Tag Archive | "Franchise"

Wacha, The One Hit Wonder

It’s been quite the year around Michael Wacha thus far. Long before his nearly historic outing last night, the rookie righty has put together an enticing showing in his first rodeo, one that is just getting started. The reward for the pick that Pujols brought to St. Louis, is quickly establishing himself in the fashion that was so eagerly awaited since nearly his first day with the team this spring.

Washington Nationals  vs St. Louis Cardinals

The most impressive things on the surface level for Wacha are the hard fastball, which and the fast rise that it has afforded from college to the Majors in under a year. Yet, as last night’s performance has showcased, it is the poise that is his greatest ally. Balancing upper 90’s fastballs with strategic placement both in the zone and offsetting them with a changeup that he deploys with the knowledge of a hurler 10 years his senior is one thing, but handling the breaks was the most impressive part of his outing last night.

After missing his chance at becoming the third Cardinal rookie to throw a no-hitter in as many of the memorable outings as the franchise has hosted, his demeanor told the story of where he was. Despite missing finishing his fantastic effort by inches, as Ryan Zimmerman’s heart-breaking single bounced through the infield, he did not make a big deal of the situation. He held his head steady as he was removed from the game after that 112th and final pitch, and took a convincing approach to the “failed” outing, which in actually won a crucial series for the club.

While the concern with young hurlers is if they can stand up to pressure of the moment, a closer look at Wacha’s year shows another encouraging factor in his readiness for the postseason. While batters have hit .281 on his pitches 51-75, he does his best work after passing that point, with opposing batters having to .167/.210/.190 split from pitches 76-112. It’s that fortitude that makes him a promising option for the type of arduous games ahead.

The levity of the no-hitter wasn’t his focus, as much was delivering a solid start in a tight game, as well as keeping it in focus. The magic number for clinching the National League Central, and thus avoiding the trap of the Wild Card Game, was in need of yet another strong outing, which he delivered unequivocally. As he relayed to MLB.com’s Jennifer Langosch, he accomplished what he set out for:

That focus is what can make him as much of an asset as the fastball, the eye-popping compliment pitches and the imposing 6’6 frame packaging it all. In a clear cut sense of this, the disappointment from teammates such as David Freese and Pete Kozma, both of celebrated postseason form, was far more evident than his own. And while without a doubt, he will have a time where he runs the scenario back through his mind, his poise in a personal defeat, yet team victory says a lot about what he can bring to the team in the upcoming week when every game hinges on such major moments.

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The Race For Last Place

Prospects and draft picks are becoming things of focus around Major League Baseball over the last few years.  That mentality can turn the world, or at least the standings, upside down.

HoustonAstrosError

Our friends over at MLBTradeRumors.com have introduced their next, great innovative tool for your use – Reverse Standings.

The reverse standings, which are updated automatically each morning, serve as a projection of the 2014 amateur draft order.  - from MLBTR founder Tim Dierkes

With this season’s hopes squarely out of reach, many teams take the time to evaluate their talent, bring young players to the big club to see how they fare, and to make subtle changes that will go into effect the following season.  The front office turns their attention to scouting and the following year’s draft, learning where they will pick and who they believe will be available.

The formula is simple, the worst team in baseball from the previous season picks first.  The draft proceeds up the ladder until the best team from the previous season picks last.  Draft picks are not eligible to be traded, so it holds a very simple result – finish dead last and you get first pick.

Should the season end today, the Houston Astros have that pick.  Not very surprising given the current state of the franchise.  Noteworthy, however, is that they also had the first pick in the last two drafts.  They are one of only two teams to secure the first pick in consecutive drafts, the Washington Nationals did it as well in 2009 and 2010.  The Nationals used those picks to secure Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, showing that a few good drafts can change the direction of a franchise quickly.  Should they hold on and “win” the first pick for next year, the Astros will become the first team in history to do so for three consecutive seasons.  The last two seasons, they have used the first overall pick to choose Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

The Astros will also join “elite” company, becoming only the third team in the history of the draft to pick first in five drafts, joining the San Diego Padres and New York Mets with that distinction.  Of the 22 franchises that have picked first since the draft was instituted in 1965, none have more than five picks.  Currently, the Astros have chosen first four times, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners at that level.

Congrats, Houston, you are well on your way to being the best at being the worst.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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Yahoo Sports: Wainwright Is Not Pujols

AdamWainwright

COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals have come to terms with ace pitcher Adam Wainwright on a five-year extension that makes the term “lifetime Cardinal” a real possibility just two years after they failed to do the same with Albert Pujols. Doing so shows that general manager John Mozeliak understood that this deal made a lot more sense than the potential investment in the team’s former first baseman would have.

