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News and commentary about the past, present and future state of the St. Louis Cardinals. 
Note that all new St. Louis Cardinals-related content will be posted on the new Birdhouse site,, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
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Saturday, January 1, 2005

Cardinals Hot Stove Report


As we reach the unofficial mid-point of the 2004-2005 off-season, the following is a high-level summary of the Hot Stove Happenings to-date.


Needs Going into the Off-Season


Coming off their 105-win, National League pennant-winning 2004 campaign, general manager Walt Jocketty knew he could not afford to stand pat.  His three stated priorities going into December’s Winter Meetings were: 1) get a front-of-the-rotation starter, 2) get a second baseman and 3) re-sign former Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award winning shortstop Edgar Renteria.   Another stated priority, but not viewed as immediate, was to re-sign Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny.


Jocketty initially gave up ground on all four fronts.  First, Renteria was lost to the Boston Red Sox in an 11th hour bidding war (a.k.a. the battle for respect).   The Cards wisely passed on a chance to match the San Francisco Giants’ three-year, $10.5 million bid for Matheny.  Their second base plans remain unclear, though it now appears that a low-budget solution may be in the offing.  However, shortly after the meetings, in mid-December, Jocketty did pull off a major trade to secure that desired starter, adding Mark Mulder from the Oakland A’s, after kicking Randy Johnson’s tires, among others. 


To fill the gaping gap up the middle, the team awarded the starting catcher’s job to youngster Yadier Molina and signed non-tendered David Eckstein from the Anaheim Angels to man the shortstop position.  Since Tony Womack was not retained, second base is expected to be contested between veteran Roberto Alomar (if he passes a physical and is signed by the team) and another player to be determined.  At this time, top free-agent candidates may include Mark Grudzielanek and Alex Cora, with a number of lesser names also options.




Via Trade:  Starter Mark Mulder

Via Free Agency:  Catcher Einar Diaz, shortstop David Eckstein, reliever Mike Myers, second baseman Roberto Alomar, middle infielder Abraham Nunez (minor league deal)




Via Trade:  Starter Dan Haren, reliever Kiko Calero (both to Oakland)

Via Waivers:  Swingman Jason Simontacchi, second baseman Marlon Anderson (signed with Mets)

Via Free Agency: Second baseman Tony Womack (Yankees), shortstop Edgar Renteria (Red Sox), catcher Mike Matheny (Giants), starter Woody Williams (Padres), reliever Steve Kline (Orioles)


What to Watch in the Spring


The main concerns for the Cardinals heading into spring training are three-fold.


1)  Starting pitching depth.  Two starters, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan, are set.  The other four contenders each have question marks by their names.  Matt Morris had shoulder surgery in the off-season and is projected to not be able to start for at least the first month of the 2005 regular season.  Enigmatic lefty Rick Ankiel ended his winter campaign in Puerto Rico with elbow soreness.  While all statements are that it was precautionary, there has to be concern.  Mulder had a precipitous drop-off in results during the second half of 2004 and lingering questions remain in some parts as to whether wily Billy Beane duped the Cards.  Chris Carpenter led the Redbirds staff in 2004, but was shelved for the final weeks of the regular season and the post-season with a mysterious biceps ailment.  Again, all the words are positive, but …


2)  Outfield age and depth.  The Cardinals cannot expect starters Reggie Sanders (37), Jim Edmonds (34) and Larry Walker (38) to go an entire season without one or more missing considerable time due to injury.  The bench offers little help, consisting of weak-hitting, defensive specialist So Taguchi (35), switch-hitting Roger Cedeno (30) and John Mabry (34), who will also likely be asked to back up both first and third base.


3)  Defense up the middle.  When Renteria and Matheny departed, they took five Gold Gloves with them.  The 22-year-old Molina is a solid prospect, but has big shoes to fill behind the plate.  While Eckstein is accurate from short, he has a weak arm and limited range.  Womack had his career year at second base in 2004 and the 2005 version of Alomar may bear little resemblance to the man whose tenth consecutive Gold Glove was earned back in 2001.


