Cardinals Rumor Roundup: November 21

The free agent farmer’s market is officially open for business, and the rumor mill is churning in full force. Fellow citizen, prepare to be fully immersed in a perpetual and almost nonsensical stream of rumors and “inside information.”

With that lead in, let’s take a look at all of the rumors surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals and how I personally feel about them and gauge their probability of actually coming to fruition.

Rumor #1: Cardinals could target Freddie Freeman in a trade

I haven’t really heard this from any credible insiders, it’s been more of an internet blogger piece of clickbait. But still, it gets my attention because we’re talking about Freddie Freeman here.

Freddie Freeman
Photo by Steve Mitchell for USA Today

I’ve written about possibly solving the Cardinals 1st  base issue by trading Matt Adams to Baltimore for a bullpen package and letting Stephen Piscotty run with 1st base, but the more and more I think about that the more and more I realize that Piscotty’s future is in the outfield, not at 1st base. So why put him there now?

Atlanta sort of seems to be caught in the middle of a total rebuild and an attempt to contend right now, as they have been acquiring players that are young and raw enough to be developed as future talents, but still will be able to contribute right away in 2016. The Cardinals have plenty to offer in that regard.

Ideally, they could sell Atlanta on the potential of Matt Adams as a cheap alternative to Freeman and the veteran presence of Matt Holliday in that outfield to help bolster the development of Hector Olivera. Combine that with a pitcher like Tim Cooney or Marco Gonzales and it would be enough to get the deal done.

But we don’t live in an ideal world and there is no way in hell that scenario would ever play out. Regardless of that, if Atlanta is selling Freeman the Cardinals should give him a look. He would be a massive upgrade over anything the Cardinals could put out there in 2016, not to mention they would have control of him for 6 more years at a rather modest $16 million a year considering his talent level.

Freddie Freeman 2
Photo by Curtis Compton for Associated Press

Will it happen? Extremely doubtful for two reasons. Reason 1 is that the Cardinals don’t go out and make big deals for positions that they already have internal options for. John Mozeliak is too conservative, and loves giving his homegrown guys a chance. And reason 2 is that the Braves really have no reason to deal Freeman. He’s young, he’s controlled, and he’s exceptionally talented, not to mention the fact that he’s the face of the franchise. This deal won’t happen.

Rumor #2: The Cardinals have reached out to Mark Buehrle to express their interest, but Buehrle isn’t sure if he wants to play in 2016

            This one actually has some weight, as Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun writes that, “while Buehrle is unsure of whether or not he wants to pitch in 2016, he will sign with the Cardinals if he does.” So basically, it’s retirement or the Cardinals for the St. Charles native Buehrle. How do I feel about it?

Don’t like it.

Buehrle requested that he be left off of Toronto’s playoff roster because he was retiring at the end of the season and didn’t want to pitch in the playoffs. That, to me, sounds like a guy that’s out of gas in his baseball life and I just have no interest in that on the Cardinals in 2016.

Buehrle
Photo by Elsa for Getty Images

Currently, with Lance Lynn’s absence, the Cardinals have an innings void that they don’t necessarily know how to fill at the moment. Could Buehrle provide the club with about 200 or so quality innings to fill that gap? Potentially, and he’d probably be relatively cheap too. But I just don’t like this one.

I feel like Buehrle has run his course in the game, and when I consider the incredible depth of the starting pitching market this offseason, the Cardinals can find a much, much better option to fill those innings.

So I don’t like this one, but the probability of it happening is way higher than the Freeman trade. Keep your eyes on this one.

Rumor #3: The Cardinals are in contact with Scott Boras and have shown strong interest in Chris Davis

            Again, like the last rumor this one has significant weight, as Ken Rosenthal first reported it and was subsequently backed up by John Paul Morosi and multiple other outlets. But unlike my casual displeasure with the last rumor, I really don’t like this one.

The Cardinals need power, and they need it in spades, and this has been well documented by anyone with an opinion that has watched the Cardinals over the course of the past 4 or 5 years. But Chris Davis is not the answer to the Cardinals power deficiency.

Chris Davis
Photo by Tommy Gilligan for USA Today

Everything in baseball is a gamble, but some gambles are not ones worth taking. And although Davis has defensive versatility and can launch homers when he’s right, he strikes out so freaking much, doesn’t fit the Cardinals offensive mold, would cost them a 1st round draft pick, and will likely command around $25 million a year.

Davis will also be on the wrong side of 30 for the majority of any long term deal he would sign, and aging power hitters are not something that you want to be dishing out $20+ million to.

As I inferred with my endorsement of the Cardinals potential pursuit of Freddie Freeman earlier, I am all for going out and searching for answers at 1st base from outside sources, but I would much rather have an internal solution over Chris Davis.

Chris Davis 2
Photo by Patrick Semansky for Associated Press

Do I like it? Hell no, and I’m really against it. But will it happen? I have absolutely no clue. I expected the Cardinals to check in on Davis, but I still don’t expect them to be major players in his market. So keep an eye on this one simply because it’s a big fish in the free agent pond, but don’t put too much stock into the early rumor reports.

