Tag Archive | "Whole Lot"

Trevor Rosenthal best-suited to help St. Louis Cardinals as reliever

Trevor Rosenthal might have lost the battle for the final starting rotation spot, but the St. Louis Cardinals gained a great resource for their bullpen in 2013.

Trevor Rosenthal - photo from FoxSportsMidwest

Trevor Rosenthal – photo from FoxSportsMidwest

The Cardinals officially said last week that Rosenthal is out of the running for the fifth spot in the rotation and will start the season in the bullpen. And while that might be disappointing for a pitcher who had a goal of winning that battle, the move should work out best for both sides.

Rosenthal can throw more than 100 mph and often looked as unhittable as any pitcher in Major League Baseball last season out of the bullpen, and the Cardinals will give him the chance to do more of the same in 2013.

As a reliever, Rosenthal could rare back and throw the ball as hard as he wanted without having to worry about stamina. That gave his fastball the extra few miles per hour that often make the difference in whether a hitter gets a hit or swings threw a pitch.

And he most likely would’ve lost that quality had he moved to the rotation.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander can still crank it up to 100 mph late in a ballgame, but he is a rare (almost unique) pitcher who can throw as hard as a starter as he could if he were a reliever. Others tend to lose a few miles per hour on their fastball once they’re asked to throw more than one or two innings.

Adam Wainwright began his Cardinals career out of the bullpen as the closer for the 2006 World Series championship team. He threw in the high 90s as a reliever but rarely reaches above 94 or 95 mph as a starter.

Granted, Wainwright is plenty effective as a starter and is on the precipice of receiving a whole lot of money because he can pitch effectively for seven innings or more. That could very well be the path Rosenthal eventually follows, but for now he is best suited for the bullpen.

He started one game at the beginning of spring training, and it didn’t go well. He gave up four runs on five hits in two innings against the Miami Marlins while walking two batters and failing to strike out anybody.

Sure, that was an early spring training game, but the Cardinals would be foolish to take a chance on a young pitcher in their rotation when they have others who they have already groomed to be long-term starters for the organization.

Those two are Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, and they will battle for the final spot in the rotation.

Kelly did not look good in his last start, giving up two runs and three walks in two innings Thursday against the New York Yankees.

But Miller hasn’t been much better. He gave up two runs and three hits in two innings Friday against the Washington Nationals but walked just one hitter.

Overall, Kelly has more experience as a starter and is more of a sure bet than Miller at this point.

Theoretically, the Cardinals could give Kelly the starting job and send Miller to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds to start the season. Then Miller could come up into the rotation and Kelly could slide to the bullpen if a reliever gets injured, or if the Cardinals find they need more depth in the bullpen.

That situation will work itself out in time, but at least the Cardinals already know they have a flamethrower who can shut down hitters late in a ballgame, even if he technically lost a job to get to that position.

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Adam Moore Trying To Make His Case

The Kansas City Royals have very few “up for grabs” spots in Spring Training.  Some players are going to have to really impress to crack the opening day roster this year.

Catcher Adam Moore is making an early attempt at impressing.

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Photo by Charles Sollars/i70baseball

Make no mistake, despite his soon to come departure to the World Baseball Classic, Salvador Perez is the Royals catcher and rightfully so.  However, the team has kept an open mind to who will travel with the team as his backup this season.  July of last year shows a waiver transaction that had the Royals claiming Moore from the Seattle  Mariners.  He would appear in four games last year and compiling only twelve plate appearances.

This Spring, Moore has appeared in three of the four games that the Royals have played.  He has shown consistent defense, which is his “calling card”.  A good glove, a strong arm, and a suspect bat.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Moore forgot that he was supposed to have a suspect bat.  Small sample size and over-analyzing Spring stats will lead you down a dark path, but what you can see is a player that is playing with passion.  In Monday’s 16-4 drumming of the Diamondbacks, Moore hit is second home run of the young spring.  In addition, he held his batting average at .500 (again, small sample size, he has six at bats).  He came into today’s action as a designated hitter, replacing Billy Butler in the process.

None of this means a whole lot at this point, but it does give Royals fans something to pay attention to.  There is currently no guarantee who will be the backup catcher in a little over a month when the team breaks camp but one thing is for sure: starting catcher Salvador Perez leaves the team this week to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic.  That will leave a lot of at bats, as well as a lot of time to get to know the pitching staff, to another player.  That player will gain the opportunity to seize a roster spot and prove to manager Ned Yost why he deserves to be on the team.

