Signs of Concern

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately defending ownership.  However, the talk and actions of our new GM are starting to concern even me.

First, we have the Izturis signing.  While not worth the doom and gloom, sky is falling mentality some people had for it, it still was a bit of a headscratcher and not nearly the kind of moves most fans have been waiting for.

Then, we have the idea of shipping Scott Rolen off to the Brewers.  In case you aren’t paying attention, the Brewers are 1) a team in the same division as the Cardinals and 2) the team most likely to win the NL Central next year, in my opinion.  While I’m not one that thinks Rolen should be traded now, trading him within the division would just be nuts.

Coupled with that is the pursuit of Chris Capuano.  Larry at VEB broke down Capuano pretty well yesterday, and there are points to like, points to worry about.  This probably isn’t a terrible move, but it depends on what it costs.  I wouldn’t give Rolen for him, I don’t think.

Next, the ESPN winter meetings blog indicates the Cardinals have talked to the Indians about pitcher Cliff Lee.  Lee’s an Arkansas boy and in that regard, I’d like to see him come over.  Moving to the NL probably would help as well.  The price is supposedly Anthony Reyes and/or Brian Anderson.  It best not be and–that’s a ton to give up for a guy that has been down for a year or two.  Reyes, also according to that blog, is getting some attention from suitors.  I believe they’ll deal him–and he’ll probably do well away from the organization–and Lee would probably be acceptable.  But not if they overpay for him.

That blog also indicates Ankiel, Duncan and Edmonds are all available.  I can’t believe the organization would move Ankiel now, after all they’ve done for him, but it is a new GM, so maybe so.  At least you have to hear the offers.

There was talk about bringing Pedro Feliz in if Rolen is traded.  Yuck.  They aren’t even offering arbitration to Eckstein.  Nuts.

All in all, the best news around is that the Cardinals were in, at least on the periphery, on Eric Bedard.  If Mozeliak could pull that off, I’d take it all back.

Not So Surprising

A few days ago, I wrote this:

“Problem is, the ALCS isn’t over yet. If the Sox could pick a pitcher to keep their season alive, it’d be Josh Beckett. He’s looked great this postseason, and he’s already beaten Sabathia once. Put that with the fact that a lot of this team remembers climbing out of the 3-0 hole in 2004 and it’s not like they are going to roll over and play dead.”

And that’s just what happened.  When the Indians weren’t able to solve Beckett in Game 5, I knew Cleveland was in trouble.  Carmona had shown he had trouble pitching in Fenway, and that flared up again in Game 6.  Then you get to a Game 7, when anything can happen.

This is very reminicent of the 1996 NLCS, Cardinals vs. Braves.  It was the first year of LaRussa in St. Louis and the Cardinals had made it to the postseason.  They swept the Padres out of the way and got up 3-1 to the Braves.  However, the Braves had the better pitching setup for the last three games, and their bats just pounded the Cardinals.  They outscored St. Louis 32-1 in the last three games and went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

While Cleveland didn’t lose quite that badly (they were only outscored 30-5), it was pretty darn close.  And Cleveland has to wait another year for a chance at a title.

Rockies and Red Sox.  You’ll hear a lot of Todd Helton talk, since the two teams almost made a deal involving him in spring training.  Hope he has a huge series and Colorado takes the title.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that it’s getting close to midnight on Cinderella’s dance.

Passing the Time

Just not a lot going on right now, so some general thoughts:

  • The Cardinals say they have extended the time frame on the GM search. Also, LaRussa is getting daily reports on what’s going on, who they are talking to, etc., so it’s pretty obvious that Tony will be back for another year. The only way that extending the search turns out to be a positive thing is if the Cardinals bring in someone like a Chris Antonelli who is involved in the playoffs. If they take this valuable time and then just let Mozeliak have the job, they are really putting themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to things like contacting free agents, setting priorities, etc. Because, reasonably, Mozeliak can’t be planning all that far in advance since he doesn’t know if it’s his job or not.

