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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,, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
Search the archives, listed by week and month, at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

Cons and Icons


News item:  Free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez agrees to a five-year contract with the Detroit Tigers for $75 million.  The total value could end up being as much as $105 million by the time it is over.


Even before Carlos Delgado and Ordonez signed, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported that over $1 billion of free agents had been signed this off-season.  That is mind-boggling enough on its own until one realizes that one man, one agent, was personally responsible of 2/5 of that amount, almost $400 million dollars.


Yep, no one other than the man most despised by owners and general managers; none other than Scott Boras.


This off-season, Boras represented 11 free agents, having coined his own term to describe them.  “Icon players have proven to be great investments for their businesses,” said Boras during the November GM meetings. 


Not starving from past plundering missions, Boras previously negotiated Alex Rodriguez' 10-year, $252 million contract, Barry Bonds' five-year, $90 million deal and Kevin Brown's seven-year, $105 million contract.  Boras, 52, has been a player agent for 24 years.


Back in November, an AP story made this laughable observation.  “Only a few teams might be willing to spend the kind of money Boras’ guys want.”  Of course, it didn’t happen that way.  It never happens that way.  Boras waits and waits and eventually, the market comes to him.  Owners and GMs can’t resist.  It’s like the moth’s attraction to the flame and is predictable as the tides.


This season, Boras’ top seven “icon” free-agents have signed contracts with six different teams totaling $396 million.  Boras gets the industry-standard 5%, meaning he will be lining his pockets with just under $20 million. 


Like his free agents, Boras, too, is an icon.  He is universally recognized as an icon of greed and has surely earned the title.


Player                     New Team                          Contract     Duration        Boras’ take

Adrian Beltre             Seattle                                $64 M          5 years                  $3.2 M

Carlos Beltran            New York Mets                    $119 M         7 years                  $5.95 M

Derek Lowe               Los Angeles Dodgers            $36 M          4 years                  $1.8 M

Kevin Millwood           Cleveland                            $7 M            1 year                   $0.35M

Jason Varitek             Boston                                $40 M          4 years                  $2.0 M

J.D. Drew                  Los Angeles Dodgers            $55 M          5 years                  $2.75 M

Magglio Ordonez        Detroit                                $75 M          5 years                  $3.75 M


Total                                                                 $396 M                                    $19.8M


Rarely does Boras have to compromise, but Varitek’s deal presented a real challenge.  The leader of the World Champions stated his desire to stay with the team, but his five-year deal and demand for a no-trade clause were in direct conflict with team policy.  In addition, four other Sox players’ contracts enable them to get no-trade clauses if any one else receives one.


No problem.  While Boras and Varitek backed their $11 million a year demand all the way down to $10 million and five years to four, they also got a change in team policy to enact a no-trade clause after eight consecutive years of service.  ‘Tek’s the only player who is close to meeting that.  In addition, in a sad move that signaled anything can be negotiated, Varitek was named Sox team captain.


And, how about that Drew deal?  He can walk away from the Dodgers after two seasons if he so chooses.  Why would he do that?  Only to get more money elsewhere, of course.  If the opportunity presents itself, you can be sure that “five-percent Scott” will be right there to seal the deal.


In a recent Boston Herald article, Boras called the market “lush”.  He could have been using the word as an adjective, meaning “excessively productive or thriving”.  Then again, “lush” could have been a noun, which is a better reflection of Boras.  “A drunkard”, not by alcohol, but by power, ego and greed.   


Said Boras to Forbes last month, “Any sport or business or product is about attention.”  He went on to proudly point out the value to a team and to the game overall when his icons are in the headlines even during the off-season.  “It’s like a company that has a product.  The product is getting publicity, and you’re not paying for it.”


Guess who pays in the end?  Yep, you and I.


11:45 pm est

Thursday, February 3, 2005

All Izzy, All the Time


I seem to have inadvertently struck a chord with some readers with my story about Jason Isringhausen and his 2006 option yesterday.  Although I intended it to be a positive reflection of Izzy, apparently my choice of words ruffled a few feathers.


Specifically, I was questioned on my characterization of Izzy as a second-tier closer.  Actually, what I said was that Izzy is in the tier just below the top closers.  While I guess the readers’ interpretation is valid, it was not intended as a slam.


