Warming Up the Winter

I’ve often thought I might like to make the effort to go to the Cardinals’ traditional Winter Warm-up. It’s baseball talk in the winter, a chance to actually see the players and hear some news. I’ve never been able to afford it, though, nor take out the time to get up there. Plus I’m not much on crowded areas.

The good thing about the Warm-up, combined with the internet, is that we finally get some Cardinal news. So let’s take a look at what came out over the weekend.

First off, Chris Carpenter is throwing again. The whole dynamic of the season could change if he’s healthy and effective earlier than schedule. He’s not pushing himself too hard, which is great. It’d be outstanding if he was back in June, but I wouldn’t count on it. My prediction is still mid-August, enough time for him to get back into baseball shape and let the Cardinals see what he’s got for 2009.

Staying on the injury theme, it looks like Josh Kinney could be back by time the season starts. A valuable part of the 2006 bullpen, he could help bolster the 2008 version as well. It’ll be interesting to see what he has when he comes back and if he can be effective.

The same article talks about the rehabbing of Chris Duncan and Braden Looper. Both sound like they are doing well and are basically ready to go, but there was no reason to think that they wouldn’t be. Still, nice to hear there aren’t any unexpected setbacks.

At the end of that article (wow, Goold really packed it in, didn’t he?) was a note about Ryan Franklin planning to be a reliever again this year. Larry at VEB has repeatedly made the case that Franklin should start, but with the number of starting pitchers already in camp, it probably does make sense to have a solid part of the bullpen return to that role. There’s nothing to say TLR won’t move him into the rotation halfway through the year anyway.

Which is bigger news, that Scott Spiezio is doing well in his personal rehabilitation, put out a CD, or that he doesn’t have the famous red facial hair anymore?

Then there are plenty of WWU posts over at Bird Land. Definitely check out the quotes quiz. I don’t see the answers yet, but the quotes are worth reading.

Oh, and some Santana news, one that the Cardinals did inquire, the second that they’d “kick the tires” if he became a free agent.  It makes you want to see what’d happen if he didn’t get traded, doesn’t it?

The Warm-up finishes today, so maybe more news will be made!

Week’s End

If you’ve not gotten your picks in for VEB’s all-time sim tourney, you better hurry.  Results are supposed to start showing up sometime today.  If you miss out on phase I, don’t worry.  The reseeded phase II tournament will have more points available, so you won’t necessarily be at that much of a disadvantage if you play II without I.  And kudos to The Angry Rant for explaining his picks.

Speaking of VEB, here’s red baron’s grading of Mozeliak.  On the whole, I’d say I’d have to agree with him.  It appears that LaRussa still has considerable say in the roster management portion of the team, which can be good, can be bad as evidenced by Miles’s resigning especially.  Mo came into a tough situation and a transitional phase in the organization.  It’s going to be tough to give him an accurate assessment until two or three years down the line.

Deaner expands his thoughts on the possibility that the Cards might sign Juan Gonazalez.  I’m pretty much fine with a spring training invite for him.  I don’t expect he’ll make the team, but if he plays well enough to merit going north, then he could help the bench get a little more pop.

Also, Winter Warmup is this weekend so perhaps some news will be made then.  Troy Glaus and Matt Clement get their first taste of Cardinal Nation and I’m sure they’ll enjoy it.  I’ve always wanted to go to the WWU, though it’s so pricey and usually it’s tough for me to get away during January for something like that.

If you are looking for an all-sports website to comment on, CardinalsGM has a suggestion.

Kujo has an in-depth analysis of Rick Ankiel.   Rick’s always been one of my favorite players and I was very excited to see him return last year.  All that said, I’m afraid he’s going to regress some this year, especially if Rasmus comes up and takes that 2 hole away from him.  Still, if he can hit .260 with 20 HR, he’s got value to this team.  There may be a number of players doing that, what with Duncan and Glaus also being lower-average, higher-power type guys.

That’s a quick run around the blogs, though obviously there is much more out there.  Just go through my blogroll and check them all out.  I should have some news about this blog on Monday or at least early next week.

Starting Pitching

48 W, 72 L, 889 IP, 987 H, 115 HR, 321 BB, 532 K, 42 HBP, 5.04 ERA, 1.66 K/BB

That’s the line the St. Louis starters put up last year. Not real pretty, is it?

If there is any chance for 2008 to be more than a rebuilding year, for the Cardinals to actually contend, it may lie in the fact that last year’s team finished only 7 games out with starting pitching as bad as that. Can this year’s squad improve on those numbers? Let’s take a look.