If you can’t tell from these rumors, the Cardinals deficiencies heading into 2016 are really clear. They need starting pitching in place of Lance Lynn – and also with the entire rest of the rotation having injury issues – and they need a solution to their 1st base issue. What doesn’t come up here is their bullpen issues, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

As I usually say, the cards are in the hands of almighty John Mozeliak, and I have faith that he’ll get the job done. As for the rumor mill, it’ll keep churning, and I’ll keep looking and listening and opining.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

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Cardinals Rumor Roundup: November 21

Darren O’Day and Bullpen Market Inflation

The modern bullpen has become, quite possibly, the biggest key to success in today’s league. What used to be 2-3 arms back there ready to put out the fire that a starter got himself into – i.e. the term “fireman” being coined for closers – has now become 7-8 arms, all with highly specialized roles.

I really hope someone corrects me on this, but for my money the modern bullpen was engrained in baseball by Tony La Russa, and made even more imperative during his Cardinals’ 2011 World Series run – highlighted by the NLCS, where Cardinal relievers threw more innings than Cardinal starters.

I remember hearing stories about, specifically, the Oakland A’s of the early 1970’s, and how Rollie Fingers would be sitting off in the bullpen with maybe one or two other guys. His job? Put out any fire that star pitchers Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter or Ken Holtzman got into. Other than Fingers being the closer, there were no defined roles. They just came in when manager Dick Williams told them to.

I am a massive proprietor of the modern bullpen. I love how important it has become, the jobs it creates, the careers it saves, and the strategy it produces and emphasizes. But I bet you if Dick Williams had himself a specified ‘long man’ or ‘LOOGY’ he would have no idea what to do with them.

And he might be especially confused if the team told him that they were paying that ‘long man’ or ‘LOOGY’ over $4 million. But obviously a lot has changed in the 40 years since Williams was managing, and the bullpen has been intensely inflated – in both importance and market value – to the point where spending on your bullpen has become less of an afterthought and more of a priority that must be adhered to.

At the start of the offseason I pegged out what the Cardinals needed to do to put out a successful on-field product in 2016. One of the main things was that they needed to spend on the bullpen. I’d be willing to bet that the phrase, “spend on the bullpen” wasn’t in the vocabulary of baseball executives even 5 years ago.

But today, I look up and see Boone Logan – he of the aforementioned ‘LOOGY’ species, and he of a career 4.55 ERA – making $16 million over 3 years. A guy that is on your team to, more often than not, pitch less than one inning every few days is making comparable money to guys that will go out there and play every single day.

Logan
Boone Logan. Photo courtesy of the New York Post

Why do I bring up the topic of bullpen inflation on this particular occasion? Because one of the specific targets that I had in mind for the Cardinals to pursue at the beginning of this offseason is requesting quite a bit of money.

Darren O’Day wants between $28 and $36 million over 4 or 5 years. To give you a sense of the kind of contract that O’Day is asking for, let’s pretend that he got 4 years for $36 million, an average of $9 million a year.

O'Day
Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Now compare that to the 6 year, $52 million contract that Matt Carpenter signed two years ago. O’Day would be making an average of about $300,000 more than Carpenter per year. Carpenter, in 3 full major league seasons has accumulated 14.4 total WAR, while in 8 full major league seasons, O’Day has accrued 14.1 total WAR.

Darren O’Day is asking for more money than a guy who plays every day and provides remarkable value every day; which isn’t his fault, but is a perfect example of the kind of near hyperinflation that the reliever market has experienced.

With the current state of bullpens, a guy with 14 career saves in 8 years can command the type of money that a guy like Matt Carpenter makes. I bring up the saves statistic because the highest paid relievers in the game – Papelbon, Andrew Miller, Mariano, Kimbrel – are all established closers. But a 7th or 8th inning guy making that kind of money? Game changer

Granted, O’Day is tremendous in his role, and can provide shutdown relief that can bridge the gap to your highly compensated closer, but is there nothing more important that your $9 million can be put towards?

But, alas, such is the current market. Relievers are in higher demand than ever, and O’Day will get his payday. Could he really every be worth $9 million? In my eyes, no, but for a team like Los Angeles or now Boston that has a dominant closer but porous bridge relief, O’Day could be the savior of their bullpen.

So the bullpen is at a crossroads. It’s added strategy, it’s added excitement, and it’s saved careers; but is your bullpen really worth nearly $43 million like the Dodgers’ pen was? I’m not so sure…

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Darren O’Day and Bullpen Market Inflation

The Detroit Tigers and Bullpen Problems

Something that hasn’t been talked about enough with regards to the recent rise to prominence and dominance by the Kansas City Royals is the fall of the Detroit Tigers.

A proud franchise from a proud city that had won 4 straight division titles, with a World Series appearance sprinkled in that run, Detroit has been the class of the American League Central for quite some time now. The Twins have come and the Twins have gone, (and they’re coming again), the White Sox have come and the White Sox have gone, but the Tigers have consistently been there.

The Tigers are in big, big trouble right now. They are an aging team that owes a bazillion dollars to a pair of stars on the wrong side of 30, has the 30th ranked farm system in the league, (that’s dead last, by the way), and finished in the cellar of the very division they ruled for such a long time.