Editor’s Note: I have joined Yahoo Sports as a contributor to the St. Louis Cardinals beat.  You will find my content there on a regular basis, as well as the first few paragraphs and a link to it here on I-70 Baseball.  This is my debut for them…

Just like many fans, I was extremely disappointed when the Cardinals were unable to come to terms with Pujols and he eventually found himself playing in Anaheim. The dust has settled on that deal and clarity has shown that many factors made sense for the team to allow its franchise superstar to leave.

This spring, many fans became concerned that history would repeat itself as the team and Wainwright entered negotiations. The feeling that, for the second time in a span of three years, a foundation piece of the organization would play for another franchise seemed to be developing into reality. The Cardinals and Wainwright announced during a March 28 press conference that the right-hander has been signed to a five-year extension through 2018.

Why was Wainwright retained and Pujols was not?

Read more by clicking here…

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St. Louis Cardinals never got to fully enjoy Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright era

The St. Louis Cardinals have been blessed to have two of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball throughout the past seven years. Unfortunately, they rarely got to see that blessing in full effect.

Carp Waino

The Cardinals announced Tuesday that Chris Carpenter won’t pitch in 2013, which likely ends his career as a player for the Cardinals. It also ends a very successful era that still could have been exponentially better without injuries to Carpenter and his co-ace Adam Wainwright.

The Cardinals won two World Series titles and made the playoffs in four of the seven seasons Carpenter and Wainwright were both on the roster. That is arguably the most success any franchise has had during that time.

The San Francisco Giants won just as many championships, but they only made the playoffs those two seasons. The New York Yankees made the playoffs in six of those seven seasons, but they won just one World Series.

Still, the Cardinals had all of that success while rarely having Carpenter and Wainwright healthy at the same time. The only years both pitchers were able to be on the mound regularly during the same season were 2006 (although Wainwright was in the bullpen as a rookie), 2009 and 2010. One of the two pitchers was on the disabled list for an extended period of time in those other four seasons.

Most of the injuries happened to Carpenter. He led the Cardinals onto the field on Opening Day 2007 against the New York Mets and gave up five runs in six innings as the Cardinals lost 6-1. They would go on to finish 78-84, good for third place in the NL Central.

Wainwright moved into the starting rotation in 2007 and compiled a 25-15 record over the course of the next two seasons. But Carpenter didn’t return until 2009, which also happened to be the next time the Cardinals returned to the playoffs.

Carpenter and Wainwright combined for a 72-32 record in 2009 and 2010, the first time since 2006 the two pitchers were both healthy at the same time. The Cardinals won 91 games in 2009 and 86 in 2010, but then injuries destroyed the dynamic duo once again.

Wainwright blew out his elbow in the opening days of spring training in 2011 and missed the entire year after having Tommy John surgery. Carpenter picked up the slack that season with an 11-9 record that betrays his 3.45 earned-run average and his leadership that led the Cardinals to the World Series. He won the playoff-clinching game on the final day of the season in Houston, Game Five of the division series in Philadelphia and Game Seven of the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

Coming off the championship season, the Cardinals hopes were high that they could repeat because Wainwright would be back, and the team would have its two best pitchers healthy again.

Then Carpenter started to feel discomfort in his next during spring training workouts. He wouldn’t make his first start of the season until Sept. 21.

The Cardinals still did well last year and came within one win of reaching the World Series again, but Carpenter struggled against the Giants in the National League Championship Series. He didn’t make it beyond the fourth inning in either of his starts, and his arm wasn’t fully healed.

So while the Cardinals’ announcement that Carpenter wouldn’t be able to pitch this season wasn’t terribly shocking, it still closes the book on one of the most successful eras in franchise history.

But despite that success, the franchise and its fans will close that book wondering how great those teams could’ve been if their two best pitchers hadn’t so often fallen victim to injuries.

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Cardinals Coach In Super Bowl Ad

Phillip Wellman, the hitting coach of the Springfield Cardinals, once had a monumental tirade on a baseball field.

PhillipWellman

That tirade has made it’s rounds on the internet and television for many, many years.  It resurfaced around the Cardinal corner of the internet a few years ago when Wellman was named the hitting coach for the Double A franchise.

