A Baseball Feast For The Starving (Or At Least Peckish)

Winter Warm-Up Weekend.  That wonderful time in the midst of the bleak winter when players, media, fans, and team officials gather in one place.  After weeks of scrapingi any outlet you can find for some new Cardinal news, there’s a smorgasbord of delicious items just waiting for you in downtown St. Louis.

Before I go any farther, a serious hat tip to Kevin Reynolds for his coverage this weekend.  Kevin is becoming an old pro at this, having filled in for me at least twice now (and perhaps three times?  This old mind is starting to go) and doing an excellent job each time.  Kudos also to Dan Buffa, who covered the event for Aaron Miles’ Fastball, and Matt Whitener who did so for I70 Baseball.

So there is way too much for me to talk about between now and when I have to wrap this up and head off to work, so let’s talk until I leave and we’ll try to do some other points during the week.

Let’s start with all that arbitration news.  Of course, the first part of the arbitration puzzle was solved before the Warm-Up, as Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos came to terms with the team.  (Our friend Ben is finding out one of the joys of blogging, writing out your thoughts just in time to see the team swoop in and undermine your post a bit!)  Jay settled for $3.25 million and Bourjos $1.2, though with a few incentives that could bump that up.

Salaries are sunk costs, of course, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jay gets to play more because he’s making roughly three times the money.  I think all of us still expect to see Bourjos out there on a regular basis, with Jay in a semi-platoon supporting role.  Barring a trade, Shane Robinson would seem to be the odd man out, though if Oscar Taveras doesn’t make the club, it’s possible he’d be a fifth outfielder on the bench for a while.  Our friend Joe took a look at both Jay and Bourjos in light of these signings over at Viva El Birdos.

The most notable thing from this weekend in this arena, however, was the fact that John Mozeliak indicated that the Cardinals might have to go to the arbitration hearing with Daniel Descalso.  St. Louis hasn’t actually gone the distance in one of these cases since 1999, when Darren Oliver lost to the club.  (Here’s a good look at Cardinal arbitration history from Brian Walton.  It’s a dated article–came out in 2009–but the relevant numbers and information is still very valid.)

As you may have heard me talk about on either yesterday’s podcast or on last night’s Gateway to Baseball Heaven, it seems to me that the conditions seem to be right for this to go all the way to a hearing.  Descalso is starting to come to the end of his usefulness with the team, so he’s looking to make the most money he can in his limited window.  It might be worth him going to the arbitrator in the hopes of winning his case (and $1.65 million) instead of settling for a lesser figure.  I don’t know if Dirty Dan is a gambler, since that’s basically what arbitration is.  The arbitrator picks one number or another and really doesn’t have to have a reason.  While each side presents its case, you never know if the arbitrator woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning.  DD might think he’s got a good chance for a sympathetic hearing and feel the odds of winning are worth not settling.

On the flip side, the team also knows that Descalso’s time with the team could be drawing short.  One of the reasons I feel the Cards have actively avoided hearings is to keep their relationships with their players solid.  While I don’t expect too many players actually sit in the room while the hearing is going on, whatever case the club uses against them is naturally going to filter back to them (perhaps amplified, depending on how the agent wants to play it) and can cause some hurt feelings at times.  Yes, this is “just a business” and the club has to be more adversarial if they want to win the case, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to put aside what was said.

In Descalso’s case, though, if he’s not going to be around the club that much (and, indeed, there’s a possibility Dirty Dan will be hanging out on Beale Street some this summer), it might make that relationship less of a priority.  The club might look at saving the extra money (they are offering $930,000, a difference of $720K) with less of a risk of alienating a player.  It seems unlikely that any hard feelings would spread into the locker room, given how well everyone else has been take care of.

