Tag Archive | "Star Player"

Felix Hernandez megadeal should actually help St. Louis Cardinals in Adam Wainwright negotiations

The St. Louis Cardinals enter spring training this week with another star player entering the final year of his contract just two years after the Albert Pujols contract circus. But the Cardinals suddenly have leverage in these negotiations they never got with Pujols.

AlbertPujolsAdamWainwright

Adam Wainwright will be a free agent at the end of the season if he and the Cardinals can’t agree on a long-term contract before the end of the season. This sounds similar to the Pujols situation, but the Cardinals should suddenly be more optimistic this time around thanks to an American League team on the West Coast.

The Seattle Mariners are close to signing pitcher Felix Hernandez to a huge contract that could range from five to seven years and $135 million to $175 million. Either way, Hernandez is going to be a very rich man, but he probably helped the Cardinals in negotiations with their own ace pitcher.

Hernandez could make somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million to $27 million annually, which is close to the price tag many people figured it would take to keep Wainwright in St. Louis beyond this season. However, the Cardinals have a few good reasons not to pay Wainwright that much money, or at least not for that long.

See, Hernandez is just 26 years old even though he’s pitched in the big leagues for eight seasons, but he has never had a major arm injury. Wainwright is 31 years old, missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and struggled at times in 2012 to regain his dominant form.

The bigger concern for the Cardinals was when the San Francisco Giants signed righthanded pitcher Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5-million contract extension before the beginning of the 2012 season. Cain was 27 years old at the time he signed the deal, but he also had a career record of 69-73.

Granted, the deal worked out last year as Cain led the Giants to a World Series title with a 16-5 record and a perfect game along the way, but Wainwright still looked like the better pitcher at the time.

Maybe it’s been good for the Cardinals to let negotiations with Wainwright drag on into the final year. The constant questions about the contract won’t be pleasant if they don’t get a deal done before the season begins, but the Cardinals would’ve certainly had to pay more for Wainwright if they had signed him to an extension two years ago, and probably even last year. There was a chance Wainwright could have made between $25-30 million per year up until the Hernandez deal.

Wainwright could still shoot for that type of money as a free agent in the offseason if he has a Cy Young Award-caliber 2013 season, but teams will likely be much more unwilling to give a 31-year-old pitcher with a history of arm problems more money than a 26-year-old pitcher who has never spent an appreciable amount of time on the disabled list.

Of course, time will determine if the Mariners made the right decision to sign their righthanded star pitcher. Hernandez could have a Cain-type season, or he could turn into Barry Zito, who hasn’t pitched above .500 since the Giants signed him to a $126-million deal in 2007.

No matter the long-term outcome, news of the Hernandez deal should make Cardinals fans more optimistic their team’s own righthanded star pitcher will take the mound at Busch Stadium in a Cardinals uniform to open the 2014 season, and God-willing, several more seasons beyond that.

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Black History Month: Curt Flood Broke A Different Barrier

Curt Flood was a star player, who spent 12 seasons patrolling center field for the St. Louis Cardinals’ after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds following the 1957 season. During his career he was a three time All Star and won seven Gold Gloves. He was not a power hitter, but did a little bit of everything, and did it all well. Despite his accomplishments on the field, Flood’s most important contribution to baseball is his challenge of the game’s vaunted anti-trust exception, and how he helped usher in a new era of player rights and rising salaries.

The Cardinals won 87 games in 1969 with the 31 year old Flood as their longest tenured player and still producing at a high level. Therefore, it was with great surprise when it was announced on October 7, that Flood had been traded with several other players to the dreadful Philadelphia Phillies for a package highlighted by the mercurial Dick Allen. While the Cardinals got back a star player in Allen, the trade was shocking for the way it jettisoned their senior leader.

Flood didn’t want to go to Philadelphia for several reasons. After spending 12 seasons with the Cardinals, he had established his home, family, and business ventures, and felt he should have a say if asked to relocate. The Phillies were also coming off a 99 loss season and played their home games at the ancient Connie Mack Stadium, which had a rough field that would have not been kind to Flood’s knees. Additionally, Flood, an African American, never forgot brushes with racism he experienced during his career in Philadelphia.

Flood refused to accept the trade, a move which defied 100 years of control professional baseball had over its players. After determining that he would be backed by the player’s union, he officially refused to report to the Phillies and petitioned to become a free agent. He sent a letter to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, stating pointedly- “After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.”

