Tag Archive | "Jim Edmonds"

Cardinals Hall Of Fame Induction Adds New Level To Legacy

On Saturday morning, the Cardinals held the first induction ceremony for their re-established, yet newly minted Hall of Fame Museum. Unlike the previous version of the organization’s Hall, which shared a building with the Bowling Hall of Fame across the street from Busch Stadium II and was mostly a collection of historical photos and relics only, the new incarnation is truly a step forward in a new direction to pay active tribute to the legacy the organization has crafted.

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The decision to include inductions of former players and personalities into the team’s Hall of Fame is a perfect way to give honor to players who may fall short of Cooperstown-level classification, but made irreplaceable contributions to the history of the Cardinal organization. This new direction is achieved in the conventional way such an establishment is thought of: with a ballot and tiered voting system, aimed at targeting the comprehensive history of the organization.  The outcome of this process was the hour-long ceremony on Saturday morning inside of Ballpark Village next door to Busch Stadium, where the team’s Hall of Fame is housed, which honored the first class of inductees to the Hall of Fame: Willie McGee, Jim Edmonds, Mike Shannon and Marty Marion.

The group joined the 22 already enshrined living members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the Cardinal version of the Hall of Fame, all of whom were inducted by acclamation when the venue was established. From that group of 22, on hand at the even to welcome the first inductees were Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa. As well, a video of the late Stan Musial playing his signature “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” kicked the festivities off.

The goal of seeing a diverse representation from the club’s history was clearly met, as the four inductees stood for individually distinct high points Cardinal history from the 1940’s and through the past decade.

Fox Sports Midwest broadcaster Dan McLaughlin was the Master of Ceremonies for the event, while owner Bill DeWitt II read the plaques for each honoree as they approached the podium for official induction.

Marion, who made eight consecutive All-Star games from 1943 through 1950 and won the National League Most Valuable Player in 1944, was a critical part of the club’s first legitimate dynasty during the decade. He won three World Series in 1942, 1944 and 1946 and spent a year as player-manager in 1951. He died in 2011 at the age of 94, but was represented by his eldest daughter, Martinna Dill, who expressed his passion for both the area and being a Cardinal.

“Whenever you would ask him how it felt to win a World Series, his eyes would light, he’d have a smile on his face and he would say ‘Just like Christmas”, Dill recalled about her father. She continued to discuss how he him and his wife of 74 years, Mary, made St. Louis their home and joked about his fondness for giving memorabilia from his playing career away to requesting fans. “We would probably have a lot more to give to the Cardinals Hall of Fame if he hadn’t given it all away to fans.”

A provision to cover the full span of unique careers spent with the organization will be covered by a Legacy Selection to the Hall of Fame, for those who have served the organization in multiple capacities over time. Long-time announcer, former player and St. Louis native Mike Shannon was tabbed in this capacity, and rightfully so. With an on-field career that featured two World Series titles, and a series defining catch in ’64, as well as another 43 years in the radio booth, Shannon has been a mainstay of the organization over the past half century.

However, the usually boisterous voice of the club was rather succinct in his comments upon taking the podium to receive his honor. Reflecting on his role as a broadcaster, which has been the bulk of his Cardinal career, he was selfless in his commentary, giving credit to the position over himself.

“I’m not important, it’s the position that is important,” Shannon explained. “Hopefully I have enhanced it one way or another.”

The two fan selected inductees followed in Edmonds and McGee followed, to the obvious delight of the crowd. Two of the greatest center fielders in club history, both anchored two of the most successful runs in club history in the 1980’s through 2000’s, respectively. Each was led by well-designed video package of their various career highlights in the Cardinal uniform

Edmonds seemed a bit awestruck as he took the podium, speaking about the legacy of the team. He thanked both thanking DeWitt for signing off on the trade that brought him to the club, as well as the ‘Bleacher Bums’, who cheered him into saluting him before the top of each first inning in his career. His speech was the most emotional of the day, as he often became

For as emotional as Edmonds turned at times, it was McGee’s speech which was the most surprising. A man of few words over his career (he stopped early in his speech, saying “I wish I had a bat in my hands”), he was very reflective in his time at the podium. The heavy crowd favorite of the day, with cheers breaking out as McLaughlin began to introduce him, McGee gave all credit for his success to the organization and fan base that fueled him.

Stretching from his beginnings in the game in his native San Francisco, and stretching through his development and emergence with the club, McGee was appreciative of every step. From thanking instructors such as Dave Ricketts and coach Whitey Herzog, McGee chuckled as he recalled instances from early in his career. He gave special thanks to Ozzie Smith, whom took him under his wing and moved him into his house during the first two years of his career, as Smith laughed to himself thinking back on the time. He also recalled taking up drinking coffee after just seeing Brock drink it during his first spring training.

