Monday, March 22, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What the Lopez Signing Means

Been awhile since the last post, but school takes precedent.

Anyway, the St. Louis Cardinals just signed Felipe Lopez to serve as a utility infielder and possible competition to David Freese at the hot corner. What his signing means might not be a good thing for a couple Cardinals prospects.

Lopez gives the Cardinals a third, guaranteed bench rider (assuming Freese wins the everyday gig at third base). With that in mind, the Cardinals have two infielders (who can play the outfield if needed) and a catcher.

Allen Craig, Tyler Greene, Joe Mather, and Jon Jay...not good news for you.

The Cardinals still need a right handed hitting complement to Colby Rasmus, who will also serve as the fourth outfielder. The team could also use a true backup to Albert Pujols at first base.

This means that the Cardinals should be able to make their decision from one of these two groups for the last bench spot. It will be one or the other, not a mix of either. And barring some freak injury, last minute signing, or ineffectiveness by one of the four, here are your last two bench guys:

Allen Craig and Jon Jay
Joe Mather and Tyler Greene

Here are the reasoning behind this.

Both groups consist of a natural center fielder who can also play both corner outfield spots (Jay and Mather). The other consists of an infield and outfield presence who can handle the stick with some power (Craig and Greene*).

*Yes, Greene has power. He has seven extra base hits in his Major League career, and 160 extra base hits (including 62 home runs) in his Minor League career which stretches across four seasons. That's an average of 40 extra base hits over each season, or 50+ if you count his Minor League career as three full seasons.

Craig would serve as a power hitting bat that plays first base and the corner outfield, along with third base whenever needed. He has incredible power and strength, and would serve as right handed pinch hitter.

Jay, a natural center fielder, can play across the entire outfield. He's a strong fielding outfielder and would serve as a late inning defensive replacement for Ryan Ludwick or Matt Holliday, or the right handed hitting center fielders (Lopez and Julio Lugo). Oh, did I mention he bats from the left side, something few Cardinals can do?

The second group would feature a natural right handed center fielder, meaning Lopez and Lugo would be regulated to infield duties. Mather, who we are talking about, is also a power threat himself and a corner infielder (along with an emergency second baseman).

Greene, strictly an infielder, has played the outfield for Tony La Russa (who hasn't?) and would serve as the natural backup to Brendan Ryan. This would allow Lopez and Lugo to play the positions they are better at (second and third base).

Group 2 would add more depth to the bench and would probably be the best option, but neither would be horrible. Both serve a purpose to the team.

Nothing much I can sign off with here. Hope you enjoyed. That good?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cardinals on the Farm

The St. Louis Cardinals have never been known for having a great farm system. Sure, they have turned out guys like Albert Pujols, Dan Haren, Jack Wilson, and JD Drew.

The Cardinals have a much different draft strategy from other teams. The Cardinals prefer safe picks in the early portion of the draft, which produces solid role players that fit within a team built around a couple of guys every season. And this plan works and works well.

But they don't have any high end talent.

There are a few different reasons for this.

The first, as I said, is that the Cardinals play it safe in the draft. It isn't a bad idea, as the team continually wins, but it will never produce great talents (unless a Pujols type player comes around in the 13th round again). Shelby Miller was the exception here. Not a safe pick and Miller should be a star.

The next reason actually lies within the previous reason. What is that pray tell?

They don't have losing seasons very often.

If you lose, you move higher in the draft. Ask the Tampa Bay Rays how their system became so stacked. Go ask the Pirates how good top draft picks can be when you're willing to spend and not be stupid (the Pirates don't do the former and do the opposite of the latter way too often).

The Cardinals don't lose. Seven postseason berths over the last ten years doesn't produce high draft picks. The one time the Cardinals had a top 15 pick (#13 overall in 2008), they took a top-talent in Brett Wallace.

In 2007, when the Cardinals picked 18th, they played it safe with Pete Kozma (well, they thought they played it safe) and passed on Rick Porcello and Brett Cecil (twice). (Side note: the Chicago Cubs actually passed on Matt Wieters in that draft for Josh's that working out?)

Another reason the Cardinals don't have a stacked farm: they don't trade their most expensive talent for young, top prospects.

The Texas Rangers have the top system in the game for this reason. They convinced the Atlanta Braves to trade Elvis Andrus, among others, for Mark Teixeira. In return, the Rangers filled their system out with top talents*.

And it helped that the Rangers pretty much sucked for several years and had top pick after top pick in the draft.

*The Braves actually dealt Teixeira for Casey Kotchman, who was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for Adam LaRoche and was not offered arbitration either, and Steve Marek. Oh, the Braves also received Ron Mahay in the deal. So, if you're following, the Rangers added five top prospects; the Angels received two draft picks for Kotchman and half-a-season from Teixeira; the Braves received close to a full season of Teixeira, half-a-season from Mahay, one draft pick, half-a-season from LaRoche (and no compensation)...all for five top prospects.

