We spoke recently with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN about the Cardinals. Here’s what he had to say:
Steve Hirsch: What’s your take on the lack of off-season activity from the Cardinals’ front office? Do you see them potentially falling behind the Reds again in 2013 or is their crop of young players going to be enough to keep them competitive for an NL Central title?
Jerry Crasnick: I think John Mozeliak went into the offseason thinking they didn’t have a ton of stuff that they needed to do especially when you look at their pitching, as they almost seem to have an excess of starting pitching, which has driven his agenda. Most clubs were looking to fortify their starting rotations and he didn’t feel that he needed to do that. Other than that, you have a team that scored a lot of runs and you have a team that felt it was pretty flush with stating pitching. I talked with Mozeliak back in November and the only sense I got was maybe they could do something at second base and get a left handed reliever…he also does have guys like Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong in the system and I think they want to leave room for those guys soon enough. So while people might be a little bit disappointed they didn’t do more, I don’t really know that they went into the offseason with a huge agenda or many things planned because it’s not as if a lot of things fell through on them.
SH: It’s nearly February and Kyle Lohse still doesn’t have a team to pitch for in 2013. Why do you think this is the case and where do you think he will ultimately end up for next season?
JC: It’s been pointed out that he’s one of those nine guys with compensation attached, so i think that hurt him. For a guy like Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke, it wasn’t a huge deal, but I don’t know if Kyle Lohse is quite in that realm of players so I think the fact that if somebody signs him they’re going to lose a draft pick and and they’re going to lose the money attached to that slot, it’s kind of a double whammy for a guy like Lohse.
Texas has been mentioned, but I personally don’t know if he’s a great fit there. To me, he’s sort of like Ryan Dempster, whose a right hander with similar finesse and a National League guy, so you start to look at National League teams and the one team that has really made the most sense for me all throughout is Milwaukee. I think after Yovani Gallardo, they don’t have a lot of solid veteran guys and their team, if things break right, could be a contending team. So I’ve been waiting for something maybe to happen between Lohse and the Brewers but everytime there seems to be even a smidgen of momentum, somebody shoots it down, and GM Doug Melvin has been pretty forthright saying ‘we’re going to go with what we have.’ I think if there were a logical fit for Kyle Lohse, he would have found it before the end of January, so right now he might have to hope for someone to have an emergency opening, maybe an injury or maybe somebody gets to camp and says ‘Hey, our pitching isn’t as good as we thought,’ because right now, the landscape doesn’t look great for him. And if it’s not one of those teams I mentioned, it’s probably going to have to be some sort of mystery suitor.
SH: It’s been about a year since Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. Looking back on it, did the Cardinals make the right decision by not spending hundreds of millions of dollars on him?
JC: I think Albert Pujols recovered from a rocky start and showed that he’s still a very formidable player but I’m not a huge fan of teams tying a mega amount of money in a single player. Obviously he had meaning to the Cardinals, that community beyond his performance, what he symbolized as the face of the franchise and the heir to the Stan Musial legacy and all of that stuff, I get that, and that was important. But, the Angels went to ten years and at least they had the option of making him a DH in five or six years whereas in St. Louis they wouldn’t have had that option. I think the cardinals made the right, prudent move and when you look at him getting $250 million or thereabout, that would have probably been an albatross around the neck of the team, so in hindsight it probably worked out for the best for the Cardinals and for Pujols.
SH: What are your thoughts on Mike Matheny’s first year as a manager. Do you think getting that first season under his belt will prepare him a bit more for 2013?
JC: I think the fact that he got them to the postseason, you can’t ask for a whole lot better than that. Obviously they really it looked at one point like they were going t0 be in the World Series except for a San Francisco team that seems kind of blessed. So it’s hard to improve on that as a first year manager, but I’m sure there are things he has to learn, maybe about game management, but he really does seem to have the kind of demeanor that commands respect in the clubhouse and he has that strong, silent type personality. You know, he and Robin Ventura were guys with zero experience and I think both did very well in their first year. Matheny seems like the kind of guy who wears well and I could see him being in that city with that team for a long time. He just has a very unflappable personality. I think the players really respect him because of what he did as a player and the way he treats them, so to me it’s a good fit, and I think he’s going to be in for a long successful fun in St. Louis.
SH: Because the Astros are moving to the American League, there will now be interleague throughout the entirety of the season. What kind of effect, if any, do you think this will have on the NL Central and Major League Baseball as a whole?
JC: Well you’re going to have an interleague game every day, basically, and I don’t know that I’m a fan of it, but when you have fifteen teams in each league, that’s pretty much what you’re left with. I think from the players’ standpoint, it’s a bit more of an equitable arrangement. As much as the Astros weren’t a great team, it didn’t really make much sense to have six teams in one division and four in another. I think that the math just makes it easier for a team to get to the postseason when you’re only competing with three teams instead of five. If you’re the Cardinals you’re probably wishing that Cincinnati or Milwaukee probably moved to the American League, which would have been a clearer path for the short term. But long term, I think it’s going to make for a more equitable arrangement. It’s going to be fairer across the board, but the thing you’re going to have to put up with is more interleague play on a consistent basis. I’m not crazy about it, but the lines between the leagues sort of get blurred with each passing year, so i guess for most teams it’s not really going to be a huge deal.
Thanks to Jerry for taking a few minutes to chat with us. You can follow Jerry Crasnick on Twitter @jcrasnick.