Tag Archive | "Backup Catcher"

Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Royals Announce Series Of Roster Moves

KANSAS CITY, MO (November 2, 2012) — The Kansas City Royals today announced several 40-man Major League roster moves.  Following the moves, the Royals now have 40 players on the club’s 40-man roster.

The club has reinstated left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy and right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino from the 60-day Disabled List.  Both pitchers underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (Tommy John surgery) during the 2012 season:  Duffy on his left elbow on June 13 and Paulino on his right elbow on July 3.

In addition, the club claimed right-handed pitcher Guillermo Moscoso on Outright Waivers from the Colorado Rockies and claimed catcher Brett Hayes on Outright Waivers from the Miami Marlins.

Leaving the Royals organization is right-handed pitcher Blake Wood, who was claimed on Outright Waivers by the Cleveland Indians.

Catcher Manuel Pina was assigned outright to Omaha while left-handed pitcher Tommy Hottovy, right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress and outfielder Jason Bourgeois were designated for assignment.

The 28-year-old Moscoso (name is pronounced “jee-AIR-moh mahs-KOH-soh”), who will turn 29 on November 14, has pitched for parts of the past four seasons in the Majors with the Rangers (2009-10), Athletics (2011) and Rockies (2012).  The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder made 23 appearances, including three starts, for Colorado last season and went 3-2 with a 6.12 ERA.  His best season came in 2011 with Oakland when he compiled an 8-10 record with a 3.38 ERA in 23 games (21 starts), allowing three hits or fewer in eight starts.  Born in Maracay, Venezuela, Moscoso was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers as a non-drafted free agent in 2003.

Hayes, 28, has worked as the Marlins backup catcher for parts of the past four seasons.  In 39 games in 2012, he batted .202 with six doubles after hitting .231 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 64 contests in 2011.  Known as a strong defensive catcher, Hayes has caught 19 of 74 attempted basestealers in his career (26%).  The 6-foot, 201-pound right-handed hitter was the Marlins’ second-round selection in the 2005 draft out of the University of Nevada.  His father, Tim Hayes, was drafted by the Royals but never played professionally.

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Royals Mid-Term Report Card By Position

As we sit at the All-Star Break, we take some time to reflect on the Kansas City Royals performance by position in the first half of the season.

There is no denying that expectations were higher for this Royals team. With this being the first year having most of the young players Royals’ fans have been hearing about starting the season with the team, it is only natural that fans expected to see production right away. Well, for the first week, things looked pretty decent. Then Johnny Broxton blew a game in Oakland and everything went to hell in a handbasket for 2 weeks. The Royals proceeded to get blown out on their home opener in front of a sold out crowd, in the second of 12 consecutive losses. Once the Royals finally snapped their losing streak, they actually began playing well. Despite several more injuries to key players, they managed to claw back to 5-6 games out of first place. Then they hit a swoon last week that puts them currently at 37-47 and 9 1/2 games out of first place in the division. How has each position performed? We will fill you in on that right now:

Starting Pitcher-C minus

People may feel like this is being too generous. But based on the injuries to guys like Duffy and Paulino, what more could you expect? Bruce Chen has regressed a little, and Luke Hochevar has been his same unreliable and inconsistent self. But Luis Mendoza has been a pleasant surprise, and guys like Vin Mazzarro, Nate Adcock, and Everett Teaford have done an ok job filling in. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Sanchez, I might be able to give this group a B minus.

Brayan Pena will always be Brayan Pena. But this year he has solidified himself as a solid clubhouse presence as well as a high quality backup catcher. He and Humberto Quintero had to start more games than the Royals would have preferred due to Salvador Perez‘s knee injury, but that’s what they’re there for. Quintero is now gone, and since Perez returned from injury, he has been a monster in every respect. It would not surprise me if the Catcher position receives an A for its final grade based on what Perez is able to contribute in the second half of the season.

First Base-D plus

Eric Hosmer now has his batting average up to .231. This is saying something, considering it doesn’t seem that long ago that he was hitting a meager .179. The Royals and their fans expected more out of Hosmer this season, as they should have. I believe he will turn it around and have a very solid 2nd half of the season.

2nd Base-B

The tandem of Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz (when he as been healthy) has certainly outpaced expectations for this year. Johnny Giovatella’s less than inspiring performance after getting called up is certainly a downer, but overall I think the Royals have gotten more offensively than they expected to out of the 2nd Base position.

3rd Base-A

Mike Moustakas has exceeded all expectations both offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 29 HR’s and 91 RBI. While nobody doubted he could put up numbers like this eventually, nobody expected it to come this year. On top of that, he is playing gold glove calibur defense.


Alcides Escobar is hitting .307 and slugging .410. He also has 21 doubles at the break. And is probably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Yes, we will take that.


