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01.02.2007 10:39 pm

PostCards 01.02.07 (Soup to Nuts)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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TOWER GROVE - Armed with tea, a truckload of Christmas cookies from ma, a bruised-but-sturdy Post-Dispatch issue laptop and its dwindling battery, an eerily precognitive song by The Tragically Hip, an “excellent” wireless connection, and enough questions to fill an edition, it’s time for the first PostCards for the New Year.

T-minus 5 ½ weeks before leaving for Jupiter and still the Cardinals don’t have everything packed for the migration south.

Or, so it would seem.

This edition of the STLtoday.com mailbag contains questions ranging from Cardinals past to Cardinals present to Cardinals future and Cardinals who never were. (Aside: There are two names I found conspicuously absent from the questions this past week.) This PostCards also sparks the return to the blog for me after a (needed) holiday breather. I plan to disappear just once more this offseason before reporting to and from Roger Dean Stadium.

Till then keep the questions coming.

This mailbag is fueled by your emails to postcards@post-dispatch.com and by your comments below. I can only write it, if you do.

On with PostCards:

***

Q: Did Jason Marquis get a share of the Cardinals’ World Series payoff?

Bob Larson

DG: Yes. Before the NL Division Series opened in San Diego, the Cardinals who had been with the team all season huddled in the visitors clubhouse to vote on and distribute playoff shares. Marquis, by virtue of being with the team all season, was in the room and received a full share. His (in)action in the playoffs had no impact on what he received.

***

Q: With all the rumors that more than one team, including the Cubs, had already offered Jason Marquis, a multiple year, high priced contract, why didn’t the Cardinals offer him arbitration and retain the draft choice compensation? Were they afraid he would back door them and accept?

R.J. Mostak

DG: True, there were rumors and innuendo that a club - the Cubs - had not only plans to make an offer to Marquis but had already met with him and, we later found out, put him through a workout. Still, the Cardinals could not guarantee that he would reject the arbitration offer for one of those deals. The Cardinals declined to take the risk of being locked into an unfavorable deal for Marquis. The draft pick wasn’t worth the gamble. By contrast, the Cardinals received a promise from Mark Mulder’s agent that he would refuse the arbitration offer.

***

Q: Just wondering if So Taguchi was signed for 07?

John Murakami

DG: He will be a Cardinal in 2007, this much is certain. Though he has not been signed. I spoke with Taguchi’s agent about a week ago and he said that he had discussions with the Cardinals and they had tried to finish a deal before the contract-tender deadline. When they were unable to, the Cardinals tendered Taguchi a binding contract and Taguchi opted to use his arbitration rights. That means he’ll have a contract with the Cardinals in ‘07, and both sides expect to agree to terms before needing the arbitration hearing.

***

Q: Why, oh why, oh why? Why do the Cardinals go after the “big” names first, when they have rock solid stuff in their own clubhouse? If they are willing to pay Jason Schmidt over $11 million per year, why can’t they pay that to Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, etc.? Why is there a difference in their view of these guys? Did not Weaver come through in the clutch? He couldn’t do that if he didn’t have the ability and what it takes to handle pressure. Is not Suppan the real-deal, postseason MVP? Has he not yet proven himself worthy? I don’t get this.

Sheila M.
Meridian, Miss

DG: Some of what you describe does run against their back-patting approach to signing their own free agents to multi-year deals (see: Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols). If they are willing to make competitive offers to Randy Wolf, Miguel Batista and Vincente Padilla, why not make a similar market-savvy run at Jeff Suppan, who may cost a bit more but is that much more of a known quantity? The answer could be the Matt Morris principle. The Cardinals were only willing to go so far in pursuit of Morris a year ago because they felt they knew enough about Morris not to follow the market. Maybe that was the guiding principle in the initial offer to Suppan (three years, $18 million), but the Cardinals apparent disinterest in signing Suppan makes little sense with the information available.

