Tag Archive | "National League Mvp"

St. Louis Cardinals have MVP candidates, probably not MVP winner

The St. Louis Cardinals have had several players jump toward the front of the National League Most Valuable Player discussion throughout the season, but none of them are likely to win the award once the season is complete.

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Catcher Yadier Molina started the season on an incredible tear. He led the National League in batting average for much of the first half, peaking at .367 on June 18. He also has played his typically fantastic brand of defense and will likely win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.

However, Molina’s right knee started to give him trouble at the end of July while the Cardinals were in the middle of their season-worst seven-game losing streak. Molina sat on the disabled list for the minimum 15 days and has continued to be a very valuable player for the Cardinals, but his batting average is now back down to .316, just one point better than his 2012 batting average when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Because defense is nearly always undervalued in the MVP vote, Molina probably will not win his first MVP award this season.

First baseman Allen Craig has his batting average at .315 and was near the league lead with 97 runs batted in through the beginning of September. He also has a league-leading .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has hit just 13 homeruns and has not played since he hurt his right foot Sept. 4.

No player has hit fewer than 15 homeruns and won the National League MVP award since former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee received the honor in 1985 with just 10 homers.

That precedent could also hurt the Cardinals third MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who has been incredibly consistent throughout the season and has started to draw attention as a possible recipient of postseason awards, but he has just 10 homeruns.

Of course, homeruns are not an important part of Carpenter’s game.

Carpenter leads the National League in runs scored (121), hits (193) and doubles (53). He is also third in the league in extra base hits, third in batting average, tied for fourth in singles and eighth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabremetric that incorporates data to spit out a number that says how many more wins a player adds to his team than an average major leaguer.

Unfortunately for Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals MVP candidates, the man who will most likely win the award is first in WAR and has numbers across the board jus slightly better than the Cardinals players. Plus, he has a potentially wonderful storyline that will almost certainly help his chances.

The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will probably be the National League MVP if the Pirates don’t lose nearly all of their remaining games and fall from a playoff spot.

McCutchen has a better batting average (.323), more homeruns (20), more RBIs (82) and more stolen bases (27) than any of the Cardinals’ candidates.

And McCutchen is the leader of a team that has clinched its first winning season in 20 years and is on the verge of its first postseason appearance in that same time frame. Like it or not, some of the MVP voters will take that into consideration.

The Cardinals players can’t beat McCutchen with their numbers, and they cannot beat the story of his season in Pittsburgh.

But that’s how the MVP vote has gone for Cardinals players for a generation now. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa won the 1998 MVP even though Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire set the single-season homerun record at 70 because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds’ assault on the Major League Baseball record books overshadowed the great seasons Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had in 2004, and Bonds kept Pujols from winning the MVP in 2002 and 2003, as well.

The Cardinals have been blessed with players who have had seasons that rival the best in the game for much of the past 15 years, but sometimes a perennially good team with multiple players who have great seasons can keep any one of them from winning the ultimate individual award.

Of course, not many Cardinals fans or players would probably care if they get the chance to celebrate their third World Series championship in seven years in about six weeks.

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The Hall Of Very Good Adds Two Members