Defensively, the trio of Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, and Jarrod Dyson has performed quite well. Offensively, however, the production coming from the 3 outfield spots is well below where it was last year and well below where anyone expected it to be this year. After a slow start, Alex Gordon has now raised his batting average to .274 with 27 doubles. However, his 5 HR’s are well off the pace of the 23 that he clubbed in 2011. His speed on the basebaths has also somehow disappeared, as he sits at 3 SB’s after swiping 17 bags last year. Jeff Francoeur has been similarly disappointing at the plate. After hitting .285 with 20 HR, 85 RBI, and 22 SB’s a season ago, he currently sits with a batting average of .251, 7 HR, 25 RBI, and just 1 SB. This is far from the kind of production they were hoping for in 2012, and is the primary reason Royals fans are clamoring for Wil Myers to replace Frenchy in RF. And the lack of production in CF is almost entirely due to the injury of Lorenzo Cain, who is scheduled to return this coming weekend. Jarrod Dyson is a nice player with a limited skillset, so he is performing about as well as one could reasonably expect him to. So once Cain comes back we should see an uptick in production from the CF position.

Bullpen-A minus

A lot has been asked of this bullpen and for the most part they have delivered. Even with Joakim Soria going down before the season, Jonathan Broxton has stepped up and performed admirably in the closer’s role. Kelvin Herrera, Tim Collins, Jose Mijares, Greg Holland, and Aaron Crow have also been very reliable options out of the pen. The hope is that this group was not over-used in the first half of the season and doesn’t break down, but time will tell.

Looking at these performances, it is hard to not feel somewhat optimistic about the 2nd half of the season. With drastic increases in production expected from Catcher (Perez), Right Field (Myers), Center-Field (Cain), and the opportunity for Gordon to show improvement from the first half, the Royals could find themselves in position to make some noise in the 2nd half of 2012.

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Meet the newest Royals, Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois

With catchers Salvador Perez and Manny Pina being out for 2-3 months with knee injuries, the Kansas City Royals made a trade Tuesday, acquiring catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois from the Houston Astros for minor league left-hander Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later. To make room for the newest Royals, the team put Perez and Pina on the 60-day disabled list.

Ever since Perez’s injury, the Royals expressed interest to acquire a catcher outside the organization. There were rumors the Royals invited Ivan Rodriguez to camp, but it ended up being just rumors. Instead, the Royals went the trade route, getting Quintero.

The 32 year-old Quintero is a nine-year major league veteran, playing for the San Deigo Padres from 2003-2004 and with the Houston Astros from 2005-2011. He’s been a career backup catcher, appearing in 379 games. Quintero appeared in 88 games in 2010, the most he’s played in a season.

Quintero’s career line is .234/.268/.321, so the Royals didn’t get him for his hitting. They got him for catching and throwing ability and his major league experience. For now, Quintero expects to play two to four days a week, splitting playing time with Brayan Pena.

It was clear the Royals didn’t see Max Ramirez as a solution, despite his good spring offensive numbers. In fact, Ramirez only started a handful of spring training games as a catcher, so the Royals didn’t have much faith in his catching abilities. Cody Clark doesn’t have major league catching experience and it’s likely the Royals believe Clark would be a better fit for AAA Omaha, where they also need catching help.

There is one concern and hopefully it’s a minor one. This spring, Quintero was out with a bulging disk in his back but returned to action over the weekend. At least it’s not his knee.

As for Bourgeois, the 30 year-old outfielder has four years in the majors, playing for the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Astros. Bourgeois played 192 major league games in his career with a .262/.307/.324 line with 431 plate appearances and 22 RBIs. His speed and versatility are his main assets, with 46 career stolen bases, with 31 of those in 2011. Bourgeois also hits well against left-handers, with a .328 batting average compared to .205 against right-handers.

Bourgeois is not a everyday player, so Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jeff Francoeur have little to worry about. But with his versatility of playing all outfield positions and some second base, players like Mitch Meier and Jarrod Dyson have some competition for the reserve outfielder job. Who knows, maybe Manager Ned Yost might have Bourgeois in the second base mix between Johnny Giavotella, Chris Getz and Yuni Betancourt. It is spring training after all.

Probably not. The Royals see Bourgeois as a right-handed reserve outfielder who’s a cross between Meier and Dyson. The odd man out in this situation could be Dyson, who bats from the left side but doesn’t have the versatility of a Bourgeois.

Both Bourgeois and Dyson have options remaining, so it’s likely one of them makes the Opening Day roster and the other one goes to Omaha. If Bourgeois goes to Omaha, he would serve as outfield depth in case someone get injured. If Dyson goes to Omaha, he would get more playing time, perhaps improving his chances of developing into an everyday outfielder. If either player makes the Royals roster, it will be as a reserve outfielder.