That said, don’t compare Schmidt to Weaver or Suppan. While Schmidt may not have the durability of either, he is a bona fide staff ace and would be a formidable No. 2 in the Cardinals’ rotation. Think of the rotation the Cardinals would have if they had signed just two of their targets:

1. Chris Carpenter

2. Jason Schmidt

3. Anthony Reyes

4. Randy Wolf

5. Kip Wells

Alas …

***

Q: Why do the fans constantly insist that the Cardinals spend lavish amounts of money on “star” free agents? A lineup of star players doesn’t guarantee success. The Yankees have proven that playing “fantasy baseball” isn’t the way to go in building a winning ballclub. The way Walt Jocketty and the Cardinals are approaching this offseason has been sound and will build a good foundation for a 2007 run. My wish list for “07: Sign Jason Schmidt and trade Juan Encarnacion for some Class AAA-level prospects. Nothing too crazy.

Jason Carpio
Overland Park, Kansas

DG: “Nothing too crazy” — the “nuts” referenced in this entry’s headline — is a good motto to follow. A few weeks ago I wouldn’t have thought the Cardinals could get a Triple-A level players for Juan Encarnacion, but the market has spun wildly enough that anything is possible for a reasonably price outfielder.

I can’t answer the larger universal-truth element of your question, save to speculate that fans want to be thrilled. In the regular season wins and performance stir the fanbase’s imagination. In the winter, it’s big deals and big names. Not landing Schmidt as you wished for is like a loss for the Cardinals. They’re record in pursuing pitchers is 1-4, with two undecided. That puts them a few games out of first place in the division. An additional element that seems to have developed recently for Cardinal fans is the wish to see all of the money they’ve put into the organization - souvenirs, season tickets, new ballpark, auctions, et cetera - funneled into player acquisition. It’s just not that simple. The Cardinals don’t spend for the sake of spending. They aren’t going to cover up a miss on Schmidt with an overpayment on, say, Batista or Suppan or (it seems) Weaver. They hold steadfast to their approach, their “slots”.

Trouble is, this market favors the spenders, the teams willing to stray into the tricky realm of overspending. And the Cardinals, by my count, have a hole to fill.

***

Q: What are the real odds on Chris Narveson breaking into the starting rotation next year? I like the idea of at least one lefty starter.

Carey Michael
Arlington, Tenn.

DG: Real odds? Slightly less than Adam Wainwright’s odds of making the major-league roster a year ago at this time. If Narveson takes the Wainwright approach and fiercely and doggedly elbows his way into every pitching conversation and competition the Cardinals have in Jupiter this spring then he helps his odds considerably. Narveson did everything right last summer to catch the Cardinals attention. When he returned to action, he made 15 starts, had a strong ERA in Triple-A (2.81), and went at least six innings in five of his final 10 starts. Sure, another full season in Triple-A would do him good, but he’s coming to camp with the chance, in the words of Tony La Russa, to compete for a big-league job. The Cardinals don’t see Narveson as a lefty reliever, but a year ago Wainwright was described as a the one of the three No. 5-starter contenders the Cardinals “wanted to keep starting.” Narveson has a say in how he’s used.

Odds? Not as good as Braden Looper making a start in 2007, but much much better than trading for, say,  Jason Bay.

***

Q: I have been an avid Cardinal fan for over 50 years, but if they sign Barry Bonds that will all change! I’ll have to start supporting the Cubs or the Astros, I guess. As much as I dislike their teams now, at least they have more character than to sign a player like Bonds…

E. Seay
Louisville, Ky.

DG: Wanted to run this email because it was representative of many that I received as the brushfire of Bonds’ reports swept through Cardinals Nation. Turns out it was all smoke. But many fans came out firing.

***

THIS WEEK’S PostCards QUESTION

Blatantly borrowed from a trivia contest authored by Bill Tiemann and  held at a recent Bob Broeg St. Louis SABR Chapter meeting that I was invited to attend:

How many pitches did Stan Musial throw in his major-league career?

Write postcards@post-dispatch.com with your answers.