But it was the connection with the fans, who chanted the unmistakable Willie, Willie, Willie!” cheer in his honor as he took to the podium, he gave credit to the work ethic that endeared him to so many of fans over the years. “After all the sacrifices you made, this is a reward for the hard work and dedication and discipline. I’m living testament that with hard work and listening, you can be the best you can be.”

Before the events took place, the new inductees respective plaques were anchored on the wall with the other club Hall of Famers, but for the living contingent of new inductees, perhaps the most rewarding gifts bestowed to them on the day were their Cardinal red blazers. For years, the red jacket has been the symbol of reaching the highest level to note a Cardinal career, but has been reserved only for members of Cooperstown. But now each member of the club specific wing will also receive their own blazer as well, which will ensure a steady growth of the distinctive mark that the great Cardinal career has had.

“This is beyond belief to put on a red jacket”, expressed Edmonds after sliding into his on stage for the first time. The youngest inductee at 44 years old, he expressed how learning about the Cardinal culture when first arriving in St. Louis in 2000 makes this moment even more special, yet still somewhat stunned by it. “I was little confused at first about the red jacket, and didn’t know if I would get to wear it. But now I’m not sure I’m worthy of it.”

Edmonds continued, “When they told me I was getting a red jacket, I had to take a step back a little bit. I think this red jacket symbolizes a lot more than a plaque on the wall.”

Considering that the plaques are crafted in the same fashion as the ones hanging in Cooperstown, that statement says a lot about what the fledgling Hall of Fame already represents to its members. Edmonds’ sentiment echoes the response to the event in general, which generally exceeded expectations and set a strong path for what could come in the future as the Hall of Fame continues to expand. A new avenue to honor Cardinal greats has been established, and for fans and players alike, the bar has been raised for the Cardinal experience.

 

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Five Players For The New Cardinals Hall Of Fame

The United Cardinal Bloggers have requested that the member blogs weigh in with their choices for inductees into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall Of Fame.

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There are some rules to this little game, so let’s go over those first:

– Players or executives with their name/number retired by the Cardinals are assumed to already be in
– Players or executives who are enshrined in Cooperstown with significant St. Louis ties are not eligible
– Players, managers, coaches, front office and broadcasters are all eligible
– Current active players are not eligible, all players must be retired

The Cardinals are building a new physical Hall Of Fame as part of the Ballpark Village project across the street from Busch Stadium.  It figures to be a shrine to those that impacted the St. Louis Cardinals throughout their career.

That being said, here’s a look at five people that I believe deserve to be included in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall Of Fame.

Curt Flood – Outfielder - 1958-1969
Flood’s stats may not quite stack up to what most Hall Of Fame standards require but it is important to note the overall impact that Flood had on the game.  

Flood’s now famous challenge of the reserve clause gave the game the free agency that we know today.  It also led to a better environment for the players, allowing them to be able to share in the popularity of the sport by demanding higher salaries and greater rewards for being the reason the fans were coming to games anyway.

He doesn’t get in solely on his merits of changing the landscape of the game, however. The man wasn’t a push over on the field, either.  He posted a .293 batting average and 1,853 hits during his time in St. Louis.  He also earned seven Gold Glove awards and three All Star selections while wearing the birds-on-the-bat.

Ray Lankford – Outfielder – 1990-2001, 2004
The Cardinal teams of the 1990’s are long forgotten by many fans, especially the teams of the early 90’s before the arrival of Tony LaRussa.  Those teams were owned by a company that no longer wanted them and the product on the field showed that fact.  Ray Lankford was the bright spot of that entire era.

Lankford, who hit more homeruns than any other player inside of Busch Stadium II, was a well-rounded player that hit over 200 home runs and stole over 200 bases while a Cardinal.  He played the game hard and his body broke down towards the end of his career, but he was a product of the system being drafted and retiring as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.  His production in the 1990’s places him in the Cardinals’ Hall Of Fame as the iconic member of an entire generation of Cardinal fans.

Ted Simmons – Catcher – 1968-1980
Possibly the easiest selection of the all, Ted Simmons draws attention from most Cardinal fans as being deserving of enshrinement in Cooperstown, not just in St. Louis.

Simmons is often remembered as the most prolific offensive catcher in the team’s history.  With 172 home runs while with the Cardinals and six All Star selections, it’s obvious that he was an integral part of the team during his tenure.  Simmons finished in the top-16 of MVP voting six times during his St. Louis career, though he would never win one.

He would play eight more years outside of St. Louis and compile almost 250 home runs total over his career.

Darryl Kile – Pitcher – 2000-2002
It is hard to believe that Kile was only with the Cardinals for such a short period of time.  There may not be a single player that left a more lasting impression on and off the field.