And then their star GM, Dave Dombrowski, was canned and headed for Boston. Why was Dombrowski fired? Because he wanted to rebuild. Because he wanted to help the franchise get back to their winning ways. Unfortunately for him, Mike Ilitch, the Tigers 86 year old owner, understandably wants to win a World Series before he leaves this earth and will not tolerate a rebuild.

dombrowski
Photo by John Wilcox for Boston Globe

So instead of going about the rebuild like, say, the Twins or the Cubs did – that is, really successfully – the Tigers are about to enter a nuclear winter that might doom the franchise for many years to come.

Now, the only real, perceivable issue the Tigers have dealt with over the course of the past 5 or so years is that their bullpen has been bad, rather appallingly so. They have never been able to find an effective closer, and, puzzlingly, have never really gone out and attempted to get one.

Yeah, yeah Ryan we know all of this. Why are you bringing it up now?

I bring it up now because of the recent trades that Dombrowski has made in Boston, and that new Detroit GM, Al Avila, made just about 3 hours ago.

Since he never really went after a closer in Detroit, naturally the first thing that Dombrowski did when he got to Boston was go out and acquire Craig freaking Kimbrel from the Padres. If there were any closer issues in Boston, they have been solved. And Avila went out and acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers.

K-Rod
Photo by Jesse Johnson for USA Today

Kimbrel needs no introduction, but Rodriguez has quietly been one of the better closers in baseball for the Brewers. Excluding a half season hiatus in Baltimore following a deadline trade, in his 5 years with Milwaukee, Rodriguez has posted a 3.45 FIP to go along with a 136 ERA+ and 9.6 K/9 in 250.2 IP. Those are really solid numbers from a relief ace, something Detroit really knows nothing about.

So Al Avila deserves a pat on the back for going out and finally addressing Detroit’s closer issue. And his acquiring of Rodriguez looks extra impressive when you consider the farm resources and blue chip talent pool that he had to deal from.

As for Dombrowski and Boston, the fans in Detroit are left to wonder why in the hell it took him so long to go out and make a move on a reliever. It was literally the only deficiency the Tigers had during about a 7 year stretch of his tenure, so why didn’t he fix it?

My two cents are that he didn’t want to give up Detroit’s limited farm resources for a potential rental closer, but in Boston he’s got a completely different situation. Boston’s farm system is totally jacked, so Dombrowski had no issues scooping up enough talent to coax AJ Preller into sending him Kimbrel.

But, regardless of what Dombrowski did – or, in this case, didn’t do – during his time in Detroit, Al Avila just made a good move for the Detroit bullpen.

Al Avila
Al Avila. Getty Images

Detroit obviously believes they can contend in 2016, and they are sort of right for thinking that. But this trade won’t really change the fact that they are a team stuck in neutral with a potential nuclear winter, reminiscent of what the Astros went through a few years back, on their horizon.

The Tigers need much, much more than just Francisco Rodriguez to avoid said nuclear winter, and Al Avila had better get hopping if he wants to see his way through it.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

The Detroit Tigers and Bullpen Problems

How Holly Holm Just Destroyed the Legend of Ronda Rousey

Over the course of her MMA and athletic career, Ronda Rousey has become more than just a legend, she has transcended athletics and pop culture to become the most dominant female athlete in the history of ever, and possibly the greatest athlete of a generation.

She is beautiful, she is strong, she is mean, she is empowering, everyone loves her; and she had never lost. Not even close, in fact. Nobody could ever beat her, nothing could ever touch her reputation or her record, and nothing was supposed to be able to.

On August 21st, when it was announced that 9-0 Holly Holm would be the next challenger to Rousey’s throne, this just seemed to be another piece of raw steak that UFC President Dana White was throwing to his prized lioness. Another squash match to further prove the generational greatness of Ronda Rousey.

Personally, I was excited, because Holly Holm –  a Jackson-Wink MMA product – not only fights out of my favorite camp, but also is a Cardinal fan and one of my favorite fighters and I was excited to see her finally get the stage to showcase her world class boxing skills.

But while Holm is a world class boxer, and I was going around telling people to take her seriously and that she would beat Rousey, I didn’t actually believe she would be able to do it. I didn’t actually believe that Ronda Rousey could be defeated. It was just unfathomable.

With one thunderous left high kick to the jaw, history was re-written.

The kick that ended it all. Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images
The kick that ended it all. Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images

From the opening bell, I kept saying to myself, “This isn’t really happening, is it?” Holly Holm was completely dominating. Her left hand was pounding Rousey, landing flush every time she threw it. Rousey couldn’t get anything going; her takedowns were stuffed, her striking was poor, her footwork was off, her signature arm bar wasn’t there, and she just kept walking right into Holm’s dynamite left hand.

One of the many explosive Holly Holm left hands. Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images
One of the many explosive Holly Holm left hands. Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images

After decisively suffering the first lost round of her career, Rousey came out early in the second round completely winded and looking lost. 55 seconds into the round, Rousey’s legend came crashing down to the center of the octagon just as hard as her motionless body did following a brutal left high kick right on the jaw that ended it all.

Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images
Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images
Photo courtesy of USA Today
Photo courtesy of USA Today

My eyes gaped wide open and my jaw was dropped. I literally couldn’t believe what I had just seen. The untouchable Ronda Rousey, the modern day Mighty Casey, was lying lifeless in the middle of an octagon, broken and defeated.

It was only when Holly Holm’s hand was actually raised, and an obviously shaken Dana White – who had just watched his most marketable athlete get destroyed – was actually put the bantamweight belt around her waist that reality set in. As I said earlier, history had been rewritten.

Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images
Photo by Paul Crock for Getty Images
Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images
Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images

This was Tyson-Douglas reborn, only in that matchup Buster Douglas didn’t completely and totally dominate Mike Tyson so badly that people were left wondering if he would ever be able to come back from the defeat.

In my few years of watching fights, the biggest upset I’ve ever seen was Chris Weidman knocking out a cocky Anderson Silva. But in that fight, Silva was 38 years old, clearly past his prime, and Weidman caught him with one shot that put the lights out. It seemed to be really fluky. This was no fluke, and this was no flash in a pan. This was a complete and total annihilation reminiscent of the type Rousey is used to dishing out.

After the dust had relatively settled and I had some time to think about it, I wondered, “how in the hell did this actually happen?”

Take no credit away from Holly Holm, she came in with a perfect game plan and executed it perfectly, but Ronda Rousey failed absolutely miserably for the first time in her career.

In her MMA career, Rousey had been out of the 1st round once, and in that fight she was completely and totally in control over a dazed Miesha Tate who just somehow survived for 3 rounds. Basically, her MMA career had just been a parade of squash matches where she had physically imposed her will and no one has been able to stop her from doing so.

Right off the bell, Holly Holm gave Rousey what she had never had before; a fight.

Holm stuffed Rousey’s first takedown attempt, passed her guard, slipped out of her arm bar attempt and got back to her feet. Rousey’s subpar striking ability – which had never been exposed before – was completely and totally picked apart by the world class striking of Holm, who teed off with that dynamite left hand and just kept throwing combination after combination that Rousey just kept slogging right into.

Holm continued pounding away on a dazed Rousey, who just looked totally and completely lost when her plan A wasn’t working. By the time the 2nd round rolled around, Rousey was exhausted and had nothing left. Holm was calm, cool and kept executing her game plan. It was only a matter of time, and really quite difficult to watch.

So, to start, when Rousey’s plan A failed, she didn’t have a plan B ready, so she panicked and tried to out-strike a world champion boxer, getting absolutely massacred in attempting to do so. Secondly, Rousey’s subpar conditioning reared its ugly head about 3 minutes into the fight when her footwork became heavy and her hands became slower and she just flat out looked horrible.

Thirdly – and the biggest issue of all – Ronda Rousey became a victim of her own legend.

The media and the world have built her up into something completely unattainable. She was made into an invincible entity that could never be broken and never falter. And as much as she can try, or tell you otherwise, Rousey got caught up in her own hype.

It’s widely known that Rousey doesn’t condition hard or focus on her cardio during her fight camp. When asked about it she commented, “I’m just always in shape for my fights.” Her lack of cardio was exposed against Holm in an extreme way, as Rousey looked totally gassed after just 3 minutes in the cage.

Before her fight, Rousey was all over the place, as she is naturally wildly popular. She made appearances on Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and went on a world tour to promote the fight. Holm, meanwhile was locked in the cozy confines of her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, completely fixated upon the task at hand of defeating Rousey.

In her past camps, Rousey has been as difficult to find as Holm was during this camp, focused upon her task at hand and further expediting her greatness. But this camp was just different. She seemed to take Holm for granted, discussing her future on a consistent basis and accepting more public appearances in advance of the fight.

Ronda Rousey seemed to believe that her greatness and reputation would be enough to win this fight without her really having to put in the same kind of work that she normally does. And she paid dearly for it.

As for Holly Holm, she has secured her place in sports history.

Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images
Photo by Quinn Rooney for Getty Images

This fight transcends MMA, and ranks among the greatest sports upsets in history. This is the biggest knockout in MMA history, and is somewhat akin to the United States Olympic hockey team defeating the Russian machine in the 1980’s.

Holly Holm will now be forever remembered as not just the first woman to defeat Ronda Rousey, but the woman who completely and totally obliterated Ronda Rousey.

Photo courtesy of Yahoo
Photo courtesy of Yahoo

I’ve watched a lot of sporting events in my lifetime, and a weekend after telling you that I’ve never seen anything quite like what I saw when the Principia soccer team won their first state title, I will once again tell you that I have never seen anything like this in my life and will never see anything like this ever again.

This was a literal David and Goliath story, and a perfect example of why fight fans are fight fans. Because we never know what could happen.

As James Earl Jones’ character said in The Sandlot, “Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.” And let it be remembered, that on November 14th, 2015, the legend of Ronda Rousey came crashing down to the ground as hard as Holly Holm’s left leg came crashing into Rousey’s jaw. History was re-written, and I can promise you that you’ll never see anything like this ever again.