On Monday, July 29, The Hall of Very Good™ opened its proverbial doors to two new members…two-time National League MVP, Atlanta Braves legend Dale Murphy and former Pittburgh Pirates World Series hero Steve Blass.
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“Thank you for the honor of being selected to The Hall of Very Good!” Murphy said.  “It’s great going into this the second class of inductees and also fun to go in with a great person like Steve Blass.”
“I am flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Dale Murphy.  I think he epitomizes everything a Major Leaguer should be,” Blass added.  “I’m very flattered to be involved with something that has Dale Murphy’s name on it.”
Murphy is considered one of the nicest, most even tempered men ever to play Major League baseball.
Armed with both size and speed, the right-handed slugger was a five-tool outfielder who has the distinction of being one of the most productive and decorated players of the 1980s, having led the Majors in both home runs and RBI during the decade.
“The way I remember it, Dale Murphy’s opposite-field power was a big part of his MVP seasons of 1982 and 1983, when he hit 36 home runs both years. This was back before nearly every hitter crowded the plate and had muscled up and could easily hit one out the other way,” ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blogger Dave Schoenfield said.  “Baseball in the ‘80s will be remembered in part for the drug scandals, but Murphy represents the best of the decade: A class act and a great player.”
At the time of his retirement, Murphy’s 398 home runs ranked 19th all-time.  His back-to-back MVP awards in 1982 and 1983 made him one of only four outfielders to win in consecutive years and, at the time, the youngest.
Blass is one of the great mysteries in the history of Major League Baseball.
After his first eight seasons in the bigs, the right-hander put up an impressive 100-67 record with a 3.24 ERA and an amazing 56 complete games.  During the 1971 World Series, he made history with a spectacular Game Seven performance.  Now the Pittsburgh Pirates undisputed ace, he finished second to Steve Carlton for the 1972 Cy Young Award.  By the time 1973 rolled around, Blass had, plain and simple, lost the ability to throw strikes.  He was out of the league a year later.
“It may be said that (Steve Blass) was like the girl with the curl: when he was good, he was very, very good, and when he was bad he was horrid,” John Thorn, Official Baseball Historian for Major League Baseball said.  “But Blass was a national hero for a moment, and how many ballplayers can say that?”
Today, he is an inspiration to many, has garnered the respect of many of his former peers on the diamond and one of the game’s best color commentators.
Murphy and Blass join the inaugural member of The Hall of Very Good™, 2012 inductee, former pitcher Tommy John.
“Murphy should be in Cooperstown,” John said.  “Blass was a very good pitcher.”
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You can read more about the induction of Dale Murphy and Steve Blass into The Hall of Very Good™ by visiting http://hallofverygood.com or by following The Hall on Facebook (http://facebook.com/hallofverygood) or Twitter (http://twitter.com/hovg).
ABOUT DALE MURPHY
PLAYING CAREER:  Atlanta Braves (1976–1990), Philadelphia Phillies (1990–1992) and Colorado Rockies (1993).
ACHIEVEMENTS:  Career batting average of .265 with 2111 hits, 398 home runs and 1266 RBI.  Back-to-back National League MVP in 1982 and 1983.  Hit 20-plus home runs 12 times, 30-plus six times and 40 or more…once.  Knocked in 100 runs five times and scored 100 runs four times.  From 1982 to 1985…hit .293, averaging 36 home runs and 110 RBI.  Shares Major League record for most seasons leading the league in games played by an outfielder with six.  Five-time Gold Glove Award winner (1982-1986) and seven-time All-Star (1980 and 1982-1987).  Had his number retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1994. 
ABOUT STEVE BLASS
PLAYING CAREER:  Pittsburgh Pirates (1964, 1966-1974).
ACHIEVEMENTS:  Career win-loss record of 103-76 with 57 complete games, an ERA of 3.63 and 896 strikeouts.  Went 18-6 in 1968 with a 2.12 ERA with seven shutouts.  In 1969, won 16 with a career-high 147 strikeouts.  From 1969 to 1972, he won 60 games.  Notched a career-high 19 victories in 1972 and finished second in Cy Young Award voting.  1971 World Series Champion.  Member of 1972 National League All-Star team.

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Picking the Biggest Bird on Bat isn’t Easy

Picking the best player in a particular league is never an easy task, but picking who is the most meaningful Cardinal is arguably and even tougher one. Between Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, the team has three very viable MVP candidates, all of which could make a claim for the real deal by season’s end.

