Coach Matheny’s Kind Gesture

When it comes to jersey numbers most athletes feel a very strong attachment. Usually whatever number an athlete wears has some sort of sentimental value, or it defines them in some type of way. Throughout both of their respective careers, Cardinals new right fielder Jason Heyward and Cards coach Mike Matheny have worn the number 22. This number has represented more than just baseball for both of these men and it has played an integral component in both of their lives.

Heyward wears the number 22 in honor of his friend and high school teammate, Andrew Wilmot, who died in an automobile accident in 2007. He has also been wearing 22 since the outset of his Major League career. Matheny wore the number 22 throughout his thirteen year Major League career and has continued to wear it as a manager. He created a foundation called “Catch Twenty-Two“, which has built handicap accessible baseball fields in multiple Saint Louis area cities and is based off of his position and number. When Matheny offered the number 22 to Heyward this past week it spoke to his character as well as his leadership qualities. There was no better way to make Jason Heyward feel welcomed and cared about by the Cardinal’s community than Matheny’s donning of the symbolic number. It was great to see “The Toughest Man Alive” (Matheny’s nickname in his playing days) make a sacrifice for what he knows is the greater good. When asked about why he decided to give up his precious number for Heyward, Matheny responded with the sincere statement, “knowing the reason why Jason uses that number, it’s really easy for me”.

Matheny at a World Series post game press conference

Matheny at a World Series post game press conference

Teddy Drucker’s Take on The Cardinals Blockbuster

Last week I spoke with sports radio show host Teddy Drucker about the Cardinals recent trade of Shelby Miller/Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward/Jordan Walden, and how it is going to influence the team this upcoming season. Here is what Ted had to say.

Gus Passov: Do you think this was a good trade for the cardinals?

Teddy Drucker: I think it was a great trade for the Cardinals. They got more talent than they gave away and exploited a Braves team that needed to part with Heyward. They also got another guy in Walden who has a plus arm out of the bullpen, which is something the Cardinals need very much.

GP: How do you think Heyward is going to fit in with this team?

TD: First off, I think the change of scenery is going to help Heyward dramatically. I look at him as kind of like a Paul O’neill type player. O’neill played for the reds for six years and they wanted him to be a lefty pull hitter that could hit 30-40 home runs, but he never really reached that expectation the organization set for him. Luckily once he became a Yankee they let him play his own way and guess what? He hit .311 his first year with the team and .359 the year after. I think Heyward has the same opportunity to do that in Saint Louis. Another thing I love about Heyward is that he can hit leadoff. This takes off all of the pressure for him to be a power hitter and at the same time gives them pop out of the leadoff spot. The Cardinals lacked a lot of power last season and this is going to have a fantastic impact on the team. He’s also only 25 and if you look at guys like Alex Gordon and Robinson Cano who were highly touted prospects and took a while to pan out it’s definitely possible to picture Heyward having a career path similar to theirs.

GP: Do you think this trade solidifies the Cardinals as the National Leagues best team?

TD: No, even though this trade was great for the Cardinals, the Dodgers are still the best team on paper and easily have the best pitching staff. But, I do believe the Cardinals should have one of the most entertaining and dynamic lineups next season, there are no holes.

GP: Are there any other moves you think the Cardinals should make this offseason?

TD: I think they need to bolster their pitching staff because of the loss of Miller. I’m not the biggest Miller fan and I don’t think the Cardinals need to break the bank on a guy like Lester, but someone such as Brandon McCarthy, for example, who won’t be an expensive guy to sign and has proven himself in the major leagues would be a great fit. The Cardinals are usually extremely reliant on their farm system to feed players to their major league team, but if they want to be World Series contenders next season, they don’t have the time to wait and see if a prospect is going to pan out.

GP: Do you think Walden is going to challenge Trevor Rosenthal for the role of closer?

TD: No, I think that Rosenthal is going to be closer from the outset, without a doubt, but Matheny will keep a tight leash on him and I would not be surprised if by mid-season Walden ended up taking over. Rosenthal was shaky at times last season and had a pretty high era for a closer, but I believe the pressure of knowing Walden could challenge him for his job will make him become a more consistent pitcher.

GP: Do you think the Cardinals are going to sign Heyward to a long-term deal?

TD: That’s a very intriguing question, his current contract is set to expire in 2016 and he will be an unrestricted free agent when that happens, but to be honest I think it’s in the Cardinals favor to sign him to a long-term contract. Let’s see how he does his first year, but my guess is that they will end up locking him in for 6-8 years because they know that he has the potential to develop into a franchise player and a team leader as well.

