Tag Archive | "Pennants"

Whiteyball To TLR

I enjoy this time of year as a writer. Part of the reason for that is the United Cardinal Bloggers and their Roundtable project.

The project itself is interesting. One person asks a question and, this year, 30 writers from around the internet chime in with their opinions. All of the responses get gathered and posted onto one of the United Cardinal Blogger sites. Anytime you get that many opinions, you come up with some great material, some fun debate, and every once in a while another idea comes up.

I credit this year’s roundtable for this article.

Throughout the many discussions I have heard about Tony LaRussa over the last week, it seems that most of the fans out there have a large amount of respect for the man, even if they did not necessarily like him a whole lot. What I hear quite often, however, is how fans were not sure if he was the right man because of his complete opposite approach to the game from former skipper Whitey Herzog.

Fans remember The White Rat fondly and rightfully so. The decade of the 1980’s were a remarkable one for St. Louis. In his tenure, Herzog put three new pennants firmly in place in St. Louis and followed one up with a World Championship. Herzog’s has a spot on the wall for the Cardinals and a spot in most fan’s hearts.

The problem is, as much as we would all like to forget the time period between them, Tony LaRussa did not take over the team from Whitey Herzog. Whitey resigned from the Cardinals in 1990 and LaRussa took his position at the helm to start the 1996 season. Between them, as most of us know, whether we want to admit it or not, was Joe Torre.

Torre took over as skipper for the Cardinals with 58 games left in the 1990 season. In September of 1989, the Cardinals laid to rest one of their greatest fans. August “Gussie” Anheuser Busch Jr, who was instrumental in buying and keeping the franchise in St. Louis, had finally reached the end of his 90 year old life.

When 1990 rolled around, the ownership of the franchise had lost interest in owning a baseball club and it became apparent on the field. Free agents were not being attracted to the team, the goal had become very business oriented, and Torre was the figurehead that most fans seen as the problem.

The years that Torre was in charge would see the Cardinals finish second in their division one time and then never finish above third place again. Amazingly, Torre was able to produce a 351-354 record in his tenure with the team, playing the game with very little star power outside of shortstop Ozzie Smith. That’s not to say that the team did not have some quality players, but our friends at Baseball Reference list the top player in each of Torre’s years as follows: Willie McGee (1990), Ozzie Smith (1991), Bob Tewksbury (1992), Greg Jefferies (1993), Mark Whiten (1994), and Brian Jordan (1995). Not exactly the best players in the league at any point.

Torre was a good baseball man with a strong history in the game that was stuck with an ownership group that would not put the right pieces on the field for him to manage. His first full year in charge of the team they would finish 84-78 and in second place, the best finish of his tenure. He would be the first manager in St. Louis with at least five years as their manager to not make the World Series since Branch Rickey ran the team from 1919 to 1925.

We have since watched Joe Torre move on and accomplish great things in New York and perform adequately in Los Angeles before taking a position with Major League Baseball. We know he is a good manager and a capable baseball mind.

The brewery sold the franchise to a group of investors prior to the 1996 season. Torre had been released the year before and the new ownership group brought in manager Tony LaRussa to lead the team, which immediately made the playoffs that season. Brian Jordan was once again the best player on the team that season, but a transition was starting to happen under the new leadership. The ownership would invest in the ballclub and LaRussa would lead them.

Joe Torre was simply a victim of circumstance. A guy that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is a shame that his time is all but forgotten because of it.

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.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (0)

Cardinal Great Bob Forsch Passes

The news is still very young at this point, but Cardinal great Bob Forsch has apparently died of a heart attack at the age of 61.

You can read the official press release from the club, by clicking here to read a PDF file.

Forsch is best remember in St. Louis for his place in the pitching rotation through the successful “Whiteyball” years. A Cardinal from 1974 until an August trade in 1988 sent him to the Houston Astros for Denny Walling, Forsch was a staple in the starting rotation.

I-70’s resident historical writer, Bob Netherton, had some thoughts on Forsch:

I was saddened to hear the news of Bob Forsch’s passing. He was always a fan favorite, and for good reason. We know all about the two no-hitters, but the fact that he was the only player that Herzog kept from the 70s team to last through all three NL Pennants says far more about him as a player and person than those two magnificent games. Forsch was a mirror of the team he played for, never seeking the spotlight, probably wasn’t the best at his position, but he gave it everything he had each time he was called on. From the rotation, to the bullpen, back to the rotation – whatever the team needed, Forsch was there.

Forsch was a stingy pitcher who walked few but also did not strike out many. A pitch to contact hurler in a spacious Busch Stadium, Forsch was also a work horse that threw over 200 innings seven times in his 16 year career. He would also post double digit wins in all but five of his seasons on the mound, winning 20 games for the one and only time in 1977.

