Sunday, October 26, 2008

Roundtable Questions

As a part of the month-long series of questions of the day with the United Cardinal Bloggers, my question of the day was: There's been talk that Jake Peavy is on the market and the Cards are a possible option. Do you see them going after Peavy at all. If so, is Rasmus on the table or would you trade Skip or Ludwick for him?

C70 at the Bat: Up front: I'm a huge Peavy fan. I would love to have him in Cardinal red.

That said, with the financial obligation it would take to get him, I think it'd wind up crippling the team. This is where we get into those contracts we wish we didn't have, because without the resigning of Lohse or Carpenter's extension, maybe they can do something. But you know that, since the only reason SD would be dealing him is for salary relief, they aren't going to pay any of it nor take back a bad contract of ours.

Assuming, though, that ownership decided to really raise the payroll level and a Peavy acquisition wouldn't put major crimps in other parts of the ballclub, I think I would make the deal, even if it included Rasmus. Obviously, if they'd take Skip or even Ludwick instead, I'd do that first, but pitching wins in my book.

Pitchers Hit Eighth: While I was definitely on-board with a Peavy trade when the news first started circulating, I’m thinking a little differently now.

Trading away your top prospects and young players for Peavy now, regardless of his age and/or ability, would signify a large step toward a return to the Jocketty Doctrine. Trade your promising young players for vets, scrape together a couple of competing seasons, then find yourself right back where you began.

It’s those trades that put the Cardinals in the position they find themselves today, having to rebuild a farm system from scratch. Not having any more trade capital to make the deals that kept the Cards competitive for so long (Edmonds, Rolen, Kile, etc).

The organization has put an emphasis on building a self-sufficient franchise and farm system, something that is an absolute necessity for the Cardinals to continue to compete on a yearly basis, given their market. By that, what I mean is this: can you imagine an Oakland A’s type of system of virtually interchangeable parts, with the Cardinals’ payroll? I mean, even an increase to the Cards’ level would represent a huge increase over what the A’s are putting out on a yearly basis, and they could keep a lot more of those players together.

In today’s MLB, I think the key to winning is developing cheap, cost-controlled pitching. With pitchers being so prone to injury, so volatile in going from league to league (or even park to park, in an argument more specific to Peavy), there just seems to be increasing risk in signing free agent pitchers or trading for guys who are beginning to break down (which also begs the question of why other teams (read: the A’s) know a guy is about to fall apart, but some teams (read: the Cardinals) can’t see that?).

Sorry, I’m getting a little long-winded here, but my point is this: don’t sell out the farm again for a guy like Peavy, who may well end up on the shelf with similar arm troubles as Carp or Mulder. Let’s actually see what some of these youngsters can do before we sell them off trying to “win one more for LaRussa” or something silly like that. Sure, some of these kids are going to flop and we could’ve gotten great value for them while they were still in the minors. But some of them will go on to do great things for the Cardinals, and wouldn’t you rather see a minimum salary flop, than a $15m per one? The Cardinals have some guys who are being paid a lot more than I to determine whether these players are going to be worth anything in the big leagues – I trust them, if they say we shouldn’t trade Rasmus because he’s going to be a perennial All-Star. Isn’t six years worth of cheap Rasmus (obviously assuming he pans out) always going to be worth more than Peavy at his price?

The Redbird Blog: Based on the latest news (per Strauss and Miklasz), I'd say the Cards are not in the hunt for Peavy. Do I think they should be? Absolutely. Would I consider Rasmus in a package for Peavy? Absolutely.

IMO, the Cards need to try to win while Pujols is under contract. We just don't know what his eventual asking price will be, or whether the Cards will be in a position to meet that price. Acquiring a pitcher of Peavy's caliber does a few things:

1) Acquiring Peavy through trade (and he has a reasonable salary for the next two seasons) means the Cards have more $ to spend in the offseason this year---potentially on another bat or on bullpen help.

2) A rotation including both Peavy and Wainwright would match up against any in the NL. If Carpenter is healthy, it might be the best rotation in the league.

If I'm Mozeliak, I try to make this deal.

Cardinal Nation Globe: Unfortunately, I don't see the Cards going after Peavy, although I would like them to. I would would put Ludwick or Schumaker on the table, not Rasmus.

Cardinals GM: I would go for Peavy and include Rasmus in a trade along with Skip if it took to get him. Rasmus has potential but so did Daric Barton and so far that hasn't been an impact many thought it would.

Fungoes: The first thing to ask is "Would you want Peavy's contract, regardless of what one would have to give up for him?" To this, I'd answer "yes": The $82 million he's due over the next five seasons (according to Strauss), is, believe it or not, about the same as the $82.65 million that he'll be worth (according to BPro's MORP, Marginal Value Above Replacement Player). The contract covers his age-28 through -32 seasons; just at and slightly beyond his peak. So he's a good value. Nick's point that "cheap, cost-controlled pitching" is key to winning is well-taken; but given that Peavy comes with a good contract and is still relatively young, he actually represents "reasonable, cost-controlled pitching."

