Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter meeting roundup: McGwire has integrity

Here's what happened with the Rule 5 draft today. Luis Perdomo was taken during round 5 by the San Francisco Giants.
The righthanded reliever the St. Louis Cardinals received in the Anthony Reyes trade with Cleveland was selected in the Rule 5 draft this morning by the San Francisco Giants. Luis Perdomo will be added to the Giants’ 40-man roster and taken to spring training where he will have the opportunity to make the major-league 25-man roster. He must be on that roster all season or be offered back to the Cardinals before he can be sent to the minors.

Perdomo was a likely loss after the Cardinals elected not to protect him from the draft by putting him on their 40-man roster. The players the Cardinals did protect were SS Tyler Greene and RHP Matt Scherer.
Adam Kennedy and Colby Rasmus are back in favor with Tony La Russa.
Kennedy "just wants to play," La Russa said. "I think it was a mutual respect thing. I thought he handled himself really well the times he didn't play. He ended up on a plus note."

For Rasmus, La Russa heaped on the praise.

"This guy has a chance to be an impact, everyday outfielder," La Russa said. "He has a chance to be a very special package."

After several offseasons of stumping for a cleanup hitter — a request he echoed toward the end of this past season — La Russa acknowledged that the priority right now should be pitching. He's content with the lineup that's in place since the addition of shortstop Khalil Greene. Yes, he plans to hit the pitcher eighth again in 2009, but Greene hitting in the No. 6 spot or lower has the potential to add run-producing depth to the lineup, La Russa said.

He added that outfielder Chris Duncan is "feeling great" as he recovers from surgery to repair a herniated disc and that Duncan shouldn't be slowed at all entering spring training. The manager said Duncan will be ready for the throng of outfielders the Cardinals have vying for jobs, citing five besides Duncan: Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker — the incumbent starters — and rookies Joe Mather and Rasmus.

Inviting Kennedy back into the flock is as simple as assuring him playing time. Kennedy has told the Post-Dispatch he is warm to a return to the Cardinals if he has a legitimate shot at starting. La Russa said he hasn't reached out to Kennedy personally.
Tony also said that Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame. With his numbers, he most certainly does.
Given the chance to celebrate and comment on Rickey Henderson’s appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa also seized the opportunity to stump for another dynamo member of his Oakland Athletics teams who will be on the ballot.

On his third try, Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame, La Russa believes.

It’s a matter a of “integrity.”

“This steroid issue, that’s a matter of integrity, right?” La Russa said. “That’s one way to describe it, right? Well, it occurred to me, I know that I’ve never spoken much about it at all, but this guy did something that screams integrity. … How many guys do we know that had a contract like he had? He had a contract in his hand for $15 million over two years, and he walked away from it because he didn’t feel like he could play to that level. That, to me, there’s a certain integrity for the sport, for self-respect and everything.”[...]

La Russa: Now, our guess, and people that I’ve talked to, our guess is that a whole lot of guys, just being normal, would be figured some way to either talk to the organization, like let’s get a buyout, give me $5 million instead of $30 million, whatever it is, or go ahead and play less than their best and collect a check for two years. He walked away from two years of $30 million, and I thought to myself when I told this one writer, ‘Man, I think that speaks to the public or the voters about his integrity.’

You’ve got to be a pretty solid character guy … Am I reading that wrong? Do you think that’s a good sign of character, that you would walk away from $30 million if you didn’t think you could play to that level? How would you take that decision and not make sense of it.

Reporter. I’m not sure that you’re comparing apples to apples.

La Russa: So how would you describe a guy that walks away from $30 million?

Reporter. I’m agreeing with you that that’s a sign of character, not to have a debate that’s going to be transcribed here. This isn’t the place. I would agree that that’s a sign of integrity. But I think we all do things that show integrity in one side of our life and make questionable moves on another parallel track.

La Russa: I’m just saying that the fact that he walked away from that money has been an under-discussed, under-publicized — I know I have not discussed it, and I think that is a hellacious sign of the type of person he is, and that should translate into knowing that he’s a special guy. I just never talked about it. I thought I had the chance so I’d mention it.

Reporter. So you’d consider it as an intangible for his Hall of Fame?

La Russa: Yeah, he’s got this cloud over him.

Reporter. Character is an issue (on the ballot).

La Russa: So I think that showed great character because there’s not many guys that I know that wouldn’t have said, ‘I’ll just stumble along and take those checks.’

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Cards complete their deal for Trever Miller:
A deal delayed is now a deal done as the Cardinals completed the signing of lefty reliever Trever Miller today to a one-year deal

The physical Miller had several weeks ago with the Cardinals revealed what the team doctor believes is a tear in the labrum in his left shoulder. Having discovered the injury -- which hasn't caused Miller any soreness or limited any of his offseason workouts -- the Cardinals renegotiated the deal from the original two-year offer.

Miller, 35, agreed to a one-year that will pay him $2 million if he reaches all of the appearance-based incentives. His original deal, he said, was worth two years and a total of $4 million.

"It was a unique experience," Miller said of the delay between his physical and finalizing a deal. "We went from a high to a little bit of a low. ... We had to go back to the drawing board."
Dave Duncan spoke about Carp and Izzy.
Duncan believes Chris Carpenter should come back as a starting pitcher, not a reliever, if he can overcome his assorted medical issues. Given the lingering uncertainty about Carpenter’s return, however, Duncan is pondering his alternatives.[...]

