Long-Term Thinking

So the big news out of the last day of the Winter Warm-up was the Cardinals signing Yadier Molina to a four-year deal.  The money seems fairly reasonable and I don’t think you’ll find too many people that say Molina isn’t worth keeping around.  There is some debate about Bryan Anderson and where he fits into the organization.  If he keeps developing, either he or Molina will be a great trading chip in the next couple of years.  It could be that Anderson gets a chance to be an understudy at the major league level (like Jared Saltalamaccia did last year) before getting moved.  The defense and leadership Molina brings to the table is almost worth the money, but the contract really becomes good if the advances in hitting he had last year stick and he keeps improving with the bat.

Other things from the Warm-up wrapup:

  • Albert Pujols isn’t taking that false link to the Mitchell Report lightly.  He banned a reporting crew from the station that aired it from his press conference yesterday.  Personally, I kinda like this quote:

    “This is a hobby, man.  I fear God too much to do stupid things in this game.  Cheating on this game, that’s not right.”

    It’s often been said that we build people up just to tear them down.  Hopefully Pujols continues to walk the straight and narrow and make it very difficult for people to do that.

  • During that press conference, though, Pujols made it known how much pain he was in with his elbow last year.  Personally, that sounds to me like we’ll see him get some surgery mid-season if it flares up and the team is out of contention.  You’d hate to see him down, but if this year pans out the way some expect, it would be the best time for him to get it taken care of.
  • Mark Mulder is not too comfortable with setting a return date.  Can you blame him?  Especially with this organization, you take return dates with a silo of salt.  If he’s back at the beginning of May, it’ll be a bit of a surprise.
  • Adam Kennedy is already digging himself a hole.  Not a great idea given the weak season he put together last year and the plethora of middle infielders this team has.
  • And, if you had LaRussa in the pool of who would crack in public first after the trade, him or Rolen, congrats.  You’ll see in the Reyes link that TLR has already taken a shot in the press at Scott.

The First Annual Cardinal Blogger Awards

The votes have been cast. Now let’s see who won!

First off, a comment from Kujo at Rockin’ the Red for a new title for the group:

How about Cardinals Bloggers United, in the likeness of the soccer hooligan firms in England?

That’s not bad. Those involved, what do you think? Or perhaps United Cardinal Bloggers would be more your style? If we are going to keep doing projects, we gotta find a name. And I do hope we keep doing projects.

OK, to the awards. I’ll post some quotes from those bloggers that elaborated on their selections.

Read the rest of this entry »

My Ballot for the Cardinal Blogger Awards

This is the first attempt at a Cardinal blogger collaborative project. I hope that the bloggers involved enjoy it enough to try doing more things together in the near future.

Those scheduled to post their selections today include Readin’ Redbird, Redbirds Fun, CardinalsGM, Rockin’ the Red, Redbird Ramblings, and CardinalsNationGlobe. Check all of them out (I’ll direct link to their post when they get them up) and then come back here next week for a consolidated ballot. (Future Redbirds has theirs up now as well.)

So, without much further ado, let’s see my selections for the CBA. My selections are noted in bold.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Forgotten Man

There’s been a lot of talk about the Cardinals off-season needs, wants, surpluses, etc.  But many of the discussions seem to center around the pitching staff, the outfield, etc.  Not a whole lot has been said about the Cardinal second baseman, Adam Kennedy.

When Kennedy was signed last offseason, it was roundly considered a pretty good move.  It was a three-year, $10 million contract, which is basically a bargain in a market where it seems everyone, including the batboys, is making $8-$9 million a year.  Kennedy was considered a solid bat and a plus defender, even if he was starting to hit the end of his prime.

However, the first year of that contract was pretty much an unmitigated disaster.  Kennedy hit .219, which was about 50 points lower than his previous career low for a full season, hit only three home runs (two were hit in back to back days) and made seven errors (though his .981 fielding percentage was in line with his past performance).  Finally, he had to have surgery on his knee in August, which ended his season.

There’s been a bit of groundswell for cutting losses and shipping him off for whatever he’ll bring back.  That sentiment, the “what have you done for me lately” mentality, is better suited for Yankee fans.  Besides the fact that Kennedy is no drain on the payroll (he’ll make $3.5 million this year per Cot’s Contracts), it’s fairly obvious that Kennedy is primed for a bounce-back season.

He’s not going to get back to double-digit home runs, as he did in 2003 and 2004, but 6-7 would be reasonable.  More helpful would be if he could get back to his career average OBP of .329, which would be a 45 point jump from last year.  The .340 range for OBP would not be out of the question either.