Adam Moore can put a strong grip on that spot if he simply continues to do what he is doing right now.

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

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Three To Watch: Cardinals at Cincinnati

The defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals roll into Cincinnati having taken two of three from the division rival Milwaukee Brewers.

The Milwaukee series gave fans a glimpse of the 2012 team.  David Freese, Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran proved that they can hit.  Adam Wainwright showed he was healthy, even if he did not have his best stuff.  Jason Motte showed that he is ready to be the team’s closer, at least as the season starts.

As they pull into the ballpark known as Great American, what do the Cardinals hope to see out of this series?

Jake Westbrook builds on his Spring
Let’s face it, most fans were perfectly okay with the thought of Jake Westbrook being relegated to the bullpen for the remainder of his Cardinal career, which most still hope is simply the end of this year.  However, Westbrook put together a fine Spring Training.

Spring stats are hard to judge.  It’s like the line from Major League 2 –

Rube Baker: Wow, Willie’s really got some power.
Lou Brown: Off a guy who’ll be bagging groceries in a couple of weeks!

So, who is the real Jake Westbrook?  The Cardinals could use some stability in the rotation and if Westbrook can be a fraction of the pitcher we watched as the flowers were beginning to bloom, it will go a long way towards that stability.

Sending a message early
I am not bold enough to say that a three game series in April will make or break this season.  There is a whole lot of baseball to be played.  But these two teams are coming together as the favorites to win this division.  A message can be sent here in the early going to let the other team know that they mean business.

As defending World Champs, the Birds need to send these messages quickly.  They are being counted against pretty regularly by most of the “experts” and a series win, or even a sweep, could silence some of their critics very early on.

The $200 Million man
The offseason and early part of 2012 has shown the world that teams are willing to dig deep and pay big for the big men at first base that can hold their lineup together.

Albert Pujols has admitted recently that the contract was on his mind last season.  Prince Fielder has started showing Detroit fans just what they paid for.  Now the focus fall on young Joey Votto and what he can continue to bring to the Reds.  The pressure is on his shoulders and, in my opinion, he will respond just as well as they need him to.  That being said, the Cardinals are going to see this young man facing off against them for a long time to come, someone will put a big step forward in establishing dominance in this series.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Searching for meaning

The Kansas City Royals started their Cactus League schedule on Sunday with a 6-1 win over their campus mate Texas Rangers. A win as a good way to start the exhibition season, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that having any type baseball broadcast over any medium was a cause for celebration. I’m also confident that by the second game on Monday afternoon I was not the only person trying to figure if any of the individual player performances in these games mean anything.

As much as I’d like to tell myself that a 4-3 record for the Royals at this point in spring training is a good omen. Baseball fan experience tells me it doesn’t mean a whole lot. They do not give out Cactus League Championship rings. They don’t hang Cactus League Championship Banners at Kauffman Stadium, and if they do print Cactus League Championship t-shirts no one should wear them. In fact, the phrase “Cactus League Champion” is so irrelevant that a Google search only brings up four returns, and one of those was from the Royals Review message board.

The Royals have won the Cactus League twice since I’ve been paying close enough attention to notice these things. In 2006 the Royals won the Cactus League and proceeded to lose 100 games during the season. Last year the Royals won the Cactus League and only won 71 games. While it’s good to not look terrible in spring training, winning a lot of games during spring training doesn’t mean that much.

Spring Training is about established major leaguers getting their work in, deciding some position battles, and fringe players catching on with an organization. I have some interest in these battles, but not a whole lot. Other than hoping prospects live up to their potential I’m more concerned that the Royals break camp healthy, and the young players continue their improvement. Only way to improve is to get reps in major league situations. As I fan I don’t have much involvement in that. Nor do I really have any favorites to make the team, just as long as the best players break camp.

Outside of position battles is there any meaning in spring training? Only baseball for baseball’s sake. It’s been a long winter and it’s nice to have any baseball. This is my first spring training with access to MLB Network, and the MLBatBat App on my phone. My access to baseball has never been better. Not only is fan access better, during March the inventory of baseball is greater than during the regular season. With split squad contests, there are 18 games on the schedule today. During the regular season there can only be 15. I guess spring training is a lot like spring break. Don’t look for meaning, just enjoy the experience.

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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.

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Yesterday, three finalists were named at each position for Gold Glove winners. As expected, Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur made the cut. Gordon finished with league highs at his position in fielding percentage (.991) and outfield assists (20). Francoeur ended the year with a .986 fielding percentage and 16 outfield assists.