The mighty Rousey has struck out. See you all in December at UFC 194.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

How Holly Holm Just Destroyed the Legend of Ronda Rousey

Spitfire: Cardinals Offseason Improvement Ideas

About a month ago, when the sadness of a broken season was still freshly marinating in my mind, I put out a fairly halfhearted list of some steps the Cardinals front office could take to put out an improved product in 2016. As I sort of mentioned, it was a pretty halfhearted and safe list and since then I’ve had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking. So here’s a new, improved, and much bolder list of Cardinals offseason improvement ideas.

When I put together that list about a month ago, the 2016 rotation looked pretty set in stone. Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia, with Alex Reyes, Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney waiting in the wings.

Well, since then Lance Lynn has undergone Tommy John surgery, Reyes has been suspended for a positive marijuana test – the unfairness of which I’ll get into later – and the overall health record of the rotation looks pretty shaky.

Lance Lynn will miss the entire upcoming season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Lance Lynn will miss the entire upcoming season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch

Wainwright will be 34 on opening day and coming off a serious Achilles tear, Martinez will be coming off a shoulder strain, Wacha looked like a shell of himself in the 2nd half of the 2015 season coming off his serious shoulder injury in 2014, and Garcia’s injury track record is quite alarming.

On top of all that, Reyes won’t be a big league factor until the middle of May, Gonzales is coming off injuries, Cooney’s coming off an appendectomy that robbed him of the last two months of his season, and Lyons is a guy that really shouldn’t be relied upon as a consistent major league starter at this point.

In case you haven’t gotten the point yet, the Redbird rotation is in some serious flux right now. So that’s where this list starts.

Revised Step 1: Go Get a Mid-Tier Starter or Two

Would it be cool if the Cardinals landed David Price or Zack Greinke? Of course, but should they be willing to potentially spend upwards of $200 million on a pitcher? The Cardinals are in a bit of a rut, but not that kind of a rut. But this SP market is really deep – like really deep – and the Cardinals should be making serious runs at a lot of guys in the middle of this market.

Three names really jump out at me here; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Leake, and Scott Kazmir. Each are quality, middle of the rotation guys who can be had for relatively low coin.

Iwakuma is coming off an injury plagued year, but placed 3rd in AL Cy Young voting just two years ago and has a no-hitter to his name.

Iwakuma celebrates his August 2015 no-hitter vs. Baltimore. Photo courtesy of USA Today
Iwakuma celebrates his August 2015 no-hitter vs. Baltimore. Photo courtesy of USA Today

He could reasonably be had for somewhere around $9 or $10 million on a 1 year, prove-it deal. Although, he comes with the most risk, as he has the qualifying offer mantra attached to him, so the Cardinals would have to give up a 1st round pick for potentially just a year of Iwakuma’s services.

Kazmir’s 2015 season numbers don’t really impress you – a 3.98 FIP and 130 ERA+ in 183 IP – but take a look deeper and see that he posted a 3.16 FIP and 160 ERA+ during his time in Oakland, and was an all-star in both 2014 and 2015.

Oakland is a notorious pitcher’s park, and St. Louis is becoming the same type of mold. Houston is a notorious hitter’s park, and Kazmir understandably struggled. Bring him to St. Louis on a 2 year deal and he could thrive just like he did in Oakland. Also, Kazmir would not cost the Cardinals a 1st round compensation pick like Iwakuma would, but will likely be more expensive.

Kazmir delivers a pitch for the Oakland A's in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Tribune
Kazmir delivers a pitch for the Oakland A’s in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Tribune

Mike Leake really shouldn’t need much of an introduction among the members of the BFIB, as he has consistently shut the Cardinals down throughout his career with Cincinnati.

Leake delivers a pitch against St. Louis during a Sunday night game in May. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Leake delivers a pitch against St. Louis during a Sunday night game in May. Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch

He’s an innings eater who fields his position exceptionally, can swing the bat a little bit and be a quality back of the rotation arm. Like Kazmir, there’s no compensation pick attached to his hip, and, considering the numbers, Leake should be able to be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of what Bartolo Colón got from the Mets two offseasons ago – 2 years for $20 mil.

These three were just names that jumped out at me, but the Cardinals should be very actively mining the middle of the starting pitcher market for quality arms to replace Lance Lynn and bridge the gap until guys like Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty are ready to take on big league roles.

Should the Mozeliak hat be thrown in the circles of David Price and Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto? Sure, but the Cardinals can’t get caught up in bidding wars with the Dodgers or Cubs just because they now have “payroll muscle” to flex.

Revised Step 2: Clear Up First Base for Piscotty

First base is clearly the Cardinals’ biggest everyday positional issue with too many mouths to feed and not enough playing time to go around adequately. So who gets the majority of the at-bats and who doesn’t?

Well, I’ve got a rather creative solution that I can guarantee you’ll be hearing about for the first time.

As I stated in that big bold sentence up there, the Cardinals need to clear the way for Stephen Piscotty to take over as the everyday 1st basemen in 2016. He was their best offensive player in 2015 – yeah, all of 2015, not just the 2nd half, but the whole season – and the Cardinals need to make room for his bat to be in the lineup every day.

So how do they do that with Matt Adams still sitting there as a very viable option? We’re going to deal Adams somewhere, and I have a very specific destination in mind.

Baltimore.