Balanced? I think not. Oh, the Braves did it again in the Javier Vazquez swap that sent more top prospects to the Chicago White Sox, and then flipped Vazquez to the New York Yankees for a decent prospect and Melky Cabrerra.

I totally lost myself here.

Ummmm, Cardinals don't trade expensive talent for prized prospects, don't suck, play it safe...

Oh yeah. I remember now. Final reason. Right here.

They actually win.

Yes, it is the same as not losing, but the Cardinals actually win. They play it safe in the draft and receive the role players that help ascend the team to success. Who needs top-tier talent when you win?

When the Cardinals start losing, worry then about the no prized prospects.

Let the good times role, baby.

Did I send you off on a bad note? Sorry. To help ease your pain, let me leave you with five songs you need to listen to if you haven't already:
"Into the Night" - Santana featuring Chad Kroeger
"Magic Touch" - Aerosmith
"Waiting for Tonight" - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Gimme Some Water" - Eddie Money
"Grand Illusion" - Eric Clapton
"Games Without Frontiers" - Peter Gabriel


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cardinals Should Sign Nomar

Nomar Garciaparra. He plays first base, third base, and was one of the better shortstops of the past decade.

The Cardinals should sign him.

Let's look at this reasonably. No stats, no money, nothing like that.

What we will look at: presence and versatility.

Nomar is a great clubhouse presence. You can never too many of those kind of guys. Never. Nomar is a respected teammate who has offered to play positions he has never played before for the team.

Take his 2005 season. He had been hurt for much of the season and was finally back healthy. Then, Aramis Ramirez went down.

Nomar actually went into Dusty Baker's office and offered to shift to third base. Third base, a position he hadn't played professionally at all. Not in the minors nor the majors. Not even on his rehabilitation assignment for the Cubs in 2005.

Yet, he still offered to move for the good of the team.

He hit the open market and was being touted as a utility player. You tell him the position, he'll play it. The Dodgers came calling and wanted him to play first.


Nomar will do what it takes to improve the team. That's a good player, someone others can look up to. The Cardinals need another one of those players to match with the clubhouse figureheads Chris Carpenter and Albert Pujols.

You can make the case that the Cardinals have plenty of guys in the clubhouse that others can look up to, but Nomar brings a lot to the table. He not only has a very strong work ethic, but he also brings humor to the table. Humor is needed.

With the serious guys like Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan around, the clubhouse needs someone to keep them light.

Yes, Brendan Ryan is that guy, but because he is still considered a "young kid," he doesn't get away with it. He gets some leniency (the big helmet batting practice gag was great), but La Russa looks down upon Ryan when he goes a little overboard. As he should so Ryan doesn't feel like a veteran, but someone still fighting for a job.

Nomar brings automatic respect, but also humor that La Russa will let go. La Russa gives his veterans loose chains because as he sees it, they have worked their tails off to get and stay there, so why should you limit them?

This clubhouse needs Nomar. Sure, the team will survive without him, but he would really make this clubhouse great.

As for his versatility, I touched on that with his 2005 selflessness. Nomar has experience at both corners and at shortstop. He can easily play second base as well.

What his signing would mean is that the team has a decent replacement for David Freese at the hot corner. No, Nomar isn't left handed, but you take what you can get. Nomar can also serve as a protection to Ryan and Skip Schumaker up the middle, elevating some of the stress on Julio Lugo as the lone backup.

Oh, he can also spell that guy at first base from time to time. What's name again? Yeah...whatever it is, Nomar can back up him.

Can Nomar still hit? Yes. His .281 batting average in 160 at-bats is proof of that. Can he still hit with some authority? No. Those days are long gone, but as a bench player, you can look past that.

It is his defensive versatility that makes Nomar a good buy for the Cardinals. Nomar still wants to play, and will probably take a small amount of money (in the $1-2 million range, with incentives) to come to a great town like St. Louis.

It would also allow the Cardinals to focus primarily on a right handed hitting center fielder if the team so desires (check out the bottom of this article for my suggestion on this matter) and create a battle for the final bench spot between Memphis players.

To put all of what I said in a few words: Nomar is perfect for this team.

As for the bench configuration, it will be slightly right handed heavy. There will be no big left handed bat. No chance of that. Most of the good ones are gone, and the only ones left (i.e. Hank Blalock) are really limited to one position by many (not by me).

For my team, I would add Nomar to the bench. For my backup in center field that is right handed, it has to be Brendan Ryan.

I know, Ryan isn't a natural center fielder, but he's not a bad one. He has a strong arm, good speed, and has decent reads. That would also mean that the Nomar/Lugo bench would make for a heavy right handed lineup, sitting the lefties (Schumaker and Colby Rasmus) against left handed pitching.

To me, that is better than most configurations.

For the left handed power, you would have to choose between three outfielders: Jon Jay (double machine with some home run power), Tyler Henley (like Jay), and Mark Hamilton.