The Astros get Chapman, a 24 year-old left-handed relief pitcher who played two seasons with A+ Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas. His career ERA is high at 5.06, and he gave up 9.1 hits per nine innings. But his strikeouts per nine innings is 12.4, so Chapman gets a lot of strikeouts. Chapman projects to be a reliever if he makes it to the majors. And that could be soon, since he’s with the Astros.

The other player the Astros get is our old friend player to be named later. It’s uncertain who it is, but according to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, this player was a big reason the Astros did the trade. Don’t worry, Royals fans, it’s doubtful the PTBNL are either outfielders Bubba Starling, Wil Myers or pitcher Jake Odorizzi. It better not be, if Dayton Moore wants to keep his job. And if Royals fans want to keep their sanity.

Quintero and Bourgeois are not long-term solutions for the Royals. Quintero was acquired to fill the gap of Perez and Pina being gone for half the season and Bourgeois was acquired to provide outfield depth and perhaps give Dyson and Meier some competition as a reserve outfielder. For now, they fill some holes, if nothing else.

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Adron Chambers Arrives In St. Louis

The Cardinals announced their final September call ups to join the team now that the Memphis Redbirds have concluded their season. Tony Cruz, Tyler Greene and Adron Chambers will all arrive in St. Louis in time for the September 6th matchup with the Brewers.

Tyler Greene will be given every chance to prove that he can be the shortstop on this team in 2012. Tony Cruz may very well be trying to prove the same thing at the backup catcher position. Adron Chambers, well, he is simply getting a chance to show what he has.

Chambers was a player that the team drafted in late rounds (38th round of the 2007 draft) and placed little pressure on to become anything more than an extra piece in the machine. Chambers, however, had other ideas and showed that he was willing to be patient and improve at every step.

One of the fastest prospects in the Cardinals organization, Chambers has proven to be able to produce a solid on base percentage, a fair amount of walks, and a good glove in the field. He does come with his share of strikeouts, though he has lowered his strikeout per plate appearance average every year, just not by much. The left handed outfielder stands in at only five foot ten inches tall and 180 pounds, but is enjoying a power surge this year, clubbing 10 home runs and 19 doubles to go with his 44 runs batted in. He shows off his speed with 22 stolen bases while only being caught 13 times this season.

The most interesting thing about Chambers may be the one thing that Tony LaRussa has been looking for: he can hit lefties and righties. In fact, his splits are almost identical this season, posting a .274/.366/.703 (Avg/On Base/OPS) slash-line against left handers, while posting a nearly identical .278/.368/.813 against righties. He does seem to hit for power better with a right handed pitcher on the mound, but he is not a hindrance just because of the hurler’s arm preference.

Here is a quick look at Chambers’ career numbers from our friends at Baseball Reference.

2007 20 Johnson City Rk 36 129 111 16 31 7 1 0 10 6 5 10 21 .279 .362 .360 .723 40
2008 21 Quad Cities A 95 384 336 56 80 13 7 3 25 13 8 33 66 .238 .322 .345 .667 116
2009 22 Palm Beach A+ 122 517 448 66 127 17 16 1 46 21 12 47 96 .283 .370 .400 .770 179
2010 23 2 Teams AA-AAA 112 375 321 63 91 9 6 6 35 14 5 40 68 .283 .379 .405 .784 130
2010 23 Springfield AA 75 292 252 52 71 9 5 5 27 8 4 31 50 .282 .376 .417 .793 105
2010 23 Memphis AAA 37 83 69 11 20 0 1 1 8 6 1 9 18 .290 .390 .362 .753 25
2011 24 Memphis AAA 127 496 421 72 117 19 4 10 44 22 13 53 88 .278 .370 .413 .783 174
5 Seasons 492 1901 1637 273 446 65 34 20 160 76 43 183 339 .272 .362 .390 .752 639
AAA (2 seasons) AAA 164 579 490 83 137 19 5 11 52 28 14 62 106 .280 .373 .406 .779 199
A (1 season) A 95 384 336 56 80 13 7 3 25 13 8 33 66 .238 .322 .345 .667 116
AA (1 season) AA 75 292 252 52 71 9 5 5 27 8 4 31 50 .282 .376 .417 .793 105
Rk (1 season) Rk 36 129 111 16 31 7 1 0 10 6 5 10 21 .279 .362 .360 .723 40
A+ (1 season) A+ 122 517 448 66 127 17 16 1 46 21 12 47 96 .283 .370 .400 .770 179
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/5/2011.

How much playing time Chambers will get in 2011 has yet to be seen, but the young man is impressing the organization every year and just might be getting the first serious look at the big stage that he so well deserves.

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The Best Kind Of Revenge

August 10, 2010 was Jason LaRue‘s last day on a Major League field.

