Had this post been written Thursday, the title would have been “Really? Jeff Suppan is a solution?” The emotional reactions on Twitter that afternoon, running about 95 percent against the move, were similar to my own thoughts. Hadn’t John Mozeliak, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan watched him pitch against the Cardinals last Friday night? Did they not realize that the Brewers, of all teams, had released him – not designated him for assignment, not hoped to get anything in return, just kicked him to the curb? (Money in hand, of course.) And what’s going on with the Cardinals? Adding Aaron Miles was bad enough, signing Randy Winn was starting a dangerous aging trend – and now this?
Then, on Friday, I thought it through a little more. My reactions have nothing to do with Jeff Suppan the person, because he seems to be a great guy. (In the poll last week on FS Midwest that asked which Cardinal you miss the most, or however it was worded, he was my untexted-in choice over David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.) But I still totally agree with the last sentence in the paragraph above, still don’t like the move of acquiring Jeff Suppan the pitcher. But I can understand the rationale a little more.
Yes, there are obviously other options available who can handle Kyle Lohse’s roster spot. P.J. Walters may not have been effective, but there are others at Memphis who could rotate into that role: Evan McLane (wouldn’t it be nice to bring him back and actually let him in a game this time?), Brandon Dickson, Lance Lynn. They are doing well at Triple A. But they also are an unknown commodity when it comes to facing Major League hitters.
With Jeff Suppan, the Cardinals know what they are getting. Granted, we all have our opinions on what that is – we saw him pitch, we see the increasingly bad stats from his time in Milwaukee. But his best years were in St. Louis, while working with Dave Duncan. Tony La Russa seems to know that his pitching coach can likely help. “We have a history with him, he’s available, and I think [pitching coach Dave Duncan] has seen some things that make him think that there’s some ‘Supp’ left.’” Of course, this all just could be ego on their part, both La Russa’s and Duncan’s. They turned him around once and now seem to think they can do it again.
But, look, Suppan will be the fifth starter. It’s not like he’s coming in to supplant any of the Cards’ Big Three of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright or Jaime Garcia. Maybe that’s a weak argument, since obviously he wasn’t good to enough to cut it as a reliever for a team with terrible pitching, but it’s not like he’s going to be pitching every single day. A fifth starter is what it is – in most cases, someone serviceable to go out there and give at least five innings decently. However, with the Cards and the way the offense has not been performing in May and June, starters have to be amazing every time out and can still leave with no decision or even an undeserved loss (as all of the Big Three can attest). But maybe we should lower our expectations. Remember who was the fifth starter much of last year?
Perhaps too my opinion on Suppan, and that of the majority of Cards fans I know, is not necessarily the overall feeling of Cardinal Nation. Derrick Goold had an interesting poll in Birdland yesterday: “So the Cardinals plan to put Jeff Suppan back in the rotation, and you’re …” with voting options of for it, leery of it or against it. Currently (and with 2,031 votes) “for it” is winning by one vote over “leery of it,” 897 to 896. “Against it” only has 238 votes (including mine).
It could be that those 897 people are remembering what that picture above shows: 2006 NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan, the one who shined so well during that series and especially in the unbelievable Game 7. Maybe they’re fans of his “Word of the Day.” (Although, as a writer, I was.) It’s easy to remember and love that 2006 team forever because of what they accomplished, but that kind of magic only happens once. None of us are like we were four years ago, so of course a pitcher with four more years of work who’s now 35 isn’t going to be either.
He’s also a low-cost option. If he doesn’t work out, release him. What will have been lost? In addition, he’ll be working again with a catcher who he’s both familiar and obviously comfortable working with. Yadier Molina’s skill, in addition to Duncan’s, can’t be discounted when looking at the past success he had in St. Louis.
Hopefully a change of scenery and the familiar working partners of Yadi and Duncan can get Suppan back on track – or perhaps we’ll witness some kind of miracle and he’ll become 2006 “Supp” yet again. Who knows? The bottom line, at least to me, is that he’s going to be here. (Well, in all likelihood – he is still not officially signed and does still have to throw for the Cardinals today.) As much as I’m against the move and want to complain about it, I don’t have any say in the matter. My personal opinion is that since I’m a Cardinals fan, I’m going to hope for the best for him because it will definitely help the team. And hopefully his first 2010 Word of the Day will be “redemption.”