Are The Cardinals Waiting For Lohse’s Price To Drop?

CBA, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, History, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors

The Cardinals are said to be looking at starting pitchers that may be available including Astros’ starters Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris. Both would help. Norris is better than Harrell. Harrell would probably come cheaper in a trade. Before 2013 is over, the Astros are going to trade both.

The Cardinals have the prospects to move and the moderate need in their starting rotation, but the easiest solution for them remains former Cardinal Kyle Lohse.

Lohse, coming off his career-best season for the Cardinals, has been sitting and waiting for a contract that meets his and agent Scott Boras’s desires in terms of length and money. If any player in recent memory has been cornered by the draft pick compensation attached to free agents who were offered arbitration by their previous clubs, it’s Lohse. If the circumstances were different—if the cost was only money—Lohse would’ve gotten at least a three-year contract from someone and maybe a four-year deal. Whether or not he’s worth it or if he’s a creation of the Cardinals former pitching coach Dave Duncan’s Dr. Frankenstein-like skills of taking a pitching corpse and reengineering it into a top-tier pitcher is irrelevant. To moderately assuage that fear, Lohse had his career-best season in 2012 without Duncan, so he’s not attached to him like the hypnotized patient who wouldn’t be able to function without the “doctor” in view.

Conversely, considering the pitchers who blossomed under Duncan—Mike Moore, Kent Bottenfield, Joel Pineiro, Jeff Suppan—and were mediocre to disastrous after leaving his tutelage, it’s understandable that clubs would be reluctant to sign Lohse for a ton of money. Even a one-year contract is a disagreeable pill to swallow for Lohse (he feels he deserves more than a desperation contract to “prove” himself again) and for the club signing him (he’s still not worth a number one draft pick). But the Cardinals fill the bill with knowing what he can do and they don’t have to give up a draft pick to re-sign him. If they trade for Norris, Harrell or anyone else, they’ll have to surrender some players. With Lohse, it’s just money.

And that’s what it comes down to. They might be waiting for his price to drop, letting it be known publicly that they’re looking for pitchers and hoping Lohse gets itchy and tells Boras to make a deal with them. Amid all of that, what is being conveniently forgotten about Lohse is that he has been very good in the past two seasons for the Cardinals. This is not a situation where Boras has had to dig for numbers to validate the blue book of accomplishments he creates for his free agents. Lohse has legitimate credentials to get a multi-year contract for better-than-average starting pitcher money, but the draft pick compensation has him caged.

If Lohse is thinking he’ll sit out to start the season and wait until someone gets hurt, until a club needs a starter, or until after the draft, he’s still not going to get a three-year contract then either. If the Cardinals step up and offer two years with a vesting option based on innings pitched and performance, he should take it. I believe he would.

He and the Cardinals know each other. He can pitch and pitch effectively for the Cardinals because he’s done it in three of the five years he spent with the club. The two in which he was bad, he was hurt. If the sides stop and think about it for a moment and decide to be reasonable, it makes the most sense for them to accept reality and reunite. It’s the best choice for all.

//

Advertisements

Tony LaRussa Was A True Innovator

All Star Game, Books, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Movies, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

The easiest thing to do when examining a manager’s—or anyone’s—record is to look at the numbers.

Tony LaRussa‘s managerial numbers are up in the stratosphere of baseball history and will be there forever.

He managed for 33 years; made the playoffs 14 times; won 6 pennants; and 3 World Series.

He won 2728 games and had a .536 winning percentage.

But that doesn’t explain what it was he accomplished in baseball.

LaRussa was one of the true innovators, using data and in-depth scouting reports to adjust his lineups, fielder’s positions and pitching maneuvers according to what would best enable him to have an advantage and win the game. Before stats became so prevalent that laymen thought their utilization made them a baseball expert, LaRussa epitomized the best of both stat-based/detailed information decisionmaking and old-school baseball instincts.

