January 2011

McClellan agrees to deal

The Cardinals announced on Saturday that they have agreed to a one-year contract with reliever Kyle McClellan, avoiding arbitration. The club did not disclose McClellan’s salary.
McClellan, 26, is coming off his best year in the Major Leagues. The right-hander posted a 2.27 ERA in 75 1/3 innings, striking out 60 against 23 walks in 68 appearances. He set personal bests in ERA, games finished, strikeouts and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched). He made $425,000 in 2010 but was due for a raise from that in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
“Obviously avoiding a hearing room was something that we felt was very important,” general manager John Mozeliak said on Saturday. “It was something that over the last week we’ve worked a lot on to try to get to where we are today. I’m pleased that we were able to work this out. Certainly he’s accomplished a lot over the last three years.”
McClellan has established himself as a pivotal part of the Cardinals’ bullpen. After competing for a rotation spot in each of the past two seasons, he will be limited to relief duty only for 2011.
“When you think about how arbitration is defined, length and consistency is always one of the key components,” Mozeliak said. “And I think the one thing you would all agree, that’s something he displayed over the first three years of his career. Really happy for him and his family and I know he’s excited about it as well.”
Mozeliak said that the club and McClellan’s agent had some conversation about the possibility of a multi-year deal, but that those talks didn’t get very far.
The Cardinals have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 1999, when they won their case against left-hander Darren Oliver.

Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Greetings, all. Wanted to wish you all a happy New Year and I hope it’s going well for all of you. We are, as of right now, 10 days from the Winter Warm-Up and a little more than five weeks from Spring Training. 

Activity here at the blog has admittedly been quiet recently, but that’s the nature of the offseason. There’s still plenty of stuff at Cardinals.com, but I do apologize for a relatively quiet winter of blogging. Some of that has appeared at the MLB.com Hot Stove blog, and some of the lighter stuff has moved over to Twitter
One thing, though, isn’t dead just yet: the top-10 in music. If you’re not interested, just stop reading now. Won’t hurt my feelings. Head over to Cardinals.com for today’s update on players in winter ball, or yesterday’s stories on the Hall of Fame and on the P-D report of Pujols negotiations.
Here, though, it’s the annual top-10. My wife and I have, in some past years, done this as a joint entry, but this year, you can simply follow this link to see her top-10. It was an amazing music year, though, so actually mine is a top-11. 
A note before I get started — I know this is a baseball blog, but as I’ve made clear over the years, I also always intended it to be a little more than that. So thank you for indulging me. And most of all, thanks for reading all of it — blog, stories, everything — and for taking the time to comment and keep me on my toes. 
This is an amazing job I have, and I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for all of you. So thank you. On with the albums.
11. The Gaslight Anthem, American Slang — I didn’t really feel it with these guys on their previous album, but this one worked a lot better for me. Felt less like a tribute to past styles and more like their own album.
10. Palmdale, Get Wasted/How to be Mean — Two EPs from a band you may not have heard of. It’s the newest project from Kay Hanley, formerly of Letters to Cleo, and if you’re into catchy, loud, shiny guitar pop, you just need to get these records. 
9. Sleigh Bells, Treats — Hard to describe until you hear it. So loud as to be an assault, so catchy it gets stuck in your head for days. This was one of my two favorite first-listen experiences of the year. Just grabs you right away.
8. Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do — The Truckers are about my favorite band going these days, and I loved this record… and it’s still eighth. That’s how much good music there was this year. Great songs, played by terrific musicians. Typically superb Truckers.
7. The Hold Steady, Heaven is Whenever — I didn’t like this as much as The Big To-Do at first, but it grew on me more as the year went on. Especially after catching them live in Columbia in November. It’s not quite up to their previous two albums, but that’s an impossibly unfair standard.
6. Big Boy, Sir Lucious Left Foot — There was so. Much. Good. Hip-hop. This year. I’m not a huge hip-hop head, but holy cow there was some great stuff. This was the only album I loved more than Sleigh Bells on a very first listen. It just didn’t quite grow on me as the year went on.
5. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach — All over the place, in a wonderful way. Some catchy and bouncy, some melancholy. At times silly, at times beautiful. Always with great pop sensibility. Wonderful album, and for a good while it was my No. 1 of the year.
4. The National, High Violet — The latest entry to my list. I didn’t get this record until pretty late in the year. Then I couldn’t stop listening to it. As somebody who listened to the Cure and New Order in high school and college, this pushes those same buttons — without ever feeling retro.
3. The Roots, How I Got Over — Sort of the opposite of the Big Boi album. First listen, I liked it but didn’t love it. But I kept getting it back out, and getting it back out, and getting it back out, all year long. And by the end of the year I realized I loved it as much as nearly anything that came out this year.
2. Black Keys, Brothers — How I never listened to these guys before 2010, I couldn’t tell you. Fantastic songs from start to finish. Years ago they were compared to the White Stripes, and if you squint you can still KIND of see it, but to my ear, they’re unique. A different sound, but at the same time very familiar.
1. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — For much of the second half of the year, when people would ask my favorite albums of the year, I’d tick off some of the previous, but always say, “But I’m holding out a spot for Kanye’s album.” And, yeah. Wow.
I had been leaning, strongly, toward making this record my No. 1 since about mid-December. It was cemented, however, a couple of days ago. “How I Got Over,” a fantastic album, played on my iPod. After the last track ended, “My Beautiful…” started. And it froze me, from the first note. Even in comparison to what was my favorite record for part of the year, it just grabbed me. “How I Got Over” is a great album. So is “Brothers.” So is “Plastic Beach.” But “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” that’s a transcendent record. It’s an album by which I’ll remember the year. It’s just dazzling. 
This year’s honorable mentions would have been top-10 in lots of years: 
Editors, “In This Light And On This Evening”
Neon Trees, “Habits”
Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
Against Me, “White Crosses”
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse, “Dark Night of the Soul”
Broken Bells, “Broken Bells”
Anyway. Thanks for reading. The blog will return to its regular active self at the Winter Warm-Up.