    That said, what is the new GM going to think about having a manager already in place, and not only a manager, but a Hall-of-Famer who has the undivided attention of management? If they want to get their own guy in there, even if it’s next year, do they have the freedom to let Tony go? When push comes to shove, who is DeWitt going to listen to? To get top talent in that job, DeWitt is going to have to assure them that they outrank the field manager. That could be hard for him to do.

  • Josh Beckett is proving to be the next John Smoltz. It’s amazing how well he pitches in big games. I wanted Cleveland to win last night, but I knew when they got down 2-1, it was probably over. The only thing that gave Cleveland some hope was his response after the Lofton incident. He seemed to be overly pumped after that, having a little trouble with location and the Indians got two on with two out, but couldn’t convert. Then the Red Sox started tacking on and that was that.

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Thoughts on Game 4, AL Style

First off, I saw this quote at Deadspin today and I thought it was a classic:

The Red Sox have turned into the Yankees, and suddenly, their quirks and eccentricities aren’t charming anymore. When Manny poses after hitting a home run that brings his team within four runs, it’s not funny or cute: He’s just being a [jerk]. And Manny’s one of the likable ones! The Red Sox have the only player in the major leagues who Cardinals fans boo.

Emphasis mine on the end, but I thought that was great. And it’s close to true–JD will never get a warm reception in St. Louis, even if I think it’s overrated and he was the whipping boy while he was there. (Though he did bring some of it on himself.)

Anyway, Cleveland moves one step closer to the inevitable “Cleveland Rock(ie)s” headlines for the World Series. A matchup between a team that’s never one and a team that’s not won in a really, really long time. It may not be a high-rated Series, but I think it’d be a good one. (Plus, a little deja vu for the Indians, since they were in the Series in 1997 and lost to an expansion team from 1993. I’m sure they’d want a different outcome this time.)

Problem is, the ALCS isn’t over yet. If the Sox could pick a pitcher to keep their season alive, it’d be Josh Beckett. He’s looked great this postseason, and he’s already beaten Sabathia once. Put that with the fact that a lot of this team remembers climbing out of the 3-0 hole in 2004 and it’s not like they are going to roll over and play dead.

I do think, though, Sabathia should be better this time around. Fewer nerves, pitching at home, etc. And Cleveland has shown that if you can get around Ortiz and Ramirez, you can breathe a lot easier with the rest of the Sox lineup.

And isn’t it ironic that baseball added in more off days to get the World Series to start on a Wednesday–and we’ve had so many short series that there have been many days without any games at all?

Rocking Around the Clock

The Rockies are going to the World Series.  Who’d have thunk it?

21 out of 22.  Two different double-digit winning streaks.  The first team ever two sweep the LDS and LCS.  A team that should vote Trevor Hoffman a playoff share, because the last two of his seven blown saves kept them alive and going.

It was typical Rockies last night as well.  Clint Hurdle seems to be in the zone as well as his players, because he sent up a pinch hitter in the fourth inning.  Sure enough, Seth Smith hits a weak little popup.  However, because this is the Magical Rockie Tour, that ball carries just out of range of everyone chasing it but stays fair, letting the go-ahead run score.  An error, a hit, and a big home run by Matt Holliday and it was all over but the shouting.

The Rockies will have a sizable following in the Series.  It seems to me that a lot of casual fans root for the underdog, the good story.  If Boston is their opponent, most anyone that’s not a part of Red Sox Nation will be donning purple.  It’d be different, perhaps, if 2004 hadn’t happened or that the Sox weren’t becoming viewed in some quarters as the successor to the “Evil Empire” tag the Yankees have.  (Really, can a team be an empire if they’ve only gone to the Series twice in seven years?  And had post-season futility the rest of the time?)  If Cleveland wins, the storyline of them trying to win their first series in 58 years (the second-longest streak active, behind the Cubbies’ now 99) will win them some fans as well.

The Rockies have eight days off, which may stunt their momentum somewhat.  Then again, this is a man that has gotten few predictions right in this postseason, so don’t take my word for it.

