Cardinals Nerve Center

Now that the slightly eventful second inning has ended with a Mark Reynolds groundout as the rain started to pour down on Busch Stadium’s redbird faithful, I come to you with the third inning action. The United Cardinal Bloggers host a progressive game blog once a year and here is where you can find more information and a full lineup of the inning recaps. 

With the Cardinals leading 1-0 on an RBI Jhonny Peralta groundout, Michael Wacha was pitching like one run may just be enough on this rain soaked evening that saw the game delayed by over two hours. There is nothing like being out and about right around the start of a game grocery shopping and sifting through Twitter for game start updates. Once I was home, I didn’t know if I would be able to watch the game due to the coverage of the Boston Red Sox-Texas Rangers game taking precedent down here in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to Fox Sports Go App on my IPhone, I got hooked up just in time for this rather brisk inning of action. What happened exactly? Six hitters took the plate and six hitters were sent packing. The details follow…

Wacha needed only 11 pitches to dispose of the Dodgers in the top of the third. He got Jimmy Rollins to ground out to first baseman Mark Reynolds after two pitches before engaging in a six pitch battle with fellow pitcher Carlos Friars that ended in a strikeout. On the third pitch, Wacha got rid of leadoff hitter/rookie sensation Joc Pederson on a flyout to Matt Holliday.

Wacha continues a dominance that has his season earned run average drop to 1.78. Through four innings, Wacha has thrown 45 pitches and struck out four while walking one batter. His rhythm and pace on the mound is unmatched in the National League. One of the many attributes of his dominance is his ability to work quick.

The young Texas A&M alum led off the bottom half of the third and struck out after a six pitch battle that ended in a swinging strike. Kolten Wong took a ball before flying out to left fielder Scott Van Slyke. Matt Carpenter, who singled in his first at bat and has settled quite nicely into the #2 hole, lined out to centerfielder Pederson after seeing two pitches. Friars, like Wacha, needed just 11 pitches to get through the third inning and has thrown a crisp economical 37 pitches.

Due up in the top half of the 4th inning for the Dodgers are Jacob Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick. The Cardinals will send Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Randal Grichuk to the plate in the bottom half of the inning.

The hope right now is for the Cards and Wacha to record six more outs and make this an official game before the rain comes back in and takes over the remaining part of the evening in downtown St. Louis.

Thanks for reading and check out Doug ‘s page for an insightful breakdown of the 4th inning.

-@buffa82

 

 

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With Matt Adams hitting the disabled list this afternoon, it’s about time right fielder hopeful of the future Jason Heyward breaks out that boom stick he has been hiding for the first two months of the season. Through 43 games and 159 at bats, Heyward’s slash line of (.233/.285/.365) is just ugly and must improve.

That makes for a sad and depressing OPS of .650, which actually ranks below Adams’ dismal start yet didn’t claim as many critics. It’s easy to like what Heyward brings to the table on a complete level. He has a cannon for an arm in the outfield, tracks everything down and runs the bases like a mad man. He has five stolen bases in five attempts and has scored 24 runs(third on the team). Heyward’s lack of power and consistency at the plate is the worrisome note.

He pounds a ton of groundballs into the ground and hasn’t generated a lot of power at the plate. Heyward has grounded into 8 double plays this season. In his last four seasons combined, he’s grounded into a total of 20. He is on pace for a similar season at the plate as he had last year in a leadoff role with the Braves. For a man looking for a juicy contract at the end of this season, Heyward simply isn’t hitting like it. Via fangraphs, Heyward’s WAR sits at 0.2 and his ISO(isolated power based on slugging percentage) is sitting at .132. His strikeout rate is 19.8 percent, elevated from his previous two season averages. So far in Heyward’s contract year campaign, everything is down. He is being given the opportunity to find his way, but with guys like Randal Grichuk, Peter Bourjos and soon Jon Jay offering manager Mike Matheny different skill sets, Heyward’s everyday playing time could be getting pushed.

Heyward is a notorious slow starter, so maybe he is about to explode. It could also be the pressure he feels in a big baseball town to contribute and do enough to earn a big contract. It’s hard to not think about Heyward’s production when his future in St. Louis is the determining factor for younger cost controlled talent like Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty getting their shots to fully showcase their skills. “Have to see about Heyward” is a phrase that may start to tire out.

The Cards have hit Heyward all over the lineup and tried different things. The lowered pressure of hitting 6th or 7th hasn’t helped as his May performance has been better than April but nothing to get too excited about.

I still don’t smack the trade that General Manager John Mozeliak made in November. A hole was created with Oscar Taveras‘ untimely death, and Mo had to move fast. The Braves wanted Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez, and Mo chose to clutch the untapped gifts of Carlos over Shelby’s established yet yet to determined worth. If someone was going to prematurely grade the trade now, the Braves are winning, with Heyward struggling and Jordan Walden on the DL until the end of July. If this were a boxing fight, the Braves have definitely won the first couple of rounds on points. However, the fight is far from over and there are over 100 games to be played. Heyward’s value is yet to be determined because his career offensive production is all over the place.

Is he a 15-20 HR/80 RBI guy or more of an on base percentage low power threat? His first five seasons have given fans a bit of everything. So far in 2015, his hitting has been underwhelming and if the Cards are to offer him a 5-6 year deal worth 18-20 million per season, he has to hit a LOT better than he is right now.

The questions surrounding Heyward’s bat won’t leave anytime soon. They will surround him like a storm cloud until he starts to contribute at the plate. On May 27th of 2014, Heyward was struggling to hit and it didn’t pick up in June. 2015 needs to be a different story. If Jason Heyward is the right fielder of the future, he has to show he can produce at the plate as well as in the field and on the bases. It’s too early to demand a refund with the trade, but it’s a fair time to demand more from Jason Heyward. His career .260 batting average and .348 on base percentage suggest a spike in his performance soon, so there’s a reason to be optimistic.

With Matt Adams down for a significant amount of time according to John Mozeliak, there isn’t a better time for Jason Heyward to step into a hot streak and carry the back end of the Cards lineup when they most need it, especially against righthanded pitching.

The 2015 trek of Heyward still stands as the most interesting story of the season. What turn does it take the next month or two, with the emergence of Grichuk and the accumulative pressure of the season?

Just remember this. Heyward is 25 years old, has hit for power and average before, and stands to get better luck with balls put in play. Everything suggests he will turn this around at the plate and while more production is desired, he doesn’t have to be Babe Ruth up there. Heyward simply has to get more big hits and extra base hits and do it relatively soon.

Can he do it? We will soon find out.

Thanks for reading, @buffa82.

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It’s not the most comforting way to look at a loss, but besides the bat silencing from Mets starter Jacob deGrom or the latest bullpen collapse, the return of Jaime Garcia was a huge positive takeaway from today’s game. Garcia pitched so well that his own teammates were stunned into utter silence at the plate.