You can tune in to the getting ready with teddy show at 90.3 fm kwur. it airs from 7-8 on Wednesday evenings.

You can tune in to the “Getting Ready With Teddy Show” on 90.3 FM KWUR. it airs from 7-8 on Wednesday evenings.

Cardinals Make Blockbuster Deal

This morning the Cardinals agreed on a four player trade that will send starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden. Heyward is a fantastic defensive outfielder and won a gold glove this past season while saving an astounding 32 runs. He is also a proven hitter with a respectable career slash line of .262/.352/.429. Not only will he fill the right field void for the Cardinals, but will take on the role of leadoff hitter as well due to his speed (twenty bags swiped last season) and his knack for getting on base. At the young age of 25, Heyward should be a staple of the Cardinals outfield for years to come.
heyward_jason

Walden is a hard-throwing 27 year-old right hander and has proven to be an effective set up man and closer throughout his career. He led the Braves with 20 holds last season while posting a solid 2.88 era and he will be a huge addition to a bullpen that struggled at times last season. Walden has also proven durable, appearing in 50 or more games in three of the past four seasons. An end of game bullpen combo of Walden and Card’s closer Trevor Rosenthal will leave hitters quivering at the plate.

Philadelphia+Phillies+v+Atlanta+Braves+jV4aCs3QXeZx

All in all, this was a great trade for the Cardinals. Yes, they gave up young pitching which is usually a big no-no, but they filled two immediate needs in return. For a team whose goal is to win the World Series in 2015, this trade was necessary and will prove worthwhile in the long run.

Statement From John Mozeliak

Cardinal’s General Manager John Mozeliak confirmed today that although he has seen media reports regarding the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, the team is still waiting for more information from the Dominican Republic regarding the incident.

Dominican officials reported today that Taveras’ blood alcohol content was five times the legal limit when he lost control of his car and ran into a tree last month. It is a shame that this tragedy is now tainted, but unfortunately the past cannot be changed.

“We have seen the media reports regarding Oscar Taveras that have come out this afternoon, but have yet to receive any official notification from the Dominican. Until we have the opportunity to review the official report, we cannot confirm details. While we are still working to obtain the facts, it won’t change the fact that this is a terrible tragedy. We have an obligation to use this as an opportunity to educate our players that they must take responsibility for themselves both on and off the field.” – John Mozeliak

oscar-590x307

Cardinals All-time Team

Since the Cardinals creation in 1882, some of the best baseball players in the history of the sport have conquered the diamond in a red birds uniform. Unfortunately, careers can only last so long and as the years go by we forget how good some of these players actually were. Although there’s a plethora of options at almost every position, these are the Cardinal’s greatest position players of all time listed in the batting order that would be used if this team were to actually exist.

Left Field: Lou Brock

Brock is undoubtedly one of the best base stealers in history, second all time to Rickey Henderson, and he accumulated 888 steals over his 2289 games played with the Cards, but many people forget about his miraculous post season play. Brock’s .391 World Series batting average is the highest ever for anyone that has played 20 World Series games or more and his 14 career steals in the World Series are a record as well. Brock was a key factor in the Cardinals 1964 and 1967 championships (re-read above) and is the perfect leadoff hitter for the all-time team.

Second Base: Rogers Hornsby

This was a trickier decision than Brock, but Hornsby narrowly edges out Red Schoendienst for the honor of the greatest Cardinals second basemen of all time. Hornsby is not only the Cardinals all time leader in practically every single offensive category at the second base position, but he was also an impeccable defender and clutch player. In 1926 he helped the Cardinals win their first pennant and their first World Series as well. The red birds defeated the Yankees in seven games and Hornsby tagged out the great Babe Ruth on a stolen base attempt to solidify the Cards as champions for the first time.

Right Field: Stan Musial

I realize that Musial technically played all outfield positions and was primarily a first baseman, but it makes the most sense for him to be the starting right fielder of the all-time team due the greatness of Lou Brock and Albert Pujols (see below). That being said, Musial is without a doubt the most celebrated Cardinal of all time. He played 22 seasons with the team and made an astonishing 20 all-star teams. More importantly, Stan the man was a three-time World Series champion, a seven time batting champion, and a three-time MVP. Musial also amassed 3,630 hits over his career, which is the fourth most in history, and posted a career WAR of 128.1, which is eleventh all time. These statistics make Musial a special player, but his true greatness stems from his image. He will not only forever be the face of the Cardinals, but the heart and soul of the city of Saint Louis as well. Thank you Stan.

