photo: Yadier Molina and John Brebbia (St. Louis Cardinals)
St. Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina and John Brebbia are part of an MLB barnstorming team playing in Japan. In our weekly history feature, the 1980 Ted Simmons trade with Milwaukee is remembered.
Molina and Brebbia in Japan
An MLB All-Star team is playing a six-game series against the Japanese national team, the Samurai Japan. The series began on Thursday and is set to conclude on November 15.
Two Cardinals are on the 29-player All-Star roster – catcher Yadier Molina and relief pitcher John Brebbia.
Molina, 36, is the oldest player on the squad. The veteran catcher distinguished himself on Sunday by hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning of the 7-3 US victory. Molina also picked off a Japan outfielder at first base.
Molina is 7-for-11 in the series for a .636 batting average. Brebbia pitched the ninth inning in Sunday’s game and gave up two runs on three hits.
The tour began with an exhibition game on Thursday against the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League. The MLB All-Stars won the game 9-6 with Molina going 2-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. Brebbia pitched the eighth inning and allowed one unearned run on two hits.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted that the Cardinals are interested in reliever Andrew Miller and are active in the relief pitcher market. Morosi further wrote at MLB.com that the Cardinals are possible suitors for free agent reliever Craig Kimbrel.
Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch writes that the Cardinals are in the market for an impact bat but are thinking more infield than outfield. Such a hitter would likely play at either first base or third base. The possibility of signing free agent outfielder Bryce Harper could shift that thinking, however, according to Goold.
There are no new player transactions to report. However, there was a coaching announcement – made by the Seattle Mariners this past Wednesday. Cardinals minor league pitching analyst Paul Davis has been named Seattle’s major league pitching coach.
39-year old Rick Ankiel’s comeback attempt as a relief pitcher five years after retiring as an outfielder was interrupted due to elbow ligament repair surgery. The former left-handed pitching star quit the mound 14 years ago due to an inability to throw strikes, the story behind which later became the subject of his autobiography.
Ankiel, who had recently been an on-air talent for FOX Sports Midwest, had been training in Jupiter, Florida since his August comeback announcement. He is expected to sign a minor league contract with the Cardinals when ready, which now appears to be at least mid-season 2019.
The annual General Manager Meetings in Carlsbad, CA concluded last week. Next on the offseason calendar is the November 20 deadline for finalizing 40-man rosters ahead of the Rule 5 draft in December. The Cardinal 40-man roster currently stands at 38 players, but there is the possibility that further subtractions from the roster could take place before the deadline. Any players the Cardinals wish to protect from the Rule 5 draft will be added to the 40 man roster before the deadline.
(For TCN members, Brian Walton identified the top Rule 5 protection candidates here: https://thecardinalnation.com/the-cardinal-nations-2018-rule-5-protection-picks/)
Next will be the non-tender deadline on November 30. Several players have already moved on via waivers or free agency. Any further subtractions from the roster are likely to occur on or before the November 20 Rule 5 deadline.
November also brings awards. The following are the remaining awards to be given and the dates the winners will be announced.
Nov. 12 – Rookie of the Year
Nov. 13 – Manager of the Year
Nov. 14 – Cy Young
Nov. 15 – MVP
Nov. 19 – Comeback Player of the Year
Nov. 20 – Designated Hitter of the Year (AL only)
The top three vote-getters for the November 12-15 awards have been disclosed and no Cardinals will be winners.
Of awards that were announced in the last week, the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year, the Rawlings Platinum Glove and the Silver Slugger Awards, the Cardinals were shut out. However, outfielder Harrison Bader was named to the Topps Rookie All-Star Team. (All of these awards are highlighted at The Cardinal Nation’s free forum.)
The Winter Meetings are scheduled for December 9-13 in Las Vegas. The Rule 5 draft is scheduled for the morning of December 13.
Blast from the Past
Last week’s Blast from the Past featured the trade that brought Willie McGee to the Cardinals – one of the good ones. This week’s segment will cover one of the not-so-good trades.
While current Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina distinguishes himself in the Japan All-Star Series, this trade and acquisitions entry looks into the deal that sent another talented Cardinals catcher out of St. Louis – Ted Simmons, also known as “Simba”.
Simmons was drafted by the Cardinals in the first round of the 1967 June draft, and made his major league debut on September 12, 1968 at the age of 19. Simmons played in only two games in 1968, and then reappeared in 1969 for a five-game stint. Simmons came back to the majors for good in 1970, playing in 82 games while platooning with starting catcher Joe Torre. After Torre moved to third base in 1971, Simmons became the starting catcher. Simmons remained the Cardinals’ full-time catcher until a feud with manager Whitey Herzog ended his time with the team.
During Simmons’ 13-year stint with St. Louis, the catcher slashed .298/.366/.459, hitting 172 home runs and driving in 929. Unlike Yadier Molina, Simmons was a better offensive catcher than a defensive one.
The trade that sent Simmons out of St. Louis came as a result of conflict between Herzog and Simmons over Herzog’s desire to have Simmons play first base for most of the games, returning behind the plate only at the end of the game. Simmons refused to do this, and Herzog responded by trading Simmons to the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 1980. Herzog had assumed GM duties in August of 1980, turning over the managing to Red Schoendienst for the remainder of the season. (Herzog reclaimed the manager job in the offseason and did both jobs for two full seasons.)
Simmons was traded to Milwaukee along with Rollie Fingers and Pete Vuckovich. The Cardinals received Sixto Lezcano, Lary Sorensen, Dave LaPoint, and David Green from the Brewers. Fingers and Vuckovich each won a Cy Young Award with the Brewers. Simmons had two good seasons in 1982 and 1983 with the Brewers. Simmons was traded to Atlanta in 1986 and retired from baseball in 1988. While the players the Cardinals received did contribute to the Cardinals’ 1982 World Series Championship, all were gone by 1985 when the Cardinals returned to the World Series.
The trade was bad not only because the Cardinals gave up players in Fingers and Vuckovich who went on to have great careers with other teams, but also because Simmons had been a five-time All Star with the Cardinals and was summarily tossed away because of a disagreement with the manager. Herzog was a beloved Cardinal manager, but he had his warts, and the trade of Simmons was one that many of the team’s fans took serious issue with.
The replacement catcher, Darrell Porter, had played for Herzog with Kansas City. Porter distinguished himself in the 1982 postseason, winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. However, he was released following the 1985 season and developed a serious substance abuse problem that ultimately led to his death from a drug overdose in 2002.
The trade was not one of Whitey’s finest moments in the minds and hearts of many Cardinals fans.
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