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Time for more meaningless baseball monologuing that no one will ever care to read.  (I sometimes use my blog to talk to myself.)

So, both of the major sports websites that I checked today (FoxSports and ESPN) have written impassioned diatribes about how super-excrementally-lame it is that Alex Rodriguez has declined to take part in the Home Run Derby, even though he’s a slugger, and it’s at Yankee Stadium (“his house”), and it’s the last one that will ever be at Yankee Stadium due to a little thing known as impending demolition.

Despite the fact that, at heart, all of these criticisms are spot on – A-Rod should feel as though he owes baseball fans something, and he should have some kind of pride in his home stadium, etc. – in reality I cannot agree.

  1. Since the dawn of free agency, there need be no such thing as team loyalty.  Criticizing him for not playing in “his house” is a touch silly when it only became “his house” because they paid him to be there.  In the era of free agency, power belongs to the player and the concept of ‘team loyalty’ is an illusion.  While I am certainly not advocating a return to the form of ‘indentured servitude’ under which baseball used to operate, we have to accept that there is little to no justification for team loyalty under a free-agency system.  If we took five seconds to look at the recent history of any team, with a possible exception made for the Houston Astros, we would see quite clearly that ‘team loyalty’ does not exist in modern baseball.
  2. With all the ‘choke-Rod,’ ‘Pay-Rod,’ etc. jabs in his relatively brief career with the Yankees, Mr. Rodriguez owes the fans in New York absolutely nothing.  Any remaining ‘loyalty’ that was not obliterated by the financial basis of A-Rod’s Yankeehood was successfully destroyed by the fans themselves.  Yankee fans, be nicer to your stars if you expect them to be nice to you.
  3. Considering how much shit we gave to players for having pride in their nation (no, I am not a nationalist; I hate America [that’s sarcasm]) and taking part in the otherwise ‘meaningless’ World Baseball Classic, can we really expect any multi-million-dollar player to risk anything for something as utterly meaningless as a mid-season home-run derby?  I mean…honestly?  I, for one, love a good home-run derby, but it’s technically pretty amazing that any player with a reputation to maintain or a team to ‘carry’ takes part in one of these things anymore.  I’m a bit surprised that we aren’t seeing Hee Seop Choi versus Chris Duncan in these things.  “Fifteen minutes of fame” and all that…
  4. He stands to gain nothing.  This is a retread of the ‘meaningless’ accusation.  A-Rod can gain practically nothing from participation in this Derby other than love-for-a-day from Yankee fans.  While failing to win would entail more criticism.  Not to mention it would be yet another day for TV commentators to voice all the ‘Madonna’ rumors rather than talk about baseball like they’re supposed to.  (See, I can get righteously indignant too!)

As much as I would like to get all perturbed at Alex Rodriguez for declining the invite to the ‘last home run derby ever in the House that Ruth Built,’ I have to side with him on this one.  Putting it on the scales, there is almost no reason at all for him to show up.

Saving the home run derby is baseball’s problem, not A-Rod’s.

If baseball’s powers that be want it to be mandatory, then they should make it mandatory.  (Multi-million dollar salaries do give business owners a right to force a patina of ‘loyalty’ into player contracts.  They could win this fight if they wanted to.)  Otherwise, it’s his choice…and I understand his choice completely, given the circumstances.

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…since ESPN baseball analyst Jayson Stark said anything I found downright dunderheaded in a column.  The fact that he seems to have done it twice in only one column today gives me a perfect opportunity to return to the wonderful world of complaining about sports journalism.

1. After a lengthy recap of the situation with Evan Longoria – who signed a six year contract with three additional club option years only six days into his major league career – Jayson dropped this comment on us:

“So the question other agents keep asking is: If a player is willing to give up this many dollars, all his arbitration years and even two free-agent years, shouldn’t he be getting something more significant in return than just a bump in his rookie- and sophomore-season paychecks?”