Most know the story: a fight that was incited by comments from Brandon Phillips the night before led to an all-out brawl that caused the mob of red-clad ballplayers-turned-fighters to crash into the backstop. One of the first ones to hit the wall was the Reds’ starter in last night’s game, Johnny Cueto.

Cueto started kicking–with his spikes on–at the two people closest to him: last night’s Cards starter Chris Carpenter and backup catcher LaRue. Carp got scratches on his back. LaRue got concussed and was rendered unable to play pro baseball ever again.

Cueto was suspended for seven games. One start.

The next time he was due to pitch against the Cardinals, he conveniently had family matters to attend to. But he made an appearance in St. Louis tonight. God knows what was going through the Cardinals players’ heads.

Carpenter remembered. He probably still has the scars Cueto gave him on that August afternoon in Cincinnati. He does remember what kind of impact Cueto had that day. After all, he had a front row seat to it all.

Maybe he was just carrying over his recent success. Maybe he was filled with the desire to beat that guy pitching the other halves of innings. Probably both. But he matched him for seven innings. Seven innings of shutout ball from each starter. There were close calls and amazing plays on both sides, but the score remained stagnant for both sides for seven long innings.

As the game progressed into the Fourth of July night, you got that tightness in your gut of pure excitement every time someone on either team made it on base. Both pitchers seemed extremely vulnerable and unstoppable at the same time. But one of them would stand, and one would fall. The one that would make it through had to be Carp. He couldn’t let that dirtbag shove gis team into a deficit in the NL Central standings. Not this time.

Carpenter finished off the Reds again in the eighth inning with 119 pitches right after his longest Cardinals outing ever four days ago; the score still 0-0. Then Cueto became the one who fell.

Colby Rasmus led off with a single. After Yadier Molina finally got a bunt down after five pitches, Cueto bobbled it and was forced to throw to first instead of getting Razz out at second. Skip Schumaker flew out to get him to third, bringing in Mark Hamilton who was hitting for Carp. With two outs, Mark hit a grounder to Scott Rolen at third, who slid to catch the ball and fire it to first in what is being called one of the best plays all year. One problem: Hamilton beat the throw. 1-0 Cardinals.

Fernando Salas had a one-two-three ninth, ensuring Cueto’s defeat as news poured in that the Brewers had blown yet another game, this time in Arizona. The Cards were now alone in first place while the Reds stood at 43-43 and a game and a half behind the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But most importantly, Johnny Cueto lost. He didn’t get throttled, chewed up and spit out in the first inning. No, he pitched a great game, got so close to beating Cincinnati nemesis Chris Carpenter. But he fell about one foot short. That was probably the best revenge of all.

Postscript: Hit me up at my site

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Cardinals Survive La Russa’s Over-Managing, Win I-70 Series Ugly

Former major league pitcher, Scott Bailes, once told all a manager has to do to be great is stay out of the way.

“A great manager is worth maybe 4 wins a year,” he said when I asked how important managers really are in the game of baseball. Most would agree that Tony La Russa is a great manager, but that doesn’t mean he won’t drive you crazy sometimes.

Sunday’s rubber game of the I-70 series was a perfect example of La Russa overthinking and over-managing his ballclub. The Cardinals jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable 6-1 lead in the top of the 5th, so Tony decided to protect the 5 run cushion with a defensive replacement for 2nd baseman Allen Craig. Craig walked, mashed a 2-run home run, and ripped a single right through Royals’ 1st baseman, Eric Hosmer. It was after that 5th inning single that Craig was lifted in favor of Tyler Greene. Greene eventually came around to score on an RBI fielder’s choice by Matt Holliday, who just so happened to be the next casualty to La Russa’s lineup shuffle.

La Russa felt Holliday might have aggravated his sore quad muscle, so he decided to “play it safe” and lift Holliday for backup catcher, Gerald Laird. Holliday was already the designated hitter, and could’ve easily stayed in the game, but La Russa yanked him anyway. Now at the time, this was probably the right move, but it’s tough to take two big bats out of the lineup in a matter of five minutes…even with a 7-1 lead.

In the bottom of the 5th, the writing on the wall became clear. With two outs and runners at the corners, Jaime Garcia induced what would’ve been an inning ending pop-up to short. But pop-up was dropped by… you guessed it… Tony’s defensive replacement, Tyler Greene. This was Greene’s second such drop of a pop up in a week, the first of which also came during a Jaime Garcia start. The Cardinals were still in control though with a 7-2 lead through five.

The biggest head scratcher was La Russa’s quick hook with Jaime Garcia in the 6th. Garcia had only thrown 84 pitches and still held a 7-3 lead after giving up a leadoff home run. Garcia is among the league leaders in innings pitched and typically goes deep into games, but pulling him with 12 outs to go seemed incredibly premature. Not surprisingly, the Royals exploited the Cardinals bullpen for 4 runs in the next 2 innings, tying the game up at 7.