While always good since becoming a closer, Izzy has never been great.  However, at the time Izzy signed his contract in November, 2001, he was being paid as an elite closer.  Yet, since 2001, the escalation of the salary market has led to Izzy’s four-year deal (or five years with option) looking more in line with his relative contribution.


To drive the point home, let’s look at some facts.  We’ll take a few angles other than salary, which I covered before; specifically stats, injury and projections.



Here is Izzy’s stat line from recent seasons.  (Bests in bold.)


















2001 (Oakland)

































































2004 was a very good year for Izzy.  On the positive side, his 47 saves was a new career high and his opposing batting average tied his career best.  Yet, he can do better.  His ERA was its highest since 2000 and was a half run higher than his career best in 2003.  In addition, his strikeout rate continues its decline since 2000.


Another evaluation method is to contrast Izzy’s 2004 with some the top closers in the game.   Again, very good, but short of the very best.


















Jason Isringhausen
















Eric Gagne
















Mariano Rivera
















Brad Lidge


















2005 holds the promise to be Izzy’s first healthy season in at least the last three.  He played through a painful hip condition during 2004 that was corrected by off-season surgery.  Izzy did not make his 2003 debut until mid-June, as he was returning from shoulder surgery coming off the 2002 season.  During a longer-than-expected recovery period, there were doubts as to whether Izzy could pitch on back-to-back days, perhaps for the remainder of his career.  With proper use and care, he has been ready when needed.


A healthy, productive 2005 would make exercising that $8 million 2006 option all the easier decision for the Cardinals’ brass to make.



Granted, this may be more of a debatable area than the previous two.  In fact, projections were more the realm of fantasy players until the recent sabermetric push across the game.  Still, people who crunch numbers seem to support the general view of Izzy as good, but not great.


Baseball HQ’s and former Cardinals consultant Ron Shandler pegs Izzy as the game’s #8 closer and the top name in his second tier.  In addition to the three above, Shandler also ranks Billy Wagner, Keith Foulke, Francisco Cordero and Armando Benitez in the group above Izzy.


Rotoman Peter Kreutzer calls Izzy out as his 11th most valuable closer in 2005, while SportsBlurb’s Seth Trachtman sees Izzy as his 9th-ranked closer this coming season.


In closing…

Again, this was not to drag Izzy down, but instead to put his contributions in proper context.  There is no reason to believe that the 32-year-old can’t put together a fine 2005 campaign and firm up the Cardinals’ option to bring him back for 2006.

1:36 pm est

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Addition by subtraction...

Math by Sosa


With Sammy Sosa’s trade from the Cubs to the Orioles due to be announced very soon, here is how the numbers shake out.


For 2005:

Cubs pay $15.5 million ($12 million salary + $3.5 million severance pay)

Orioles pay $5 million


For 2006:

Orioles pay $4.5 million buyout or $18 million salary


For 2007:

Option clause removed


Sosa gives up:

For 2006, he potentially loses the difference between $18 million guaranteed and ($4.5 million + whatever contract value he signs for next season). 

For 2007, he has given up a $4.5 million buyout (or far less likely, a $19 million salary).



Cubs pay a boatload of cash to be rid of a clubhouse cancer and the Orioles pay $9.5 million for one year of Sosa, of which $4.5 million of it is deferred until next year.  The Cubs and Sosa each gave a lot to get out of a bad marriage.  The Orioles pay about fair market value for no more than one year of Sosa.  Good enough deal for them.


4:41 pm est

Official Cardinals Press Release 3:49 pm est

Special birthday wish...
Red Schoendienst is 82 years old today!
1:29 pm est

A look ahead

Izzy and 2006


With the entire 2005 season remaining ahead of us, it seems crazy to be devoting a lot of ink to 2006.  On the other hand, we’re in this for the long haul, aren’t we?  And, it’s a lot more interesting than talking about a groundhog and his shadow.  After all, we all know spring, as in spring training, is just 16 days away. 


Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Specifically, what set me off in the 2006 direction was a question from reader Brent Schade.  Schade asked me the value of Jason Isringhausen’s 2006 option and what the chance is that the Cardinals would pick it up.  He went on to wonder if there is anyone internally or externally who could instead take on that role next season. 


Good questions.


