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Welcome to Brian Walton's St. Louis Cardinals blog!

News and commentary about the past, present and future state of the St. Louis Cardinals. 
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Sunday, October 31, 2004

State of the Cardinals

By Joe Mammy with Brian Walton


Well, I guess the off season begins now.  So, for those of us who aren't all up on contracts, arbitration and the like where do we sit?  I'm pretty sure Matheny, Renteria, Morris, Kline and LaRussa/Jocketty are without a contract at this point, Woody has a club option and Marquis is eligible for arbitration.  Who else is up for grabs?  I assume most (if not all) our bench staff is open.  Let me run through my scenario of what I'd like to see and then you can tell me if my numbers are anywhere near possible J


1)      Morris is gone.  Morris is so gone.  Unless he's willing to re-sign for 5th starter money (500k tops…)


Walton’s take:  Morris passed on a two-year, $15.5 million extension last off-season and would probably like a mulligan.  But, getting a second chance at that kind of money from the Cardinals is only slightly more likely to happen than Morris accepting $500 thousand.  There are 29 other clubs who would pay more than that.  But, I get your point. 


      I honestly believe at this juncture, it may be better for Matt to move on, anyway, contact due or not.  I cannot believe there is anything more than La Russa and Duncan can say or do that hasn’t been said and done dozens of times already.  It ain’t working.  Perhaps the Cards and Red Sox should do a sign and trade deal with Derek Lowe, who also fits the bill of high-priced, inconsistent impending free-agent disappointment.


2)      Renteria is gone.  Asking too much money—great guy but probably shopping around his '03 numbers to land a big contract.


Walton’s take:  I am less convinced that the situation is as hopeless as you imply.  Still, it remains to be seen if the two sides can truly come together.  The rhetoric to-date both positively and negatively has meant little.  With no substantive inside information, I would call this less than 50-50, but still possible. 


      Remember that Nomar is out there, too, as is Orlando Cabrera.  The list of teams who would pay $10 million per year for a shortstop is a pretty short one right now.  Anaheim, the Cubs, Boston and who?  I still believe Cabrera will be asked back in Boston and Nomar would be good fit in Anaheim.  The Angels and the Cubs are teams that I fear most in the Edgar sweepstakes.


3)   LaRussa/Jocketty—I'm a big TLR fan, but I'm not sure what bringing him back will do.  Art Howe is back on the market and might be a cheaper option for a team that may have to make a youth movement soon.  Although 2nd time is the charm for LaRussa teams in the series, right?—and now I read that he's planning to stay.  Good, bad, whatya think?


Walton’s take:  Like it or not, both will be back and I think they deserve to be.  I wish Tony wasn’t so tightly wound because I suspect it was a factor in the Series, but he should get another chance to repeat.  Frankly, the adversity that the Cardinals had to face in 2004 was quite a bit less than some other teams.  So, I will be watching to see how La Russa and the team respond when the inevitable trouble hits in 2005, as that will be my indicator as to whether I am comfortable with Tony longer-term.


4)      Hector Luna is not an everyday player—no matter how much they'd like him to be, at least not yet.  But, given the way LaRussa uses him it's unlikely he's going to get the time to polish up in St Louis.  Tough call—especially since LaRussa loves low cost veterans over low-cost newbies.


Walton’s take:  No, Luna is not yet ready to be an everyday player.  Look to him playing full-time in Memphis in 2005 to polish his game in a lower-pressure environment.


5)      Kline—gone if TLR stays—if flipping off Tony didn't do it, pouting in the post season finished it off.  It's a shame, but might be the right time to do it given his injury problems of late.


Walton’s take:  Overall, I am sorry to see him go, but the emergence of Carmen Cali and the continued success of Ray King make Kline expendable.


6)      Tavarez—real dark horse.  Alienated management and fans alike, but still gave a gutsy performance.  Still has time on his contract but might be more useful as trade bait to land another LaRussa veteran?


Walton’s take:  I can’t see many teams that would take Tavarez for $2.6 million even if Jocketty wanted to trade him.  He is probably staying right here.  He is a valuable set-up man, but I have other serious problems with the guy as I have stated previously.


7)      Womack—another tough call.  Great lead-off guy and proven veteran which could mean leadership and spark or three months on the DL.


Walton’s take:  I think Womack’s pact with the devil may come due as he returns to his former self in 2005.  No offense to Womack, as his 2004 contributions were real.  I just hope his inevitable crash to earth occurs somewhere else.  As a result, a bona-fide leadoff hitter would have to come from somewhere.  This is an area I would look for a trade.  See shortstop discussion following.


8)      Matheny—I'm ambivalent on a lot of these moves, but I don't think there's any question that Matheny should/needs to come back.  Platoon him more evenly with Molina, but he's been an unsung hero since day one.  Great leader, one of the greatest defensive catchers ever and invaluable to a pitching staff which likely won't be overwhelming next year.


Walton’s take:  I agree.  A lot will depend on the offers he gets elsewhere.  If I had a team with a good, young staff, I might be willing to overpay for Matheny.  Since the Cardinals probably want to underpay for him, this may not end up the way we prefer.


9)      Marlon Anderson—most effective pinch-hitter and still not very good.  Might get invited back to Spring Training, but I don't see lightning striking twice for him to make the roster.


Walton’s take:  I can see Anderson getting invited back.  I just wish I cared.  It’s not Marlon’s fault he was put in the outfield, but it was his fault he can’t hit.  The bench could definitely use some more pop. 


10)   Cal Eldred—should come back if the price is right.  Can get crucial outs but usually used to kill of innings in laughers.  Streaky too.  Great guy, but expendable.


Walton’s take:  I think it is about the end of the line for Cal as a Cardinal for the same basic reason as Kline.  He will expect more money than he is worth at this point.  Keep a cheaper Al Reyes, let Cal walk and save between ½ and ¾ of a million dollars. 


I know ownership is talking Luna as potential shortstop of the future, but I'd like to see someone like Christian Guzman of the Twins land here.  Very good player, good numbers and with an infield including Rolen and Pujols is only going to get better.  Much cheaper than Renteria and I think he'll do as well if not better than Edgar. 


Walton’s take:  Joe, did you run out of numbers at ten, or what?  Anyway, Guzman would certainly be a less-expensive alternative at shortstop.  I wish he was more consistent, but would be worth taking a look at if the situation gets to that.  If the team really believed Luna was only a year away being a starter, getting a solid, older veteran like Omar Vizquel could make more sense than a much younger guy with upside like Guzman.  Though they have historically been #2 hitters, either could lead off.  That the spot in the order each has appeared in second most often in their respective careers.


Also, who's untouchable?  Albert and Rolen, but is Edmonds?  Sanders is too cost effective to consider giving up with a year left unless there's a good trade, IMO.  Walker—I like the guy, but even if we wanted to move him, not sure we could with his contract size. 


Walton’s take:  Edmonds becomes a ten-and-five man, meaning because of his time in the majors and with one team, he cannot be traded without his consent.  Prior to this, he provided a list of six teams each year to which he could not veto a trade.  At his age, Sanders would have little market value, but should probably remain, anyway.  Considering they just acquired Walker and he did what was expected (except for the sac bunt), I can’t see why trading him would be seriously considered. 


Any of the potentials (Haren, Wainwright, Ankiel, or any of the others) off limits or likely to be offered?  Any that shouldn't be on the table?


Walton’s take:  I really doubt Ankiel is going anywhere.  He is the dark horse who could become that dominant starter.  They’ve stayed with him this long; they’re not going to give up at the last minute.  Of course, that could change if he struggles in the spring, but I don’t expect that. 


Some of the luster is coming off Wainwright as scouts were expecting to see continued improvement in his velocity, which didn’t happen in 2004.  No need for panic, but if the concerns are real, the time to get peak value from him is now.  I imagine Haren would only go as part of a deal for that #1, dominant starter.  I could see these two as part of a Randy Johnson-type deal, for example.  Not that I am advocating that; I was simply using it as an example. 


There's my list—critique, counter-propose or laugh off the page.


Walton’s take:  No laughing here.  Thanks for the note, Joe.  As you point out, it’s just the beginning of what will be another very interesting off-season.


10:22 pm est

Friday, October 29, 2004

Arizona Fall League Update

Wainwright Out, Thompson In


Cardinals prospect Adam Wainwright has gone home from the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League. But, don't worry. It is not due to injury. Wainwright is getting married.  He ended his fall campaign with a 0-1 record with a 5.23 ERA in 10-1/3 innings.  Wainwright fanned twelve, but uncharacteristically walked nine.  Scouts and others hoping to see an increase in his velocity and to be reassured his elbow ligament damage is fully behind him will have to wait until 2005.


Wainwright was replaced on the Solar Sox roster by none other than Bradley Thompson, who pitched two shutout innings on Friday.  This is the second year in a row that Thompson was a late addition to the AFL.  However, he is much more known this season, due in a large part to his minor league record streak of 57 consecutive scoreless innings posted while with Tennessee.  Thompson's 2004 season ended after three starts at Memphis due to a shoulder impingement.


Look for AFL interviews on The Birdhouse next week with Carmen Cali, John Nelson, Gabe Johnson, Reid Gorecki and more.


11:58 pm edt

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Woody Williams and Tony La Russa

October 27, 2004

Pre-Game Comments - Game Four

Reported by Brian Walton


Woody Williams’ comments:


On the team’s play:

Bottom line is that we’re not playing the way we have all season and in the NLDS and NLCS.  That is the frustrating thing.  We’re not pitching the way we’re capable of pitching and hitting in the timely fashion that we did during the season.  But, you can’t take anything away from the Red Sox, either.  Bottom line, we have to go out and win tonight and see what happens.


What can you take from your last start or do you discard that?

There’s not much good to take out of that one.  It’s not the way I wanted to get our team started.  Like the start against Houston, I know what I did wrong.  Not the way I am able or capable of pitching.


How difficult is it to talk when don’t know if start will be made and what would you say to Cardinals fans?

I can imagine what they are feeling.  We finally get to the World Series and are down 3-0.  They see how we are playing and I know it must be disgusting to them.  We’re going to play and compete and keep trying to continue this thing further.  It may or may not happen.  I am hoping it will happen.  If we play like we are capable, it will happen.  Not clicking yet.


People say this is over in a blur.  Did this being the first time in Series overwhelm the players?

Hate to say we’ve gotten overwhelmed by anything.  This is the reason we are playing.  Red Sox have been better so far.  Need to make tomorrow meaningful.


What has impressed you most about the Red Sox?

They play a lot like we do.  Never go away.  See what they did against New York.  To come back says a lot for character.  Hard to say when down 3-0, but we are the same type of ball club.


Have you drawn on the Sox success in playoffs?.

No.  We’ve had our own success in playoffs.  We can’t keep waiting.  Very few of us who have done what we have all season.  Have to go out there and keep plugging away.


Did the downslide of the last two weeks of the season carry over?

Not sure if you watched.  We didn’t play full strength.  Guys got days off and aligned rotation to prepare for playoffs.  Played good against Dodgers and fought hard against Houston.  Not going our way.  Have to make them go our way.


Are Cards approaching hitters differently?

They are very patient hitting ball club.  Pitches we wanted to make, they are laying off pitches that are close.  As a staff, we didn’t walk many this season and here, we’re walking everyone.  If you give a club the caliber of Boston extra outs, you’re in trouble.  Need to make pitches and make them early.


Tony La Russa comments:


Is it the due to the Red Sox or the Cardinals?

A combination.  I agree with Woody.  Taken some strange at-bats.  Sometimes our execution not what were used to.  Pitch backward we pitch too careful, then we get guys on.  We’ve played good defense.  We’ve had a couple of freak baserunning plays.  Some us and some them.  No problem giving them credit.


Looking at a few players to lead the team?

