Tag Archive | "Cardinals"

Cardinals Player-By-Player Grades At The Half

The Cardinals are now well past the technical halfway point of the season, but the ceremonial one that is the All-Star Break is still ahead. With that coming, it is a fair time to assess where the individual parts of the team stand thus far, via the time tested and approved method: the good old grade card.

It has been a frustrating season for lofty expectations, but a deceivingly successful one other ways. The team is far from out of the divisional race and in the heart of the wild card race. It is a team that has not been prone to long runs of success (season high win streak: 5 games), but it does not stay down for long either (a three game losing streak is its worst). The ebb and flow of the year is what has been confusing for fans, team and management alike. Answers are not easy to come by it seems why they have not been better, more often.

 Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

However a look at the lineup explains that in easy detail. Coming out of Monday night’s walk off victory, the team is still a perplexing mix. They have scored the third fewest runs in the NL and have hit the least home runs by a difference of eight. Simply put, it is an offense that simply has not gotten the job done to the level it is capable of. And while the picture is constantly shifting, it is a team that simply has to play better as it is, because it is all in on its reasonably ready assets on the big league roster right now.

There are several crucial players that the club is vested in that simply have to snap out of it for this team, that is still very much in midst of the NL hunt this year, to move to the front of the pack.

Here is how the everyday options are scoring out halfway through. We will take a look at the pitching staff tomorrow.

Grade A: Yadier Molina, Matt Adams

It has not been Molina’s greatest half of his career, but all things considered that is a pretty high standard to meet regardless. Yet he still approaches the All-Star Break within earshot of a .300 average, leads the Majors in caught stealing percentage at 50% of would be base thieves and has once again guided the pitching staff through more than a few valleys this year. In addition to gutting through what seems to be some health issues or perhaps just the side effects of innings beginning to catch up to him, he has maintained an above average presence and has been rewarded with his sixth All-Star nod as a result.

Adams has more than adjusted well to the full-time role at first base. Despite not putting up the raw power only numbers that would have been guessed for him headed into the year, he was become a much more effective all-around hitter than could be expected as well. He is leading all NL first basemen in batting average (.331) and top three in doubles (21) and slugging percentage (.536).

Grade B: Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Jhonny Peralta, Tony Cruz

The perception of it is mostly held back by the simply off the charts season he posted a year ago, but regardless Carpenter is having an impressive campaign. He has been a mainstay at the top of the lineup, posted an impressive .379 on-base percentage across an NL-high 398 plate appearances. He has continued to swing what could be considered a ‘clutch’ bat as well, carrying a .328 average with runners in scoring position. Most importantly, he has provided a major defensive upgrade at third base, which has bettered the team’s complete defensive potential as well. He’s the grit of the club on a daily basis.

Jay has continued to refuse to be written off and has been a much needed steading presence in a centerfield picture that was hazy at best through the first two months of the season. Despite any opinion that looks to take away from his value to the team, it has been his versatility and resilience that has truly helped eliminate what could have been a huge and lingering issue up the middle.

The easy way to score out Peralta is to point out what he has not done well, which would be mainly reach base consistently. However, when taking a step back and remembering what he was brought here to do—namely upgrade the non-existent everyday production from the shortstop spot a year ago and be a solid option towards the bottom half of the order—he has exceeded splendidly. He leads the club in home runs and doubles, and has played better than anticipated in the field as well.

Cruz has the tough job of being the rarely used fill in that has to step in for the club’s most valuable (and regularly active) property. His appearances, as usual, have mostly come after long inactive stints, but he has made the most of those opportunities so far. Cruz has posted a (…..) as a starter. Add in the work he did in steadying out Lance Lynn early in the year and he has been very dependable—when needed.

Grade C: Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong

He is annually a slow starter, but at some point Holliday always has ‘that month’ where he does nothing but tear the cover off of the ball and then settles into his usual level of above average production. He is yet to embark on that run this year, and actually, his average has been in a steep decline all year: .294 in April, .266 in May then a season low .244 in June. Holliday’s greatest asset in his time in St. Louis has been a steadily productive presence to be a catalyst for the rest of the team to build off of. Yet in a lineup in desperate need of that axis, his downswing has been particularly crippling. He is on pace for just nine home runs and 74 RBI coming into Monday night.

Wong’s season has been one that has come in flashes of both brilliance and frustration. There was the slow start that saw him demoted briefly, but then followed by being NL Rookie of the Month in May. Then there was the shoulder injury that cost him half of June after a rapid decline in production has he tried to play through it. However, the talent is clear and he simply having the type of rollercoaster campaign that rookies (albeit a slightly unlucky one) go through.

Grade D: Allen Craig, Mark Ellis

Craig’s season has been one that has been a near complete loss. Gone is full field, line drive power that saw him be the team’s run producing engine a year ago. Replacing it has been a hitter that has struggled with timing and balance at the plate, and has seen his average drop over 60 points. He has not been aided by the bullheaded positioning that has kept him in the midst of a lineup where he would be best placed much lower, for the greater good of himself and the club. There have been runs where he has resembled his former self, but right now, he is quickly becoming the third option in the three way Adams-Tavares-Craig disco for positional playing time.

Ellis has been as solid as advertised on defense, but has not offered anything offensive. And it is not that he was being counted on to do much in that regard as is, but he was expected to at the very least provide an equal alternative to Wong as a starter. It is at the point now where is more of a Kozma-like offensive liability in the lineup and is close to double-switch or forced into action due to injury status now.

Grade F: Shane Robinson, Daniel Descalso, Peter Bourjos

Robinson has developed a reputation has being a serviceable sub, but between trips up and down Highway 55 between St. Louis and Memphis he hasn’t quite delivered on the time he’s kept a default fill-in role on the roster. His average is pushing at .140 and his defense isn’t strong enough to support that.

