2011 Revisited: Cardinals Move On

I hope you’ve been enjoying this look back like I have.  It’s fascinating to see some of the same problems we talk about now were part of that 2011 team as well, plus seeing the reaction to things as they happened.  After the huge shakeup, the club still had to play some games and a trade doesn’t guarantee wins on the field. (Also, at least I got something right, talking about how the deal might be viewed in the future.)

Cardinals Move On

After all the news of the day, it was almost anti-climactic when the Cards had to go out and actually play a game.  Unfortunately, the ending was of the same mold.

There weren’t a lot of positive performances to go on, as Bud Norris was at it again.  I’ll give the Hero tag to Matt Holliday for his two-for-three performance last night.  You could have also gone with Chris Carpenter, who pitched well again, with eight strikeouts and two runs in seven innings.  Carpenter is showing no signs of turning back into a pumpkin, as it were, so he should give the Cards a significant weapon down the stretch of what is turning into a three-way race.

The Goat would be Mitchell Boggs.  Not only did he give up the deciding two runs in the game, but he was very shaky in his first inning of work as well, being a bit lucky not to have allowed any runs there as he loaded the bases with one out.  Boggs seems to have these kind of games, going from very effective at times to very iffy.  With the new arms coming for the pen and with Boggs having options, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes down to make room.  I don’t know that he will or that he should, but that doesn’t mean much.

Really thought the Cards were going to be able to at least force extras with Albert Pujols up, runners on second and third, and two outs.  A base hit would have been enough, but instead he struck out to end the game and cap his 0-5 night.  It seems to me that Pujols, save for his 4-5 game in Pittsburgh, has been fine with the long ball but isn’t hitting for much average.  His season number now is .274, at least seven points off of his season high.  As much as I like the homers, a 3-4 night with a double on a semi-regular basis would not go amiss either.

Last night the top three hitters in the lineup combined for 0-13.  It’s a good thing Carpenter was on his game, because it’s not easy to score many runs when that happens.

Of course, today is still a reaction day as the trade continues to be analyzed and discussed. It was interesting to see some of the comments from the people involved.

For example, the main piece in the deal, Colby Rasmus.  I think the takeaway from everything that he said yesterday, besides the boilerplate “It happens, enjoyed my time here, etc.” was “I hope he’s happy” in reference to Tony La Russa.

If nothing else, the Rasmus family seems to think that it was La Russa that got Colby out of town.  Cole over at Redbird Report picked up some comments from Tony Rasmus in a Toronto paper that paint a different picture than the official line.  While I think you take some of Papa Rasmus’s comments with a grain of salt–he’s been known to admit that he likes to stir the pot on line, and I expect an interview would be no different–that combined with Colby’s brother (not the one recently drafted by the Cards) Tweeting about “unfair treatment” makes you wonder exactly how things were playing out over there.

One of the other pieces that left was Trever Miller.  Miller made some comments on his way out, and took most of the blame, with the caveat that he though if he’d pitched regularly he’d have been better.

There’s only one problem with that.  When he was pitching regularly, he wasn’t getting people out, which is why TLR lost confidence in him and stopped using him.   For example, let’s look back at that five-appearance, no-out streak he ran in April.  He threw on 4/17, then 4/23, then three straight days 4/26-4/28.  You can’t get much more regular than that for a LOOGY.  It wasn’t until July until he really didn’t get regular work, but by then the damage was done.

Kyle McClellan was affected by the deal and he says he’s fine with going to the bullpen.  Fine might be an overstatement, really.  Watching him on FSMW yesterday it seemed like he was going to take one for the team and he couldn’t really complain about it, but he wasn’t thrilled.  You can’t blame him–he’s wanted to be a starter for a long time now and got a chance to do it this year.  He didn’t completely pitch himself out of the job (though if he was still going like he was going in April, the Cards either don’t make this move or don’t get him out of the rotation) and has to be pleased that he at least showed the team (and other teams) that he could do it.

He strengthens the bullpen now, though, and that’s a positive from this situation.  Most likely, with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook next year already set with Chris Carpenter looking like he might return and the Cards talking about making new guy Marc Rzepczynski a starter, McClellan could become a trade chip in the offseason and he’s done nothing to damage his value.

Tony La Russa continues to insist that the team shouldn’t choose a manager over a player and that he had nothing to do with the deal.  Perhaps that’s true, but there have been a number of players (J.D. Drew, Adam Kennedy, Scott Rolen, Brendan Ryan) that got into that doghouse and none of them are still here while the manager is.  With the comments from Tony Rasmus and the fact that the Cards were working on an extension with Rasmus before TLR ruined it with his public comments, there’s no doubt that he’s been significantly involved in this decision.  For some, that’s a failure of being a manager and I’m not going to say I disagree.