A loving father, devoted Christian, and leader in the clubhouse, Kile helped Cardinal fans remember what it was like to have a true “ace” on the mound in St. Louis again.  He nearly won a Cy Young award and found himself on the All Star roster his first year in St. Louis.  It was his work with his teammates, his visibility as a family man, and his untimely death that made him a part of Cardinal history forever.  His number adorns the wall of the bullpen inside a black circle with white lettering that reads “DK 57″, a symbol easily recognizable by most any Cardinal fan.

Jim Edmonds – Outfielder – 2000-2007
Jim Edmonds was a part of an extremely successful time in St. Louis, becoming one-third of the “MV3″ and engraving spots in people’s memories for years to come.

Under the guidelines of the project, Edmonds is the only one of the MV3 available for enshrinement, save possibly Scott Rolen due to expectations of his coming retirement.  Edmonds was famous for his game saving catches, his tremendous home runs and his charismatic style.  He won six gold gloves, a silver slugger award, and three All Star appearances while with the team.

A team level Hall Of Fame allows the franchise to honor players that fans remember fondly despite the overall concern of the numbers the Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown looks for.  These five players deserve enshrinement as some of the best Cardinals of all time.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
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UCB Roundtable: Who’s Worthy of Cardinal Immortality?

The United Cardinal Bloggers is having its annual preseason Roundtable discussion this month, where a variety of topics surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals organization are presented, and then analyzed by the membership. Yesterday was my day to poise my question, and the direction of choice was to cover the past, present and future, all in wrapped up in one.

Busch_Stadium Retired Numbers

Since the current ownership of the team took over, the standing rule on retired numbers has been that they are only officially retired once a player is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, in this era of Cardinal baseball (which has been arguably as successful as any), there are a lack of true Hall of Fame candidates. However, when you consider the era, players like Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have all made monumental contributions to the team success….not to mention a certain former first baseman as well.

With that considered, how do you feel about the Cardinals’ policy on retired numbers, and which current-to-recently former Cardinals could/should deserve the honor? Here is a transcript of the discussion, and some varying opinions on candidates and on the policy itself:

Daniel Solzman: I was not a fan when #15 was re-issued.  Likewise, if #5 is issued again, I will not be happy about it.  If 29 gets issued to someone other than Chris Carpenter, I imagine a cluster of the fan base will be upset.  If Holliday stays healthy, he might be the other player to be joining Molina on that list.

I think Edmonds should see his jersey retired.  He might not get in on first ballot but I think, when you factor in those defensive gems, the HOF should vote him in.  His numbers are similar to Dale Murphy but his average was 20 points hire than Dale’s, which could and should make a difference.

It should be noted that while the debate to retire 51 officially rages on, the jersey has yet to be issued.

(Matt) Holliday is signed through 16 with an option for 17.  Barring a trade, he will have played most of his career as a Cardinal.  If the option for 17 gets picked up, he will have played 8.5 seasons as a Cardinal. All things considered, he should finish with some solid numbers worthy of 7 being retired.

Daniel Shoptaw: I understand the Cardinals’ position on retired numbers.  You hate to have a wide swath of numbers unavailable for use.  I mean, look at the Yanks–they are going to have start using triple digits in a decade or so.  You don’t want to be too free and easy with retirement–it’s supposed to be an honor.  Plus, who knows what the feelings of the fan base are going to be down the road.  I mean, if they’d retired 25 immediately after McGwire’s retirement, which could have been a sticky situation.

The unofficial retiring brings about some of the same problems.  Obviously 57 is retired, even though it’s not with the official group.  You start running out of numbers if you keep everyone of them that belonged to a “True Cardinal” off the backs of the next generation.

That said, I do think the Cards are going to need to make exceptions for Carpenter and Molina (if he needs it).  Those were two of the focal points of a great stretch of Cardinal baseball and should be honored in some way. While I appreciate Matt Holliday, I think one of things about the number retirement is that it has to be a player that captured the fans’ imagination as well as being a great player.  Ozzie, Lou, Gibby all have legends around them, true or not.  They were more than just good players, they were icons.

Carp has that.  Molina has that.  Holliday?  I don’t think so and I don’t know that, barring some dramatics, he’ll ever get there.  He’s a great player and I’m glad we have him, but I don’t see him as a candidate for retirement if his career–his solid, remarkable career–continues on this path.

J.D. Norton: I like the Cards policy, but I think they should step out a bit and put #15 up.  Yes, I think Jim Edmonds belongs in the HOF.  If you look at players like Dawson and Rice and then put Edmonds in the discussion, it’s a no brainer to me.  I think the Cards should lead the charge, retire his number now and hope that helps.  For those who disagree, name me 10 CF’ers who have better numbers than JE.  There’s 14 CF’ers in the HOF.  Even MLBN had Edmonds in the top 10 CF’ers of all-time.

Wes Keene: The policy is good. There’s a lot of emotion tied up with sports, and every few years we’ve got someone that’s easy to view as a hero on the team. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ve got to have some method to keep the warm and fuzzies from running you out of numbers. I find the practice of predicting HOF inductees to be daunting so I don’t try. I’m not a writer, so I don’t get a vote, and the ones who do frequently befuddle me.

