July 31st came and went with the Cardinals adding one "impact" bat and one power arm for the bullpen. However, that impact bat was not Bobby Abreu, Carlos Lee, Pat Burrell or Alfonso Soriano. Instead it was the solid hitting second baseman Ronnie Belliard. At 31 and with the Cardinals on the hook for 1.4 million dollars for Belliard, he represents only a slight upgrade over the player he was traded for, Hector Luna. Luna was younger and cheaper and not a pending free agent as Belliard is. However, the Cardinals seemed reluctant to play Luna consistently at second where Aaron Miles was instead doing most of the starting. The light hitting Miles, he actually contributed in last night’s game with a homerun after entering the game in a double switch, becomes the backup second baseman and presumably shortstop with Luna gone.
The Cards were unable to add a frontline starter though they are rumored to have gone after Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis. They were also unable to acquire a veterean left handed reliever such as Rheal Cormier who was traded to the Reds. The second place Reds are a stark contrast to the Cardinals as they made lot of moves, mostly to improve their pitching. The Cardinals did add the enigmatic Jorge Sosa who was 13-3 last season with the Braves but pitched well under .500 this year in both the rotation and pen. After apparently falling into Bobby Cox’s dog house, Sosa was designated for assignment and then promptly traded to the Cardinals for a minor leaguer.
If Mark Mulder cannot return and pitch at his pre-2006 form and the bullpen in need of "plus arms," Sosa may yet prove to be an important addition. The Jeff Weaver trade continues to look like it will not pan out and Sosa could find himself in the rotation if LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan decide they have finally seen enough of Weaver.
While the trade deadline lapsed and the Cards are mired in yet another protracted losing streak, the waiver deadline is still weeks away and the Cards may look to add a true impact bat, such as Shawn Green or Luis Gonzalez. Or they may just get Mulder back from DL pitching well and hope that his return can bolster the rotation and the team enough to stave off the Reds and actually advance come October.
The Cardinals are now past the halfway point of their season and have a record of 52-41. They have lost two in a row after winning a season high seven straight. The Cardinals had also lost eight in a row in June. The starting rotation has shown rays of promise at some points but the staff’s leading winner, Jason Marquis with eleven, has an era close to 6. Sidney Ponson has been released and has gotten another chance, this time with the starting pitching-thin New York Yankees.
The Cards added Jeff Weaver, although his numbers this year are worse than Ponson’s, and that made Ponson expendable. As a Cardinals fan it was pretty disappointing to see LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan’s handling of Ponson. Whether he wouldn’t buy into the pitcher’s running program or not, Ponson was not the worst pitcher on the staff when he was released. Time will tell how he adjusts to facing the big bats in the AL east. Weaver started his Cardinals career and got thumped allowing 6 runs including and 2 home runs including a grand slam in 4 innings of work. In his Yankees debut Ponson allowed a first inning 3-run home run but went 6+ innings and kept his team in the ballgame yesterday. It will be interesting to see how Weaver and Ponson’s respective second-halves unfold.
It has long been rumored that the Cardinals need another impact bat via trade. Names that continue to surface in trade rumors are David Dellucci, Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Lee and previously utility man Craig Wilson of the Pirates was often mentioned. The Cards have supposedly made young pitchers Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright untouchable and with the way the number of free agents in the Cardinals current rotation (3) plus the injured Mark Mulder, also a pending free agent, the Cards are probably wise to hold on to Reyes and Wainwright. An "impact" bat would be nice but the Cards have given up back to back double digit runs to the Braves in their current series and the pitching still needs to be stabilized. Perhaps the historically effective Mark Mulder can help when he comes off the DL sometime in August. The Cards got consistency from their pitching during their seven game winning streak but my guess is they still need some help with the rotation and bullpen and perhaps trading one of their ineffective free agents to be will be considered.
On a better note, Jim Edmonds continues to hit the ball better in July after his long funk to start the season. With a ******** 3 million dollar buyout the Cards would be wise to extend Edmonds’ contract. He is still a gold glove caliber center fielder and it would be quite disappointing to see him not retire a Cardinal.