The official line for Garcia: 7 innings, 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 3 strikeouts and five walks with one home run allowed. The walks are never welcomed, especially when three of them are inning starters. However, the rust is still being banged off Garcia’s left arm as he makes his latest(and final in a Redbirds uniform) comeback. For a man who has been throwing pitches to Major League hitters for seven years now, he still feels like a rookie at times. A man constantly trying to prove to himself, his team and the fanbase that he deserves a spot on this team and a place in this league.

Thursday’s start featured all the usual Garcia mound tics. The constant arm curls that tighten the jersey around the bicep and the shoulder. The circling of the mound between hitters. The occasional snap back from the catcher toss. These things will never change and are part of Garcia’s pitching DNA. Every pitcher has a sequence of events he goes through out there. Lance Lynn fixes his cap about 305 times per start. Adam Wainwright has his demeanor. Michael Wacha acts like he has ants in his pants out there, working faster than fast can keep track of. Garcia looked like himself, the healthy lefthander the Cards invested 4 years and 28 million dollars in back in 2011 when he looked so effective and hungry.

For the people who think Garcia has never been durable, please guess again. He once pitched 194.1 innings(in 2011). His lifetime ERA is respectable and he has 45 wins. The thing that has eluded him for much of the past three seasons is health. After making 60 starts in 2010-11, Garcia has only started 37 games the past three plus years(including today’s start). His talent is playing catch up with his health and fans can only hope that race is over.

A healthy Garcia means General Manager John Mozeliak doesn’t have to panic and unload what’s left of his farm system and possibly a portion of his 25 man roster to grab a top of the line starter. At least for the moment. Mo can step back and let things play out and measure his reach a bit longer. A healthy Garcia has many effects. It allows Carlos Martinez to return to a 5th spot developmental role. It gives a boost to new rotation ace Lance Lynn(talking about innings baby) and eases the pressure on Michael Wacha and John Lackey. A healthy Garcia makes this rotation strong again and can take pressure off an overloaded bullpen(which has shown true signs of fatigue in the past week). In short, Jaime’s return is huge. Thursday’s start was a big first step in a positive direction. The turmoil of the past 11 months is behind him. All he has to do now is stay healthy and throw.

Garcia’s next few starts involve a bit of a breeze and a vice grip. He next takes the hill against the Arizona Diamondbacks at home, and then makes a start against Milwaukee at Busch as well before getting his first real test against the Dodgers in LA and The Royals at Busch. Soon enough, the Cards will see what they have in Garcia. Can he last? What kind of durability can he provide as the season stretches towards the halfway mark? What kind of external acquisition does Mo have to target in July? If Garcia stays healthy, Marco Gonzales hangs out as your 6th man when needed. If Garcia stays healthy into July, does Mo need to make a move at all? Odds are against a nice and easy trade deadline for the Cards GM but Jaime staying healthy makes his nights easier to collect sleep.

It is one start after all. People will complain about the walks or they’ll say get ready for a Jaime injury. All of it is valid and none of it should be taken lightly. I will say if you are in the business of NOT being cynical in May, hoping for a healthy Garcia trek is in the team’s and fans best wishes.

Let’s see how far Jaime Garcia can last because the effect he can have on this team and rotation is a huge factor when considering this team’s season long strength and postseason stamina.

How much viability does Jaime Garcia’s body have left? The future holds that answer but it’s okay to feel good about the beginning witnessed on Thursday in New York.

Thanks for reading, @buffa82.

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Visiting Gibby in 1968

sportslistoftheday.com

sportslistoftheday.com

The January project for the United Cardinal Bloggers asked the group to pick one game they would hop in a time machine to go watch. That could be a game that you attended as a kid or a game you weren’t alive to see. I’ve been asked this question before and the answer hasn’t changed over the years. I have seen some amazing games. I saw the 2004 Jim Edmonds One Man Show against the Astros in the playoffs. I saw Jose Jimenez throw a one hitter against Randy Johnson and Arizona shortly after throwing a no hitter against the Diamondbacks a short time before. I saw Edgar Renteria lead a legendary comeback in a regular season game against the Cubs with a walkoff home run. I saw every single one of Mark McGwire‘s memorable home runs. I saw Darryl Kile‘s last start before his untimely death. I saw most of these from the manual scoreboard. If I had to pick one game to revisit that I missed or didn’t have a chance to see, it would be Bob Gibson‘s 17 strikeout gem from 1968.

October 2nd. 1968. Game one of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. In a series the Cards would ultimately lose, Bob Gibson pitched one of the greatest games of all time. Gibby has always been one of my favorite all time Cardinals, and that comes from a guy who never saw him pitch live. I’ve only seen clips of his ferocious windup and follow through on the mound. The way he looked like an angry mountain lion when he sprung his body towards the plate. Gibson was angry and made Jason Motte‘s mound quirks look like Mr. Rogers putting his shoes on after a show. I’ll never forget Tim McCarver remembering a mound visit with Gibson where the pitcher stated plainly, “The only thing you know about pitching is how hard it is to hit.” If there is one guy I want to go back in time to watch, it is Gibson. With no offense to Stan Musial or other greats, there is nothing as sweet or memorable as seeing a pitcher thwart an entire team for 9 innings. The Tigers could have used two bats at the plate and still missed Gibson’s offerings. That day in October, at the old Busch, the baseball looked like a golf ball to Detroit.

Bob Gibson faced 32 batters, scattered 5 hits and walked one in addition to those 17 strikeouts. In Game 4, he came back and threw another complete game, striking out 10 and walking 2 while giving up a run(solo home run) on 5 hits. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in Game 4 for Gibson, but saved barely any for the legendary righthander in Game 7. Gibson threw another complete game while striking out 8 and walking only 1. However, he allowed 4 runs on 8 hits, all after the 6th inning.  A ball that got over Curt Flood‘s head in center field opened the scoring but Gibson wasn’t as sharp.

Overall, Gibson pitched 27 innings, struck out 35 batters, walked 4, with 5 runs allowed and 18 hits. When was the last time a starter pitched three complete games in a series? Gibson did so in the 1967 World Series and the 1968 World Series. Mickey Lolich and Gibson each threw three complete games in the 1968 World Series. That will never be done again.  Gibson’s 17 strikeouts in Game 1 stand as the record for a single game in the World Series. Gibson was the main reason the mound was lowered by 5 inches before the 1969 season. He just made it look too easy.  Gibson also won the MVP award in the National League in 1968, a feat that didn’t happen until this past season when Clayton Kershaw won. One day, Clayton will be able to pitch like Gibby in the playoffs.

