting tougher by the week.

Cardinals in the Florida State League – 1966 to present

The St. Louis Cardinals first joined the Class A-Advanced Florida State League in 1966. That year, the Dodgers and their St. Petersburg Saints left the ten-team circuit, to be replaced by the Cardinals, using their spring training home, Al Lang Stadium.

Following is the log of the last ten years, 25 years, full franchise and league histories along with combined results from the Cardinals’ Class A-Advanced clubs. Including a six-year stop in the Carolina League, the Cards have maintained a presence at this level for the last 43 years and counting.

Cards A-Advanced Year Pct W L Division Playoffs Manager
Record all clubs 66-08 0.521 3067 2824 15
25 year all clubs 84-08 0.500 1720 1719 7
10 year all clubs 99-08 0.478 662 723 3
FSL record 66-96, 03-08 0.531 2685 2371 17
Carolina League record 97-02 0.457 382 453 0
Palm Beach 2008 0.547 75 62 2 L1 Gaylen Pitts
Palm Beach 2007 0.507 71 69 2 Gaylen Pitts
Palm Beach 2006 0.556 75 60 1 L1 Ron Warner
Palm Beach 2005 0.493 69 71 3 WC Ron Warner
Palm Beach 2004 0.545 73 61 2 Tom Nieto
Palm Beach 2003 0.408 58 84 6 Tom Nieto
Potomac (Car League) 2002 0.421 59 81 3 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 2001 0.471 66 74 3 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 2000 0.449 62 76 4 Joe Cunningham
Potomac (Car) 1999 0.388 54 85 4 Joe Cunningham
Prince William (Car) 1998 0.518 72 67 2 Joe Cunningham
Prince William (Car) 1997 0.496 69 70 2 Roy Silver
St. Petersburg 1996 0.543 75 63 4 Chris Maloney
St. Petersburg 1995 0.489 64 67 5 Chris Maloney
St. Petersburg 1994 0.532 74 65 3 Mike Ramsey
St. Petersburg 1993 0.564 75 58 3 Terry Kennedy
St. Petersburg 1992 0.429 57 76 5 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1991 0.359 47 84 5 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1990 0.448 60 74 4 Joe Pettini
St. Petersburg 1989 0.540 75 64 2 LC Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1988 0.500 68 68 3 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1987 0.599 85 57 1 L1 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1986 0.647 88 48 1 WC Dave Bialas
Marty Mason
Mike Jorgensen
St. Petersburg 1985 0.557 78 62 2 L1 Dave Bialas
St. Petersburg 1984 0.493 71 73 3 Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1983 0.522 70 64 2 Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1982 0.519 69 64 2 Nick Leyva
Jim Riggleman
St. Petersburg 1981 0.523 69 63 2 Nick Leyva
St. Petersburg 1980 0.515 70 66 2 Tommy Thompson
St. Petersburg 1979 0.474 64 71 4 Sonny Ruberto
St. Petersburg 1978 0.600 84 56 1 L1 Hal Lanier
St. Petersburg 1977 0.597 83 56 2 LC Hub Kittle
St. Petersburg 1976 0.496 70 71 3 Hal Lanier
St. Petersburg 1975 0.652 88 47 1 WC Jack Krol
St. Petersburg 1974 0.454 59 71 4 Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1973 0.575 84 62 1 WC Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1972 0.500 66 66 3 Roy Majtyka
St. Petersburg 1971 0.511 72 69 3 Joe Cunningham
St. Petersburg 1970 0.600 78 52 1 LC Joe Cunningham
St. Petersburg 1969 0.415 54 76 6 Jack Krol
St. Petersburg 1968 0.559 80 63 2 L1 Ron Plaza
St. Petersburg 1967 0.691 96 43 1 WC Ron Plaza
St. Petersburg 1966 0.669 91 45 1 LC Sparky Anderson

WC = won championship

LC = lost in the finals

L1 = lost in first playoff round

As will be detailed in the following, the Cardinals had early success in the FSL which drove their overall mark since 1966 of 243 games over .500 (.521). The club has just one more win than loss over the last quarter century, however.

While the teams at this level have a sub-.500 mark over the last decade, it is really a story with two distinct chapters. In the first five years, the club lost over 100 more games than won. Since 2004, the team is 40 games over .500 with three playoff appearances and one championship.

