Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Training/UCB Roundtable

The grapefruit league is officially underway with the Cards going 0-1-1 in their first two games. Some notes so far: I knew Shumaker would be mainly at 2B, but I'm a little surprised to see Mather used only at 3B so far. I'll all for starting opening day with one converted outfielder in the infield, but two? Yikes for the defense. Freese hasn't played at all yet. Maybe he's hurt, I'm not sure. Rasmus has started both games, but the first was in left while Ankiel was in center (and batting clean-up). Maybe TRL has figured-out that Ankiel isn't comfortable as a corner outfielder for some reason. Anyway, it's VERY early yet. Some guy I've never heard of named Hawthorne started the opener in fact, but he seemed to do well. Lohse, not so much in the second game.

The other important thing for the day is that the UCB is currently in the middle of our preseason roundtable. This actually started about a week ago, but I forgot to post anything about it on this blog. John and I have contributed to a few (but not all) of the discussions so far. Our blog's day to host the roundtable is March 10th, but here is the full schedule:
Pitchers Hit Eighth 2/20
The Rundown 2/23
Cardinal Nation Globe 2/24
That's a Winner 2/25
CardinalsGM 2/26
Play a Hard 9 2/27
Redbirds Row 3/2
Stan Musial's Stance 3/3
Bugs and Cranks 3/4
Joe Sports Fan 3/5
Fungoes 3/6
Whiteyball 3/9
The Cardinal Virtue 3/10
Cardinals Diaspora 3/11
4thebirds.... 3/12
The Redbird Blog 3/13
La Beisbolista 3/16
5 O'Clock Blogger 3/17
Redbirds Fun 3/18
Redbird Ramblings 3/19
C70 At The Bat 3/20

As you can see, some of the days have already passed, so be sure to head over to those blogs and check-out what all us loonies have been talking about so far and try and keep up with the discussion as it goes along. There's been some interesting topics so far and I'm sure more are to come.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Opening Day Roster?

There's some serious questions both in the everyday line-up and the pitching staff heading into spring training, but here is my best-case-senario for an opening day roster:

1. 2B - Shumaker
2. CF - Rasmus
3. 1B - Pujols
4. RF - Ludwick
5. LF - Ankiel
6. 3B - Freese
7. SS - Greene
8 . C - Molina
9. P - Wainwright (Assuming TRL regains his senses and bats pitchers in their proper spot)

This is a pretty potent line-up, probably not a weak link that I can see, even with Glaus likely starting the year on the DL.

1. Wainwright
2. Carp
3. Lohse
4. Wellenmeyer
5. Pineiro

Cl - Perez
RH/late innings - Motte/Kinney/Franklin
LH - Miller, PTBN
Long relief/emergency starter - McClellen

Bench - Ryan (2B/SS/3B), LaRue (C), Duncan (OF/LH), Mather (OF/RH), Wallace (3B/1B)

I actually seriously doubt Wallace makes the bigs till September as they won't want his abitration clock ticking yet. I know we signed a couple of other LH relievers other than Miller, but I can't remember their names for the life of me, so I went with player to be named in that slot. 2B, closer, and Carp's health are obviously the biggest questions marks on this list, but potentiallly, I think this a much more talented roster than a year ago despite the lack of movement this offseason by the front office.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

More Random thoughts

Here's some more quick hits for the end of the week:

Ankiel signs, avoid arbitration. I'm glad the deal got done. Personally I thought Rick was asking for a bit much for a guy that hasn't made it through an entire season at any position in the majors. I certainly hope he does this year though, as he should hit close to 40 homers if he can make 150+ starts.

I'm actually getting excited about the World Baseball Classic. I know that it is hardly a true contest to decide the best baseball playing country in the world with the limits placed upon the pitchers, but it's the closest we are likely to get because it's doubtful everyone involved would ever agree to shut things down in the middle of the season to stage the contest properly. I think it's a lot of fun personally to watch multi-millionaires play for something other than their multi-millions. We get to see this in basketball and soccer more fully realized, but it's nice to have it in baseball, even in a watered-down form. Remember, this is were Dice-K first became an international star and now with two solid seasons in Boston, we have seen it was no fluke.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Roberto Alomar may now be explained. Growing up, this guy was the best second baseman I'd ever seen and one of my favorite players because I'd played second in my very short baseball career. In 2001 Alomar hit .336 with 20 homers, 34 doubles, and 12 triples. He also stole 30 bases, walked 80 times, scored 113 runs and even knocked-in an even 100. That's what you call well-rounded production. He'd been having seasons similar to that for the last 10 years as well, all while playing the slickest 2B you will ever see. He and Omar Vizquel formed at the time, hands-down, the best double play combination of all time. Their combination of range, great hands, and the ability to make difficult plays routine is unrivaled. Then in 2002 - Boom!, he simply ceased being an effective player. I mean, he went from great, to below-average at the major-league level. He batted .266 in 2002 and all his other stats went down dramatically across the board. He was also clearly not just one, but three steps slower in the field. He played only two more years, 2003 and 2004, and his production was similar to 2002. Before you say, well, he just got old - I'll give you a comparison. Jeff Kent just retired, and he is only one year younger than Alomar currently (40 to 41). Jeff Kent was a darn good player, but in their primes, their was no comparison to Alomar. Power is the one and only place you'd give Kent the advantage. Well, this week information has come-out that suggests that Alomar may have been playing 2002-2004 while having the HIV virus if not full-blown AIDs. I won't go into the details because they involve a lawsuit with a ton of unseemly information, but I will say that Alomar and his family (such as his dad, Sandy Alomar Sr.) are denying the allegations. Personally, I think it seems to explain a great deal. Certainly, many player's production have trailed-off as they got older, but I've never seen it happen so suddenly and completely to such a great player. Alomar was only 34 in 2002, and most players of his skill level don't fade that quickly at that age. We will see what happens with this lawsuit. Though he was a great player, Alomar was always known to be a less than ideal person, so I'm interested to see if this effects his legacy in positive or negative manner. If it turns out he is a complete scumbag, he may find getting votes for the Hall hard to come by. Then again, if it turns out his worst years were caused by a sickness, his great years may get more of the focus. I'll be interested to see which is which.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do Bloggers Need Spring Training too?

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.