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More so than any other team in baseball, the Cardinals lean on the total team approach at the plate. There’s no one contributor that’s leaned on to carry the weight of the club individually. This delegation of responsibility is what makes determining just who’s the most valuable portion of the lineup that much more difficult this season. Even with the contributions of Carlos Beltran and Adam Wainwright, it is a three headed race for who is the Cardinals’ biggest regular impact this year. Each has been an irreplaceable catalyst in the timeliest lineup in baseball.

The Glue: The favorite in the clubhouse for most of the season has been Molina, and with good reason. The perennial Gold Glover and face of the organization has had his finest summer to date, on the heels of a 2012 season that carried that same honor. While his league-best (…) average is the most noticeable headline of his year, without a doubt he is perhaps the best intangibles player in the game today. He has guided the club’s young pitching staff to an outstanding year thus far, and has continued to change the way that teams approach attacking the Cardinals on the bases. In terms of most differences made, it is tough to make a case against Yadi.

The Catalyst: However, the biggest change in the team came when Carpenter truly took off out of the leadoff spot, solving a long-standing uncertainty for the club. And he the windfall of his production has spread throughout the entirety of the lineup beneath him. He leads all National Leaguers in doubles (31) and runs scored (75), while his 120 hits come in at second in the league as well.

While he is not the traditional leadoff man in a speed sense, the most important job of a lineup lead is to get on base, and he has that down pat. His .399 on-base percentage is the best on the club, and third best in the NL, and since moving up to the order in May, his .410 OBP has been the second best mark in the NL overall.

For a guy that started the calendar year with a new glove at a position he’d never played exclusively in his life, to find himself in his first All-Star Game just six months later, his impact combined with growth has been the most remarkable transformation the club has seen in years.

The Wrench: Craig’s impact has been predictable in a situation where it shouldn’t be. Simply put, he’s the most dependable player in baseball at the absolute best time to be that. While his 77 RBI overall are impressive, the fact that 67 have come with runners in scoring position is unreal. The batting average he carries in this position is a surreal .489 this year, which is nearly 50 points better than next most efficient producer in the situation. Digging even deeper into his clutch prowess, with runners in scoring position and two outs, Craig has produced 30 of his 77 runs driven in and carries a .467 average as well.

Timely hitting has been the Cardinals calling card, as they carry a .338 average as a team with runners waiting to be driven in, but Craig’s efforts go over and above. It’s truly one of the most efficiently productive years in recent history.

In the end, it is very possible that Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez or another rising candidate from a contender takes the MVP crown for himself completely. It is also possible that another situation such as took place around the Cy Young Award in 2010, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter cancelled each other out on the ballots, takes place and knocks each Cardinal down a notch. However, regardless of outcome, 2013 has plenty of potential to go down as one of the finest overall efforts of any offering the franchise has put forth, across the board. Where everybody gets their due…yet nobody can claim too much credit.

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Cardinals Position of Interest: Organizational Catcher

As our look around the Cardinals’ system, from the roof to the basement continues, we’ll move onto catcher, where the club is in a familiar situation. In Yadier Molina, the direction of the team is set with perhaps the face of the entire organization, yet even in as secure of a situation has there is, there still have to be contingencies. So what is the scenario behind Yadi? And is the future potentially as certain as the immediate past and present has been? Here’s how the current situation for the Cardinals’ backstops is playing out.

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St. Louis: The scene is set with the big league squad, and isn’t changing for a while. Molina is arguably the best catcher in baseball currently. Since inheriting the job from now manager Mike Matheny in 2005, he’s grown into the best defensive player in baseball, a winner of five consecutive Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves as well. His bat has also began to rise up the level of his prodigious defense as well, has he has hit .310 over the past three seasons. This balance helped him finish fourth in the National League MVP vote a year ago. At 31, he’s the cornerstone of the team, and is an unapproachable role as the team’s top catcher.

Although the opportunities behind Molina are sparse, Tony Cruz made a solid impact in his part-time work and is a fairly good athlete. He’s in a good position to hold the spot for a while, as he is low cost, young and has an ability to play other positions if needed.