Speaking of one sided contribution, that is the story of Descalso as well, only to a slightly lesser degree. He does fill a necessary role as backup on the left side of the infield, but fielding a below .200 average and playing a marginal at-best shortstop, he’s not made a tremendous case for himself in a year where he’s gotten plenty of looks.

What Bourjos had to offer offensively was always more about tools than it was about them relaying into production; he has always struggled with that. And while he has added a much needed speed dynamic when he reaches base, he has only achieved that at .276% clip. That is not enough to warrant everyday consideration, thus the early demotion to rotational defensive replacement/twice a week starter already.

Incomplete: Pete Kozma, Greg Garcia, Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk

Kozma and Garcia both made brief appearances with the club, but were not able to crack in front of the Descalso backup preference. It would be good to see Garcia get a more extended look at some point, as he showed some promise in his seven games up, but he will probably need to make a more overwhelming point at Memphis than he currently is (.248/.339/.376) to push the issue.

The second half will tell more of the story for both Taveras and Grichuk. It’s unfair to grade the two rookies yet, just due to the fact they have not had much in the way of extended and consistent time as of yet to showcase what they can do. But second half will certainly provide a suitable proving ground, especially for Oscar. The push to find at-bats for the organization’s prized prospect will take priority, especially if the incumbents continue to stumble through at-bats. However, he will need to eventually turn the at-bats into production to help put the team over, but getting him experience is of the utmost importance.

Grichuk managed only a .136 mark over 46 at-bats, showing that he needed more seasoning on the farm, specifically versus the breaking ball. Staying at Memphis into September is the smartest possible course of action for him right now.

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The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

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Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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Cardinals Winter Warm Up Progressive Blog, Day 3

The third and final day of the Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up is about to begin shortly, and in suit is the I-70 Progressive Blog, chronicling the media sessions for players, management and event announcements at the WWU.

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As has been the previous two days, content will be available on four platorms: via Twitter (@I70Baseball & @CheapSeatFan), Instagram (CheapSeatFan), Facebook at I70 Baseball and of course here on the site.

New updates will be provided periodically between player appearances. Scheduled to appear today are Matt Holliday, Michael Wacha, Mike Matheny, Peter Bourjos, Zach Petrick, Sam Freeman and John Mabry

 

Matt Holliday—10:06

Regarding his offseason workout, he spent the winter with Trevor Rosenthal working on strength training, which consisted of sled pushing, tire flipping and even fireman carries, which even saw the Trevor pick him up over his shoulder for a 20 meter carry. Regarding Rosenthal’s preparation, “It’s been fun to watch his discipline and effort. He wants to be the best, and I admire that.”

As a noted opponent of performance enhancing drugs, the acquisition of Jhonny Peralta, brought up a flurry of interest. In regards to whether he had insight on the club’s interest before he was signed, he acknowledged he knew about it beforehand. While he declined to specify on the details of the convo, he is looking forward to seeing what he can do firsthand.  “Mo just called and said this is what we are going to do, it’s not like he asked me for permission or anything.”

Continuing on, Holliday clarifies “I am against PEDs and always will be. But I am also a forgiving person and he served his suspension. That’s the rules of the game and I’m happy to have him as a teammate.” He does not believe he needs to justify anything to Cardinal clubhouse about the suspension. “He had his suspension, served it and his teammates in Detroit welcomed him back. If does and he wants to address it, that’s his prerogative. But it’s nothing we expect.”

Despite the exit of Carlos Beltran, he feels no new pressure of leadership this season, citing the depth of veterans with the club. “Leadership has been part of my role since I got here. Obviously, Carlos was a big part of our leadership and David (Freese) as well, but we’ve got Yadi, Adam and myself and lot of guys that have been around the organization and team for a while.

On the addition of Peter Bourjos and his impact on the dynamic of the club’s offense, he feels it is yet to be determined how his elements fit into the lineup. Yet he cautions that discounting Jon Jay would be an error. “I think Jon Jay’s ability to be a really good player in this league is being a big overlooked. I think Peter and Jon will compete for at-bats.”

About working with the younger Cardinals, he is especially excited to work with the young outfielders within the system. “I’m excited to work with (Grichuk), Peter and Oscar Taveras. So it will be good to see those guys and watch to see how they handle things.”

Sam Freeman—11:33

On the adjustment between his 2012 and 2013 stints with the team: “Just mentally. When I came up I knew what I needed to do, and I just needed to continue to execute. The same thing that gets outs in Memphis it ultimately works up here too.

Michael Wacha—11:38

He was reserved on his personal goals for the season, but did reveal he began throwing around the top of the year and while he doesn’t anticipate any additions to his repertoire, focusing on location consistency. “I feel if I can do that, spot everything up and changing speeds everything will be pretty good.”

On managing the expectations that he set late last season, he is measured in his approach and attempting to leave it within himself. “There’s going to be some high expectations that are put on me, but you can’t really pay much attention to that. I have some high expectations for myself as well that I try to live up to, and if I can do those things it will be pretty good. Even going back to the postseason, the job is to try not to do too much.”

About his role on the pitching staff and the competition to make the starting rotation, he does not assume anything, regardless of how last year finished. “My mindset is to go into Spring Training to try and win a job. It’s going to be a competition, but it’s also going to be a fun competition because they are my teammates.”

Mike Matheny—11:56

(More on Matheny’s vision for the organization in a piece to come)

On the ending to the previous year, he expressed that it was more difficult to move on from than he could have anticipated. “I was surprised how long it took me to move past the World Series and reflect on the rest of the year.”

Regarding the impact of instant replay on this year’s season, he approves on the level that has been settled upon and sees it has taking the game in a fresh direction. “I think that everybody understands that with the level of technology we have right now that we need to do something moving forward. Is there a perfect system? No. But is this a step in the right direction, yes.”