Since the retired number pool will be a subset of the HOF Cardinals, it gets even dicier. Given how rare retiring a number is, I’d suspect it’s Carp or Molina, but not both.

Dathan Brooks: I’d suggest that the organization’s policy, while perhaps not perfect, is as close as it can be.  A policy is exactly what’s necessary, too.  Case-by-case basis simply wouldn’t work, so I say good for them.  I think it speaks to the ownership of this team that they take this so seriously, too, let’s not let that go unsaid.  But I’ve said it before…let’s take a high-level view of where “we” are right now.  Off the top of my head, and without digging deep, which means I’m sure to miss/forget some, numbers that are spoken for/taken/unlikely to be issued soon/retired today, include:

1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 17, 20, 24, 25, 29, 32, 42, 45, 51, 57.

I know, Wainwright & others are left off the list while Yadi is included.  Might they reissue some of these?  Sure.  I’m just saying, there are twenty numbers here, more than half of which are below 25. You can’t just go retiring numbers for every fan favorite, or hold sacred a uniform number because a guy we really really liked once wore it–it just isn’t feasible.  I wrote about this on some blog a long time ago (too lazy to look it up), but the line, “Now batting, number 386, outfielder, Tony Gwynn IV” comes to mind from that blog post.  The Cards would simply run out of retired numbers too near into the future, and have to start coming up with creative (read: non-purist/traditionalist) ways to ID players.  (Symbols?  “The player formerly known as….”?  LOL  I kid, of course)

In any event, it’s a good problem to have.

Bob Netherton: I think the current policy on retired numbers is ridiculous.  While you don’t want to retire the number of every good player that comes through the system, a bit of easing on the current policy would go a long way to reward players like Curt Flood, Willie McGee and Chris Carpenter.

The counter-argument is the team will run out of numbers and start needing triple digits for jersey numbers.

With all due respect, pfffffffft.

We are talking about one of the most storied franchises in baseball, not the Miami Marlins or Colorado Rockies. A bit of perspective can help soft through this mess. We are only talking 3 or 4 players in a decade where the team has has monster success (40s, 60s, 80s, 00s).   There might be decades (50s, 70s, 90s) where there are at most one. Over 100 years, that’s still less than 30 numbers.  It takes about 40 numbers to field a team (25 plus DL). We are good for another century. Lets retire Flood and McGee now and get ready for Carpenter in a couple of years.

Christine Coleman: As many have already said, some kind of policy is definitely needed for retired numbers because it can get out of hand for a team like the Cardinals with such a long and rich tradition. The policy currently in place, with retiring numbers for Hall of Fame players, seems to work well since it sets the standard. I will mention, since I don’t think anyone else has yet, that Ken Boyer’s number is retired and he’s not in the Hall of Fame — other than Tony La Russa, who of course will be in the Hall of Fame, he’s the only non-Hall-of-Famer.

The practice of unofficially retiring numbers by not issuing them has its place, but it also does reach a point where numbers have to be used too. Keeping 51 and 57 out of circulation are good, and necessary, moves. It makes sense to not issue 15 as well, and not to use 5 right now anyway. But I saw someone complaining on Twitter last weekend that number 12 is being used already. If the Cards can’t issue a number because Lance Berkman wore it, that’s when triple-digit uniform numbers are going to be needed soon.

Bill Ivie: I like the current policy but I think, with current plans for Ballpark Village, it can be amended.

Since the team is building a Cardinals Hall Of Fame and museum, retired numbers should only belong to Cardinals Hall Of Famers, not necessarily Cardinals in Cooperstown.  This would allow guys like Darryl Kile, Willie McGee, Jim Edmonds to be honored in that way.

At the same time, I must say that I do not feel that all of these names need a number retired.  Wille was great for the team in the 80’s and Jimmy did his part in the 00’s.  But what about Vince Coleman who shattered records in the 80’s and was a big part of some post-season runs (minus tarp incidents).  If we look at his place in history, he probably deserves to be in this discussion.  But wait…that’s number 29…that’s Carp!  Carp had a major impact for a few years too.  Like Vince, he was hurt at times and wasn’t key in everything the team did during his tenure.  Who gets the number?

It’s a can of worms I don’t want to open up.  I think the Cards HOF alleviates some of this.  Willie McGee can be a Cardinal HOF member without his jersey retired.  It gives the opportunity to honor players for being a great Cardinal and also to honor players for being the best in the league and finding Cooperstown.

When do we retire #25?  How quickly do we retire #5, knowing that he is in a personal services contract with his current team long after he retires?