The early years – St. Petersburg (1966-1996)

The St. Pete Cardinals’ first manager in 1966 was a then-32-year-old former second baseman named George Anderson, later known to all of baseball as “Sparky”, the skipper of the 1970’s Big Red Machine from Cincinnati.

Anderson’s club not only had the best record in the league, they had at least two memorable events. The club won 22 consecutive games at one point, the eighth-longest run in minor league history at the time. The Cardinals also played a 29-inning contest, a 4-3 loss to Miami on June 14 that was the longest game in the history of organized baseball.

Though they fell in the 1966 finals, the Cardinals made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons and took three league championships in their first ten years. Ron Plaza’s 1967 club, the first champs, set a franchise record with a .691 winning mark (96-43) that still stands today.

A pair of future major leaguers helped lead the way to the next two pennants. Outfielder Jerry Mumphrey paced the FSL in hits and runs to fuel the 1973 run to the top. For the 1975 champs, Bill Caudill led the league in strikeouts (153) and tied for tops in wins with 14.

Tommy Herr also led the FSL in runs and hits for Hub Kittle’s 1977 club that lost in the finals. Greg Mathews took the league’s ERA title in 1985 with a 1.11 mark that remains the lowest qualifying mark at any level of the Cardinals organization in history.

In 1986, three managers took the club’s reigns during what would become a championship season, Dave Bialas, Marty Mason and Mike Jorgensen. Mason and Jorgensen are still with the organization today, with the former being the major league bullpen coach and the latter a special assistant to the general manager.

A long, dry spell ensued as 1986 would mark the Cardinals last FSL flag for 20 years, a period during which they earned just two playoff appearances. Bialas would remain to manage St. Petersburg for five of the next six seasons and seven of eight overall.

Six years in the Carolina League (1997-2002)

1997 brought major change as the Cardinals moved their A-Advanced affiliation to Virginia and out of the FSL into the Carolina League. Under the name Prince William Cannons, the club competed for two seasons. Respective Pitchers of the Year were future major leaguers Cliff Politte and Rick Ankiel. The latter led the circuit with 12.93 strikeouts per nine innings in 1998.

The team became the Potomac Cannons for 1999 as Joe Cunningham remained to lead the club through its four seasons of existence. All four Potomac seasons, from 1998 through 2002, were losing ones. In their final year, outfielder Skip Schumaker was the club’s lone All-Star.

A home of their own – back in the FSL (2003-present)

The franchise that had been known as the (Port) Charlotte Rangers from 1987 through 2002 was purchased by the Cardinals organization from Texas and relocated to Jupiter, where it became the Palm Beach Cardinals. In the process, the Cards returned to the Florida State League in 2003 after six years away.

By their third year back in the FSL, 2005, the Cardinals forgot about a 10-game below .500 first half to roar back and both take the second-half East Division crown and the FSL championship. Shortstop Brendan Ryan was an All-Star for Ron “Pop” Warner’s club.

Warner’s Cards again took the second-half East flag in 2006, but fell in the finals. Reliever Mike Sillman paced the FSL in games (57), games finished (54) and saves (35). After a winning, but non-playoff year in 2007, Gaylen Pitts’ club exited in the first round of the 2008 post-season.

With the big league Cardinals firmly planted at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter and ownership of their Florida State League franchise, there is no reason to assume the Palm Beach Cardinals won’t be continuing for many years to come.

Cardinals system records – Palm Beach/Potomac/Prince William/St. Petersburg

Last ten years (1999-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club
Last 25 years (1984-2008) Level Mark Record Years Club

Related articles:

“Quad Cities: Cardinals top minor league club has a long history”

Cardinals in the Appalachian League – 1975 to present

Cardinals in the New York-Penn League – 1981 to present

A quarter century of Cardinals minor league results

Pedro for Cardinals closer?

Did Pedro Martinez switch pitching hands to save wear and tear on his arm?

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch suggests the St. Louis Cardinals may be considering making a run at signing the 37-year-old right-handed starting pitcher to be their 2009 closer. There is a meeting scheduled Thursday morning between the coaches and front office to discuss the state of the roster and this topic may be on the agenda, Strauss suggests.

