Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Are you experienced?

Baseball has a few set-in-stone rules, some of which are widely known to most fans and some of which are not. One that may be less well-known is this: service time trumps just about anything else.

When it comes to locker placement, jersey numbers, etc., it’s all about big league service time. Guys with experience get first pick. That fact was on display once again on Monday when clubhouse manager Rip Rowan told a few reporters about some new uniform numbers for the 2011 Cardinals.
* Jim Edmonds will, not surprisingly, receive his famous No. 15. Rowan said that when Edmonds was offered 15, the long-time star said he’d take it if Jon Jay would give it up. Well, that’s not really much of a choice for Jay. So Jay gave it up.
* Jay, then, gets No. 22. Raul Valdes, who had been ticketed to wear No. 22, will now take 37. Jay had expressed some interest in wearing No. 19, but Ramon Vazquez had already requested it. NOW you see about the service-time thing: Vazquez will be in camp on an NRI, with seemingly very little shot of making the roster. But he has seven years of big league service; Jay has half of one year. So 19 goes to Vazquez and Jay moves down to 22.
* Nick Punto will wear No. 8, bumping Allen Craig to No. 21. Again, service time. Craig takes Jason LaRue’s old number.
* And in a couple of other jersey tidbits, Miguel Batista will wear No. 44, with Ian Snell getting No. 48.
* As for the jerseys they’ll be wearing… In the regular season, they’ll be like they’ve always been. But the Cardinals have new Spring Training/batting practice jerseys this year. They actually got a choice of two different options, which you can see below:
Both-jerseys.jpg
Since I’m not a professional photog, and since this was taken on my iPhone, you can’t exactly tell a lot of details. But the one on the left features a good deal more blue. It has that blue that you can see on the top of the shoulders, and a strip of blue along the top of the back, above the player name.
Not surprisingly, the Cardinals chose the one on the right. Here’s a closer look at it:
Jerseys.jpg
It looks an awful lot like past Cardinals BP jerseys, and that’s no accident.
-M.

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.
-M.

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.
-M.

Wednesday evening tidbits from Disneyburg

Some additional tidbits following our afternoon gathering with John Mozeliak:

* Mozeliak echoed what another Cardinals official told me on Tuesday night, that the club does not expect to take anyone in the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow morning. I have heard some talk that one or two Cardinals Minor Leaguers could be of interest to other clubs, but there doesn’t seem to be huge demand and I won’t be at all surprised if there is no Cards-related movement in the Major League phase of the Rule 5.
* Though TLR said on Wednesday afternoon that Allen Craig might spend time in Triple-A in order to make sure that he gets sufficient at-bats, Mozeliak minimized the likelihood of that happening.
The quote: “Certainly, players like him should be playing, but I also don’t think there’s a lot left for him to prove at Memphis. And I do think he could be good protection, just because of his versatility and the fact that he can hit. I’m not going to rule anything out today, but if I had to guess right now, I doubt he would spend a lot of time at Memphis.”
* This is probably obvious by now, but Mozeliak said he does not expect any of the Cards’ veteran free-agent role players last year to return for 2011. Aaron Miles, Randy Winn, et al, will be finding new homes if they’re playing in ’11.
* Mozeliak said that the club didn’t aggressively pursue anything longer than a one-year deal with Ryan Theriot.
“We obviously didn’t want to drag someone new into [an arbitration] hearing room, and I think with his experience last year in a hearing room, he wanted to avoid one. So it made a lot of sense if we could come to an agreement, and we did.
“Right now, we just wanted to knock off a one-year [contract]. Not going to rule anything out down the road, but right now we’re not discussing it.”
And, finally, the playlist:
(these are literally the first five songs that came up on shuffle just now)
The Cure, “Closedown”
The Rolling Stones, “Country Honk”
Michael Jackson, “Human Nature”
Pearl Jam, “Arc”
Counting Crows, “Another Horsedreamer’s Blues”
-M.

Wednesday TLR Tidbits

I have a story going up soon on Cardinals.com on TLR’s chat with reporters today, but I also wanted to blog a few extra tidbits that didn’t make it into that story.

* He made it sound like the club is leaning very strongly toward playing Lance Berkman in right field, rather than shifting Matt Holliday and playing Berkman in left.
The quote: “Lance has played more right field than he’s played anything. So I think our plan is to go into Spring Training with Matt playing left and Lance working in right.”
* At this point, the manager does not consider Berkman a platoon player.
“I think he’s an everyday player against everybody. You know, there were a couple of years there where his numbers were down. Last year’s…  You know, he can hit, he can just plain flat hit, so…”
* He said that Allen Craig will in fact play a great deal of third base this spring.
“He proved last year he could play in the outfield. So last year he took very little work at third base, took a lot of work in the outfield. It’s going to be the opposite this year.  He’s going to get enough outfield times where he keeps reading balls. But he’s going to get a lot of work at third base because I think even if  we’re assuming David’s going to be fine, there will probably be days that David should not push it. There’s playing time for Allen, so that’s a good question, and he’s going to get more work at third base.”
-M.