While on paper at least, the 2005 Cardinals look weaker at this point than the unit that trudged off the Busch Stadium field at the end of the World Series, the core of that ever-deadly offense remains.  Any team with Albert Pujols, Edmonds and Scott Rolen swinging the big bats will be a force to be reckoned with.  Trusty closer Jason Isringhausen is also expected to be ready to go following winter hip surgery. 


As with many teams in today’s game, the Cardinals continue to evolve.  In fact, Pujols, Edmonds, Morris, Izzy and reliever Cal Eldred are the only players remaining from the squad that went down to the Giants in the 2002 NLCS.


Jocketty may not be done assembling the 2005 edition of the Cardinals, either.  Last season, he acquired Womack during spring training for a middling Double-A pitcher and swiped Edmonds from the Angels with a week remaining before the start of the 2000 regular season.  Between now and opening day, Jocketty could easily make a few more moves to help shore up the deficiencies noted above.


4:01 pm est

Thursday, December 30, 2004

2004: A Bad Year for Captains


I raised grumblings and generated impassioned speeches around here recently when I had the audacity to suggest that the importance of leadership can be overrated.  Now that the furor has died down, I will take another shot at explaining what I meant.


In professional baseball, especially with a team as veteran as the Cardinals, having a designated team leader is unnecessary.  In fact, in some cases, it could generate unneeded friction.  The few youngsters on the 2005 Cardinals squad will get all the support they need.


I have read some recent message board postings with amusement as Cardinals fans debate whether Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds or even Reggie Sanders should be anointed as the next Cardinals’ leader/captain.  And, what a mistake it was to let two leaders like Mike Matheny and Woody Williams escape.


As most probably know by now, since-departed Edgar Renteria had been designated as the team’s informal captain by Manager Tony La Russa several years ago.  Yet, Renteria is a very quiet, reserved man and likely received that title in a show of respect and for his seniority on the team.  It certainly wasn’t for his vocal leadership.  Instead, Renteria led by example.  There are at least a dozen players on the current team for whom that same thing could be said.


Yet some fans pine for the signing of a veteran like Barry Larkin to help fill Renteria’s leadership void.  Apparently, they are worried that the rest of the team will be wandering around in the outfield like lost sheep without someone designated to show them the way to victory.


In my book, there has to be a darned good reason to designate a captain.  The Cardinals have done it sparingly over time, with Terry Moore in the ‘30s and ‘40s and Ken Boyer 20 years later as the only ones that readily come to mind.


Let’s take a look at some current captaincy situations in Major League Baseball.  You’ll see it hasn’t been all that great of a year for other teams’ designated leaders.


John Franco – New York Mets.  Along with some unpleasant stories about connections with reputed mobsters that now sleep with the fishes, so went the 44-year-old left-hander’s effectiveness.  After the Mets’ captain posted a 2-7 record with a 5.28 ERA, he was not asked back for 2005.


Barry Larkin – Cincinnati Reds.  During his 19th year with the Reds, Larkin hinted strongly about retirement after the 2004 season.  Partially as a result, in a show of respect for his contributions, the Reds’ captain was named to the 2004 NL All-Star Team.  Shortly thereafter, Larkin changed his mind, expressing a desire to come back in 2005.  The Reds decided it wasn’t going to be with them.  Larkin is currently demanding a starting role in 2005, just as he did with Cincinnati prior to the 2004.  As a result, he is still unemployed.


Sammy Sosa – Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs captain’s nightmare 2004 has already been well-documented, reaching its crescendo as Sosa walked out on his teammates the final day of the season and publicly blasted his manager.  Because of his precipitous drop-off in effectiveness, Sosa’s hi-jinks are no longer welcome at the Crumbling Confines.  However, there is a major problem, as no other team has yet shown a willingness to assume the remainder of So-So’s bloated contract.


Alex Rodriguez – Texas Rangers.  Wait, A-Rod is a Yankee, right?  Well, most people have forgotten that in January of this year, tuxedo-clad Rangers’ management proudly introduced Rodriguez at a gala press conference as their new team captain.  It was the most blatant attempt at PR damage-control I have ever seen.  The Rangers had a major problem, publicly failing to move A-Rod and his bloated contract (see a pattern here?) to Boston, leaving egg all over everyone’s faces.  In a ridiculous move to try to patch things over, someone came up with the brilliant idea to make Rodriguez team captain.  Less than a month later, he was a New York Yankee.  Since they already had a captain, A-Rod had to settle for simply playing third base.