However, the Royals best defensive player didn’t even make the top three at his position.

That player, of course, being Alcides Escobar.

It has long been said that offensive numbers often play a large role in an award that is given based solely on defense. This has been proven throughout the years and this is the best example for this year’s finalists.

The players chosen ahead of Escobar were Erick Aybar, JJ Hardy, and Asdrubal Cabrera. This is what their offensive numbers looked like:

Aybar: BA: .279 HR: 10 RBI: 59

Hardy: BA: .269 HR: 30 RBI: 80

Cabrera: BA: .273 HR: 25 RBI: 92

Now, let’s take a look at what type of offensive statistics the Royals shortstop put up:

Escobar: BA: .254 HR: 4 RBI: 46

I got to watch Escobar play in basically every game this year. Almost every single game, he made a play that seemed like it should have been physically impossible. His bat is not even close to the level that his glove and arm are on, but that shouldn’t matter when deciding on the Gold GLOVE.

If I had to pick a winner from this year’s finalists it would be Erick Aybar. He is the type of defensive player that can make plays similar to Escobar. He has the range and athleticism to be considered the top defensive shortstop in the American League.

I didn’t get to see a whole lot of JJ Hardy this year, but what I was able to see wasn’t as impressive as what Escobar did on a daily basis. His range was nowhere near to Escobar’s, but hitting 30 HR’s as a shortstop is a sure way to steal some votes.

As far as AsdrubAl Cabrera goes, he either made a spectacular play or made an error on a routine grounder. His range was good but his instincts weren’t even near where Escobar was.

It’s too bad that on a yearly basis, great defensive players are left completely out of the discussion of being named the best at their position. Defensive play gets overshadowed by being a big name with a bigger bat. While Alcides Escobar was saving games with his glove, these other players were saving games with their bats.

Maybe next year Escobar will get to 10 HR’s and a .270 average so he can be considered the best defensive shortstop in the American League.

Royals Tweet of the Week

This week’s Tweet of the Week comes from Tim Hawkins.

Simple, subtle, honest.

Follow Tim @tbhawkins and myself @tbryant824

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United Cardinal Bloggers Get To Know Each Other

Since the launch of this site, i70baseball has been a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB) and we have always been anxious to help out with any projects or events they wish to have us help out with.

This month, the UCB decided to have writers from various sites around the internet do a brief interview of each other and introduce the fans of our site to a writer from another site that you may or may not know. You can read the entirety of the posts over at the main site.

That being said, I proudly present to you Dustin (DJ) McClure, the guy behind Welcome To Baseball Heaven.

DJ McClure

Where do you currently live? Originally from?

O’Fallon, MO / Originally from Iowa

What made you follow/become a fan of the Cards?

Well like I said I’m originally from Iowa and we didn’t have an MLB team. Every summer my Dad and I would go on trips to see different parks in our general vicinity (KC, STL, Chicago, etc.). Our first trip to St. Louis I believe was in 1992 or so. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere at Busch and I’ve been a Cards fan ever since.

Who was your favorite player as a child? Now?

My favorite players past to present: Ray Lankford, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter.

What do you wish the team would do different?

Score more runs. Pitch better. Win more games. Just kidding. Unfortunately we don’t have the personnel to play better defense and put more runners in motion so I’ve got nothing. Well maybe no more crazy TLR lineups.

What do you think the team does well now?

This year’s version of the Cardinals does a good job of battling and playing hard. It’s not always pretty and the outcome is not always what we want but I always feel this team plays a hard nine on a consistent basis.

When someone goes to your site, what can they expect (Shameless Self Promotion)?

As of right now not a whole lot. My writing has taken a backseat to some pretty cool stuff taking place in my personal life. I promise my mediocre writing will be returning soon to capture the hearts of a few.

Do you write or appear on other sites?

I have not as of yet. I’d welcome the opportunity to guest post in the future.

Give me one Cardinal, current or past, that you just never liked…

Easy. J.D. Drew. Scott Boras as his agent. Disabled list every season as a Cardinal. I did always enjoy referring to him as “Nancy” Drew. The best thing about Drew was the fact he brought us Adam Wainwright.

Same questions for any MLB player…

Francisco Rodriguez or “K-Rod” Anytime dude gets a save or a big strikeout to end an inning he celebrates as if he’s just won the World Series. He’s always had electric stuff but other than that he’s just a tool.

What do you do professionally (“real job”)?

I work in the wireless industry.