I’m going to ignore the distancing tactic of saying that it’s “other agents” who are asking this question (if Stark posted it uncritically, I believe Stark is asking it himself), and get right into the meat of the issue.  Fact is, the player is getting something more than a bump in first and second year salary.  Something much more.  He’s getting a contract.  If Longoria suffers a career ending injury tomorrow, he will still make approximately $17.5 million.  Prior to signing that contract, a career ending injury would have sent him home with roughly $400,000 in his pocket.  There is nothing crazy about this at all; in fact, it’s exactly the same logic we use to justify paying insurance, despite the fact that most of us are technically flushing our money away.  When the numbers are this big, some peole think it’s better to guarantee less, than to risk all-or-nothing for more.

It also stands to reason that, even if Longoria is a “can’t miss prospect,” he still might ‘miss.’  There is, after all, no such thing as a literal ‘can’t miss prospect.’  So this contract also protects him from performing badly.  He’s ‘selling high,’ for lack of a better term, even if it’s possible that he might have been able to sell even higher in a few months.

2. The entire first third of the article is about determining who is the most feared hitter in baseball now that Bonds is out.  Unsurprisingly, the pick is Albert Pujols.  But the problem is, Stark spends about 15 lines wondering aloud, over and over, why players’ intentional walk totals don’t match up with their ‘fear factor.’  (For example, why does Ross Gload have more intentional walks than Alex Rodriguez?)

This seems to me to have a quite straightforward and simple answer.  The ‘most feared hitter’ tag is generic; it is based on the overall performance of a player and how badly he can be expected to hurt you at any given time.  Meanwhile, an intentional walk is entirely situational.  So, if Ross Gload has 13 at bats with 2 outs, first base open, and the pitcher (or the next-nearest-thing to Juan Pierre) coming up next, and A-Rod doesn’t have that, chances are pretty damn good that the not-at-all-feared Ross Gload is going to get more intentional walks.

This isn’t some deep mystery.  It’s actually pretty simple apples and oranges.

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Post one

So, I’m back from my trip to Belgium for a conference, but that’s a long and involved blog post that I don’t want to write just yet.

It’s coming…

But what I want to talk about right now is the many things that have gone on in baseball since I left the country six days ago.

1)  The Cardinals somehow managed to trade Jim Edmonds to the Padres for a low level (but potentially very good) minor league third baseman.  Nice move for both sides, I think, but I really didn’t expect that.  My favorite Cardinal from probably 2000 to 2005.  Bye bye Jim Jim.

2)  Hiroki Kuroda goes to the LA Dodgers.  I didn’t see that one coming.  I felt certain that he’d go to the Mariners.

3)  David Eckstein signs a one-year deal with the Blue Jays for 4.5 million.  Say all you want about the sabremetric suckiness of Eckstein, the Cardinals should have brought him back for that puny price tag.  Considering they gave half that much to a player who may well do absolutely nothing for them next year – Cesar Izturis.

4)  The Mitchell Report.