On Izzy

I have a feeling Izzy will not be an issue until 2007.  His 2006 deal is a team option at the price of $8 million, or a buyout of $1.1 million.  Izzy probably doesn’t need to have a spectacular 2005 season to earn his keep a year longer.  Another very good campaign like 2004 should do it.  Surprised?


As recently as 12 months ago, I was actively suggesting Izzy be traded, because of his health risk, large contract and other more pressing team needs.  Well, in the meantime, he completed a full season without a trip to the disabled list, supposedly got fixed up in the off-season (hip surgery) and still put together a very solid 2004 season in the process. 


But, even more importantly, the market has caught up with Izzy.  That contract that seemed bloated before is now in the ballpark, for 2006, anyway.  That $8 million option is probably about street value for a guy who is generally recognized to be in the tier of closers just beneath the elite. 


In reference, arguably the top two guys in the game, Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera, each signed new deals since Izzy joined the Cardinals.  Gagne will make $10 million with the Dodgers in 2006 and the Yankees’ Rivera will bring home $10.5 million next year.  In that context, $8 million for Izzy seems about par.


On internal closer candidates

Not all that long ago, Jim Journell was unofficially anointed as the “closer of the future”, but injuries seem to have derailed him.  I thought Kiko Calero deserved and might get a shot, but obviously, he is now with Oakland.  Julian Tavarez might be capable, though he could be gone in 2006.  34-year-old journeyman Al Reyes was Memphis’ closer much of last season.  Realistically, at this point, I do not see any viable internal Izzy replacement candidates for the short term.


On 2005-2006 free agent closers

Considering the potential 2005-2006 free-agent market, it is good that the Cardinals have an option on Izzy.  The pickings look slim.  Most of the closers who could be free agents next season are second or third-tier guys, ones nearing the end of the line or both.  Examples include Bob Wickman, Ugueth Urbina, Tom Gordon, LaTroy Hawkins and Trevor Hoffman.  Like Izzy, Braden Looper (team), Jose Mesa (team) and Danny Graves (mutual) have options that may or may not be exercised. 


By far, the most interesting name that may end up being out there is Billy Wagner, who in the past expressed significant interest in playing for the Cardinals.  Like Izzy, Wagner has missed time in recent seasons due to injury, and already makes $9 million with the Phillies.  So, he would not come cheaply. 


On 2005-2006 Cardinals free agents

I have been calling on Jocketty to close some additional long-term deals, beyond his own, that is.  Part of the reason for that is that the Cards have 14 potential free agents next off-season.  That is the most of any team in baseball, though the number is a bit misleading. 


Four of those potential free agents have team options; Izzy, Jeff Suppan, Mark Mulder and Larry Walker.  We’ve already covered Izzy, while the next two seem to be locks for having their options picked up.  Walker’s $15 million 2006 price tag is too high, but something could be worked out if both parties want it to, once Walker’s health and productivity are verified over a longer period with the team.


For the record, the 14 are:  Izzy, Suppan, Mulder, Walker, Tavarez, Roger Cedeno, Reggie Sanders, Chris Carpenter, Einar Diaz, Cal Eldred, Mark Grudzielanek, John Mabry, Matt Morris and Al Reyes.


On 2003-2004 free agents

While I am monitoring the above, I am not overly concerned yet.  Here is why.  First of all, there is plenty of time to take action.  Second, Jocketty has been faced with this problem before; in fact, very recently.  After the 2003 season, the Cardinals had 16 free agents, the most in baseball at that time.  Only four of the 16 were re-signed.  This large influx of new players, almost half the roster, was expertly added to the 2004 mix. 


On 2004-2005 free agents

Again, in this past off-season, the Cardinals had 13 players whose contracts were up.  Only five, Eldred, Mabry, Morris, So Taguchi and Carpenter (team option), will be reporting to Jupiter, Florida later this month.  Again, roughly 1/3 of the 2005 team will be different faces.


On turnover

Player movement is a way of life.  The Cardinals have dealt with it before and will do it again.  We all saw how the 2004 team was remade into a winning unit.  Most all of the ingredients are in place for 2005.  It may be that the Cardinals will have to do the same kind of remix in 2006. 