First Base: Albert Pujols

Pujols is one of the most complete hitters in the history of the game and very rarely have players dominated the Major Leagues like Pujols did for the first ten years of his career (2001-2011). He is the only player in major league history to record a batting average of at least .300 with at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in his first ten seasons. It is simply one of those statistical anomalies that will probably never be broken. Moving forwards, Pujols also won two World Series in his eleven years with the Cardinals, three MVP awards, six silver sluggers, two gold gloves and, is a member of the prestigious 500 home run club. He was also a staple of the 2004 Cardinals team, which won 105 games, scored a remarkable 855 runs and is arguably one of the most complete teams to ever play the game, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Center Field: Jim Edmonds

Edmonds was one of the most fun Cardinals to watch play the game of baseball because of the passion and enthusiasm he brought to the diamond every day. Jimmy ballgame won five gold gloves as a member of the Cardinals and was one of the most fearless players in the game. Although Jim was a member of the Angels when he did this; it is one of the best catches in the history of baseball and epitomizes his playing style. Jim is also fourth in Cards history with 241 career homeruns as a Cardinal, and his walk off home run in-game six of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros is one of the most memorable moments in Cardinals postseason history. On August 8th 2014 Edmonds was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame and was hired by Fox Sports Midwest in 2013 to be a member of their Cardinals broadcasting crew.

Third Base: Ken Boyer

Boyer was a remarkable player, who occasionally slips through the cracks when it comes to discussing the Card’s all time greats. He holds almost every offensive record at third base for the Cardinals and his 255 home runs are good for third all-time in team history. Boyer also won five gold gloves as well as the 1964 MVP award, while leading the team to a World Series victory during the same season. For how impressive Boyer’s play was, his leadership was equally impressive and he was the Cardinal’s captain from 1959-1965. Boyer also coached the Cardinals from 1978-80 and while those were not some of the best Cardinals teams, his loyalty to the organization is unparalleled.

Catcher: Yadier Molina

This was a tough decision due to the greatness of Card’s catcher Ted Simmons during the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, but Molina takes the cake as the best Cardinal catcher in history. Molina has won seven gold gloves, a silver slugger award, two World Series and he was just the third catcher in the history of professional baseball, after Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench, to play in two world series before his 25th birthday. Molina has also thrown out an astounding 45% of base runners over his career and is the active Major League leader with 52 career pickoffs. He is also a natural leader and is constantly pushing his teammates to compete at the highest level they can. Molina has already accomplished so much in his career and we hope that he continues his excellence for years to come.

Shortstop: Ozzie Smith

Ozzie is remembered today for his flash on the field and his amazing in-game backflips, but he is arguably the best defensive short stop of all time. He won an unbelievable 11 consecutive gold gloves with the Cardinals and the wizard has the most assists of all time with 8,375. Although Smith wasn’t an extremely polished offensive player, he was a very respectable hitter for a shortstop and won the silver slugger award in 1987. Ozzie also amassed 876 walks compared to only 423 strikeouts over his Card’s career while swiping an impressive 433 bags as well. Lastly, Smith won the Roberto Clemente award in 1995, which speaks to the quality of his character, sportsmanship and contributions on and off the field and he was a crucial member of the 1982 championship team.

OZZIE SMITH

Starting Pitcher: Bob Gibson

This decision was one of the easiest to make because Bob Gibson is without a doubt the best Cardinal pitcher of all time. After turning down an opportunity to play with the Harlem Globetrotters, Gibson had a miraculous sixteen-season career with the Cards in which he won nine gold gloves, two Cy Young awards, one MVP award, two World Series MVP awards and the 1964 and 1967 World Series. On top of all these accomplishments, Gibson’s 1968 season is considered one of the best in the history of baseball. He shocked the country by pitching 304.1 innings and posting a miraculous 1.12 ERA over that span. There are rumors that Gibson’s dominance in 1968 prompted Major League Baseball to lower the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and shrink the size of the strike zone as well.

The Cardinals have given all of these players the recognition they deserve, all retired players are members of the Cardinal’s Hall Of Fame and most have their numbers retired, but as fans it is always good to appreciate greatness too. Without these spectacular athletes, the game we adore so much would cease to exist.

Molina Makes History

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina won his 7th consecutive gold glove award yesterday evening and has made history as a result. Molina joins Ivan Rodriguez and Johnny Bench as the only catchers to win seven in a row and is now tied for third on the all time list for most gold glove awards won as a catcher.