Being a journeyman infielder who batted .199 in 203 career plate appearances in the big leagues and lasted for 15 years in the minors (he had a few good minor league seasons), he soaked up the knowledge that contributed to his innovations as a manager; his legal training (he graduated from law school) provided a linear method of thinking that he adapted to baseball; and he had the courage of his convictions.

There were no, “I’m doing this to keep my job” moves with LaRussa. Immediately upon getting the White Sox job, the likes of Billy Martin and Sparky Anderson—baseball lifers and great managers—noticed and were impressed with his fearlessness and attention to detail.

Blamed for the advent of the “bullpen roles” with the Athletics and Dennis Eckersley, that too was an example of coldblooded rationality rather than reinventing the game. In his early seasons managing the White Sox, LaRussa used his short relievers for multiple innings just as every other manager did; it was when he got to Oakland and the veteran former starter Eckersley was making the transition to the bullpen that LaRussa decided it was best to use him for only one inning at a time. He had the other relievers in his bullpen to do it and it worked.

No one told the rest of baseball that this new strategy was the template of how to run a club without deviation—that was never the point—they were copying while LaRussa was creating.

The stat people cling to the concept of a bullpen-by-committee. This can only succeed, in part, if there’s a manager who can’t be questioned if he decides to use it—the 2011 Cardinals used the closer-by-committee with eight different pitchers recording saves.

Planning hand-in-hand with his pitching coach/aide-de-camp Dave Duncan and his GMs Sandy Alderson, Walt Jocketty and John Mozeliak to find players who fit into what he wanted to build, he rejuvenated and saved the careers of dozens of players. Without LaRussa and Duncan, there’s no Dave Stewart; Mike Moore would’ve been a “what might have been” disappointment; Chris Carpenter would’ve been a journeyman bust; and Eckersley would’ve been finished at 33.

Rightful in his indignation at his portrayal in Moneyball as a “middle-manager” who wasn’t supposed to have his opinions granted any weight, he won and won and won and did it under a budget—his Cardinals teams were generally in the top 10 in payroll, but never competed financially with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Moneyball became the bane of his existence long after its publication as his longtime Cardinals GM Jocketty was forced out as the club mitigated the power of both LaRussa and Duncan and tried to use numbers and baseball outsiders to save money and restructure the organizational philosophy. LaRussa rebelled. Competing in the big leagues is hard enough without having one’s experience and strategies questioned by outsiders who think that calculating a formula can replace 40 years of analytical observation and in-the-trenches baseball.

He fought back viciously and eventually won that organizational tug-of-war.

He didn’t have much patience for young players who didn’t catch on quickly; his doghouse was entrance only and his feuds with players like Scott Rolen bordered on the embarrassing; he could be condescending, thin-skinned and Machiavellian; he overmanaged in circumstances where he shouldn’t have; he was a skillful manipulator of organizational politics to maintain influence; and his teams didn’t win as much as they should have judging by their talent.

But when a team hired Tony LaRussa to manage, they would never be outworked and if he was given the players to compete, he’d get them to the playoffs. Sometimes he got them to the playoffs when he wasn’t given the players to compete.

In an interesting footnote, the championship teams—the 1989 Athletics; 2006 Cardinals; 2011 Cardinals—weren’t anywhere near as good as the teams that got bounced in the playoffs or shocked in the World Series. The 1988 and 1990 A’s were better than the 1989 team; the 2004-2005 Cardinals won a total of 205 games, but those teams didn’t take the title.

The 2006 club collapsed in September and nearly missed the playoffs; once they got in, they regained their footing and, carried by a journeyman starter Jeff Suppan and a rookie closer (who wasn’t a closer) Adam Wainwright, they were the underdogs in every post-season series and won them all.

In 2011, the Cardinals were all but finished in late August before getting a reprieve because they had a great September and due to the Braves falling apart. Seemingly overmatched by the mighty Phillies and the pitching-rich Brewers, the Cardinals took both out. Then, down to their last strike twice in the World Series to the superior Rangers, the Cardinals came back and won an unlikely championship.