In closing

At this point, only six players remain from the squad that lost to the Giants in the 2002 NLCS.  They are Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen (who was injured at the time), Morris, Eldred and Izzy.  One could assume that at least the first three players listed will remain as the core of the Cardinals lineup for some time. And my money is on that final name, Jason Isringhausen, being back as part of that 2006 squad.


8:20 am est

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Home and away...

Spring Training TV Schedule


The Astros have added the Spring Training game against the Cardinals on Saturday, March 26 to their TV slate.  That makes eight spring Cards games on television so far.  More games will be added to this list as additional teams make their broadcast schedules known.


Full Spring TV schedule:

Thursday, March 3

@ Mets

6:10 PM (CT)

FSN New York

Saturday, March 12

@ Mets

12:10 PM

FSN New York

Monday, March 14

vs Braves 

12:05 PM


Saturday, March 19

vs Dodgers 

12:05 PM


Sunday, March 20

@ Tigers

12:05 PM

FSN Detroit

Wednesday, March 23

vs Mets 

6:05 PM

FSN Midwest

Saturday, March 26

@ Astros

12:05 PM

FSN Southwest

Sunday, March 27 

vs Marlins 

12:05 PM

FSN Midwest

11:31 pm est

Cardinals 2005 TV Schedule Released


For any player, a 161-for-162 batting average would signify superstar status.  That is also the case when 2005 Cardinals regular season television broadcasts are considered.  Every single game of the 2005 regular season, sans one mid-week day game in September, will be televised among Big FOX (10 games), FSN Midwest (110 games) and KPLR WB11 (41 games).


The Big FOX games, all on Saturdays, were previously published here.  With the exceptions of the first Friday afternoon game of the season (April 8) and a Wednesday afternoon game in late June, all of the WB11 games are on Saturdays and Sundays, just as in the past.


In addition, FSN Midwest (2 games) and WB11 (1 game) will each have spring training broadcasts from Florida.  That is on top of the one ESPN spring telecast previously announced.  All told, that makes 165 opportunities to catch Cardinals action this season, until the post-season begins, that is.  Enjoy!


Spring home TV schedule:

Monday, March 14           vs Braves                    12:05 PM (CT)      ESPN           

Saturday, March 19         vs Dodgers                  12:05 PM             WB11          

Wednesday, March 23      vs Mets                       6:05 PM               FSN            

Sunday, March 27            vs Marlins                   12:05 PM             FSN            


Entire schedule here:


5:24 pm est

Cards, Communications and Cash


We’ve all read the comments this past week from those, myself included, from inside and outside the Cardinal Nation; many of them outraged over the apparent low-ball contract offered to Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty.  There’s really little for me to add beyond what has already been written. 


However, there is one tangential aspect of this story that I would like to explore in greater detail here, that of communications.  But, before I get into it, I want to make it clear that my intent is neither to defend nor attack anyone; Jocketty, Chairman and General Partner Bill DeWitt, present or former Cardinals, or even their agents. 


What I want to do is remind us all that this is simply business, transacted among very wealthy individuals with motives that often differ, sometimes more so than others.  As a result, there are various amounts of spin applied to virtually everything we read, whether it comes from the “source”, from here or anywhere else.  Taking any of it at 100% face value is naïve.


Let’s make a reasonable assumption about what has happened.  Jocketty became frustrated with the pace of negotiation and amount offered for his new contract.  An expose’ subsequently appears in a national (not local) publication, complete with specific details of the offer and direct quotes from Jocketty.  Walt is very shrewd.  It certainly seems this was all part of a plan to raise awareness and put public pressure on DeWitt to get the deal done.  All indications are that it is working.


However, during this discussion, Jocketty has taken a fair amount of heat in some quarters for not being a better communicator with his team’s players.  Am I the only one who sees the irony in that criticism? 


Seems like his boss is the guilty one.  After all, if DeWitt was communicating better with Jocketty, wouldn’t the GM’s new contract been wrapped up months ago, long before it expired?  Going to the press with his negotiations was a pretty dramatic act for the normally low-key Jocketty.  Still, we have to remember that it is just part of the game.


In comparison, Jocketty seems to have been fairer in his dealings with his players than ownership has been with him. 