Although Molina only caught 107 games due to injury, he still threw out 48% of would be base stealers, which was the best number in all of baseball. Molina also posted a cERA (a statistic which measures the earned run average of pitchers while a certain catcher is catching) of 3.19, which was the best among all of this years gold glove catcher candidates. His 8 defensive runs saved and 1.5 defensive WAR were also extremely impressive considering Molina was injured for about one-third of the 2014 season.

Molina is not only the backbone of the Cardinals defense, but the glue of the Cards pitching staff as well. Pitcher Shelby Miller described it best when he summed up Molina’s value to the team with the simple statement, “I pretty much worship the ground he walks on.” Let’s hope the unquestioned leader of the Cardinals continues his excellence behind the plate for the foreseeable future.

Yadier-Molina

Cardinals Hire New Bench Coach

The Cardinals have announced that they have signed David Bell to a two-year contract to be the teams new bench coach. He was the Cards assistant hitting coach last season and his promotion reflects the quality work he has put in for the team. Bell, who is 42, played parts of 4 seasons with the Cardinals during his 12 year career totaling 440 at bats from 1995-1998.

Bell is replacing Mike Aldrete who spent 6 seasons coaching with the Cards before joining the Oakland Athletics coaching staff this offseason.

52fdf42b3dce7.preview-699

Offensive Needs For The 2015 Season

Any baseball fan would agree that the Cardinals are one of the National League’s best teams, but what prevented them from achieving post-season dominance in 2014? When it comes down to it, the answer is a lack of offensive production. The Cards were dead last in the National League in home runs with 105 during the regular season, down from 125 in 2013, and were tenth in the National League in runs scored with 619. To put the Cards runs scored number in perspective, the Cardinals led the national league in runs scored during the 2013 season with 783. This 164 run difference, over the span of only a single season, needs to be accounted for and General Manager John Mozeliak should be looking to make some significant acquisitions this offseason on the offensive side, especially at first base and catcher. Don’t get me wrong, Matt Adams and Yadier Molina are two of the most consistent hitters on the team, but the numbers show that these are the positions with the greatest offensive need as well.

First Base

This season versus left-handed pitchers Matt Adams posted a slash line of .190/.231/.298/ in 121 at bats. On the flip side, against right-handed pitching Adams posted a .318/.349/.505 line in 406 at bats. These numbers speak for themselves and Adams simply cannot compete with lefties at the major league level. The Cardinals need to install a platoon at first base for the 2015 season if they want to be world champions once again.

Luckily, Michael Morse and Michael Cuddyer are two first basemen on the free agent market who will mesh well with the organization and both are relatively cheap options. Morse has a career .277/.335/.485 slash line versus Left handed pitchers for his career and would be a huge offensive upgrade over Adams against lefties. He is also capable of playing the corner outfield positions and could see time in right field when he is not playing first base, depending on the play of Randal Grichuk.

Michael Cuddyer would also be a quality free agent signing to platoon with Adams. Although Cuddyer is 35 years old, he has hit .291 with a .378 OBP, .504 slugging percentage and a .883 OPS versus left-handed pitching for his career. Just this past season he hit .412 with 5 home runs in 51 at bats against lefties (his season was shortened by an injury). Cuddyer is also capable of playing the corner outfield positions as well as second and third base if Kolten Wong or Matt Carpenter needs a day off. Although Morse and Cuddyer may not be actively searching for platoon roles, if the Cardinals sign either of these free agents an offensive weakness at first base will turn into strength.

michael-cuddyer-rockies

Catcher

Yadier Molina provides very consistent offensive production for a catcher, but the Cardinals cannot assume he will be healthy for the entire season. As we witnessed this past season, when Molina was missing time with an injury, his backup, Tony Cruz, did not provide adequate production at the plate. Last season, Cruz hit .200 with a .270 OBP, .259 slugging percentage and a .530 OPS. If the Cardinals want to be competitors next season they need to sign a backup catcher that has the ability to step up and take over in case Molina sustains another prolonged injury.

Yadier+Molina+Miami+Marlins+v+St+Louis+Cardinals+dwfW5aoftZ3l

A free agent this offseason that the Cardinals should consider to fill this role is Ryan Doumit. Although Doumit had a terrible 2014 season posting a .197/.235/.318 slash line, his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was a meager .250. Keep in mind that the league average in this statistic is .300. Looking at Doumit’s numbers from this point of view it can be inferred that not only was Doumit an extremely unlucky hitter during the 2014 season, but he should produce much closer to his .264/.324/.432 career slash line next season and provide some much-needed power off the bench as a pinch hitter. Doumit has also hit double-digit home runs in five out of the last seven seasons and the fact that he is a switch hitter adds to his value. Doumit would be a cheap replacement for Tony Cruz next season and he will provide substantial production from the backup catcher position. The Cardinals need to take advantage of this opportunity if they want to be competitors in 2015.

