I'm not really sure if I need spring training per se, but I do feel a little out of practice with the infrequency of my posting the last few months. I'm going to try and write a little more often this month in preparation for the start of the grapefruit league at least. That may require talking about some topics other than the Cards, which isn't what I normally like to do, but there just isn't much to talk about with so little happening this off season. Anyway, here are three questions I have been thinking about baseball-wise this week:
1. What were the Cards thinking about with Adam Kennedy? I guess they thought they could trade him, because with his release yesterday, they were clearly lying about him being their "guy" at 2B. The frustrating thing about that is Lopez (1 year - 3 mil to Arizona), and Miles (2 years - 5 mil to the Cubs) didn't exactly sign back-breaking deals and that management could have/should have kept one of them if they knew they weren't committed to Kennedy. Now it seems that the new "guy" at 2B is converted outfielder Skip Shumaker. Everyone seems to think he can play there because he played SS in high school, but high school and MLB are light years apart. And for those of you that think the release of Kennedy frees the team to pursue Orlando Hudson, remember, MLB isn't like the NFL. The Cards are still on the hook for the entirety of Kennedy's 4 mil salary this year no matter what. He's just not going to be giving us anything for that money (well, maybe he'll drag some other contender in the NL down with his crap hitting hopefully). Regardless, our opening day infield is suddenly going to look a lot different than last year. Chances are, we will be a better hitting team because of that, but what was one of the best defensive infield's in baseball is likely to take a big dip. Greene is above average, but he's no Izturis with the glove and whomever ends up at 3B and 2B are likely to be significantly worse than Glaus and Kennedy respectively. IF Shu can make the transition, having him stay in the line-up is a major positive. His surprisingly solid contributions at the top of the order last year were often overshadowed by Ludwick's in the middle of the order, but they were no less important. Anyway, this just adds another list of questions and uncertainties to a team that is full of them heading into spring training.
2. With A-Rod admission of steroid use, is Albert Pujols now the consensus best player in the game? Well, like most Cardinals fans, I already believed this statement to be true before the A-Rod story this week. A-Rod is a great player for sure, but he strikes-out too much and comes through in the clutch too little for my tastes. However, it seems that A-Rod gets the vote of many of the so-called experts. I think this is because of two things: playing a more "demanding" position at either SS or 3B and because of his HR and RBI totals. Well, I always thought the first thing was bogus because playing 1B at a high level like Albert does is huge for the rest of the infield (just ask the Phillies and Ryan Howard). As for the second, this story has to throw a big cloud over A-Rod's supposedly superior numbers. Walks, runs, Strike-outs, batting average, OBP, etc. Albert is light-years ahead of A-Rod in most other offensive numbers. HRs, RBIs and SBs are the only places A-Rod is better. We'll see heading into the season, but coming-off his second MVP, I bet Albert becomes the undisputed man in MLB. (On the steroid issue, I hope McGwire pays close attention to the way A-Rod is treated. I think he'll be forgiven by this time next year, which is why I want Mark to come forward as well).
3. Has Scott Boras finally bitten-off more than he can chew with Manny Rameriz? Here's where I venture into territory that doesn't directly concern the Cards, but I think it is a fascinating story nonetheless. Boras clients have almost universally gotten what they wanted in the past. Lohse a year ago was one of the few that have had to take a below-market deal at the last minute. Now, the economy has made this market extremely poor for any free agent that doesn't sign with the Yankees, but I thought Manny would get his money. Not 5 or 6 years like maybe he wants, but 4 or at least 3 for 25+ mil per. It seems that, however, teams really are worried about giving him more than one year because of his past instances of unmotivated play. If you are going to invest that much time and money in a guy, you want to be sure that he'll at least give you 100% everyday, and with Manny, you just can't be sure of that. Say what you want about A-Rod, but I don't think you can say that the guy doesn't at least always try his best. It seems that Manny and the Dodgers are in a game of chicken right now. The only other team it that may be in on Manny is the Giants, but they've already spent a lot of money this off season. I think Manny might have to take a one year deal. If he gets two, he should thank his lucky stars. I personally think having a player like him take only a one-year deal would be good for baseball. It would signal to players that effort matters, not just production and marketability.
Well, that's it for today. Hopefully you enjoyed those rambling topics. As I said, I'll try to be more active this month. Look out for the UCB pre-season round table sometime towards the end of the month as well.