Derek Jeter – New York Yankees.  No one can complain about Jeter’s commitment to the game – except for George Steinbrenner, that is.  As a result, together they ended up mocking Jeter’s partying and leadership in a series of television commercials.


Jason Varitek – Boston Red Sox.  The acknowledged leader of the World Champions was holding out for months, looking for a whopping five-year, $55 million deal with a no-trade provision.  Part of the reward for the icon free agent eventually accepting a measly four-year, $40 million contract (see a pattern here?), ‘Tek was named Red Sox team captain.  Some members of Red Sox Nation are unhappy that this honor was tied to a contract negotiation.  Beantown captaincy had previously been bestowed on only two men, true icons Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski.  No word whether fellow $40 million teammate Renteria felt less respected as a result.


In summary, it wasn’t a banner year for team captains in MLB.  So, let’s stop all the talk about a 2005 Cardinals captain, too.  Better to restrict the discussion of captains to high schools and varsity sports.  There are plenty of Cardinals leaders to go around, and they’ll demonstrate all the leadership needed on the field every day. 


Besides, all this captain stuff is just plain bad luck.  If you doubt me, ask Sammy.  You’ll have to ask him to turn down his boom box first, though.


7:55 pm est

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Crunching the numbers...

2005 Salary Budget – Where do the Cardinals stand, anyway?


Over the past few weeks, I’ve received notes asking about the status of the current Cardinals salary budget.  Others have asked for help as they try to develop their own view.  Heck, even my oldest son suggested I was overdue in updating the salary situation.  After all, I remain quite vocal that I am hoping to see more than a garden-variety second baseman added before the 2005 Cardinals are considered complete.  So, I needed to do this to convince myself it could still be accomplished while remaining within budget.


However, before I fully jumped back into the salary waters, to do it right, I needed to get clarification of how the numbers are accounted-for by the team.  Otherwise, faulty assumptions can be made that could give one either an overly-optimistic or pessimistic view of the situation.


Rather than guess about all this, I simply asked a member of the front office who has personal familiarity with how the Cardinals account for player salaries.  The assumptions that follow are a direct result of that dialogue.  Please read them carefully, as they affect how salaries are accounted-for here.  Others may be making different assumptions when they report salaries.


Assumption #1.  Deferred dollars are booked in the year from which they were originally deferred.  That is why, contrary to what others have assumed, the $3 million that was deferred from Jason Isringhausen’s salary last season still had to be booked in 2004.  It does not diminish the 2005 salary budget by another $3 million as a result.  Think of it like this.  The Cards were still required to put the money aside at the time, but they just didn’t have to give it to the player yet.


Assumption #2.  Signing bonuses are booked equally across the years of a contract.  For example, assume a player has a $300,000 signing bonus and a three-year contract at $1M, $2M and $3M.  What would be booked is $1.1M the first year, followed by $2.1M and $3.1M the final years.


Assumption #3.  The salary booked this season is the immediate concern.  That is the total which the team is managing to and the one that we follow most closely.  The amount Jeff Luhnow quoted in our interview last week was $88 million, slightly higher than previous reports of $85 and $87 million.


Assumption #4.  Incentives are booked in the year they are earned.  While I listed Albert Pujols’ and others’ known incentives below, very likely there are others not made public.  In fact, incentives are included more for informational purposes than anything else.  In reality, only a small percentage of them will actually be achieved and as a result, they shouldn’t skew the budget dramatically either way.  Another way of looking at it is that if all these incentives were met, the Cards would surely be World Champions and the owners would feel a lot better about shelling out the extra cash.


A warning.  While the above assumptions are straightforward enough, this is not an exact science.  While the following is as accurate as I can make it, my front office contact acknowledges this gets “hairy at times”. 