There will never be another Bob Gibson. His ruthless mound composure is immortal among the greats and the current fleet of pitchers. He’d throw at a star slugger’s head if he took the mound in April. He is a true legend and if I had to go back and catch a game, it would be Game 1 of the 1968 World Series, where Gibson stole a record from Sandy Koufax and forced the league to reexamine how tall a pitching mound is. As the Joker would say, “He changed things”.  I wouldn’t want to come back after Game 1, as you can see by my lengthy breakdown of that series.

Which game would you go back and watch? Spill it in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and goodnight,

-DLB

Gibson_statue

 

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MLB: Washington Nationals at Detroit TigersIt sounds like a great story. Max Scherzer comes home at the age of 30 to finish his career under the Arch pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals, the team he grew up watching. The headline sweats and bleeds through the keyboard as I continue. The dreamy thought of Max coming home belongs inside a baseball fan’s head. Let it sleep there. Once the thought is wrestled analytically, the reality sets in. Scherzer was never in the Cards scope or in play for St. Louis. There are crazy general managers. There are a couple boneheaded general managers out there who like to play with a real hot stove with four beaming hot burners. Then there is the Cards bowtie genius, John Mozeliak. I trust him like I trust my coffee to open my eyes fully every morning.

He will never give a pitcher a seven year contract. Adam Wainwright didn’t get a seven year contract. Remember when Chris Carpenter got a 6 year contract and spent half of it hurt. Wainwright’s arm is showing signs of trouble as his six year deal unfolds. It’s a risky business to extend any pitcher beyond 4 years but the agents and owners have a leg up on the GM’s in this day and age. Mega agent Scott Boras always wanted 7 years for Scherzer. The Cards may have stepped into the ring for 5 years, but that meant paying Scherzer somewhere in the vicinity of 31 million per season. It wasn’t going to happen and I doubt Mo even pushed his foot forward in that discussion.

I said it last week on the United Cardinal Bloggers podcast. I said last month. I produced the opinion in my roundtable discussion last week. Max Scherzer is bad news for the Cardinals. he is 30 years old, very expensive and wants a long term deal. It was always wise to stay away from the kid. Let him go off to Washington and get that seven year deal. There are reports tonight that the Nationals are going to stack their rotation to the ceiling with premium pitching talent and Yahoo reported that Max is their latest piece. Let it be. Stay home and fight with your own army, Birds.

Unlike the Nationals, the method of building from within and making the spot trade when needed for pitching has helped the Cards reach the playoffs four years in a row. They reached the World Series in 2013 and played for the pennant last year. When you have young talent like Carlos Martinez chomping at the bit for a chance to start 25 games in a season, there’s no reason to spend ridiculous money on Scherzer, David Price or Cole Hamels. Marco Gonzales looms like a rotation piece this season. Lance Lynn showed the composure and maturity of an ace in 2014. Adam Wainwright dealt with a dead arm in 2014 and had surgery done to clean it up. He is 100 percent today. Michael Wacha‘s latest MRI showed zero damage. It can all go wrong, but that is the same risk every single team in baseball faces. Other teams don’t have guys like Gonzales and Tyler Lyons(if he can get some run support when he pitches) ready to jump in and provide 6-7 innings. The Cards have Tim Cooney ready this season. The Cards have pitching depth that they trust. They didn’t trade Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins because they didn’t trust the guys they have. Mo is comfortable and that makes me trust his judgement going into the 2015 season.

Scherzer is 30 years old (35 in starting pitcher years), has logged over 1200 innings and only averages around 6 innings per start. Do you really want to spend 31 million per year or invest 7 years in that? Max’s arm action during his pitching motion isn’t pretty and the man’s arm is a ticking timebomb. If you worry about Waino’s arm, don’t hold your breath on Max’s right limb. He has logged 30 plus starts in six straight innings and pushed over 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in back to back seasons. In the last two years, he is 39-8 with an ERA right around 3.00. Good for him. I still wouldn’t give him 7 years or 31 A.A.V. The Cards aren’t that desperate. I don’t think Mozeliak and his staff have ever been that desperate.

Like I said, it’s a great story. Journalists here would fire ink into paper like their hands were Tommy Guns. Believe me. Max is from St. Louis and went to The University of Missouri, Columbia. The perfect end to his career would be coming home. That’s why fairy tales are best left out of sports and far away from business. Believing in fairy tales can get a General Manager in big trouble. Once again, Mozeliak made the right call to stay away from Mad Max. Boras called and probably called again. He dangled the hometown spin like he was baking an IMOS pizza in his office with Mo on the phone. Our wise bowtie guy didn’t budge. Not even for a second. Let Washington GM Mike Rizzo join the starting pitcher serious injury SWAT team.

I hope Max buys his parents something very nice. Maybe he can buy them a house and put brand new tile in it. He is a rich man and deserves every cent in this open market. I am simply glad that the money didn’t come from the St. Louis Cardinals. Let the Chicago Cubs spend wild. The last thing the Cards need to do is dictate their spending based off what Theo Epstein and the Cubs are doing. If anything, every other MLB team have notepads full of notes on the Cards’ strokes. The Cards have the starting pitching to start the year just fine. If a need arises, they can make a move then. Why now? Why Scherzer? Why a big name? Save it for Jason Heyward. Save it for something that makes more sense.

Have a good Monday folks.

For more instant bits, follow me on Twitter.

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a7b4ae56d7956914550f6a7067009468_r620x349Before John Mozeliak dips his beak into the starting pitching market, he had to close doors and lock up one of his current soldiers. Righthander Lance Lynn and the Cardinals reached a three year extension agreement worth 22 million. When it comes to timing and a need to lock up the one 100 percent arm in your rotation, the deal works out perfectly. Last night on United Cardinal Bloggers Radio, I was talking with A.J. Blankenship about a potential 6 year deal in the works. Later, Cards blogger and mastermind Bob Netherton chimed in and said it would be more like 4 years and 36 million. It’s a good thing Bob is around to keep a harness on the younger maniacs in this fanbase and writing community, because he knows his stuff. Need proof? Read his column from yesterday afternoon. Lynn and the Cards wipe away arbitration with this deal and sets up the rotation for the coming years.

I’ve said all along that Lynn’s ascension in 2014 paints the picture that a need for a #1 type like Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels isn’t required in the offseason. Hypothetically, if Adam Wainwright or Michael Wacha went down, Lynn is now the type of pitcher to be able to step into a higher spot in the rotation and provide those kind of innings. After a season where he shaved his ERA down to under 3.00 and logged another 200 innings without breaking down late in the season, Lynn was due for an extension and ownership of more responsibility in on this pitching staff. He is being paid the kind of money that #3 or #4 starters make but could potentially provide top tier performance. It’s wise all around. Welcome to the big boy panel, Mr. Lynn. Also, welcome to twitter as well, as Jimmy the Cat Hayes has declared the pitcher is on the social media network and released this tweet to fans just a short while ago.