High Minors: At Memphis, the club currently has some veteran backstops stashed to provide depth, and most importantly, help groom the young arms reaching the brink of St. Louis. Rob Johnson and J.R. Towles are currently lining up behind the plate. While neither is much more than an extreme fallback option in case of an injury to Molina or Cruz, Johnson did perform well in the spring.

At Double-A Springfield, 26-year- old Audry Perez has been the part-time backstop for two years, splitting the duties three ways in 2011. While not a major prospect, in five seasons through the organization, he has hit .275.

Low Minors: Cody Stanley and Jesus Montero are the prime talents at the Class-A level, both at Palm Beach currently. A former pitcher, Montero the 21-year-old hit .308 at Low-A Batavia in 33 games a year ago. Of all the catchers in the system currently, he has among the best chances of breaking through into St. Louis. While he projects favorably, but needs to get healthy to starve off his teammate this season, Cody Stanley. The 24-year-old is hitting .250, with a home run and two triples, and while he isn’t a great threat to make an impact in St. Louis, he can be a solid player in the minors.

Steve Bean, the team’s second round pick a year ago, showed some potential as well. He split his first professional year at Johnson City and the GCL Cardinals at the Rookie level. After a slow start at Johnson City, he hit .320 in 50 plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League, and at only 19 years old, he has a decent amount promise to still deliver on. He’ll continue in the GCL when season play starts June 21.

Prognosis: In a lot of ways, it’s really Yadi and then everybody else. And while that would be the case regardless of the talent behind him, it’s a rather extreme difference. From veteran backups to young, but one-dimensional prospects, there’s not a clear player that is “next” in the organization right now. While Cruz is talented, he’s not displayed himself to be a candidate for much more of a role than he carries now, for any club. And while Montero and Bean are showing potential, they are some way off from being even among the better players in the system as whole. So for the time being, in Molina’s value is even greater than is seen daily, just due to how much taller he is than the pool he’s standing in.

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Yahoo Sports: Allen Craig’s Impact

AllenCraig

COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals ensured that a core of players would be in place when they offered long-term contracts to some of their most talented employees. Allen Craig received one of those contracts based on his potential.

If the Cardinals are going to be successful in 2013, that potential will need to be realized.

No one doubts Allen Craig‘s abilities when he is on the field. His talents have earned him nicknames ranging from “The Wrench” to “That Amazing Whacker Guy.” He has earned a spot in the middle of a powerful lineup, between sluggers Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran. He is a run-producing machine with brilliant power displays and a solid batting average. In 2012, Craig finished 19th in the voting for the National League MVP.

What does it take for Craig to become an MVP mainstay? Simply put: health.

Read more about Allen Craig by clicking here

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Braun is back: Why it’s bad for baseball; and why it shouldn’t bother the Cardinals

A mostly predictable storyline in Major League Baseball has been emphatically turned upside down. Milwaukee Brewers outfield and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun has become the first player in MLB history to win an appeal following a failed drug test. It’s a shocking ending to a story we’ve heard time and time again over the past decade. Player “A” is accused, or tests positive for, taking substance “B.” Player A denies taking substance B, the fans and media roll their eyes, and in the end, player A is found guilty (Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro), admits guilt (Mark McGwire), or at the very least looks really bad in a court of law (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds).

Obviously, this is great news for Braun. The last thing he wanted to do coming off an MVP season was to have it tainted by a 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. For the time being, it’s unclear whether or not his successful appeal will fully repair his reputation. ESPN is citing sources who say the appeal was granted not because the positive test results were inaccurate, but rather because the process of shipping the test to the lab was delayed. We’ll have to wait and hear both sides of the story, but for now, Braun will at least have the stain of a steroids-related suspension removed from his resume’ and will not have to sit out the first 50 games of the 2012 season.