One of the strengths of club that we divided leadership among a number of players.  8-10 guys taking charge whether in what they say or making a play.  Don’t like one leader; too many bad things can happen.  Leadership comes from a lot of guys.


Is Mitchell (Page) working on anything special with the hitters?

At this point, everybody’s routine is pretty set.  If going good, keep at it.  If not, do drills.  We are in that struggle mentality now.  We know how to pull ourselves out of it.  We just have to do it. 


Since expanded playoffs, the team with the best record won only once (‘98 Yanks):

Best record usually doesn’t get this far.  Short series and get a couple of swing games that go against you and you get beat.  Team that wins series is best team.  Most agree we have talent, enough to win tonight.


Booing by fans.  Fox execs say Series is awful.  Unfamiliar feeling for negativity?

One of our attitudes is we’d rather be on plus side. But if you’re experiencing it, you have to be there.  If we were in the top of the ninth and needed three outs to win, no one will be booing.  Reverse is to play better.


What impressed you most about Sox?

We knew about their lineup.  Very similar.  All four in finals were really good lineups. They’ve given us tough looks.  They deserve credit.


How is Rolen physically?  How much do you attribute to his late season time missed?

He would get real upset if I made excuses.  If in the DS, pressure at bats.  Pretty far into it.  I saw this during the season.  He has a day and breaks out of it.  Nothing about it that he’d make an excuse about.  Calf bothering him but better he’s than before.


Lineup changes?

Going back to standard with Tony leading off.  Edgar goes to sixth.  Mabry in left and hit seventh and Molina will catch and hit eight.


On Ramirez as tough out:

For a long time, one of best RH hitters in baseball.  Man to revolutionize hitting was Charlie Lau.  Manny, Albert, Alex Rodriguez, stroke started with Charlie Lau technique.  Hits for average and extra base pop.


Tougher competition makes team better for next round.  Did that help Sox?

Definitely played out for them.  0-3 doesn’t look like true.  Not true.  I know it was the opposite.  We just lost three games.


Is Womack over physical problems?  Looking for spark?

His back is such that I am confident he can play nine.  Collarbone was another reason to be careful with him.  Is sore, but can play with it.  Pulling John’s numbers, when he started a game, he’s given us a lift often.  Wanted to make a switch.  Think Reggie’s taken one of the best looking o-fers in the Series.  Molina and Jason have had a good thing a lot.  Mike also caught him well, but this way, he’ll be fresh for tomorrow.


6:35 pm edt

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Tony La Russa Postgame Comments - Game Three


What happened with Suppan and did that take energy out of the team?

In championship competition and the other team is playing well, can’t make mistakes and miss opportunities.  Play was an easy read.  Jeff heard “no, no” and he was yelling “go, go”.  Men not machines.  Larry did what we needed.  Albert coming up.  A big miss.  Can’t do that in a championship competition.


On Pedro.

Mixed things well.  Locations, speeds.  Gave our club a lot of different looks.  Jeff did a good job, Pedro pitched better.


On Suppan.

Competitive.  Need to make a pitch more to get out of innings.  Not doing it.  Before pointing fingers at pitching, we’re missing opportunities to score.  We’re just getting beat.


Is it what Boston is doing or what the Cards are not doing?

Fair question. First game was close, but last two haven’t been.  Only scored 2 and 1.  It’s a combination.   We’re better than the pitches and plays and swings we’ve had.


On shutting down 4-5-6 hitters.

As long as game has been played if a pitcher mixes pitches up, keeps ball out of the middle of the plate, hitters have hard time adjusting.  Making good pitches in key situations.  We’re not.  Credit to them.  Our hitters need to do more.  Give them credit.  Made good pitches in key situations over and over again.


Does knowing Boston came back from 3-0 help you?

Something you’ve got to notice.  Shows it’s possible.  One thing I know is that we’ve come too far not to give an effort not to embarrass anybody tomorrow.  Like Terry said before Game 4 before, just have to win a game tomorrow.  Hard not to get discouraged.  Have to be strong.  We can win a game tomorrow.


Hitting Womack at 7 because of his health?

Was health the first couple of days.  Hadn’t had a lot success against the last two guys.  Today he was good to go, but Martinez has been tough on him.  We lost three games with him out of that lineup, so we’ll probably see something different tomorrow.


12:13 am edt

Monday, October 25, 2004

Workout Day Interviews – Jeff Suppan and Tony La Russa


Jeff Suppan comments:


Does pitching in previous big games in playoffs help for tomorrow?

All games pitched will help.  Being in situations helps manage adrenaline.  Know what to expect.


Does it help knowing the Sox hitters?

I hope so.  All change year to year, but tendencies remain.  Watching a lot of film.


Is it odd to be against Sox instead one of them?

Feel a part of Cards organization.  Was nice to be Cardinal from day one.  After coming up thru Boston organization, it was more strange to go back there last year than to it is to play against them this year. 


What can pitchers get away with at Busch vs. Fenway?

Changes the game more for the hitter than pitcher.  Pitching inside, changing speeds, staying down are the same in any park.


Why were you not more successful last year with Sox?                                          

Probably because I didn’t pitch very well.  Got out of groove that was in with Pirates when going back there.  Value the experience playing with them.


Why were you left off playoff roster last year?

Left off Division Series because the team wanted Trot Nixon available.  Was on roster for Championship series.  Didn’t get a chance to pitch.  No hard feelings.


Is coming back less daunting after Cards were 2-3 against Astros and Sox were 0-3 vs. Yankees?

Always highs and lows.


Did you worry about five starters for four postseason spots?

No worry about it.  Whatever role I was put in, I would do it.  Didn’t matter.  Everyone deserved a chance to start, but Carp was hurt.


What do you think of the Idiots?

Definitely Idiots (just kidding).  Relaxed, good hitters, feed off each other.  Mueller batting champion is key.  Tough lineup.  Have to be on game.


Tony La Russa comments:


Planning to take Pedro deep into count to get him to 100 pitches?

Cant control it 100%.  Compete every at-bat.  Can’t go up there to take two pitches or he’ll put you away. Every guy who goes to bat will compete.


Importance of Suppan start?

More important for us than them because they have two (games) up.  All season long, Suppan very consistent as to how he approaches games.  Has to make pitches.  He is capable.


Have the fans helped your home record?

Big edge.  Just came from Fenway, Minute Maid, Dodgers set an attendance record.  Crowd pumps up home team.  Gives edge.  Try to take advantage from it.  Our fans get us excited.


Do NL rules provide an advantage?

As a general statement, NL has advantage.  Lose some with Pedro.  Used to NL pitching and handling the bat.  If Lowe is athlete, should be ok.  Ortiz has played first, but not favorite position.  But, can’t try to hit ground balls to first.  Most important is if Pedro is on and if Suppan pitches like is capable. 


Will Womack lead off?

Came in for treatment today.  Sore, but will play.  Have two lineups, with him at leadoff and seventh.


Is Pedro the same pitcher as five years ago?

Have to ask those in American League who see him every year.  We saw him once last year in interleague play.  He has all the pitches and is as competitive as ever.  Will be a handful.


Is St. Louis best baseball city?

I go by comments from players.  They say fans are as enthusiastic as other places but people more fair-minded.  May get booed as opposing player, but not embarrassed.  Other places, fans can get real nasty with visiting clubs.  Irritating and sometimes dangerous.  Knowledgeable and enthusiastic for both sides here.


Walks in first two games being too fine?

Sometimes when try to make explanations, fans think making excuses.  They have very good lineup.  We didn’t execute they way we had to, for whatever reasons.  Not the way we pitch and we got hurt for it.


Will Marquis start Wednesday?

Marquis was one of the bright spots from last night.  He pitches better with activity.  Will be Game Four pitcher.


Not much from Rolen and Edmonds so far.  Are Sox doing something special?

Pedro is talented.  If he is sharp, for whichever hitter, it will be tough to center the ball.  Rolen is one of game’s great competitors.  Rolen started slow against Dodgers and Houston and then had a couple of big hits the next day.  Nothing will stop him from competing.  Can be clutch at any at bat.  Edmonds best year in five seasons here.  Have to tip your cap to them for making pitches at key times to outstanding hitters.  We have to do to them what they did to us.


6:37 pm edt

Workout Day Edition

Walton’s Wanderings 


How Deep is that Hole?

No team has come back to win a World Series after losing Games One and Two on the road since 1981, when the Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed after dropping Games One and Two to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.  In fact, no NBA or NHL team has come back in a similar finals situation during that period, either.  Since 1981, Game One/Two-winning teams are 25-0 in the finals.  Of course, before this year’s ALCS, no team had ever won four straight after being down 3-0, either.  So, anything can happen.


Too Many Freebies

Only one NL and one AL pitching staff issued fewer walks than the Cardinals this season. However, in Games One and Two, Redbird pitchers walked 14 Boston batters and hit three more with pitches.  Eight of those runners scored.  Why?  It seems to be as much selective hitting by the Sox as anything, as they have been laying off balls out of the zone.


Four Errors and Five Hits

We can poke fun at the Red Sox defense all we want, but the fact is that the Cards had as many gifts via errors as they did hits until Pujols singled in the eighth.  The bats need to wake up in a hurry.


Indiscretion Causes Indigestion?

Speaking of food, I imagine most everyone has read about the shabby hospitality shown the Cards in Beantown, but just in case not, here is a link to more details.  By the way, ignore all the excuses about other events going on.  This is just plain poor planning and could have been avoided if the Red Sox organization was first-class.,+'bar+food'


“I like to watch”

In terms of television, Game Two was the highest rated Game Two since the Indians - Braves back in 1995.  An average of 25.5 million viewers tuned into Sunday night's game.  Boston had a slightly higher average rating/share over St. Louis, 47.8/68 to 46.9/60.  Game One was the most watched since 1996, at 23.17 million.


Out Peskying Pesky

All the Johnny Pesky talk amuses me.  The Cards have the better infielder from that era, by far.  For the record, Red Schoendienst plays a similar role as Johnny Pesky does with the Sox.  The only difference is that Red has 1041 managing wins, one ring as a manager and two rings as a player, including the ’46 Series over the Sox and a plaque in Cooperstown.  That’s more significant than having a foul pole named after you.


Manny and “Skates”

Am I the only one who was reminded one of the great Cardinal iron gloves of the past, Lonnie Smith, while watching Manny Ramirez try to play left field?  Skates made a better choice of teammates however, earning three rings, including one with the Cardinals in 1982.


Misery Loves Company

“Harry Caray's Restaurant, named after the late Cubs broadcaster, is supporting the Red Sox and wishing them luck.  The restaurant has a 4-foot by 6-foot good luck card that Cubs fans are signing in the foyer. The card reads, "Good luck, Red Sox. Prove curses don't exist. In solidarity, long suffering Cubs fans." Throughout the course of the World Series, the restaurant will feature New England clam chowder, lobster rolls and Boston baked beans.”  Thanks to Billy-Ball,, who shared this one with us, as well as provided a Birdhouse plug in his free daily newsletter today.


Cubbies Want the Big Unit?

So says the Orange County Register.  They and the Yankees, of course.  The Dodgers were poo-poohed as a candidate, though the Angels were thought to be a logical suitor, too.  After all, their owner Arte Moreno is a free-spender that George Steinbrenner can appreciate.  Cardinals were not mentioned this time, which is fine, given Johnson’s $16.5 million salary in 2005.


Projected Rotation Match-ups

Game Three:  Pedro @ Morris

Game Four:  Lowe @ Marquis

Game Five:  TBD @ Williams

Games Six and Seven:  TBD


4:55 pm edt

Monday, October 25, 2004

Tony La Russa Post Game Two Comments


On Morris’ stuff and command:

Matt had good stuff.  Two swings with two outs were the difference.  Thought he did a great job.  Thought he was outstanding.  He was starting to force it in final inning.  Worried he would get hurt so got him out of there.