Mo can now go back to monitoring the starting pitching market. Let’s be clear. He doesn’t have to do anything right now. He can ride into the season with Wainwright, Wacha, Lynn, Lackey and Martinez with Marco Gonzales in the hole or he can go out and acquire a pitcher via trade or a signing. Every move will include risk. If he signs Max, he is taking a 30 year old pitcher with a lot of innings, wear and tear on his arm, who will give you 6 innings every time out on average. Price will cost you prospects and is a rental. Hamels is a longer guarantee but has a ton of innings and will cost you a lot of depth in your farm system. Mo could stay pat and that could be risky if 1 or 2 injuries occur early on. Every move carries risk for a general manager. The good thing is he locked up a young horse in Lynn and that stabilizes a rotation that is getting younger by the season. It’s reasonable to assume in 2017 that Lynn, Martinez and Gonzales are anchoring the rotation. Right now, at this moment, that is the plan. If Mo alters it, he will do it because he deems it reasonable, necessary and important to the long term success of this team. A big trade or signing isn’t Mo’s style, but I trust the Bowtie and Ivy League education equipped fella to make the right decision.

For now, let’s celebrate another expert signing. Lance Lynn is a Cardinal through 2017. After the Matt Carpenter extension, I predicted Lynn would be the next guy. While people will point to the Allen Craig extension as a bad move, the extinguishing of that contract via the Boston trade was well done and didn’t cost the Cards much. Who is next? Jason Heyward has to be the target. The Cardinals didn’t make the Shelby Miller trade to get one year of Heyward, a 25 year old gold glove caliber right fielder with pop and an ability to get on base. A Heyward deal is in the cards next.

Ladies and gents, it’s nearly a month before spring training begins. Set your clocks for warmer weather, green grass and intense baseball action. The offseason is coming to its conclusion.

Thanks for reading and have a good day.

-DLB

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Working Next to Burwell

When I arrived at The Winter Warmup last January, I was a little anxious. Nervous wouldn’t begin to describe covering your first media event, especially something as big as the Warmup, which provides fans with a first look at their team in the New Year. I was a commentary/editorial writer, and for this particular assignment, I wanted to do a mixture of reporting and providing my usual opinionated position. There were two rooms for the media, and the interview room was staged in the middle. A pair of bloggers, Matt Whitener and Kevin Reynolds, were in the smaller room and we weren’t alone. Rene Knott’s camera team from KSDK was located in there with us and so was a veteran columnist, Bryan Burwell. The longtime writer for places such as USA Today and The New York Times as well as Real Sports at HBO was seated next to me, a jumble of cords and few tablets separating our stations. For some reason, when I started to write, and I looked over at Burwell, I felt a sense of calm and that I was okay to let it rip and just do the job.

This wasn’t a normal feeling. Usually when a younger writer is saddled up to an older wolf, the reactions can be varied. Some reporters at the warmup didn’t want to interact much or they simply had to focus on their work. A few were interested in mixing it up and telling stories. Writers are a tricky breed to spend time around. We all hunt for the perfect quote and the sharpest story. We are hunters whether we like it or not. It’s in our blood. Especially for the pair of bloggers and myself, because we are there on our own time and dime to pull stories for our readers. We are doing it for the love of the game. Our title of “blogger” is a polarizing term in today’s journalistic environment. Print writers either look down on us, feel contempt for us, quietly applaud us, don’t mind us or just shrug their shoulders. It’s part of the new age of digital media slowly chopping down the newspaper. The transformation won’t happen without punches being thrown, even if they are of the vocal nature. It’s normal when change occurs. You either react or resist.

I didn’t get to speak with Burwell much. I was too busy pounding out columns and watching guys like him and Derrick Goold work. That is what you do if you are a rookie at this event. While I have been writing about sports for over 12 years, this was my first sanctioned media event so I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to spy on some of the vets. Like a rookie swinger eyeing a veteran slugger during batting practice, I looked for tricks, secrets and methods while I shaped my own. I watched Burwell a lot. Unlike other reporters, he didn’t climb on top of others during a Q&A with the players. He seemed to know he was going to get a chance to ask a question and was patient. Inside the room between interviews, ten minutes didn’t pass without a huge knowing chuckle from Burwell. He liked to laugh and didn’t feel the need to tone it down. Some people come to public events and check part of their personalities at the door. Burwell didn’t do that at all. I remember talking to him years before during my time on the Manual Scoreboard and nearly 10 years later, his attitude hadn’t changed. He was the same guy.

The thing I remember the most about Burwell was the one time I did talk to him, he listened and looked right at me. He didn’t remember me from the scoreboard or know my name, but as soon as I asked him something, he was centered on me. For a young writer like myself, that was the top of the mountain. That was Bryan Burwell. The rumors I heard and the stories about his dedication to every single person who came into his path were true. Sometimes, the legend isn’t far fetched. He was one of the good guys and that moment from the Winter Warmup was the first thing I thought about when Burwell passed away on December 4th at the age of 59. That time that Bryan gave me 100 percent of his focus and attention while he put together a piece on Instant Replay. Bryan was a pro. He was there to write one story and spent three days putting it together. I was firing off pieces on Daniel Decalso, Mark Ellis, Matt Holliday and any other person who gave me a couple quotes. Burwell had a master plan and he was cool and courteous at the same time. Those things can’t be taken for granted in this business.

59 years isn’t enough for anybody, especially a grand soul like Burwell. I’ll never forget sharing a room with him that weekend. Sometimes you learn so much with only a little interaction rather than loads of discussion. With a guy like Burwell, all you had to do as a writer or common person was open up your heart and he would find you.

The 2015 Winter Warmup takes place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in St. Louis, MO from January 17th through the 19th. Buy your tickets right here.

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Good afternoon ladies and gents,

Today, I present a special dose from the Cardinals Nerve Center. A collection of writers that I respect and look to for an opinion when hot takes start getting tossed around like free cups of coffee(speaking of which, enjoying a warm cup of java as I type). The past month, the hot take is centered around the Cardinals and the need for starting pitching. More importantly, a need for high tier pitching. National writers Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi have led the charge on the topic, so it’s time I take a look.

Everybody knows the worries for the Birds heading into the 2015 season. Let me break down the setup. Adam Wainwright had minor surgery over the offseason after missing time due to a “dead arm” last season. He has logged plenty of mileage on that right arm(over 1,500 innings to be close to exact). Michael Wacha suffered a stress reaction in June and was never right afterwards, even though he threw the final pitch of the 2015 campaign. Lance Lynn took big steps towards becoming a high end rotating with a composed season, so he is highly dependable. John Lackey brings his Texas grit back to the mound for another season and fingers crossed, Carlos Martinez finally gets the opportunity to unleash his full arsenal of pitches. That’s the way it looks right now. Let’s ask the panel of writers what their thoughts are on the subject of starting pitching security looking forward.