Continuing on, he sees the impact of replay as a common sense portion of quality control on the game. “To not use the technology that everybody else in the stadium can use is a mistake. So now trying to put a system into place is for the best of the game and the integrity of it.”

He characterizes the competition for the starting rotation as “fierce” and wants for everyone to show up with the mindset that they have to show up to earn their jobs. “That is something that we have been very blessed to have around here, is that even our best players show up with the mentality that they have to earn their jobs.”

Matheny characterizes that he likes for pitchers to prepare as starters, so that they can develop their entire repertoire, because backing a pitcher off is much easier than ramping them up from reliever to starter. “The whole concept that ‘I’m going to compete, but it’s about the team’ is important, and if we are going to be consistent and win, we have to buy into that.”

While Trevor Rosenthal will absolutely be in the ninth inning role this year, a possibility of him returning to the rotation later is not ruled out. “Trevor is very important right now, and solidifying the back end of the bullpen is crucial.”

While the rotation candidates get much of the shine, Matheny lauded the ability of the bullpen and its success at the end of last year as well. “I think that at the end of the season, not too many people wanted to see the back of our bullpen.” He cautions that the health of Jason Motte and whichever pitchers fall outside of the starting rotation will impact the ability to duplicate that success again.

He expects for Jaime Garcia to arrive and be on the same pace as the rest of the starters.

Despite Carlos Beltran being gone and Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong being in the fold and introducing a new tool set to the lineup; he cannot predict yet what the lineup would be and how exactly he plans to utilize the skills in the everyday mix.

He sees the secret strength of the organization as the ability for the team to integrate all levels of its operation seamlessly, via a shared trust for each. “We work very well together, seeing what the ideal situation would be and then looking at the market to see what’s available. While keeping with the long-term vision of the organization to be able to grow within and be able to promote guys from inside the organization, which is extremely rare but I think you see an organization now where each group trusts each other.”

Regarding his involvement in the push to reform rules around home plate collisions, he is encouraged by the steps that the MLB is taking. “I think there has been so much information we have gained from the other sports about the long-term damage to athletes, and I think we would be crazy to not take that information and move it forward.”

He feels that baseball is taking a proactive, instead of reactive, stance on the collateral damages of player collisions. “The way the system is set up, it is asking for major trouble,” he expressed, yet says the culture of the players approach has to shift also. “I guarantee that football and hockey would do anything to reverse these traumatic brain injuries to players, and I think baseball took a bold look forward for the health of the game and the health of the players.”

Peter Bourjos—12:25

He expressed that Albert Pujols reached out to him and gave a major endorsement to him regarding St. Louis when he was traded. “He called me the day that I got traded and was really happy for me. He couldn’t say enough things about playing in St. Louis in front of the fans.” Continuing on, he said that he was excited to be traded here, citing the team’s recent success as the major reason why.

He did not feel that he would be back in Anaheim entering the offseason, and that he anticipated a trade of some sort.

About his full-speed approach in the outfield, he doesn’t see him recent injuries as a result of that. “I pulled my hamstring in the 14th inning on a cold night in Oakland, then returned and got hit on the wrist by a baseball.” He sees last year as a ‘fluke’, and that it doesn’t tell an accurate story of his durability.

About a potential timeshare in centerfield, he is open to it and doesn’t have an expectation but to contribute.

Regarding the National League and the playing time options it provides, he sees it as a way to make a more regular impact in the game, even if he isn’t starting that day. “It’s a different game and is managed differently. “You may pinch hit or pinch run in the ninth, where you could be in the game by the fifth inning in the National League if you don’t start.”

He anticipates having to change his approach at the plate, even if he is at the bottom of the lineup due to taking walks in front of the pitcher spot and getting more balls to hit there.

He sees his goal level of stolen bases as in the 30-40 stolen base level, considering he gets the at-bats to do so.

 

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Cardinals Officially Unveil Team Hall of Fame

Today, Cardinals ownership topped the bill at the annual Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up, by officially announcing the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, which will be a part of the soon-to-debut Ballpark Village construct. While the existence of the Hall of Fame has long been a known quantity to the BPV experience, until today the exact features, location and inductees where not known.

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At noon today, flanked by former manager Tony La Russa and hords of gathered media, the duo of DeWitts, team chairman William Jr and team president Bill III, clarified the entire situation, announcing not only the Hall of Fame’s structure, but the inaugural induction class, the voting process and the structure of the experience within Ballpark Village. It was made clear that Hall of Fame, made possible through a co-op with Edward Jones, would have an inaugural class of 22 members, a mixture of currently retired numbers and dignitaries, honored within Busch Stadium Cardinal past and other inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The initial class was determined by a mixture of voters from the long-standing team media, Hall of Fame members and varied baseball association, noted as the Red Ribbon Committee. This group decided upon the deserving honorees as well as the rubric for future inductees to come.

The initial 22 Cardinal class will be compromised of Jim Bottomley, Ken Boyer, Lou Brock, Gussie Busch, Jack Buck, Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Bob Gibson, Chick Hafey, Jesse Haines, Whitey Herzog, Rogers Hornsby, Tony La Russa, Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Branch Rickey, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Ozzie Smith, Billy Southworth and Bruce Sutter.

The curriculum for the forthcoming Hall of Fame is a unique interaction between expert analysis and fan interation. DeWitt III expounded,  “When a new class is inducted any given year, there are two cases in the gallery that will showcase the memorabilia of the new inductees.”  To be eligible a player must have played a minimum of three years for the Cardinals and have been retired for three years. There will be two categories that the Hall is based on, a veterans committee of players that competed more than 40 years ago and a modern class of Cardinals since then.