Tuesday tidbits from Disneyburg

Hello, all. Welcome from the Winter Meetings. I’ve been writing at Cardinals.com, blogging over at the MLB.com Hot Stove Blog and of course tweeting at @MatthewHLeach for a couple of days now. But now it’s time for an OYNAG entry, so here goes. Just some odds and ends from today at the Meetings.

* I touched on this in my main story, which will be going up at Cardinals.com before too long, but John Mozeliak said tonight that he hopes to have the club’s two remaining roster issues resolved before the club leaves on Thursday. He would like to have signed a backup catcher, and would like to have either traded Brendan Ryan or decided not to trade Ryan.
* Mozeliak said that he did not meet with Dan Lozano, Albert Pujols’ agent, on Tuesday.
* The Cardinals’ payroll currently stands at right around $100 million, and that’s before getting deals done with Kyle McClellan or Brendan Ryan, who are both arbitration-eligible, or any of the younger, pre-arbitration players.
Mozeliak has said consistently that the Cards have the money to add a Major League backup catcher, but said Tuesday that beyond that, they’re pretty much up against a wall as far as the payroll. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE that they could spend on another big leaguer, if exactly the right situation presented itself. But it’s highly unlikely.
* There are reports that Dennys Reyes will sign with the Phillies, but it’s not done yet according to my colleague Todd Zolecki. Reyes was out of the Cards’ picture anyway, but I figured I’d pass it along. Terrific guy, and on a personal level, I wish him well wherever he ends up.
Today’s playlist:
The National, “Anyone’s Ghost”
Cold War Kids, “Audience”
Interpol, “Safe Without”
Kanye West, “Runaway”
New Order, “Ceremony”
(Yeah, gloomy stuff, dunno why. Just because)
-M.

Tuesday tidbits from Disneyburg

Greetings from a busy day 2 of the GM Meetings. I’ve had Winter Meetings days that were far slower than this one.

A few tidbits from the day:
* I asked John Mozeliak about the Albert Pujols negotiations, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that the club has a time frame in mind to get something rolling.
His comment: “Obviously Albert is someone that we need to focus on, and in the near future, I will get with his agent Dan Lozano and we will start looking at timing and how to handle the situation.”
* As I noted in the story on Adam Wainwright’s Cy Young finish, Wainwright said that he recently had his right elbow checked out and that it came out clear. Here’s Mozeliak on that topic:
“It was just more precautionary. We just wanted to make sure that how he ended the season, there weren’t any lingering effects. And it was all positive.”
* A couple of other things from talking to Mozeliak after the Jake Westbrook announcement. He said that there’s no one next priority for the club, that comes ahead of all the rest. He also said that the Cardinals maintain interest in adding a sixth starter for depth. 
* However, Bartolo Colon will not be that starter. The club has no interest in Colon at this point.
* Additionally, I wrote this on Twitter, but I wanted to get it in here too: The Westbrook deal is, to my eye, simply an outstanding one for the club. He’s a quality pitcher who should rack up innings, and the going rate for those guys is three years and at least the dollars per year that Westbrook got.
I’m not crazy about the blanket no-trade, but it’s only a two-year contract, so the risk is less than on a longer deal. Overall, though, the dollars are reasonable, and getting a pitcher like this on a deal of less than three years looks very good to me. A nice move.
* And, finally, the playlist. In honor of the release of the mega-box-set of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness On The Edge Of Town, my five favorite songs from that album:
“Badlands”
“Something in the Night”
“Candy’s Room”
“The Promised Land”
“Prove It All Night”
-M.