Matt Adams makes a play during a 2014 game against the Orioles. Photo by Rob Carr for Getty Images
Matt Adams makes a play during a 2014 game against the Orioles. Photo by Rob Carr for Getty Images

Why Baltimore? Well, let’s think about it together. Who was Baltimore’s first baseman in 2015? Chris Davis.

Davis is coming off a monstrous year, will command an equally monstrous paycheck – one that the Cardinals need to avoid throwing their hat in on – and with Matt Wieters accepting his qualifying offer – which will put him on the books for $15.8 million – and Darren O’Day on their minds, the Orioles chances of keeping Davis are becoming increasingly slim by the day.

In come the Cardinals with the offer of Adams, still a quality first baseman, especially in the American League where O’s manager Buck Showalter can rest his legs but still keep him in the lineup with the DH option.

Adams could have a lot of value to Baltimore, and potentially yield a return of either a solid pitching prospect – a la Mike Wright – or a solid bullpen haul – Brian Matusz, Brad Brach, or, if God is on our side, Zach Britton.

This could potentially fix two issues. 1st base is now Piscotty’s, and the bullpen is strengthened.

Boom. Mic drop

Revised Step 3: SIGN JASON HEYWARD

This isn’t revised at all, but I’m putting it in here because it just can’t be said enough. Pay the man. Pay him whatever you need to pay him. Offer to re-name the stadium after him, offer him all your shares of Apple, offer him a lifetime supply of Imo’s, offer to build him a house in Frontenac; whatever you have to offer him, do it.

This seems harsh and untrue, but if Jason Heyward is in a different uniform on opening day 2016 playing on a salary under $200 million the Cardinals will have failed the offseason. Heyward is the top priority and nothing should get done before signing him. Plain and simple.

Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat for Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune
Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo by Chris Lee for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Photo courtesy of USA Today. I can't get enough of Heyward, please sign him. Please?
Photo courtesy of USA Today. I can’t get enough of Heyward, please sign him. Please?

So there it is, all shiny and new and improved. Ryan’s Cardinals offseason blueprint 2.0. I hope it’s as exciting to you as it is to me. But my work really means nothing, John Mozeliak holds all the cards in his hand and he needs to deal them out and push his chips to the middle of the table.

Go make it happen, Mo.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

 

Spitfire: Cardinals Offseason Improvement Ideas

Domestic Violence Double Standards

Domestic violence. Two words that I’ve had to think about way, way too much lately; specifically with regards to Greg Hardy, who I’m also sick of thinking about. But for this article I’m going to bring up another name that you might have forgotten about in the NFL’s domestic violence mini-epidemic.

Ray Rice.

Remember him? The guy who punched his wife unconscious before getting on an elevator in Atlantic City in February 2014. The NFL’s original domestic violence case.

Well, Ray Rice is back in the news with his announcement today that he hopes to someday work for the NFL to raise awareness of domestic violence.

In past articles, I’ve said that I typically want to give athletes the benefit of the doubt with regards to most things. And that being said, I want to believe that Ray Rice has sincere desires to make a positive impact on the NFL in light of his awful mistake 2 February’s ago.

In case you need a refresher on Rice’s story, here you go, cliff notes style.

In February of 2014, Rice and his fiancé Janay Palmer were arrested, detained, and released from jail on charges of a “minor domestic dispute.” TMZ released a video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer from an Atlantic City elevator a few days later, and in July the NFL suspended Rice for 2 games. You know, because they need to at least pretend to care.

Then, on September 8th, TMZ released the video of Rice punching Palmer out cold before dragging her lifeless body into the elevator and later dragging her out. The Ravens immediately released Rice hours after the video was released. The NFL then took until the next day to suspend Rice “indefinitely.”

Then came the controversy. The NFL claimed they had never seen the video of Rice punching Palmer until TMZ released it. “You’re telling me that the NFL, one of the most powerful organization on the planet, could not access a video of one of its high profile athletes committing a horrific crime before freaking TMZ could?! Are you kidding me?” I thought.

It was an absolute debacle, both for Rice and the NFL. Rice hasn’t played a down since being released, as he shouldn’t because there is no place in this league for a man who domestically abuses a woman.

But, through all of this, Palmer stood by Rice’s side and supported him. Publicly appearing at press conferences with him, having his back, doing interviews in support of him, even finishing the engagement and getting married.

And though I’m usually not much for athlete apologies, I really did feel for Rice because his remorse was clear and I truly believe he just made a terrible mistake that he’ll regret for the rest of his life.

But Palmer’s remorse also tells me she was nearly equally involved in the incident and feels responsibility for it as well, which doesn’t get talked about in the media because female-on-male domestic violence cases are mostly a joke to the general public. But that’s a different topic for a different day.

And with Rice’s announcement that he is hoping to join the NFL in a role of raising domestic violence awareness is big; big for Rice, and big for the league’s image in trying to come out of a sort of Dark Age in player crime.

But with Rice’s announcement came a sad realization on my part that isn’t remotely surprising, but maddening and unfair.

Right now, the words ‘domestic violence’ seem to be synonymous with Greg Hardy’s name; and that was the first thing that came up in my mind with Rice’s announcement.