The Red Ribbon Committee will nominate a ballot of 6-10 modern players from a group of 25, and then elect one member from the veterans group themselves, largely to preserve the integrity of the Hall. At that point, the fans will become involved. Starting March 1st, at Cardinals.com, there will be an open for vote two members from the modern ballot. A fourth member can be elected in any given year, if cho0sen, as a deserving coach, executive or prominent off field contributor.

At that point, then the team will continue forward with the pageantry of the event. The full class will be announced in late April, and plaques will mark inductees into the Hall. The inaugural induction class will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 16 in a weekend celebration at Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium.

The Hall exhibit and plaques will remain a free display outside of the Cardinal Museum, while there will be an entry fee to the full museum, with relics and memboribila from both the Cardinal Hall of Famers and great moments of the franchise’s extensive history. Many of these items have come directly from the current and former Cardinals themselves, holdovers from the former Cardinal Museum located with the Bowling Hall of Fame, private auctions and even the Baseball Hall of Fame itself.

The forward aimed goal of Ballpark Village is to bring an expansive element to the Cardinal experience, and round out both game days and the downtown experience, overall. Yet in their usual habit, the Cardinals will move forward with a conscious grasp on the past. The Cardinal Hall of Fame looks be a fair balance between both, and will make sure that the past is both present and represented in the years to come.

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Cardinals Winter Warm Up Progressive Blog – Day One

To follow this year’s Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up, we will be posting a three way interaction experience, through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most notably, the Progressive Blog here on site.

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The blog will note the comments from the media sessions, including current Cardinals, select minor leaguers, management and Hall of Famers. Check back regularly to see new content, and follow on Twitter and Facebook for unique in the moment comments and notices on new additions to the blog.

For more info, follow us on Instagram at @I70Baseball and myself directly at @CheapSeatFan, and on Instagram at the same name. Send questions for players and about the event to any of those outlets, and we will do the best we can to work them in. Notices for new additions will be sent through those outlets as well.

So, here goes….

9:45—Players to be expected: Daniel Descalso, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter, Pete Kozma, Greg Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Adam Wainwright, Randal Grichuk, Seth Maness, Oscar Taveras, Jhonny Peralta, Kevin Siegrist.

10:00—Daniel Descalsco:

Stated he would not discuss the status of his pending arbitration situation, deferring to John Mozeliak.

On the offseason, he said a short offseason is a good thing, and “good price to pay.” He said he took a month off post season, and said its “the norm” for this club now, due to its regular success.

“We’ll see where I fit. I’ll show up to spring training ready to compete. We made a big signing with (Jhonny) Peralta and added a good veteran in Mark Ellis, so we’ll go out there and see where I fit.” In regards to preparation for the new infield parts, “I’ve done the same things I’ve done in years past, and just get ready to for the middle part of February when we all get down to Florida.”

In regards to his home team 49ers chances in tomorrow’s NFC Championship Game, he has “no predictions.”

 

10:55—John Mozeliak

(More in-depth post to come on Mozeliak’s comments later—especially concerning Oscar Taveras. But here is an outline of various topics)

“I don’t think we have ever had a time where we know what we look like at this point,” regarding the readiness of the overall roster.

“It was not an easy decision to come to…but that it is such an competitive market that if a move is solid and not seen as a Band-Aid, you have to do it.” He continued on that adding minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk “sealed the deal”.

Regarding arbitration case with Descalso, “We are far apart; a hearing could be a possibility”

I don’t anticipate any contract activity here, but something could happen before Opening Day

On the impact of Peter Burjos: “From a defensive perspective, he one of those few guys you think of in the Gold Glove conversation. You combine that speed and that aggressiveness, and you have to haraness it. That is part of the reason why he bangs himself up a little bit. Having him on the field is critical.” Mo adds that while he doesn’t make lineups, he would be reluctant to move him to the top of the lineup.

In the same vein, he sees Peralta as having potential to hit in both the top of the lineup and in the middle, and that his success against left-handed pitching is critical.

In comparison to Taveras and Albert Pujols emergence, he doesn’t see similarities necessarily because of the higher profile of Taveras coming in. There is no surprise element.

Mo stated that Chris Carpenter is looking to stay involved with the organization immediately and that he is developing a job description to utilize him. “We are looking to find something that isn’t too overwhelming the first month or first year.” Any role would be out of uniform, and that scouting could be a factor. “Scouting is a critical part of the front office, and maybe getting him experience on both sides of that, amateur and the pros.”

Regarding the health of Allen Craig, he stated he hasn’t seen him but that all reports are good regarding his health moving ahead. Similarily, he expects for the Jaime Garcia to be fully ready to contribute as a starter as well.

On the Clayton Kershaw contract, he views “the bar as being risen, and that it will pull other things up as it goes.” He stated that the Wainwright negotiations take on a good value, and that negotiations this year would like be impacted by that deal. “If Adam wanted to go to market, he would have done better”, but that it was his decision to finish the deal as he did and at the time that he did.

Also, the team will be having meetings this week to work on addressing the recent expansion of instant replay, and any personnel that may need to be added to accommodate it.

Adam Wainwright—11:30

About the team’s loss in the World Series, he says it differs from the loss in the 2012 NLCS, because “we got beat. It felt like we let the Giants off the hook. The games were there for us to win. Last year, (the Red Sox) pitchers didn’t give runs and they got timely hits.” He said the loss was much more painful the year before.

Regarding 2013, he said that while he felt good after last season’s heavy workload, he still pushed back his usual training regime by two weeks: “Sometimes you talk yourself into being tired when you aren’t.”

In regards to the talent and competitiveness of the emerging young starters around him, he expresses comfort in being the standard bearer for the staff. “I used to tell Carp that I was coming for him, and I always welcome that.” He continued, “If anyone else ends up being the ace of the staff, we’re going to be really, really good team because I’m going to continue being me.”