  • I don’t really want to get started on the rant about the Cold War, moralizing conservatism, and witch hunts here.  Suffice to say that this link is both problematic (communism and steroids are not the same thing) and disappointingly accurate – and the people who would argue against the term ‘witch hunt’ are probably the very same ones who have been in a white hot fury at Roger Clemens since two seconds after his name was reported.  So let’s just leave it at that…the cultural politics of our times, implied by the existence of this report, are perhaps the most important ‘revelation’ of this whole thing.
  • The names:  Read Jayson Stark’s comments at ESPN for the problems in naming players on such debatable evidence in a time when any ‘revelation’ is going to be believed by roughly 75% of the sport’s ‘fans.’  Also, considering the fact the less than 2% of all major leaguers in the era covered by the report are actually named, the evidence should have been much stronger to justify the naming.  (Another Stark argument that I agree with.)  That said, the names themselves are actually, when looked at reasonably, probably the best thing that could’ve happened to the sport.  We needed some names, and got confirmation of exactly what should’ve been common sense – most are no-names, a few are stars, and they tend to run in packs (like buddies Clemens and Pettite, or a slew of teammates on the Orioles).  So what should be revealed by these names is that the ‘steroid era’ really cannot be ‘dealt with’ any further.  First, if steroids are not linked entirely to stars, then we cannot say that the numbers stars put up are definitely linked to performance enhancers.  (There are problems here, obviously.)  Second, if both great hitters and great pitchers were took ‘enhancers,’ then surely things even out to a certain degree.  Third, injured players like Mo Vaughn are all over the damn thing, which somewhat vindicates them…at least for me.  (Personally, I don’t blame Mo Vaughn at all for anything he might have done to try to maintain a career that was flaming out due mostly to poor health.)  Fourth, and most importantly, the bulk of players mentioned here are simply rehashes of rumors (I’m thinking mostly of Dykstra); if even a multimillion dollar government investigation is still effectively speculation based on body size, then maybe we’re wasting our time.  To my eyes, this list of names really condemns the anti-steroid mentality far more than it condemns the players as ‘cheaters.’
  • Nook Logan?  Smiley…fucking…face…
  • Mark McGwire is not named in any way other than recounting the old story.  This makes me happy, because he was likely one of the three biggest targets (with Bonds and Sosa) of the investigation, and I like to see steroid hunters fall on their asses.  Not that not showing up here is a vindication, but again, the lack of any new information is another black eye to those who believe uncritically that any successful power hitter from the past two decades must have been ‘a juicer.’  I still believe that Mac took some form of steroids once, while struggling in the early ’90s.  And I still believe it effected his success not one bit.  He was a power hitter all along, and his (perhaps absurd) strength came from Androstenedione, which was legal at the time and now is not.  And we all knew this all along.  So I would like to believe that the Mitchell report will actually cause people to shut up about McGwire…though I realize I have far too much faith in human goodness – it will not happen.
  • When all is said and done with this, the Mitchell report will likely do nothing but add Roger Clemens to the list of hated players.  Which is sad, as it’s value should be the reverse.

So, baseball goes through hell while I’m gone.  Weird.  But whatever.  My Cardinals will still suck, and my hero will still be besieged so I guess nothing much has changed…the volume just increased a tad.

Anyway, just wanted to ramble a bit this morning.  Perhaps this afternoon or tomorrow I’ll post on the topic that everyone is interested in.

Good morrow to you all.

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A couple things that struck me this morning…odd similarity across two unrelated issues.

1. A post on the ESPN baseball message board, quoting another article apparently, reads thusly:

“Tulowitzki 15th Greatest Rookie of All Time
According to WARP3:

1. 1890 Kid Nichols, Boston Beaneaters: 14.2
2. 1964 Dick Allen, Philadelphia Phillies: 13.1
3. 1901 Christy Mathewson, New York Giants: 12.6
4. 1910 Russ Ford, New York Highlanders: 12.2
5. 1939 Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox: 11.7
6. 1880 Fred Dunlap, Cleveland Blues: 11.6
7. 1911 Joe Jackson, Cleveland Naps: 11.6
8. 1934 Curt Davis, Philadelphia Phillies: 11.5
9. 1986 Mark Eichorn, Toronto Blue Jays: 11.5
10. 1890 Billy Rhines, Cincinnati Reds: 11.5
11. 1909 Donnie Bush, Detroit Tigers: 11.1
12. 2001 Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals: 11.1
13. 1976 Mark Fidrych, Detroit Tigers: 11.0
14. 1911 Pete Alexander, Philadelphia Phillies: 10.9
15. 2007 Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies: 10.8″

Warp 3 as a statistic is perfectly fine, just as all statistics are.  But it does two things which cannot be taken as unbiased.  It attempts to level the playing field across positions (by ranking all players according to their value above a ‘replacement level’ or average player at the same position) and levels the playing field across eras (by comparing production at each position in relation to the years that surround it, boosting the value of hitting in a dead-ball era, for example).  (I assume this last part, as I’m not exactly sure how this is accomplished.)