Frustrated over eight Sox errors and no wins?

Had some terrific at-bats.  Did enough offensively to score more.  May still not have won.  6-4? Good at-bats for nine innings.


On Sanders missing second base:

This is one of the best baserunning clubs I’ve ever seen.  Just missed the bag.  Only happened one other time this season with Larry Walker.


Sox scored all runs with two outs.  Are the Sox clutch or are Cards pitchers missing?

Cards numbers with two outs in LDS and LCS were outstanding.  Stopping two out hits and getting them is a big difference.  They hit pitches they should have hit.


Discuss DH play on both sides.  Does it change in St. Louis?

It changes Red Sox.  We play that way all year long.  I’d like to send an extra hitter up there, but that’s the rules.  They’re going to lose one good hitter.


On Schilling:

Early on, he wasn’t quite as sharp.  We hit some balls hard.  Later on, he made quality pitches.


How important is home cooking and returning to St. Louis?

Team thinks about today.  Disappointed we lost two games here.  Team likes playing on road and loves playing at home. 


12:05 am edt

La Russa and Womack

Tony Pre-Game Comments – Game Two


La Russa comments:


On whether Sox roster is suitable for NL play:

Good question.  Don’t see why they wouldn’t.  If Ortiz was incapable of playing defense, it would be different.


On whether Game One was one of those nights:

Sometimes in conditions like that, the pitchers don’t have feel, then miss location.  We walked a bunch and they walked almost as many.  20 runs scored and wind was blowing in.  That isn’t supposed to happen.


On whether he will walk Ortiz like Bonds:

We identify the player who is dangerous in the situation.  We don’t like telling our pitchers they aren’t good enough to get anyone out.  Depends on the situation.  Did it once yesterday to pitch to Millar.


On Womack:

Kept lineup open until spoke with Womack at the ballpark.  He said he can go, so he is in there.  Anderson was going be at second if Tony couldn’t go, so stayed in at DH.  He has some success against Schilling in 10 at-bats.  He has legs and handles bat and maybe will do something special.


On Game Three and Four starters:

Suppan will definitely go Tuesday and we think Marquis will pitch Game Four.  But he is also on the relief list today because Haren is not available today.  Marquis could probably pitch some today and start Game Four, too.


On Foulke:

Paid more attention to him because he played for the White Sox and A’s.  Come a long way.  High quality closer. Has a feel for pitching.  Smart and capable of making pitches.  Outstanding closer.  At least two pitches he can get a batter out with.


On home/road split in playoffs:

Three losses in Houston was tough environment with hot club.  Still had a chance to win all three.  Also had a chance yesterday.  Can win against anyone anywhere.  Season success built on quality starts.  Need to challenge starters to get deeper into games.  They will respond.


On toughest moment in Game One:

(Had trouble choosing one.)  Groundskeeper apologized for bad hop on Womack.  Never happened before.  Double play would have been nice for momentum.  Popping up Scott and striking out Edmonds was tough.  If had to pick one, based on amount of my cussing in dugout, it was the walk of Bellhorn by Calero in the seventh.


Womack comments:


On the bad hop and groundskeeper apology:

Can they erase the run, too?  It happens.  That’s baseball.


On collarbone and how he felt this morning:

Felt like hit by truck twice over.  Very stiff.  I am playing.  Have all winter to heal.  Not many chances to play in World Series.  Not going to let it slow him down.


On hitting seventh in order:

Goal is to play.  Batting seventh because of spasms.  Prepare just like leading off.  Can stay by the heater a little longer.


On treatment for spasms:

Done everything.  Biggest thing mentally trying to stay strong, when get between lines, try to forget.


On the field conditions:

I saw the ball bounce.  Could have been topspin or backspin.  Was more disappointed than the run scored.  Doesn’t take anything personally.


On whether first time getting hit in collarbone:

First time getting hit.  First time getting back spasms in same season, too.  Like stinger in football.  Lost feeling in fingers and arm for 5-10 minutes.  Nerve pushed against bone.


On conditions in Boston:

Playing in World Series, nothing is tough.  Forget about what you cannot control.  30 teams want to be there.  Two teams left.  No better place to be.  Forget about obstacles.  Could be my last Series.  Will play as hard as I can. 


6:10 pm edt

Calling in the Bet


Birdhouse columnist Joe Mammy reminds me every now and then about my Las Vegas wager on the Cardinals to win the National League.  Finally, I had to come clean.  Here is what I told Joe…


“Sadly, my winnings will just be beer money.  I am embarrassed to admit that I bet just $10, so will collect $90.  I bet on the NL, not the World Series, so I am in.  Seems pretty conservative now, especially given how much I had dropped on the blackjack tables.  Perhaps that was the problem. 


It was a lark my last day there in Vegas, as I happened to be walking past the sports book in the hotel.  Not to drop names, but at the time, I was actually walking with George Will, who I had run into in an elevator.  Wish I would have had better questions ready for him and had my recorder in my pocket.  Oh, well...  Anyway, I doubled back to the book and dropped that big ten on the counter.”


Still, I am proud to proclaim that I picked the winner!  A round of drinks for the house!


12:52 pm edt

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tony La Russa Pre-Game Comments - Game One


On losing Kline:

Our attitude is no negative vibes.  I feel worse for Steve than I do for us.  Still will find a way to win.  Important like Carpenter.  Tough break, but will do without.


On Morris in Game Two:

Had an edge and decided to play it.  Pitched only 80 pitches last start.  Couldn’t have done it otherwise.  Has a lot of road post-season experience.  Will be ready if it goes six.  Plus, get Jason as another hitter at home.


On pressure or relief personally:

Opportunity is not a manager thing.  They ride coattails of players.  Doesn’t look at personally.  Opportunity is the players.  Only three have rings, everyone else gets first shot.


On Carpenter:

Carp was cleared for 50-60 pitches including 30 warmups.  He and Duncan didn’t want something bad to happen.  Not fair, not safe risk to take.  He and Duncan would have left the game if something had happened.  Carp will lead staff next year.


On comparing Cards and A’s lineups:

Wont do it.  Don’t want to make one look bad.  Chicago ’83 club was really good, too.  Everyone is different.


On whether match-ups are overanalyzed:

Baseball is meant to be analyzed.  It’s part of the enjoyment.  Then play the game.


On Reyes:

Not that much of a lefthanded presence on Red Sox.  Reyes led PCL in saves.  Thin margin as better choice over Flores.  Getting Ankiel ready for winter ball.


On Taguchi:

Been real good in the clutch.  Experienced from his play in Japan.  Never in awe.  Probably will have Sanders back in left Sunday.


On Marlon Anderson:

One of neatest things that happened this season.  Didn’t pout when Womack came to team.   Real dangerous pinch-hitter.  Admired how he dealt with role.


On memories of ’67 series:

I was a big Yaz fan.  Grew up in Tampa, Yankees and American League fan.  Not paying attention to Cards then.  Remembered Gibson though.  Red wishes he was still on the team.


On weather:

Cold for coaches and fans.  Players get into it, so not as big of a problem.


On whether StL and Boston are two best baseball cities:

Not my style to compare.  Other good cities, too.  Tied for first as best you can find.


On having Edgar:

Has World Series success.  He wants a Cards ring.  Intensity.


On impressions of Fenway:

If we win, interleague play last season helps familiarity.  Fans up close.  Pressure there, Exciting atmosphere.


On Francona:

He has a lot of credits on resume.  Managed Michael Jordan, who respects him.  La Russa roomed with his Dad as 18-year old.  Tito Francona treated him well.  TLR tried to get Terry once as left-handed hitter.  Francona handled Philly well.


6:10 pm edt

Matt Morris’ Pre-Game One Comments


Getting these out fast, so summarizing comments instead of quoting in entirety.


On being selected to start Game Two on short rest:

Last time pitched on short rest was wiffleball game at age 10.  There’s nothing to rest for.  I’m not saving myself for anything.  Thought it was possible after his last game against Houston that he might start in Boston.  Believes decision was made to allow Marquis to pitch at home.  News changed last night. 


On Kline being out and only one lefty:

Bullpen is still the strength of the team.


On the importance of scouting:

Catch-22.  Had too much intelligence on Houston after playing them 22 times.  Sometimes thought too much.  Nice to have a fresh team in mind.  Focus on my strengths.


On his outlook:

Had a lot of distractions this season.  Contract and other things.  Can’t do anything about it.


On his health:

Acknowledged his tender shoulder mid-season.  Said his last month was shaky.  But, feels rested and sharp now. 


On his contract and potential last start in St. Louis:

Not going to do me any good to think about it.  Will deal when all is said and done.  Going to have fun in the Series.  The Cards are a great organization and stuck with me.  I appreciate that and hope we can continue the relationship.


On Boston:

Like St. Louis, but with a deeper hole to overcome. Varitek was my catcher in the Cape Cod League in Hyannis and went to Fenway once on off-day.  Workout Friday was so intense, can only imagine tonight.


5:29 pm edt

World Series Match-up


Here is my take on the teams.  Overall, it is close, but the edge goes to the Cardinals.  I think it will be over in six games.


Infield – Advantage Cardinals.  Orlando Cabrera and Kevin Millar are solid players, but the left side of the Cardinals infield is gold, with Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria.  The right side of Tony Womack and Albert Pujols isn’t bad, either.  With David Ortiz having to play first in St. Louis, the Red Sox defense is weakened.


Outfield – Advantage Cardinals.  This is a close one.  Gold Glovers, former MVPs and batting champions abound.  I call Manny plus Damon vs. Edmonds plus Walker a toss-up, even though the latter two are superior with the glove.  Because of his experience, I give Reggie Sanders the edge over Trot Nixon.


Catcher – Advantage even.  Jason Varitek is superior offensively to Mike Matheny, but Matheny is without peer behind the plate.  I’d take either on my team.


Starting pitching – Advantage Red Sox.  There is more variance from top to bottom on the Sox, but their Big Two are pretty darned good.  The Cards are hurt by the injury to ace Chris Carpenter and the inconsistency of Matt Morris.  With their current horses being Woody Williams and Jeff Suppan, the Cards have to hope the magic continues.


Bullpen – Advantage Cardinals.  Keith Foulke would get the slight nod over Jason Isringhausen, but the rest of his cronies take a back seat to the very effective Cards’ set-up gang.


Bench – Advantage Red Sox.  The Cardinals’ bench (John Mabry, Marlon Anderson, Roger Cedeno, etc.) doesn’t scare anyone.  When there is no DH, Kevin Millar can come off the bench, along with Dave Roberts, Pokey Reese and Doug Mientkiewicz.


Managing/Coaching – Advantage Cardinals.  As long as he avoids overmanaging, Tony La Russa and his staff should have the edge.  La Russa is driven to finally get his second ring.  Terry Francona did a fine job managing against the Yankees, but is far from proven.


4:32 pm edt

All-Time Red Sox/Cardinals Team


One of my daily reading items is a baseball trivia question and Theme Teams provided free via e-mail to anyone interested.  The author, Bruce Brown, was kind enough to allow me to share this special edition with all of you.


All-Time Boston Red Sox / St. Louis Cardinals team composed of player alumni of both franchises.

