Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obligatory Cardinals Spring Training Post?

I guess it is. To say I don't have high hopes for this year's Cardinals team would be an understatement. I figure if a few things break their way, they might reach .500, but they'll still be looking up at Chicago, plus Milwaukee and/or Cincinnati. Then again, maybe Derrek Lee will break his wrist again, Fukudome will be more So Taguchi than Hideki Matsui or Ichiro (i'm not certain which he's more similar to), and Zambrano's arm finally falls off, forcing the team to lean more heavily on Jason Marquis (as a Cardinals fan I can assure you, that rarely ends well). And maybe Eric Gagne makes the Brewers seriously regret giving him that contract, while Ned Yost continues to engage in beanball wars when he should be worried about winning games, and Ryan Braun commits so many errors that he negates his offensive contributions. And maybe Dusty Baker will completely destroy the Reds rotation. Actually, I think that last one has a pretty good shot of happening. Still isn't likely to change the Cards' chances much.

Anyway, for no particular reason, I'd like to discuss what I'd wish the Cardinals would do with Opening Day roster, with the benefit of hindsight. I should explain my perspective on this. Like I said, I don't expect the Cardinals to contend, so I'm all for a youth movement (which means I probably wouldn't have brought LaRussa back, but I don't know who would have replaced him. Oquendo perhaps). I'd rather watch a bad team that's seeing what's there for the future, than a bad team full of retreads and overpaid, broken down veterans. At least the former might provide a source of hope.

Rotation: Adam Wainwright is an obvious inclusion. After that, it gets ugly. I wasn't completely against the resigning of Joel Pineiro, but 2 years/$13 mil did seem to be more than he had earned with 2 decent months of starting. Given that he's likely to start the season on the DL, I'm using my hindsight powers to unsign him, and just wait to get Kyle Lohse for the low, low price of $4.25 mil for one year. Then you've got Looper, and I'd give Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson the last two spots. The Cardinals seem to have decided to give Reyes' spot to Todd Wellenmeyer, a player unwanted by the Cubs, Royals, and Rays, instead, because, um, I actually have no idea why.

Because Reyes doesn't walk enough guys? Because he doesn't throw a good sinker? Because LaRussa and Duncan are deadset on destroying Anthony psychologically? Because they honestly and truly believe he gives them a better chance of winning games? Becuase they're complete fucking idiots? Hell if I know (though I'd bet on #4, though I wish it was #5), and I'm digressing. I still think Reyes just needs to a consistent chance. So I'm putting him in the rotation, and leaving him there all season (barring injury). It worked with Wainwright last year (ERA of 6.34 on May 15), it might work for Reyes too. And if it doesn't, so what? His trade value can't be any lower than it is now, and maybe showing you believe in him enough to leave him in the rotation boosts that a bit. of course, If he actually pitches well, he's not going anywhere. So to improve the odds of that, I'm not resigning Wellenmeyer either, so LaRussa and Duncan have one fewer guy to block Iron Bill with.

Additionally, the Cards' have potential returns from injury by Matt Clement, Mark Mulder, and Chris Carpenter. In my scenario, you move first Thompson, the Looper to the bullpen to make room for Clement and Mulder (both should be back by the end of June), and I figure by the time Carp is ready to go, one of those guys will either be hurt again, or just plain suck (I tab Mulder for the latter option). So Carp's taking one of their spots, as opposed to that of Reyes, Lohse, or Wainer. Oh, and none of the rehab boys go into the rotation until they can actually get minor league batters out. It was galling to see Mulder in the major league rotation in '06 and '07 when he couldn't even get out AAA hitters during rehab starts. Newsflash: Major league hitters are better than AAA hitters. If you can't get out the latter, you're unlikely to have much success against the former.

Bullpen: Well, Izzy's a lock, what with his refusal to be traded. Franklin's locked in through at least '09, and Springer's back too (though I expect he'll regress severely after his career year at the age of 38). Randy Flores is here to be one lousy lefty, with the other spot in the hands of either his brother Ron, Tyler Johnson, or Ron Villone. Ugh. Well, at least none of them are a heavy financial commitment, so no big deal if I decided to cut one. Johnson's hurt, so let's go with Villone for now. So that's five relievers. Since I did resign LaRussa (or was stuck with him thanks to a prior regime), we need 7 relievers. So let's say Chris Perez and Mark Worrell, because they would have options, and could be sent back down to the minors when I start having to make room for Clement and co.