Unfortunately, the problem is that ‘replacement level’ is itself a biased stat.  Notice there are no first basemen in the list (Pujols was effectively a four-position player in his rookie year), and there is a glut of pitchers.  So Tulowitzki, as a power hitting shortstop, immediately has the benefit of the fact that power at shortstop is a rarity.  Meanwhile, Mark McGwire (the owner of the rookie record for home runs, and possessor of good all around stats that season) is nowhere to be found on the list because power is not a commodity amongst first basemen.

So what this list is doing is comparing all rookies (an apositional relationship) via a metric which privileges certain positions over others, effectively negating the value of many of the ‘greatest rookies of all time’ because they played a non-premium defensive position.  If one shifted Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, et al to shortstop, the 50 errors they would’ve made at that position wouldn’t have been enough of a negative to overcome the fact that 40+ homers from the shortstop position would’ve put them so far over replacement level that they’d crush Tulowitzki.  So the comparison is invalid due to the fact that certain hitters labor against playing in a ‘hitters position.’

In short, anyone who thinks Mark Eichhorn’s 1986 season as a middle reliever was ‘greater’ than Mark McGwire’s 1987 season as a slugging first baseman is clearly either on crack or using an invalid metric.

2. This compares quite favorably to something I realized about metacritic this morning.  Ratatouille, a fine film by any measure, is rated absurdly high – tied for 5th all time with a 96 out of 100.

Unfortunately something similar is going on here.  The site collects what is hopefully all english language reviews ‘of quality’ (itself a debatable designation) and comes up with an overall average score.  The overall top ten list then ranks the all time top average scores.

However, what this fails to account for is that there are particular genre traits which militate against good scores.  Ratatouille has the benefit of being in a genre (family friendly animated films) which has a defining characteristic of being ‘unobjectionable.’  What makes a successful film in this genre is to offend the fewest people possible while also being entertaining.  Coincidentally, that is the exact same metric that is used in finding an aggregate review out of all reviews – one is trying to find the films that pleased the greatest majority.

But what is one to do with pop-culture trash, or horror – two genres which are specifically designed not to please everybody (the first designed in disregard of critics, the second in disregard of the squeemish or those who are offended by violence)?

So an aggregate score here actually helps Ratatouille due to the genres compatibility with the metric’s precepts.

———-

This is, of course, far from a flawless argument on both counts.  It’s just something that I noticed today.

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To deal with an unanswered question from this post, a short review of Ratatouille from me would run something like this.

It’s a fun Pixar film, about on a par (quality wise) with Finding Nemo though still far short of the brilliance of the Toy Story films.  The writing is solid, with enough humor to be considered a comedy, but a seriousness that makes the film very affecting.

It also features significant depth; it is a film ‘worth talking about,’ which boosts its esteem considerably.  It works as sort of a Disney-fied version of the Maus comics (overly clean, but still functioning on a level of racism).  It works as a story about growing up (the scene in which Remy’s ‘imaginary friend’ actually proclaims himself to be unnecessary is glorious).  It’s also a quite good film on the subjects of capitalist manipulation (the attempted theft of a profitable inheritance, and the implied critique at the end of continuing to make money off of the name of the famous dead) as well as the role of the critic.

On the less positive side, it combats racism through the same means as early Hollywood films about African Americans.  Remy is accused of stealing in the film, despite the fact that his work at the time is uncompensated.  He is also asexualized – the White human character finds a love interest, but there appears to be no female rats.

These are not critiques, really.  Just levels of difficulty on which the film functions.