Stay tuned for a blog devoted to the trade deadline which is fast approaching!
The Cards are 4-3 after 7 games of baseball. They swept the Phillies on the road then traveled to Chicago where they were promptly swept there then returned home for the inaugural game at new Busch Stadium where Mark Mulder defeated the first place Brewers 6-4. The lefty hit a two-run homer, allowed two runs over 8 innings and started the ninth inning but was pulled with a man on and no outs. Unfortunately, LaRussa went to the revamped Cardinal bullpen which has been the achilles heel thorugh the first week and nearly blew the game as Izzy held on for the 6-4 win. This was after the previous night the closer could not get an out in the 8th in Chicago and allowed the go-ahead grandslam to Michael Barret. Veteran RHP Jeff Nelson was released with a week to go in Spring Training while former closer Braden Looper had a terrible spring leaving LaRussa and Duncan with no confidence in him and using younger less experienced pitchers in pressure situations which directly led to at least one loss in Chicago. Another problem seems to be LaRussa’s somewhat quick hook with his starting pitchers at least that was the case until he allowed Mulder to start the 9th yesterday. Ponson was pulled after just 5 on Sunday and the bullpen couldn’t hold on to his 4-3 lead.
About the hitters:
Juan Encarnacion has been tremendious disappointment through the first week hitting well under .200 with no RBIs, playing a mediocre outfield and running the bases poorly when he does get on. Batting second in the order doesn’t seem to suit him well. Pujols has 4 homers including the first Cardinal one at new Busch while Rolen’s bat has been one of the big positives of the first week as he has a couple of long balls , is batting .370 with 2 SB and 9 RBIs. He hit a grandslam against his former team in the season opener in Philly. Edmonds bat is off to a slow start but his fielding is still there and he got a a key RBI to get things going last monday. There is a revolving door in LF, with So Taguchi and Skip Shumacher getting most of the time with John Rodriguez banged up and Larry Bigbie on the DL. Junior Spivey surprisingly didn’t make the club but accepted an assignment to the minors; the Cards will probably need his bat as the year progresses.
About the New Ballpark:
I had the privilege of attending the new ballpark on opening day monday and it was great. Not a lot of dramatics in the pregame festivities but the stadium looks nice though not complete. The scoreboard is an improvement though the out of town scoreboard of other games distracting and unnecessary at least until mid September. The seats seem bigger and it with Mark Mulder hitting his first career homerun as some evidence it may prove to be a hitter’s park if I had to lean one way or the other.
Thanks for reading.
Thoughts on Bonds, Race and Baseball
I think Bonds was hated long before the steroiddebate began. And I think he genuinely believes it had/has something to
do with his race. With the history of racism in this game I think black
american players are held to a slightly higher standard–certainly the
superstars are, and Bonds hasn’t been a perfect gentleman like Hank
Aaron or Jackie Robinson or Ernie Banks, or even his own father who
made it possible for Bonds to play the game. Barry carries a sense of
arrogance which I think all fans dislike especially those who aren’t
Giants fans. Do I think I Bonds is hated because he his black? No.
Would the situation be exactly the same if he wasn’t black? No. It’s
just not as cut and dry as you hate him because of his race or you
don’t. Race plays a role in many parts of society, including
professional baseball. The thing that tells me that race does not
define who we like and dislike in baseball was the huge ovation Willie
McGee received yesterday when he caught the first pitch (along with Bob
Gibson). The Cardinals have refused to retire his number, he isn’t
headed to the hall of fame, but he’s a humble, classy, iconic St. Louis
Cardinal, and he got the loudest applause of anyone yesterday, and it
was really a beautiful thing.
Decent news today as the Cards are finally improving the everyday
lineup that had some major holes. RF Juan Encarnacion signed a
reported 3 yr/15mill deal to join the Birds. Some people were
down on the signing at first but the lineup looks a lot
more formidable now than it did after we declined to offer arbitration to Sanders
and Grudz. Example:
Cards circa 12/5/05
Cards circa 12/23/05
Now we have something like this:
2B (Spivey maybe?)