You thought Tony was done making questionable moves? Think again. With 2 on and no outs in the Top of the 9th, Tony ordered Daniel Descalso to bunt the runners over. That’s all well and good, but you know what else moves the runners up? A Walk. Yet La Russa had Descalso lay down a sacrifice on a 3-0 pitch. 3-0! The move backfired, and the Cardinals limped into extra innings.

Fortunately for Cardinals fans, the only thing that can overcome inept managing is inept pitching, and that’s exactly what the Royals offered in the 10th. The Cardinals were able to plate two runs on a leadoff walk, an error, a hit batsman, and two more walks with the bases loaded.

The Cardinals were lucky to survive their manager and claim the first of two I-70 series this year. The rematch comes in mid-June back home at Busch.

The good news is: The Cardinals will again be the favorites to win the next installment of the series.

The bad news is: Tony is already salivating at the chance to out-smart and American League manager in a national league park.

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Cards Droppings Previews Reds at St. Louis

Mike over at Cards Droppings does a great job breaking down the series as they come up. We are glad to share that information with you here on I-70 and ask you to click the link at the bottom of the article to read the rest of the material on the home site.

After a quick 3 games in 28 hours, the Cardinals move on to take on their bitter rivals, the Cincinnati Reds. There are so many subplots here. Let’s take a look at just a few of them:

  • Johnny “Karate” Cueto basically ended Jason LaRue’s career last year after his infamous kick-assault on our backup catcher.
  • The Cardinals fired Walt Jocketty, and he’s now the general manager of the Reds. He absolutely has every right to want to beat the Cardinals after he was shoved out of an organization to which he brought so much success.
  • Johnny Gomes, after hearing about the Adam Wainwright injury this spring, reportedly was celebrating in the Reds’ spring training clubhouse. He denies this, but knowing Gomes, I am sure that the reports of him being amped up were spot on.
  • Scott Rolen was basically pushed out of town due to his failed relationship with Tony LaRussa. Although he’s out for game one of this series, it’s certain that Rolen LOVES giving his old team trouble whenever he can.
  • Troublemaker Brandon Phillips has been tweeting like crazy ripping on St. Louis: ”My teammates ask me if I knew where some good places 2 eat at in St. Louis! I said, “Yea, come with me 2 the store 2 get some Lunchables!” and “Just landed in St. Louis! Sad face… But these wins will make me happy! On our way 2 the hotel & I hope its not Hilton at the BallPark! Lol”
  • Mike Leake turned into a petty thief recently, stealing $60 worth of shirts at Macy’s. Matt Sebek, over at JoeSportsFan.com, has done a brilliant job of getting us ready for this series. He’s come up with an awesome shirt to taunt Reds fans. Read all about it here.

Read the rest of Mike’s breakdown of the series by clicking here.

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Why Bean-ball is Bad Baseball

Many bloggers and sports writers will be putting together their top stories of the 2010 baseball season, and among many of those will be the August 10 game between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

On the day before, Cincinnati Reds second baseman made some inflammatory remarks about the Cardinals. As he came up to bat in the first inning of this game, catcher Yadier Molina stood up to him and voiced his disapproval, rather vigorously. Both benches emptied and a scrum soon formed that trapped pitchers Chris Carpenter and Johnny Cueto against the backstop. In the mass of players, Cueto started kicking Cardinals, striking backup catcher Jason LaRue repeatedly in the head. His injuries, combined with the wear and tear of 12 years of catching in the major leagues, ended his career.

The immediate question for the Cardinals is what should they do ?

Fans across Cardinals Nation who were outraged at Cueto’s actions screamed for some old school bean-ball, and soon. I must include myself in this group as there was nothing I wanted more than some retaliation against the Reds.

Let’s take a look at a few situations in Cardinals history and see if, after learning what resulted, we still want to see an opponent get hit by a pitch.

June 17, 1965

This was the last of a four game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals had won the first game by the score of 5-2 with the win going to Ron Taylor in long relief of a 20 year old left hander named Steve Carlton. There was a little bit of chippiness in this game that would carry over to the next three. In the third inning, a pitch got away from Carlton and hit second baseman, Bill Mazeroski. Nothing came of his miscue, and Carlton retired the next batter to end the inning. In the Cardinals half of the fifth, Pirates hurler Bob Veale would retaliate and hit Cards first baseman, Bill White. While Carlton hitting Mazeroski was a pitch getting away from a youngster in his first major league start, this was a purpose pitch meant to deliver a message. That message would be full of irony as the next batter, Carl Warwick, hit a ball that left fielder Bob Bailey played into a 2 run error which turned out to be the winning runs in the ballgame.