Why the ruling is bad for baseball

Major League Baseball released an angry statement Thursday night in response to the Braun ruling, and it’s easy to understand why. With this breakthrough, much of the progress MLB has made to change the public perception has been undone. Though the testing isn’t perfect, and has yet to include a way to test for HGH (human growth hormones), the public perception is that the game has been significantly cleaned up. Players don’t appear to be as “juiced” anymore, and home run totals have been in decline throughout the league. Gone are the days when 4+ players reached the 50+ homerun mark in the same season. Players, including Braun himself, publicly encouraged other players who tested positive for a banned substance to come clean, be honest, and ask for forgiveness in lieu of denying their steroid use. But now that Braun has broken the mold with his appeal, players will no longer be apologetic, and can hide behind the shield of a potentially “inaccurate” drug testing system.

Here’s the statement from MLB:

“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.

“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute.  While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”

If Braun really is innocent and didn’t take any performance-enhancing substance, this situation really is a shame for him. But regardless of whether he’s clean or not, this is an absolute disaster for baseball.

Why the ruling shouldn’t bother the St. Louis Cardinals

You might be familiar with a term that’s tossed around from time to time by players and management within the Cardinals organization: “The Cardinal Way.” It’s a term that embodies a number of things, from playing hard and battling until the final strike (or in some cases, the final strike…twice) to simply playing the game the right way. And it’s that simple philosophy that will help them stay focused and driven to overcome the Milwaukee Brewers this year despite an unprecedented ruling that will allow their best player, a person who tested positive for a banned substance, to avoid a 50-game suspension.

During the 2006 World Series, the Cardinals were faced with a moral dilemma in the early stages of Game 2. Detroit Tigers pitch, Kenny Rogers, was caught red-handed with pine tar illegally placed on the palm of his hand. Baseball rules call for pitchers who use pine tar to be automatically ejected from the game, the same way batters are ejected for using a corked bat. Now how much of an advantage Rogers was really getting from that pine tar is unclear, but instead of asking the umpire to inspect (and eject) the Tigers’ starting pitcher, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa simply asked the umpire to have Rogers remove whatever was on his hand and continue on.

Talk about taking the high road.

Rogers went on to pitch 8 innings of shutout baseball, and the Cardinals lost Game 2 to the Tigers. The Cardinals then went on to win the next three games straight to claim the 2006 World Series.

If you believe in the WAR statistic (wins above replacement), that’s essentially a decision that will net the Brewers 2-3 wins the Brewers otherwise would not have had while Braun was out of the lineup (Braun’s WAR was 7.8 in 2011). Now consider that Braun would’ve missed six games against the Cardinals during his 50 game suspension.

Again, the Cardinals will be taking the high road. You shouldn’t expect to hear any whining from their side during Spring Training or during the first two months of the season. But don’t be surprised if the Cardinals privately use it as a little extra motivation.

The Brewers better be ready come April 6th.

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You’re in control, Mr. Braun

National League MVP, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers won his appeal on Thursday, and avoided what would’ve been a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season.  After much speculation, a unique case with no shortage of twists, turns, and thickenings of plots (is that a phrase?) came to a close.  Mostly.  There is still a little dust that has yet to settle, like Braun addressing the media live (scheduled for 11am Friday from Brewers camp), to compliment a statement he released.

Personally, I found it interesting, and frankly a bit offensive that Braun’s statement included terms like “innocent”, and phrases like “The process worked” (clearly a reference to the appeal process, not the other process being discussed here).  My personal favorite is probably the portion of his statement that reads, “I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.  Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.”

Here’s the problem with that: According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and numerous other credible sources, Braun won his appeal case based on a flaw in the process (presumably not the one that “worked”).  He challenged the integrity of the chain of custody of his urine sample, and it turns out he had a point–a point legitimate enough to have the suspension thrown out.  So, it’s not that Braun’s positive test results didn’t result in a level of synthetic testosterone-to-epitestosterone level of nearly 30:1, because according to at least one source, they did.  (A ratio of 4:1 is the threshold for a positive test result)  It’s because some dude didn’t follow protocol when handling Braun’s urine sample.  Braun didn’t argue the evidence, the results, or the science.  He argued that protocol wasn’t followed.