Brian Vaughn: I think there’s definitely a middle ground between necessitating a player’s Hall induction as a requirement to have his number required and letting any above average player have the honor. I say this largely because Hall of Fame voting is getting weirder and weirder; players aren’t exactly getting in based on merit thanks to some truly obnoxious voters, so I think there has to be a better way. Players like Carpenter particularly gave the Cardinals quite a large chunk of service time and excellence, and there’s something to be said for that.

John Nagel: To me, having a players number retired doesn’t make them a better player in my eyes. I agree with many that having too many waters down the award. Why can we still not honor players in other ways? Having a retired number should be set aside for HOF players.

Its to early to decide on Pujols. I say no on Edmonds and so far no on Wainwright. If Yadi continues on his path then he could be a yes. If the Cards continue with the HOF = number retired rule then Carpenter is a no as well.
Kevin Reynolds: I think the “only retire HOF numbers” policy is a necessity. Before long, finding numbers for players is going to be difficult enough. Besides, once you start amending the retired numbers rule, then you have to ask, “Where does it stop?”
I also feel the reason the question of retiring numbers has become significant is because the delay of the Cards HoF in Ballpark Village has left St. Louis with no obvious method to honor memorable Cardinal players and coaches. Carpenter deserves a sacred place in the future Cards HoF, but not on the wall of Busch Stadium.
Now, I might be in favor of a wall inside the fan tunnels of Busch that lists memorable Cardinal numbers/players like Carp and Edmonds…but leave the retired numbers wall for Baseball HOFers. That’s an exclusive group, and should be kept that way going forward.

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Cardinals Spring Training Pics From InsideSTL

Our friends over at InsideSTL spent last week hanging out at a picnic table, and eventually under a tent, in Jupiter, Florida and talking with any Cardinal players that came by and were willing to sit down for a few minutes.

What resulted were some great candid shots of the guys as well as a very candid interview with Adam Wainwright about his contract situation.

The images below were posted to their website and are being shared here with their permission.

Carlos Beltran

Picture 1 of 62

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
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If This Is It, It’s Time To Give Rolen His Due

It gets lost in the shuffle sometimes just how important of a Cardinal Scott Rolen was. And with his career perhaps coming to a close this week, it’s a ripe time to take a look at why. Perhaps it’s because it ended on such a dismissive note that what he represented in St. Louis at such a high point in the franchise’s history.

Kansas City Royals v St. Louis Cardinals

How will he be remembered? Overall, he’ll stand up tall with the people that watch his era. Not to the statuesque level of Chipper Jones, but really, there’s not many, if any, that played the hot corner in the last 15 years that were any better than him. A seven-time All-Star, 1997 Rookie of the Year and owner of eight Gold Gloves. But it’s the glove that truly stands out, because with the exception of Brooks Robinson’s escapades on the hot corner, nobody has ever done it better. There are some that would say he ever surpassed Hoover in the glove game, a claim that could amount to blasphemy by some, but has some credence with many. But the ground that Rolen could cover while standing at 6’4″, and combined with one of the best infield arms ever, makes it valid.

But what is it about Rolen that makes him not be more revered as a Cardinal? Was it the silent, perhaps even standoffish way he went about his business? Dig a little deeper, because he has some legit claim to be in the discussion for greatest Cardinal third baseman ever. That’s a not too shabby group that includes Ken Boyer, Mike Shannon and Whitey Kurowski. After being acquired as at the trade deadline in 2002, he embarked on a remarkable six year run with the club. Among all third baseman in franchise history, he is second in second in home runs (111) and doubles (173) and fourth in RBI with 453 despite hitting behind Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds the majority of his time with the club and missing much of the 2005 season.

He returned in time to help the club rebound from that disappointing 2005 season. He played huge, and slightly forgotten, role in taking the club to its second World Series in 2006; one where he built up eight hits in 19 at-bats, including a home run and three triples. This was his crowning moment as a Cardinal, but soon shoulder injuries would keep him off the field for much of the rest of his time with the club. While he has gone on to have strong campaigns with the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds, his career truly peaked as a Cardinal, and reached a point where he showcased just how great he truly could be.

So what is it that keeps Rolen from being a more embraced member of the franchise’s history? He doesn’t really get an exceptional reception from fans when he returns, especially considering what he contributed to a very recent era. Perhaps it’s the way he faded away at the end, or that there was nothing of great lasting return received for him. Maybe it’s the feud with Tony LaRussa that kept him from relishing many returns with the club. Perhaps it’s his affiliation with the club’s fiercest rival the last few seasons in Cincinnati, that hasn’t allowed for many moments of reflection.

Whatever it may be, if his decision to decline coming to Spring Training with the Reds, a team he recently said is the only one he’d consider returning to this year, it’s time to embrace the man more in St. Louis. He’s a virtual baseball nomad by a career sense; he could never go back to Philadelphia to a warm reception, and he spent the shortest tenures of his career in Toronto and Cincinnati. St. Louis is where he deserves to come back to eventually, for the recognition an outstanding player of his level deserves. Maybe, with some time and reflection, both sides will learn how to properly place each other.