LF - Jesse Burkett*

RH - Cy Young*
LH - John Tudor
RP - Tony Fossas
Coach - Gene Mauch
Announcer - TIM McCARVER

Honorable Mention
Luis Alicea
Luis Alvarado
Cory Bailey
Frank Barrett
Darren Bragg
Jim Bucher
Bob Burda
Bud Byerly
Bernie Carbo
Danny Cater
Nelson Chittum
Danny Clark
Lance Clemons
Reggie Cleveland
Jimmy Cooney
Rheal Cormier
Lou Criger
Rich Croushore
Nig Cuppy
John Curtis
Cot Deal
Tommy Dowd
Bob Duliba
Jim Dwyer
Doc Farrell
Jeff Fassero
Mike Fiore
Ben Flowers
Phil Gagliano
Del Gainer
Mike Garman
Charlie Gelbert
Frank Gilhooley
Bernard Gilkey
Mario Guerrero
Don Gutteridge
Casey Hageman
Charley Hall
Chuck Hartenstein
Andy Hassler
Bob Heise
Charlie Hemphill
Dustin Hermanson
Terry Hughes
Ben Hunt
Herb Hunter
Hal Janvrin
Marcus Jensen
Rankin Johnson
Ed Karger
Win Kellum
Ellis Kinder
Ron Kline
Lew Krausse
Eddie Lake
Jack Lamabe
Lyn Lary
Dick Littlefield
Mickey McDermott
Ed McFarland
Bob McGraw
Larry McLean
Kent Mercker
Elmer Miller
Buster Mills
Herb Moford
Billy Muffett
Rob Murphy
Tom Murphy
Mike Nagy
Darren Oliver
Gene Oliver
Al Papai
Stan Papi
Freddy Parent
Stan Partenheimer
Bill Pertica
Phil Plantier
Nels Potter
Dave Rader
Joe Riggert
Jack Rothrock
Stan Royer
Mike Ryba
Dick Schofield
Ossie Schreckengost
Diego Segui
Danny Scheaffer
Ted Sizemore
Jack Slattery
Bob Smith
Allen Sothoron
Jack Spring
Tracy Stallard
Chuck Stobbs
Jeff Suppan
Jake Thielman
Mike Timlin
Mike Torrez
John Warner
Gary Waslewski
Bob Weiland
Bill Werle
Mark Whiten
Bill Wight
Del Wilber
Tom Winsett
Harry Wolter

*Hall of Fame
ALL CAPS = All-Star



To join this list, there is no fee to subscribe.  There are no prizes.  It's just for fun.  If interested, contact Bruce Brown,


2:57 pm edt

You can ask questions of

Cardinals Arizona Fall League Prospects


The Arizona Fall League is owned and operated by the 30 Major League baseball clubs and is generally considered one of the final steps before joining the major leagues for many players.  There are six teams in the league, each with just over 30 players in total sourced from five major league organizations.  The Cardinals join Colorado, the White Sox, Tampa Bay and the Cubs in stocking the Mesa Solar Sox, who play their home games at the Cubs’ Spring Training home, HoHoKam Park.


The AFL schedule began on October 5 and will culminate with a Championship Game to be held on November 20 at Scottsdale Stadium.  At a date to be determined later this season, Albert Pujols, who played in the AFL in 2000, will be inducted into their Hall of Fame.


In fact, the AFL has a proven record and has seen many future Cardinals participate, including J.D. Drew (’96), Eli Marrero (’96), Kerry Robinson (‘97-’98) and So Taguchi (’02).  Other notable AFL alums include MLB All-Stars Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Todd Helton and Nomar Garciaparra.  Dusty Baker got his managing start there.  In fact, over 1000 players and 15 managers have graduated to the majors from the AFL.


This year’s crop includes seven Redbirds prospects.










2004 Club


Carmen Cali






Cleveland, OH

Memphis (AAA)


Andrew Cavazos






Freeport, TX

Tennessee (AA)


Adam Wainwright






Brunswick, GA

Memphis (AAA)




















Gabe Johnson






Pearlsburg, FL

Tennessee (AA)




















Chris Duncan






Tucson, AZ

Tennessee (AA)











John Nelson






Denton, TX

Tennessee (AA)




















Reid Gorecki






Queens, NY

Palm Beach (A)

















In the upcoming days, I will be making my annual trip to Arizona to see these young men in action and to interview each for The Birdhouse.  If you have questions you’d like me to pose to any one of these players on your behalf, please email me at and I will use the best of them.


8:15 am edt

Friday, October 22, 2004

Tony La Russa’s Friday Comments


On Pujols’ defensive contributions:

“I think he demonstrated it as a rookie.  He played average to above average defense at third, first, left and right.  And now, being able to concentrate on one position, I think he’ll contend for a Gold Glove by next year.”


On Walker finally getting a chance to play in the Series:

“Larry is a good example I think of such a tremendous experience for a professional to have a chance to contend for a ring in the World Series.  There are so many horror stories of, I don’t care if you’re a big leaguer, you don’t have to be a great big leaguer, and you never get the chance – that’s really something that’s missing when you retire.  Larry’s one of the first-timers on our club.  We have a number of them.  That’s why there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be really excited to play as good as we can.  But, it’s a special meaning.  Larry’s had everything you could possibly want on an individual basis; MVPs, batting champions.  And now he gets to play in the World Series.  So, I know he is very excited about it.  I think it has great meaning. It will be an experience he will never forget.”


On having Rolen, Pujols and Edmonds all season:

“It’s a lot of fun.  You win a game by stopping them and putting some points up there.  I just think it’s really a team effort.  The first three months, Scott, drove in the big run.  Then, to start off Albert, for him, was a little sluggish and went crazy and then Jim for the last four months….  So, you take a big section of that season and all three of them were working.  They became very important to set the table.  And that is the thing we did really well with Tony and at one time with Edgar second, then Larry came in.   I like what Albert said yesterday when he was asked about the MVP.  It’s a team MVP, so I hesitate to brag on those three guys’ offense.  Where our strength is that we have eight guys who take really good at-bats and in this park, we will have nine.” 


On whether there are similarities between the Red Sox and Cardinals:

“I look at the lineups of all four teams that got into the finals.  There were four outstanding lineups.  And there were days when the pitching wasn’t sharp, runs got on the board.  And when the pitching was sharp, as it always does in this game, they got those outstanding lineups out.  I think it will be the same with whoever wins four here first.  You pitch good; you get outs. You miss; there is a lot of damage in both lineups.”


On who benefits and who is hurt by the DH in the Series:

“I was trying to hope we were the underdogs, so I hate to answer that honestly.  I think the American League.  It is a lot easier for us to add a hitter.  And you get in our park, the pitcher is involved with the game and that is not easy for him.  Some guys make it work like it is no problem, but it’s not easy.  They’ve got to run the bases and usually the American League lineup has a DH guy that may have a tough time playing a position.  There’s a couple of edges that you lose.  But, they can overcome the edge.  It’s not a big thing, but it is something.”


On the rotation and DH:

“Woody tomorrow then TBD, TBA because with the win yesterday and the celebration and getting packed, the architect of our pitching hasn’t told me how we are going to pitch.  We played around with it a little bit and we still have some decisions to make.  We’ll have to let everybody know soon, including the pitchers.  And started messing around on the plane with lineups.  I don’t know for sure who the DH is going to be yet.  I have a suspicion, but I might use a right-handed hitter.  You can figure out which one of the right-handers might get in there.  But, that’s not for sure.” 


On whether he feels like a party pooper for trying to stop the Sox from breaking the curse:

“No, because I come from St. Louis.  Talk about pooping a party, man.  We haven’t been here in 17 years and there’s been a lot of doggie bags that have been…  We lost the championship series three times.  No, it’s time for both fans to be selfish and both teams to be selfish.  They want to win for all their reasons.  But, we have a clubhouse full of guys that have never had a World Series ring.  We’re going to try to be greedy and selfish, just like they are.”


On how defense might play in the Series:

“If you play long enough, I think that the beauty of the game is that you’ll win a bunch of games if you do as much possible.  If you defend all over the field, you are going to win some extra games.  You know, we run the bases better than any club I have ever had.  That’s won us some extra games.  Will it make a difference in this series?  It depends on how they defend and how they run the bases and whether you get on base to run them.  And then, there’s the offense.  So, I just think that…  I saw quite a few of the Red Sox games, so I know they’re playing sound defense.  We play good defense.  Sometimes great defense.  So, whoever wins; that had better be a part of it, because you’re not going to outscore people.”


On Woody as Game One starter all three series:

“Well, we didn’t time it out for the World Series.  It works out that he has five days.  He is the perfect one for it.  The thing about he other one is we had a choice.  He is very competitive.  He goes out there with good stuff and without good stuff and he’s going to find a way to keep in the game.  He pitched here last year and did a good job.  He can make pitches to rights and lefts.  He’s got good experience – good competitive experience.  The only problem is that he is not going to swing the bat.  That is that right hand DH I was talking about.  I might just let Woody hit.”


On whether there will be a new name in the rotation:

“No, it will be the same four guys.  It’s a little bit tricky.  I was so concerned with beating the Astros, that I didn’t really start messing around with it until early this morning.  It’s a little bit tricky.  That’s why it’s not easy to announce it.”


On Fenway’s challenges:

“It’s a neat environment.  Fans are very close to the ballpark, the ballfield, the players.  You feel their presence.  A lot of passion.  A lot of knowledge about the game.  It’s different than some places where they are far away from you and they’re not as interested and don’t know as much.  But, mostly Fenway is about the team you are playing against.  You go to Camden Yards or name any of these ballparks and are really fun and special.  It has to do with the club you’re playing against and how they play against you.  So, out problem is not Fenway, it is the Red Sox.”


On whether there is an advantage in winning two of three in interleague play last season:

“I think it’s a little something.  It’s two out of three in their ballpark.  You could give me a number of clubs that didn’t play here in the last couple of years.  A bunch of guys that were on the Red Sox then are on the Red Sox now.  It especially helps because is wasn’t until late last night that we were in this thing and we’re playing tomorrow.  We like to try to get ready for clubs.  For this club it is going to be a real crash, hurry up thing.  It helps a little bit that we have done it recently.”


On concern for an emotional letdown and Izzy’s development:

“There was a great LCS and we have so much respect for the Astros.  The series was a terrific win.  We celebrated.  But I could tell even by their comments yesterday that especially this morning seeing them getting on the bus and the plane.  They know what is at stake here.  You’re not going to see a letdown.  We’re going to be ready.  On Izzy, any job you have, you learn by experience.  He’s now been the closer for several years.  He’s learning more about how to warm up, learning more about situations.  Like Dunc always does, he’s added a couple of things.  There were a couple of things he could do before to get you out.  And now he has thee or four.  In fact, he is working on five.  I think he’s gotten better and better and hopefully, he’s going to get a lot of chances.”


On whether the experience with Carlos Beltran will help with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez:

“Yeah because of the way the games were spaced, I got the opportunity to see a lot of the Yankees – Red Sox series.  I saw a lot of Ortiz’ heroics against the Anaheim club.  For two yours now, he’s been very clutch for them.  He was big damage for us in the interleague series.  You take your hat off because he’s such a tough out.  It looks like guys rally around him.  Beltran.  Ooh.  It was almost good to watch, but if you’re in the other dugout, it was very painful.  We couldn’t shut them down.  The mistake we’re not going to make is to concentrate on Ortiz and Ramirez and forget the other seven guys.  One of Boston’s strengths is exactly what we do.  We send eight or nine guys out there and any one of them can beat you.  You’ve got to respect every one of them.”


On whether to bunt to test Schilling’s ankle:

“I watched quite a bit of his last performance and the thing he has to do is throw the ball well and his ankle is good enough to do that.  Sometimes you pitch a guy that’s got a little hamstring problem.  Terry is very sharp.  He’ll play the third baseman in a little bit, play the first baseman in a little bit and take the bunt away.  We’re just going to play the game.  If somebody backs up, I don’t care if you have the best fielder on the mound.  We try to bunt on them.  If they take the bunt away, you swing.  If the sacrifice is there, we sacrifice, but we’re not going to try to run Schilling around because we’ll just run ourselves into outs.”