The second game would be a wild affair featuring 24 hits, 14 by the Pirates and 10 by the Cardinals. Back to back triples by Jerry Buchek and Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals would be erased by a poor relief effort by Tracy Stallard. The first big blow was a game tying home run by pinch hitter Ozzie Virgil, leading off the seventh inning. Stallard would give up another lead-off home run in the next inning, this time to Donn Clendenon. The Cardinals would get back into the game late, but Donn Clendenon’s second homer of the game, a three run shot in the top of the 9th inning put the game out of reach and Pittsburgh would win, 10-6.

As wild as that game was, the next one was worse. Ray Washburn of the Cardinals would be staked to a quick 6-0 lead, but was unable to make it hold up. The Pirates chipped away, inning after inning, pulling to within a run in the seventh when Bob Purkey took over for Washburn. A single, sacrifice bunt and another clutch hit from Carl Warwick gave the Cardinals a two run lead with just 2 innings to play.

Unfortunately, Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon had a different idea of how the game would end. After a Willie Stargell double, Clendenon ties the game at 7 runs each with his third home run in the last two games. A rattled Bob Purkey let’s a pitch get away from him and he hits Gene Alley. In the next inning, Pirates reliever Frank Caprin hits Lou Brock in retaliation. Like in the Carlton game, karma came back to bite the Bucs when Bill White sacrifices home one run and a Ken Boyer single gives the Cardinals back their 2 run lead at 9-7.

Back to the mound goes closer Barney Schultz and his knuckleball. I’m not making this next part up. Bob Uecker had replaced Tim McCarver behind the plate as part of an offensive double switch. Schultz strikes out Bill Virdon to start the inning, but the ball gets past Uecker allowing Virdon to reach first base. Manny Mota follows that up with a tailor-made double play ball that shortstop Jerry Buchek boots, allowing both runners to reach base safely. You know what happens next, right ? Willie Stargell hits a long 3 run homer to give the Pirates a 10-9 lead that would hold up when the Cardinals go quietly in the home half of the ninth inning.

So far, 2 pitches that got away and 2 retaliations – one that cost the Pirates a game, and one that should have. But that’s not the story here.

When Bob Gibson takes the mound for the final game, on June 17, he retires the first two batters rather quickly. In steps Donn Clendenon, who had 3 home runs in the last two games, and all three played a huge role in the Cardinals losses. Clendenon knew what was coming, as did the almost 12,000 fans in attendance. Gibson plunks the big first baseman, and he professionally takes his base. Gibson, being Gibson, strikes out Willie Stargell to end the inning – sending a very clear and unambiguous message.

Pirates starter, Vern Law, received that message and had one of his own to give. He immediately hits Cardinals lead-off hitter, Julian Javier in retaliation of the Clendenon plunk earlier in the game. This was not one of the harmless in-the-ribcage or on the rump pitches, this one got in hard on Javier’s hands and the result was a broken hand for the Cardinals second baseman.

The Cardinals would lose the game, 4-1, but the bigger loss was their All-Star second baseman. Javier, who had already missed the 1964 World Series with an injury, would miss the next month and a half. But it was much more than that. Hand and wrist injuries can be especially tricky, and Javier’s would haunt him for the rest of this season and all of the next. He would hit a career low .228 (just .195 after returning from the disabled list) and even lower .227 in 1966. A promising catalyst at the top of the Cardinals order had just been lost for effectively two seasons because he was the unfortunate retaliation victim of Donn Clendenon’s sudden offensive surge and two heartbreaking Cardinals losses.

September 2 and 3, 1967

These were the last two games games of the season between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros. The Cardinals had a seemingly insurmountable lead in the National League, and were nearly 30 games ahead of the hapless Astros. Ray Washburn and Nelson Briles cruised to easy victories in the first two games of the series, winning 5-1 and 5-0.

The game on September 2 featured a more confident Steve Carlton, but a little bit of wildness in the first inning gave the Astros a quick 1-0 lead. That would evaporate quickly as Houston starter, and future Cardinal reliever, Dave Guisti would have a terrible time retiring batters in the his half of the inning. Walks and wild pitches would doom Guisti and the Astros as the Cardinals took a 4-1 lead. A two run homer by Tim McCarver and continued wildness by Guisti would bring Tom Dukes into the game in the fifth inning. Dukes proceeds to hit Orlando Cepeda – not as a purpose pitch but perhaps a lapse of concentration, or maybe even some frustration. Nothing came out of this particular incident and Carlton would cruise to an 8-2 victory, just as Washburn and Briles had done in the previous two.

The final game on September 3 would feature rookie phenomenon Dick Hughes (13-5) against Dave Eilers. If there was one pitcher on the Cardinals staff you didn’t want to anger, it was Dick Hughes. With Gibson out, he became the staff ace – and he threw just as hard as Gibson.

This game would begin much like the previous one. Hughes was simply dominating, and then Eilers had trouble getting out of the first inning. Five singles, a stolen base (Brock, of course) and a double brought nine Cardinals to bat in the inning, and five of them scored.