That said, the depth of the film never really reaches the glory that it feels capable of.  In the end, the unnecessary love story begins to overwhelm the more interesting and complicated plot threads.  So it probably doesn’t deserve a 96 metacritic rating.  However, it’s a perfectly good film, and one well worth watching.

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This has been an ungodly long semester.  Lots of deadlines, writing to accomplish, and schools to apply to (which is one of the least enjoyable things on the planet, right up there with catching fish hooks using only your eyelids), and without anything even approximating a social life.

So I’ve spent the bulk of the last few weeks alternately rebelling against even the concept of work, and being mildly productive while loathing every minute of it.

I need a break.

So today, I shall ramble via my blog, and you shall read it.  In this way, I pass my misery on to you.

You’re welcome.

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Some quickies about television.

Season two of “Heroes” is dreadful, though the last episode at least made a stab at an interesting plot twist.  (That silly Takezo Kensei…  You never know where he’ll turn up next.)

The first ‘episode’ of the animated online Mystery Science Theater thing was pretty lackluster.  I’m not sure why anyone would choose something so far afield from the show’s history as a first episode; I mean, Crow and Tom at the lake?  Save that idea for later.  The joke itself was ok, though it really only consisted of Crow telling us the merits of the type of boat he was using.  The very idea of him doing such a thing was funny, but the rest of the joke telegraphed itself badly.  And the whole idea that these cartoons are going to be roughly two minutes long is not good.  Try eight minutes guys; classic cartoons proved that that works; two minutes is a host segment, and that’s not enough if you’re not hosting anything…

That said, I like the animation style.  It actually suits the show quite well.

————-

Some baseball stuff.

Clearly my suggestion of the Cardinals trading Albert Pujols is a pipe dream.  The team would never have the courage to pull something like that, and as the off-season goes on, it’s seeming a little less likely that any ‘name’ pitchers other than Dontrelle Willis and Scott Kazmir will be traded.  And even those two aren’t particularly likely.

Still, other interesting options are opening up.  There’s been a good deal of discussion on message boards of the idea of trading Scott Rolen to the Yankees for Johnny Damon.  Personally, I think that’s a much better trade than people give it credit for.  The Yankees have absolutely no use for Damon, which was proven by his infrequent starting at the end of last year.  Meanwhile, Rolen’s problems are almost entirely injury related.  He performed well just last year.  So the Yankees (or the Cardinals, if he stayed) would stand at least a 50/50 chance of having a .280 avg. / 25 hr guy in the lineup if they had him.  And he could be had for a song, unlike the Lowell, Cabrera, Crede options that people are discussing.  Damon for Rolen is effectively a swap of bad-contracts that potentially benefits both teams.

If the Cardinals lost Rolen and gained Damon, that would render Chris Duncan useless (as Edmonds and Damon would definitely not be benched, and Ankiel is probably the better hitter), leaving him tradeable.  (Though I’d still prefer to move him to first and deal Pujols.)  In that case, we could probably get a low-market-value Dontrelle Willis for Duncan, Reyes (who struggled but is still a legitimate prospect), and one or two of our major league ready second-tier prospect like Ryan, Ludwick, or Schumacher.  (Any Marlins fan who thinks that’s a bad trade is desperately over valuing Willis, while undervaluing Duncan.)  If we allowed all other free agents to walk (meaning Eckstein) and recouped the loss of Encarnacion’s contract via insurance, we could afford Willis.

That would leave us with a pretty decent, though not stellar, situation.

Lineup:

  1. Damon (LF)
  2. Spiezio ? (3B)
  3. Pujols (1B)
  4. Ankiel (RF)
  5. Edmonds (CF)
  6. Molina (C)
  7. Kennedy (2B)
  8. Ryan (SS)

Rotation

  1. Wainwright
  2. Willis
  3. Pineiro
  4. Looper
  5. somebody…

Failing the potential for a Willis deal, we could maybe expand the Yankee trade so that we’d give up Duncan and they’d give up Wilson Betamit.  Then we’d be able to either find another suitor for Reyes or let him work it out in the pen or the minors, and use the free Eckstein cash to sign another reclamation project for the rotation. 