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St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak might be best in MLB

In just four years, St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has done just about everything an organization could ask out of that position, and he has done it in steady, yet stunning fashion.

JohnMozeliakBillDewitt

Mozeliak was promoted to the general manager position in 2008 after the Cardinals fired long-time GM Walt Jocketty, who had helped lead the organization through one of its most successful stretches in team history.

Since, Mozeliak took a team that was in the midst of a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and helped turn it into a team that has won a World Series and made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons despite losing arguably the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, at the end of 2011.

Mozeliak made some shrewd moves to reach that success, and he took avenues that weren’t necessarily glamorous, but they were vitally important to the success of the Cardinals.

For example, the only big signing he’s made since taking over as general manager was the seven-year, $120-million contract he gave Matt Holliday after trading for him midway through the 2009 season. Other than that, Mozeliak has deftly made trades that didn’t make major headlines, but paid off huge for the team in the long run.

In one of his first moves, Mozeliak traded Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres leading up to the 2008 season, and the Cardinals received a minor leaguer by the name of David Freese in return. At the time it looked as though the Cardinals had given up a fan favorite at the end of his career for a player who had potential but hadn’t had a stellar minor-league career.

But Freese has gone on to hit .296 in his four seasons with the Cardinals to go along with a .345 postseason batting average that includes the most famous hits of the 2011 World Series, a ninth-inning triple in Game 6 to tie the Texas Rangers, who were one strike from winning their first championship, and an 11th-inning homerun to win the game that sent the Cardinals to their championship moment the next evening.

Mozeliak has also added a great mix of veterans and young players. He signed Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran in back-to-back seasons, and both had their best seasons in recent memory. But he also has developed a farm system that is cranking out big-league caliber players who are on the cusp of stardom.

In just the past two seasons, Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jason Motte and Trevor Rosenthal have filled critical roles for the Cardinals throughout the regular season, and in the team’s deep postseason runs.

Baseball America also recently ranked the Cardinals minor-league system as No. 1 in baseball. That is quite an honor for a system that the same organization ranked last in 2005. The organization is currently stocked with exciting prospects such as outfielder Oscar Taveras, infielder Kolten Wong and pitcher Carlos Martinez.

The combination of all of those factors is what makes Mozeliak the best general manager in baseball. He hasn’t had incredible amounts of money to throw at free agents to try and buy a winning team, as so many organizations have done. The New York Yankees, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are just a few examples.

Those teams can overcome poor decisions by throwing money at the problem. Others, such as the Toronto Blue Jays this year, trade for a bunch of high-priced talent all at once and hope it all mashes together to create a winning team.

The Cardinals don’t solely use either of those approaches, but they take pieces from each. They are an organization that has developed a near-perfect combination of developing young talent while maintaining the flexibility to add key outside pieces to the puzzle of a big-league roster. The Cardinals are sort of a balance between the Tampa Bay Rays, who rely almost solely on home-grown talent, and the big market teams that spend a ton of money.

Granted, general managers are often viewed as good or horrible based on the flexibility their owners give them. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was viewed as a genius when the Yankees spent loads of money each offseason, but this year his reputation has taken a hit because the Yankees don’t want to spend as much money. That’s not fair, but it is something that comes along with the job.

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is probably the closest to Mozeliak in terms of his ability to build a consistent winning team without breaking the bank on free agents. The Rangers had the No. 1-ranked minor-league system in 2009 and followed it with two consecutive World Series appearances.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean is another who does an excellent job, and Jocketty is also building a strong foundation with the Cincinnati Reds by applying the same principles he used during his successful 13-year run with the Cardinals that included seven playoff appearances and a World Series championship.

Mozeliak has taken those principles to the next level and built a team that is capable of winning a World Series now, as well as a team that should consistently compete for championships in the foreseeable future.

Given the Cardinals’ recent success and the projections that similar success lays ahead, Mozeliak deserves to be called one of the best, and quite possibly the best, general manager in Major League Baseball.

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Getting used to a bigger window

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you are aware the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle of a very bad stretch of baseball. Before Monday’s win at New York, the club had dropped 5 straight and if you take out the sweep against the AAA padres on a 4-17 stretch of baseball.

Bad.

For whatever reason, I do not believe the sky is falling and all is lost for either this season or the future of the organization. Perhaps it is because I like Mike Matheny, and want to believe he will get it turned around. Perhaps it is that Mozeliak has earned some trust that he makes moves for the long-term good of the club, and not just knee-jerk reactions to fix immediate needs. Perhaps it is because I believe in the talent and leadership of this team, and understand what they have been up against with all the injuries. Or perhaps, I have allowed a paradigm shift to take place this season to take the long view and not get so caught up in the “window is now” mentality that has pervaded the Cardinals organization for the last several years.