On his emotions to be back in the World Series:

“I’m not the best at describing what you feel.  It’s just like each of these guys coming in for the first time.  They’re going to be very excited and it’s going to go very fast.  And when they get back in, they will appreciate even more because they’ll have a better idea.  So, I’ve been here before and I know it’s the best sports setting there is.  It goes on for seven games – maybe.  Lifetime opportunity to win a ring.  Everything culminates in what you start talking about in spring training.  There is so much involved in the team that survives during the season.  And then, you survive two playoffs.  You’ve got everything on the line and everybody’s watching.   It’s the best of everything.  And I just think that the fact that you’ve been here before, you just realize to enjoy the moment and do the best you can and no regrets.  I think that is the only advantage from getting here before.  Just like when you pop champagne, you know?  You look forward to the next one.  You know how great it is.  Well, our guys that are in there for the first time, they’ll enjoy themselves.  I think they’ll get motivated to do it again.”


10:55 pm edt

Walton’s Wanderings


Another Pujols Milestone

With his 14-for-28 (.500) performance in the NLCS, Albert Pujols collected more hits than any other player in any other seven-game post-season series – ever.  That’s right, it had never happened before in the history of the game.  With Barry Bonds sitting at home trying to get BALCO out of his system, it is time to pass the NL MVP torch to Mr. Pujols.


Stark Puts it in Perspective

ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote the best of the many articles I’ve read today.  Take a look.


Projected Rotation Match-ups (post-season records in parens)

Game One:  Williams (2-0) @ Wakefield (1-0)

Game Two:  Marquis (0-1) @ Schilling (2-1)

Game Three:  Pedro (1-1) @ Morris (0-1)

Game Four:  Lowe (2-0) @ Suppan (2-1)

Game Five:  Wakefield @ Williams

Game Six and Game Seven:  Too early to tell


As recently as his 4pm Press Conference on Friday, La Russa would not commit on his starters after Game One.  However, he did admit that the rotation would be the “same four” guys.


Designated Hitter Candidates (career numbers at Fenway)

John Mabry:  8-for-31 (.258), 1 home run, 3 RBI

Marlon Anderson:  14-for-47 (.298), 1 home run, 6 RBI, 3 stolen bases

Roger Cedeno:  4-for-14 (.286), 1 RBI, 1 stolen base


At 4pm Friday, La Russa said his DH would be a right-handed hitter, but refused to commit to which player.  Obviously, that would point to Cedeno.


World Series Umpire Assignments

Game One


Previous WS Worked


Ed Montague*

4 (1986, '91, '97, 2000)


Dale Scott

2 (1998, 2001)


Brian Gorman



Chuck Meriwether



Gerry Davis

2 (1996, '99)


Charlie Reliford

1 (2000)

* Crew Chief


The Power of the Hawaiian Shirt

Way back in spring training, some of the more friendly media covering the Cardinals began to wear Hawaiian shirts on specified occasions.  Apparently, Jeff Suppan noted this and commented on it.  As a result, the tradition morphed into wearing the shirts for every Suppan start all season long.  Even though I wasn’t at the ballpark for Game Seven, I have to admit that I went back and specifically put on my best Hawaiian shirt in a show of solidarity.  I felt like I contributed my part to the Game Seven karma that way.


Cubs Hire Speier

To replace the fired Wendell Kim, the Cubs hired Chris Speier as their third base coach for 2005.  He played 19 years in the bigs, including two seasons with the Cubs.  Speier previously coached in the majors with the Brewers, Diamondbacks and A’s.  Now, all the Cubs’ problems are solved.


Eye of the Womack

Even though a Reader Mail item today already mentioned Tony Womack, I want to come back to him for a minute.  His performance Thursday night was as gritty in his own way as Curt Schilling pitching in the ALCS Game Six was.  He was running, twisting, diving, sliding and hitting like a madman.  Do you suppose he’ll have even more motivation in the Series based on having been dumped by the Red Sox this spring after signing with them as a non-roster invitee?


Symmetry of Ten and One Hundred

Wouldn’t it be great if the Cardinals won their tenth World Championship, twice as good as the next best in the National League, here in the 100th installment of the World Series?


Sox Not Afraid of the Road

While the Cards have owned Busch in the post-season (7-0), the Red Sox have proven their ability to win on hostile soil, with a 4-2 road record in the ALDS and ALCS.  All the more reason for the Cards to get out fast in Games One and Two at Fenway.


5:33 pm edt

From NLCS Game Seven

Tony La Russa’s Post-Game Comments


Note:  The Cardinals are scheduled to work out at 5pm Friday at Fenway Park.  The Red Sox go at 1pm.


On playing in Houston:

“Even though we lost three games; that was exciting over there.  You had to appreciate how passionate they were.  But, we knew we had it, too.  We just thought we’re such a good road team that I thought we’d sneak a win there, but we just couldn’t.”


On Edmonds’ catch:

“We have a unique club in that our position players really like to play defense and really like to run the bases.  That is two places where sometimes nowdays there is not a lot of stats and money involved.  We play defense.  Jimmy; that was probably the game-saving play.  That’s two runs and who knows how many more.  Reggie Sanders in the first inning and again later on.  He tracked some very tough balls.  And if those balls fall, who knows what’s going to happen.  If you give Roger too many runs, you’re not going to catch him.  I thought defense early on kept us in there, then Soup started to settle in and then the exhibition that Edgar put on in the eighth inning.  That’s classic.”


On what it would mean to bring a championship to St. Louis:

“There’s all kinds of meaning.  I think mostly about the guys who are part of our club.  There’s only three guys who have rings.  To play in the World Series, there’s a lot of guys who have not been in a World Series before, who don’t have a World Series ring.  That has great meaning.  There’s enough motivation there to play as hard and as good as we can.  But also, you’re always reminded every day that I have been in this organization of the Cardinals’ history.  It’s our Hall-of-Famers, people associated with the ball club, in the office.  They like to compete and they like to win their share.  Now, we’ve got a shot.”


On winning all season long and the character it showed:

“In February and March, we went against the odds.  We were picked to finish third.  That was the best.  And we ended up finishing first.  We definitely won a lot of games like the four we won this series.  A lot of close games.  We were just relentless.  I’ve only seen a a couple of clubs that I have been with, where we refused to back off.  I think we always talked about our division being so tough.  We just didn’t want to open the door for anybody.  That’s hard to do. We had a lot of tough games and played great for a long time.  These guys are really special between the ears.  We’ve won a lot of tough games.  It hasn’t been easy.”


On whether he will keep Womack batting seventh:

“Well, there’s no way that I have spent any time thinking about it.  It was only today just because I thought there was a real chance that sometime during the game it was going to spasm and he’d have to be replaced.  And he was hitting first, and you’re going to put somebody in the first hole when you turn that lineup around, it would not be Edgar.  Now, that’s the reason I did it.  It worked out alright today.  I’m a little disappointed in myself  in that I’ve already thought a little bit about the pitchers that we are going to face in Boston.  I shouldn’t do that, but I can’t help but look ahead.  But, I haven’t looked at the lineup.”


At what point he felt the team could win a championship:

“The honest answer is about a week into spring training.  Just looking at the guys, the talent.  You get into spring training and you are repeating the same goofy drills they’ve been doing for 15 years and they put a lot into it.  Nobody was half-stepping.  In the past, when that’s happened and you have talent, you’re going to… Worst we were going to be was pretty good.  We had a chance to be really good and it turned out we were really good.” 


On the three MVP candidates and their contributions:

“We beat a very good Dodger club and they were involved.  We won the four games against this great club.  I really respect the way they go about it.  This magazine did an article about the three of them and they didn’t want to participate unless the ballclub was talked about.  I’m definitely not going to get on the wrong side of these guys.  We have a 25-man team.  That sounds corny, but that is how you win.  So, we had three guys with standout seasons.  We have a whole lot of other guys who are really good players, good pitchers, terrific competitors.”


On the suicide squeeze:

“He’s pitching well, so a man at second and nobody out, it’s one of those situations that are big momentum things.  But, if they can stop you from scoring, they get the momentum.  If you can score, it is something good for you…  We were at the bottom of the lineup, so I thought we might not be able to bunt the man to third.  Mike Matheny did a great job of getting him over.  It’s a high risk play.  You put it on because if you don’t, I didn’t think Soup would get the ball out of the infield.  Sometimes you go ahead and take a shot.  The worst thing that could happen is that Edgar is leading off the next inning.” 


On Boston:

“I admire what they went through.  We played them in interleague play last year.   A lot of those guys played in the three games at Fenway, so we’re very familiar with how well and how tough they play.”


On beating Houston twice, first in the regular season and again in the playoffs:

“One of the reasons I said before that we were so relentless is because of respect for our division.  When you play the whole league, with the unbalanced schedule, we play so much within our division.   We were never comfortable that Houston or Chicago would not run off a big string of wins.  And we always knew that playing Milwaukee, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh; they’re really tough to play.  So, more than anything else, it wasn’t just Houston.  Our division was a real test and I think it really toughened us both for the great series.


On whether Chris Carpenter will be available in the World Series:

“Chris is making a lot of progress, but I am not sure we are able to answer that.  I think we are going to be very, very careful with him.  He’s got too much future; he’s got so much talent.”


On his impression of Clemens’ pitches to Pujols and Rolen in the sixth:

“The piece of hitting that Albert executed to get the double...  I haven’t heard what Roger said, but I would guess it was within an inch or two from exactly where we wanted it.  90 plus.  He should have jammed 90% of the hitters.  Albert was able to stay inside and hit it hard and keep it fair.  That is just great hitting.  Not many guys have that type of stroke.  And one of the keys to pitching is to get strike one.  Clemens does that as well as anybody.  And then he works you over.  And Scott hit the first pitch.  If you look back, Kent hit the first pitch to beat us the other day and Bagwell hit the first pitch in the ninth.  Strike one and Scott was ready and there certainly wasn’t anything that Roger Clemens did that was wrong.”


On his World Series rotation:

“I had a little trouble sleeping.  So, you might as well dream.  I stated messing around with it.  The problem with talking about it is that the architect of our pitching hasn’t taken a look at it yet and hasn’t told me yet what I am going to do.  So, I have to talk with Dunc.  I think we’re going to line up pretty well and be able to compete.” 


On his feelings about the All-Star Game winner getting home field advantage in the Series:

“We’re a real good road club.  On a day like today, it is impossible to rain on our parade.  So, we’re just pleased to go to Boston.”


1:47 am edt

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Tavarez: Cuddly, Cheat or Crazy?


Julian Tavarez is probably loving it. 


Turning himself into the center of attention for the Houston Astros by saying they’re not that special and then firing a pitch near Jeff Bagwell’s head. 


Turning himself into the center of attention for the umpires by causing both benches to be warned Sunday. 


Turning himself into the center of attention for the Cardinals medical staff by breaking his hand in a childish fit of rage. 


Turning himself into the center of attention for his manager by drawing what is believed to be an unjust fine for his wild pitch. 


And yes, turning himself into the center of attention for adoring Cardinal fans by pitching masterfully in the NLCS Game Six on Wednesday.


Well, I don’t love it.  In fact, I really don’t care how well Tavarez pitches Thursday evening or hopefully, over the next ten days.  I would rather see Scott Rolen or Jeff Suppan or anyone else become the Game Seven hero.  Almost, but not quite, even Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio would be preferable.


I cannot accept the fact that Tavarez is really a Cardinal, despite the uniform he wears.  Instead, I view him as a mistake.  In fact, I despise the fact that he plays for them and hope that can be corrected in the off-season.  And, it has almost nothing to do with the exorbitant contract that Walt Jocketty gave him. 


I just don’t believe this man deserves to be a Cardinal.  And, the problems he’s caused this season are just the tip of a very large iceberg. 


Julian Tavarez Carmen is no child.  He is 31 years old and has been in the majors for over ten years now.  There is a long list of Tavarez’ former teams, most of whom grew weary of him for some very good reasons.  He has a considerable history of disciplinary actions having been taken against him, many of which involve throwing at opposing hitters. 


Let’s look back on some specific, selected actions from the past.  Perhaps MLB and its disciplinarian Bob Watson are unfairly picking on an innocent, misunderstood man or more likely, Tavarez is a complete lunatic and probably worse. 