Here’s an example of “hairiness” using the largest contract in team history, the one that Albert Pujols signed last winter, and first reported by me right here at The Birdhouse.  Yearly salaries:  2004: $7M, 2005: $11M, 2006: $14M, 2007: $15M, 2008: $16M, 2009: $16M, 2010: $16M.  For each of the years 2007-2010, $3M of salary is deferred without interest.  The total of $12M in deferred money is paid out at the rate of $1.2M per year from 2020-2029.  2011: Club option for $16M or $5M buyout, of which $4M is deferred without interest.  All Star: $50,000; $25,000 for selection.  Gold Glove: $50,000.  Silver Slugger: $50,000.  MVP: $200,000; $100,000 (2nd); $50,000 (3rd).  Division Series MVP: $50,000.  League Series MVP: $100,000.  World Series MVP: $150,000. 


Pitchers (11)

‘05 Salary



Chris Carpenter




Cal Eldred




Jason Isringhausen



Additional $3 million deferred booked in 2004

Ray King



Estimate - yearly breakdown of 2 year/$2.6M deal unknown

Mike Lincoln




Matt Morris




Mark Mulder




Mike Myers




Al Reyes




Jeff Suppan



$1 million buyout would apply in 2006

Julian Tavarez












Position Players (11)




Roger Cedeno



Remainder of salary covered by the Mets

Einar Diaz




David Eckstein



Includes $250K bonus spread over three years

Jim Edmonds




John Mabry




Yadier Molina




Albert Pujols




Scott Rolen




Reggie Sanders




So Taguchi



No details available

Larry Walker



Remainder of salary covered by the Rockies









2004-05 Buyouts




Woody Williams








Total of “Knowns”








Unsigned (2)




Rick Ankiel



Arbitration-eligible.  $180K raise assumed.

Jason Marquis



Arbitration-eligible.  ~$2M raise assumed.





Open (1)




Second baseman








Total w/Unknowns








Total budget





Note that while the above roster consists of 25 players, it includes 13 pitchers and only 12 position players.  That is not a realistic balance, but is representative of those with major league contracts.


With the exception of Yadier Molina, you’ll note a lack of what Assistant General Manager John Mozeliak called “300’s”, those young players who make the major league minimum salary, ideally needed to balance out a roster.  This is another manifestation of the extreme veteran makeup of the team.  The MLB minimum base salary was $300,000, now raised to $316,000 for 2005.  Still, “316’ers” could be added later if other youngsters beat out some of the vets or trades or injuries occur, helping them to make the club. 


Conclusion:  If I called this right, even with decent raises for arbitration-eligibles Marquis and Ankiel plus a $2M second baseman, up to $6 million could remain for something.  It could be held aside at least partially for incentives.  It could be used for another pitcher (my ongoing wish).  It could be used for a more expensive second baseman.  It could be held in fear that Marquis will break the bank if he and the team go to arbitration.  It could be squirreled away for a mid-season trade to help put the team over the top in the second half.  Or, it could be smoke and mirrors.  I am hoping it is not.


(Salary information derived from multiple sources, including Dugout Dollars,, Birdhouse files and various news reports.)

8:18 am est

Another viewpoint

Exclusive Birdhouse Interview with Mark Johnson


Several who read my interview series with Jeff Luhnow have asked about Mark Johnson, who was prominently mentioned there.  Johnson was Luhnow’s first hire upon joining the Cardinals, and was a tremendous addition as the team’s Senior Baseball Analyst. However, Johnson recently resigned.


Read the full interview via the "Interviews" link above.


8:16 am est

Monday, December 27, 2004

The complete interview now posted
Exclusive Birdhouse Interview with Jeff Luhnow


Jeff Luhnow, Cardinals Vice President of Baseball Development, and I spent a full hour discussing the 2004-2005 off-season to date plus plans the rest of the way, the new Latin American developmental initiative, top prospects, player valuation tools, the Advisory Board and much more.


See the "Interviews" tab above.




The Cardinals’ Year in Review - Updated


I updated my end-of-season Cardinals Year in Review article as part of a series on each team running daily at  My piece was posted today.  While there, fantasy players should look out for two things.  First, the Blurb offers a free daily email newsletter that I encourage you to subscribe to.  Second, make note of the Fantasy Baseball Sourcebook 2005 magazine, on newsstands starting February 15.  I am proud to have contributed to what should be the best magazine out there this spring.


