Around Cardinal Nation

It’s been a pretty busy week for me, so I’ve not been able to examine all the Cardinal related news and blogs like I would have liked.  But in the limited time I’ve been online, there’ve been a few things that have jumped out at me. 

The biggest one is this rumor with the Pirates involving Brad Thompson, among others on our side and players such as Jack Wilson, Matt Morris and Jason Bay on the other side.  Bay is the only one in that group worth getting.  Sure, maybe you take Morris on if the Pirates take a lot of salary and if it helps you get Bay, but other than that, there’s not much value. 

Tom over at CardinalsGM really broke this deal down.  I agree with him, if it’s Duncan, Thompson and Reyes going for Bay, Morris and Wilson, you can’t do that deal.  If you could get Bay for Reyes and Thompson, you’d probably have to do some serious thinking about it, even though outfield is where the Cardinals are overstocked at the moment. 

Wilson makes no sense with the glut of mediocre middle infielders we already have.  Why bring on another one, especially at that price? 

Also, over at VEB, they’ve started the community projections.  We did this at CCH last year and you may remember seeing the results.  We’ll start them up at the Clubhouse soon, but if you’ve not had a chance to put in your thoughts on what Matt Clement will wind up with (and I need to do that), head on over there and post them. 

Finally, there was no movement on Mark McGwire getting into the Hall of Fame this year.  He received exactly the same number of votes as he did last year, putting him around 23%.  Something is going to have to give, though.  Either players like Bonds and Clemens aren’t going to get in when they are eligible or people are going to have to give a second look to McGwire.  Heck, he wasn’t even named in the Mitchell Report as a steroid user, so why does he not get a little more benefit of the doubt?  I wish he’d come out and talk about it, but if he’s not going to, should that be held against him? 

Hopefully we aren’t still having this discussion 10 years from now, but I wouldn’t put it past the baseball writers.

Cardinals Sign Clement

According to sources, the Cardinals have signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year deal with a club option for 2009.

The best thing about it, in my mind, is the club option.  If Clement is healthy and effective, he’ll help out ’08 but would really be a boon in 2009, when Carpenter is healthy and the team has hopefully signed another top pitcher to go into the rotation with him and Wainwright.  A 2009 staff of Carp-FA-Wainwright-Clement-? would probably be enough to put the Cards back into contention fairly quickly.

This also may mean that the Cardinals are close to dealing Anthony Reyes.  Right now, the rotation is Wainwright, Mulder (if ready for ST), Pineiro, Clement and Looper.  That leaves Reyes and others such as Todd Wellemeyer and Brad Thompson out of the picture, at least for now.  Of course, we don’t know how Mulder is going to start the season or if he’ll be ready, but I’d think a deal like this would give Mozeliak more breathing room to send Reyes somewhere for a hitter or perhaps package him with Duncan for a bigger name.

It’ll be interesting to see how this deal compares to the Mark Prior deal.

What Others Are Thankful For

Hey, I’ve got some time tonight. Let’s see what everyone else is giving thanks for this year!

John Mozeliak: That Chris Antonetti didn’t want to leave Cleveland.

Mark Mulder:  That he’s left-handed.

Billy Beane:  That Mark Mulder’s left-handed.

Scott Rolen:  That Larry Bowa isn’t TLR’s bench coach.

Albert Pujols:  That this year’s ninth-place finish in the MVP award gives him more motivation.

Brad Thompson:  That there are no puppies around to kick.

Jason LaRue:  That he can now play on the good side of Missouri.

Tony LaRussa:  That they make tofu turkeys.

Walt Jocketty:  That he no longer has to put up with Jeff Luhnow.

The St. Louis Cardinals:  That they play in the NL Central.

Hope you all have a great day!

So Close

Going into the game, you know that the Cubs are getting beat and the Brewers are getting pounded. First place is there for the taking, if you can just win. To not get it done is frustrating, but at least no ground is lost.

And you have to give the Cards credit. A lot of times in that situation, they’ve come out and just laid a total egg, getting routed. Last night, they took a lead on Brandon Webb, which is hard enough to do, before Wainwright just wasn’t able to hold it. If Miles doesn’t stumble trying to get the double play, maybe it’s different, but Chris Young was running and it was a high chopper, so I’m not sure they’d have been able to get it anyway.

The biggest question in the game, in my mind, was LaRussa sending up Branyan in the eighth with runners on the corners and one out. Branyan is a Three True Outcomes type of guy (walk, strikeout, home run–outcomes that have nothing to do with the fielders), which can be good in certain situations. If the Cards had been down by two or more, he’s a good fit there. You need the long ball possibility and one run might not be enough. In this situation, though, his propensity to strike out hurts you much more than his potential power. All you need is a sac fly to the outfield, though a hit would be nice as well.