I can only hope the group can focus on more than one subject since in my opinion, the need for dependable relief from the left side is a higher priority than another closer candidate, especially one with the checkered injury record and mercurial attitude of Martinez.

While Pedro was once the best pitcher in the game, the first thing that entered my mind when I read the column was “Here we go again with another Izzy situation.”

From whatever club he joins, Pedro’s history affirms that he will expect to receive entitlement appropriate for a veteran of his stature. In other words, if things do not go well, before the plug is pulled, he would likely expect and be granted too many chances to fail – to the potential detriment of the team.

The most extreme case would be that Pedro would be left to pull the plug himself, as did former closer Jason Isringhausen via his highly-rated May, 2008 television boxing match. (I don’t mean he was actually exercising his pugilistic skills on TV. After an ugly stretch of blown saves, Isringhausen punched a television that helped explain a trip to disabled list, even though he appeared in three more games after the incident occurred.)

In its worst implementation, the arrival of Martinez could become a mini-Manny sideshow that could draw attention away from the team goal. The Cardinals have been relatively distraction-free in recent seasons. Pedro could change that.

The most positive outcome could be a Dennis Eckersley late-career move into the ninth inning role that could allow the three-time Cy Young Award winner to recapture some of his glory prior to retirement and give the Cardinals a one-year bridge to their young closer candidates.

Despite Tony La Russa having suggested during the winter the idea of the Cardinals signing a veteran starter and converting him to relief, there has been no visible activity by the club in support of that. In addition, until Tuesday, I had been unable to locate any reference to Pedro being willing to consider such a change.

In the P-D article, the 16-year MLB veteran left the door open slightly, but was not exactly enthusiastic about the prospect either, meaning any decision that involves a role change would probably not be coming quickly.

“I would prefer to try it first and see how my body responds because I haven’t done it in a long time,” said Martinez, who might be used in a relief role during the World Baseball Classic. “It’s something you really have to endure and really try first before you know if your body can do it.”

Having missed considerable time during the last three seasons, Martinez has endured a lot of injuries – the most challenging being a rotator cuff tear repaired in October, 2006. He made it back for a brief appearance in September, 2007. Last season, Pedro went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. He fanned 87 in 109 innings, but had uncharacteristic control problems, walking 44.

One thing is clear. Pedro’s home since 2005, the New York Mets, did not ask him back despite the player publicly stating that as his preference. As recently as January, reports were that Martinez was looking for a one-year, $8 million contract to start. The Mets did not offer Pedro arbitration and eventually settled on Livan Hernandez and returning Oliver Perez to fill out their rotation.

While Billy Wagner’s injuries opened up the Mets’ ninth-inning role, the club instead traded for one closer, J.J. Putz, to set up and signed another from the free agent rolls, Francisco Rodriguez, aka K-Rod, to be their 2009 closer.

Martinez has been throwing for several weeks in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, where he will represent the Dominican Republic and audition for a new contract. Team Dominicana is training at the Cardinals facility in Jupiter, FL.

Reports are that Martinez has ramped up to 55-60 pitches per outing and is throwing 88-92 mph. He pitched Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles and went two innings, allowing three hits, a walk and collecting two strikeouts. The Dodgers and Indians are among the teams recently reportedly interested in him.

Signing Pedro may not be easy for another reason. As recently as earlier this week, he made it very clear in a New York Daily News report that he is not interested in an incentive-laden contract with a low base salary – precisely the kind of deal any responsible club would offer him. Instead, Martinez said he would retire to his fishing boat.

Specifically asked if he would consider a deal like his former Mets teammate Tom Glavine took with the Atlanta Braves for a $1 million base, Martinez quickly went thumbs down on the idea.

“If I wanted to pitch that bad, I probably would,” Martinez said about agreeing to a low guarantee comparable to Glavine’s. “But I don’t think I’m in that stage. I believe I’m very comfortable. I’m not going to let anybody disrespect my abilities or the way I am. I wouldn’t say I would want to pitch that bad.”

The “disrespect” word says it all. Martinez is out of touch with his current situation and may be better off tucked safely in his vessel, sailing off to calmer waters elsewhere.

Now Mo, how about that lefty?