Krause Publications

Fantasy Mock Draft


Last week, I participated in one of the first expert fantasy baseball mock drafts of the new season, run by Krause Publications.  The draft will appear in the January issue of their Fantasy Sports Magazine.


You can see the team I drafted at the following link.  I took Albert Pujols with the third pick of the first round, Izzy in the seventh and Matt Morris with my final pick in the 23rd round. also has a free, daily e-newsletter to which I contribute regularly.   If you’re interested in fantasy sports, I encourage you to sign up.


My 2005 Fantasy Baseball Leagues


I will be playing in at least three expert leagues and one high-stakes fantasy game this coming season.  That should enable my fantasy expert status to be publicly and humiliatingly debunked once and for all. 


1)  Krause Publications’ Expert League noted above.

2)  Xperts Fantasy League (XFL).  This is a long-running league in which I was awarded an expansion franchise last fall, as the league expanded from 12 to 15 teams.  Cardinals’ consultant Ron Shandler is among the other league members.  Our 2005 draft was held in November and should be posted soon.

3)  Tout Wars.  I will be taking over a team in the 2005 National League Tout Wars competition.  That draft is tentatively scheduled for Easter weekend in New York City.


In addition, I will again be competing in the high-stakes fantasy game called the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC).  This is a $100,000 competition expertly run by Krause Publications.  Last season, I finished 11th of 195 participants.  Enrollments are still being accepted.


7:37 am est

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Campaigning for a Better 2005


“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” 


How often have we heard those words spoken by incumbent politicians stumping for another term in office?  While that doesn’t apply directly to the 2005 Cardinals, let’s try this alteration on for size.


“Are the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals a better team than last year’s?”


The facts tell me “no”.  In all fairness, over three months remain until the start of the regular season.  In that time, much could happen.  But, the repeated theme of messages coming from the team is that the work is about done.  Sign that second baseman and that’s probably it. 


That talk makes me very uncomfortable, because in aggregate, the 2005 team looks inferior to last season’s World Championship contender.  Let’s take the roster changes player by player.


Second base:  To be determined versus Tony Womack.  It remains to be seen, since the 2005 starter is unknown.  But, at least half of the names being bandied about would be a step down from Womack, who was one of the weakest links in the 2004 lineup as it was.  Edge: Incomplete.


Shortstop:  David Eckstein versus Edgar Renteria.  I am sure Eckstein will be a gritty player and a fan favorite.  He also possesses a ring.  But, no one will ever even hint that he can be the player Renteria is.  Don’t get me wrong, I support the decision to let Edgar go.  I just want to see that money clearly spent on improving the team.  Edge: 2004.


Backup Middle Infielder:  Abraham Nunez versus Hector Luna.  Far from the most important spot on the team.  Yet, the .238 career-hitting Nunez has no upside at this point in his career, while Luna may actually improve.  However, Nunez will likely be relied upon as a late-inning defensive replacement, rather than a pinch-hitter.  So, I will generously call this even.  Edge: None.


Backup Middle Infielder/Outfielder:  To be determined versus Marlon Anderson.  Anderson began 2004 very strongly, but faltered down the stretch.  Shortly after the completion of the postseason, Anderson was unceremoniously released.  Whether this roster spot is filled by a fielder or the 12th pitcher is unknown at this time, but one would hope that an experienced bat could be added to the bench corps.  Edge: Incomplete.


Catcher:  Einar Diaz versus Mike Matheny.  At face value, this is no contest.  However, the wild card is clearly how far Yadier Molina will improve now that he has been given the starting role.  If he can fill the considerable shoes of Matheny, this will come out fine.  Again, I agree that Matheny had to go for payroll reasons, but only so the team could improve elsewhere.  Overall, at this point, the catcher position is weaker year to year.  Edge: 2004.


Bullpen Righty:  Al Reyes versus Kiko Calero.  Journeyman Reyes has been a nice find, as was Calero two years prior.  But, Reyes will have to be very, very impressive in 2005 to make people forget Kiko’s considerable contributions.  Edge: 2004. 