The Question-If you were John Mozeliak, sitting in your office today with a brand new bowtie on, what would you do about the rotation between now and spring training? Things can develop but what are you thinking right now? Do nothing? Explore a big name? Look for a middle tier arm? Dish it out.

Here are the answers.

www.foxsports.com

www.foxsports.com

John Nagel, Cardinals Farm

This is a real tough spot to be in because we do not know the health of Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, or really Jaime Garcia. Let’s assume there are concerns over the health of, at least, Waino. I am looking for a top tier starting pitcher.

Wainwright is 33-years old, has logged a ton of innings lately, and it looks like we could be seeing the start of his decline as his xFIP and strikeout numbers are lower. Should he still be considered an ace for 2015? For sure, but it is not too early to look for future replacements.
 
Of the big three the Cardinals are rumored to be looking at, I am eliminating Scherzer first. A 6-7 year deal for a 30 year old pitcher does not make much sense to me. Next, I will eliminate Price. While he may be the better of the two left, his contract status is really worrisome for me. I don’t want to have two “lame duck” players in 2015. You could lose both Price and Heyward. Not worth the risk for me. With that said, I am on Team Hamels. The 31-year old has 4 years left on his contract, which would probably make it the safest contract of the three.
 
With all of that said, I am not giving up the farm for Hamels. I think the Cardinals have enough prospects to make a deal work, and I would make Carlos Martinez the only “untouchable” in the situation. If Philly’s demands are too high, you walk away.
 
In closing, I am really concerned about the rotation going forward and would love for them to swing a deal with Philadelphia, it just has to be the right one.
*You can also find John on Twitter dishing fresh takes here.
Thank you for asking, Dan. I actually addressed an aspect of this topic in a “buyer beware” post on David Price for Viva El Birdos. The decline in fourseam fastball velocity, combined with him being under contract for only one season, scares me a little bit. Though I believe Price is a better pitcher going forward than both Max Scherzer and Cole Hamels, I just don’t know if the Cardinals should accept the price tag Detroit will undoubtedly apply to him.

 
Yet, I understand if John Mozeliak feels the need to explore other options due to some relative unknowns. Unlike most, I am more worried about Michael Wacha’s health than I am about Adam Wainwright’s. I’m with John Nagel and believe that Cole Hamels could be a very real possibility should the front office be okay with parting with at least two prospects. However, if the Phillies are asking for Carlos Martinez, which wouldn’t be unrealistic given we are talking about Ruben Amaro Jr., I walk away. The most I would go for Hamels would be Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk, and a lower level prospect. There is no guarantee that the Phillies would even accept this, and to be honest, it pains me to even think about parting with Gonzales, as I really do see him having a bright future.
 
Lastly, if Scott Boras and Max Scherzer stick with their $28-30 million per year price tag, the Cardinals need to run away immediately. He is one of the league’s very best pitchers, but he will turn 31 years old next season. A pitcher that age with over 1,200 innings pitched is not worth that type of deal. James Shields is the “lesser of two evils” in terms of long-term free agent contracts, but I don’t really want him all that much either. I have faith in Carlos Martinez as a starting pitcher, and I am confident he starts living up to his potential next season, especially if he throws more twoseamers/sinkers.
There’s too much fascination with St. Louis and their prospects and draft picks. If you have a core that’s at a certain age then you need to make a power move to enhance the team’s opportunity to win. There are zero guarantees that the offense will progress in 2015 but you can control your fate by loading up on pitching.If you’re going to go for a stud. Get the biggest stud out there. David Price. Price is a big name, with big numbers and would make St. Louis the odds on favorite to win.I’d also love to see a top lefty compete out there against Alvarez, Votto, Bruce, Rizzo and the other top left handed hitters of the central.There should be ZERO hesitation on making this deal. You have the trade chips along with the payroll this year to do this. With the addition of Ballpark Foodcourt, this adds additional revenue to load up on an extension.Putting trust in the Cardinals medical staff is insane. I have zero believe Wainwright and Wacha are healthy. Don’t get caught with your pants down in April. Pull the trigger now and provide extra security.
*Click Art’s name for a blunt perspective on The Cards as well as columns on the St. Louis Blues. Honesty is the only ingredient allowed in Lippo’s shop.
 
I have been very loud on Twitter about staying as far away from Scherzer as humanly possible for so many reasons (pure cost, wild mechanics, doesn’t pitch deep in to games often enough, etc..).

 
That being said, the biggest reason to acquire any of these three is because the Cardinals are concerned that the rotation will not be able to provide enough quality innings for more various reasons (injuries to Waino and Wacha, age of Lackey, inexperience of Martinez). So, who solves that “problem” the best? Here is a look how often the three went seven innings or more in 2014
 

Scherzer: 17 of 33

Hamels: 22 of 30
Price: 26 of 34
 
From this standpoint, Price is the most attractive, but from a pure cost view, he will cost more when you factor in his pending free agency as well.
 
This leads me to think that Hamels is the most likely. If Mozeliak can lure in Hamels without giving up Martinez, then I think a trade would be VERY likely and be met with broad based approval.
*You can find Corey on Twitter as well, serving up takes on the Cards, Blues, Rams and St. Louis Billikens. 
There is at least one legitimate question mark for every starting option for the team this year.