So, you decide for yourself.  Is the man cuddly, crazy or a cheat?  Or, is he all three?


Cuddly - 1995

20-year old Julian Tavarez first appeared in 1993 and his big break on the major league scene came as the fireballing hurler played a key role for the 1995 American League Champion Cleveland Indians.  The Dominican captured the fancy of America because the only English word he knew was “chicken”.  Soon enough, Tavarez learned the language so well that he would conduct interviews himself. 


Crazy - 1996

It didn’t take long for things to go wrong.  Tavarez apparently selected the wrong role model in Cleveland.  In 1996, defending teammate and one of the most disciplined players ever, Albert Belle, led Tavarez to his first suspension.  It was for body-slamming an umpire.  Of course, from Julian’s perspective, it was an unfortunate accident. 


Belle was angry at getting hit by a pitch.  He took it out via a forearm to Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman Fernando Vina’s face.  After Belle and Tavarez spoke between innings, Tavarez threw behind Brewers’ catcher Mike Matheny, who charged the mound. 


In the melee that followed, umpire Joe Brinkman grabbed Tavarez from behind and was thrown to the turf.  Tavarez insisted he didn’t know it was an ump, but still served five games.


Crazy – 1998

By now, Tavarez had been shipped to the San Francisco Giants.  In a September, 1998 game, Tavarez took exception to a ball four call by throwing his glove to the turf and yelling at the home plate umpire.  He flung his cap toward home plate and headed toward the ump, wildly gesturing.  Manager Dusty Baker had to pull Tavarez away from his chest-to-chest bumping of the ump, Sam Holbrook.  A three-game suspension ensued.


Crazy – 1999

After allowing six runs in an outing against Oakland, Tavarez drilled catcher Mike Macfarlane in the back with a pitch.  As Macfarlane was lying on the ground in pain, Tavarez stared down A’s manager Art Howe until Baker had to come out and remove Tavarez from the game. 


Crazy - 2001

Tavarez had been waived by the Giants and passed through Colorado before moving on to the Cubs.  He quickly fit right in, fighting with Giant Russ Davis and inciting a bench-clearing brawl - during a spring training game!  Tavarez took a flying kick at Davis, who had charged the mound after taking exception to what he felt was Tavarez taunting him after a strikeout.  Five more games on the pines for Julian.


Crazy – 2001

Before Tavarez could serve the above suspension, his Cubs team had an April series in San Francisco.  The Giants fans gave him a hard time and instead of turning the other cheek, Tavarez yelled back.  Among his on-the-record comments about his former teams’ fans was a John Rocker-esque declaration that “they are a bunch of a-holes and faggots.”  Bud Selig called the comments “reprehensible”.  Tavarez justified it in his mind by complaining that the fans threw eggs at him.  The only additional punishment meted out was that Tavarez was ordered to undergo sensitivity training.


Cuddly – 2001

On the bench in Chi-town, Tavarez poured rubbing alcohol onto a towel, which he wiped on his head in an apparent attempt to remain cool.  However, he may have gone too far when he slipped behind no-nonsense manager Don Baylor and shoved the smelly towel under Baylor’s nose.  Tavarez was soon traded to Florida.


Cuddly – 2002

In a close game while pitching for the Marlins, Tavarez stepped into the batters box against Colorado’s Mike Hampton.  Oddly, the right-hander came up as a left-handed hitter. He swung and missed at the first pitch before moving to the other side of the plate, from where he promptly blooped an RBI single.


Crazy – 2003

Now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tavarez came out of the bullpen to escalate a fight that was in the process of cooling off between Tampa Bay’s Marlon Anderson and Tavarez’ teammate Jason Kendall.  Tavarez admitted to throwing punches, but accused an unidentified Tampa player of choking him from behind.  Seems like it is a bad idea to come up behind him.  A three-game suspension ensued.


Crazy – 2003

Still angry over an incident where they feared a Tavarez pitch had broken the arm of first baseman J.T. Snow, Giants manager Felipe Alou mentioned what to that point had been an unspoken assumption – that Tavarez has a history of beaning ex-teammates.


Crazy – 2003

After Tavarez hit him with a pitch, Atlanta Braves outfielder Gary Sheffield glared while slowly walking to first.  He carried his bat the entire 90 feet and only gave it up upon reaching the first base bag.


Cheat - 2003

In a signal of problems to come, later last season, Alou strongly intimated that he knew that Tavarez was wearing a cap with pine tar on it.  Alou did not publicly press the matter, however.


In closing

Upon signing with the Cardinals in the 2003-2004 off-season, Tavarez spoke fondly of his time in Pittsburgh.  He made it clear he preferred to stay there, but the Cardinals offered twice the salary.  If it were up to me, I’d eat the difference and ship him right back there. 


In my book, Julian Tavarez doesn’t deserve to be a Cardinal.


3:23 pm edt

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bang for Buck Not There

Izzy or Isn’t He Worth the Cash?


I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that what happened at the end of Game Five of the NLCS is what caused me to write this article now, but like many, I have been nervous about Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen for a long time.  In fact, there are some who even keep track of “shaky saves” to try to make the point that Izzy belongs squarely in the ranks of second-tier closers, not among the elite. 


I want to make a similar point, but with a bit more structure around the argument.  But before I get into it, I need to make another admission.  Only long-time Birdhouse readers with really good memories might recall that last off-season I suggested a trade package with Izzy as the centerpiece be offered to Baltimore in return for a second baseman and an outfielder. 


Granted, the additions of Tony Womack and Larry Walker eventually mitigated the Cardinals’ immediate need at those two positions.  However, the nagging question of Izzy remains.


For this analysis, I selected the most accepted method for measuring the value of closers, the Rolaids Relief Award Standings.  For those unfamiliar with it, the top ten closers in each league are given points for wins, saves and “tough” saves (entering with tying run on base) while being docked points for losses and blown saves.


I then divided these 20 closers’ Rolaid points by their 2004 salary to get what I called the “Bang Index”, short for “bang for the buck”.  Granted, it is a simple analysis and it is skewed heavily by salary, but it allows some very interesting conclusions to be drawn.


But first, let’s look at Izzy’s rankings in some basic stats among these top 20 closers across MLB.


Rolaids rank – tied for fifth overall, tied for second in NL

Saves (47) – tied for third

“Tough” saves (5) – second

Blown saves (7) – tied for third worst

ERA (2.87) – 12th (not included in the Rolaids formula)

2004 salary ($7.25 million) – fourth highest, second highest in NL


This tends to point out that while Izzy received a lot of chances, he was not particularly dominant, though was very well paid for doing so.


When the “Bang Index” is calculated, Izzy has the fifth lowest score among the twenty.  However, two of the players with worse results, Troy Percival and Ugueth Urbina, each missed a month of action this season.  One of the other two players, John Smoltz, signed his huge contract when he was a starter.  And the last of the bottom five, Mariano Rivera, while the best in the business, like Izzy, simply seems to be overpaid.


Worst Bang for the Buck – Top 20 Closers - 2004

20.  John Smoltz

19.  Troy Percival

18.  Mariano Rivera

17.  Ugueth Urbina

16.  Jason Isringhausen


Therefore, it could be stated that among those closers pitching a full season, Isringhausen was the third worst “bang for the buck” in the majors in 2004.  Now, that is quite a contrast to many people’s views that this was Izzy’s best year ever.


Who are the best, you say?  The list is headed up with bargain pitchers, but the top five also includes the most underrated closer in the game, Texas’ Francisco Cordero, who makes over $2 million.


Best Bang for the Buck – Top 20 Closers - 2004

1.  Joe Nathan

2.  Brad Lidge

3.  Jorge Julio

4.  Shingo Takatsu

5.  Francisco Cordero


(For those who want to see the detailed data, check out the bottom of this page, where I loaded the entire spreadsheet.) 


So, what does this all mean?  Heading into the final year of his contract, Jason Isringhausen continues to be overpaid for the results returned.  With his final season’s contract on the books at $9.25 million, the problem only gets worse in 2005.  Do you really want the Cardinals to allocate well over 10% of their team salary budget next year on this one player out of 25? 


Most people only look at the potential Cardinal free agents when considering the 2005 budget.  Prevailing logic says that the team cannot afford to bring back Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Edgar Renteria, Mike Matheny, Tony Womack and Steve Kline.  Expand your aperture a bit and take another look.  For example, if faced with the choice, who would you rather have for $9.25 million, Izzy or Renteria?


In summary, I would like to see the Cardinals unload Izzy in the off-season if they can come up with a cheaper alternative at closer and can find someone to take his contract.  The salary relief gained and players received in return via trade should enable them to improve other positions on the team in the process.


As a sideline, I also would also divest of Julian Tavarez if he cannot close.  It is ludicrous to pay $2.6 million (his 2005 salary) for a set-up man.


I hope the Cardinals continue in the playoffs and Izzy is a central part of their success.  But, even if so, the data seems to point out that the Cardinals could do better in the future.


Rolaids Rank Name, Team Win Loss Save Tough  Save Blown Save Rolaids Points* Salary $M Points / $M Bang Rank Comment
1 Mariano Rivera, NY Yankees 4 2 53 2 4 157 $10.89 14.4 18 Very good and well-compensated.
2 Francisco Cordero, Texas 3 4 49 2 5 137 $2.03 67.5 5 Lights out all season.
3 Joe Nathan, Minnesota 1 2 44 1 3 125 $0.47 266 1 Best bang.
4 Troy Percival, Anaheim 2 3 33 1 5 88 $7.50 11.7 19 Missed a month due to elbow.
5 Keith Foulke, Boston 5 3 32 0 7 86 $4.50 19.1 14 Came on in playoffs.
6 Danys Baez, Tampa Bay 4 4 30 1 3 85 $2 42.5 8
7 Octavio Dotel, Oakland 6 2 22 2 6 64 $2.80 22.9 13
8 Shingo Takatsu, White Sox 6 4 19 2 1 61 $0.75 81.3 4 Excellent pickup.
T9 Jorge Julio, Baltimore 2 5 22 1 4 53 $0.39 135.9 3 Struggled, but cheap.
T9 Ugueth Urbina, Detroit 4 6 21 0 3 53 $3 17.7 16 Missed last month for bad team.
1 Eric Gagne, Los Angeles 7 3 45 3 2 142 $5 28.4 10
T2 Armando Benitez, Florida 2 2 47 3 4 136 $3.03 44.9 7
T2 Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis 4 2 47 5 7 136 $7.25 18.8 15 No excuse.
4 John Smoltz, Atlanta 0 1 44 6 5 126 $11 11.5 20 Huge contract signed as a starter.
6 Trevor Hoffman, San Diego 3 3 41 1 4 116 $4.50 25.8 11
7 Danny Kolb, Milwaukee 0 4 39 0 5 99 $1.53 64.7 6
8 Danny Graves, Cincinnati 1 6 41 1 9 96 $6 16 17 Another injury-plagued season.
9 Brad Lidge, Houston 6 5 29 4 4 85 $0.36 236.1 2 Tremendous bargain.
T10 Shawn Chacon, Colorado 1 9 35 1 9 72 $1.85 38.9 9
T10 Braden Looper, NY Mets 2 5 29 1 5 72 $3 24 12
* Two points for a win. Three points for a save. Four points for a "tough save" (entering the game with the tying run on base). Minus two points for a loss or a blown save.

11:40 am edt

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Traditionalist’s Take

Wild Card World Series?  Bah, Humbug!


I have been doing this so long now that I can just reinvent columns from the past and repackage them.  I first wrote this one year ago and only had to change the names of the teams for it to be just as relevant today.  I chose today to run this, before the fate of the Cardinals – Astros series is decided, as I don’t want this to appear to be sour grapes.