Infield: Yady's the catcher, obviously, and I'll be hoping last year was an indicator of his true offensive ability, rather than a fluke. He'll be backed up by Jason LaRue, who doesn't make contact often, but he's got some pop, on the off chance he does. Albert Pujols sits at first, and I am glad for it. Adam Kennedy mans second, and, well, it's better than Aaron Miles (who I would not have brought back, I don't care how badly Tony wanted him). At least, I hope he's better than Miles. If not, Kennedy may need to be cut, regardless of the cost ($7.5 mil over two seasons). Which would be fine. I could give this Jarrett Hoffpauir I've heard about a chance in The Show. Once again using hindsight, I'm not bringing in Cesar Izturis. I mean really, not even the Pirates wanted him, and I'm supposed to consider him for our starting shortstop? Yikes. No, I'll take my chances with Brendan Ryan. He's a bit spastic, but I like his energy. He's gritty, scrappy (Somewhere, the writers of FireJoeMorgan stir uneasily), and oh yeah, he's better than Izturis (I know, big whoop). Plus, it'll piss off LaRussa. D'Angelo Jimenez will back up the middle infield positions. As for 3rd base. . .

If it had been up to me, I'd have taken Rolen over LaRussa. I'm sick of Tony's bullshit. His stated desire to keep things "in house", except when he feels like blasting a player through the press (Rolen, Reyes). His "open competitions" where the outcome is already decided (Clayton vs. Ozzie in '96, Ponson vs. Wainwright/Reyes in '06, Reyes vs. Wellenmeyer/Thompson this spring), his ego, all of it. But, since we're proceeding from the standpoint that he stayed, Troy Glaus isn't a bad haul for Rolen. Not as good defensively, but better offensively, and his injury (plantar fascitis) is less likely to be debilitating than Rolen's (arm falling off at shoulder). So what the hey. I think I'll try backing up Glaus with Joe Mather, a young guy with some power. Albert will get subbed for by Chris Duncan, giving Dunc valuable opportunities to play his natural position. Those last two statements were assuming I couldn't somehow stop Scott Spiezio from self-destructing. If I can, then he'd back up both Glaus and Albert.

Outfield: No Juan Gonzalez! None. At all. Because Brian Barton's a Rule V draft selection, and can't be sent to the minors, he gets that 5th outfield spot, and keeps it. Also, Ankiel does not play center field. I simply don't buy it as his best position, based on what I saw last year. Besides, CF is the natural position of Skip Schumaker, Barton, and Ryan Ludwick. Let Rick and his arm stay in right field. Skip's hit fairly well this spring, so let's make him starting CF, flanked by Dunc and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. Regular work for Ludwick and Barton, though. So I'll have one lefty who can't hit lefties with decent power, some on-base ability, and poor defense (Dunc), another lefty who can't hit lefties with decent defense, some speed, and little power or on-base ability (Skip), and a lefty that can hit lefties that's a question mark defensively, with good power, but no patience for walks (Ankiel). Then a righty who can't hit lefties with good defense, some power, and no OBP (Ludwick), and another one with lots of speed and no major league experience (Barton). If I could play Dr. Frankenstein, I could assemble at least two good outfielders from that. As it is, just have to mix and match the old-fashioned way (platooning).

At some point this season, high touted/drooled over prospect Colby Rasmus will get a call-up. A lot of folks want him up now, but he's never played above AA, and even though that worked for Pujols (who I think only had five at-bats above A ball), I'm not eager to try it too often. Besides, Rasmus starts slow at each level, so he won't start hitting until June in all likelihood. Let him have some success at AAA, then bring him up after the All-Star Break. By then, we'll have likely traded one of our outfielders to some team desperate for a good one. Probably Duncan, though I hate to lose his on-base percentage, but his defense makes him a prime candidate to be dealt to the AL.

