White House Turns Red

White House Turns Red
(As in Cardinal Red, folks.)

Talk about a “Super Tuesday” — this week members of the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals met with President and First Lady Obama at the White House.  Notably absent were Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, perhaps following Yadier Molina’s example just a couple of days earlier, as he skipped the Winter Warm-Up for the second straight year.

President Obama congratulates (most of) the 2011 Cardinals (Photo: Glittarazzi)

Perhaps the potential (real or perceived) awkwardness of Albert being around John Mozeliak and the DeWitts was a factor for Pujols’ lack of attendance.  Personally, I wouldn’t imagine there would be any measurable difference in awkwardness between Albert and his former teammates.  Cards starter, Adam Wainwright cited avoiding a disruption in his rehab schedule as his reason for not attending the event.  Reasons for LaRussa’s absence are still unclear.

We all know someone, many of us know more than one someone, who is so politically motivated that they’d be considered “off the deep end” by the large majority of folks.  I’m not saying anything definitive here, as it’s nothing more than one point of view, but for the three I mentioned, this wouldn’t be their first visit to the White House.  Pujols, Waino, and TLR were all members of that 2006 World Champion team that went to the White House to be honored by Bush.  Bush 43 that is, no Cardinals team was getting anywhere near Bush 41’s Pennsylvania Ave home with those teams.

It’s no secret that Pujols and Wainwright are men of faith, and that their Christianity is very important to them.  You may recall that during a road trip in the dog days of the 2010 season, LaRussa and Pujols took time out of the baseball activities to participate in a Glenn Beck rally in Washington D.C..  Is it possible that TLR and Albert are so staunchly opposed to the current administration’s philosophies that they’d decline participation in such a high honor?  I suppose it isn’t unthinkable.

To me, what’s more intriguing is Yadi’s absence from this year’s Winter Warm-Up.  He cancelled at the last minute last year, citing his daughter being ill.  I’m not certain if a particular reason was given or not for missing this year.  Here’s what I do know: Attending the Winter Warm-Up is something the Cardinals organization deems “optional”.  That said, we’ve all probably had meetings at work that were cut from the same “optional” cloth.  That “we aren’t saying you NEED to come to this optional meeting on Saturday morning, but we’re sure you’ll make the right decision because if you don’t, I wouldn’t bother showing up on Monday morning if I were you”-type of “optional” cloth.

LaRussa would’ve had something to say about this, but ’m not so sure Matheny would, does, or has.  That isn’t to say it’s a good or a bad thing so much as it’s merely one difference in the way we’re seeing the team being managed today.  The friendship between Yadier Molina & Albert Pujols is a well-known one, and if the Pujols camp feels slighted, disrespected, or has other less-than-kind feelings towards the organization, Yadi has probably heard every sordid detail that Dee Dee didn’t even share in her interviews.  I tend to think that most of us would have no problem standing up for our best friend if we felt they’d been mistreated by someone, and if there was a way to send a clear message without being downright obnoxious and/or offensive about it, that’s likely a course we’d take.  Maybe that’s the case with Molina.

Maybe it isn’t.

Maybe it’s true, what we’ve heard, that the Cardinals have not approached Yadi about a contract extension.  He’s playing the 2012 under an exercised club option, but unless extended, will become a free agent at the end of this season.  Matt Morris left the Cardinals to join the San Fransisco Giants in 2005, and you know who went with him?  His good friend, Mike Matheny.  This happens sometimes, friends help recruit other friends to play for the same team.  You think Berkman didn’t talk to Beltran or hasn’t reached out to Oswalt (at least once)?  That kind of thing happens all the time.

Taking a quick peek out west, we find Hank Conger, Chris Ianetta, and Bobby Wilson listed as catchers on the 40-man roster for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Clearly, Ianetta is their guy, at over $3.5MM for 2012, but there’s a $5MM club option for him, and a $250k buyout for the 2013 season.  He’s played 100 games only twice since coming up in 2006, and with 2012 as his age 29 season, it’s reasonable to assume the organization isn’t married to the idea of keeping him around to see if he pans out.  Add to that a former great catcher who values great catching in Mike Scioscia that, by multiple accounts across baseball, “runs that team, not DiPoto”, and it’s possible that Yadi is eyeing greener pastures.

A lot can happen over the course of a season, though.  I wouldn’t even think about starting to count those chickens just yet.

For now, I’m ready to enjoy the last few weeks of this offseason, before the Cardinals head into Spring Training 2012 to defend their World Championship title.  There’s a lot to look back on from 2011 and appreciate, just as was done at the Executive Residence this week.

But, there’s an awful lot to look forward to in 2012!

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