I just can't win this postseason.  Of course, I don’t want Houston to come out on top because, like you, I am a Cardinal fan.  I am rooting against the Yankees on the principle of the matter just because they are the Yankees.  I don't want the Red Sox to prevail simply because they are the Wild Card winner. 


With the Astros in the lead and the Red Sox coming back, the reality is that two Wild Card teams may again appear in the Fall Classic.  After the Florida Marlins’ championship in 2003, this would be three Wild Card champs in a row.  Both teams back in 2002 were Wild Cards, the San Francisco Giants and the winning Anaheim Angels. 


That just isn’t right.  Aren't there better choices other than two second-place teams squaring off for the world championship? 


I am not naive enough that I expect the Wild Card will ever go away.  No sense wasting time arguing about that.  The Wild Card is here to stay.  However, I strongly feel that those teams who win their division should receive a greater advantage for coming out of top of a 162-game marathon than one more measly home game.  How about an automatic five games to two game home field advantage for division winners when playing Wild Cards in any round?  The playoffs should be for winners, in my book.  


Yes, I know the Wild Card added to the pennant excitement and kept more teams in the hunt.  So, what?  With it, winning a division has been devalued to the point it is almost irrelevant. 


And while they're at it, can they also get rid of the designated hitter, please?


11:12 pm edt

It only gets better...or worse...

Tavarez Even Stupider than Originally Reported


We all saw Julian Tavarez cross the line in his behavior on and off the field Sunday.  But, believe it or not, he had a Kevin Brown moment that could have helped cost the Cards Game Five.  Tavarez’ possibly having been unavailable Monday may have been a factor in Jason Isringhausen being asked to go two innings.  Wouldn’t Tavarez normally been asked to pitch the eighth had the Sunday escapades not occurred?


Said Yahoo Sports:  “Pitcher Julian Tavarez broke three bones in his left (non-pitching) hand during a dugout tantrum shortly after giving up a go-ahead home run to Carlos Beltran in the seventh inning of Game Four Sunday. "He punched the phone, so that's when it happened," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the Associated Press. "I don't know if he'll pitch tonight, but he'll pitch in the series."  Tavarez had his hand placed in a soft plastic splint with the last two fingers immobilized and tested his hand playing catch in the outfield prior to Monday's Game Five. Tavarez did not pitch in Monday's game, won by the Astros 3-0.”


10:27 pm edt

XM-Sirius Battle Escalates

Another Option for Cardinal Radio in 2006


It is still a season away, but starting in 2006, Cardinal fans anywhere in the world will be provided another option to hear radio broadcasts of their favorite team’s games.


The Sports Business Daily reports that before the start of the World Series, XM Satellite Radio and MLB will announce an agreement that radio broadcasts of every major league team will be carried on XM for a ten-year period, commencing with the 2006 season.


The deal, reportedly worth $650 million, is a broadside fired by XM against their rival, Sirius.  The latter already inked a seven-year, $220 million agreement with the NFL over the winter and recently grabbed headlines again when they signed radio shockjock Howard Stern. 


Sirius also has programming agreements with the NBA, NHL along with premier college basketball and football programs including Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, USC and Nebraska.  Not to be outdone, XM’s sports coverage includes an exclusive deal with NASCAR and deals with the Big Ten, ACC and the Pac-10 conferences.


9:58 pm edt

Monday, October 18, 2004

Prior to NLCS Game Five

Walton’s Wanderings


Time to catch up with random thoughts on Cardinals-related news.


Marquis Defensive?

Jason Marquis had a chance to let his game speak for his disappointment in being slipped to Game Four.  Instead, he struggled on the mound, ran into a bad out on the bases, stormed off the field and seemed in his post-game comments to not support his manager and pitching coach.  It is one thing to be frustrated.  It is another to appear self-centered and immature.  The Cards need Marquis in the future.  I hope this was just a blip on the radar screen.


Julian Tantrum

I had no problem with La Russa keeping Julian Tavarez in the game Sunday.  The man is getting paid a lot of money ($4.2 million over two years) to get outs.  I wish he could grow up, though that isn’t going to happen.  And the Astros replaying the tantrum on their jumbo scoreboard after the game was a serious case of poor judgment.


Izzy Early Sighting

I had no problem with Izzy appearing early.  In fact, I had asked La Russa about this very possibility back in spring training.  At that time, Tony said the only way Izzy would appear in the seventh or sooner was “maybe in the last game of the season”.  We’re not far away from that.


Beltran Warning

I do, however, have a problem with pitching to Carlos Beltran.  Although Tavarez’ offering was low out of the zone, why pitch to him at all?  I’ll take my chances with Bagwell. 


Woody Wooden Thinking?

With Woody going Monday night, above all I am worried about his “not giving in to anyone” machismo ending badly against Beltran.  Here’s hoping that Williams will use his head to win the war and not feel the need to win every individual battle, too.


Counsell Cut Loose and Other Short(stop) Stories

The Brewers declined their 2005 option on their shortstop, Craig Counsell for good reason.  After all, Counsell “hit” just .220 in the second half with eight, yes 8, RBI in his 218 at-bats.  I wanted to get sick when I saw Counsell on Ray Mileur’s list of potential free-agent shortstops.  Counsell should just retire.  The good news is that there are a number of other names Ray omitted, starting with Nomar Garciaparra and Orlando Cabrera.  The former will not be a Cardinal and the latter is expected to re-sign with Boston.  However, if Cabrera does become available, he could be a first-rate, slightly less-expensive replacement for Edgar Renteria, should he bolt.  Another name that could surface is Twins’ shortstop Cristian Guzman, whose option was declined by the team.  He should come for half the price of either Renteria or Cabrera and a third of Nomar’s going rate.  Finally, another short-term fix could be former Cleveland wonderglove Omar Vizquel, who is not expected to come back to the Indians.


Schumaker in Venezuela

Outfielder Skip Schumaker, who is expected to start in Memphis next season, has joined the Aragua Tigres (Tigers) of the Venezuelan League for winter ball.  In early action, he is 5-for-15 (.333) with three RBI.


AFL Update

Through nine games, here are the Cardinals’ prospects’ stats with the Mesa Solar Sox:

Chris Duncan – 8-for-25 (.320), 3 RBI, 6 Ks

Reid Gorecki – 12-for-25 (.480), 1 home run, 3 RBI, 7 Ks

Gabe Johnson – 6-for-24 (.250), 6 RBI, 5Ks, 3 steals

John Nelson – 5-for-23 (.217), 3 RBI, 4Ks, 1 steal

Carmen Cali – 2 saves, 1.69 ERA, 8 Ks, 0 walks

Andrew Cavazos – 1.04 ERA, 5 Ks, 4 walks

Adam Wainwright – 5.40 ERA, 3.1 IP


Carpenter for Kline?

Chris Carpenter is still holding out hope that he might be able to pitch in the World Series should the Cards advance.  The public posture is “no way” and that is still the most likely scenario by far.  But, wouldn’t it be a shot in the arm to the team if he could return, even in a limited role?  With Steve Kline’s gout or whatever is plaguing his finger, there may be an out to make a roster change.  Again, very, very low odds.


Midweek Weather Non-Issue

In St. Louis, highs in the low 70’s with only 20% chance of rain are the forecasts for Tuesday through Thursday.  Getting in the game(s) should not be a problem.


Cards in Six?

I still think that is very possible.  If the Cards can win this Game Five, the panic that seems to have set in all over Cardinal Nation should diminish, even if it has to go to seven.


3:32 pm edt

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

FOX' Mystery Unlocked

Finding the Game


An update on Wednesday night’s coverage from FOX.  On Wednesday, Oct. 13 (8:00 p.m. ET), FOX Sports provides a split-national telecast of Game 2 of the ALCS and Game 1 of the NLCS.

Certain areas of the country receive ALCS Game 2 on their local FOX over-the-air broadcast affiliate, while a simultaneous live feed of NLCS Game 1 is available on their local FSN regional sports network. Those areas of the country receiving NLCS Game 1 on FOX over-the-air, are able to watch ALCS Game 2 on the local FSN regional network.

In addition, FOX Sports has set up alternate channels with satellite broadcasters DirecTV and DISH/Echostar to ensure that both games are available to subscribers of the country's largest DBS companies. For DirecTV customers, if your local FOX affiliate is carrying ALCS Game 2, NLCS Game 1 will be available on your FSN regional, or channels 644 or 646, and vice versa. For DISH/Echostar customers, if your local FOX affiliate is carrying NLCS Game 1, ALCS Game 2 will be available on your FSN regional, or channels 445 or 446, and vice versa.

Below is a breakdown of the top 56 markets, detailing which game will be carried by the FOX over-the-air broadcast station. Below that is a list of each FSN regional sports network and which game it's scheduled to carry.

Red Sox at Yankees, 8 p.m. ET
Coverage on FOX: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boston, Buffalo, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Dayton, Denver, Detroit, Fort Myers, Greensboro, Greenville, Hartford, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Norfolk, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, Raleigh, Richmond, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Washington, West Palm Beach

Astros at Cardinals, 8 p.m. ET
Coverage on FOX: Austin, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, St. Louis, Tulsa

FSN Regional Sports Networks
FSN Arizona: HOU @ STL
FSN Bay Area: HOU @ STL
FSN Chicago: BOS @ NYY
FSN Detroit: HOU @ STL
FSN Florida: HOU @ STL
Sunshine (Orlando, Tallahassee, and Sarasota): HOU @ STL
FSN Midwest: BOS @ NYY
FSN New York: HOU @ STL
FSN North: HOU @ STL
FSN Northwest: HOU @ STL
FSN Ohio: HOU @ STL*
FSN Pittsburgh: HOU @ STL
FSN Rocky Mountain: HOU @ STL
FSN South: HOU @ STL**
FSN Southwest: BOS @ NYY ***
Comcast Philadelphia: HOU @ STL
Comcast Mid-Atlantic: HOU @ STL

**Except for Louisville where FSN will air BOS @ NYY
***Except Memphis where FSN will air BOS @ NYY
***Except in
Dallas, Harlingen and Laredo where FSN will air HOU @ STL


4:50 pm edt

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

An off-day feature

Walton’s Wanderings


On the second of two off-days, I will again use this vehicle to dispense Cardinal-related news; the kind that usually leads off the Game Notes each day.


Astros Rotation Decided confirms that because they both had to pitch with short rest in the Braves series, neither Roger Clemens nor Roy Oswalt will not be available for Games One and Two of the NLCS.  Pete Munro and Brandon Backe will get the starts, instead.  To say this is a huge break for the Cards is an understatement.  Conceivably, the Cards could win the series just by taking each of the four games those two must start, even if Clemens and Oswalt pitch shutouts on their turns.  This is a great situation for the Cardinals to be in.  That is, if the 50% chance of showers in St. Louis both Wednesday and Thursday can be avoided.  Astros fans are planning to rent planes to seed the clouds over St. Louis.


Cardinals World Series Tickets on Sale Saturday

Tickets will be available in person, via the phone and the web.  Details here:


Yankees World Series Tickets

Aren’t on sale yet.  But here is the link when they are:


Red Sox World Series Tickets

Too late to register to have a chance to get them.  Sorry.


Houston Astros World Series Tickets

Who cares?  What a waste of time it would be to order tickets that will never be used.


Oddsmakers Weigh In

The guys collecting the betting money say the Cardinals are 2-1 favorites to defeat the Astros in the NLCS.


Monday AFL Action

Mesa Solar Sox shortstop John Nelson made two errors, helping to pin three unearned runs on
Andrew Cavazos.  Cavazos pitched 1-1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk.  Carmen Cali had a tough time too, going 2/3 of an inning after relieving Cavazos.  He hit a batter and allowed one hit and one earned run.  The Cardinal players’ bats were no better as Nelson went 0-for-3 with a walk, third baseman Gabe Johnson had 0-for-3 day but stole his third base while first baseman Chris Duncan went 1-for-4.