Not sure what I am talking about?  Here you go:

Fast forward a few years and, thanks to Volkswagen and a Super Bowl Ad, and Wellman has found new life for an old tirade.

The following commercial ran during the 2013 Super Bowl.  At the :20 mark, we see a brief clip of the above “highlight” and by the 1:08 mark, he’s tossing bases around the grassy hill.

Don’t worry, I will always keep a look out for a little Cardinal baseball, even during the Super Bowl.

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

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Best Defensive Team In AL Might Be In KC

The Kansas City Royals have built a team through the draft and player development, turning home grown players into Major League mainstays.  Many of the accolades afforded to the players coming through the system, as well as some players acquired from elsewhere, is focused on the offensive production they have produced.  Quietly the players that make up the starting eight have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Catches like this one earned Gordon a 2nd consecutive Gold Glove.

Catches like this one earned Gordon a 2nd consecutive Gold Glove.

The voting for last year’s Gold Glove Awards consisted of votes cast by each manager and up to six coaches from each team.  Voters were given a list of players they could vote for and were restricted from voting for anyone on their own team.  When the dust settled, the Royals had four players finish in the top three of their position, more than any other team in the American League.  Only the Cincinnati Reds can claim more, having six players finish in the top three at the respective positions.  Beyond those four, a good case can be made for two more Royals to have received consideration.

During a recent interview with a local radio station, Royals manager Ned Yost made sure to point out the hard work and effort that third baseman Mike Moustakas had put forth in getting better defensively.  Long before the remainder of the team would report for batting and fielding practice prior to a game, Yost stated that you could find the man known as “Moose” taking ground balls at third base, determined to make himself a asset to the team when in the field.

Moustakas and his counterpart across the diamond, Eric Hosmer, both finished second in American League voting results for Gold Gloves at the close of the 2012 season.  The two talented infielders have represented the youth movement of this franchise for many years now and seeing them develop into strong defenders in 2012 has got to please the manager.

In addition to the corners, the Royals enjoy one of the most dynamic and talented shortstops in all of baseball.  Alcides Escobar was not recognized this year for his defensive talent, but most scouts and players will tell you that he is widely respected as one of the best at his trade.  His appearances on the nightly highlight reels across the country would support this claim as Escobar continues to become a large part of the Royals future success.

Behind the plate, another home grown talent patrols the field with a highly impressive arm and an ability to control the field the way most teams hope their backstop will.  Salvador Perez was given a substantial contract extension last year and, while his production at the plate is impressive enough, the way he controls the field and works with his pitching staff leaves very little doubt as to why the team extended the young man who had barely seen major league service before then.

The outfield reveals another player who finished close to a Gold Glove Award and one that took home a second consecutive Gold Glove of his own.  Alex Gordon has become one of the best left fielders in the game today and his counterparts rewarded him as such in 2011 and 2012.  His range, arm, and ability have solidified him as an outfielder that commands a lot of respect around the league.  He has quickly become known as a player that runners do not try to advance on and has established a presence that makes the fans pay close attention to any ball hit to left field.  Any ball that ends up within the range of Gordon quickly becomes capable of becoming that day’s “did you see that?” play.

The opposite corner of the outfield finds a player that many fans are ready to see the team cut ties with.  Offensively speaking, Jeff Francoeur is statistically speaking one of the worst players in Major League Baseball.  His veteran leadership, his glove, and his arm keep him on the field every day.  One of the most impressive throwing arms in recent memory, “Frenchy” routinely makes up for a lack of range with an impressive accuracy that holds runners at bay.

Six positions on the field are capable of amazing plays that everyday players can only dream of.  Four of those positions were considered to be one of the best three at their position in the American League last season.  The other two figure to be in that discussion for a long time coming.

While the Royals continue to find themselves offensively and with a rebuilt pitching staff, they know what they have on defense.  What they have is, in fact, golden.

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Naturals Named Texas League Organization of the Year

Naturals Named Texas League Organization of the Year
The Texas League Honors the Naturals

SPRINGDALE, AR–The President of the Texas League, Tom Kayser, has announced Northwest Arkansas Naturals as the 2012 Texas League Organization of the Year. This honor comes as the club closes out their fifth year in Springdale, Ark. The Organization of the Year in the Texas League is awarded through a combination of off-field rankings and evaluations as provided by the Texas League managers, umpires, and league executives.