LAST PCQ

Since the guys who bludgeoned his record are in the news so much these weeks, here’s a question about .

When he hit 70 home runs in 1998, Mark McGwire was intentionally walked 28 times. How many more times was McGwire walked intentionally in ‘98 than Maris was when he hit 61 in 1961?

The answers:

STUART YANCY: The answer is 28. Rog didn’t get a single intentional walk that year. He had Mickey Mantle batting behind him for protection most of the year (until Mantle went down with a hip access from a bad shot he got).

DONALD M. FLACK, St. Louis: McGwire’s 28 IBB in 1998 are exactly 28 more than Maris received in 1961, according to Baseball Reference. Of course, Maris had Mantle batting behind him in the lineup.

NADEEM HASAN, Morristown, N.J.: McGwire’s 28 intentional walks were 28 more than Roger received in 1961. Mizzou ‘97.

(DG Note: A fine, fine year to graduate from MU. Though the realization it was nearly a decade ago is causing these words to shiver as  I write them …)

RON BEHM, Arlington Heights, Ill.: This question was much too easy since it could be found on the MLB.com site. Interesting, ‘61 was the only year of Maris’ career where he had no intentional walks. Therefore the answer is 28.

ANDREW DODGE: McGwire was intentionally walked 28 times more than Maris, because no one in their right mind would walk Maris to pitch to Mantle.

Others who got the answer right, or at least that Maris had zero intentional walks in 1961 were: John Drea of Macomb, Ill.; Cory Edwards; Kris Kotoucek of Swansea, Ill; and, of course, Dave Mitchell of  Waterloo, Iowa.

***

Questions and news permitting, every week during offseason,  Post-Dispatch baseball writer Derrick Goold will answer fans’ emails in a mailbag called PostCards, published in the Bird Land blog. To comment and discuss PostCards visit the Bird Land blog on StlToday.com. To submit questions write postcards@post-dispatch.com or file them as a comment on the blog. With all questions please include your name and hometown.

PostCards will run online exclusively at StlToday.com.

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3 comments

Comments are closed.

Why does Taguchi always seem to just wait around on the Cardinals to sign him? I’m sure there would be some interested teams wanting a quality utility man. I’m not complaining, I love having the So man…just wondering.

— Steve-O
2:08 pm January 3rd, 2007

There are two things that lead to my dismay by Cardinal nation in the offseason. It’ll start with the insufferable need to purchase big name bats and arms. Don’t get me wrong, I like having big name bats and arms. I feel that you’ll be more successful spending money developing a powerful minor league system to draw from then trying to patch up your squad through free agency each season. The best pickups don’t tend to be the Sorianos and the Carlos Lees but moreso the little diamonds in the rough. I was about the only person in red touting the Eckstein signing as the best signing in years. In the meantime everyone I argued with about Eck also argued that Tino was a great pickup at first. While I chided that name everyone lined up for the amazing Yankee. I guess we know how that all turned out.

My second problem is the inane need to resign players we’re familiar with. Obviously when you get a player like AP and Carp you lock them up for as long as possible. I love Soup but he ain’t one of those guys. He’s done his fair share for this team, just like Woodrow Williams did before and now its time to move on. Rarely is it a good idea to overspend on players and we would have been in a bad way overpaying for Soup. Besides the fact that Weaver will be of more value to us in the long run if we do pick him up.

— RCJ
3:30 pm January 3rd, 2007

Steve-O,

Sorry I didn’t get to your question earlier. My mistake. There is an element of loyalty and comfort here. Taguchi likes the fact that the Cardinals stuck with him as a he struggled. He also like the environment — as he doesn’t deal with the other demands placed on his peers on the coasts. He is very fond of Tony La Russa as well and the playing time he’s received, even when he was scuffling during the 2006 season. He might be able to make more money elsewhere, but he likes to stay where he’s comfortable. That’s as a Cardinal.

dg
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— Derrick Goold
9:03 pm January 7th, 2007