 
Adam Wainwright is amid surgery rehab, yet still tasked as carrying heavy atop the rotation.
Lance Lynn had what could be considered a breakthrough season, but it’s far from clear on if he is ready to take the step up the leading the staff if Wainwright falters.
John Lackey is solid as a depth rotation piece, but is past the days of being a front line option.
Michael Wacha has a plethora of question marks at hand: rehab from a chronic and unpredictable injury, the overlay of a rough October and an interruption in his development as well.
The fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs as is currently, with two promising properties in Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales vying for position. However, as with any player going into their first year as a starter from Opening Day forward, there will be a development curve.
This is all before accounting for the inevitable flow of injuries and performance issues as well. So while it would an overexaggeration to say the starting pitching staff is in peril, characterizing it as a high risk property is fair.
The approach that would be most prudent would be to stay active in the pitching acquisition market. This is a varied approach that could range from adding a competitive depth option that can compete for the fifth spot, a still rehabbing arm that can get in the mix as the season goes along or going all in on a front line acquisition such as Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels or James Shields.
The options are varied and plentiful, but one thing that this for certain is that with all things considered headed into the spring, further additions of some sort to the team’s starting staff is not a negotiable issue.
You can find Matt on Twitter right here, dishing takes on a variety of topics.
There it is folks. Five different perspectives from five supremely talented minds. People that I look to when I need constructed criticism or a fresh opinion.
What do I think? I understand the need for insurance. The rotation does have some creaky and leaky areas that could bust open at any moment. There hasn’t been a season without at least 1-2 starters hitting the bricks. I wouldn’t touch Scherzer’s zip code with a ten foot stick, because he is 30, heading for a Tommy John appointment any pitch now and way too expensive for a guy who will only give you a quality start(aces don’t do that). Price is the most polished of the group, but on a one year layover I don’t give up the prospects UNLESS there is an extension in the works. Mo is smarter than that. Hamels is the most appealing of the group overall, because he does have the four years and gives the team a deadly top tier lefthanded pitcher for the deep run. He can step in if Waino gets hurt. I wouldn’t be opposed to a Cole Hamels trade. He is 31 years old, pitched great in 2014 with a bad team and has mileage left. If one of the top three is presented, I take Cole. Then again, he has over 1,800 innings pitched and has a hazard warning hanging over his head like Scherzer.
I wouldn’t mind the Cards entering the season with what they have. The model of recent years has been build from within. Carlos Martinez deserves a real shot to start. Marco Gonzales isn’t ready to provide 180 innings but he is a promising talent who made huge strides in 2014. Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons and John Gast also lie in waiting. If a need comes up, you can go fishing at the deadline. I am sure the price for Hamels and Price will be stiff now or in July. I believe that the Phillies will want Martinez and so will the Tigers.  That’s just me. Do you give that up, along with several other pieces? I try not to overvalue young prospects, but I don’t see Carlos and Marco as prospects anymore. They are Major League caliber pitchers. They just need time.
In the end, it really depends on what the other teams are asking for. It’s so hard to draw a line, but if I had to right now, I would stay with what I got and keep an eye out in spring training for a lower rotation innings consumer if a real need develops. I don’t think a big name is needed, even when weighing the hazard signs in the rotation at the moment. I’m ready to eat my words later if needed but I trust that Mo makes the right call and doesn’t make a big trade or deal unless there is a real need for it. I don’t think the Cards trade Shelby Miller, a young healthy pitcher, if they had real concern over Waino and Wacha. I stand firm with my young pitching and lean on veterans like Lynn and Lackey if the ship is rocked.
What do you think Mozeliak and the Cardinals should do? Give me your take in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

 

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The Top Stories of 2014

As the year comes to an end and the new hunt begins on Thursday, it’s time to look back at the five stories from the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals season that still sift around the cerebellum two months later.

www.stltoday.com

www.stltoday.com

The Arrival and Departure of Oscar Taveras

The gleaming smile is the first thing I remember when I met Oscar at the Winter Warmup this past January. The kid grabbed your attention before you could click the recorder on your IPhone on. He arrived in our minds a few years ago. He arrived in the flesh on a fateful bittersweet rainy afternoon at Busch in May. Michael Wacha was pitching(a man who literally brought the rain in 2014). The score was zeroes on each side. Taveras stepped to the plate and with one majestic Thor like swing, sent a baseball into the right field stands and implanted himself in the hearts of Cardinal fans forever. Like every movie trilogy with a great entry film, the sequel(June-August) couldn’t live up to the expectations of that one swing. However, in his second to last at bat in the National League championship series, Oscar hit a pivotal home run off the same team he hit the first, The Giants. He saved the best for last. He hit the ball nearly into the same spot in October. The crowd roared. The hope grew out of the concrete again like fresh spring weeds. This was a sign of the future. Suddenly, later that month, Oscar was taken from us due to one horrible decision and his career will never be allowed to unfold. All fans and writers will have is that memorable smile and streaky yet monstrous home run swing. “You Never Know” hasn’t stung this hard in years.

Lance Lynn Makes A Statement

Before 2014, Lynn was a winning pitcher. The baseball card mafia couldn’t touch him. He did his thing and was quiet off the field like a sniper. This past season, Lynn became a different pitcher. He didn’t rely on strikeouts. He didn’t blow up at the first sign of trouble. He completely shut down a team(Yankees in May). He had an identical record from 2013, with 15 wins and 10 losses. His earned run average lost weight though, dropping to 2.74 from 3,97. He threw more innings(203.2) and he was worth 3.1 wins above his replacement. He struck out 181 and walked 72 in 33 starts. Guess what? He got lethal down the stretch. After subpar second half performances in 2012 and 2013, Lynn got sharper as the calendar stretched his legs in 2014. Lynn didn’t just get better in 2014. He gave the Cardinals a reason to believe in his future. The neon money sign above his right arm clicked on. He supplanted himself as a potential heir to the throne that Adam Wainwright currently carries. Big step for Lance.

Carpenter sinks Kershaw’s Ship

The 2014 season saw a flurry of conversation about who should hit leadoff. After Matt Carpenter didn’t blast out of the cannon as quick after an unreal 2013 season, there were calls for him to drop down in the order due to his RBI ability or lack of speed. Well, he didn’t do that bad. He got on base 37 percent of the time, which makes his .272 batting average meaningless. He scored 99 runs, collected 162 hits and bashed 33 doubles while driving in 59 runs. He played in 158 games and was as durable as a handyman(I couldn’t resist). However, after all that, Carpenter saved his best for last. He hit four home runs in the postseason and drove in 8 runs. Timely doesn’t begin to explain his deeds. With the team down in game 1, he cranked a solo home run off Clayton Kershaw(the eventual Cy Young Award winner). He then blasted a bases clearing game changing double in an eight run 7th inning. In Game 2, he accounted for the only two Cardinal runs with a two run game tying eighth inning home run of J.P. Howell. In Game 3, he hit a home run off Hyun-Jin Ryu. Carpenter had a slugging percentage over 1.000 and did all of that from the leadoff spot. He did this for just over a million dollars in salary, fulfilling a promise to Cardinals management for giving him a six year extension earlier in the season. Carpenter is money no matter where he hits in the lineup, but I would suggest leaving him in the leadoff spot.

Peralta Makes Good on Contract

Sure, there are three years left on the deal, but Jhonny Peralta made an impression in 2014. He drove in 75 runs, hit 21 home runs, and slugged 38 doubles. He put together the highest WAR(5.8) of his career. His defense was solid before the arrival in St. Louis, but the finish was more fine than expected from my point of view. He made more plays than I thought he could make and kept the errors down. With Peralta, it was silky smooth and efficient. There was no flash needed. He looked like he could fold clothes out of the laundry as he made the throw to first base. Peralta got a big money deal for a man coming off a PED suspension. The gamble, so far at least, is worth the risk.