What would your dream job be?

Anything that would allow me to be involved in the daily operations of the Cardinals or any MLB organization and also travel with the team.

The United Cardinal Bloggers is a group of writers that have come together in a network to complete writing projects about the St Louis Cardinals. UCB has also developed a weekly radio show/podcast called the UCB Radio Hour.

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What Do The Royals’ Recent Setbacks Mean?

In the midst of a hopeful season, it’s been a tough few weeks for the Kansas City Royals. Let’s take a look at some of the team’s recent setbacks, as well as the bright side of each:

Soria loses closer role

The setback: Joakim Soria, among the most dominant closers in the game over the past few years, was demoted last week after blowing several save opportunities. Soria’s struggles are baffling; it’s been difficult for anyone inside our outside the organization to pinpoint exactly what’s not working. Except for this: his pitches seem a whole lot more hittable to opposing batters this year.

The upside: As Soria moves down, rookie Aaron Crow steps up to the closer role. This is a great opportunity for the Royals to see what Crow, who has been effective as a reliever, is made of. Also, Soria pitched well on Friday in his first non-closer appearance, so maybe the demotion will be short term. If not, this could push the Royals in the direction of converting Soria to a starter.

Moustakas struggles in AAA

The setback: Everybody and their brother would have bet that Mike Moustakas would have been the first Royals prospect to crack the big league roster this year. But a handful of young pitchers beat him to it. Then, Moustakas was relegated to second-class citizen when breakout star Eric Hosmer blasted his way to the majors before Moose. Hosmer was stunning in AAA this year, and so far he’s proven he can play in the big leagues. Moustakas struggled early on, and his title of “Third Baseman of the Future” seems a bit shaky now.

The upside: Every player goes through struggles. And Moustakas has been playing really well the past week in Omaha, where he leads the team in RBIs. If not for Hosmer’s meteoric rise, Moustakas’ struggles wouldn’t be as pronounced. And there’s still a high probability that Moose will be the starting third baseman in Kansas City before the end of the year.

John Lamb to have Tommy John surgery

The struggle: Lamb, the Royals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, will likely be out for a full season – if not longer – after last week’s announcement that he’s headed for Tommy John surgery. Prior to this move, Lamb was projected as a possible future ace for the organization. Now? It’s anybody’s guess.

The upside: Ten years ago, Tommy John surgery was nearly a death knell for a pitcher. But medical technology has made the procedure much more common and routine. Lamb has a really good chance to bounce back from this and become an even better pitcher. You could make the argument that it’s good this happened now – instead of three years from now, when the problem could have been much worse and harder to fix.

Royals lose 17 out of 25

After a promising start to the season, the Royals have dropped to fourth place in the A.L. Central after losing 17 of their last 25 games. The starting rotation is a shambles, and has been pinpointed as the biggest part of the problem.

The upside: At the beginning of this season, nobody expected this team to contend, so nobody should be surprised now that they’re struggling. And as for that starting rotation – yes, Luke Hochevar’s struggles are troubling, but did we really expect Sean O’Sullivan and Kyle Davies to pitch well?

Ned Yost goes crazy

The struggle: This may be the most troubling development of all. The Royals’ manager has had a standoffish approach to the media ever since his days in Milwaukee, but he sunk to new lows last week in crazily contradictory statements. On the day before Soria’s demotion, Yost said the worst thing the team could do was remove Soria from the closer’s role. Soria was demoted the next day after another blown save. Reports came out that Soria asked to be removed from the role, but when confronted about it, Yost said he had made his decision before Soria asked to be removed. WTF?

The upside: At least he’s not this guy:

Trey Hillman

Or this guy:

Buddy Bell

Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and associate editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at mattkelsey14@yahoo.com.

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Remembering Splitt The Pitcher

There have been a lot of great tributes to Paul Splittorff the player, the broadcaster, and the man over the last few days. Here, I would like to honor Splitt by attempting to give an idea of just how large he looms in Royals pitching history. The most obvious examples are his all-time club records for starts (392), innings pitched (2,554) and wins (166). He has owned the franchise wins record since 1975, and is in no danger of losing it anytime soon. Splitt faced 10,829 batters, over 1,300 more than the next pitcher on the Royals all-time list. In addition to his incredible longevity, Splitt was also a tie to the very earliest days in Royals history. He was drafted by the club in 1968, a year before the big league team even started play. The Royals selected 21 players ahead of Splitt that day, but he was the first to make it to KC, and the only one to have a long career with the Royals. According to his New York Times obit, he threw the first pitch in Royals history when he opened the Corning Royals 1968 season in the New York-Pennsylvania minor league. He rushed through the minors, making it to the majors for two appearances in September, 1970. His first action came as the starter in Comiskey Park, where all of 693 fans turned out to watch Splitt and the Royals lose to the White Sox.