I’ve written on the league’s despicable enabling of Hardy solely because he’s a good player, and how unacceptable it is. But at the same time, the league has taken a strong public stand with regards to Rice’s case, suspending him for a really long time in conjunction with all the owners seemingly banding together to not employ him.

So it feels like they’ve done right with the Rice case. But they haven’t. Not even close. Everyone is lacking one key ingredient here.

Consistency.

There is only one reason why Greg Hardy still has a job in the NFL and Ray Rice doesn’t, and probably won’t. It’s because pass rushers are in higher demand and harder to find than running backs these days.

Think about it. Every team in today’s NFL needs a pass rush, it’s imperative to defensive success, and pass rushers are more overvalued than ever. But while every team also needs a running game, running backs have become much, much easier to find; as teams are now finding starting backs in late rounds of the draft and the Patriots just sign a new guy off the street and he runs for 200 yards the same week. So, in today’s NFL, the pass rusher is just worth astronomically more than the running back.

Greg Hardy is a very talented pass rusher, and is being paid and treated as such by the Cowboys, who continue to put up and enable all of his remorseless bullshit that hurts my mind every time he does something new and stupid.

Ray Rice is a talented running back, but running backs aren’t worth a lot anymore, so no team is willing to take the flak that will come with signing Rice when they can just go get another guy that can’t do the job as well as Rice, but won’t have all the baggage and won’t make their team image look so bad.

That, right there, is what’s wrong with the league and why I find myself trying not to like or support the NFL at any opportunity I can get. If a player is talented and can play a vital role, he’ll be coddled and enabled, no matter what kind of shit he puts up.

But if a player, like Rice, isn’t as useful to teams, they won’t even give him a remote glance because the negative pushback that would come from the signing just isn’t worth it to NFL teams’ precious reputations.

Again, let’s look specifically at the cases of Rice and Hardy.

As soon as the video of Rice punching Palmer was made public, Rice was released, suspended, ridiculed, and all good thoughts of him were exiled by the thought police. When the pictures of the injuries sustained by Hardy’s ex-girlfriend after his savage beating of her, the only thing that happened was a bunch of angry bloggers, feminists, and just people in general calling for Hardy’s job.

Did anything remotely close to what happened to Rice happen to Hardy? Absolutely not; in fact, I didn’t hear a peep from the Dallas Cowboys or the NFL after the pictures were released. They just sort of pretended that it wasn’t happening and that all was right with the world.

It’s completely unacceptable that guys like Hardy are enabled, while guys like Rice are spurned and ignored. Have some goddamn consistency and humanity. Have the balls to do what’s right and evaluate both these situations in the same light.

No amount of talent should ever dictate whether or not a player gets punished for breaking the freaking law and committing one of the worst crimes known to man short of murder. That’s just not how this world works.

But it’s how the NFL works. If you’ve got talent, you’ve got a spot in the league, no matter what you do. But if you’re expendable and your position isn’t valued as much as it should be, you better be an absolutely perfect human being, or one slip up and your job is gone.

Should this change? Of course; but will it? Not a chance. Money is king in the NFL, always has been and always will be. That will never change, and Greg Hardy makes the league a lot of money off his talent and merchandise credibility.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a problem; a serious freaking problem. A problem that would take years to change because it’s deeply rooted in the culture of not just the NFL, but all professional sports.

I’m tired of writing about it, but I know this isn’t the last article I’ll be writing on this subject, and that makes me sad. But still I hold out hope that things can change, and these words will be my last on this despicable subject.

But until next time, I’ll let these be my last words.

God didn’t put men and women on this planet to be enemies, so stop treating them as such. Love each other, and be willing to forgive after an argument or dispute instead of looking to harm to get your point across. Violence is never the answer, in any case.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

Domestic Violence Double Standards

A Celebration of Principia Soccer’s First Ever State Championship

All Carson Hussey could do was put his hands on his head and stand there with a blank look and a bit of a sheepish smile on his face. “I just didn’t know what to do” he told me today, “It was just almost too much to take in.”

For Principia’s senior captain and center back – who was also part of teams in 2013 and 2014 that were upset horribly in the district final – the feeling of coming up short was all too well known.

But this year was different.

I remember talking with Hussey back in early October about a fundraising event we were planning. Discussing potential weekends that we could put our event on, I suggested the weekend of November 7th – this past weekend. Hussey’s response was typical of the attitude among every player on this year’s team.

“Oh no we can’t do that weekend. That’s the weekend of state, we have to find a different one” Hussey said to me. I looked at him funny and responded, “Carson, come on. Let’s be real here, you guys aren’t going to do that.” He looked back at me and said, “We’ve got a shot, just you wait on it.”

I sit behind the keys of my computer today and proudly say to you, I was dead wrong.

Following a breezy district win, a 7-0 sectional domination, and a nail-biting win in PK’s in the state semifinal, the Panthers had a shot at winning their first soccer state title in school history – and the first state title in any team sport since 1990.

105 minutes into a game deadlocked at 1, senior captain and midfielder Cameron Sellers found himself with the ball on his right foot and junior forward Kaleb Keller making a run towards the opposing goal.