It solidified in my mind last Friday night as I was on Conversations with C70 podcast. As I was talking with host Daniel Shoptaw, he reminded me the importance of getting out of that “all-in” mentality that it’s this year or nothing. Should fans have the expectation to put a winning product on the field? Of course. Is expecting to win a World Series or deep playoff run every year realistic? No. And again, do not take this as I am throwing in the towel on the Cardinal’s chances for this season. Just trying to provide some perspective.

The messaging from the media and front office the last few seasons has created a sense of urgency to “win now”. The conversation always centered around the need to win before Albert Pujol’s free agency, or before Tony LaRussa retired, or while Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were still producing at a high level.

We are in a different era now.

Yes it would be nice to get Berkman, Carpenter, and Beltran another ring; but this team has positioned itself to be a contender for a long, long time. There is good talent at the major league level, and the deepest farm system in years. That farm system is being bolstered by another solid draft

*Quick aside: I was overall happy with the Cards draft, and think they can sign a bunch of players based on where they slotted…but my gosh wouldn’t it have been nice to see one completely risky pick on a raw high schooler with a ton of talent? Isn’t that the point of having 5 of the first 59 picks, you get to risk one of them? Dan Kantrovitz played it safe in his first draft. Time will tell if he plays it this safe in every draft. I sure hope not…he was sitting on an incredible opportunity this year to take a very high upside but risky player, and didn’t do it. *

Heading into the Mets series, the Cardinals boasted the 3rd best run differential in MLB, and best in NL. Pitching has obviously been more problematic than offense during the May/June slide. But here is the main problem as I see it. Lack of veteran presence within the bullpen.

Some would say Mozeliak went all-in with a bunch of second year arms in the bullpen and that was foolish….that the club made a huge mistake letting Dotel walk. Be careful before quickly jumping to that conclusion. Yes, Dotel is a great pitcher, but Mozeliak had an experienced left-handed reliever in Marc Rzepcynksi coming off a great 2011. He also added two veteran relievers in the off-season that should have provided the needed veteran presence: Scott Linebrink and JC Romero.

Unfortunately, Romero severely underperformed and was released. Rzepcynski has struggled, and Linebrink got hurt. What is Mozeliak supposed to do? The Memphis roster has already been depleted due to the huge number of injuries this season. Should Mo trade off top prospects for bullpen arms this early in the season? It seems the approach is to ride out the tough stretch for the time being and allow players to get healthy, and deal from a position of strength and not urgency.

My plea to Cardinal fans is to take the long view. Realize the window to win is big, and a knee-jerk move to shore up a short-term problem may not be in the best interest of the organization for this year, and certainly over the long-term. The Cardinals will figure it out. A veteran presence is needed in the bullpen, perhaps Linebrink is one piece and we trade for another in July. But all is not lost.

The window to win is bigger now than ever.

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An Almost Perfect Night

Friday night before their game against the Atlanta Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals retired former manager Tony La Russa’s number 10 in a ceremony on the field that included all the expected fanfare. Unfortunately the Cards couldn’t cap off the night with a victory, losing the game in disappointing fashion in 12 innings.

The 25+ minute fete of La Russa featured names and faces spanning his better than three decade career. On- and off-the-field representatives from the White Sox, A’s, and Cardinals were on hand to see their former skipper honored. Jerry Reinsdorf, Tom Seaver, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Walt Jocketty, Matt Morris, and Jim Edmonds were just a few of the special guests seated in the infield at Busch Stadium while Master of Ceremonies Mike Shannon took to the podium set up near home plate. Of course all of the current Cardinals were in the dugout, and some—like Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and manager Mike Matheny—sat in the seats on the field. After a few short speeches, a couple of good laughs, and a video montage, members of Team Fredbird unveiled the new image of La Russa next to a huge “10” as the newest addition to the retired numbers mural along the left field wall. It was a fitting tribute to the man who presided over one of the most successful periods of baseball in the history of the franchise.

But even La Russa pushed to get the game going, promising to keep his speech short and acknowledging that the crowd was really there to see the Cards and Braves play. Unfortunately, nothing went right for the Cardinals early in the contest. After two passed balls in the first inning, the Braves led 2-0. By the end of the third, it was 5-0. The Cardinals battled back to take the lead 6-5 in the 5th inning, but they would only score one more run the rest of the night. Tied at seven, the game went into extra innings and a Jayson Heyward two-run homer capped off the scoring.

Friday night certainly had a little bit of everything: the return of La Russa to Busch Stadium; the illustrious group attending his ceremony; a long standing ovation for Chipper Jones, who is likely playing his last series at Busch; a big lead for the opposition; a comeback to take the lead from them; a Jaime Garcia meltdown that he was able to rein in; several lead changes; Skip Schumaker trying to be extra scrappy due to the presence of David Eckstein by diving head-first into first base for a hit; extra innings; Carlos Beltran finishing a single short of hitting for the cycle (and even taking a walk in the 11th); great weather, etc. etc.