I do want to take issue with one point, though, that was brought up in the UCB Radio Hour last night and probably will be mentioned by a number of people aggravated with La Russa’s actions.  Tony La Russa is a very good manager.  Doesn’t mean he’s always right, doesn’t mean that he was right in this case.  However, a person doesn’t stay in the game managing 30+ years with no gaps without knowing what he is doing.

You look at the two teams that were affected by the death of a teammate, in ’02 and ’07.  Both of those teams were able to overcome that, though the ’07 team fell short of the playoffs.  Look at this year.  With all the injuries, most Cardinal fans would have been ecstatic with second place if you’d told them all of these players would go down before the season.  No matter the personnel, the TLR era in St. Louis has been a rousing success and we should remember that.

Does that mean that it’s not time for TLR to go, that he should continue to be manager in perpetuity?  I don’t know about that.  I think there should be some sort of accountability when comments are made that change the whole course of an organization.  What that should be is up to the powers that be.

Finally, this from John Mozeliak: “Was there a chance he [Colby] was going in the wrong direction?  I’ll let you answer that.”  It seems that the club realized there was a chance that he wasn’t going to get any better.  If he doesn’t, if he doesn’t come out of his shell being outside of St. Louis, perhaps we’ll look back on this trade much differently in 4-5 years.  I remember the outcry when the Mark Mulder deal was made.  People were so worked up about it because they couldn’t believe the Cards would trade such a prospect.  Of course, that was Daric Barton, who has done little to warrant that gnashing of teeth in his career.  If it wasn’t for the fact Dan Haren blossomed, that trade would just be a footnote.

One last point I want to make about the deal.  While there seems to be little thought that these players to be named later will be much of anything (they’ve been described as low-level prospects), either they or the “significant” cash that are coming back must be key.  I feel like there’s a player in Toronto’s system that Mozeliak really wants, and he did pretty well picking out David Freese from San Diego for Jim Edmonds and Makiel Cleto from Seattle for Brendan Ryan.

To me, that’s the only reason you turn down the Tampa Bay offer of Jeff Niemann and JP Howell and a prospect.  The story is that Mo was holding out for James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson, which I understand, but that’s not the quality he got from Toronto.  I don’t think anyone puts Edwin Jackson in the same class as those two, and the differences in contracts is significant as well.  Niemann would be under team control for five more years at a fairly minimum salary, something that’d be good when you are budgeting for Albert Pujols.  It’s true Howell would have a free agent at the end of the year, but easier to resign him than Jackson.

Tampa Bay’s package, on the face of it, was a much better blend of the now and the not yet.  I have to believe that the PTBNL will give us some of that “not yet” out of this deal as well.

Lance Berkman got an injection in his shoulder yesterday and should be back in the lineup today.  The outfield depth has taken a hit, so we really need Berkman to be healthy down the stretch.  Hopefully that will be the case.

Couple of lefties go today.  Jaime Garcia at home is a good thing, as we all know.  Here’s him against the Houston club:

Carlos Lee 9 7 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 .286 .444 .286 .730 0 0 0
Hunter Pence 9 9 2 0 1 1 2 0 2 .222 .222 .778 1.000 0 0 0
Chris Johnson 8 7 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .429 .375 .571 .946 0 0 0
Jason Bourgeois 6 6 3 2 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .833 1.333 0 0 0
Bud Norris 6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 6 6 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 .500 .500 .667 1.167 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jason Michaels 4 4 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 .750 .750 .750 1.500 0 0 0
Michael Bourn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Matt Downs 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 0
Brett Wallace 3 3 2 0 0 0 1 0 1 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .500 .500 .500 1.000 0 0 0
Total 64 59 22 4 1 1 9 3 9 .373 .397 .525 .922 0 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.These guys have hit Garcia hard. Not a lot of extra base hits and a small sample size, but that average jumps out.

Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cardinals has always been a tough matchup.

Albert Pujols 49 40 9 3 0 1 6 9 1 .225 .367 .375 .742 2 0 2
Yadier Molina 38 37 8 2 0 0 3 1 6 .216 .237 .270 .507 0 0 1
Ryan Theriot 33 31 10 4 0 1 1 2 0 .323 .364 .548 .912 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 31 29 8 1 1 3 7 2 6 .276 .323 .690 1.012 0 0 1
Skip Schumaker 24 24 6 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 1
Colby Rasmus 13 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .077 .000 .077 0 0 0
David Freese 8 7 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 .143 .250 .286 .536 0 0 1
Kyle Lohse 8 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Gerald Laird 7 6 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .500 .571 .667 1.238 0 0 0
Jon Jay 6 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
Nick Punto 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Chris Carpenter 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
P.J. Walters 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Total 225 206 48 12 1 5 20 17 26 .233 .291 .374 .665 2 0 6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/28/2011.Albert’s always had his troubles against Rodriguez, though it’s been better lately. Rodriguez has often been a Cardinal killer and they’ll have to step up their game tonight.  It won’t look good to their new teammates if they lose the first two games after the trade, would it?

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