A steady pitcher that anchored many rotations, Forsch was never regarded as the ace of the staff. In fact, he led the league in one category one time in his career with a 1.4 walks per nine innings in 1980. He was also regarded as a very good hitter and would retain two Silver Slugger awards, 1980 and 1987, for his commitment at the plate.

More from Netherton:

My favorite Forsch moment came in Game Three of the 1987 National League Championship Series. The Cardinals were being bullied around by Will Clark and Jeffrey Leonard. Forsch came into the game and immediately took control but hitting Leonard with a pitch. It put a runner in scoring position, but Forsch never let that runner cross the plate. It started one of the greatest comebacks in Cardinals postseason history. What a competitor.

Forsch would throw two no hitters in his time with the Cardinals. His first would come on April 16, 1978 against the Philadelphia Phillies, the second on September 26, 1983 against the Montreal Expos. As impressive as it was for Forsch to throw two no hitters in his career, it was a game that he did not pitch that would etch his name into Major League Baseball’s record books. Almost one year to the day after Bob threw his first no hitter, his brother Ken would throw a no hitter for the Houston Astros on April 7, 1979 against the Atlanta Braves. They are the only brothers to every throw no hitters in Major League Baseball history.

Most recently, Forsch has been serving as the pitching coach for the Rookie League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, the Billings Mustangs.

Netherton’s final thought: Bob Forsch was one of my favorite players, and he will be missed.

Bob Forsch’s career statistics:

1970 20 STL-min 2 3 .400 4.94 8 5 31.0 38 26 17 19 1.839 11.0 5.5 LEW,CDR · NORW,MIDW
1971 21 STL-min 11 7 .611 3.13 23 23 158.0 140 74 55 41 134 1.146 8.0 2.3 7.6 3.27 CDR · MIDW
1972 22 STL-min 8 10 .444 4.35 24 24 7 2 153.0 158 85 74 47 109 1.340 9.3 2.8 6.4 2.32 ARK · TL
1973 23 STL-min 12 12 .500 4.39 27 27 166.0 169 91 81 66 1.416 9.2 3.6 TUL · AA
1974 24 STL-min 8 5 .615 3.67 15 14 7 0 103.0 95 49 42 33 71 1.243 8.3 2.9 6.2 2.15 TUL · AA
1974 24 STL 7 4 .636 2.97 19 14 0 5 2 100.0 84 38 33 34 39 123 1.180 7.6 3.1 3.5 1.15
1975 25 STL 15 10 .600 2.86 34 34 0 7 4 230.0 213 89 73 70 108 134 1.230 8.3 2.7 4.2 1.54
1976 26 STL 8 10 .444 3.94 33 32 0 2 0 194.0 209 112 85 71 76 90 1.443 9.7 3.3 3.5 1.07
1977 27 STL 20 7 .741 3.48 35 35 0 8 2 217.1 210 97 84 69 95 112 1.284 8.7 2.9 3.9 1.38
1978 28 STL 11 17 .393 3.70 34 34 0 7 3 233.2 205 110 96 97 114 96 1.292 7.9 3.7 4.4 1.18
1979 29 STL 11 11 .500 3.83 33 32 0 7 1 218.2 215 102 93 52 92 100 1.221 8.8 2.1 3.8 1.77
1980 30 STL 11 10 .524 3.77 31 31 0 8 0 214.2 225 102 90 33 87 99 1.202 9.4 1.4 3.6 2.64
1981 31 STL 10 5 .667 3.18 20 20 0 1 0 124.1 106 47 44 29 41 112 1.086 7.7 2.1 3.0 1.41
1982 32 STL 15 9 .625 3.48 36 34 1 6 2 233.0 238 95 90 54 69 105 1.253 9.2 2.1 2.7 1.28
1983 33 STL 10 12 .455 4.28 34 30 3 6 2 187.0 190 104 89 54 56 85 1.305 9.1 2.6 2.7 1.04
1984 34 STL 2 5 .286 6.02 16 11 2 1 0 52.1 64 38 35 19 21 59 1.586 11.0 3.3 3.6 1.11
1985 35 STL 9 6 .600 3.90 34 19 4 3 1 136.0 132 63 59 47 48 92 1.316 8.7 3.1 3.2 1.02
1986 36 STL 14 10 .583 3.25 33 33 0 3 0 230.0 211 91 83 68 104 114 1.213 8.3 2.7 4.1 1.53
1987 37 STL 11 7 .611 4.32 33 30 1 2 1 179.0 189 90 86 45 89 97 1.307 9.5 2.3 4.5 1.98
1988 38 TOT 10 8 .556 4.29 36 18 3 1 1 136.1 153 73 65 44 54 81 1.445 10.1 2.9 3.6 1.23
1988 38 STL 9 4 .692 3.73 30 12 3 1 1 108.2 111 51 45 38 40 94 1.371 9.2 3.1 3.3 1.05
1988 38 HOU 1 4 .200 6.51 6 6 0 0 0 27.2 42 22 20 6 14 52 1.735 13.7 2.0 4.6 2.33
1989 39 HOU 4 5 .444 5.32 37 15 5 0 0 108.1 133 68 64 46 40 64 1.652 11.0 3.8 3.3 0.87
16 Seasons 168 136 .553 3.76 498 422 19 67 19 2794.2 2777 1319 1169 832 1133 98 1.291 8.9 2.7 3.6 1.36
162 Game Avg. 12 10 .553 3.76 37 31 1 5 1 207 205 97 86 61 84 98 1.291 8.9 2.7 3.6 1.36
STL (15 yrs) 163 127 .562 3.67 455 401 14 67 19 2658.2 2602 1229 1085 780 1079 101 1.272 8.8 2.6 3.7 1.38
HOU (2 yrs) 5 9 .357 5.56 43 21 5 0 0 136.0 175 90 84 52 54 61 1.669 11.6 3.4 3.6 1.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/4/2011.

