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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. 
 
Note that all new St. Louis Cardinals-related content will be posted on the new Birdhouse site, stlcardinals.scout.com, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
 
Search the archives, listed by week and month, at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

A sellout?

Brock to Appear in Des Moines…for the Cubs!

 

That’s right, former St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cub Lou Brock has been added to the Iowa Cubs Fan Fest 2005 lineup.  Brock will be signing autographs on Friday night, January 14, at the Drake University Knapp Center from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for admission per day for adults, $4 per day for children 13 and under and $30 per autograph for every signer. Brock will not be signing bats or jerseys. Order your tickets today by clicking here or calling the Cubs at 1-800-GO-ICUBS.

 

If you attend, please ask Lou if he really needs the cash that badly!

 

11:22 pm est

Special guest column

Cards steal away one of the good guys

By Pete Khazen

 

(Editor’s note:  Our St. Louis-based Cubs fan and Birdhouse contributing writer laments the Cubs’ most recent loss and the Cardinals’ gain.)

 

Jocketty pulled off another impressive move and snagged the one guy, aside from Carlos Beltran, I hoped he wouldn't spend the money on this off-season - Mark Grudzielanek.  He hit the market this off-season when the Cubs decided to give the full-time nod to Todd Walker instead of forcing him to compete with Grudzielanek.  In my opinion, it was probably the best move for the 2005 Cubs, and for both players.   But Grudzielanek will definitely be missed in Chicago, regardless of Todd Walker's performance as an everyday player in his absence.

 

"Grudzi", as many Cub fans and I have come to know him, is nothing short of a class act.  He's one of those guys who everybody loves.  I can't attest to his clubhouse demeanor or his teammates' opinions first hand, but he sure seems to carry those great leadership qualities every team competing for a championship needs.  He's not the most vocal guy, so when he does speak up, people listen.  And, "Grudzi" is one of those veterans who lead by example.  He's a Joe Girardi type.  A Mark Grace.  A Bill Mueller.  He works hard and is not afraid to make personal sacrifices for the team.  His value cannot be strictly measured in offensive or defensive statistics.  His leadership, experience, and professionalism are the intangibles that will continue to make him a desirable addition to any organization so long as he maintains his heath.

 

At the plate, Grudzi is patient and will work a count deep, especially when an anxious leadoff hitter ahead of him grounded out on the first pitch.  He'll lay down that bunt when the tying runner is on first.  And he'll get the ball down, in play, and where there's no chance for a play at second.  He'll slap the ball to the right side to move a runner from second to third.  If he's struggling a bit and not playing well, he won't be too proud to temporarily give up his spot to the hot hitter.  In the field, he's got a dependable glove and can turn a double play with the best of them.  His range has maybe shortened up a tad over the years, but he's guaranteed every year to have more Web Gems than bloopers.

 

Grudzi understands the game of baseball.  His fundamentals are sound.  He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, and he's a joy to watch.  I kept saying this off-season how the Cards should go after him to fill that hole on the right side, but I didn't expect it to happen.  Now I'm stuck with reality.  He's one of those guys you can't cheer against; no matter what jersey he may be wearing.  And though I'll continue to antagonize Cardinal fans, I won't be able to cheer against Grudzi.

 

To Walt Jocketty and the Cardinal Nation, congrats on the new addition to your team.

 

Grudzi, if you are out there reading...  Thanks for the memories from the past couple years.  It was a great ride in Chicago while it lasted.  On behalf of Cubdom, we wish you nothing but continued success and good health. 

 

5:21 pm est

Three more years for Tony

La Russa and Deputies Secure

 

Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will sign his first three-year contract with the team next week.  After a series of two-year deals with club options, the new agreement will cover the 2005-2007 seasons and is estimated to net Tony, age 60, roughly $8 million over that span.

 

All of La Russa’s current coaching staff were given new, two-year contracts after the Series, as was new hitting coach Hal McRae when hired.  General Manager Walt Jocketty is also without contract, but his deal is also expected to be signed without fanfare.