“It is very satisfying to recognize the Naturals as the 2012 Organization of the Year for doing everything expected of a good franchise and doing it well,” said Texas League President, Tom Kayser. “The Naturals also do a wonderful job working within their entire community, successfully partnering with a wide range of groups, helping to produce over $270,000 in cash and in-kind donations for over 100 non-profit organizations.”

The Naturals averaged over 4,600 fans per game in 2012 and had an overall attendance of over 321,000, surpassing last year’s attendance by over 10,000. Arvest Ballpark has also hosted over 40,000 additional fans at over 100 non-baseball community events during to date in 2012.
“For the Naturals to be recognized as Organization of the Year is a great honor to everyone involved with our team,” said Naturals General Manager, Eric Edelstein. “We’re very fortunate to have such a dedicated team off the field and tremendous support from throughout the entire Northwest Arkansas community.”
The Naturals open up the 2013 season at Arvest Ballpark on April 4th and have the honor of hosting the Texas League All-Star Game on June 25th.  For tickets visit www.nwanaturals.com or call (479) 927-4900.

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At least we aren’t Pirates fans…right?

The Pittsburgh Pirates today clinched their 20th consecutive losing season, a mark that surpasses even the futility of our Kansas City Royals. That brought to my mind a pretty good question, which franchise is really more hopeless? To start I’ll look at the recent performance of the two clubs, as putrid as it is, and then I’ll finish with the future prospects.

While it’s true that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season in 20 years, it’s easily arguable that they’ve been more competitive than our Royals. For one, they’ve only lost 100 games twice in the last 26 years, while the Royals have done it four times in the last eleven. However, in terms of actual wins, it’s ridiculously close with the Pirates averaging 68.2 wins to the Royals 67.7 since 2000. The Pirates have a more recent playoff appearance, with three straight from ’90-’92 but they’ve gone six years longer without a championship winning their last in 1979. Trying to compare these teams based on their past performances is like a race between a Prizm and a Sunfire, so let’s move on to what the future looks like.

It might be easy to think that since the Pirates have won more games in 2012 they’re better set up for next year, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. For one thing, the Royals are much younger. The average position player for the Royals is a full year younger than the Pirates and their pitchers are an average of three years younger. The Pirates best two pitchers, A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, are 35 and 33 respectively and it seems unlikely they’ll match this year’s performance. On the other hand, their best offensive players, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, are both under 26 and just entering the prime of their careers. Whit the Royals having club control of virtually their entire line up, and most of them at an age where improvement is expected, I think you’d have to give the position player advantage to the Royals. I’m not sure anyone has a worse prospective starting rotation in 2012 than the Royals though, so until David Glass actually opens his pocket book this winter, the starting pitching edge goes to the Pirates. Although the bullpen may be an advantage for the Royals, I’m not sure it’s enough to put them over the top.

Looking at the minor leagues doesn’t offer a much clearer picture. Wil Myers is the best prospect in either organization, but the Pirates probably have the next three best is Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Starling Marte. While both clubs have exceptional talent in the minors, if anything I’d give the edge to the Pirates if only because their top two prospects are pitchers and we’ve all seen what a need that is for small market clubs.

Essentially there’s no separating these two clubs because they’re almost mirror images. Young players, hungry fans, embarrassing recent history and cheap owners. I guess you could call them our sister club in the National League, and that should be depressing enough for both fan bases.

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Breaking even with David Glass

By now I’m sure just about every Kansas City Royals fan has heard about Danny Parkins’ interview* with David Glass on the first day of All Star Weekend. Glass, of course, came off as aloof and utterly clueless as he ever has, and earned as much ire for the way he ended the interview as he did for anything he said. He sparked a Twitter debate amongst the fan base over who is more to blame, him or Dayton Moore. You know, exactly the type of thing you want to do as you begin to welcome all of baseball to your city for the first time in nearly 40 years.

* For a transcript of the interview, click here

While it was completely unprofessional for Glass to walk away from the microphone mid-interview, that really isn’t what bugged me about the whole debacle. It was this exchange here:

Parkins: What do you say to fans that wish you spend more on payroll for this team?

Glass: Uhh, Well, in a market this size you can spend a certain amount on payroll. You… You’re never going to be able to spend what the Yankees and the other big market teams can spend but our approach from the very beginning has been that we’re not looking to make money with the franchise we simply want to break even and if we have an if we have an opportunity to win we’ll step up and do whatever it takes to… to help us take that extra step. But for the most part all the money that we can generate we’ll spend on payroll and singing amateur players

We have heard this song and dance from Glass since he bought the team in 2000 and it has been the source of much debate. There are a lot of people that think professional sports owners should expect to operate at a loss, as if owning a professional team is a charity, I am not one of those people. However, I do feel like owners should at least be honest with the fans about their plan, and their motives…a look at the numbers show Glass has been far from honest.