Cards lefties should be looking over their shoulders

There are two news items today concerning the St. Louis Cardinals’ attempt to identify a second left-hander in the bullpen to pair with free agent signee Trever Miller.

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reports an increasing level of concern from the coaches over the low-budget, low-results candidates in camp, with Tony La Russa and his staff expected to give general manager John Mozeliak an earful when the group meets on Thursday morning.

The current group of contenders in camp consists of Charlie Manning, claimed off waivers from Washington last November, Royce Ring (pictured), a castoff from the Atlanta Braves, Ian Ostlund, a minor league free agent from the Detroit Tigers system and Katsuhiko Maekawa, who had a tryout with the Nats two years ago. The latter two have yet to make their major league debuts and based on very early action, probably aren’t going to do so anytime soon.

Later on Wednesday morning, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirmed from “major league sources” that the Cardinals are indeed back in the market for left-handed relief. Rosenthal did not identify Mozeliak’s primary target, but highlighted three options in his article – Dennys Reyes, Joe Beimel and Will Ohman. For more on each, check out Dustin Mattison’s article from October.

Depending on the rumor source, any of the three could be had for an amount estimated between $1 million and $2 million for the 2009 season. If that is the case, here’s hoping Mozeliak does not pass go. After all, given the club was willing to spend in the vicinity of $9 million per season for then-free agent Brian Fuentes earlier in the winter, this looks like pocket change.

With the elongated spring training, any new lefty should have plenty of time to get ready for the 2009 regular season, but there is competition. Rosenthal identifies at least five clubs other than the Cardinals that are on a similar search – the A’s, Phillies, Pirates, Marlins and Padres.

In this game of musical chairs, with six contestants and only three places to land, Mo needs to ensure he is one of the winners this time.

Kansas City’s own Skip skips camp

The most-talked about subject in St. Louis Cardinals training camp this spring may not be Chris Carpenter, despite the club’s 2009 hopes being precariously hinged on his right arm. What first seemed like a joke has become reality – an attempt to move outfielder Skip Schumaker to second base.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be another re-warmed review of Skip’s ancient college history at shortstop or a bashing of his uneven start at his new position.

Instead, this is a quick look at a kindred spirit, Kansas City’s Mark Teahen. As I type this, I am watching the Toronto Blue Jays entertain the World Baseball Classic’s Team Canada in an exhibition contest Tuesday.

One of the Canadian infielders is Teahen. While the versatile 27-year-old is starting at third base on this day, he will be seeing time at second during the WBC, as well, at least in drills if not in actual games. That will be at the request of the Royals.

Just like the Cardinals, their cross-state interleague rivals said goodbye to their veteran second baseman over the winter. Former Cardinal Mark Grudzielanek became a free agent and remains unsigned for 2009.

Already with over 200 career games each at third base and right field, as well as limited time in left field, at first base and even centerfield, Teahen was asked to move once again to take Grudz’ old job.

Kansas City’s November trade for veteran outfielder Coco Crisp, a former Cardinals farmhand, made the most recent Teahen shift necessary. Then, there’s the prospect of the small-budget Royals paying over $3.5 million for what would otherwise be projected as a utility player.

It’s not the first time Teahen has been moved. It’s not the second, either.

When former Nebraska Cornhusker Alex Gordon came up in 2007, starting third baseman Teahen was shifted to right field despite being the organization’s reigning Player of the Year. When veteran right-fielder Jose Guillen was signed, guess who was slid over to left?

Teahen’s first game for the Royals this spring was a disaster, with two errors and several other misplays. After almost 900 career professional games – 364 in the minors and another 532 in the majors – it was his first appearance at second base.

He tried it once before, in his first season of junior college. Despite his past utility success, Teahen’s 6-foot-3 height adds to the skepticism.

While the Cardinals are missing Schumaker’s primary infield instructor due to the WBC in Team Puerto Rico’s manager Jose Oquendo, they still have former major league second basemen Joe Pettini and others to keep the heavy focus on.

Imagine how the Royals feel about Teahen missing valuable spring training time?

Of course, it has to be discussed carefully, since the WBC is the brainchild of Major League Baseball and any club officials know better than to speak out. In this case, all the right words are being spoken, at least publicly.