This is not to say that the club has it out for Descalso or doesn’t value his contributions.  I realize that I’m portraying this as more of a cold calculation that it probably is in the front office.  I’m just saying that both the player and the club have less reason to settle beforehand than these situations have shown us in the past.  Given that I’ve written and spoken about this at length, though, I now expect Descalso and the club to come to agreement roughly half an hour after this is posted.

A former player made some news–or at least some discussion–this weekend as well.  Chris Carpenter, who is well and fully retired now (something that many of us still have to come to terms with), is going to be working in the Cardinal front office this season.  Doing what?  Let’s quote a famous baseball mind here:

“Why? I don’t know.  He’s on third and I don’t give a darn!”

No one really knows what Carpenter is going to do, but nobody cares either.  The club is creating a position out of whole cloth for him, determining responsibilities, duties, even a title.  It sounds like he’s going to be learning some of the scouting side of things, but I’m wondering if this job won’t be a cross-boundaries kind of thing.  Could we see Carp spending some time in the analytics room?  Could we see him learning from Mo how to negotiate contracts?  I expect he’ll be involved in the June draft in some form or fashion, even if it’s just a silent observer.

The details aren’t important.  The important thing is that Carpenter is still involved with this baseball team.  Tara and I talked about this last night, and it seems only fitting that Carpenter eschewed the “easier” road of pitching instructor for a job that really challenged him.  This is a part of baseball he’s never been involved with and he’s going to have to learn as he goes.  It’s going to take work and perseverance and we know Carpenter has that in spades.  It’s not hard to imagine in a few years Carpenter sliding into an assistant GM role, though with general managers becoming more and more analytical and data-oriented, you don’t tend to see players get into that top spot as much anymore.  The Phillies have Ruben Amaro Jr. at the helm and, well, we can see how that’s working out for them right now.

Let’s pick out one last piece of news before wrapping today.  That’ll leave us some more morsels to chew on the rest of the week.  You don’t want to overdo it after going without for so long, right?

As much as I want to get into Lance Lynn‘s comments, they need more space.  Let’s finish up talking about the Cardinal Hall of Fame that was announced this weekend.  This is a project that the United Cardinal Bloggers have taken a significant interest in, as we’ve decided to make one of our regular projects our vote on who should make it into the Hall.

Just like we had outlined when we did our voting this past summer, anyone that had their number on the wall is going directly into the Cardinal Hall of Fame.  Which makes perfect sense–how do you decide between Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, or Tony La Russa?  (We know Stan Musial would be in first no matter what the criteria, but determining the next layer is tough.)  More to the point, why should you have to?  That was Bill DeWitt’s point in the press conference and I couldn’t agree more.  These are legends, there is no question they should be in the Hall of Fame.

I was hopeful that the UCB could be a part of this process and perhaps we will be in the future.  Brian Walton is an excellent blogger (though he is a professional, doing this as his full-time job) and I’m glad to see him as part of the “Red Ribbon” panel of experts that will determine the ballot for fans to vote on and will also determine which “Veteran Player” (a player/coach/etc. that was retired at least 40 years ago) will go in.

Looking at the players the UCB selected, I would say that it’s very possible the first players inducted could be from the top of our list.  There’s going to be a huge outpouring for Willie McGee, if he’s on the short ballot, and Ted Simmons might get a strong push as well from those that believe he should be in the MLB Hall of Fame.

It’s wonderful to have Cardinal baseball to talk about again!  I even got a chance to talk Cards in a different location.  Michael Clair does the blog Old Time Family Baseball and every year he does a blogathon for Doctors Without Borders.  He blogs for 24 hours, which is nuts, and then has guest posters write up pieces for him to put up the next day as he recovers.  He got so many this year that it’s running into today for him to get them all up.  Mine hasn’t run yet, that I can see, so check back during the day to find my discussion of the Cardinals over there.

For those that have the day off, enjoy.  For those of you going to Winter Warm-Up’s last day, my best.  For those of you wanting this post to end, you’ve got your wish.  Let’s try it again tomorrow!

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