According to Forbes annual MLB valuation, the Royals turned a profit of $10.3 million in 2011, their eighth consecutive season of profits and the eleventh out of twelve since Glass bought the team in 2000. What’s more, the team is now valued at $354 million dollars. While that may be modest in terms of the value of a professional franchise, it is $258 million more than Glass paid originally. Added to the income the Royals generated over the last 13 years, it brings a net gain of $332 million in 12 years on a $96 million investment.

To put that in perspective, if Glass had taken that $96 million back in the year 2000 and invested it, he would have had to earn 13.27% for twelve years in a row to bring in the type of money this club has for him. Does that sound like breaking even to you?

What makes everything so much worse is that Glass has turned this profit while fielding one of the worst teams in the history of baseball. In his 12+ years as owner the Royals are 847-1179 (.418). Before he took over they were 2471-2411 (.506) all-time. That’s the difference between averaging 82 wins a year and 68. But it’s getting better lately right? Um, Forbes projects 2012 as the most profitable year of the Glass era, with the team earning a whopping $28.5 million in income. This for a team that was less than 6 games out of first for a good part of June after three of its best pitchers had Tommy John surgery. How much different would this team look if Glass had signed C.J. Wilson for 5 years and $85 million dollars? He could have done that and still cleared more than $10 million in profit!

The fact is that Mr. Glass has not only tarnished, but nearly destroyed the legacy that Ewing Kauffman left with the Kansas City Royals, profited handsomely from it, and lied through his teeth to his customers as he’s done it. Glass purchased a respected franchise with a World Championship and a history of winning more than losing. He has turned it into a cash cow that doubles as the laughingstock of baseball. What can we do about it? Nothing, as evidenced by this exchange from the aforementioned interview:

Parkins: You would never consider selling the team?

Glass: No.

Parkins: What do you say to fans who would like you to sell the team?

Glass: Uhh, yeah, I’m sorry.

Sorry…I could not have said it better myself. A sorry excuse for an owner…a sorry steward of the Kauffman legacy…but one hell of a businessman.

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Royals Rookie League Debuts Don’t Include Starling

The Royals’ rookie league teams have several youngsters taking the field who are worthy of note. Unfortunately, thus far, Bubba Starling hasn’t been one of them.

The youth movement in KC may not be over. The host of youngsters pumping new life into the Royals ballclub may have company in a few years.

But staring Royals fans in the face, sitting atop the list of their top minor league prospects, is Starling. Long on promise but totally lacking in performance, Starling keeps us all waiting.

After months of contract negotiations, Nebraska Cornhusker football practices, a fall season cut short by injury and marred by an arrest, Starling can finally start proving that the Royals were smart to select him fifth in the 2011 draft.

But a hamstring injury kept him out of the first week of games for the Burlington Royals. The wait, and the drama, is starting to make fans wonder if he’ll ever live up to his billing.

While not headline grabbers, there were other noteworthy unveilings at the rookie ball level of the Royals franchise.

Still to be announced is where first rounder Kyle Zimmer will land. But in the meantime, Idaho Falls and Burlington will bear watching.

Idaho Falls:

Bryan Brickhouse – nowhere to go but up for the third round pick from 2011. Seven runs in 1.2 innings isn’t exactly what he had in mind. He’s now on the Kane County roster. Hope he merits the promotion.
Sam Selman – this season’s second round pick should move quickly because he’s 21 and experienced pitching in the tough SEC. He was good in his 2.2-inning debut.
Adalberto Mondesi – still a month away from his 17th birthday, bloodlines make the son of Raul Mondesi an interesting shortstop to follow. So far so good, he hit .400 in his first week.
Eliar Hernandez – a big-dollar signee of a year ago finally takes to the field. He didn’t disappoint, hitting .364 with four doubles in his first week. And he’s just 17.

Burlington:

Humberto Arteaga –the 18-year-old Burlington shortstop is highly regarded for his defense.
Cameron Gallager – the Royals thought enough of him to take him in the second round in 2011, all the while grooming Salvador Perez to be their catcher for a long, long while.
Kenneth Diekroeger – the 21-year-old Stanford product will be an interesting case. He was a collegiate star early on, but slipped in production. Some scouts thought the Royals got a steal by taking him in the fourth round.

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