I am not sure on which team this more reflects, but Team Canada defeated the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Former Cardinals starter Mike Maroth got the start for Toronto, allowing two runs in two innings and looking shaky in the process.

(On a side point, have you noticed how the Jays have become the place former Cardinals go to die? By my count, there have been at least five to head north in the last two years alone – David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Cody Haerther, Matt Clement and Maroth.)

Are the Canadians this good or the Jays that bad? I am not sure, but either way, since Team Canada is in a pool with the USA and Venezuela, their WBC participation is expected to end with the first round. If that is the case, Teahen could be back in KC’s camp by the middle of the month.

Like Skip, Teahen doesn’t have to worry about his roster spot, but how can the time spent away from camp be spun in a positive manner?

Now, I’m not being critical of Teahen. He was put in a bad place by the timing of the tournament, being forced to decide between his employer and his country.

Teahen had decided to play in the 2006 WBC, but let the Royals talk him out of it. He had wanted to participate in the Olympics when in the minors and his father is a veteran of Canadian international competition.

If the Schumaker experiment by the Cardinals fails, the WBC can’t realistically be blamed. Royals backers might not be so gracious if Teahen can’t make his transition stick.

Walton on Wednesday Fantasy Focus show

I will be Jeff Erickson’s leadoff guest on Wednesday’s Fantasy Focus show on Blog Talk Radio. The segment can be heard live from Noon-12:30 p.m. Eastern on March 4th or on demand. Our focus will be the 2009 Cardinals, obviously.

Those devotees of XM Satellite Radio are likely already aware of the long-running Fantasy Focus show. For 2009, it has moved from XM to Blog Talk Radio. Listen live, Monday through Friday at Noon ET, or on demand.

Jeff Erickson is the Senior Editor of and host of Fantasy Focus. His show covers fantasy baseball from a wide variety of angles, talking with the major forces within the industry, and also offers listener interaction. Among the expert leagues in which we both compete is Tout Wars. Jeff in is the American League and I’m in the National.

Cardinals results against left- (and right-) handed starters

Following my post on La Russa’s lineups, there was discussion about the Cardinals opposing left-handed pitchers. I decided to take a look at both the frequency and the results of the club when facing lefties during the La Russa era.

Here are the details:

vs. LHS Home W Home L Home W % Road W Road L Road W % Total W Total L Total W % % LHS
2008 16 10 61.5% 11 19 36.7% 27 29 48.2% 34.6%
2007 13 13 50.0% 16 14 53.3% 29 27 51.8% 34.6%
2006 14 16 46.7% 9 18 33.3% 23 34 40.4% 35.4%
2005 13 11 54.2% 19 9 67.9% 32 20 61.5% 32.1%
2004 15 7 68.2% 11 6 64.7% 26 13 66.7% 24.1%
2003 12 6 66.7% 7 11 38.9% 19 17 52.8% 22.2%
2002 11 7 61.1% 10 9 52.6% 21 16 56.8% 22.8%
2001 10 5 66.7% 6 10 37.5% 16 15 51.6% 19.1%
2000 11 9 55.0% 6 14 30.0% 17 23 42.5% 24.7%
1999 7 13 35.0% 10 16 38.5% 17 29 37.0% 28.6%
1998 13 13 50.0% 13 9 59.1% 26 22 54.2% 29.6%
1997 12 8 60.0% 9 9 50.0% 21 17 55.3% 23.5%
1996 9 11 45.0% 9 7 56.3% 18 18 50.0% 22.2%
total 156 129 54.7% 136 151 47.4% 292 280 51.0% 27.2%
average 12.0 9.9 10.5 11.6 22.5 21.5

On the average over the last 13 years, the Cardinals’ opponents sent out left-handed starters against them just over a quarter of the time, 27.2%. However, that mark has steadily grown such that over the last four years, well over one third of the enemy pitchers threw from that side.

In total, the Cardinals have won 51% of their games against lefties. That improves to almost 55% at home, though there are wild swings from year to year.