I have to wonder whether LaRussa takes more pride in winning when he wasn’t supposed to win or wanted to win with the teams that were great in every conceivable metric other than taking home the World Series trophy.

One accomplishment lends itself to his managerial skill; the other to his ability to put a club together over a long year from the winter to the fall. Neither is more important than the other, but more credit is doled for winning when a team isn’t supposed to win.

LaRussa got away with the things he did because he won and in a circular occurrence, he won because he had the nerve to do things that other young managers might not have done. He didn’t do them to be quirky; he did them because he believed in them. As much as he tried to keep his thumb on everything in his world, he was a big picture, deep strike thinker who took risks for big rewards.

Not every manager can say that.

Most new managers are going to make calls that are safe; that can be explained to the media and meddling bosses; that will keep the players in their corner—but not LaRussa.

He was a rarity among mangers for that fervent adherence to his theories and the courage to implement them.

There won’t be another LaRussa not only because he won, but because of the way he won.

He went out on top and walked away from a lot of money.

There have been intermittent and idiotic caveats from know-nothings diminishing all he did in baseball.

They need to be ignored.

LaRussa deserves to be applauded for his dedication to the game and a career that won’t be surpassed in its duration and scope.

He’s one of the best managers in the history of baseball.

LaRussa’s retiring on his own terms and he’s going out as a World Series champion.

It fits the story of his managerial career perfectly.

//

The Urkel Effect

Media, Players, Spring Training

Does it need to be said that Barry Zito is better than Jeff Suppan?

The mere concept of the Giants releasing a pitcher who’s owed $64.5 million through 2013 is ridiculous in and of itself, but it might make some semblance of sense if the replacement weren’t Suppan.

Aside from that, t’s nonsense.

And naturally it’s coming from Buster Olney.

You can see the important bits and pieces from the MLB Trade Rumors link here.

What happened to Olney?

There was a time when he was a respected baseball writer for the New York Times; but since moving to ESPN, he’s become little more than fodder for jokes and the equivalent of a tabloid journalist taking half-truths and innuendo and—as a matter of connectivity with his employer—blowing them out of proportion to gain readers, viewers and reactions.

Such was the case last year with the “rumor” that the Phillies and Cardinals were considering a swap of Ryan Howard for Albert Pujols. It was written up as if it were viable; Olney went on ESPN News to discuss it and, with the hostess uttering such inanities as “So, Buster, how close is this to happening?”, he launched into a discussion of it “not being close” but indicated that such a bit of derangement was possible.

It wasn’t and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said so; in fact, he sounded further aggravated than he presumably already was as he was still under siege for his decision to trade Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay; he didn’t need to be answering questions about idiocy at that point and conducting an investigation of his underlings as to whom Olney’s “source” was—if said source actually existed.

Now that I think about it, the deal was close. It was about as close as NASA is to sending an astronaut (or a trained monkey) to Pluto.

I don’t want this to turn into an indictment and diatribe against ESPN and Olney alone; looking at the concept of releasing Zito in favor of Suppan is outright lunacy and salary has little to do with it.

You can compare Zito to the old TV character Steve Urkel played by Jaleel White on Family Matters. When he was a kid, Urkel was cute, funny and entertaining; the suspenders, nerd glasses and hiked up pants made him a household name; but years later in the final stages of the show and as White grew to be very tall, it wasn’t funny anymore; it was disturbing.

The Giants are “frustrated” with Zito? Obviously and it’s got nothing to do with anything other than his salary and his performance.

The canned quirkiness; the special pillow he needed to sleep; the teddy bear; the hipster clothes and funky personality were all accepted and promoted while he was winning 18 games for the Athletics and dating starlets—all were part of the Zito “personality”. Now that he’s a financial albatross with an 85-mph fastball and the fifth wheel in a championship-winning starting rotation, it’s not cool anymore.