To those who accuse Jocketty of being a poor communicator, I say “who really knows?”  After all, who is shadowing Jocketty every day, monitoring his conversations?  And precisely, with whom should Jocketty be communicating, anyway?  Surely not the press.  Jocketty does as good of a job as anyone in letting the media know as little as possible about what he is working on at any given point in time.  That is expected.   


What about the players, you say?  It is also not difficult to assume that Jocketty tries to remain under the radar in dealing with them, too.  Besides, in today’s world, every single player retains the services of an agent, or in some cases, multiple agents, for the express purpose of representing him to the club.  The agent worries about contracts and money (and his juicy cut of the proceeds) so the player can focus on playing. 


And again, how do we know who is talking to who?  In cases when a player comes out complaining that the team did not contact him before bad news comes to light, how do we know that the team didn’t communicate with one of his agents, as protocol would seem to dictate? 


The only possibly credible accusers of poor communications are former Cardinals, but invariably they are players who left the team on the team’s terms, not on their own.  Aren’t some sour grapes now and then expected?  Would kind words really help all that much in removing the sting of being offered less money than one thinks they are worth; or even worse, not being offered a contract at all?  Not likely. 


Generally speaking, ballplayers are proud men.  Often, they are youthful multi-millionaires.  In some cases, they are self-centered and mercurial.  Now and then, they might even shade public comments to make themselves look better or to try to save face.


Let’s take the Woody Williams case as an example.  For good reason, Williams was widely admired by the Cardinal Nation for his tenacity and the results he delivered on the field.  Yet, the team’s decision to let him go after the 2004 season seemingly was not debated as heavily as the fact that no one from the team apparently called him to tell him so.


I guess Woody was the only one who couldn’t figure it out.  Yes, Williams stated that he wanted to come back to the Cardinals in 2005, but all signals for months were that the team planned to proceed without him.  Let’s face it.  No matter how gingerly it is put, no one wants to be told they are no longer wanted.  Why would Williams be an exception to that?


“You can’t break up with me.  I am breaking up with you.”  Ever been there?


On November 5, the day after the team paid his buyout instead of exercising their 2005 option on him, Woody was quoted in the P-D as saying, “I guess they've got to do what they've got to do."  Sure sounds like he had it figured out.


On November 26, the P-D again made it clear that the team was unlikely to re-sign Williams. "I think that economics are as much a part of it as anything," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "Probably when you think about Woody, he's another year older and he did have physical problems last year. You have to factor the risk."


Previously, Williams was definitive that either he would remain a Cardinal, join his hometown Houston Astros or retire to join his family.  When the Cardinals were no longer an option, declining to offer arbitration by December 7, the next step was to check with Houston.  When the Astros would apparently not declare until Roger Clemens’ 2005 plans were known, it took Woody all of 24 hours to sign with San Diego.


Don’t misinterpret what I mean here.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Williams did.  But, the fact is, the Padres’ interest in Williams had been noted in the press as early as December 1 and both parties had likely been negotiating behind the scenes prior to the Cardinals’ decision being 100% final on December 7.  And again, the Cardinals plans to not bring Woody back had been pretty clear for at least a month prior.  Williams said one thing and given the situation, he ended up doing another.  That’s his right.  He did what was best for him and no one complained about that.


Williams got a lot of props for returning to St. Louis for the Baseball Writers’ Dinner, where he deservedly received the Darryl Kile Award for most exhibiting the qualities of the late Cardinals star.  Still, Williams harbors some bad feelings and used the focus on the event to take the high road, sort of.  "I can't deny it bothered me a little bit.  It would have been nice to receive a phone call before everyone else knew what my future was.  I'm not going to hold grudges; it shouldn't work that way.”


The bottom line is that no one could have been surprised or should have been hurt about any of this, whether we are talking about DeWitt and Jocketty or Jocketty and Williams.  This is about business conducted among multiple bands of millionaires.  Everyone - players, agents, coaches, the front office and ownership - are protecting their own interests first and foremost.  That doesn’t make them bad people.  That’s just the way it is. 


Players leave teams behind.  Teams leave players behind.  Even general managers leave teams behind and are left behind.  We always see the end result, but likely never get all the straight facts about how it goes down.


Jocketty has done what he thinks he needs to do to improve the team for 2005.  Men like Woody Williams, Steve Kline and Mike Matheny were valued members of the St. Louis Cardinals and were both admired by fans and well-compensated for their efforts. 