Not terrible.  Probably not going to win the division, but it’s better than last year, doesn’t cause much increase in salary, and doesn’t lock us down to terrible long contracts.  And it would leave us open to finding a bargain in free agency.

And the biggest positives of this are that Damon is a legitimate leadoff man, which we need, and the outfield will be cleaned out quickly, as Edmonds’ contract runs out after next year, and Damon’s is only for two years.  With Mulder’s contract expiring after next year also, that gives us back $26 million worth of yearly salary by 2010.

I’d still prefer a 2009 team based around Ankiel, Duncan, and Rasmus, and I’m by no means convinced that Rolen is washed up, but this is better than it could be.

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Is it really so crazy to suggest that the St. Louis Cardinals should trade Albert Pujols? I’m not convinced that this is a ridiculous proposal. Let’s face it, the Cardinals need a pitcher badly – and a big time pitcher at that, not one of the scrap heap starters they’ve signed over the last few years. Most suggestions that I’ve read on message boards is that they should trade Chris Duncan, because he is a terrible outfielder and doesn’t really fit in on the team. But I feel differently; I feel that Duncan should be moved to first as an everyday player (where his average would probably dip into the .230-.240 range (from facing left handed pitching) but his power total would probably land in the ballpark of 30 homers (maybe a touch less). Duncan’s production at first would likely not be so bad that the loss of Pujols would be catastrophic.

But I’m trying to replace the loss of the offense before I’ve even decided if it’s plausible to trade Pujols at all. Task number one is to work out if there’s any way to get an ace pitcher for him. Even the best player in baseball isn’t necessarily a good fit for every team – so we have to decide who might actually be willing to go after him.

Firstly, lets just assume that a player of Pujols’ caliber would never be traded within the division. So we can cut out the Cubs (who already have D. Lee at first), the Brewers (who are no doubt happy with Prince Fielder), the Reds (who have no pitching anyway, which is what we’re after), the Astros (who are probably happy enough with Berkman not to part with Oswalt), and the Pirates (who probably have nothing of high enough caliber to offer anyway, though I might be wrong there).

How about the NL East? Well, the Phillies have Ryan Howard, so there’s no chance there. The Marlins don’t have anything good enough (Dontrelle is at a lower end trade value) and probably wouldn’t take on a superstar contract anyway. To be honest, I don’t think the Mets have anything we want; their proven aces are both too old. The Nationals have the opposite problem; any potential there is unproven. As for Atlanta, they also have nothing proven that isn’t old, and they’re probably happy with newcomer Texeira anyway.

That leaves the West in the National League. The Giants are a slim possibility; I’m a big fan of Tim Lincecum, though he’s pretty green. The Rockies aren’t likely to dump Helton, and neither Ubaldo Jimenez nor Jeff Francis seems like a wise choice on our part. The Padres are clearly a possibility – Peavy is phenomenal and Chris Young seems solid; the hard part would be convincing them to upgrade from Adrian Gonzalez at first. The Dodgers could offer Brad Penny, but I’m not sure I’d take him – and either way, James Loney looks pretty good at first. The Diamondbacks, for their part, have Brandon Webb, but are unlikely to lose him when they have both Conor Jackson and Tony Clark at first in a healthy platoon.

So that leaves 2 decent (Giants and Padres) and 2 improbable (Diamondbacks and Dodgers) in the entire National League.

In the AL West, there is little. The Mariners are dealing with pitching problems of their own, so the likelihood of prying away King Felix is small no matter how angry they are with Richie Sexson. I don’t even know where to begin with the Rangers; suffice to say they aren’t in the running. On the A’s, though there’s a gap at first, I don’t think highly enough of either Haren or Blanton to take them for Pujols; and it would probably piss off a lot of Cardinals fans to use the best hitter in the National League just to get Dan Haren back. The Angels do have John Lackey, but I wouldn’t make that trade. So I don’t think there’s any options in this division.