Cardinal nation is a bit more optimistic now!
The Cardinals will finish up the 2005 year with another division championship, a trip to the NLCS, an MVP, a Cy Young and with no completed stadium. Busch stadium was finally knocked down several weeks ago following a whole season of hype and drama. Undoubtedly the Cardinals had an extremely exciting season but the offseason has the team looking to field a very different team in ’06. Gone are Reggie Sanders, Mark Grudzielanek, Matt Morris, Julian Tavarez, Ray King, Larry Walker, and Einar Diaz to name a few. In are Larry Bigbie, Aaron Miles, Braden Looper, Ricardo Rincon, Devi Cruz, Gary Bennett, Brian Daubach and now–introducing–Sidney Ponson?! Yes, that’s right the Cardinals have added the former Baltimore ace straight out of a five day jail stay. According to ESPN.com it is a 1 year deal worth 1 million and an additional 1.5 million in performances incentives are possible as well.
Former Mets and Marlins closer as well as a former Cardinal, Braden Looper has returned to the Birds on the Bat as a setup man and marks the most significant signing of the offseason to date, in terms of dollars spent. He received a 3 year deal worth over 13 million. The Cards were chasing Octavio Dotel to shore up the ‘pen as well but he went to the Yankees for presumably more cash. The Redbirds are still interested in Felix Rodriguez as another right-handed reliever. Bigbie looks to be serviceable as a leftfielder in 2006 and, while Aaron Miles will get a chance to win the second base job, Walt Jocketty has hinted at Hector Luna getting the first shot. The Cardinals will attempt to once again win the increasingly competitive NL central with a whole lot of new faces in the starting lineup, ‘pen…well everywhere. Ponson is intriguing but do the Cardinals truly intend to keep promising young righty Anthony Reyes in the minors any longer or are they considering trading either Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan for a corner outfielder? St. Louis seems intent to play it "cheap" so to speak, and let Dave Duncan work his magic with the pitchers and hope that LaRussa can get all he can out of his 5 solid regulars (Edmonds, Pujols, Molina, Rolen and Eckstein) while filling in the various holes in the lineup with inexpensive parts. Cards’ fans are not particularly thrilled with the direction of the organization’s offseason thus far as it heads into a brand new ballpark but rest assured, GM Walt Jocketty has pulled plenty of rabbits out of the hat in the past months of January. Heck, December’s not even over yet…
2005 Season Grade: "B+"
LaRussa and Duncan got a lot out of their best healthy players while leading the league in wins but falling short again in postseason play ("A-"). Despite various key injuries, GM Walt Jocketty made no moves at the July 31st or August 31st deadlines("B")
2005 Offseason Grade: "C"
It remains to be seen if the early weeks of 2006 can raise the entire offseason grade a bit.
OK, so I did not actually end my discussion on Cardinal free agent turned San Francisco Giant Matt Morris. When a guy has spent more than 10 years, 11 to be exact, and his whole career in a Cardinals uniform, he arguably deserves more than two columns. According to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "longtime Cardinals ace Matt Morris has agreed to a three-year contractworth between $24 million and $27 million with the Giants, and
according to agent Barry Axelrod, (former Cardinals catcher) Matheny played a significant role in
Morris’s decision." It is interesting because the Cards let Matheny go in a youth movement opting instead with then promising catcher Yadier Molina. Molina has turned out to be more than up to the challenge of replacing a gold glove veteran catcher like Matheny and actually caught the Cardinals first Cy Young winner since Bob Gibson, in the form of Chris Carpenter.
Whether Morris will do better in a clubhouse joining former Cards Steve Kline and Matheny as well as the Barry Bonds is yet to be seen. Pitching phenom Anthony Reyes is set to somehow take Morris’s place in the rotation with far less experience than Molina had when the torched was passed to him. A big question that everyone is wondering is how will the Cardinals spend the 40 million dollars they are supposed to have left, after losing out on AJ Burnett, Morris, Sanders, Grudzielanek, Tavarez, Javier Vasquez etc. Cardinal nation would like to know, and they would like to know sooner rather than later…