To nobody’s surprise, Kuhn denied Flood’s request. He maintained Major League Baseball’s rights to have exclusive contractual control of the players. In his response to Flood, Kuhn wrote, “I certainly agree with you that you, as a human being, are not a piece of property to be bought and sold. That is fundamental in our society and I think obvious. However, I cannot see its applicability to the situation at hand.”

The request of free agency was something that many players had previously wished was an available option, but was something owners had always fought hard against to maintain their control. They were aided by baseball’s reserve clause, which was an exception to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 that prevented business from creating monopolies. In 1922 the Supreme Court ruled that Major League Baseball was not interstate commerce, making them exempt from the law and allowing them to control their players with an iron fist. Major League Baseball fought for such ruling to prevent rivals like the Federal League from raiding their rosters. It meant that baseball players who wanted to play professionally for a living would play on the major leagues’ terms, or not at all.

Any player who didn’t abide by baseball’s labor rules could expect their career to end quickly. One excellent example of this was pitcher Hal Trosky, Jr., who refused to sign a contract with the Chicago White Sox organization in 1961 because he knew he didn’t figure in the big league team’s plans. He asked to be released or traded so he could seek a better opportunity, and when the White Sox refused his request, he declined to sign his Chicago contract. The White Sox never officially released Trosky until 1972, more than a decade after he had thrown his last pitch; ensuring he never played professional baseball again.

Flood knew his request to Kuhn would be denied, but he was prepared to fight. He filed a $1 million lawsuit against Kuhn and Major League Baseball, alleging they were violating federal antitrust laws. For Flood, it was not a matter of black and white, but of principle. Baseball’s union chief Marvin Miller later said that when Flood was asked if he filed the suit because of perceived racism, the player replied, “I wish it was, but we are dealing with an issue that affects every player. Color has nothing to do it.”

The case immediately placed Flood in the national spotlight. With race being such a hot button issue at the time of the suit, many people did believe his action was a result of black power. Therefore, it’s not surprising that his comparison of baseball to slavery became quite polarizing. His lawyer, Arthur J. Goldberg, told the press, “Flood decided he cannot play under an illegal system- and I agree… He is not willing to be sold into servitude.”

Flood went further, stating, “The problem with the reserve clause is that it ties a man to one owner for the rest of his life. There is no other profession in the history of mankind except slavery in which one mad was tied to another for life… In slavery, men were shipped from one plantation to another and in baseball, players are shipped from one franchise to another.” The notoriety of the suit redefined Flood within the context of baseball. He was no longer the star outfielder, but rather the face of resistance and labor rights.

Although Flood’s suit had the official unanimous support of the player’s union, many players were actually divided on the issue, with a good number even supporting the owners. While former players like Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg testified on Flood’s behalf, no current players took the stand or even attended the trial. With such a contentious issue, no player wanted to endanger their own career by sticking up for Flood.

Flood’s case went before Supreme Court, which in 1972 ruled 5-3 in favor of Major League Baseball, in a type of decision known as a “stare discisis,” or leaving things the way they were. It wasn’t a total loss for Flood, because in the meantime the owners had agreed to the “10/5 Rule,” or “Curt Flood Rule,” which gave players with 10 years of major league experience, with the last 5 or more with the same team, the right to veto trades.

Flood sat out the 1970 season because of his case and his refusal to go to the Phillies. Finally, in November, 1970, the Cardinals relented and sent two minor league players to the Phillies to complete the earlier trade. Flood was then traded to the Washington Senators, where he agreed to report while awaiting the adjudication of his case. Flood struggled mightily and experienced reprisals because of his suit. Fans sent vicious and racist hate mail, and before one game at Yankee Stadium, he found a black wreath, the symbol of death, hung in place of his uniform in his locker. Many players avoided him and he was a pariah amongst the owners. His Washington manager, Ted Williams, was reputed to have derided him frequently because of his actions.

All the negativity made Flood withdraw into himself, and after 13 games, where he hit .200 with 2 RBI, he decided to retire. He finished with his career with a .293 batting average, 1,861 hits, 85 home runs, and 636 RBI. Being only 33 when he hung it up, it is likely that the reaction he received because of his lawsuit hastened the end of his career. A very good playing career may have been one that was Hall of Fame caliber if he hadn’t felt the need to retire so early.