Regarding the implication that Suppan could take Zito’s spot, it’s not just crazy in the financial sense. Suppan’s not any good. He’s got little left in the tank; his career rise stemmed from the way the Cardinals, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan utilized him and from superior playoff performances; apart from that, he’s never been more than a journeyman with mediocre stuff.

Here’s what I would do if I were the Giants and wanted to salvage something from Zito: send him to Rick Peterson.

I don’t care about stepping on pitching coach Dave Righetti‘s toes; I don’t care about the perception that they’d be perpetrating an end-around on the baseball people that have tried to fix Zito and failed. The Giants have a lot of money invested in a pitcher who, at this point, is nearly useless in comparison to a baseline big leaguer.

What do they have to lose? And if there was ever a consideration of dumping him and eating the salary, wouldn’t they be derelict in their duties if they didn’t try that one last Hail Mary and send him to a pitching coach for whom he had his greatest success? Isn’t that better than releasing him because they were concerned about the pride of their staff?

What’s more important?

As for Righetti, he’d get over it. And if he doesn’t? So what?

//

Viewer Mail 2.25.2011

Free Agents, Media, Spring Training

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Hank Steinbrenner:

I agree about Hank. Very entertaining and good copy for us bloggers.

Hank the Tank just says “stuff” and much of the time I don’t think it’s off-the-cuff and reactionary to a question he was asked; I truly believe that he plans these things. Maybe not verbatim, but he’ll have something in his head that he wants to get out, it eats at him and pops out in the most inappropriate ways.

I don’t understand why Hank chose Derek Jeter to pick at. It’s as if the mansion offends Hank’s delicate sensibilities. George used to give Jeter a hard time as well. I could see if Jeter was risking his reputation in places he’d be better-served to avoid, but Jeter’s been around too long and is too smart to risk it all now.

It seems to me Hank—more than Hal—is offended at paying the salaries he does and the only way he can express that indignation is with his idiotic statements the type which he uttered earlier this week.

Perhaps that too is a calculated act; Jeter, as captain of the team, has to take the brunt of criticism directed at others in the clubhouse and keep quiet about it. Alex Rodriguez is too sensitive; Jorge Posada would explode; Mark Teixeira is too vanilla to criticize—that leaves Jeter.

I’m sure he doesn’t like it; doesn’t understand it; doesn’t agree with the bullying nature of segments of the Steinbrenner clan, but he knows the deal, shakes his head and lets it go.

Let Hank say his piece 3-4 times a year and go back to the horse ranch to scream at the trainers and maybe even the horses.

Who knows? About his horses, he might say, “He was too busy thinking about his future out at stud than the race…”

Know what? The same could be said of Jeter!

Tim Berger writes RE the Cardinals:

You can’t replace Carpenter. he’s worth 6 wins to the cards this season, which puts them back at .500. This doesn’t affect the win/loss percentages of the Brewers and the Reds (or if it does, it actually might give each of them a win). You can’t mute a loss of an ace, and your inference that they can recover even half of Wainwright’s wins back with Kevin Millwood is laughable. Healthy Scott Rolen – pretty lucky, run producing Jonny Gomes – pretty lucky. But Bruce and Stubbs are only getting better, Phillips actually had a down year, and Votto’s year is just a start. Lets start with facts, fill the middle with rational inferences, and end with reality – which spells an atom bomb sized whole for the Cards, one they likely cannot recover from.

Who said anything about Chris Carpenter? He’s supposedly healthy. If he gets hurt (not a small possibility given his history), then they’re screwed.

You missed the point of what I wrote. The value of Wainwright wasn’t the number of wins he accumulated as much as it was the quality innings he threw; they can patch together the wins elsewhere.

It’s beyond simplistic to say that because he was a 5.7 WAR player last year, then the Cardinals will be a .500 team without him. It’s like looking at a playoff series and matching the players up on a position-by-position basis—it’s meaningless.