He said he has a good relationship with Clayton Kershaw and speaks with him regularly throughout the offseason. Regarding his new contract, he texted him to congratulate him, but it doesn’t change his stance on his decision to resign in St. Louis early. “I love the city and I love going to work every day. I love pulling up and seeing the stadium every day, but mostly I know our front office is going to give us a chance to win every year. Could I have gotten more money elsewhere? Sure, but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. What I want to do is look back at this contract and say that I did what the team signed me to do, like I did at the end of the last one.”

About finishing as runner-up for the Cy Young for the second time, he said he did not expect to win. “This time I knew I was not going to win (laughing). The first time I was runner up, I had no chance to win either.” He went on from there to speak to his consistency and the quality of his seasons: “If you take my three really good seasons, and put them in any other year I probably win.”

Going further into his rotation mates, he was quick to specify between the two top names. “I was more impressed with Shelby’s season as a whole, but if Michael does what he did down the stretch for a whole season, he’ll be in the Cy Young talks.” Going on, Wainwright touted the virtues of both further. “But what’s lost in the shuffle is Shelby winning 15 games and Joe Kelly as well. Michael may be one of the most talented pitchers I’ve ever seen. I’m very impressed with his game, but I want to see it across a full season. Sometimes we forget was Shelby was able to do with us.”

Yadier Molina—Noon

On returning back to working with his staff, he is enthusiastic.

On the increased usage of defensive shifts the team could employ, and its impact on how he calls his game, he is indifferent. “I don’t follow that too close, I just try to call my same game I do every day. That is more on the coaches than for me.”

He states he prepared the same for this season as he did last year, when he participated in the World Baseball Classic. He states that the knee injury from last August is not a factor any longer, and did not bother him even as late as last season. “It was a long season for me. We started early with the WBC and went all the way to the World Series. Right now, I am rested as much as I can be.” He expressed that he gets bored in the offseason and is ready to get back to the ballpark.

Regarding the departure of David Freese and Chris Carpenter, he said it is sad for the loss of an extended teammate, but will continue to communicate with both.

Greg Garcia—2:45

On his status entering the season, “I’ll have a little bit more of a comfort level with this being my second big league camp, but I’m going to go in and do my best. I’ve worked on all parts of my game.” He anticipates working out at shortstop, second and third base. “The work ethic of the guys there is the main thing, and seeing some of the best players in the game still work hard at it.

While injuries hampered him early last year, he said that consistency is his primary goal this year. “Trusting myself and not changing things mechanically is the goal. It’s about squaring up pitches and playing baseball.”

Kevin Siegrist—3:00

He said he is refining his existing pitches, and while the team has discussed him coming to camp as a starter, he always prepares as such. “It’s easier to transition pitches into the bullpen from a starting perspective.” Despite this, he does anticipate being a late inning reliever only.

Randal Grichuk—3:10

His name is pronounced “Gree-Chick”

On Peter Bourjos, who was traded along with: “He’s the best defensive centerfielder in the game. A great teammate.”

States Matt Holliday texted him a day following the trade and that he grew up playing with Shelby Miller in the Area Code Games. He recalled splitting two at-bats in the minors versus him, doubling once while striking out on another.

He expects to get playing time in centerfield with the club this spring.

A Houston native, he states growing up a big Astros fan and being “crushed” by Pujols home run in the 2004 NLCS.

 

Come back tomorrow for the Day Two news and media session info, and continue to follow for new posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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The Cardinal Caravan Is Headed To A Town Near You

While the Cardinals will host the annual Winter Warm Up event this weekend in downtown St. Louis, they will also take to the road for the first time this calendar year via the Cardinal Caravan. This is the annual event where players both current and past take to the road throughout the area and come see fans that may not be able to get to St. Louis for the season’s inaugural event.

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This year’s Caravan will feature stops in 18 cities across four days throughout Missouri and Illinois, and will feature a mix of prominent names of today and to come. The Cardinals will split into five different groups, each of which will spend time signing autographs (for children 15 and under), taking pictures and mingling with fans throughout each stop, along with prize drawings as well.

The first 400 children at each event will receive an autograph ticket, which is good for a signature from each player in attendance.

Current Cardinals scheduled to be a part of each Caravan are Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Kolten Wong, Seth Maness, Shane Robinson, Tyler Lyons and Kevin Siegrist. The minor leaguers currently slated to join the trip include top prospect Oscar Taveras, Minor League Pitcher of the Year Zach Petrick, Greg Garcia, Keith Butler, Stephen Piscotty, Jermaine Curtis, Eric Fornataro and new acquisition Randal Grichuk.

Among the Cardinal alumni to join the event are hitting coach John Mabry, former All-Stars Ryan Franklin and Andy Benes, as well as Danny Cox, Cal Eldred, Tom Lawless, Alan Benes, John Costello, Kerry Robinson and Jason Simontacchi. Al Hrabosky, Mike Claiborne, Tom Ackerman, John Rooney, Ricky Horton and Dan McLaughlin will represent the play-by-play members that will serve as emcees for each event.

For more info on what pairs are headed where and when, as well as what you need to do to be a part of your local Cardinal Caravan, head to Cardinals.com for more details.

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Making The Winter Rounds In the NL Central

While much of the success that a team has comes from its own preparation, what goes on around them also plays a huge factor. The Cardinals have been among the most successful clubs at concisely addressing their needs this winter, but how has the rest of the National League Central done?

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals

What is for certain is that the margin for error was slim-to-none last summer in the heart of the National League. While the Cardinals succeeded in winning the division, they finished only three games ahead of the Pirates, and seven in front the third-place Reds. And this feat was achieved only by a September surge that pulled them out of a three-way race that was separated by less than a two games entering the season’s final frame.

Even below the upper tier of the division, the Brewers and the Cubs are both looking to develop a new phase for their respective fortunes. Amid the Ryan Braun Biogenesis fallout and the continued resurfacing in Chicago, both teams finished well outside of the race, but continue to look for ways to tweak the approach.