Bullpen Lefty:  Mike Myers versus Steve Kline.  Not even close.  Tony La Russa will put more pressure on lead lefty Ray King and likely try to limit Myers’ exposure to a single batter.  Again, I was fine with letting Kline go so the team could improve elsewhere.  Where is that, again?  Edge: 2004.


Starter/Swing Man:  Rick Ankiel versus Dan Haren.  At this point, Haren is less questionable, but Ankiel has both higher potential risk and reward.  Difficult to call.  Edge: None.


Starting Pitcher:  Mark Mulder versus Woody Williams.  Finally, here is the improvement.  The Cards got their ace.  But, lingering questions remain about Mulder.  Prior to both players changing teams, none other than Cardinals consultant Ron Shandler forecasted Mulder to win just three more games than Williams in 2005, with an ERA just .19 lower.  The nod goes to 2005, but right now, it is a lot closer than one might expect.  Edge: 2005.


Putting aside the fact that most of the Cardinals’ front-line players, with the exception of Albert Pujols, Jason Marquis and perhaps Scott Rolen, are past their career peaks, this position-by-position analysis concludes the 2005 Cardinals are inferior to last season’s model.


Granted, it will cost the team substantially more in 2005 just to stand still.  Ownership has to incur all the raises built into all the backloaded contracts they’ve been doling out.  But, it looks like that is starting to come home to roost in 2005.


Now, we all know that elections aren’t won in the polls and games are not played on paper.  So, no one is conceding anything.  I just hope we’ll see more in the upcoming 120 days to further strengthen this team to back up that campaign rhetoric with action.


11:02 am est

Curbing my post-Christmas enthusiasm...

Second Base, Contract Math and a Signing


Second Hand Second Baseman

In Saturday’s P-D Derrick Gould mentions the Cardinals’ interest in el-cheapo and ancient free agent second basemen Roberto Alomar and Rey Sanchez, both 37 by the spring.  Also confirmed was team interest in Mark Grudzielanek, who was cut loose by the Cubs.  Added to the speculation list were Miguel Cairo, Pokey Reese and Alex Cora, seemingly as the last option.


Walton’s take:  I’d turn that list of players completely backward and start at the end.


Be Satisfied with Less

Again from the P-D, compete with misspelling.  “Ever conscious of sticking to a budget, the Cardinals were able to swing deals without rupturing their finances. Cash is available to frugally find a second baseman. With five members of the '04 NL chmapionship team signed elsewhere, that cleaved about $20 million off the payroll. Returning players Jeff Suppan, Reggie Sanders and Jason Isringhausen are due raises totaling about $11.25 million. Mulder, Eckstein and new backup catcher Einar Diaz add $8.85 million. Myers was signed the same day as Taguchi, and combined they will make about what Taguchi did last season.

A basically balanced checkbook.”


Walton’s take:  Check the gyro spinning going on here.  Exactly how would Edgar Renteria’s big contract have been paid for in this scenario?  Not trading for Mulder?  I don’t think so.  Dumping other salaries?  Perhaps.  Am I the only one who is not satisfied with stopping with a bargain-basement second baseman?  How about another bold move?


Stealth Signing

As was rumored for days, the P-D finally confirmed the Cardinals' addition of a middle infield backup in former Pirate Abraham Nunez.  He was signed to a minor league deal with a spring training invitation prior to the winter meetings, but no formal announcement was ever made. 


Walton’s take:  That should tell you how exciting this signing is.  What it probably does do is allow Hector Luna to play everyday at Memphis in 2005.  Nunez, 28, played some with the Bucs each of the last eight seasons, registering a career batting mark of .238 in the process.  In what had to be the difference in his signing, Nunez also pitched to one batter last season, demonstrating the versatility valued by the organization.


8:54 am est

2005.02.13 | 2005.02.06 | 2005.01.30 | 2005.01.23 | 2005.01.16 | 2005.01.09 | 2005.01.02 | 2004.12.26 | 2004.12.19 | 2004.12.01 | 2004.11.01 | 2004.10.01 | 2004.09.01 | 2004.08.01

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