Jon Jay Earns His Keep

Peter Bourjos came over in a trade for David Freese and half the town anointed him the center fielder. He said he would steal 40 bases at the Winter Warmup. He came over with the support and hype of a seven time gold glove outfielder(hint, he is not). Jon Jay began the season as a backup. By the end of the season, Jon Jay was the center fielder and backed it up with his consistent bat and improved defense. Jay had a .378 on base percentage and put together his third .300 average hitting season. He was an overall 2.8 wins above replacement and his defense was much better than the 2013 debacle. He was a lethal weapon against lefthanded pitching, hitting .375. Jay also calmed another harsh critical crowd when he collected 14 hits in the postseason. Jay gets nearly as much flack around St. Louis as Matt Holliday, but has developed into a consistent bargain producer for the team. He isn’t going to crank a lot of home runs or dazzle with his glove, but he will earn his at bats and do whatever is needed. Yeah, and he also gets on base a lot and collects a lot of hits. 2015 will begin with Jay in center field and Bourjos as a useful weapon off the bench. No debate required this time.

That’s all folks. 2015 awaits and will thankfully torture fans with more unforgettable moments, long bouts of frustration and inevitable heartbreak. 2014 is in the rear view mirror. The upcoming season has a whole new bag of tricks planned. Are you ready? I am. See you next time.

-@buffa82

 

 

 

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2015 Wish List

"<strongGreetings,

Christmas Day is past the halfway mark and as the presents have opened and the egg nog is flowing through the system, it’s time to unleash a few wishes for the upcoming 2015 season. Every baseball fan hopes for the best and trains for the worst, but with the holiday spirit in the air, here are a few things I want to see happen with the St. Louis Cardinals in the New Year.

*Mike Matheny learns from his mistakes and becomes a better in game manager. I don’t have to reach far back in time to tell you the man struggles in late game action chess play. Take the Giants series. He left Randy Choate in too long and a game was blown. He finally unleashed Michael Wacha at the WORST possible time and the series was lost on one flat pitch. Matheny is a good guy, a firm leader and someone the players trust. He has the look of a ranked officer but makes rookie mistakes in the field of battle. He is a 4th year manager now and needs to act like it. Stop making decisions that I can do better with from my armchair(I took care of a few commenting readers with that phrase).

*Jason Heyward has a breakout season in his first year in Cardinal Red. I like the kid. I like Heyward a lot. I think he is the right fielder this team has dreamed about for years. He is 25 years old, has shown the ability to hit the long ball and has a great head on his shoulders. He is a PR dream and an athletic specimen. He is going to play for the perfect team in the perfect place. Fans will eat him up and that smile as wide as the Arch. I want him to sign an extension and stay a while. Worry about playing time for Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty later. They are young, raw and need time. Heyward’s time is now.

*Matt Holliday cranks 30 home runs. I know. Home runs aren’t Holliday’s forte. He does a variety of things with the bat and I am not asking for a lot here. I want Holliday to bash 30 home runs to go with his .300 average, .380 on base, 100 RBI and improved defense so stingy fans can find even less to complain about. Holliday is getting older and younger men are barking behind the wall in left field but he is still a highly productive player in this game and has made his at the time big dollar contract stand tall for John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. I want him to crank a few more long balls this year just to let it all soak into the crowd who thinks he isn’t worth the money. Just for a few extra grins.

*Michael Wacha bounces back and shows a full bill of health. The ascension of Lance Lynn and the presence of John Lackey is nice but if Wacha is anywhere close to his 2013 form, the Cards rotation is deadly and ferocious. Opposing teams won’t find an easy cure in this group, especially if Carlos Martinez wraps up the fifth spot. On paper, the Cards have loads of starting pitching. Along with the five previously mentioned arms, they also have Jaime Garcia on the mend and Marco Gonzales waiting with Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons and John Gast on the farm. Look closer and the walls shows a few crack though. Adam Wainwright is coming off a season where he dominated at times and also ran into dead arm issues. Lackey’s health will be in question. Martinez barely has any experience in the rotation. Garcia is as fragile as a faberge egg. If Wacha is good to go and all the way back from a stress reaction, the rotation is strong.If not, don’t hold your breath on the disabled list area staying empty.

*Yadier Molina plays 150 games, and catches 100 percent of them. For now, ladies and gentlemen, the man is too good of a backstopper to move to first base. His knees are fragile and have a timer on them, but that doesn’t mean you move a gold glove caliber defender to another position to worry about tomorrow or next year. Yadi behind homeplate makes the Cardinals a perennial threat. Unless they sign another Yoda to back him up or create magical powers with Tony Cruz, Molina can’t move. The pitching staff, coaches and Matheny lean on him to be a difference maker. The Cards are a better team with Yadi catching and not at first base.

*The bench becomes a weapon. Mark Reynolds and Grichuk combine forces to give the Cards an all or nothing swing for the fences in the late innings is a good start, but I want more. I want these utility players to turn a weakness into a strength in 2015 as a unit. Make the bench a tool instead of a leaky faucet. Opposing managers knew the Cards were playing with less than stellar late inning power so they unleashed the hounds most of the time early. The walk off wins didn’t pile on until August and September. A bench makes all the difference for a team that doesn’t hit for a lot of power and wins close games.

The Smaller Wishes-Quick Hits

  • Something in the stadium to remember Oscar Taveras by. A small #18 in the right field bullpen. A picture or plague somewhere in the stadium. A place where fans can see that exuberant smile and ambition when they visit the stadium. It doesn’t have to be show stopping. That or Carlos wins 18 games to truly honor Oscar.
  • Jordan Walden makes fans forget about Jason Motte and Pat Neshek really quick.
  • Jhonny Peralta remains stellar at shortstop.
  • Kolten Wong steal 30 bases.
  • Trevor Rosenthal‘s pitches per inning go back down.
  • The Cards play winning baseball at Wrigley Field.
  • Instant replay gets a little better.
  • Lance Lynn wins 18 games, pitches 200 innings and posts a fielding independent ERA below 3.00.

That should do it. There are a lot more wishes to throw into the well but it’s still 2014 and it’s Christmas. The temperature outside is 59 degrees. I think it’s time for me go outside.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays,

DLB

 

 

 

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Carlos+Martinez+NLCS+Los+Angeles+Dodgers+v+si6v8-C9ooGlAs the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club plays in the background, allow to me rummage through my scattered baseball thoughts as Christmas stands just three days away. With spring training less than two months way, the smell of a new baseball season is coming closer and closer to the nostrils.

Confessional time/opening. Look, there is nothing wrong with football and hockey but baseball owns a certain piece of my soul. When spring comes around and fake baseball begins, the blood flows faster, the heart beats at the tune of a Rolling Stone classic and the mood hops on a swing. It’s a time of the year that I rely on and also remain afraid of. It’s like being a character on HBO’s Game of Thrones and staring down a distant white wall of terror, knowing doom is on its way. Baseball is doom. Sure, the Cards could win it all in the end but over a month of exhibition games followed by 162 official games with playoffs following, there is no way to know the end. I don’t care if you know three genius stat addicts and have a friendship with a future reader and a relationship with a palm reader. Baseball season claims no clues. A fan or writer must sit and wait for the action to unfold.