It wasn’t until 1975 that Flood’s sacrifices and principles fully paid off for all major league players. That year baseball’s reserve clause was abolished, opening the door for free agency, higher salaries, and more player rights. While he hadn’t won his case, Flood had succeeded in changing the opinion of many fans and players about the importance of player rights. Marvin Miller used momentum from Flood’s case to make such gains, saying of the lawsuit, “Once we had that, it was only a question of a year or two before we were able to get rid of the reserve clause.”

In addition to the prominent role Flood played in changing the labor landscape of baseball, he was also a great player. Like many other agents of great change, his sacrifices paved the way for the comfort and success of others. Curt Flood should be remembered as much for his selflessness and stubbornness as much as his ability as a baseball player. As President Bill Clinton said after Flood’s death in 1997, he was a man, “whose achievements on the field were matched only by the strength of his character.”

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Shelby Miller Scares Me

Over the past month or so, a lot of focus has been given to the minor league system and what players the Cardinals may have for the future. While the list of prospects and future major league contributors has grown, there has been the consistent focus that Shelby Miller is not just the “cream of the crop” but he is as can’t miss as anyone we have seen.

That scares me.

The Cardinals do not have a great track record with “can’t miss” prospects. This is not to say that the team cannot grow players from the farm system. Quite the contrary, players like Jaime Garcia, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene and many more have made their way through the system and into roles on the big league club. Okay, Tyler Greene was stretching a bit, but you get my point.

Here’s a look at some of the players that have come through the farm system for the Cardinals:

Adam Wainwright
I will start off with my “exception to the rule”. Wainwright was a key part of the Atlanta Braves system and the key component to the trade that sent J.D. Drew off to Atlanta. The prized piece of the trade for the Redbirds was to obtain Wainwright and get him working through the minor leagues as quickly as possible. He was, in fact, hit with the “can’t miss” label and in this instance, it was spot on. Wainwright has gone on to become the ace of the staff for the Cardinals and proved that sometimes, “can’t miss” is spot on.

J.D. Drew
Speaking of Mr. Drew, he makes our list next. A highly touted draft pick that the team picked up after he refused to sign with Philadelphia the year before, Drew was signed to a contract that put the team in a position to have him at the big league level immediately. Drew floundered a bit before finding his footing but found that the footing was a dangerous slope that kept him on the disabled list a lot more than expected. He has gone on to be a contributor with a few franchises, but I’m not sure he has become the star player we were all told he would be.

Rick Ankiel
It may be possible to list Ricky on this list twice, in all actuality. Rick was the “can’t miss” pitcher of the 90’s that came in and dominated hitters with his fastball and sweeping curve. Of course, when you put a lot of pressure on a young hurler, sometimes it can backfire. The implosion of Rick Ankiel on the mound made it hard to accept that he failed, but his reinvention as a power hitting, left handed center fielder brought him quickly back to the forefront of everyone’s mind. This time as a “can’t miss” outfielder, Ankiel proved the old Spiderman mantra – “With great power comes great responsibility”. In this case, responsibility would be to the strike zone and Rick seemed to have very little respect for it, chasing anything and everything that a pitcher let loose.

Yadier Molina
The backstop for the Cardinals since 2004 might be laced in gold, but his arrival to St. Louis was not an expected surge. Molina came onto the scene as the heir apparent to the Mike Matheny catching throne, but was surrounded with stigmas of being a defensive catcher and a liability at the plate. His manager stood by him and today Molina has proven that he belongs both at the plate and behind it, but he makes this discussion simply because he was not labeled as “can’t miss” and was more of a surprise than an expectation.

Albert Pujols
The guy no one wants to read about right now was a home grown talent himself. However, a late round draft pick from a junior college did not label him as the next great thing early on. An injury to left fielder Bobby Bonilla forced Tony LaRussa to let a young Pujols onto the roster, despite Tony’s desire to have him play another season at Memphis first. Albert is the exact opposite of the discussion here, a prospect that came through the organization, but not one that everyone was talking about before he arrived.

David Freese
The Most Valuable Player for both the National League Championship Series and the World Series, Freese is home grown and made his way through the minor leagues before arriving in St. Louis and taking over the hot corner. That being said, Freese was a cast off player from the San Diego Padres that was the proverbial “bag of balls” the team received when dealing Jim Edmonds. Even then, he was expected to be surpassed by Brett Wallace on his way to the majors and had many grumbling when he arrived at the big league level that he was a “stop gap” player at best.