 

Related link:  Post-Dispatch story

 

8:03 am est

Friday, January 7, 2005

Friday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Walt About Done

The P-D reports that GM Walt Jocketty sees the 2005 team as set once a left-handed hitting infielder is added.

 

The Goods on Grudz

Walt Jocketty signed new second baseman Mark Grudzielanek for a bargain rate of $1 million with additional incentives of $500,000 for 500 plate appearances, scaling up from 250 appearances.  Again, from a budget perspective, this is a very good deal.  However, in Grudz’ favor was an agreement that the Cards will not take him to arbitration after the season.  This keeps his options wide open to cash in if he has a good 2005 season.

 

Good News on Carp

The P-D quotes Cards trainer Barry Weinberg as saying that pitcher Chris Carpenter will come into spring training with “no limitations”.

 

Alomar Still in Mix

The P-D disagrees with the Tampa Tribune, who says the Cards’ signing of Grudz means they won’t pursue Roberto Alomar.  Alomar will decide next week if he will accept the Cardinals’ offer, says the P-D.  Alomar has not taken a physical, but the deal is reportedly incentive-based.  At this point, if signed, Alomar would serve as a reserve.

 

Ankiel Covering for Morris

In the same P-D story, Jocketty acknowledges that Rick Ankiel may fill Matt Morris’s starting role in April, while Morris is recovering from shoulder surgery.  Morris will not start throwing until after camp opens.

 

Limited Lincoln

Weinberg goes on to say reliever Mike Lincoln will throw “in a limited capacity”.  He underwent elbow ligament replacement (aka Tommy John) surgery last summer.

 

Swing Brass Set

The Cardinals’ Director of Player Development Bruce Manno announced that former Peoria Chiefs manager Joe Cunningham will guide the first season of The Swing of the Quad Cities in 2005, while former major leaguers Bryan Eversgerd and Derrick May will round out the staff as pitching and hitting coaches, respectively.

 

Renteria in Opener

Edgar Renteria and his World Champion Boston Red Sox teammates will visit the New York Yankees for the 2005 MLB season opener.  The game will be televised on ESPN at 7:05pm CT on Sunday, April 3.  It was moved up from Monday, according to the AP.

 

Walton’s take:  So much for the traditional teams playing in the traditional Monday afternoon opener.

 

Beltran Derby Heating Up

Both the Astros and Carlos Beltran’s agent said they wanted to get his 2005 contract resolved by the 8th.  One story from Houston says the team has made its final offer, while another says owner Drayton McLane will get the deal done or exhaust himself trying.  Go figure.  The Mets will likely outbid the Astros, so the outcome is far from assumed. 

 

Walton’s take:  In fact, the Mets offer of $112 million would be the largest deal in team history, which says a lot when you think about how they’ve burned cash in the past.

 

Clemens Return Unlikely

The Houston Chronicle reduces the odds of Roger Clemens returning in 2005 from 1% to zero if Beltran signs elsewhere.      

 

Chicago Writer Likes Cards Chances

Jay Mariotti of the Sun-Times attacks the Cubs for “lying” in saying they were serious about Beltran.  He goes on to say that if Houston signs Beltran, “the Cubs will enter spring training as just the third-best team in the National League Central.” 

 

Walton’s take:  Without directly saying so, Mariotti clearly puts the Cardinals ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central pecking order.

 

5:06 pm est

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Wednesday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Vina Time Not Now

Detroit second baseman Fernando Vina’s injured knee has not responded to treatment over the winter.  As a result, MLB.com reports that the Tigers are not counting on Vina to be ready to start 2005.  As additional insurance, they added utilityman Ramon Martinez Tuesday for just a hair over $1M.  Vina signed a two-year, $6 million deal to play in the Motor City after leaving the Cardinals last off-season. 

 

Iguchi Almost a White Sox

According to the New York Post, intriguing Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi is ready to sign with the Chicago White Sox.  He will replace Roberto Alomar, who the Sox re-acquired during the 2004 season, but who was not asked back for 2005.  The Chicago Tribune reported earlier that the initial Sox offer was $2 million per season, but Iguchi wanted $7 million.  Apparently, they closed that huge gap.

 

Burnitz to Cubs?