However, the NL Central has not been a division that has made a sweeping amount of substantial additions. In fact, many faces from each team have departed and the action to replace them has not been as loud as it has been in, say the American League East or West. Thus far, only the Cardinals have made any major additions of note, and when combined with what’s in place already, potential the NL Central gauntlet could be a thing of the past potentially.

Here is how the winter has gone for the Cardinals’ divisional neighbors thus far, and what could be to come before the winter turns to spring…

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68 in 2013)

Gains: Clint Barmes (resigned), Chris Stewart, Edison Volquez

Losses: Marlon Byrd (Phillies), Garrett Jones (Marlins), Justin Morneau (Rockies)

The detail: The Pirates have let both of the main parts they added for the stretch run last year walk, which should come as no surprise. While the presence of Jose Tabata and Gaby Sanchez makes this bearable, the loss of Jones as well leaves a substantial loss in power potential. Add in the pending free agent status of AJ Burnett, and this is a team that has more than a few questions currently. The addition of Volquez is both an attempt to pad this looming issue, as well as to catch the same type of former All-Star lightning in a bottle they did with Liriano last summer.

What’s Looming: Burnett will either resign or retire most likely, and it is a decision that could linger into the spring. Pittsburgh is armed with a young core and could look to add some value priced veterans, but they are likely to take a step back in everyday potency as long as their first base situation is up in the air.

 

Cincinnati Reds (90-72 in 2013)

Additions: Brayan Pena, Skip Schumaker

Subtractions: Shin-Soo Choo (Rangers), Ryan Hanigan (Rays), Xavier Paul (Orioles), Dusty Baker (Fired)

The detail: The Reds have probably seen the most change of any team in the division, which started with the firing of manager Dusty Baker a day after their loss in the NL Wild Card Game. On the field, the expected loss of Choo came, and they flirted with the idea of moving Brandon Phillips as well, but were scoffed by the Yankees before it could go through. Their operation has been based in promoting from within (trading Hanigan to open up a full-time role for Devin Mesoraco), and rounding out the bench this offseason, with additions such as the former Cardinal Schumaker. They are very much a team that is not quite rebuilding, but is definitely retooling their approach on the run.

What’s Looming: As it stands today, the Reds are a wild card, and very much the definition of a third place-level club. They will return the majority of the top half of their staff and every day lineup, but the future of Bronson Arroyo and where he lands next year potentially removes a vital safety valve in their rotation. Billy Hamilton will take over the reins in the center field, and will be asked to slide into the leadoff spot that Choo masterfully performed in last year.

 

Milwaukee Brewers (74-88 in 2013)

Additions: None

Subtractions: Corey Hart (Mariners)

The Story: 2013 stunk for Milwaukee. They couldn’t get a steady effort on the mound, injuries and suspensions killed their offensive potential and they could never crack into the competitive mix in the division. On the heels of it all, they’ve been the quietest team in the division, without much coming or going. This is either a sign that they feel they can compete with a return to full strength, or that they are simply hamstrung by what is available in the market—and what fits their needs.

What’s Looming: The loss of Hart hurts, as they struggled to find a replacement for him last season, and now don’t have a clear successor for him now that he has officially moved on. They have had interest in Mets first baseman Ike Davis, but have been reluctant to depart with any of their young arms to do so. However, with either Sean Halton or Juan Francisco as their only viable replacements, their hand could be forced eventually.

 

Chicago Cubs (66-96 in 2013)

Additions: Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Roberts, George Kottaras, Jose Veras, Wesley Wright

Subtractions: Dioner Navarro (Blue Jays)

The Story: The Cubs have once again been mostly quiet, having their name thrown into the rumor mill before they quickly pull it back out themselves. However, they have steadily gone along adding parts to their shed, rebuilding their bench completely and adding a new closer in Jose Veras as well.

What’s Looming: In the end, they could potentially make the biggest name splash of any team in the division, as they are said to be major suitors for newly available Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. If the franchise decides to go all in to add him (and he agrees to come to the lowly Cubs over the bigger names on the market), they would have a legitimate ace-caliber arm for the first time in years. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been often floated, but at this juncture, the club’s likely opening day starter as things stand now will likely stay in tow for a bit longer.

 

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The Past Meets The Future—Matheny Extended, Carp Retires

It was a day of coming and going for the Cardinals. In the first major personnel announcements of the offseason, General Manager John Mozeliak announced that the organization was furthering its leadership on the bench with Mike Matheny, while also making official the retirement of Chris Carpenter.

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In the current, the decision to continue on further with manager Matheny was affirmed over the long-term—not that there was ever any question regarding it. In his second year, the Cardinals finished with a National League-best 96 wins, going to win its first National League Championship under his guide, before reaching Game 6 of the World Series. For these efforts, he finished fourth the voting for NL Manager of the Year and saw it come to a head today with a three-year contract extension that will keep him in St. Louis through the 2017 season. Before the 2013 season, his third year option that covers the 2014 season was previously picked up.

Matheny has played a pivotal role in keeping the organization afloat after future Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa retired two years ago. In a time where the team could have slipped into a minor rebuilding phase, under his watch it has instead returned it to the NLCS two consecutive years and won its first NL Central in four years. In his first two seasons on the bench, Matheny has a record of 185-139, which is the third best two-season start to managerial career in Cardinal history.

             HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Matheny has quietly climbed into elite company in Cardinal history in his first two years as manager. His 185 wins bring him in a third all-time in team history for manager wins over the first two seasons:

Billy Southworth (1941-42): 203-104

Frankie Frisch (1934-35): 191-116

Mike Matheny (2012-13): 185-139

Johnny Keane (1961-62): 177-147

Joe Torre (1991-1992): 167-157

Perhaps what has been most impressive has been the handling of the young guard of Cardinal prospects that Matheny has embraced. They have become an important foundation of the team, both now and in years to come. Armed with a ready to win, yet continually developing roster, the move to secure Matheny over the long-term is yet another strong early investment in continued Cardinal success.