I’m glad I made you laugh, but am not sure what’s funny. You’re telling me that Kevin Millwood can’t win 10 games for the Cardinals by showing up and being competent? Competence and durability is why Millwood is still around.

Jeff Suppan won 44 games in 3 seasons with the Cardinals from 2004-2006 with nothing in terms of stuff. Nothing. Millwood or some other cog can’t replicate that?

You don’t think they’re going to get a better performance from Kyle Lohse? He can’t be much worse. With a full year from Jake Westbrook, a minute improvement from Jaime Garcia and if whomever they plug into Wainwright’s spot is breathing and throwing strikes, they’ll have a win total in the mid-80s as a team; however many they win after that will determine their fate.

As for the Reds, yes Jay Bruce is getting better.

But what’s the genesis of the opinion that Drew Stubbs is getting “better”? He’s been in the big leagues for one year, hit with some pop, struck out a ridiculous amount of times and had a poor average/on base percentage of .255/.329. He’s got speed and is a good outfielder; in the minors, he never hit more than 12 homers and bashed 22 last year. You think he’s going to improve on that? Based on what?

As for Votto’s year being a “start”, you’re asking a lot. Another near Triple Crown/MVP season isn’t fait accompli. He’s a fine player and will put up big numbers, but a “start”? Really?

Obviously you’re a Reds fan and need to look for a few facts, rational inferences and reality of your own before pointing said stick at me.

You can equate the Twins trading Johan Santana in 2008 (and getting nothing in return) as losing their ace and recovering from an “atom sized hole” in their rotation; they nearly made the playoffs.

You can’t make these “season’s over” assertions in February especially with a team that has Albert Pujols in a contract year and Tony La Russa managing it.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Cardinals and Adam Wainwright:

The main issue (for me anyway) is that we don’t match up with the Reds, Brewers and Cubs when it comes to 1-2 in the rotation anymore. And, the bigger problem: team morale.

It’s my team. I’m behind them all the way no matter what. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say we aren’t the favorite in the NL Central anymore because of this. We’ll be lucky to be in the hunt after the All-Star break. And MY morale… well, not feeling much of it right now. Still dealing with the shock and everything.

This just blows.

It’s a positive that it happened so early in the spring that they’ll be able to come to grips with it, find alternatives and let it go by the time the season starts.

I wouldn’t worry about the 1-2 matchups—they’re generally overblown and much of the time the pitchers don’t face one another in the games.

I’m low on sympathy after what’s happened to the Mets in recent years. I understand though.

The Other Mike in The Bleacher Seats writes RE the Cardinals and Kevin Millwood:

I watched Millwood in Texas and he’s no slouch. I don’t think he’s a big game pitcher, but he’s a grinder. He’s a durable veteran who does his job.

He may not be suited to be your #1, but the Cards already have one of those. Millwood could slot in nicely behind Carpenter.

People are forgetting about Garcia. He was a rookie and was terrific.

As I said earlier, they could do worse than Kevin Millwood; Dave Duncan is the man who coaxed 18 wins out of Kent Bottenfield. He and La Russa have had their gacks (I’m going to talk about that very thing in an upcoming post), but with a veteran like Millwood, what they’d need is innings and he can definitely deliver those.

Gabriel writes RE the Cardinals and the media:

I think nobody should bag the season without even playing the first game. No one knows how things are going to unravel. The tone of the news reminded me of tabloids, always looking to sell the shocking news instead of presenting objective analysis.

It’s a big loss and a huge story, but it’s not a catastrophe of monumental proportions. Things need to break right for them, but it’s not absurd to believe they can win without Wainwright.

You’re expecting objective analysis? Is there such a thing anymore?

Well, there is here, but elsewhere?

It’s mostly agenda-driven, twisted and self-aggrandizing knee-jerk responses or lame swings at comedy.

These types are looking for attention and, unfortunately, getting it.