Waino on his contract, his elbow and Westbrook

Shortly after the announcement of the Cy Young results, Adam Wainwright hopped on a mini-conference call with a couple of us St. Louis scribes who are down here at the GM Meetings. The first version of the Cy Young story is on the site now, and you can check it out at this link. I’ll be fleshing it out later, as well.
In the meantime, though, I wanted to pass along a couple of non-Cy Young topics that he addressed.
By finishing in the top-5 in the balloting, Wainwright took a major step toward guaranteeing his vesting contract options for 2012 and 2013. If he does not finish the 2011 season on the disabled list, the options will be guaranteed, and Wainwright will make $9 million in 2012 and $12 million in 2013. If the options do not automatically vest, the club still has the choice of exercising them for the total amount or declining them, with no buyout cost. Additionally, if he WINS the 2011 Cy Young, his base pay in 2012 would bump up to $10 million.
Here’s what he had to say about the contract:
“I am really excited to be a St. Louis Cardinal for three more years, at this moment. I hope to one day finish my career in St. Louis. So three more years obviously is something I can really get excited about. My family loves it there. They have great schools. The Cardinal fan base has really embraced us and my family as well. Plus there’s some pretty good barbecue up there. I’m always proud to be a St. Louis Cardinal, and three more years, hopefully it’s three more years in the span of a lot more years after that.”
Additionally, Wainwright said that he had a follow-up exam on the elbow discomfort  that bothered him at the end of 2010, and that everything checked out well.
“It [an MRI exam] has taken place,” he said. “Everything came out crystal-clear. My arm is in perfect health. The strained muscle in my elbow is completely healed, and the nerve inflammation is gone. I’ve been looking at working as hard as I possibly can and getting ready for next season already, just doing my normal offseason workout. You can tell everybody that I’m fine and ready to play.”
Finally, he was asked if he had heard anything about what’s up with his friend and fellow Georgian Jake Westbrook.
“He always plays it real… I can’t ever get an answer out of Jake,” Wainwright said. “I think he’s got strict orders from his agent to not do that. So when I ask him about it, he always says, ‘Hey, just be patient, I’m trying to get things worked out.’”
-M.

Greetings from sunny Orlando

Hello, all. The headline is a bit inaccurate, since I believe technically I’m in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for the General Managers Meetings and Owners Meetings over the next three days. I’ll be reporting not only on Cardinals stuff but also more general MLB matters, and hopefully blogging, tweeting and generally staying connected with you folks.

For starters, a few little tidbits from this afternoon.
* A couple of hours ago, I saw Jose Oquendo in the lobby. As has been reported, he’s interviewing with the Mets for their managerial opening, and it seems the interview is tonight. 
* I talked briefly with a representative for Albert Pujols’ agent, Danny Lozano, who said that Team Pujols is not expecting to make an appearance here. Lozano and his group will be at the Winter Meetings in Orlando in three weeks, but not here. Some agents will be attending, of course, but not Lozano.
* As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Jaime Garcia finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting. He finished distantly behind Buster Posey and Jason Heyward, but ahead of the Marlins’ Gaby Sanchez despite the fact that Sanchez received two first-place votes and Garcia only had one. That’s because while Sanchez’s name appeared on eight of 32 ballots, Garcia was on 18. He received 16 third-place votes along with one first and one second. NL Cy Young results will be announced tomorrow.
* I tweeted this as well, but I thought it was worth noting here too: After a slow start, Zack Cox is raking in the Arizona Fall League. Over his past 10 games (entering today), Cox was 12-for-38 (.316) with three walks and three extra-base hits for a .357 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage. Overall Cox is up to 246/302/386 in the AFL. It may not sound like much, but for a guy who was in the SEC six months ago, Cox seems to be handling himself very well.
Also in the AFL, Tony Cruz is hitting 319/368/478 in 17 games, and Pete Kozma has shown some signs of life after a rough start. Kozma is hitting .270 with a .357 OBP over his past 10 games, bringing his total AFL line to 241/313/362.
And, finally, the playlist, the first one in quite a while.
Pearl Jam, “In My Tree”
Buffalo Tom, “When You Discover”
The Hold Steady, “Magazines”
The Clash, “Death Or Glory”
Bruce Springsteen, “Prove It All Night”
-M.

Miller, Carpenter honored

The Cardinals were lauded for their 2009 Draft, and on Friday it became clearer why. A pair of 2009 Draftees earned the club’s Minor League player and pitcher of the year awards, announced on Friday morning.
First-rounder Shelby Miller, rated the club’s top prospect basically since the day he signed a professional contract, was named the top pitcher in the organization for the 2010 season. Matt Carpenter, a 13th-round selection in that same Draft, emerged as one of the fastest-rising players in the system and garnered top player laurels.
Both will be recognized at the annual St. Louis Baseball Writers’ Dinner, which is set for Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Miller, who turned 20 after the season ended, was drafted out of a Texas high school and enjoyed a superb first full pro season pitching at Class A Quad Cities. The 19th overall selection in 2009, he went 7-5 with a 3.62 ERA in 24 starts at Quad Cities. Miller struck out 140 batters against 33 walks and permitted seven home runs all season.
He appeared in the XM All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim, turning in a respectable if brief showing in the Futures Game. Miller allowed an infield hit that was erased on a caught-stealing, and got a groundball out, before he was lifted.
Carpenter, who turns 25 later this month, was selected out of Texas Christian University. He played at three levels in 2009 and two in 2010. A third baseman, Carpenter began the ’10 season at Class A Palm Beach but quickly made his way to Double-A Springfield, and he kept hitting all the while. Overall in 2010, Carpenter batted .309 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging percentage.
In 105 games at Springfield, Carpenter put up a .316/.412/.487 line, with 12 homers, 26 doubles, 53 RBIs and 76 runs scored. He also stole 11 bases in 13 attempts and drew 64 walks.
-M.
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