Good to see the Indians take a 2-1 lead.  You know Fox is happy about it, meaning that there is a good likelihood of a long series.  (How ticked is TBS?  Their first year doing playoff baseball and they get one game over the minimum.  That’ll bring in the revenue.)  The Indians really needed that win.  You know you are going to run into Beckett again, and that’s likely a loss (though a Sabathia/Beckett rematch in Cleveland might go the Indians way).  I wonder if the Indians breathe huge signs of relief if they can get past the two-headed monster of Ortiz and Ramirez.  The rest of the Sox lineup can hurt you, but don’t have that impending doom about them that those guys have.

Game 4 tonight probably turns on how Wakefield’s knuckler is going.  If it’s on, the Sox have a good chance.  If not, it could be a high scoring game.

General Discussion

Thank you, Cleveland!  I’m not a huge Yankee hater–in fact, I kinda like them due to their rich history, etc.–but getting them out of the news and sparing us another overhyped Yankees/Red Sox ALCS is worthy of thanks.  (Plus, as noted, it makes the wife happy.)   I think I started turning somewhat against the Red Sox after 2004.  The sweep was bad enough, but the books, articles, etc. just seemed to keep coming and coming and I think it soured me on all that East Coast stuff.

The Yankee melodrama is, of course, not out of the papers yet though.  Joe Torre is likely gone, and so there are rumors that Tony LaRussa might like to take over that team.   Personally, I can’t see that happening and I think it’d be a terrible fit.  For once, TLR has barely tolerated the St. Louis media.  That’s nothing compared to 150 newspapers and 750 television outlets focusing on your every move.  I think he’d snap when all the press showed up to the first Sox/Yankees spring training game.

Also, the Yanks are starting to go younger.  Roger Clemens has, hopefully and finally, thrown his last pitch.  (Another thing to be thankful for–this should mean no more offseason posturing about “will he or won’t he come back” followed by a ridiculously large contract thrown at him.)  Mariano Rivera might even go somewhere else.  Jorge Posada is a free agent.  Alex Rodriguez may leave.  A lot of the old guard may not be there when 2008 comes along.

However, they’ve got young pitchers (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy) and a few young position players, and according to GM Brian Cashman, he’d love to home-grow the whole team.  So it sounds like New York is going to go through a similar process as the Cardinals–trying to get younger and sticking with the kids.

TLR, while he can deal with kids better than some of his detractors indicate, does seem to prefer the seasoned veteran who he knows what he can expect from and how to get the most out of.  I can’t see LaRussa being ecstatic with the Yankees direction if he’s not liking what the Cardinals are doing.

Owner DeWitt is starting to make public noises about LaRussa making up his mind.  I’d expect we’ll know one way or another this week, but if he really does want to manage in 2008, he’ll probably stay in St. Louis.

I see the GM search is focusing on sabermetric types that are in their mid-30s to early 40s, instead of going the retread route.  I like that approach and I think it could be advantageous if the Cardinals are able to get the next rising star.

The Cardinal rumor mill is pretty quiet right now.  I don’t expect it will stay that way very long.

Stress Free October

Thank you, Arizona!

It was great to start the stress-free playoffs this weekend. With Arizona sweeping the Cubs out of the way (look at what all that off-season spending did for them–three more wins than the ’06 Cardinals and a first round exit. Spending money isn’t the panacea some Cardinal fans think it is.), I could enjoy the finale of the Colorado/Philadelphia series without wondering which team could beat the Cubs. That was a thrilling game, and the Rockies are on a serious roll. That roll has to come to an end sometime, but hopefully not terribly soon, as it is VEB’s adopted team for the post-season.

It was nice to watch the AL yesterday as well. I didn’t see much of the Sox sweep, but their win really had my house rooting for the Indians last night. Of course, the wife would have been anyway, but we were both intrigued by the possibility of four sweeps in the first round, which would have been a record. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass, but I did some digging on the number of playoff games.

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