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Transitioning

The last word on the Rolen trade: here’s a wrapup of his introductory press conference in Toronto. Sounds like he’s got a weight off his shoulders (no pun intended) and is ready to move on. I wish him the best up there and hope that he can get Toronto past those big obstacles that are the Yankees and the Red Sox.

So it’s over and we’ve got to move on. But to what?

It’s still just under a month until spring training. We pretty much know the starting lineup, or at least the players that will be in it. Shortstop still is up in the air, but all the options are likely on the roster. The rotation is pretty much set, though there has been talk that the Cards would try to pick up some sort of veteran innings-eater to help hedge against all the injury and rehab possibilities. Really, the signings are probably pretty much done.

For today, let’s talk fantasy. The numerous fantasy baseball leagues at CardsClubhouse are into their second week of drafting. Which Cardinals will draw the most interest from the average fantasy baseball player?

Obviously, Albert Pujols will be at the top of most people’s draft lists. His slightly-below-his-standards season last year might bump him out of the consensus #1 overall slot, but he’ll still be gone before the first round is over. The excellence that he has year in and year out can’t be overstated.

There will be a number of people taking Adam Wainwright as well, especially if they look past his overall numbers to what he did in the second half of the season last year. Wainwright and Jason Isringhausen may be the only pitchers that get much of a look from players, though.  Most people will take a wait and see approach with Mark Mulder, though perhaps Joel Pineiro might be attractive to NL-only players.

Back to the offense.  Troy Glaus will get some late-round attention, especially with him switching to the “easier” league.  Chris Duncan will go around the same time, maybe a bit earlier if people think he’s completely healed up.  Rick Ankiel will have people taking a few fliers on him.  With catching as tough to come by as it is, Yadier Molina’s season from last year should get him taken in the mid-to-late rounds.  And those with minor league systems might take a shot at getting Colby Rasmus.

Other than that, there probably won’t be much interest in the Cardinals from the fantasy players.  It’s not exactly the 2004 team in that regard.

Housekeeping

First off, if you’ve not been to VEB today, check out the All-Time Cardinal Team simulation tournament.  I’m going to be aiding Larry and Zubin there with keeping track of picks and brackets and perhaps writing a couple of game stories.

On a side note, there are probably going to be some changes around here in the near future as well.  More on that when it comes to fruition.

The United Cardinal Bloggers, those great guys with hits like the Cardinal Blogger Awards and the Year in Review, have been summoned again.  We’re discussing a potential January project.  If you’ve not gotten the e-mail, let me know and I’ll resend.

The Rolen trade is official.  With the money situation going from the Cardinals paying to the Blue Jays paying, it made the deal somewhat more palatable.  I’m never going to like it, but we accept what we can’t change and move on.   For a final word, here’s Bernie’s take on the issue.

That’s about it in Cardinal Nation for today.  I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Lineup Possibilities

Still cooling off from the Rolen trade, trying to look at it more rationally and wishing that Hee Sop Choi and Alex Cintron could have stayed out of Scott’s way. If that shoulder of his had never been damaged, I doubt we are having this conversation. Such is life, of course.

With Rolen gone and Glaus in, what will the lineup look like for next season?

Leadoff is still an issue. Right now, you probably figure the winner of the shortstop battle will get the job, even if none of them are really suited for it. Let’s say Brendan Ryan gets the majority of the starts. Could the lineup look like this to start the season?

Ryan
Ankiel
Pujols
Glaus
Duncan
Molina
Barton
Kennedy
Pitcher

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You Can’t Go Home Again

“Who says you can’t go home?”–Jon Bon Jovi

“You can’t go home again.”–Thomas Wolfe

The Rolen trade, while not yet official as far as I can tell, does seem like it’s going to happen.  The guys over at VEB have broken it down statistically and financially and pronounced it, if not good, at least acceptable.  Looking past the batting average and the past usage of performance-enhancing drugs, it’s possible that Glaus will be a good addition to the club.  Hopefully, that will be the case.  But I still hate the deal.

I hate the fact that it came to this.  That LaRussa and Rolen had to butt heads so much that it made playing on artificial turf in a new league in a totally different country more acceptable than playing in a new ballpark in front of some great fans.   There’s a failure here.  Whether it’s Rolen’s for not being more accepting of Tony’s management style or of TLR not finding some way to make nice with his third baseman, I’m not sure.  I will say again, though, that Rolen never complained to the press, never made it an issue.  You can’t say the same about LaRussa.

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