All-or-nothing hitting outfielder Jeromy Burnitz is being considered by the Chicago Cubs for their open left field spot, says the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.  The spot was vacated when Moises Alou was allowed to leave for the San Francisco Giants.

 

Stuck with Sosa

The same paper reiterates that because the Cubs cannot move Sammy Sosa, it also means they are not expected to be able to compete to sign Carlos Beltran.  Too bad.

 

1:43 pm est

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Tuesday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Good News on Ankiel

MLB.com relays news from Cards trainer Barry Weinberg that Rick Ankiel’s elbow twinge was minor and that he’s already been cleared to resume throwing.

 

Sutter Does Well

Bruce Sutter continues to pick up votes, finishing this year third.  His 66.7% is just 43 votes short of the Hall.  That is the same number he picked up from last year.  So, with four years more to make 75%, Sutter’s future chances look good.

 

Lee Arthur Still Treading

Lee Smith finished with just under 40% of the vote.  Last year, he garnered 36.6% and 42.3% two seasons ago.

 

Willie Lives for Another Day

Willie McGee received 26 votes for the Hall of Fame.  As a result, he barely cleared the 5% hurdle, which allows his name to appear again next season.

 

Veterans Committee Selections Next

The results of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee voting will be announced March 2.

 

Larkin Outs Cards

In Tuesday’s Cincinnati Enquirer:  “Larkin said the St. Louis Cardinals are the only club to talk to him about being an everyday shortstop. But with the signing of David Eckstein to a three-year, $10.25 million contract and the impending signing of Roberto Alomar, St. Louis seems like a remote possibility at this point.”

 

10:07 pm est

Sunday, January 2, 2005

Sunday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Early prediction – second place

Guy Curtright of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published his 2005 predictions.  He ranks the NL Central as Chicago, St. Louis and Houston, in that order. 

 

More from Newsday on Alomar

Tony La Russa's call is what convinced Roberto Alomar to go to St. Louis. Before that call, Alomar hoped to go to the Mets, where his father is on Willie Randolph's coaching staff, and be a utility player.  This is better for him.”

 

La Russa Tampa homecoming

From the St. Petersburg Times:  Tampa's Tony La Russa is excited about bringing his Cardinals to the Trop for the first time in June, and expects to have plenty of friends and relatives in the stands. "It's going to be a big weekend," he said. "I've got to buy some tickets now - there will be a couple hundred there."

 

Second base competition?

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays may continue talks with Mark Grudzielanek while considering Alex Cora and/or Miguel Cairo at second base says the St. Pete Times.

 

On deck for Ankiel, Marquis

Next milestone date:  January 18 is when players and the club have to provide salary figures in case both parties decide to go to arbitration.  This affects pitchers Jason Marquis and Rick Ankiel, unless they settle prior to that date.  However, expect both to be signed before any February arbitration hearing, as Walt Jocketty has gone to that far only once in his ten years in St. Louis.

 

Losing OK in Cincinnati

Reds closer Danny Graves helped convince free-agent starter Eric Milton to sign with the team.  Here is his sales pitch, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:  "I flat-out begged him to sign with us," Graves said. "I told him how much we needed him and how much of a factor he would be. … I told him he would love Cincinnati, that there is no pressure. I told him if you don't win a game, the world doesn't end. You try next time. I told him the clubhouse is full of great guys."

 

QuesTec hanging on

MLB and the umpires' union reached agreement on a new five-year contract.  Part of the deal was that the controversial QuesTec ball and strike recording cameras will remain, but they will no longer be the only way umpires are evaluated.

 

Captain idea flushed out

As a fitting footnote to my article the other day, Jon Heyman of Newsday shared this story.  “I particularly liked (former Mets manager Bobby) Valentine's story about how John Franco became captain. It happened when two Mets were next to each other in the clubhouse bathroom and Turk Wendell, reading in the paper that hockey teams have captains, threw out the idea of Franco being theirs.  Funny. I always thought it had something to do with the Bonanno family.”

 

Before you know it

Forty-seven days remain until pitchers and catchers report.

5:17 pm 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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