But, I am not feeling sorry for them one bit as they are even better paid by their new teams than they would have been in St. Louis.  Neither, am I critical of the general manager for what he did or did not allegedly do.  For every player, the time comes to move on.  For Williams, Kline and Matheny, that time has passed.  If they may still harbor some ill feelings, that too shall eventually pass.


After all, as Neil Sedaka has been crooning for over 40 years, “Breaking up is hard to do.”


For Jocketty, his situation likely became public and messy because that is where he felt he had to take it.  Now that has happened, expect DeWitt to get the new contract resolved promptly.  As a result, Walt’s time to leave may still be in the future.  But, it too will come.  And chances are, some will feel wronged or slighted or hurt or outraged when that day eventually arrives.  Expect it.  Chances are, poor communications will be at least partially blamed.  But, the real problem will more than likely be rooted in another “c”, compensation.


The common currency of communications and respect in today’s game is the same currency as in our pockets and purses.  There’s just a lot more of it at stake when the big boys play.


12:02 am est

Monday, January 31, 2005

Monday edition

Walton’s Wanderings


Value of Cards players tops

In what I believe is the best endorsement to-date of the job Walt Jocketty has done, a story in Sunday’s Post talks about a study where the value of MLB teams in 2004 were calculated, not based on the size of the contract, but based on the stats of the players.  The 2004 Cardinals were deemed to be the most valuable in the game, with $182 million of value.  As with all studies, it could be skewed, but is still very interesting.  I’ve spoken with the author of the article, Joel Sherman, who unfortunately has no more information about the details of the report.


Miami writer likes Cards

Dan Le Batard from the Miami Herald, who also has done work for ESPN, doesn’t see how the addition of Carlos Delgado puts the Marlins in the same category as the Cardinals.


Walker lighter

Over on the message board, moderator BrotherBri (no relation) reports during a KMOX interview with Jocketty that Larry Walker has lost 12 pounds in the off-season.  One poster commented that it would be advantageous for Walker to lose the David Wells look.  I am all for that, as long as what is left doesn’t resemble Wells’ former Padres teammate Ryan Klesko, who dropped from 21 homers in 2003 to nine last season.


Cincy TV Schedule

While the Cards’ television schedule is not out yet, those fans in the Queen City will get to see the Cardinals 11 times among the 100 Reds games to be televised on FSN Ohio this season. 

At Busch:  April 12, June 28, 29; September 30; October 1

At Great American Ballpark:  May 2, 3; June 20, 21; September 20, 21


5:47 pm est

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Tavarez, Luna and Gall are in...

Caribbean Series Preview


Sunday’s Game Seven in the Dominican

With his Aguilas Cibaenas deadlocked with perennial champion Licey Tigres at three games each in the best of seven Dominican League championship, Julian Tavarez took the mound late Sunday against the Tigres (and Oakland’s) Juan Cruz.  Las Aguilas had blown a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and was forced to win the deciding game seven at home.


Tavarez struggled in the third and fourth innings.  He surrendered the first run of the game in the third, as Florida’s Luis Castillo singled home Jayson Bass, who had doubled.  He stranded two other runners.  Hector Luna entered the game for las Aguilas during the fourth inning, and helped Tavarez wiggle out of a bases-loaded jam.  Luna took over at second base for Felix Martinez, hitting in the #8 position.


In the bottom of the fourth, las Aguilas took the lead.  Luna collected the lead RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.  Cruz was knocked out of the game and was replaced by the Reds’ Ramon Ortiz.  Washington’s Matt Cepicky hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth to increase Tavarez’ lead to 3-1.  Tavarez departed after six, having given up six hits, two walks and just one run.  He fanned six.


Ancient Luis Polonia slammed a solo homer leading off the seventh to increase las Aguilas’ margin to 4-1.  Polonia, 40, last appeared in the majors in 2000.  Luna ground out and walked and scored in his other two at-bats.  The latter was a part of the eighth, when las Aguilas iced the game and series, scoring three more insurance runs.  Two of those runs were driven home by Polonia.  Tavarez picked up the win as his team prevailed by the score of 7-1. 