Hamilton would be my choice. He is a first baseman who plays the corner outfield (better than Chris Duncan mind you), but has good power. He could fill the left handed pinch hitter role with power.

With Allen Craig taking the other role, the bench would offer versatility everywhere (four 1B, two 2B, two SS, three 3B, two LF/RF), just no one that can play center field.

Again, Ryan fixes that hole, with Schumaker serving as the second natural center fielder and Ryan Ludwick as the emergency center fielder.

Every team has a flaw. If this were the only flaw, this team is a World Series winner.

Nomar. Nomar. Nomar.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jupiter Battle

There have been many battles in history. Many will name Bull Run, both times, right off the bat. Midway is normally right after.

The one many forget: Jupiter.

There is a battle that is about to take place in Jupiter, Florida. And this battle may have big ramifications.

The St. Louis Cardinals currently have two players (Julio Lugo and Jason LaRue) on their bench. They have David Freese and Freese alone at third base.

Not good.

As of right now, the only competition for Freese at the hot corner is himself. Allen Craig could make a push, but a utility role on the bench is more likely.

Joe Mather and Tyler Greene will also be pushing for utility roles, and the one thing on their resume (prior Major League experience) probably hurts them more than it helps them. Mostly because neither had a great showing in their brief stints.

Mather, of course, has put himself in the doghouse by running his mouth today. He wants to be in St. Louis or traded elsewhere.

The problem is that Mather, who has Major League experience in all three outfield spots and at first (plus third base in the Minors), has proven nothing at the Major League level. Most likely only San Diego and Cleveland (a long shot) would have interest in Mather.

Not a smart idea for Mather to run his mouth and he will likely not make the squad and follow his good, motormouth buddy Mark Worrell out of town.

Greene show his versatility by playing almost the entire infield and center field, but also showed that his bat still needs improvement. If he has worked hard in the offseason, he could easily make this squad.

Allen Craig, barring some unforeseen circumstance, will like make the team as a 1B/3B/LF/RF player. He isn't much with the glove, but that has never stopped the Cardinals from employing someone (i.e. Chris Duncan). "Have bat, will travel" applies to Craig. The man can flat out hit.

If you assume Craig has a job, that leaves the team with a need for two players. Likely another infielder and a natural center fielder that hits from the right side.

I have continually suggested Rocco Baldelli for the outfield job. He is a solid hitter who has experience at all three outfield spots (he was a center fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays) and bats right handed.

Oh, and he's better than Mather.

That would fill the bench with LaRue, Lugo, Craig, Baldelli, and Greene...

Oh, you noticed that the bench has no left handed hitter too?

This will be the one baffling thing for the Cardinals. The team could easily drop Greene (who will make this roster unless some outside addition comes on board) for Jon Jay, another natural center fielder.

Jay bats from the left side, plays all three outfield spots, and is just a good player.

That would also leave Lugo as the team's primary backup at 2B and SS.

See the problems here? There really is no good way to make this roster to fill every need, which is: another middle infielder, a left handed bat (power is preferable) that can play third base and another position, and a right handed center fielder.

The options remaining on the free agent market and in the system does not fill those needs unless creativity is taken.

Hank Blalock and Baldelli fill the needs.

No matter the outcome, this should be a fun spring training in Jupiter. Between the very publicized fifth starter competition to the bench problem, this spring will be filled with cannon fire.

Let's hope Darwin's survival of the fittest theory holds true.

A Bird's Eye View Welcome

Hello e-verse! This is the Bird's Eye View, or the BEV for short.

Here at the BEV, we talk about baseball. More specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals. We'll sometimes talk about about other teams, and may go outside the world of baseball (music, NFL, NCAA, etc), but it will primarily be about baseball and the Cardinals.

Why the Cardinals? Well, to put it oh so simply: I'm a die-hard fan. I will try as hard as possible to keep my bias out of my writing, but sometimes it is difficult.

Plenty of reasons of why to read my blog:
1) I actually know how to write - I had five years of journalism in school, am a proud member of the Grammar & Spelling Police Force here on the Internet, and well...I can make some interesting points and add humor. I hope to be a good read. I aspire to that.

2) Ideas flow out of me - I will never be a light read. I have ideas flowing out of me left and right. I have always been an idea man, and my ideas tend to be better than most. I can take criticism better than most, but I will always argue my point.

Basically, I hope to mix in a few different type of writer's (not writing) styles and integrate them into my own. I like Bernie Miklasz's writing and I try to write close to his style, but I also like Buster Olney's writing style. Mixing those two together is the kind of writer I like to be. Their layouts and the way they write is jaw dropping good.

If I can be half that good, I'd be a happy person.

Anyway, hope you all read and enjoy. I like to hear from you, so comment, email, or make a reference to my posts on fan boards. All would be great and I hope you have a great day!