That’s “innocence”?  That’s “love and respect for the game of baseball”?

Dude. I seriously had, like, this much in my system. Not even kidding.

Early on, there were talks that Braun should be stripped of his NL MVP honors.  Some folks still believe it should be taken from him, and given to Matt Kemp (who went on record saying he doesn’t want it–he’d rather earn it outright.  Good for him.).  I couldn’t disagree more.  The voters voted, and awarded him the Most Valuable Player award.  If his testosterone was more than that of the entire outfield of the team the Brewers were playing on any given day, so be it.  (As it turns out “any given day” just happened to come along in the postseason.)  But the logistics are pretty complicated, and it’s a very slippery slope–if you take Braun’s MVP from him, you’ve got to take a couple MVPs from Bonds, take this from Clemens, take that from A-Rod, and take something from Palmeiro.  Period.

It’s worth noting that MLB released a statement in which Rob Manfred says Major League Baseball “vehemently disagrees” with the decision that was rendered by third-party arbitrator, Shyam Das.  If you weren’t aware, there was a neutral, third-party arbitrator who heard the case, and handed down a decision–a neutral party that MLB and the MLBPA agreed upon.

I’m very interested in this whole “vehemently disagrees” language.  I want to know exactly why MLB feels so strongly about this judgement.  The way I see it, “letting Braun off” (if you want to call it that) isn’t good, but having said that, there’s a process in place, and rules to follow.  There’s a system, and from what we’ve seen so far, it’s a pretty good system.  There’s a lot of hype about how this is the first time in professional sports an appeal has been upheld, I’m not necessarily buying that.  Is it the first time that the general public has been aware of?  Yes.  Does that necessarily make it the first time in history?  Doubtful.

Nonetheless, there is a protocol to follow.  A right way to go about things, and when Ryan Braun’s pee pee sat over the weekend, that broke protocol, invalidating the process, and by proxy, the results and subsequent suspension.  Consider it an error significant enough to leave some “reasonable doubt”.

i70 Baseball Quiz

What will Ryan Braun use as his inspiration for comments to reporters on Friday?

  • “I was young, and stupid.”
  • “I’m not here to talk about the past.”
  • “I have never used steriods.  Period.”
  • Perjery/Obstruction of Justice/Clear cream
  • McNamee’s needle

Humor me for a minute.

Let’s say police find the dead body of a person who’d been missing for 67 years in the basement of a house somewhere in Oklahoma.  We’ll say the victim’s name is Adolf Hitler, and the house belonged to a guy named Chuck Norris.  (Total hypothetical here)  If they find the body without proper authorization, such as a search warrant, then the evidence was obtained improperly, and wouldn’t be admissible in court*–because protocol was not followed.  That’s gonna make it awfully tough to pin the crime on (and convict) Norris of the crime!  That’s pretty much what happened here.  But, while people could and would assume that Norris was guilty of killing the person, the system in place dictates that such a conclusion would have to be reached without the aid of the evidence found by inappropriate means…whether he actually did or didn’t.

I can’t help but wonder: Would that mean Norris would be “innocent”, and have “love and respect for the life of Hitler”?

I digress.  One question I’d have for MLB would be, “Can you please explain to me why you vehemently disagree with this decision, but were willing to bend the rules for Manny, and reduce his 2nd offense, which by CBA, should be 100 games, down to 50?”  I understand that he missed time, but to me, that’s different–it’s not time served as punishment for a 2nd failed PED test.  To me, the latter is far more harmful to the game’s reputation and integrity than the former.

As a fan of the game of baseball, I’m disappointed.