The Cards must add an established closer. If Mozeliak can’t land one, Duncan would be open to giving Jason Isringhausen another look in that role in the spring.

“If he does everything he has to do to recover from the injuries he had and he wants to give it a shot, I’d vote 'yes' to giving him a shot,” Duncan said. “I know he’s interested in trying to continue pitching.”

But Izzy would have to prove himself in that closing role -– and accept pitching in other roles if he doesn’t win the job.
Russ Springer is unlikely to return to the Cardinals next season.
Citing a need to maintain roster flexibility and a crush of returning righthanded relievers, general manager John Mozeliak thought the risk of Springer being awarded a big contract in arbitration was not worth the reward — two premium draft picks — the club would have received had Springer turned down arbitration and signed elsewhere.

Last season, Springer compiled a 2.32 ERA and allowed 57 baserunners in 50 1/3 innings spread over 70 appearances.[...]

In addition to Springer, the Cardinals declined to offer arbitration to starting pitchers Braden Looper and Mark Mulder; relievers Ron Villone and Jason Isringhausen; infielders Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis; and outfielder Juan Encarnacion.
Jose Oquendo a secret weapon? Not so much, they say.
For six months every season at Busch Stadium, Oquendo is universally seen as Whitey Herzog's one-time "Secret Weapon" and Tony La Russa's current Cardinals third-base coach. Oquendo does his job, teaching as well as serving as traffic cop, with the rarest displays of disgust.

But it is different here.

Oquendo runs a clubhouse full of Class A and AA players along with a heavy dose of Independent League talent looking to catch on somewhere. Once a place where native major league players routinely appeared, the Puerto Rican Winter League has assumed a more developmental flavor as costs were slashed after last year's shutdown. A top talent such as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina would receive $12,000 a month. (Molina has so far politely declined Oquendo's invite for a three-game-a-week routine.)

There is no team charter; players must drive themselves to games across the island. Carolina's roster includes only two pitchers who worked mostly at Triple-A last season, including Cardinals prospect P.J. Walters. Catcher Bryan Anderson is also among the mix.[...]

"It would be a real big deal," Oquendo says. "We have (managers from) the Dominican, Cuba, Venezuela. Well, how long has Puerto Rico been involved in the major leagues? And we haven't had one. I know Joey wants to do it. Myself, (Jose) Cruz, Sandy Alomar Sr. ... we've got more candidates now."

Oquendo, 45, says he remains patient.

"It's not in my nature to scream and yell, 'Why not me?'" Oquendo says. "My nature is to take it a step at a time. If the door opens, so be it. If not, I love what I'm doing. I don't think (being repeatedly passed over) would stop me from doing interviews. If you keep interviewing, you don't know what might happen."

Oquendo enjoys his role with the Cardinals, where he is considered a master defensive instructor and believes he now might have momentum for a managerial job. He has lost 20 pounds since the Cardinals' season ended, which helps his high blood pressure.

"Somebody has to be putting my name out there," he says. "If nobody was asking me to interview, then I'd be worried, because then nobody would be wanting me. I'd rather interview, get more comfortable in the process, hear what they have to say and handle the questions they ask. San Diego and Seattle had different sets of questions."

The Mariners sought someone who could calm an uneasy clubhouse. Former MVP right fielder Ichiro Suzuki represents to Seattle what Albert Pujols means to St. Louis.

"They were more worried about how to handle problems in the clubhouse. Both want to know how you handle superstars. I think Albert gives me good experience, " Oquendo said wryly. "How do you handle situations, not necessarily on the field, but situations in the clubhouse and the media? I don't think I would have a problem with any of that."

Oquendo, part of La Russa's staff for 10 seasons, skirts the possibility of eventually managing the Cardinals. La Russa's contract expires after next season and the inevitable questions soon will sprout about his future.

Asked if he ever has broached the topic to his boss, Oquendo says, "That's stuff I don't get into."

Oquendo dismisses any suggestion his style would be a Herzog-La Russa (or should it be La Russa-Herzog?) hybrid.

"Each of them had their own way of handling players and handling situations in the game," Oquendo says. "But it's not fair for me to draw so much from Whitey because I was a player then. As a player you view the game a lot differently than when you're a coach. I played for Joe Torre also. He was different than Whitey and Tony. But Torre came to us in a different situation. He didn't have the players that Whitey had early in the 80s. He had the players that were the reason Whitey quit."[...]

Pressed on the possibility of succeeding La Russa, Oquendo relents. "If something happened, it would be a nice place to manage," he says. "But at the same time, I hope Tony stays forever."
How small is the Hall of Fame ballot?
The smallest ballot in the history of Baseball Hall of Fame voting was announced on Monday, with only 23 names listed on it. One of those names, first-time candidate Rickey Henderson, seems certain to be elected given his career accomplishments, and if history is a legitimate guide, former Boston star Jim Rice also will be enshrined next July in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Here's the ballot and I'm bolding who I would vote for:
The ballot: Harold Baines, Jay Bell, Bert Blyleven, David Cone, Andre Dawson, Ron Gant, Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Dave Parker, Dan Plesac, Tim Raines, Jim Rice, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Greg Vaughn, Mo Vaughn, Matt Williams.