The second question, as a couple of you have already noted, is how much to give up for Peavy, and how that changes the club's post-Jocketty era direction. Given their current outfield situation and Rasmus's lack of a strong half of AAA ball, Rasmus isn't too steep a price to pay. Beyond that, the deal starts losing value for the Cardinals. I do wish that people, including Mozeliak, would remove the phrase "if Carpenter is healthy" from their vocabulary and realistically consider a 2009 (and beyond) without him (though perhaps Mozeliak is merely being publicly coy about it).

Redbirds Fun: If I were Mo, I'd make the deal too. I like Skip, Rick, Ludwick, and Rasmus but I feel as if our outfield will be overcrowded soon enough.

I hope we either make a run at Furcal or Peavy. We really need a solid middle infield.

Pitchers Hit Eighth: The problem with a Peavy deal is this:

Everyone assumes it will be Rasmus, a few throw-ins (because Raz is THE NEXT COMING), and then Peavy wins Cy Youngs for the Birds.

What if Towers wants to get Rasmus, Perez, Motte, and Jess Todd for Peavy? Do you still make the trade?

Rasmus, Anderson, Daryl Jones, and Pete Kozma? Do you do that deal?

The fact that Mozeliak and others (the Braves’ Frank Wren dismissed rumors about a prospects for Peavy deal today) are so quickly panning tells me one of two things – either the asking price (rumored to be at least Bedard-level, probably higher) is prohibitive, or everyone’s playing possum.

Stan Musial's Stance: Pip hits the nail on the head below. Peavy's only 27; to get the 5 years of his prime for a reasonable price seems to me to be a no-brainer. The only issue would be the size of the package required to pry him from San Diego. The club will have to give up somebody good; Kevin Towers won't make a Woody Williams for Ray Lankford trade again, even if all of us said novenas asking for the trade to be Duncan and Piniero for Peavy.

I would prefer to trade Ludwick on the premise of sell high - Love the kid, but I believe we witnessed his career year in 2008. I don't think the Padres would take Schumaker. If the deal required parting with Rasmus, then I think we should go for it.

Remember, David Green was our centerfielder of the future in 1982 - then he got hurt, and some guy named Willie McGee came along. No matter how touted a player is, you just never know.

Bert Flex: I really don't know why we'd be interested in Peavy when Mark Mulder is back on the market...

Stan Musial's Stance: Nice. I almost spit coffee on the screen while reading that one...

Pitchers Hit Eighth: Again, though, I don't think the issue is Rasmus. I suspect that if the Pads wanted to go Peavy for Rasmus straight up, Mozeliak couldn't put his stamp on the deal quickly enough.

I just don't think he's going to come that cheaply. So it's not just a matter of "will you trade Rasmus?" It's a matter of "how much more do you want in addition to Rasmus?" I would guess it's quite a bit...

Stan Musial's Stance: That's true. The Union Tribune here indicated the Padres want two pitching prospects in addition to a position player for Peavy. I don't know our minor league pitchers as well as some on this email chain, but if the Padres hold out for two pitching prospects the level of Rasmus then it gets dicey. I think Mo could talk Towers into Rasmus, Anderson, and 1 class "A" pitching prospect for Peavy. The other pitcher, well, Kelvin Jimenez, anyone?

Pitchers Hit Eighth: If they're looking for Raz plus pitching - my guess would be that Towers would start at Rasmus, Jess Todd, and either Perez or Motte.

Maybe even Rasmus, Perez, and Motte.

If I was in charge, I'm not willing to make either of those deals. Maybe I'm just too invested in this youth movement thing...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

2008 MLB Postseason Award Predictions

Since we're in between end of the NLCS and the start of the World Series, I decided to look over my 2008 MLB preseason predictions. I correctly predicted the NL East, NLCS winner, AL West, and AL Wild Card.

Now, for those updated awards:
NL MVP: Before the season I picked Chase Utley of the Philiadelphia Phillies. I'm now thinking that it will be either Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard.

NL CY YOUNG: Although he has over 200 strikeouts this past season, I don't think my pick of Cole Hamels of the Philiadelphia Phillies will win. It will either be Brandon Webb or Tim Lincecum.

NL ROY: Rasmus did not see a day of light this year. It's going to be either Edinson Volquez or Jay Bruce.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

AL CY YOUNG: I picked Justin Verlander originally but it's probably going to be Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.

AL ROY: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria made an impact upon arrival and helped lead Tampa Bay to the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Daily Show: Cubs fans are stupid

John Oliver:...And finally Cubs fans.

Jon Stewart: Cubs fans are considered subsets of the stupids?

Oliver: Oh, absolutely, Jon! They had had 100 years to figure out that what they want will never happen and yet they still yearn for it.