There has been a need for speed on the Cardinal staff.  Kennedy regularly steals 15-20 bases, which would have put him first on the 2007 squad.  The 6 he actually stole, on a bad leg and not regularly on base, was fourth on the team as it was.

While we can’t expect miracles from him, there are a lot of indications that Kennedy can rebound and be very productive for the Cardinals next year.  Coupled with improvements from Rolen and Pujols, that should help the Cardinals score many more runs than they did in ’07.

Did I Miss Anything?

You know, I start a Cardinal blog, and it’s been occasionally tough to find something interesting to write on. I want to keep this site fresh, but sometimes it’s tough to know what to put down on cyber-paper, if you will.

Then I go on vacation, and all the news spills out:

  • LaRussa returns to the 1998 experiment and starts hitting the pitcher in the 8th slot.
  • The Nationals sweep the Cardinals.
  • The Cards tie a MLB record with ten consecutive hits in a game.
  • Scott Spiezio goes on the restricted list so as to enter drug and alcohol rehab.
  • The prodigal outfielder Rick Ankiel finally makes his second-life major league debut, smacking a homer to boot.
  • Ankiel then has a two-home-run day.
  • LaRussa and Juan Encarnacion battle it out in the press.
  • The pitching staff actually comes around, with quality start after quality start.
  • Adam Kennedy is sidelined with knee problems, perhaps for the rest of the season.
  • The Cards win 4 of 6 against good teams from San Diego and Los Angeles.

And, in the midst of all of this, even after the slide in Pittsburgh and Washington, the Cards sit 5.5 games out of the NL Central and about 4 games behind the Cubs. After being written off by a lot of people, including me, the Cardinals are still in the thick of things come mid-August.

Let’s hit a few of the points above before moving on to a look-forward of this week: Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Ahead

At least the last couple of nights have been pretty good for the Cardinals. That power show in Philadelphia Sunday night was great to see! Even Adam Kennedy got into the act, then homered again last night down in Florida. If he can actually get his bat going, that’d almost be like a trade. However, a couple of good games after the All-Star Break does not a revitalization make, so we’ll have to keep an eye on him.

VEB yesterday and today has been taking a look at next year, as lboros has joined the “it’s not happening this year” crowd. Doesn’t mean we aren’t rooting for the team or hoping for the improbable, but it’s being rational and reasonable–a couple of things that don’t always fit into fandom.

Anyway, I didn’t realize just how tied up next year is. You look at the money already allocated to next year and the players that’ll be under contract, and it’s going to be difficult for the ’08 version of the Birds to have a much different look than the ’07 version. That doesn’t mean that ’08 will be as disappointing, of course. You should have Carpenter back all year and healthy (depending on what this latest setback is), as well as Mulder. If they can pitch at close to their top level, that’s a huge boost right there. Wainwright is going to continue to improve, most likely, and the experience of this year will help. The pitching staff, in general, should be better than it has been in 2007.

The offense is going to be interesting. I think we can determine that Chris Duncan really isn’t a fluke. He should be a solid producer for a few years to come. Albert had a terrible start to the year–you wouldn’t expect that to happen again. The real turning point is going to come from Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. Both are getting up there in baseball years. Both have had injury problems in the past couple of years. Will they be able to get closer to their career norms in 2008? Or are they inexorably on the downhill slide? Rolen only has 4 home runs so far this year–a far cry from his normal 25 or so. Can he get back to a 15-20 HR pace next year? If so, that boost to the offense will help a lot.

It doesn’t look like there is going to be much change in the personnel, so we can only hope that there will be changes in the performance. There aren’t a lot of trading chips in the system. There’s some talent in the lower levels of the minors (AA and below), but they probably won’t be much help until 2009. It’s not likely teams will give up much to take on the expensive veterans that we have (Jason Isringhausen being the exception, and there’s a legitimate debate on whether the Cards should move him or not) , so it’s not going to be easy to get younger.

A lot of this is tied into whether Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty are back next year. The team makeup is going to be a lot different if Tony is in charge (a more veteran team) or someone who has a youth focus is in charge. It may be that a new GM and manager give away some vets to try to freshen up the place. I personally think both of them will likely be back next year. TLR might retire–this year has taken a lot out of him–but I think he’d want to take one more shot at making the team a contender. If there aren’t any issues with the players–and while there have been rumors of some, it does seem possible those rumors are overblown–I think he returns.

It’s been a long time (1999) since a team wearing the Cardinal colors has been effectively out of it this early in the season. And, I know, the Cards still have 20 games with Chicago and Milwaukee and can make hay with some solid wins. But this team can’t seem to put together a winning streak of more than 3 games. I can’t see them winning consistently enough against those teams to really get back into the race.