Colby Rasmus
The five-tool player that was one of the biggest prospects to come through the organization in a long time, Colby Rasmus never materialized into the player the team thought he would be. In addition, through his time in St. Louis prior to the trade that would banish him from St. Louis, the National League, and even the country, Rasmus began to prove that his tools might have well been overstated as well.

Tyler Greene
Greene was the Cardinals’ first round draft pick in 2005 and was the player coming through the minors that would put an end to the revolving door at shortstop, giving the team a legitimate, long term answer to the middle infield conundrum. As he continued to produce through the minor league system, the team continued to project him being a bit part of the major league answer. When given the chance to grab that brass ring, however, Greene has provided fodder for many writers questioning his place in the major leagues. The “can’t miss” shortstop has become such a minimal part of the Cardinals’ future that they have signed Rafael Furcal to a two year contract to hold down the position while they wait to see what is happening with some of the younger guys.

Brett Wallace
Do you remember “The Walrus”? There was one thing we were promised about the big guy, he would hit. At every level the team placed him, he did just that. His defense, however, never improved and before you knew it he was blocked by the sudden surge of David Freese and was on his way out of St. Louis in order to acquire Matt Holliday. The addition of Holliday makes the Wallace situation a win for the Cardinals, but Wallace himself has struggled to find his footing. On the back end of two more trades, he now plays for the Houston Astros and the team is trying to determine if he deserves a shot to prove that he will be in their future, as a first baseman.

Jaime Garcia
The jury is still out on Jaime, trying to determine if he can find the magic he uses in April and May and spread it out over the course of the season in the near future. Another late round draft pick that has succeeded at every level in the minor leagues before arriving in St. Louis, Garcia is proving once again that sometimes it is the guys behind the “can’t miss” prospect that truly produce at the major league level. Garcia has been projected to have “ace type stuff”, but it was not until he was in the big leagues that we started hearing about it.

There are many players in the minor league system that may have a big impact on the big league club. There are a few that were with the big club last season that have the opportunity to contribute on a much larger scale. The track record for the Cardinals with “can’t miss” prospects suggests that Shelby Miller may not be the player that everyone should focus on going forward. It may be that guys like Matt Adams, Tony Cruz, Ryan Jackson, and even Daniel Descalso deserve some of that attention.

Shelby is a talented pitcher with a bright future. Due to recent history, however, that scares me.

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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Sunday Morning Reading

I can always tell that Spring Training is near. It is easy for someone like me. A few things start to happen:

  1. I cannot get my mind off of baseball. (I watched Major League: Back To The Minors today, do not judge me)
  2. I start reading anything and everything I can find that is talking about the game.
  3. I struggle to find anything to write about

So here I sit friends, with nothing to write about. I dug around but all the great ideas were taken.

I could compile all the days posts about the Albert Pujols situation, but our good friends over at PH8 are already doing that, and I steal enough ideas from them.

I could always rip into the local media about the trash they tend to write or their negative attitudes. Then again, I like the fact that not everyone has a cheery outlook on everything and the new kid on the block has already gone there this week.

The Cardinals went out and signed one of my favorite outfielders of all time yesterday. A ton of sites had insight on this one, including our own Chris Reed yesterday (in case you missed it).

The Cardinals and Pujols situation have led me to wonder about the history of players to man the position and wear the Birds-On-The-Bat. Our own Bob Netherton thought this one through on his own blog as well.

Maybe we should incorporate a countdown to the self imposed deadline on this deal right here on I-70 Baseball. Joe Sports Fan and Matt Sebek, you win again.

Finally, after reading some fantasy baseball advice from a good friend, I wondered if I should take a chance on David Freese and what the chances are that he may develop into something fulfilling this year. Guess our pals over at RetroSimba beat me to that one, too.

Where does that leave us then, fair readers?

Let us go back to the first two thoughts and combine them, shall we?

There must me nothing in the world more irritating to a national sports writer who specializes in getting insider information than a negotiation going on between a team and its star player being kept completely private.

I have complained on the air about it the last few weeks but it just seems to be getting worse and further and further out of hand. Some of the top, and most respected, writers from around the nation are grasping at straws when it comes to the Pujols contract situation.