In the AL Central, things get a little better. The White Sox pitching staff has imploded recently, so there’s nothing really there. The Royals clearly have nothing to offer but Alex Gordon, and we’re not after a bat. The Indians are a question mark; Garko isn’t the world’s greatest hitter at first, and they do have Carmona and Sabbathia – but neither of those two strikes me as a wise choice (though Carmona looks like a possibility if we could get a decent hitter back in the package). We probably aren’t going to get Verlander away from the Tigers, but it’s worth pursuing. The Twins are the prize; I’d take either Liriano or Santana, but Morneau at first makes this problematic. So that’s 3 implausible possibilities in the Central.

In the East, you have the power houses that are always going to consider a deal like this. The absurd rebirth of Carlos Pena in Tampa Bay removes almost any possibility of getting Scott Kazmir, though I still like him as an option. Halladay is fine in Toronto, though his age (30) puts him at the bottom of my list. Improvement or no, there’s no way in hell I trade Pujols for Erik Bedard so Baltimore is out. With the backlog already at first in New York, I really don’t think the Yankees would consider this trade; not to mention that Hughes and Chamberlain are both unproven, and I’m not convinced that Wang is good enough for this type of blockbuster trade (though I’m open to the possibility). Boston is probably just as unlikely, as Beckett is the newly crowned king of the city, and Matsuzaka is still early; however, anything is possible with Manny nearing the end. So that’s four implausibles in the East.

So, overall, we have a mess of potentials in the Giants, Padres, Red Sox, Yankees, Devil Rays, Blue Jays, Twins, Indians, Tigers, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers. With that many teams (11) not ridiculously out of the realm of possibility for both sides, surely we could pry away an ace from somebody for one of the best hitters in baseball – and one who is still young.

So, that leaves the question of what on Earth we do in the event that we wind up with a great pitcher and no offense. I also don’t think this is insurmountable. The line-up will consist of the following (listed in an order that I consider plausible):

  1. 2B – Adam Kennedy (nothing much, but if he returns to anything near his usual form, he’s an ok bottom of the order guy, and maybe even a leadoff hitter if we have nothing else)
  2. 3B – Scott Rolen (still potentially capable of returning to form, and if not, he’s not a disastrous bat to have hitting second or sixth)
  3. RF – Rick Ankiel (perhaps I’m overvaluing him, but he hit almost 50 homers combined last year
  4. LF/CF – ??
  5. 1B – Chris Duncan (flip flopping with Edmonds depending on who is hotter)
  6. CF/LF – Jim Edmonds
  7. C – Yadier Molina
  8. SS – one of our young guys (who, depending upon his success, could lead-off)

This is obviously problematic but the line-up is not unworkable. All that is really missing is the bopper in the middle, and said bopper needs to be a righty, as the lineup is currently lefty dominated. In this respect, there is an easy solution. Andruw Jones, who I really dislike, is fresh from an abysmal year; he is, therefore, likely to get a drastic paycut this year. Because of this, he will probably opt for a one year deal so that he can sign a more reasonable contract next fall. But a one year guy is all we need – Colby Rasmus will hopefully be our everyday centerfielder in 2009. Jones would give us the big righty-bopper that we need (provided he didn’t have another disastrous season) and wouldn’t fight us over a one-year contract.  And we likely would have the money to get him, as Eckstein’s $4.5 million, along with a million here and there (thanks in part to an unfortunate career ending injury to Encarnacion) should all be off the books; it shouldn’t tax the coffers too much to offer Jones $12 million or so.

Now, this isn’t a flawless situation. The line-up is still sketchy. But the NL central is a sketchy division, and if we have Carpenter, Wainwright, and someone else’s ace as the core of our pitching staff after next year, with three solid young hitters in Ankiel, Duncan, and Rasmus, our future is not looking bad either.