For comparison, let’s look at the Cards results against right-handed pitchers.

vs. RHS Home W Home L Home W % Road W Road L Road W % Total W Total L Total W %
2008 30 25 54.5% 29 22 56.9% 59 47 55.7%
2007 30 25 54.5% 19 32 37.3% 49 57 46.2%
2006 35 15 70.0% 25 29 46.3% 60 44 57.7%
2005 37 20 64.9% 31 22 58.5% 68 42 61.8%
2004 38 21 64.4% 41 23 64.1% 79 44 64.2%
2003 36 27 57.1% 30 33 47.6% 66 60 52.4%
2002 41 22 65.1% 35 27 56.5% 76 49 60.8%
2001 44 23 65.7% 33 31 51.6% 77 54 58.8%
2000 39 22 63.9% 39 22 63.9% 78 44 63.9%
1999 31 29 51.7% 27 28 49.1% 58 57 50.4%
1998 35 21 62.5% 22 36 37.9% 57 57 50.0%
1997 29 32 47.5% 23 40 36.5% 52 72 41.9%
1996 39 22 63.9% 31 34 47.7% 70 56 55.6%
total 464 304 60.4% 385 379 50.4% 849 683 55.4%
average 35.7 23.4 29.6 29.2 65.3 52.5

As one would expect, the club has delivered better results against right-handers overall, with a 55.4% success rate over time, including over 60% at home and still just over 50% on the road.

Now, we’ll put a summary of the results side-by-side.

% LHS Total W % Total W %
2008 34.6% 48.2% 55.7%
2007 34.6% 51.8% 46.2%
2006 35.4% 40.4% 57.7%
2005 32.1% 61.5% 61.8%
2004 24.1% 66.7% 64.2%
2003 22.2% 52.8% 52.4%
2002 22.8% 56.8% 60.8%
2001 19.1% 51.6% 58.8%
2000 24.7% 42.5% 63.9%
1999 28.6% 37.0% 50.4%
1998 29.6% 54.2% 50.0%
1997 23.5% 55.3% 41.9%
1996 22.2% 50.0% 55.6%
average 27.2% 51.0% 55.4%
advantage 5 8
> 50% W 9 11
> 60% W 2 4
> 66% W 1 0

Interestingly, the success against right-handers isn’t a consistent thing. In five of the 13 seasons in this period, the Cardinals actually had a higher win rate against lefties than they did against righties, including three of the last six seasons.

What do you make of that?

In the National League Central in 2009, current projected rotations for the Cardinals’ five opponents include eight left-handers. That equates to just under one-third (8/25 = 32%). The Pirates lead the way with three, while the Reds, like the Cardinals, have an all right-handed starting staff.

NL Central LH starters ’08 W/L vs. StL ’08 ERA Win % Career vs. StL Car StL ERA Win %
Houston Wandy Rodriguez 1-2 1.11 2-6 4.08
Mike Hampton DNF 10-8 3.71
Milwaukee Manny Parra 0-0 4.50 0-0 3.77
Chicago Ted Lilly 3-0 3.06 6-2 2.99
Sean Marshall 1-0 0.82 2-1 3.38
Pittsburgh Paul Maholm 2-1 3.05 3-3 2.64
Zach Duke 0-2 5.25 2-4 4.27
Tom Gorzelanny 0-1 5.73 1-3 3.82
Cincinnati none
total 7-6 3.14 0.538 26-27 3.59 0.491

While their aggregate won-loss record, whether for 2008 or over their careers, against St. Louis is roughly .500, note the solid ERAs. These eight lefties held the Cardinals offense to just over three runs per nine innings last year and slightly more than 3.5 over their careers.

Related articles:

“La Russa’s lineups – a historical view”

“Trends in Cardinals left-handed and switch hitters”

Trends in Cardinals left-handed and switch hitters

One component of left-handedness that came to mind as a result of my recent post on La Russa’s lineups is how the Cardinals rosters have been composed over time. Here I looked at season-opening 25-man rosters since Tony La Russa arrived in St. Louis prior to the 1996 campaign.

First, we’ll look at the composition of the pitching staff from the left side.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
LH rotation 0.8 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 1 1 1
LH relief 2.1 2 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 1 2 2

With the departure of Mark Mulder and the Tommy John surgery of Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals lack a credible left-handed starter either at the major league level or the high levels of the system. As a result, it seems assured the club will not have a left-handed pitcher in the rotation in 2009, certainly not to start the season without a trade.