Is John Mozeliak done dealing and adding? Yes and no. He has added a rightfielder in Jason Heyward who is only 25 years old and could play himself into a lifetime in St. Louis if he relocates his power stroke and plays up to his reputation in the outfield. He has added Jordan Waldon and Matt Belishe to a bullpen that lost Jason Motte. Shelby Miller is gone but Carlos Martinez gets to play with his fastball, changeup and slider in an expanded role. Mo added Mark Reynolds and his HR pop to a bench that has been weak and gave the team insurance behind Matt Adams at first base. If the season started tomorrow, the Cards could run something like this out there.

Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward, Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong, Adam Wainwright.

There are other players that could be added but how many outsiders do you want to clog the roster with when you have hungry young talent on the farm like Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Xavier Scruggs and Tommy Pham? Asdrubal Cabrera is out there but will cost you 10 million dollars to hunt for starts between shortstop and second base, where you have a guy at short in Jhonny who will make 15 million in 2015 and a young phenom in Wong who needs playing time to get right. A starter could be added but that means the trade for John Lackey‘s cheap yet productive 500,000 salary gets pushed and Martinez gets misused again in 2015. The bullpen is stocked. The bench looks better with Reynolds, Grichuk. Piscotty and possibly other young guns.

A backup catcher is the only spot that Mozeliak could really add to but where are you going to find a guy who knows he will only play once a week unless Yadier gets hurt. Where are those free agents located at? Here’s you check, but head to the bullpen and warm up the starter so Yadi can get fully geared up. It isn’t happening. Molina will eventually play more first base but he isn’t exactly Mike Piazza or Joe Mauer just yet. He is still a gold glove catcher who means way too much behind the plate to move right now.

The Cubs made moves, but Theo Epstein had held his cards for a couple seasons. He is bringing a corpse back to life up north and needed to reestablish something. His moves don’t scare me. The Pirates will be a threat, and it doesn’t matter who they won the rights for today. The Brewers don’t have enough pitching and their lineup can’t hold up over 162. The Reds have a ton of problems on the offensive side but have a few shiny pieces.

One can slice this cake any way they want and still paint the Cardinals as the front runners to take the division. Threats always exist but the Cubs can’t just create a winning playoff bound team in one offseason. The Pirates have tried to topple the Cards twice and fallen behind. There are still moves to be made before the season and at the deadline, but right now I still see the Cards as the front runner. The team to chase. The squad with the biggest scent for other wolves to run after. It’s not rocket science or unknown circumstance. It’s just the way the NL Central is made up these days.

Mo can make a few other moves if he wants but looking at the team today, I see a fierce competitor. The forecast for runs scored isn’t a sealed deal but the pitching is stronger, younger and the bench is improved. The young talent gets a closer examination in 2015. The rotation has three legit 200 inning candidates in Wainwright, Lackey and Lance Lynn in 2015. There are reinforcements waiting in the wings.

I could be wrong. It could be the usual blindness of offseason ramblings hitting me right now down in Little Rock, Arkansas. This time of the year always leaves a baseball guy feeling needy.

Instead of wishing for another redbird present on Thursday, just enjoy the snow and the family. Baseball will be here before you know it and it will consume you.

What are your thoughts, worries and needs when the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals come to mind?

Leave a comment below or find us on Twitter or on Facebook.

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7221228By signing with the Chicago Cubs, Jason Motte gets the best of both worlds. He gets to compete for a potential winning franchise and stay very close to his favorite city of St. Louis at the same time. Be happy for the guy. Upon hearing the news this afternoon, Cardinal fans were either hurt or mad at Motte for accepting an invitation to the Little Bears club. I don’t get the frustration. When a team rebuilding quite nicely like the Cubs come calling with a reported 4.5 million dollar offer with incentives, how can an aging pitcher say no exactly? How does that work? Motte is 32 years old, went through Tommy John  and other injuries, and is starting his trek down the hill instead of up. Translation: He is getting old and his arm is being accompanied by new warning labels every season. This is a good deal for him. He wasn’t coming back to St. Louis. There is simply zero room for him in that crowded young bullpen. He could have gone farther away, but I like that he stayed close. Call me sentimental or carefree. Just keep reading.

As I have said with the Cubs recent surge back from the Walking Dead territory, this is good for the division and the rivalry. Cardinal players have been going over to Chicago for a long time now. Jim Edmonds went to Chicago and cranked a few off the Cards in Wrigley. What’s so wrong with Motte firing some fastballs for them this coming season? Let’s see if he gets his career back on track. For one more season, Motte won’t have to face the dying of the light in his Major League Baseball career. I like this deal and so should any Cards fan or lover of the game.

He is going up north a bit, but will still be close. He will come back and play against us. If he is the 2012 version, the challenge will be there for the Cards hitters to take their best shot at Motte’s high octane heater. If the Birds get the 2014 version, it will be batting practice all over again. A flashback to Esteban Yan in his prime. This isn’t a win/win for the Cards, but it’s a chance to face an old friend and keep him close to the city that he produced so much for over the course of the past 4-5 seasons.

Forget baseball for a minute and think about the efforts of Motte in the community, raising awareness for Cancer and starting a league wide charity organization to raise money. That will still be based in St. Louis. Motte’s efforts to combat a deadly disease started in the Lou and will remain there no matter which uniform he puts on. It may give him the chance to wear a different color “K Cancer” shirt but that is okay. As long as money is being raised, wear whichever shirt is in front of you. There should have been signs last year in a random pic where Motte was wearing the Cubs Blue version of the shirt.

It’s hard to act shocked at the Motte/Cubs connection. The Cubs loaded their bullpen with hard throwers back in the day when the Cards has Tony Fossas and Jeff Brantley firing flat heat in the late innings. The Cubs have always loved a good side of no nonsense velocity in their bullpen. Motte fits their style and will get a shot to close or set up.

The hardest thing for fans to do in sports is separate the romantic urges of the game from the business tactics. At the end of the day, the business side always wins. Players come, make a mark or fall flat, before moving on. As a good friend of mine frequently sums it up, it is what it is.

Jason Motte is a Cub. Be happy for him today. There isn’t a classier guy in the game of baseball than Jason “Wolf Man” Motte. I will miss his mound mannerisms. Taking the hat off several times. Rubbing his scalp. Shouting into his glove. The way as he came set to pitch it felt like a shotgun was being aimed at the plate. I’ll never forget Yadi Molina tackling him after the Cards won their 11th World Championship in 2011.

When April comes around, business will reign supreme and it will be time for the Cards to take Motte deep at Wrigley. The Cards and Cubs meet first in 2015. This just made it even more interesting to watch.

Thanks for reading and find more of my instant take right here.

 

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