 

Yet, while the club was securing its future, it also announced the newest part of its past. The biggest announcement of the afternoon was Mozeliak confirming what was long assumed to be coming: the retirement of Carpenter. Injuries curtailed the last two seasons for the 38-year-old pitcher, and he mustered only three starts since 2011. After mounting a final comeback attempt in mid-June, only to see it derailed in Memphis after the same nerve issues that ended his 2012 in Spring Training returned. Ultimately, it became clear there was nothing left to pursue in regards to continued attempts to return, and as his contract also expired with the club at the end of the season as well, it became clear that it was time to move on.

Injuries often kept Carpenter from being the regularly dominant presence at the front of the Cardinal rotation, but when he was there, he was among the best hurlers to ever wear the Birds on Bat. After beginning his career with the Toronto Blue Jays, Carpenter signed with the Cardinals in December 2002, but missed his first season in St. Louis with an elbow injury.

But from the time he made his Cardinal debut in 2004, on through 2006, he was as good a pitcher as the National League had. Over that time span, he posted a record of 51-18, including winning the first Cardinal Cy Young in 2005 since Bob Gibson hoisted the award 35 years before. In 2006, he anchored a Cardinal staff that salvaged a failing season to win the team’s first World Series since 1982.

While he missed all but five games in 2007 and 2008 due to a second elbow surgery, he played an important role as mentor to the young Adam Wainwright, becoming a critical part of launching a career that has seen him join Carp among the elite Cardinal hurlers all-time. He returned to the top of his game in 2009, joining Wainwright in the top three of the NL Cy Young vote, a third such finish for Carp.

His final great hurrah was in the 2011 postseason, when he authored one of the great postseason games in history, winning a 1-0 dual with Roy Halladay. Overall, he posted a 4-0 record that October, including two World Series wins over the Rangers, including the decisive game seven victory.

Overall, he finished with a career record of 144-95, and a 10-4 postseason record, the seventh most wins in playoff history. With the Cardinals, his career record finishes at 95-44 with a 3.04 ERA and finished in the top ten in strikeouts, winning percentage, WHIP and postseason wins. He fought through a litany of injuries during his career: a torn shoulder labrum, torn ulnar-collateral ligament, and finally thoracic outlet syndrome, that led to the nerve and circulatory problems that ultimately brought his career to a close.

Due to time lost, Carpenter will not reach Cooperstown, but will loom large in the lore of his era. He is likely to be a quick inductee into the forthcoming Cardinals Hall of Fame when the Ballpark Village-based Cardinal museum is completed. Nobody will ever wearing his number 29 again most likely, despite the fact it is not eligible to be “officially” retired under current team rules. As for his future in the game, there has been continued dialogue between him and Mozeliak on finding a place for him with the club, most likely in a coaching capacity. Because, for one of the game’s great warriors, a suit-and-tie front office gig will not do. Rather, keeping him close to the dirt and the players that continue the legacy that he so intensely embraced is the only way.

As it has always been, its only goodbye for now for Carp.

 

Matt Whitener is a staff writer for i70 Baseball. He can also be found at The Sports Fan Journal and Cheap.Seats.Please, as well as on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and WhitenerCSP@gmail.com

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What Does The Future Hold – Cardinals Contracts and Scenarios

As the St. Louis Cardinals face the final weekend of the National League Championship Series, and the baseball year as a whole rolls into its final go around shortly, the show still goes on, regardless of outcome. Sooner or later, the tone of the year quickly turns to the personnel part and the future becomes the present. Free agency, retirements, trades and rumors will rule the roost for the next three months, and the Cardinals will be far from on the outside looking in.

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While the team has the rare pleasure of having the vast majority its entire core and active roster under team control for not only 2013, but 2014 as well, the business is safe to continue as is for the near future. But exactly how is the design of the team set up entering the winter? Here is the entire breakdown of the Cardinal roster, including what’s to come, what will cost what and how contract status works into the personnel decisions that could loom.

(Contract figures per Cots Contracts & Baseball Reference)

Guaranteed Contracts—$71.5M guaranteed in 2014

Adam Wainwright (32, $97.5M through 2018)

Matt Holliday (34, $51M through 2017 w/ $17M team option in 2018)

Yadier Molina (31, $44M through 2017, w/ $15M team option in 2018)

Allen Craig (30, $28.5M through 2017, w/ $13M team option in 2018)

Jaime Garcia (27, $17M through 2015, w/ $23.5M total in separate team options in ’16-’17)

Jason Motte (32, $7.5M through 2014)

Randy Choate (38, $6M through 2015)

The vast majority of the Cardinal veteran core is not only signed, but is contracted through the next four seasons at minimum. Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are likely on career carrying deals, while the team locked up young, quickly proven players such as Craig and Garcia early in their careers, and have control through their best years underway. Motte is the lone pending free agent on the 2014 team, and will have a show-and-prove year as he returns to the ninth inning from Tommy John surgery early in the season.

Arbitration Eligibles

John Axford (31, Stage 2, $5M in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

David Freese (31, Stage 2, $3.15M in 2013)

Jon Jay (29, Stage 1, $524,000 in 2013)

Daniel Descalso (26, Stage 1, $511,000 in 2013)

Fernando Salas (29, Stage 1, $512,000 in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

While Craig and Motte are locked up, the remainder of the formerly young Cardinal cast is in the midst of their arbitration years. At maximum, Freese, Jay and Descalso are under team control through 2015, but there will be a few tough calls in this tier of the team, and none harder to predict than Freese, who is due for a raise into the $5M range, but had his worst year of his career. Axford’s case will be the most interesting case, as he is a high-ceiling talent, but will carry a difficult price tag for what is likely a seventh inning bridge pitcher to carry.