I’m disappointed in Ryan Braun, whose talents I’m now skeptical of.  I’m also disappointed in the jackwagon who fouled up the chain of custody, and cost the game some (more) integrity.  I’m further disappointed that “being exonerated” has nothing to do with the amount of synthetic testosterone in Braun’s system found that October 1st test following a 3-for-4 day at the plate in the playoffs.

Bottom line for me?  Ryan Braun’s exoneration proves that he’s just as innocent as O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony – in the court of public opinion, at the very least.  So, yeah, maybe I’d be pissed off too, if I were Major League Baseball.  Here’s a guy who did the crime (failed a test), but won’t do the time.  When the story first broke several weeks ago, the Braun camp assured everyone that the truth would come out, and everyone would see that he is, in fact, innocent of the allegations against him.  Well, the truth is out it seems, and I’ve drawn a different conclusion.

…And I love and respect this game.

*I’m totally not an attorney, and that statement may lean a little more to the “What I saw on Law & Order SVU” side of things than the actual, you know, “legal” side of things.  Just sayin

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King Albert May Leave St. Louis

St. Louis Cardinals fans can already see the writing on the wall, they sit six games behind the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and their team is playing uninspired ball: Games that should be won are lost, leaving many to scratch their heads.

However, what many Cardinals fans have seemingly forgot about or have chose to forget entirely is that Albert Pujols, the teams best player, is not under contract for next season. It seems so long ago now, but the one they call King Albert made a scene early in Spring Training about wanting a long-term, big-money contract.

Both sides negotiated, but they remained far apart, apparently so far apart that Pujols decided he no longer wished to negotiate with the club until after the season. You may ask how can the Cardinals can even think of not giving Pujols the money he wants?

Well, a $30 million per year asking price is enough to even make thew New York Yankees blush, so how can a mid-market such as St. Louis pay that much money for one player? Added into the mix is Pujols’ desire to have it be a 10-year contract and you really have problems.

The former National League MVP is still producing eye-popping numbers in his Cardinals red, but they are a NL team, meaning they do not have the benefit of the DH. Pujols is currently 31 years of age and even a eight-year contract brings him to almost 40.

Is it possible that Pujols can still be a productive hitter and fielder at that advanced age? Sure. But is it more likely that he will no longer be able to play the field and they are stuck with a very expensive bench option?

One has to only look at the Yankees and their decision to give Alex Rodriguez a shiny new deal and where that leaves them now. Rodriguez is no longer the feared hitter he once was and has to be the DH regularly because of a problem-filled hip. This same scenario could happen to Pujols.

However, lets take money out of the equation for arguments sake. Pujols has already established himself as one of the game’s greatest hitters. Since the moment he has taken the big stage, Pujols has flashed leather, showed a keen batting eye and tremendous power.

In fact, he is the first person ever to have achieved 11-consecutive seasons of 30 or more home runs to start his major league career. That is a stability of greatness. Over those years, the perennial All-Star has accomplished many individual awards, but has only tasted one World Series Championship.

To quote a former football coach, “You play to win the game.” It’s as simple as that, the reason Major League players continue to work on their trade and continually give it their all, day in and day out is to ultimately win a championship.

Pujols has witnessed many years where the Cardinals sat atop the National League Central every year, but now he has seen that stop. He has the seen the building of a young but talented team in the Brewers, one that is set up to contend for years to come.

The Cardinals meanwhile have struggled to find the pieces to match-up with their division foes. Mariano Rivera has made a career out of postseason success and you can be sure Pujols wants to have a chance to experience the same kind of success.

He may not be able to fulfill that dream in St. Louis, so the question is this: Why would King Albert want to stay in St. Louis.

Cardinals management better have a good answer to give Pujols when the question is asked or one of the best players in baseball will leave for a new journey.

Ryan Lazo is a contributing writer for i70 Baseball. He is also a Senior Writer for BaseballDigest.com. He can reached at RMLazo13@gmail.com, followed on Twitter @RMLazo13 and read his blog Artificially Enhanced.