Cubs Titanic Rearranging Deck Chairs

Dusty Baker fired third base coach Wendell Kim, a good move, but is keeping the rest of his staff for 2005.  One change is hitting coach Gary Matthews swapping places with first base coach Gene Clines.  Like that is enough to fix what ails them.


Rose Isn’t Coming

The Cincinnati Reds extended manager Dave Miley's contract through the 2006 season.


2:47 pm edt

Monday, October 11, 2004

An off-day feature

Walton’s Wanderings


With a couple of off-days, I will again use this vehicle to dispense Cardinal-related news; the kind that usually leads off the Game Notes each day.


Martinez Bumped

No, not Tino.  Left-handed pitcher Luis Martinez, who was part of the Larry Walker trade, was removed from the Rockies’ 40-man roster.


Thomson Tomahawked

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher John Thomson didn’t get out of the first inning of Saturday’s game due to continued problems with his strained oblique muscle.  Even if the Braves advance, his season is still over.


NLCS Rotation Not Yet Set

Woody in Game One is a given.  In Game Two, do you go with Morris at home or start Marquis there, not in Houston or especially not in Atlanta, where he struggled earlier?  Either way is a risk.  If Morris is delayed, the reason can rationalized to be to give his shoulder time to heal, but Game Three will be a late afternoon game on the road.  That is Morris’ worst combo this season.  If it were me, I’d give Marquis another chance, even if the game was to be in his old home park in Atlanta.  I’d also have Haren ready.  Come to think of it, I might even move Suppan up and slide Marquis to Game Four.  Yes.  Since the Game Three pitcher is also the potential Game Seven pitcher, my nod would go to Suppan.


My picks:









NLCS Roster

Don't expect any changes from the NLDS one.  Why should there be any?


Game One Television Mess

On Wednesday evening, NLCS Game One will be played at the same time as ALCS Game Two.  As a result, one game will likely be shown on FX in many areas.  If you don’t get FX or have any doubt whether your local Fox affiliate will be carrying the game, call them.


10:44 pm edt

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Former Rookie of the Year

Fifty Years Later - Remembering Wally Moon


I would be remiss if I let the Dodgers series pass without remembering a very important player from the Cardinals’ (and Dodgers’) past.  Outfielder Wally Moon was in the news this time of year fifty years ago, in 1954 when he was selected as the National League Rookie of the Year.


Moon was born in April, 1930 in Arkansas.  After playing for Texas A&M University, where he earned a Masters Degree, he joined the Cardinals’ organization in 1950.  As rumor has it, Moon mistakenly showed up at the major league camp in St. Petersburg in the spring of 1954 instead of the minor league facility.  He got to stay.


As it there wasn’t enough pressure on the highly-touted youngster, to make room for Moon in the line-up, popular star Enos “Country” Slaughter was traded to the New York Yankees just prior to opening day.  In ’54, Moon homered in his very first at-bat, as the ball traveled over the right field wall at Sportsman’s Park and onto Grand Avenue.  He was the last Cardinal rookie to homer during the home opener until Albert Pujols did it again some 47 years later.  After that start, Moon never looked back.  For the ’54 season, he registered a .304 average and beat out none other than Hank Aaron for the ROY honor. 


As a Cardinal, Moon peaked with 24 home runs in 1957, the same season he had a league-high 24-game hit streak and made the All-Star team.  Moon later had a second All-Star appearance with the Dodgers, to whom he was traded in 1958, after hitting just .238 in his final, injury-plagued season with the Cards.  Moon went to the Dodgers for the forgettable Gino Cimolli, whose Cardinals career lasted just one season.  After leaving St. Louis, Moon’s career was far from over.


There is one part of baseball vernacular for which Moon is directly responsible.  "Moon shots" was the name coined at that time for the home runs that the lefthanded-batting Moon golfed over the 42-foot wall located just 250 feet down the Los Angeles Coliseum's left field line.  Moon’s inside-out swing was ideal for the football stadium turned temporary home of the Dodgers. 


Moon, having arrived in L.A. one year after the Dodgers relocated from Brooklyn, was a fan favorite and an important cog in the Dodgers’ unit that went from seventh place in 1958 to the World Championship in 1959.  Moon hit .302 during his first season in Dodger blue, led the league in triples with 11 and finished fourth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting.  In 1960, Moon was honored with his only Gold Glove.  Moon scored the last run ever in the Coliseum before the team moved into the brand-new Dodger Stadium.  In 1961, his final season as a full-time player, Moon registered personal highs in average (.328) and RBI (88).


Moon was released by the Dodgers in October, 1965, as his final Dodgers team again won the NL pennant and the World Series, giving him his second ring.  He finished his playing days with a .289 batting average, along with 142 home runs and 661 RBI in 1457 regular-season games.


After his career ended, Moon returned to Arkansas and briefly coached baseball.  He later purchased the Dodgers’ minor league team in San Antonio in 1976, but was unable to make it a success.


While Moon played five seasons with St. Louis and seven with the Dodgers, he still considers himself a Cardinal.  The 74-year old Moon is still very active on the links and lives in Texas.


8:36 pm edt

Thursday, October 7, 2004

Changing the rotation now?

Juggling Woody

by Brian Walton with Jerry Modene


An astute observation made by ESPN’s Jon Miller during the NLDS Game One broadcast started a dialog between Birdhouse contributor Jerry Modene and me.  The specific subject is the Cardinals playoff rotation. 


For the record, the current plan is:

Games One and Five – Williams

Game Two - Marquis

Game Three – Morris

Game Four – Suppan


However, Miller correctly noted that with two days off during this series, it would be possible for Williams (and Dodger Odalis Perez) to come back and pitch Game Four with regular rest.


While the bottom line is that neither Jerry nor I think the current plan will be altered, we did discuss some of the options and possible thinking behind them.  While both of us would have preferred to see Morris pitch Game Two, since that is a moot point, we focused on where to use Woody next.  That is the subject of this Pros and Cons discussion.


Pro.  If Morris is not ready to go in Game Three, then move up Suppan and his 10-1 road record to pitch on Saturday.  Then go with either Morris or Williams in Game Four, depending on whether or not Morris is ready at that time.


Con.  In this scenario, if Williams is used in Game Four, either Marquis on three days rest or a banged up Morris would have to start Game Five, an elimination game.  Is either one your preferred starter for a one-game, winner-take-all?


Pro.  No matter what, save Woody for Game Five.  That way, if the Cards wrap up the NLDS in less than five games, he’ll be rested and ready to start Game One of the NLCS.


Con.  Not playing your best players today to save them for an uncertain future could backfire.


Pro.  If Marquis loses Thursday and Morris loses Saturday, Sunday’s game in Dodger Stadium would become an elimination game for the Cards.  Start Woody again over Suppan.


Con.  Even if Williams won Game Four, Suppan or Marquis (on three days rest) or Haren would still have to pitch the pressure-packed Game Five, albeit at home.  Suppan has not pitched well at Busch this season and it would be a lot to ask of Haren.


So, like I said, the Cons are risky enough that the best plan is just to stick with the plan.  Personally, I think there is a decent chance that Williams will be available for Game One of the NLCS, anyway.


9:14 am edt

Saturday, October 2, 2004

Now, this is scary...

Hungo Fans Ankiel Flames


I could not believe what I heard Al Hrabosky say during Friday night’s final FSMW broadcast of the season.  Hungo hinted that Tony La Russa might put Rick Ankiel on the postseason roster.  So, what, you say?  A lot of people are suggesting that.  Well, Hungo then dropped the bomb.  He said that Ankiel could be there not to take Kline's spot as a set-up man, but as a starter.
I briefly touched on this in my Friday Game Notes.  But, as the reader emails started coming in, I decided to expand my comments.  It was quite ironic that Hungo was talking about this right before Ankiel beaned a Brewers batter and wild-pitched the pinch-runner over to second.  But, I am going to stay away from Ankiel’s obvious demons of the past and look at the situation logically.


First of all, I remain completely confounded by those who think Ankiel should be on the postseason roster in any capacity.


Now, I know that at the start of the month La Russa was widely quoted as saying that Ankiel had a shot at the postseason roster.  Given the possibility of serious injury to a key cog of his pitching staff, La Russa was wisely keeping his options open.  But, looking at how he has used Ankiel this month made it crystal clear to me that Ankiel will not be pitching in the playoffs.


Here are six reasons why.


1)  Ankiel has not started.


La Russa wouldn’t even let Ankiel start a game in September against the Rockies or Brewers, two of the poorer teams in the National League.  There is zero chance, I mean zero chance, that he would send Ankiel out for his first start against say, the Dodgers or Giants in the NLDS.  If starting in the playoffs was even a remotely possible consideration, Ankiel would have been asked to start one or more of these lower pressure games in September.


2)  Ankiel is not stretched out enough to start in the playoffs. 


Rick had not pitched more than two innings in any of his September games until going four innings and 49 pitches on Friday night.  Ankiel’s fourth and final inning is when the scare occurred.  Brewer Dave Krynziel had to leave the game after being hit in the head by an Ankiel pitch.  In all fairness to Ankiel, after the hit batter and the subsequent wild pitch, he did get the final out.  But, be honest.  We all were very nervous, weren’t we?


3)  Ankiel has been limited as a reliever. 


You have seen that La Russa has not allowed Ankiel to do anything other than start a middle inning.  In real situations, especially with a situational lefty, the manager needs to have the flexibility to bring him in with men on base.  Again, this has not happened once with Ankiel during September, when the outcomes of the games do not matter.  If La Russa had any intention of using Ankiel this way in the playoffs, he would use him this way in September.


4)  Other relievers have been more effective.


In fact, try to forget for a minute that Ankiel is who he is, both on the plus side and on the minus side and just look at the numbers.  Lefthanded pitcher “A” has a 5.40 ERA in ten innings pitched.  Lefty pitcher “F” has a 1.64 ERA in 11 September innings, including two shutout innings at Colorado, where pitcher “A” was trashed.  Righty pitcher “R” has a 0.79 ERA in 11-1/3 innings and lefties are hitting just .154 against him.  He pitched three shutout innings at Colorado.


If you had one remaining roster spot for the postseason, which of these three guys would you take, “A”nkiel, “F”lores or “R”eyes?  I am not sure, but it is pretty clear to me which one I wouldn’t want.


Just as I have said all along, reliever or starter, Ankiel should not be a member of the postseason roster for a number of very good reasons.  I have no problem with how La Russa has used Ankiel this month other than the Colorado appearance and even then, seeing how he handled getting beat up turned out to be useful if for no other reason than to try to help keep the Ankiel postseason hysteria at bay. 


5)  Ankiel is getting ready for 2005.


Finally, Ankiel has already agreed to pitch in winter ball in Puerto Rico to continue to prepare for starting in 2005.  We’ll be watching his continued progress there, hopefully not in the 2004 National League playoffs.


Those who illogically demand that Ankiel pitch in the 2004 playoffs would also be the first to attack La Russa and Duncan when something bad happened because they used Ankiel in pressure playoff games without him being fully prepared first.  And, I would be right with them on the latter point.  However, they’ll not be a chance. 


6)  La Russa will stick with those who brought him to the playoffs.


Now, in all fairness, Hungo is with the team every day and I am not.  And, many of us are concerned about the starting rotation.  But, I just cannot and will not believe that the idea that he floated out there is being considered by anyone who knows what they are doing. 


In fact, to even suggest Ankiel should start is an insult to the regular starters, who have brought this team to where they are.  Which of the starters would you tell that they aren’t good enough?  With all his troubles, even Matt Morris deserves a chance before Ankiel.  Given his strong player loyalties, I believe La Russa is thinking this, as well.


Since Hrabosky’s broadcast season is over, we may never know where his comment came from.  I am going to try to forget I ever heard it.

7:57 am edt

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