The season-opening relief corps almost always consists of two lefties. The last time the Cards came north with three was in 2005, when Bill Pulsipher lasted just a few weeks. Conversely, 1998 was the only season in which La Russa’s club began the season with a sole lefty in the pen.

Now, let’s switch gears to the hitters on opening day rosters, starting with the left-handers.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
Lefty-hitting starters 2.5 3 2 1 2 3 3 4 3 3 1 3 3 2
Lefty-hitting reserves 1.3 0 1 2 1 2 2 1 3 1 1 0 1 2
Lefty-hitting total 3.8 3 3 3 3 5 5 5 6 4 2 3 4 4

Despite averaging about four left-handed hitters per season since 1996, the Cardinals have had only three starting each of the last four seasons. Given the perception of having glut of left-handed hitting outfielders, this surprised me a bit.

Of course, there are other left-handed hitters on the roster – those that switch hit.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
Switch-hitting starters 0.4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
Switch-hitting reserves 1.0 1 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 1 0
SH total 1.4 2 1 2 2 2 0 0 0 1 1 3 2 2

In four of the last five years, the Cardinals have had a pair of switch-hitters available, either on the bench or in the starting lineup.

Putting the two together provides a compete view of the left-handed hitting options available on the Cardinals in recent seasons.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
LH/SH starters 2.9 4 2 2 2 3 3 4 3 3 1 3 4 4
LH/SH reserves 2.3 1 2 3 3 4 2 1 3 2 2 3 2 2
LH/SH total 5.2 5 4 5 5 7 5 5 6 5 3 6 6 6

With a 13-year average of 5.2 left-handed or switch-hitting batters on the season-opening rosters, recent years have been fairly consistent. Note that 2008 had four left-handed capable hitting starters, the most since 2002.

Now that we have that bit of history established, let’s compare this to the likely make-up of the 2009 Cardinals. The forecasts below are from my camp-opening projections, run on (details are subscriber only).

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
LH rotation 0.8 0
LH relief 2.1 2 Miller, Ring Manning, Ostlund

There’s not much mystique in the pitching category. As noted above, there are no left-handed starters in contention for a job. Among the relievers, Royce Ring may or may not be replaced by Charlie Manning, but unless Trever Miller is hurt, only one of the pair should be on the opening day roster.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
Lefty-hitting starters 2.5 2 Ankiel, Schumaker Rasmus
Lefty-hitting reserves 1.3 2 Duncan, Thurston
Lefty-hitting total 3.8 4

In terms of left-handed hitters, the long-term average of four may be met through a pair of starters and two reserves. I understand Colby Rasmus could break his way onto the club, but I submit that the total would probably remain the same, as Joe Thurston would be the likely roster casualty (see Skip Schumaker at second base dominoes).

Note that if Jon Jay could force his way into the outfield mix, it would probably be at the expense of Rasmus/Thurston. As of now, Rasmus and Thurston are the only left-handed hitters in camp who seemed to be in the mix for a job other than the three outfield holdovers from last season. Third baseman Brett Wallace and catcher Bryan Anderson is the other left-handed hitters in camp, but the latter has no chance without an injury to Yadier Molina or Jason LaRue and the former’s odds are even less.

The situation is not nearly as good with switch-hitters, however.

Opening roster 96-08 avg 2009 forecast Names Other possibilities
Switch-hitting starters 0.4 0 none none
Switch-hitting reserves 1.0 0 none none
SH total 1.4 0

As you can see, there is really nothing to say. Recent switch-hitters Aaron Miles, Cesar Izturis and Scott Spiezio are gone, replaced by no one. Of the 35 position players in 2009 spring training camp, not a single one hits from both sides of the plate. So there are no long-shots around that could break through.

If the 2009 season begins this way, it will be the first Cardinals club since 2003 without a switch-hitter either in the opening lineup or on the bench.

For completeness, here is the left-handed plus switch-hitting forecast for 2009.

Opening roster 96-08 average 2009 forecast
LH/SH starters 2.9 2
LH/SH reserves 2.3 2
LH/SH total 5.2 4

Without a trade to bring in a switch-hitter, it appears that La Russa will have less lineup flexibility and in-game pinch-hitting match-up options in 2009 compared to past seasons. Four hitters capable of hitting left-handed would tie 2007 for the Cardinals’ lowest total since 1999.