He again etched his name into Royals history by pitching the first ever game at Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973. He rose to the occasion, pitching a masterful complete game marred only by a ninth inning solo home run by Jeff Burroughs of Texas. Splitt and the Royals cruised to a 12-1 victory. It was the first of 20 wins for Splittorff that season.

Paul was a pitching stoic. He didn’t have a whole lot of fast-twitch muscles. On the mound he was big, strong, slow, deliberate, but very graceful and very much under control. A high leg kick, a smooth delivery, ordinary stuff. Three hundred Royals’ pitchers have had better pitches to work with, but Splittorff won 166 games for the Royals, and nobody else has.
—Bill James

Splittorff was never a dominating pitcher, with a not-so-fast fastball and crazy-low strikeout numbers. He relied instead on smarts, ground balls, knowing each hitter’s weaknesses, low walk rates, getting by against righties and feasting on lefties. It was a formula that made him only a good pitcher most days, but maintaining that level of play over 15 seasons adds up to a remarkable career. Plenty of major league pitchers have had a decent season or three, but few have strung together such sustained effectiveness for as long as Splitt did. He is in a group of fewer than 200 members to win 166 games or more.

He’s got a fast ball, slider, curve and change-up. When he puts them where he wants them, it’s a thing of beauty. He knows how to set up hitters. He never tries to overpower anybody, but just with control, he can be overpowering.
—Darrell Porter, who caught Splitt more than any other catcher, July 1, 1978 The Sporting News

Splitt was there as the Royals grew from expansion team to powerhouse in the mid-70’s, helping them make the post-season in 1976, ’77, ’78, ’80 and ’81. Only two pitchers (Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura) have faced more batters in Royals post-seasons than Splitt. Teams managed just a 2.79 ERA against him in his seven playoff appearances. While the team could not get past the Yankees in ’76, ’77 and ’78, Splitt had their number each post-season. He earned victories in ’76 and ’77. In ’78, he left the game with a lead that the bullpen could not hold. While he was not awarded the win, the Royals defeated the Yankees in Splittorff’s start to win the 1980 ALCS. After finally getting to the World Series, manager Jim Frey made the questionable decision to not give Splitt a start in the series (though he was effective in one brief relief appearance).

He gets them over and in good spots. He knows the hitters. He knows how to pitch. He follows his game plan. I’d call Splitt a heady pitcher. He tries to get the double play ball. He doesn’t try to strike out guys, but when he needs a strikeout, he goes after it. He never gets rattled. He’s gotten a lot of mileage out of what he first showed.
—Galen Cisco, Royals pitching coach, July 1, 1978 The Sporting News

It is fitting that Bret Saberhagen made his debut in relief of Splitt in 1984. Splitt retired before the year was out, completing the transition from the great staffs of the ’70s and early ’80s to the next wave. Splittorff of course was not gone for long, transitioning quickly into the Royals broadcast booth. With his passing, the Royals and their fans have lost one of their greatest mainstays and one of the last remaining links to the club’s beginnings.

A few of Splitt’s best games:

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Why Tony La Russa Must Go

Let me make one thing clear before you read the rest of this article:

Before this season, I have always liked Tony La Russa as a manager. There have always been people that would criticize his every move, but I would always stand up for the guy. I was a TLR supporter, and then 2010 happened.

After what I have seen this season, Tony must go.

Not only is he stubborn to the core, sometimes I actually think he does things just to stir the pot. I’m not a conspiracy theorist of any kind, but some of La Russa’s moves have been questionable at best. Time after time I find myself deep in thought trying to understand his methods, but I simply cannot.

Last week, Allen Craig was the lead-off hitter. May I ask why? Craig is batting .188 in 89 plate appearances. Need I go further?

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the prototypical lead-off hitter a high on-base percentage player who has speed to burn on the bases when the two, three, and four hitters drive him in? Craig’s OBP is .258. That is good for thirteenth on the team. Jeff Suppan has a better OBP than Allen Craig. Even in Craig’s best years in the minors when he was hitting .320, his OBP never cracked .390.