Eilers got into trouble again in the fifth inning when he failed to get the third out, after retiring 2 of the first 3 men he would face. Reliever Bo Belinksy wouldn’t fare any better as he would give up back to back doubles with the big blow coming off the bat of Orlando Cepeda. The Cardinals lead was now 10-0, and Houston was being embarrassed terribly.

When Belinsky faces Orlando Cepeda in the sixth inning, more frustration comes out and Cepeda is hit by a pitch for the second time in two games. As with the situation in Pittsburgh in 1965, karma stuck up it’s head, and this would be followed shortly by a 2 run single by Mike Shannon.

Initially things seemed fine as Cepeda stayed in the game. He would even double in his next at-bat, giving him a nifty 4-4 day. The Cardinals would eventually win 13-1, but things weren’t right with Cepeda after this game. He finished the game hitting .347 and was in a tight race with teammate Curt Flood and Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente for the league lead in hitting. After this game, Cepeda would only manage a puny .162 batting average with 1 home run and just 4 RBIs.

Cepeda would get another close call near the end of the season when Atlanta’s Ron Reed would hit him on the wrist with a pitch. He would be taken out of the game and missed the next one as a precaution.

Cepeda would end the season rather quietly, and be completely silenced by the Red Sox in the World Series. His performance, up to those two games with the Astros, was enough to earn him the 1967 NL MVP award, but those of us that saw him play witnessed a much different hitter after those two games with Houston.

Chalking his poor finish in 1967 up to late season fatigue, Cepeda worked hard on the off-season to build up some body mass, and a bigger and stronger Cepeda showed up for the 1968 season. While offensive production was down with most of the Cardinal hitters in 1968, the exception being Dal Maxvill who turned in a career year, none saw a decline like Cepeda. When the dust settled on the the Cardinals second consecutive NL Pennant, Cepeda saw his batting average drop over 70 points. His RBI total lead the league in 1967 with 111 but would fall to just 73 in 1968. Clearly, something was not right with Cepeda.

He would be traded to Atlanta following his disappointing 1968 season and would struggle in his first season with the Braves. He would rebound nicely in 1970 and post numbers nearly identical to his 1967 MVP season. As with Javier, perhaps it took him a season or two to recover from some nasty after-effects of being hit so many times with pitches in and around his hands.

May 23, 2009

The Jekyll and Hyde first place St. Louis Cardinals had just swept the Chicago Cubs and taken the first of a three game series against the Kansas City Royals. This middle game would feature Kyle Lohse for the Cardinals and Luke Hochevar for the Royals.

Lohse had just come off a career year in 2008, going 15-6 with a career low 3.78 ERA. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a four year contract extension, keeping him a Cardinal through the 2012 season. In turn, he rewarded the club by starting off strong in 2009, but had struggled in his last few starts.

In this game, Lohse was on complete cruise control, totally relaxed. Nothing but retiring Royals batters. He did run into a bit of trouble in the sixth inning. With one out, Billy Butler would single. Lohse would then throw one a bit inside to Jose Guillen, and it would hit the Royals slugger. Nothing came out of it, and the inning ended quietly.

On the other side of the diamond, Lohse as a hitter started a nice rally in the home half of the seventh inning. He would lead off with a swinging bunt single (it was not pretty, but it was effective). Tyler Greene would sacrifice him into scoring position. Ron Mahay would take over for Hochevar and get into some trouble rather quickly. A seeing eye single and infield groundout allowed Lohse to score, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead in the game.

Mahay would get into trouble again in the 8th inning. A lead-off double by Brendan Ryan, followed by a sacrifice bunt from from Yadier Molina put another runner 90 feet from home plate. A walk to Brian Barden put the double play in order, but when Kyle Lohse turned around to execute a non-squeeze bunt, Mahay threw hard and inside to the Cardinals pitcher, and the ball hit Lohse in the forearm on his pitching arm. Karma proved to be a great equalizer as Mahay would follow that with a bases loaded walk to Tyler Greene, forcing in the fifth Cardinals run in the game.

Lohse would leave the game, and Chris Perez would finish it, preserving the shutout. The Cardinals would win the game, but would lose one of their big arms in the rotation – for the next season and a half. Loshe would develop arm troubles and struggle through the remainder of 2009 and all of 2010. He would eventually have arm surgery to correct a problem that was caused by the Mahay pitch, and has yet to return to anything resembling what we had seen prior to that game.

Once again, a valuable contributor has lost more than a season due to a stray pitch.

Do it like Yadi did

If a retaliatory pitch isn’t the answer, what is ?

Again, a bit of selective (and recent) history can help us find the answer, and we have to look no farther than Yadier Molina, who started the whole mess on August 10, 2010.