Caribbean Series Preview

The four champions from the Dominican, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela will clash in the 35th Caribbean Series.  The round robin tournament of daily doubleheaders starts Tuesday, February 1 and runs through the 6th at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal in Mazatlan, Mexico.  Mid-week games are scheduled at 6pm and 10pm Eastern time, while weekend games are at 3pm and 7pm Eastern time.


As all four Caribbean league winners have now been crowned, let’s take a look at the varied and wild playoff formats as each took their own unique route to crowning one league winner.  Check out these match-ups and reconsider whether the current MLB wild card format is that bad, after all.


Dominican League.  Two of the six regular season teams were eliminated from playoff consideration.  The four remaining teams played an 18-game round-robin tournament, with the top two teams advancing to a best-of-seven league championship series. 


Winner:  Aguilas Cibaenas (over Licey Tigres)

Cardinals:  Julian Tavarez, Hector Luna

Other familiar names:  Luis Vizcaino, Luis Polonia, Miguel Tejada, Tony Batista


Mexican Pacific League.  Two of the eight regular season teams were eliminated from playoff consideration.  The six remaining teams paired off in best-of-seven quarterfinals.  The three winners and the loser with the best record moved to the best-of-seven semifinals.  The two winners met in the best-of-seven league championship.


Winner:  Mazatlan Deer (over Mexicali Eagles)

Cardinals:  John Gall

Other familiar names:  Joe Borchard, Miguel Ojeda, Trenidad Hubbard


Puerto Rican League.  Two of the six regular season teams were eliminated from playoff consideration.  The remaining four teams met in best-of-seven semifinals.  The two winners met in a best-of-nine series for the league championship. 


Winner:  Mayaguez Indians (over Yadier Molina’s Carolina Giants)

Cardinals:  none

Other familiar names:  Andres Torres, Orlando Merced, Raul Castro


Venezuelan Winter League.  Three of eight regular season teams were eliminated from playoff consideration.  The top two teams in each division plus a wild card team played a 16-game round-robin series.  The top two finishers met in a best-of-seven series for the league championship.


Winner:  Aragua Tigres (over Caracas Leones)

Cardinals:  Papo Bolivar, Milko Jaramillo, Jackson Paz, Juan Lucena

Other familiar names:  Jeremi Gonzalez, Victor Zambrano, Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera


However, don’t expect the exact same rosters in the Series as during the season.  In fact, many of the regular season players will not be seen.  In the anything-goes Caribbean, surviving teams augment their rosters with players from the losing teams.  For example, to boost the chances of the host team in the Series, Mexicans Vinny Castilla, Erubiel Durazo, and Elmer Dessens are all joining the Deer from Hermosillo, while Luis Ayala comes over from Culiacan. 


What ensues is sort of an All-Star Series, of major international importance to many citizens in these countries.


8:10 pm est

At least for me...

Kyle McClellan: A New Name


Over the weekend, I was proofing a Top 250 Prospects List put together by Lawr Michaels of  Michaels’ list, which is in its ninth consecutive year, has been known in the fantasy industry circles for a long time. 


While his list may be less familiar than those put out by Baseball America or John Sickels, soon to be ex-of-ESPN, Michaels also looks at players differently.  Lawr first caught my attention back in 2000 when he called out an unknown Cardinals prospect named Albert Pujols his #10 prospect in all of baseball.  Of course, a year later, everyone knew his name.


The purpose of this story is not to sell copies of Michaels’ Prospect List.  Instead, it is to draw attention to the name of a Cardinals’ prospect, pitcher Kyle McClellan.  McClellan, who toiled for Peoria last season, holds down #193, and was in fact the only Cardinals player listed not familiar to me. 


Michaels not only pegs McClellan the 193rd best prospect in the game, but he is also Lawr’s sixth-highest prospect in the Cardinals organization.  The other names were ones more expected and all except one are pitchers.  Stuart Pomeranz comes in at #20, Anthony Reyes at #83, Bradley Thompson at #89, second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir at #109 and Adam Wainwright at #170.  (For what it’s worth, Daric Barton, who is being moved to first base by the A’s, is listed as #2 and hurler Chris Narveson, who went to Colorado in the Larry Walker trade, is #160.)


In McClellan, we’re talking about a player who was not even mentioned in Baseball America’s 2004 Prospect Handbook, either in their Top 30 Cardinals prospects or among the 63 Redbirds farmhands listed on their organizational depth charts.