As for speed? Craig has stolen six bases in his professional career, and that includes 499 games in the Minors. MLB players don’t get a whole lot slower than Allen Craig. I would rather see Skip Schumaker, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus (I know he was injured, but still), Felipe Lopez, Brendan Ryan, Aaron Miles, even Randy Winn bat leadoff over Craig. Nevertheless, he was batting leadoff on Friday night. I need an explanation as to why. If you have one, comment below or email me, because I must know.

I told a friend before the game, “if Craig does not get on base at least twice tonight, I’m going to lose it.” He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

The second of three situations that have occurred in the past week happened in the most frustrating game of the season, the 11-10 loss on Thursday night. I don’t even want to talk about the actual game, because it was awful. I want to know why Kyle Lohse was batting in the 11th inning, with a runner on base, in a 10-10 game when Bryan Anderson was on the bench.

There were two reasons La Russa gave as to why he did not pinch hit Bryan Anderson. The first was that Anderson was our only catcher left on the bench. That is true, but don’t you play to win? Yadier Molina has caught exactly 90% of the games this season. Even if the game does go a few more innings, I would hope Yadi could handle that. And if, by some incredibly slim chance, Molina did get injured, then TLR can cross the bridge when he comes to it. How many times have the Cardinals thrown up a hail mary when we run out of pitchers? I understand that comparison is apples and oranges, but I’m sure La Russa (who over-thinks everything) would be able to figure something out if Molina happened to get hurt.

The second reason he had for not pinch-hitting Anderson was that (according to La Russa) the Nationals pitcher, Miguel Batista, is good against left-handed batters this season. That makes no sense to me at all. Sure, left-handers are hitting only .258 against Batista, but that is still a hit every four at bats. Looking at a much larger sample size, left-handers are hitting .289 against Miguel in 544 games. Not to mention, Anderson hit .294 in 218 at bats against right-handed pitchers this season down in Memphis.

Did La Russa check to see how Lohse fares at the plate? I’ll give him a hand. Lohse has hit .167 (36-for-216) in his career.

Was Tony just giving what he thought sounded like a good excuse? Because it is not valid by any measure. How can he possibly justify that move?

The third incident over the past week or so is just now really surfacing, but it all started when Colby Rasmus was benched 20 minutes prior to a game he was supposed to start on Sunday.

After the game, La Russa said, “He’s had all the work. He’s never backed off the work, taking batting practice. I think it all has to do with what his concentration is, and what his focus is. I do believe that, you just watch his swings in batting practice and in the game, I think he is convinced that he helps us more if he just yanks the ball out of the park. That normally is not the case, because you’re limiting yourself to a side of the park and you’re vulnerable to too many pitches. We really push, ‘Just play the game.’ That’s what Jon [Jay] does. He plays the game. Take a single, take a walk, let the home runs come.”

Now, let it be known that I do not know what is going on behind closed doors. I do not know what TLR’s beef is with Rasmus, or if he truly has one at all. All I do know is that some very educated baseball minds have said that one of two things will happen before the 2011 season. Tony La Russa will retire, or Colby Rasmus will be traded. I have been told there is no way that they can coexist, and I hope ownership thinks long and hard about who is more valuable to the future success of this franchise.

This is definitely not the first La Russa-player feud we have come across, but it needs to be the last. Benching Colby Rasmus hurts the team’s chances to win and it makes the St. Louis Cardinals worse. Jon Jay is not a better player than Rasmus. Jay has been great since being called up, but he has also been extremely lucky. I hate to break it to you, Tony, but Jon Jay is not a .360 hitter.

Plus, why is Colby being benched for Skip Schumaker and Aaron Miles? Seriously? We’re benching a .853 OPS hitter that has 25-30 HR potential for them two? La Russa is comparing Rasmus to Jay, but why can’t they both play? What is wrong with Holliday in left, Rasmus in center, and Jay in right? Isn’t that the idea behind the Ryan Ludwick trade? Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

Oh, and if the Front Office does decide to trade Rasmus, I hope they know that they’re getting rid of a 5.3 WAR 23-year-old center fielder with all kinds of upside. We have paid him $813,000 over the past two years. Good luck trying to find that kind of production for that kind of money.

Again, I have always been a La Russa supporter, but the decisions he has made are beyond bizarre. I’m starting to think he’s lost interest in baseball all together. After 30+ years in the league, maybe he’s just done with it. You can argue that if you’d like, but his managerial mindset this season is flawed to say the least.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball and his blogs, Cardinals Front Office and Rising Redbirds, that are also dedicated to Cardinals baseball and their minor league system.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here

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