But the loss was particularly disappointing because the Cards once again had runners on second or third—or second and third…and first—numerous times and the Cardinals failed to capitalize. The comeback from being down 5-0 early is great. But the Cards’ RISP numbers are not great, and they have to figure out a way to get guys in once they get on.

The Cardinals did not come out with a victory, but they did but on quite a show for La Russa. And if nothing else, that and Beltran’s performance were definitely the plays of the night. Perhaps, as the Cards’ former manager rides off into the sunset, they could take a page from La Russa’s notebook and get back to playing a hard nine or 12 or whatever it takes to finish and get out of this RISP funk. Just keep that pitcher batting ninth or Matheny may have a fan mutiny on his hands.

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A Historic Day

You may have seen Sunday’s St Louis Cardinals victory over the Houston Astros, and Tyler Greene’s 2-HR day.  Was it historic?  You betcha.

Greene became the first Cardinal second baseman since 1918* to start a game and hit 2 home runs, drive in 4, score 3 times, and steal a base.  Considering the great players who have manned second base throughout the years – Rogers Hornsby, Red Schoendienst, Ted Sizemore – that is amazing.

It gets better.  Only three other Cardinals have ever had a final box score line like that.

  1. Jim Edmonds pulled it off during a Fourth of July destruction of the Cincinnati Reds.  Fireworks during and after the game that day.  I think the fans went home happy.
  2. Stan Musial watched Wally Moon turn the trick in a June 1956 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Moon’s line that day was virtually identical to Greene’s, except Moon had one more PA (he walked).  Musial also homered.  Personally I like it when I can connect Musial to anything going on with the team today.
  3. Twenty years before that, Don Gutteridge was the first Cardinal with the line.  Gutteridge actually scored 4 runs and knocked in 5 during the first game of a double header that day.  For what it’s worth, he doubled and struck out 3 times in the nightcap.

I half expected all three men would hit high in the order, and indeed Edmonds hit third and Moon fifth.  But Gutteridge hit seventh during his game, and Greene eighth Sunday; more proof that on any given day you can see anything at a baseball game from any given spot in the order.

One more factoid of interest.  There have only been four other second baseman with a day like Tyler Greene’s:  Joe Morgan, Ryne Sandberg, Juan Samuel, and Orlando Hudson.  That’s not bad company, is it?

*Baseball Reference’s play index only goes back to 1918, so although we could argue ‘first ever’ it is prudent to put the date, just in case. Search was done for games where the starting second basemen had two or more HR, 4 or more RBI, scored 3 or more runs, and stole 1 or more bases.

Mike Metzger is a freelance writer based in San Diego.  He blogs about the Padres.  You can follow him on Twitter @metzgermg.

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Next Cardinals’ crop could be quite the harvest

Sunday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch included a story on St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras. Taveras opened eyes last season when he posted the highest batting average in the Midwest League since 1956. Taveras hit .386 with an on-base percentage of .444. Manager Mike Matheny admitted the batting mark caught his eye and has given Taveras a handful of at-bats with the big club this spring.

For many years the Cardinals built their major league club through trades or free agency rather than with players the team drafted and developed in its own system. From the pennant-winning teams of the mid-2000s, Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, Scott Rolen, Adam Wainwright, Jeff Suppan and Mike Matheny all came to the team via a trade or as a free agent. There were two mainstays, of course, who did come through the Cardinals system in Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.

Now, though, it appears the Cardinals have lots of help in their farm system. In ranking the Cardinals’ system 3rd in the major leagues, Baseball Prospectus used this line, “They’ve suddenly become a drafting and development beast, with plenty of help coming beginning in 2013.” On the current big-league team Jaime Garcia, Tyler Greene, Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Jason Motte are among the players who came through the Cards’ system.

Virtually every top-10 prospect list includes Shelby Miller, a right-handed starting pitcher out of the Lone Star State who fits the stereotypical mold of the Texas flame thrower. MLB.com puts Miller at #5 of the top-100 prospects. Predictions have Miller competing for a place in the big league rotation in spring training 2013. Carlos Martinez is another highly ranked right-handed starter. MLB.com has Martinez ranked #30 in its top-100 list. Martinez is just 20 years old and Miller is only 21.

As for position players, Zack Cox and Matt Adams are promising players for the Cardinals. Cox is a 3rd baseman and Adams plays 1st base. Kolten Wong is a 2nd baseman and a product of the University of Hawaii. The team made Wong its 1st-round draft choice in 2011. He played alongside Taveras at Quad Cities after being drafted last year and hit .335 in an abbreviated season.

It’s always exciting for fans to see players their team drafted, developed and brought through its system. Hopefully Cardinals fans will see plenty of these players in Busch Stadium in the future.

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