Stewart: And that is stupid.

Oliver: Yes, it's very stupid.

Stewart: Because the Cubs will never win.

Oliver: That's right, Jon. The Chicago Cubs will never, ever win the World Series. They won't do it.

Stewart: They have made G-d angry.

Oliver: That's right. That's what I am saying.

RIP: George Kissell (1920-2008)

It's a sad time for Cardinal fans. We mourn the passing of George Kissell, who died following an an automobile accident that left him in critical condition.
Early one morning several years ago, George Kissell, the baseball sage known as "The Professor," made his return to spring training, and Cardinals coaches conspired to make sure he was the last one out of the clubhouse. When he emerged, an ovation awaited from the gathered players who were applauding what was true for generations of men who wore the jersey.

Kissell helped mold them from players into Cardinals.

"I've always been known as a hard-nosed guy, but today you really touched me to the heart," Kissell told the players that morning in February 2005. "I'll never take the birds off my chest. When I take them off, that's my last day in baseball."[...]

For nearly seven decades, Kissell was a creator and curator of what manager Tony La Russa calls the "Cardinal Way."

He joined the organization in 1940, signed by Branch Rickey after a tryout in New York, and served the club in almost every capacity. He managed in the minors, coached in the majors, taught minor-leaguers how to play like major-leaguers and taught major-leaguers how to play new positions. The past several years he had served as the Cardinals' senior field coordinator for player development.

This spring training was his 68th in 69 years as a Cardinal.

"George Kissell should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame," former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz in 2000. "He's a treasure in this game. Think of the difference he made in all of those careers, how he's influenced the game of baseball. There's no way to measure his true value."[...]

In 1993, Kissell received the "King of Baseball" award, given by minor-league baseball for service to the game. Those in attendance gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. In 2003, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. That same year, Baseball America gave him the Roland Hemond award for a lifetime commitment to baseball. Another ovation. The players were already standing that February morning in 2005 when he was the last to come out of the clubhouse.

Once the clapping calmed, Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. revealed a plaque that had been affixed to the clubhouse at the team's Jupiter, Fla., campus. It renamed the clubhouse for Kissell.

The plaque read, in part: "Every player in the Cardinals' Organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they have all been better for it. ... Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball."

He turned a pitcher named Ken Boyer into a third baseman who went on to win an MVP award. Kissell taught Andy Van Slyke to play the outfield and John Mabry to play the infield, and he shepherded Joe Torre in his shift from catcher to third base. He once told a young Anthony "Tony" La Russa that he was better suited to be a major-league manager than a major-league player. In 1989, Kissell was featured in a Sports Illustrated article titled "The College of Cardinals." He was described as the dean.

Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, a protégé of Kissell's, once described Kissell as "the greatest baseball fundamentalist I have ever known."

He also described him as the "smartest man in baseball."

"I learned more baseball from George Kissell than from anyone else in my life," Torre told the St. Petersburg Times in 1997. Torre won four World Series titles as manager of the New York Yankees, and in his autobiography he called Kissell his greatest teacher. He told the paper: "A lot of people can play the game, but not as many people can teach the game. And George, to me, was the ultimate. Is the ultimate."

To teach Torre how to play third, Kissell had Torre stand a body's length away from the outfield wall and face it. Kissell would then stand behind Torre and fire baseballs at the wall. Torre improved his reaction by fielding the ricochets. Mabry tells a similar story of what he called "Kissell drills." Kissell, almost half the size of his pupils but twice as intense, ambled out to Mabry at third base and took away the infielder's glove.

He then told Mabry to get on his knees to field grounders.

"Basically, he just took me out there and beat me to death with a fungo," Mabry joked. "I'd be on my knees just looking at the ball coming off the bat — with no glove."

Kissell was renowned for his sayings, his quips, but also his relentlessly encouraging spirit. He once needled players by saying that his wife could bunt better. He called spring training "spring cleaning — a time to knock the dust out of you." Once, while showing Yadier Molina how to improve his bunting, he instructed the catcher: "The bat has no knowledge at all. It does what you tell it to."
May he rest in peace.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cards news over the last few weeks...

Kyle McClellan was named as the organization's rookie of the year and very much deserved on his part.

SI reports on another amazing season by Albert Pujols.

Yet again, Russ Springer is pondering his eventual retirement.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Resigning Kyle Lohse

I just want to say that I am so glad we decided to resign Kyle Lohse for the next few seasons. Sure, after his performance in Cincinnati, I had my doubts but then he went to Philly.

In 33 starts this season, Lohse pitched 200 innings and finished with a 15-6 record. Unlike the last few years, he kept his ERA under 4. Furthermore, we just need to keep pitching him at home, where he went 8-2 this year with a 3.32 ERA. Throw him at night, too: 11-1 and 2.97.

In addition to resigning Lohse, we were able to keep Dave Duncan for another season with a club option for 2010.