Who in the heck is this guy and what does Michaels see in him?  For the record, McClellan is a 6’-2”, 185 pound right-hander from Florissant, MO, so St. Louis area fans may know him.  McClellan was the team’s 25th round selection in the 2002 June Amateur Draft and turned 20 in June.


Here are McClellan’s 2004 numbers:


W         L          SV        ERA      G          IP         H          R          ER        BB        K          HR

4           12         0          5.34      24         128       143       85         76        34        84        12


His first two seasons, 2002 and 2003, both at Johnson City, were equally nondescript:


W         L          SV        ERA      G          IP         H          R          ER        BB        K          HR

3           8          0          5.08      19         79.2      91         51         45        23         52         7


This is precisely the kind of player that others will overlook.  Here is what Michaels has to say about Kyle McClellan.  “He turned 20 a couple of months into the season.  His strikeout to walk ratio is not spectacular, but better than most, again relative to age and level of play.  The guy just below him also has some pretty erratic looking numbers, and he is a couple of years older, but also played Double-A.  The age of the player works as the base number for all, with a league level factor, and then factors that look at, for pitchers, BB/K, K/IP, Ratio, H/IP.”


So, there you have it.  McClellan seems to have made this list as much due to his age as anything else.  Maybe he will not become the pitching version of Albert Pujols, but at least one respected industry watcher likes what he sees in this young man’s skill set and ultimate potential.


Lawr Michaels’ 250 Prospect List:


8:50 am est

Sunday edition

Walton’s Wanderings


Rios resurfaces in clear (or is that cream?)

Outfielder Armando Rios was signed to a minor league deal by the Minnesota Twins and received a spring training invite.  Rios was briefly employed by the Cardinals last season in Memphis, but was suspended then released after a story was leaked that Rios admitted to a federal investigator that he had received performance-enhancing drugs from Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson.


Matthews not left behind

Pitcher Mike Matthews (2000-02) was signed to a minor league deal by the New York Mets that included an invitation to spring training.  Matthews was with Cincinnati last season, but missed time due to surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.  The Mets are Matthews’ fourth organization since leaving the Cardinals.  Left-handed relievers never seem to die…


Cosme sighting

Infielder Caonabo Cosme, who played for Tennessee (Double-A) in 2003, has received a spring training invite from the New York Cosmos…er Yankees.


Me llamo Jose Jimenez

Former Cardinal no-hit pitcher Jose Jimenez (1998-99) agreed to a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and also received a spring training invite.  Jimenez went to the Rockies in the Darryl Kile trade.  After four seasons in Colorado, Jimenez spent 2004 with the Cleveland Indians.


Burnitz to Wrigley?

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that free-agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz will be signed by the Cubs once Sammy Sosa is shipped out of town.  The Pirates are also interested in Burnitz, though I don’t have the slightest idea why, as they already have a gaggle of outfielders.


Sosa add-ons?

The Sporting News reports the other two players moving to the Cubs along with Jerry Hairston in the Sosa trade are second baseman Mike Fontenot and right-handed pitcher Dave Crouthers.  A year ago, Baseball America tabbed the two as the Orioles’ #9 and #10 prospects, though neither are viewed to be ready for the bigs.


51 gives back

Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle has a story about retired Cardinal Wiliie McGee’s foundation, providing athletic, cultural and educational programs in the Bay Area and in St. Louis.  Article:

Foundation :


Lima time

I caught Game 6 of the Dominican League Series between the Tigres del Licey and Las Aguilas Cibaenas on Saturday night, won by Licey by the score of 12-8.  Jose Lima was up to his antics again, staying on the field pleading to remain in until his replacement reached the mound, then bowing on one knee to the road crowd as he left the game in the fifth inning.  Jose Guillen was the batting star for Licey, hitting a three-run homer completely out of the park in the seventh and former Cardinals catcher Alberto Castillo caught the game for Cibaenas.  Neither Hector Luna nor Julian Tavarez appeared for the regular season leader Las Aguilas, who are deadlocked with Los Tigres at three games each in the Dominican finals.  Luna hit .261 during the regular season, while Tavarez came on board for the post-season, where he has started one game to date.


8:20 am est

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