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25th ANNIVERSARY: The Cardinals’ 1985 Starting Lineup

The Cardinals had a long road to the World Series, where they arrived the heavy favorites to beat the Royals. While the Cardinals’ pitching staff was the driving force behind the team, the offense was impressive. Utilizing “Whiteyball” to the full capabilities, the team was built on speed, defense and fundamentals. Today, here on I-70 Baseball, we break down the starting eight fielders from the 1985 World Series.

It was during that road to the World Series that the Cardinals’ lineup experienced a major loss when a freak accident with a tarp brought an end to the season for Rookie Of The Year Vince Coleman. That left the Cardinals to turn to a man who many people considered to be faster then Vince Coleman to lead off games for them in the Fall Classic.

1. Willie McGee, CF
Willie McGee would patrol the astroturf of Busch Memorial Stadium in center field in Gold Glove style and take the lead off position for the Running Redbirds. McGee was no slouch, he was the National League MVP and Batting Champ in 1985, hitting .353 and leading the league in hits (216) and triples (18).

2. Ozzie Smith, SS
Following McGee in the lineup each night was the Cardinals’ annual Gold Glove winner and All Star shortstop Ozzie Smith. Ozzie would not realize his full potential with the bat for another few years, but his .276 average did not reflect his ability to produce productive outs, moving runners along and setting up the middle of the order with opportunities to drive runs in with minimal effort.

3. Tommy Herr, 2B
It was the Cardinals’ second baseman and number three hitter, Tommy Herr, that showed this theory to be effective. While only hitting eight home runs, hit 38 doubles and post a .416 slugging percentage, Herr still managed to drive in 110 runs behind the top of the order.

4. Jack Clark, 1B
The cleanup spot in the Cardinals’ batting order was manned by the only true “power hitter” on the roster, their first baseman Jack Clark. A .281 batting average, .502 slugging percentage and 22 home runs could only net Clark 87 runs batted in. The third and fourth spots in the order were indicative of Whiteyball at its greatest.

5. Tito Landrum, LF
The number five spot in the order would be patrolled by the left field replacement for Vince Coleman in veteran, home-grown Tito Landrum. Landrum’s season in 1985 was that of a bit player, hitting .280 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in over 161 at bats.

6. Cesar Cedeno, RF
Across the field from him in right field was a late addition to the Cardinals roster, veteran outfielder Cesar Cedeno. Cedeno came to the Cardinals in late August in a trade from Cincinnati and went on an immediate tear. In his only 28 games as a Cardinal, Cedeno would hit .434 with 6 home runs and 19 runs batted in. He would hit sixth throughout the world series.

7. Terry Pendleton, 3B
The offensive threat started to fizzle as the bottom of the Cardinals’ order came to the plate. Terry Pendleton would hit seventh and play third base. While years later he would dominate and win an MVP award, his second year in the league would come in 1985 and be largely unimpressive. He would hit .240 with five home runs, though he would scrape out 69 runs batted in.

8. Darrel Porter/Tom Nieto, C
Pendleton would give way to a platoon at cather hitting eighth. Darrel Porter and Tom Nieto would share the duties behind the plate, while neither of them doing it impressively from the offensive standpoint. Porter would close out the 1985 regular season hitting .221 with 10 home runs and 36 runs batted in. Nieto would not fare much better, hitting .225 with no home runs and 34 runs batted in.

The wild card from the bench was young Andy Van Slyke, who would split time in right field throughout the season and be a late inning replacement in the World Series. Van Slyke would hit .259 with 13 home runs and 55 runs batted in over the course of the season, seeing time at all three outfield positions and first base and stealing 34 bases, just for measure.

The Cardinals’ lineup was poised to take on the Royals in the World Series and matched up with the team from the west side of the state very well. Time would tell the 1985 team just why the games are played on a field, and not on paper or in articles.

Tomorrow: A look at the Cardinals’ pitching staff in 1985.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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