Oscar Taveras Killed in Car Accident

The St. Louis Cardinals organization has received the grave news that rookie OF Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend were killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic. News was confirmed by Taveras’ agent Brian Mejia.

Just two weeks ago, he was playing in the NLCS against the Giants and came up big with a clutch game-tying homer in the 7th inning. The top prospect in the Cardinals’ organization for the past two years and third top prospect in the Majors, Taveras batted .239 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 80 games with the Cardinals this year.

Taveras was supposed to be a new cornerstone for the future of the Cardinals’ organization, but now the Cardinals’ family, city of St. Louis, and the world of baseball are stunned as one of the brightest young players, with as much potential as anybody in the sport, was tragically taken from this world at age 22.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals Early Impact Prospects For 2015

Even though the Cardinals lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, Cards fans have it luckier than they even know. The Cardinals are an exceptionally well-run baseball team and manage to make the playoffs year after year (five out of the last six to be exact). They have won eleven world series, nineteen National League Pennants and twelve division titles making them the second most winning franchise in MLB history after the New York Yankees. Anyways, if being a lifelong fan of baseball has taught me one thing its that the future of any team rests in the hands of its farm system, so without further adieu here are, in my opinion, the top three Cardinals prospects to made an immediate impact in 2015.

Stephen Piscotty

Piscotty was a first round supplemental draft pick out of Stanford who was converted from third base to right field before the 2013 season. Although he isn’t fast enough to play center field, his strong and accurate arm makes him a capable right fielder.

Piscotty only hit 9 home runs this season, but his flat, line drive swing gives him gap power, showcased by his 32 doubles, and results in few strike outs. Many scouts believe Piscotty has the potential to be a .300 hitter in the major leagues, but he may need a positional change due to the Cardinals investment in players like Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk.

Breakdown

Piscotty is a major league ready player, and his willingness to learn as well as gritty play mesh well with the rest of the personalities on the Cardinals major league roster. With the cardinals general lack of production this year offensively, they should be able to find playing time for him in 2015.

Marco Gonzales

Gonzales was the nineteenth pick in the 2013 MLB draft and quickly escalated to the big leagues, making his debut on June 25th of this year. He only appeared in sixteen games for the Cardinals (including the post season) and had some control issues during the regular season, walking 21 batters in 34.2 innings with a 1.53 WHIP.

Although Gonzales is not overpowering, with his fastball usually sitting between 88 and 91 mph, and struggled at times this season when facing major league hitters, his changeup is what makes him an intriguing piece of the Cardinals 2015 roster. His changeup is a tremendous swing and miss weapon and his control of the pitch is impeccable. Both Gonzales’s changeup and control have been graded between a 60 and 70 on the 20-80 scale by numerous scouts too, which are well above average grades.

Breakdown

With frequent comparisons to Kansas City Royals pitcher Jason Vargas, Gonzales has the stuff to develop into a dependable number three pitcher for years to come or at the very least an effective lefty out of the Cardinals bullpen.

Cardinals pitching prospect Marco Gonzales in action.

Randal Grichuk

Grichuk was taken with the 24th pick of the 2009 MLB draft and battled his way through five injury plagued seasons in the minor leagues before finally getting a taste of the big leagues this year. He has defensive value and can play all outfield positions, making up for his lack of speed by taking great angles when hunting down fly balls. His hard work in the outfield earned him the equivalent of the minor league gold glove award in 2013.

On the offensive end of the spectrum, Grichuk impressed many by slugging .400, but he struck out 31 times and walked only 5 in 110 regular season at bats. He also hit a underwhelming .171 during the postseason and struck out in over 33% of his at bats. Regardless of his major league numbers, Grichuk still slugged 25 home runs for the Cardinals triple A affiliate this season, but although many scouts are impressed by his power, his aggression at the plate will probably be exposed by pitchers at the professional level.

Breakdown

Grichuk has been given the opportunity to be the everyday right fielder, but with Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty lurking he has no room for error. If he gets off to a hot start Grichuk will be the everyday right fielder, but if he doesn’t he will probably become the teams fourth outfielder and may potentially be sent back down to triple A.