A Few Twigs For The Hot Stove

First off, since we’ve not gotten together since the calendar flipped, I hope you and yours had an enjoyable time ringing in the new year.  2014 is well and fully started now, with the 12 days of Christmas ending today and nothing to obscure our focus from baseball.

And when I mean nothing (save for the paralyzing winter storm that the Midwest is dealing with now, the cold temperatures of which reach all the way down here to my nest in Arkansas), I really mean nothing.  Very little news of note comes out during the holiday season, which is one reason this space has been so quiet.  While there’s no huge story to break down and dissect, there are a few little branches we can put on the fire.

There’s a pretty interesting article over at the Post-Dispatch about how the Cardinals are starting to expand their international focus when it comes to scouting players.  The Cards have been taking this in stages.  They first got to where they were comfortable with the draft process and the players here in America that needed to be evaluated.  They expanded that into the Latin America scene, being able to get players like Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez (after learning a few things with Wagner Mateo).  Now that they have a solid footing in both of those aspects, it’s time to reach out to the Asian and Cuban markets.

We’ll see how long it takes this additional focus (and the change in the organization chart that comes with it) to bear fruit.  It’s encouraging to see that the club isn’t taking their recent prospect-growing success for granted, but continuing to find new ways to build a talent pipeline into the team.  Diversifying their searching can only help keep the farm system thriving instead of producing a couple of talents and going fallow.

Jason Motte continues to work his way back to the big leagues, even though he understands it won’t be the same as when he left it.  Motte (at least publicly, and I don’t see any reason to suggest that’s not an accurate representation of his mindset) realizes that Trevor Rosenthal will and should be the closer next season, but that doesn’t much matter.  Getting back to pitching on the Busch Stadium mound is the first goal.  Everything else can take a back seat.

It looks like Motte is pretty much on schedule.  He’ll be going to Jupiter in the next week or so and the idea is for him to get into some games in late March.  It seems unlikely that he’d go north with the team–best case scenario would seem to have him down in Memphis on a rehab stint–but that could change and he’s working toward that goal.

It was also interesting to note that Motte will receive the Darryl Kile Award at the writers’ dinner during Winter Warm-Up Weekend.  Motte’s encouragement and availability to the young relievers last year, even while he couldn’t do anything on the field, seems to have led to this honor.  It shows what his stature in the clubhouse is to win such an award, especially when he couldn’t enhance his value by playing.

Speaking of that dinner, a few other Cardinals will be honored.  Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina all will be receiving the Man of the Year award from the scribes, who apparently as much trouble deciding on one person to select as many UCB members did during our award voting back in November.  All are worthy recipients, of course, and I’m sure they are glad to have that award for their mantelpiece.

Finally, the soup’s gone cold.  Jeff Suppan, the former Cardinal who played a role in the run of postseason success from 2004-2006, hung them up recently.  (Ryan Theriot also just retired, but few care to think of him as a former Cardinal, so we’ll just move on.)  Suppan was probably Exhibit 1A in how Dave Duncan could take a pitcher and turn them into a world-beater.  (Tough to top what he did to Kent Bottenfield, especially with what the Cards received after trading Bottenfield after his stellar season with Dunc.)  He never had overpowering stuff, but he used his defense and got ground balls.  That’ll win you games in St. Louis most of the time and his totals in St. Louis were better than anywhere else he played (save maybe his one year in Pittsburgh).  Suppan’s a guy you could see being involved with the Cards if he was living in the area, though with him being a California guy, it’s unlikely we’ll see him on FSMW anytime soon.

That’s about all we can shovel on the fire today.  Well, at least until the Hall of Fame voting comes out later today.  That should get people warm!

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