Losing Pujols would suck, but I think our future is actually brighter without him, provided we could get an ace who hasn’t yet hit his thirties.  When you get right down to it, we have two first basemen; so the question is, is the difference in trade value of Pujols greater than the difference in production.  I believe it is.  I believe the Cardinals are a better team with Duncan in the lineup plus whatever Pujols brings, than with Pujols in the lineup and whatever Duncan brings.

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So, the baseball season has come to a close, and my Cardinals rather predicatably finished with a sub-.500 record.

And now Walt Jocketty, the general manager, has been let go.  I’m not so shocked by this, as he was a fabulous GM for building a winning team out of nothing, but didn’t appear to be nearly so adept at maintaining a winning team.  His acquisitions for the last couple years had been relatively poor – a million here, a million there, all on players that weren’t going to bring much help unless they could be struck with Dave Duncan’s magic wand.

So the guiding hand will be new.

If it was me, I’m not sure what I’d do, but there are a couple of particulars.

1. I’d love to see Chris Duncan get dealt.  He just doesn’t strike me as the kind of player the Cardinals can really use.  He’s a first baseman by nature (and a terrible outfielder), but he won’t get playing time there due to Albert Pujols (provide Pujols himself doesn’t get dealt).  And we don’t need a lefty power bat in the outfield (especially not one with a bad glove) because it appears that Rick Ankiel is legitimate.  So we should use his youth, potential, and small contract to attract a trade; I like the suggestion of Dontrelle Willis that I read on an ESPN message board, but I don’t think we’ll be able to pull anything of that caliber.  Something though…

2. If Jim Edmonds has truly leveled off as a .270, 20 homer guy at best, with lots of injury potential, I’d love to see Kosuke Fukudome brought in.  It’s not exactly a secret that I love Japanese players, so I admit that my judgment might not be crystal clear in this case, but I think he’d be an excellent replacement in center field, and would give us a real leadoff hitter.  Power means nothing to me in this case, as Ankiel and Pujols should be able to hold down the bulk of that production.

3. Lose Eckstein.  I like little fireplugs.  I really do.  I think that’s what the Cardinals historically have been built on.  But this team is going nowhere as it’s currently built, and if the youth movement has to start somewhere, then the middle infield is as good a place as any.  He could hit second behind Fukudome if we got them both, but I really don’t want him as the leadoff hitter anymore.

4.  Pitching.  This Kip Wells, Sidney Ponson, etc parade of reclamation projects needs to end.  I love the fact that Dave Duncan can work magic, but it’s time to stop relying on it.  We either need to find someone cheap but with a pedigree (like Jeff Weaver), or start thinking seriously about moving a star in exchange for a pitcher.  (And yes, I am suggesting that if we can get Johan Santana in some kind of trade for Pujols, we should at least haggle it out and see where it goes.)  Pitching wins, period.  And we don’t have any.

5. If we can dump Edmonds, we should.  He was my favorite Cardinal for years, and I hate to lose him, but his contract is a hindrance, and what he brings is not helping anymore.  Flashy defense doesn’t make a lot of difference to a team that can’t compete in a division as weak as the NL central.

6. No more garbage outfielders.  Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson…  Enough.  Stop, spend some worthwhile money, or find a rookie, and end the platoon.  Shit, I even think So Taguchi could be a full time outfielder in a pinch.  I’m tired of big whiffers with 15 homer power.

7. No more Tony LaRussa.  Winning manager he may be, but he gets tiresome.  I’m just sick of his schtick.  (Has anyone ever made hitting the pitcher eigth so boring?)  Lets go some other way and see what happens.

8. Please god no Aaron Roward or Andruw Jones.  That’s not what we need.  Not at all.  And if we waste money on either of those two, I guarantee we will not get to the postseason next year.

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