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.

Editor’s Note: I feel compelled to include a few Tweets from around Cardinal Nation this morning:

I've always heard stories about Bob Forsch from his playing days. R.I.P. Sad news. #stlcards
Michael Fisher
Bob Forsch was who I imagined myself to be playing ball in the street as a boy, hitting grand slams & pitching no-hitters for the #stlcards.
Ben Matthews
Oh man...Bob Forsch. Rest in peace, brother. #stlcards
Kevin Reynolds
Thinking of Bob Forsch's family today. Rest in peace, Bob. #stlcards
Stunned, saddened to hear the news that Bob Forsch has passed away. We talked last week, before Game 7. I am praying for his family. So sad.
Tom Ackerman
Bob Forsch pitched two no-hitters for #stlcards. I was there to see his first in 1978. Groundball under Reitz glove at 3B ruled an error
Jeff Lloyd

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Just What Do You Get With $30 Million?

For starters it can get you five to eight years (at 30 per) of the best player in baseball. It could get you another five or so years of roughly 328/43/127. At the very least it will get the Cardinals another 2.5 million fans through the turnstiles and continued jersey sales.

Come this November John Mozeliak is going to have a big decision to make. This decision ties directly into Mozeliak’s future with the Cardinals. The direction Mo and management choose to go with all that loot will determine whether he is the next Joe McDonald or Dal Maxvill. Perhaps the question should read “what should you get with $30 million” rather than what do you get.

Bill Dewitt is the father to Mozeliaks’ son. The situation reminds me of a father who gives his son a $50 bill and tells him he can spend it any way he wants…as the boy walks away the father yells from a distance but don’t spend it all in one place! Granted the scale is different. It is a lot easier to recover from misspending $50 as opposed to $30 million. But if there is a more fitting analogy for the upcoming Cardinals offseason, please someone tell me.

Should the Cardinals choose to invest the money into one player, Albert Pujols, it’s an easy sell to the fans. You keep the best player in baseball in St. Louis and make sure he retires wearing the Birds on a Bat. You create a reason to turn in and come out to the games. The marketing slogan writes itself, “Come out and watch Albert’s assault on the records books.” The fans will file in and the Cardinals will win some games.

The danger in this is a return to the McGwire era. A time when the Cardinals were relevant not for winning pennants or competing for the World Series but for their dominating super star. The games were must see TV and the team set attendance records year after year. And it is safe to say profits were up for Dewitt & Co. Well for myself and many other fans being relevant and winning some games is not enough.

Which leads to the another answer to the initial question. Follow the father’s advice and spread the money around. $30 million can get the Cardinals one player, a 3-time MVP. It can also get them two more years of a Cy Young winning pitcher, two to three years of a switch hitting 5-time All Star and either a legit middle of the rotation starting pitcher or an actual closer.

Anyone who has watched the Cardinals blow 24 saves and struggle behind Chris Carpenter is torn between rectifying those issue and locking up Pujols long term. From a logical, baseball point of view it should be an easy decision. As nice as it is to have the best player in baseball, the best player of a generation, perhaps the best hitter of all time a Cardinal, winning a World Series takes precedence.

As much as I wish the choice was mine, it is not. It is up to a group of individuals as concerned with profits as they are with winning. They will make the decision which way to invest more with their wallets than their hearts. Will it be Albert Pujols or will it be Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman and Heath Bell.

Either way Cardinal faithful will fill the seats at Busch. But for how long. It has been four years (with Pujols) since the Cardinals last won a playoff game. If the empty seats this season are any indication, the fans are tired of mediocre baseball. The real question is, are the owners?