Pre-Arbitration

Lance Lynn (27, Stage 3)

Matt Carpenter (28, Stage 3; Buy-out Candidate)

Tony Cruz (27, Stage 3)

Shane Robinson (29, Stage 3)

Shelby Miller (23, Stage 2)

Michael Wacha (23, Stage 2)

Carlos Martinez (22, Stage 2)

Pete Kozma (26, Stage 2)

Trevor Rosenthal (24, Stage 2)

Kevin Siegrist (24, Stage 2)

Seth Maness (25, Stage 2)

Matt Adams (25, Stage 2)

Joe Kelly (26, Stage 2)

Keith Butler (25, Stage 2)

Sam Freeman (26, Stage 2)

Tyler Lyons (26, Stage 2)

John Gast (25, Stage 2)

Kolten Wong (22, Stage 2)

Adron Chambers (27, Stage 2)

The core of the Cardinal team is its youth, as the group that was heralded as the top organization in all of baseball before the season has seen many of its jewels hit the big leagues. Of the 19 players in this section, no less than 12 are virtual locks to be on the Opening Day roster, and none will come in at cost of more than $525,000. This is where the cost control of youth, performing youth at that, shows it’s most advantageous asset. And with only Lynn, Carpenter, Cruz and Robinson on pace to reach arbitration status over the next two years, unless the team decides to up the ante on an early long-term deal to buy out any of this group’s arbitration seasons, this will be a strong asset on the side of the team’s purchasing power, if needed.

Free Agents

Carlos Beltran ($13M)

Jake Westbrook ($8.75M, $9.5M team option will be declined)

Chris Carpenter ($10.5M, will likely retire)

Rafael Furcal ($7M)

Edward Mujica ($3.2M)

Rob Johnson ($750,000)

There are a few ifs and a few certainties here. The certainties start with Jake Westbrook, who’s 2014 option is all but certain to be declined. Furcal and Carpenter will not return as well, with retirement on the horizon for Carpenter and Furcal missing all of the season with Tommy John surgery, and the team having moved on from him before spring training commenced. Mujica is due for a raise, despite his late season struggles, and will likely price himself out of returning for the capacity he would be needed in.

 

Post-2014 Free Agent Candidates

Motte, Axford, Freese

Post 2015 Free Agent Candidates

Garcia, Choate

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Matt Holliday and Measuring the Moment

For all that can be said about Matt Holliday, one thing that can’t be taken from him is his flair for the moment. On Tuesday night, for the second time in this season’s playoff run, he delivered a decisive and momentum swinging blow for the Cardinals, and has once again delivered them to brink of moving to the next round.

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Yet when looking at his plain performance, it is easy to see why he receives some of the criticism he does. Despite being leaned on to be the main producer for the struggling Cardinal lineup, he has more often than not failed to live up to that billing. In the NLCS, he is hitting .125 and hadn’t had a hit in over 10 at-bats before his massive fourth inning home run against Ricky Nolasco, which drove in Matt Carpenter and was a resounding moment in reviving a Cardinal offense that seemed to be on the verge of an early hibernation for a second year in a row.

The motivation of this big statement was very familiar, because it was the same thing his Game 4 home run in Pittsburgh did just last week. With the Cardinals on the brink of elimination, he provided the support to make Michael Wacha’s masterful performance stand up, via a two-run seventh inning home run. And now, as a revived Cardinal team finds itself awakened and with three chances to advance itself to the World Series, the team’s fortunes have been pulled in place by the most incorrectly criticized player in recent Cardinal history.

The image of Holliday is tarnished by the shadows it stands in, as well as the image it is supported by. From day one, there was the idea that he was rental player, which cost the team too much to land (the now laughable expense of Brett Wallace and two other minor leaguers who never made it far). Yet in his first postseason, it was one dropped fly ball in Game four of the NLDS during the Cardinals last October trip to Los Angeles which remains the highlight of his first campaign in St. Louis. Much more than the .353 average he hit once coming over from Oakland which provided much needed non-Pujols created offense and helped the team win the NL Central by a runaway 7.5 games.

He was John Mozeliak’s first blockbuster acquisition, as well as his first big dollar contract dealt out. The purpose of Holliday’s acquisition was to be the second half of a potent heart of the lineup along with Pujols, but to also be security in case he was not able to be retained. Ultimately, the latter became reality, albeit after the Cardinals won a World Series in a season where Holliday put up a .296 average, All-Star effort. At this point Holliday replaced the then irreplaceable hitting third in the Cardinal lineup. But he also carried the tag of being the “highest paid player in Cardinal history”, which became more curse than reward in the court of public opinion. This was fueled by his pay grade was not deemed as necessary stroke of foresight, but rather being a prime reason why Pujols couldn’t stay, for financial reasons.

Holliday’s career thus far has been better than it has been bad. In St. Louis, his career numbers during the regular season have been the most consistent of any player on the team during his four-year tenure, averaging .306/23/90 split as a Cardinal. Despite the notion of not being “clutch”, he turned in a .390 average with runners in scoring position this season, which increased to .426 in same scenario, but with two outs.

Those numbers are a pretty fair regular read out of his “clutch” tendencies, as well as a showing of regular value.

However, the postseason struggles have happened and cannot be denied. A team needs its power conduit to be churning at the highest points of the year, and Holliday has let the club down in those scenarios over the past two years. In most situations, a season is not made by the moment, but the postseason is an exceptional time, and the same rules do not apply. While consistency is still not his ally this October, he has made amends in many regards by showing up when most needed. And that is not a presence that should be glazed over lightly, even if that has been the trend for many of his greatest contributions thus far.

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