So let's recap:

Rotation: Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Braden Looper, Anthony Reyes, Brad Thompson

Bullpen: Jason Isringhausen, Ryan Franklin, Russ Springer, Randy Flores, Ron Villone, Chris Perez, Mark Worrell

Infield: Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Adam Kennedy, Troy Glaus, Brendan Ryan, Jason LaRue, D'Angelo Jimenez, Joe Mather

Outfield: Chris Duncan, Skip Schumaker, Rick Ankiel, Brian Barton, Ryan Ludwick

So that's my Opening Day roster. Why don't you list yours for your team of choice in the comments. If nothing help, it might help familiarize me with some of the other teams.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Promised Rick Ankiel Nickname Post

The more I think about this, the more I think it's going to be really stupid. I mean, Rick's a big-swinging, home run hitting outfielder, while mongooses are probably more similar to small middle infielders who exhibit occasional bursts of power. Like a Roberto Alomar, or maybe Ozzie Smith in 1985. But I said I would do it, and the blog needs content, so there you go.

Rikki as found half-drowned from a storm by a English family new to India. I think we can view the near-drowning as a metaphor for Ankiel's loss of control, which nearly destroyed his career. The role of the English family is played by animal (and wine) love Tony LaRussa. Rikki settles into a new life his new family, protecting the family that saved him. Rick Ankiel had a somewhat troubled upbringing, with a father who had some issues with the law. Rick however is a gifted pitcher, with a pretty decent bat, who gets drafted by the Cardinals out of high school, and moves through the farm system very quickly.

He first meets the two cobras, Nag and Nagaina, that run the garden of his new home, Rikki's first battle is to protect the young boy (Teddy) from a brown snake, much smaller and deadlier than a cobra. The brown snake represents the 2000 regular season, where Rick was a runner-up for Rookie of the Year, and was generally impressive, striking out 194 in 175 innings, with an ERA of 3.50.

{It's gonna start falling apart here, if it hasn't already. Part of the problem is Rikki's story ended, and Rick's hasn't yet.}

Nag hides in the "big man's" bathroom, preparing to kill him, to protect his soon to be hatched eggs, but he falls asleep. Rikki attacks, and the struggle alerts the man, who kills Nag with a shotgun, nearly getting Rikki in the process. The 2000 playoffs approach, and with them, greater pressure. In an attempt to avoid making Rick pitch with the Cardinals behind in the series, LaRussa starts Rick in game 1 of the NLDS against Atlanta. Rick implodes, walking 6, throwing numerous wild pitches, and throws less than half of his pitches for strikes. The Cardinals win the game, and the series, but Rick is still ineffective in the NLCS against the Mets.

Rikki decides to find the cobras' lair and destroy their eggs, and gets a tailor bird to distract Nagaina while he does. The tailor bird successfully distracts Nagaina (for a time), and Rikki destroys all but one egg. After several failed attempts to return to the mound, where he continues to lack control, when he isn't injured, Rick announces his career as a pitcher is over, and that he will be moving to the outfield full-time. Rick gets called up to the big leagues in August of 2007, and proceeds to swing the bat quite well, if a bit wildly, and demonstrates that he still has an arm, and can in fact, throw accurately.

However, Nagaina gets tired of chasing the damn tailor bird, and goes after the boy to claim vengeance for her mate. Ankiel is found to have ordered HGH during 2005, before there was testing, but with no guarantees he stopped taking it once baseball specifically banned it. After this announcement, Rick goes into a funk, hitting wise, and any hope the Cardinals had of winning the craptastic NL Central evaporates in a 9-game losing streak, helping the Cards to their first sub-.500 season since 1999.

Rikki arrives on the scene with the last egg, and claims he killed Nag. This distraction allows the father to pull Teddy to safety. Nagaina flees with the egg, Rikki pursues her into the burrow, and when all is said and done, Rikki is the one to emerge. And no snakes ever dare enter the garden again. I don't think this part has happened for Ankiel yet. It would probably take the form of him crushing the ball this year, playing an outstanding outfield, all while passing regular drug tests. And somewhere down the line he'd probably need to help the Cardinals win another World Series. LaRussa, the one who kept protecting him, still being the manager at that point would probably help.

I had another one, that basically started when Rick decided to become an outfielder, and the team went along with it, but I didn't get as far into that one before I felt like it fell apart. So I'll go with this one. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.