These are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

Derek is on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze and also writes for the Rams at RamsHerd.com
Also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SportsByWeeze

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The Quandary At Third Base

Throughout the course of this off-season a lot of attention has been placed on upgrading the St. Louis Cardinals middle infield. And for good reason; the middle infield was a liability for the entire 2010 season. The positions were no longer hitting for average and the defense was leaky. In response, General Manager John Mozeliak signed SS Ryan Theriot this off-season, hoping to boost the offensive production of that position and address some chemistry issues.

A lot has been said about that signing, both good and bad. But, there is still a glaring problem the Cardinals are going to have deal with sooner rather than later; the third base quandary.

Everyone remembers the years of “MV3”. That trio consisted of 1B Albert Pujols, 3B Scott Rolen, and CF Jim Edmonds. That combination produced four division titles, two NL pennants, and one World Series championship. Cardinals fans look back longingly on those days. What that lineup had is what the Cardinals of the last four years have been missing tremendously; a threat at third base.

Since Rolen’s trade to Toronto, the Cardinals have floundered at the hot corner. The position has become a turn style for injuries, mediocre players and long shots. It’s been a chink in the armor of some otherwise good Cardinal teams. Without a quality anchor in the infield and at the plate, the Cardinals have struggled to reach the heights of the 2000’s.

In 2010, it was suppose to be different. The player who was dealt to the Cardinals in the Jim Edmonds trade was finally going to be given a shot. His bat and glove were supposed to stabilize the ship. For the first half of the 2010 season, it appeared this was the case. From April to June David Freese hit .296/.361/.404 with four homers, 12 doubles over 240 at-bats. More importantly, he hit for .324 with RISP. Because of that, he drove in 36 runs, providing some relief for the middle of the order.

His glove became a solid addition as well. Yeah, there was that brief melt down in Milwaukee on April 11th when he committed multiple errors that lead to runs (I remember vividly because I was at that game). However, David did a tremendous job of showing poise as he regrouped himself and became almost flawless in the field the rest of his season. That is, until tragedy struck at the position again.

Freese suffered a bone bruise on his right ankle in June. He went on the DL on June 29th. While on the DL he hurt himself again by dropping a weight on his left foot. His eventual rehab with Double-A Springfield only lasted a game as he suffered another ankle injury. The season was over for him when it was determined another surgery was required on his ankle.

Entering the 2011 season, Freese is again projected to be the starting third baseman. If Freese stays healthy and builds on his success from last year, this could be a great thing. A lineup with Pujols, Holliday, Berkman, and a healthy Freese could do a lot of damage to opposing pitchers. The key is if Freese stays healthy. Depending solely on the health of Freese is not the safest of options.

If Freese once again gets injured, what will Mozeliak & Tony LaRussa do? Their options are limited yet again. The organization does not have a lot of depth at the position, obviously. A veteran utility player would help on the bench in case of another injury to Freese. But, at the moment there is no one to fill that role. And coming out of winter meetings it is clear this is not a priority.

An opening at third base could help provide more playing time for Allen Craig. In his time at Memphis, Craig has torn the cover off of the ball. But in the big leagues he has suffered from spot duty playing time, which affected his plate performance. Playing regularly at third along with Freese could help Craig find his rhythm and provide more punch to the lineup.

Another option the Cardinals have is turning to a thin minor league system. Players like Ruben Gotay and Zach Cox are third basemen in the making. Both offer promise of someday filling in as the “anchor”. But at this time are they big league ready? Of the two, Gotay has the most experience. He hit .285 with Memphis but has not posted big league numbers since 2008.

Zackary Cox offers a lot of promise but needs growth. He was drafted by the Cardinals in 2010. After signing, he hit .400 at the plate and fielded 1.000 while playing with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He could be the future but he shouldn’t be rushed through the system to help in 2011.

Another option would be to play Daniel Descalso at third. In 2010 he played 11 games with the big league club. He hit .265 and drove in four runs. Though, I am not sure if I would classify him as a true third baseman.

That leaves adding a third baseman via the trade route. As Cardinals fans last year found out, the organization doesn’t have a lot to deal. Therefore, the prospect of gaining an impact player is small. Nothing exemplifies this better than the trade made last year for Pedro Feliz. The Cardinals gave up a live arm in reliever David Carpenter for the “bat” of Feliz. It was a desperate move done by a desperate team. Not surprisingly it didn’t pan out. Feliz hit an anemic .208, making third base a liability rather than a strength once again.

There is still a lot of time left before the season begins. “Mo” might once again turn to picking some “low hanging fruit” to give third base some stability should Freese not be able to stay healthy the entire 2011 season. Let’s hope something is done to provide depth to the position. Without a solid presence at the third base position, the Cardinals will find it difficult to field a productive lineup again.

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