“…we both knew he was going to make a run through their defenders and I tried to give him the best ball I could” Sellers told me when I asked him what he saw on the play.

Turns out, the “best ball” that could be delivered was an absolutely perfect through ball right on Keller’s magic left foot. On two bounces, Principia’s leading scorer cut loose with the same left footed strike that he’s made thousands of times.

This one just happened to have a state title attached to it. And you had better believe Keller didn’t miss.

As soon as the ball slipped past Lutheran St. Paul goalie Harrison Boynton’s outstretched left hand and hit the back of the net, complete euphoria broke loose.

Kaleb Keller celebrates after his state title clinching goal. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Kaleb Keller celebrates after his state title clinching goal. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Keller hits a celebratory backflip following his goal. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
Keller hits a celebratory backflip following his goal. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
The Panthers celebrate around Keller after clinching the title. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
The Panthers celebrate around Keller after clinching the title. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch

Keller hit a celebratory back flip and jumped into Sellers’ arms with the rest of the team mobbing the two of them shortly after. The Principia student section, including just about everyone with any remote affiliation with the school, was louder than just about anything I’ve ever heard.

And among all of the chaos and excitement was Hussey, standing with his hands on his head and a sheepish smile on his face, just in complete disbelief of what had just happened. As the rest of the team sprinted over to jump into the student section to celebrate, Hussey simply walked over calmly, before opening his arms up to accept a big bear hug from myself, former Principia center back Nick Klusmeyer, and former Principia midfielder Kaden Keller.

“I was in total shock” Hussey told me later, “I’m still in shock; it just seems too good to be true. It’s still a blur to me.”

Being in the crowd Saturday, I can attest to the description of the game winning goal as a blur. One second I was contemplating our chances in penalty kicks, and the next minute I was bear hugging senior forward George Agai, who looked at me beaming, and said, “We just won a state title.”

To say the least, this title has been in the making for a long, long time.

3 years ago, an extremely talented Panther team won the school’s very first district title, and looked poised to make a deep state run and possibly go all the way. Their state hopes ended in a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to Canton High School; a game in which Principia dominated, only giving up 1 shot on the night, which Canton buried in extra time for the win.

And as I referenced earlier, the past two years have featured talented teams that have been upset in brutal fashion in the district final. So to try and sum up the magnitude that this state title carries – not just for the soccer program, but for the entire school – would be doing a disservice to the team that accomplished it because no words I could ever say will do it justice.

So since I can’t do it, I’ll let Coach Kipp Keller try to do it for me. When asked about his son Kaleb’s state winning goal, Kipp stated, “Whether it’s my son or not, [that was] the greatest goal of my life. It was awesome, and I’ve been around soccer a lot of years. To pull that shot at that time, it was spectacular.”

I’ve been to a lot of sporting events in my young life. A lot of them have been very important sporting events. I sit before you today and will put my hand on the bible in saying that never, in my life, have I ever been a part of something so special and so incredible.

I’m almost at a loss for words trying to describe it all; there were just so many images that moved and inspired me and captured the essence of what had just been accomplished.

There was Hussey, walking slowly over towards the bleachers, a big smile on his face and his eyes close to tears before being buried by the hug of myself, Klusmeyer and the eldest Keller brother.

There was Sellers – along with his fellow captains, Hussey, and Kaleb Keller – lifting the state trophy; a moment Sellers described as, “a special feeling that I will always remember.”

From left to right. Kaleb Keller, Cameron Sellers and Carson Hussey lift the state title. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch
From left to right. Kaleb Keller, Cameron Sellers and Carson Hussey lift the state title. Photo by Paul Kopsky for St. Louis Post Dispatch

There was school principal and former head soccer Coach Travis Brantingham, standing on the bleachers with both arms raised in the air in a triumphant victory pose, his mouth emitting a lion-like roar of euphoria. Brantingham flew in 2 days early from a conference in Milwaukee Friday morning so as not to miss the state tournament; and I feel safe in telling you he won’t be regretting that decision anytime soon.

As I walked out, there was Heather Keller – wife of head coach Kipp, and mother of Kaleb and freshman midfielder Kippy – wrapped in a blanket, tears filling her eyes as she walked over towards where the team was celebrating to hug her boys.

There was Chris Arens – father of sophomore forward Seth Arens – who was talking with my dad when I came up and put two hands on his shoulders, asking him, “how about that?” He put an arm around my shoulders and gave me a pat on the back, completely speechless with a big smile on his face, his heart clearly enveloped in total jubilation.

There was sophomore defender Caleb Grow jumping into the arms of his older brothers Corbitt and Sawyer, screaming with joy as they pounded him on the back in joyous celebration.

Saturday afternoon was a day that will live on forever in the minds of all Principia fans in attendance, and I just can’t truly quantify the astronomical historical significance of this event in the school’s history. Quite simply, as Kaleb Keller said following his game winning goal, “It was just crazy.”

So far this year, a lot of talk around the school has been about how students can make a lasting impact upon Principia. I can safely say that the soccer team has made a tremendous impact that none of us will ever forget.

Enjoy this moment, because something like this may never happen ever again.

Thanks for reading…

-Ryan

A Celebration of Principia Soccer’s First Ever State Championship