I doubt La Russa will go as far as asking his opponent to loan him a switch-hitter to pinch hit, but the skipper probably won’t like being restricted in his numerous in-game maneuvers, either.

In the next report, I will look at left-handed pitching from the Cardinals opponents’ perspective.

Related article: “La Russa’s lineups – a historical view”

Cardinals minor matters – March 1

Does Ludwick wish for Team USA do over?

On Friday, Colorado’s Brad Hawpe injured his hand when it was stepped on and spiked on a play at second base. (Note to Skip Schumaker: Please stop sliding head-first!) As a result, Hawpe, previously named a starting outfielder, bowed out of the World Baseball Classic.

Hawpe’s move was on the heels of Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore also suffering a injury that will keep him out of the WBC. With two of Davey Johnson’s starting outfielders out, do you suppose Ryan Ludwick regrets his decision to not join Team USA because he was not guaranteed a starting role?

Villone joins Mets

On Saturday, free agent left-handed reliever Ron Villone signed a minor league deal with a spring training invite from the New York Mets. Was it just coincidence the contract was announced the day after the Cardinals spanked the Mets staff for one run per inning?

It is a deal just like he signed with the Cardinals last spring. To make the Mets, Villone may require another break like he received last spring when Tyler Johnson couldn’t answer the bell.

Mulder still looking

With the Villone signing, only Mark Mulder remains unsigned from the group of six Cardinals free agent pitchers. The list included Braden Looper (Milwaukee), Jason Isringhausen (Tampa Bay), Russ Springer (Oakland), Randy Flores (Colorado), and Tyler Johnson (Seattle).

In January, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that Mulder could be a “hidden gem” among this year’s crop of free agents. Apparently the cost of diamonds is depressed as Mulder is still jobless. Returning to his initial club of Oakland is rumored once the lefty actually throws for scouts.

Choi gets NRI

A repeat of the embarrassing situation that resulted when Tony La Russa publicly complained about not having enough arms in camp to the point he floated the idea of borrowing pitchers from his team’s opponent was apparently averted when Hyang-Nam Choi was added to major league spring training.

The 37-year-old Korean was signed just last month. He previously pitched in the minors for Cleveland in 2006.

I’ve kept my Cardinals NRI list up to date, which notes seven additional pitchers since the original rosters were announced. With that, there are now 61 players in camp, which is just one away from the team’s average from 1996 through 2008.

Mortensen’s MRI was negative

Choi’s NRI was due to Clayton Mortensen’s MRI. OK, not exactly, but the former supplemental first rounder is on the sidelines indefinitely due to elbow discomfort. Choi was added to offer another arm.

Harris salutes Cards

13th round draft pick Mitch Harris, a right-handed pitcher from Navy, signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals on Saturday. Currently on active duty and committed to four more years of the same, Harris and the Cardinals have to hope the Navy changes their policy sooner. Otherwise, Harris will have quite the challenge as a pushing-30 year old first-time professional.

17 “agree to terms”

The Cardinals “came to terms” on 2009 contracts with 17 players with less than three years of MLB service time. These players technically can negotiate, but realistically were obligated to take what was offered as long as they receive the major league minimum. That will change when they become arbitration eligible in a year or more down the road.

In a subscriber-only article at on Saturday, I listed the service time of all 17 and forecasted when each will become arbitration eligible.

Spring training schedule update

On Saturday, I updated the master Cardinals spring training radio and television schedule to include additional XM satellite radio broadcasts. Keep checking back there all month long as more games are added to Gameday audio, XM and MLB.TV.

My opening day roster predictions

I went on record last week at with my forecast for the opening day Cardinals roster (subscription required). Rather than list all 25, here are the players I have on the outside looking in:

Pitchers: Boggs, Hawskworth, Manning, Motte, Ostlund (NRI), Scherer

Infielders: T. Greene, Hoffpauir, Wallace (NRI)

Outfielders: Barton, Stavinoha, Rasmus (NRI)

Photo day

I’ve posted the results of 2009 photo day for the Cardinals pitchers/catchers and position players. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still access the new photos from each individual player profile page.