They have taken to talking to other teams in the league to see what their take on the situation might be. They claim “sources” but provide little to no new information. They report on what teammates think of the situation and the articles unveil “teammates” being one player and a newly signed free agent who has never shared a dugout with the man.

I know the internet and the advances of social networking and new media have made a major impact on the game of sports reporting. I know that there is a race amongst everyone involved to be the first one to report a story. I know that a story of this magnitude demands some level of attention.

That being said, has the internet and new media changed the game so much that we as writers no longer have to wait for concrete evidence or facts in order to report information? Has it “grown” to the point that we should report hearsay or discussions? Does that make the roundtable discussion that happens on United Cardinal Blogger Radio Hour every week (Wednesday nights, 930pm CST) suddenly national news?

It is all speculation and suspicion at best. A star player and the club he currently plays baseball for have both agreed not to take the negotiations public. For the most part, those two sides have kept to that agreement.

I am not naive enough to think that these drawn out negotiations with no news is a positive thought for the fans of this team. The longer the negotiations go on without an announcement, the more nervous everyone really should be.

I can promise you this, I-70 Baseball will be proud to bring you news of the contract, whether signed or not, when confirmed news that has not previously been reported is available. Until then, we will talk about the ups and downs and ins and outs on the radio shows and keep an informed eye on the situation, but we will not tease you with “news” that is nothing more than rehashed, second hand information.

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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What This Team Needs

That seems to be the question lately on everyone’s mind. What do the Cardinals need to make a run at this season?

The one common theme I see out there seems to be confusion. No one is real sure what this team needs or what it will take to put things over the top. Fans say that the team needs to shake up the roster, but then complain when Ryan Ludwick gets traded. This team needs a table setter who can cause havoc at the top of the order, but fans are not ready to embrace Jon Jay. The team needs the veterans to step up and be leaders and, well, that leads us to our discussion today…

In Monday’s game against the Reds, the Cardinals took the field and prepared to play one of the biggest games put before this team this season. I will not say this game or series falls in a “must win” category, but winning the series and walking away with a tighter division race would definitely not hurt any fan’s feelings for sure. As Carpenter finished his warm up pitches and prepared to start the game, Brendan Ryan was not in position on the field. When he arrived, he then called timeout and exchanged his glove with one from the dugout, thus delaying the start of the inning further and disturbing the star pitcher’s rhythm.

After the bottom of the inning concluded and the Cardinals came into their dugout, ESPN cameras caught Carpenter leading Brendan Ryan down the corridor towards the clubhouse. While Carpenter was obscured from view, it was obvious that he was talking very sternly to the often distracted and playful Brendan Ryan. Ryan listened very intently, nodding occasionally, and the two emerged and went back to the game at hand.

Many fans saw this as over the top, flamboyant, “diva like” behavior from one of the team’s top stars. Talking with fans during the game through Twitter, I heard many voice their opinion about how it was wrong of Carpenter to do this and how it was a case of a star player putting his needs before that of the team. I am sorry, but I have to disagree.

First of all, I do not think we have anything to talk about if this is not a nationally televised game. With ESPN on hand, there are more cameras and more angles to capture the game. Due to this, the cameras caught the conversation that, in my opinion, was being conducted in an area that the players involved felt was private. This was not a manager and player coming to blows in the dugout for all to see. This was not the superstar player physically attacking the lackadaisical play of a mediocre teammate. This was a conversation had between a veteran and a young player in an area out of the public eye.

It is also important to note that Brendan Ryan, during all of his struggles, has consistently been on the filed during games that Chris Carpenter pitches. Becoming known around the Cardinal fan base as Carpenter’s “personal shortstop,” Ryan’s glove is highly valuable to the veteran groundball pitcher and has been said to have the complete support of Carpenter for a spot on the field during those games.

As fans we like to second guess our favorite players and managers. As writers, we like to dig for something more to talk about that gives us some controversy to discuss. Sometimes, however, we have to step back and realize we cannot have it both ways. If you think a roster shake up is what this team needs, then do not second guess the trading of a star outfielder. If you feel the team needs to run more, generate runs, and be more aggressive, expect the young, talented outfielder to get his chance. If you want to see someone on this teams step up and be the leader that it needs, do not be surprised when someone gets pulled aside and told to straighten up during important games.

Move along, folks, there is nothing to see here but a team that is starting to act like they want to win.

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