Seems to me that you send up either Ludwick, if you want to retain the power possibility, or Brendan Ryan in that slot. Ryan would have to come into the game anyway to play third, plus he’s more likely to put the ball in play and should have enough speed to stay out of the double play. I think that’s where I’d have gone, but I’m sure TLR had his reasons. The man has managed a game before, as you know.

More on l’affaire Ankiel and today’s game after the jump.

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Ankiel! (Redux)

OK, let’s hit the good stuff first. I still want to know where the phone booth is in the Cardinals clubhouse, because apparently Rick continues to duck in there to put on the Superman outfit. Two home runs yesterday, one of which gave the Cardinals the lead after Maroth (more on him later) had let Pittsburgh tie it up? 7 RBI? From a guy basically learning at the highest level how to hit? It’s absolutely amazing and really has perked up the team, I believe.

In today’s day and age, however, no great story seems to go unchallenged. It was disappointing to log on this morning and see the ESPN headline about Rick and HGH. When I read the story, though, and got past the sensationalism and the impression that he had shot up right before hitting yesterday, I saw that, even if he took them (which does seem probable), it looks like he stopped in ’04, before the MLB ban on the substance.

Does it meant that it was OK to take the stuff? No. Though he had a prescription for it, apparently, some other places are noting that it is and was illegal unless you had a specific need, none of which would seem to fit Rick’s case. But does that taint what he is doing now? Again, I say no. If he’s not taken any for three years, it’s not likely it’s doing much for him now. So in that case, it’s really not much of a story. (Though today’s story at VEB does seem to indicate it was possible Rick would have gotten it for rehab and that it would be legal with a valid prescription. If that’s true, it puts a whole new light on things.)

Some people were comparing the reaction to the Rick story at CCH to Barry Bonds and saying the reactions should be consistent. I’m not sure about that. For one thing, the situations are very different. Bonds was already at the top of his game and actually starting the decline phase when he allegedly started taking steroids. We don’t know if and when he stopped taking them, though he has never failed a drug test. The major circumstantial evidence for his using was that Bonds was improving at an age when normal players are declining.

Ankiel is improving at an age when players are supposed to be improving. He’s 27–this should be the beginning of his prime. According to this story, he stopped taking things before he really became a prospect, so most everything he’s done has been natural, as it were. It’s natural that fans come to the defense of their players more quickly than they would for others–see Mark McGwire, who still has defenders (and I probably would be considered one) in St. Louis–but the situations are a bit different and do call for different responses. (EDIT: Actually, he’s 28 (7/19/79). Point still holds, though.)

As for the claim that the media should “leave him alone,” well, that’s just nuts. This is a story, it’s not them rehashing the 2000 playoffs. You can’t expect the papers and press not to follow up on this. It’s not a personal vendetta, it’s just news. Granted, there are going to be columnists that probably go overboard on it, but that goes with the territory.

(EDIT2: Great story on this at Deadspin.) 

OK, enough of that. After the jump (a little blogger lingo there), more on yesterday and this weekend.

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Revisiting the Past?

1989: The Cardinals are chasing down the Cubs, but lose a key series in Wrigley Field in September.  The Cubs wind up winning the division before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

2003: The Cardinals are leading the Cubs by a slim margin, but lose 4 of 5 in a key series in Wrigley Field in September.  The Cubs wind up winning the division before losing in the second round of the playoffs.

2007: The Cardinals are chasing down the Cubs, but lose a key series in Wrigley Field in late August.  What will happen this time?

Due to tonight’s rainout, it’s a guarantee the Cards will lose this series, but can still have a fairly successful road trip if–and really, only if–they win tomorrow’s game (weather permitting, of course).  A win tomorrow puts the Cards three back of the division-leading Cubs, with 5 more games pending against them.  Milwaukee sits one back now, but are fading fast as losing two of three to Cincy proved.  I hesitate to say they are done, since Sheets is on his way back, but they are pretty close to it.

It looks like, per Bernie, the make up game will be September 10.  That means that next Monday will be the last time the Cardinals don’t play a game, as all of their off days in September are filled with make up games.  Add in the fact that there is a double-header in there as well against the Cubs in Busch and that could make for some tired folks.  At least with the roster expansion, there will be a lot of bodies around to help take a load off.

I think, on the whole, it’s a good thing it rained out tonight.  I thought the Cards had hit Zambrano well in the past, but per ESPN’s coverage, he was 6-0 with a 1.82 ERA against the Birds.  While Wells is pitching well, I don’t know that he could have matched up with that.  I was hoping for a double-header tomorrow, because the Cards could throw Thompson and use some innings while I wasn’t sure what the Cubs would do, but it may be best to wait until reinforcements arrive.

As for the past two games, it’s hard to swallow that, basically, with two different results on two different pitches, the Cards would be tied for first.  Decent pitching–save Reyes’s one bad inning–but the offense has been stymied by lefties.  One of these days they’ll bust out against them.  Hopefully it’ll be against Lilly tomorrow.  He got beat up last time against Cincinnati, but on the whole, he’s been very solid this year.  We’ll see what happens!