The first thing he did, and really the only one that was totally within his control, was to settle down his rookie pitcher, Jaime Garcia. If Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter were on the mound, maybe things would have played out differently, but Molina immediately took control of the game and out of the hands of Garcia. He called a normal game and let his pitcher get into a familiar routine.

The legend of Yadier Molina grew in his first at bat, when he silenced the somewhat underwhelming Cincinnati crowd by hitting a solo home run. That extended the Cardinals lead to 2-0. They would need both of those runs when the Reds answered with 2 runs of their own.

In Molina’s next at-bat, he would hit a two out single, sending Matt Holliday to third base. He would then steal second base, adding a bit of insult to the poor game that Johnny Cueto was pitching at the time. Nothing would come out of that when Skip Schumaker struck out to end the inning, but the next time the heart of the order would come up to bat, they would break the game wide open.

After a dribbler of a single by Albert Pujols and consecutive RBI doubles by Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus, it was Yadier Molina that delivered the knock-out punch with a deep sacrifice fly, scoring Rasmus who had advanced to third when his line drive double was booted. That sent Cueto to the showers and proved to be the game winning run.

As a fan of old-school baseball, I appreciate how baseball players used to police the game themselves. Occasionally it would involve a purpose pitch or two, but too often those had unintended consequences. Maybe if the pitchers today had the control of their predecessors, I might think differently – but they don’t. Instead of bean-ball, I’d like to see players do what Yadi did on August 10, 2010 and just take over the game.

Bob Netherton covers Cardinals history for i70baseball.com and writes at Throatwarbler’s Blog. You may follow Bob on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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Making a List And Checking it Twice…

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one’s just begun…

–John Lennon

Christmas is here. It is today. So what have the St. Louis Cardinals done?

At the end of the 2010 season, they knew full well what the 2011 team needed in order to succeed. The list was made out just like if a kid was getting ready to mail a letter to Santa: more offense from the middle infield, more stability in the rotation, more pop from right field, a solid backup catcher, better depth, better overall team focus.

How many of those items does the team find under the tree this morning? The rotation certainly seems more stable with a full year of Jake Westbrook and a presumably healthy Kyle Lohse. Gerald Laird should prove to be a capable backup; he is known more for his defense than his offense, but his best offensive numbers came in years when he appeared in less than 100 games (except for last year…of course). On paper, Ryan Theriot should provide more offense than Brendan Ryan, and Lance Berkman should provide more pop than Jon Jay. Both have reputations of being consummate professionals who will bring a renewed focus and maturity to the clubhouse. But the question with Theriot is one of defense and the question with Berkman is one of durability.

So the Cards’ wishes have not been totally fulfilled. Of course, it’s impossible to know how the season will play out. But I think the team may find they have some new wishes come Spring Training based on what we know for certain about the 2011 roster as it is currently constructed.

Depth – Yes, it was the one thing I did not address above. And even if I had, depth (or lack thereof) is so important it would probably still show up here. The Cards suffered mightily in 2010 when 2/5 of the rotation and the starting third baseman went down to injury. The problem compounded further when, in anticipation of David Freese’s return to the lineup, Ryan Ludwick was traded and Freese had a setback. Other than Laird, the Cardinals have not made one move to add to their bench. They have no clear backup plan should a starter need a couple weeks to recover from a minor injury. This is exactly the position the team was in last year. I know the regular season is still a few months away, but how long will they wait?

Defense – The middle infield has taken a hit on defense…everyone knows that. The Cardinals have all but said this sacrifice was acceptable to upgrade the offense. But remember, the Cardinals preach pitch-to-contact. It will be interesting to see how many balls get through the infield that may have been gobbled up last year. Perhaps the extra hits and runs allowed will be balanced out by the assumed bump in offense if everyone is healthy. But how will it affect the pitching staff? Will they now be asked to pitch for strikeouts? Maybe they will assume it on their own. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter have the ability to be power pitchers to a point, but that about the others? And speaking of…

Closer – Ryan Franklin has succeeded as the Cards’ closer for most of the last three seasons. He also thrives under the pitch-to-contact philosophy, and “makes it interesting” from time to time in the 9th inning. Some fans cannot stand having Franklin as the closer, but it never bothered me all that much because his numbers were always acceptable. This year, however, I am officially joining the ranks of the concerned. Franklin is in the last year of his contract and has already hinted at retirement as his next move. He is not a power pitcher, and hitters put the ball in play on him. Will Franklin be on a short leash? Should he be? The Cards do have power pitchers in their bullpen in the form of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. But how loyal will Tony LaRussa be to his incumbent?

It seems like the Cardinals will have less margin for error than ever. They have addressed some needs; others remain, and still others may manifest. Either way, I find it hard to accept that the Cardinals are done shopping this offseason.

Merry Christmas, everybody. And, no matter what, Go Cards.

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