Posts Tagged ‘Albert Pujols’

Starting Nine: National League Central

January 15, 2010

Next up in our Starting Nine series is the National League Central. Outside of the St. Louis Cardinals re-signing Matt Holliday, there haven’t been any big-time offensive additions to this division. As a whole, this might be the weakest offensive division in baseball (yes, even passing the NL West).

Let’s take a look at the starting lineups for all six teams in this division as presently constructed.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Skip Schumaker, 2B

2. Brendan Ryan, SS

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Matt Holliday, LF

5. Ryan Ludwick, RF

6. Yadier Molina, C

7. Colby Rasmus, CF

8. David Freese, 3B

9. Chris Carpenter, P

Quick Take – Re-signing Holliday was crucial to this lineup. Despite having Holliday and Pujols in the three-four spot, this lineup will only be as dynamic as Rasmus and Freese takes them.

Milwaukee Brewers

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B

2. Alcides Escobar, SS

3. Ryan Braun, LF

4. Prince Fielder, 1B

5. Casey McGehee, 3B

6. Corey Hart, RF

7. Gregg Zaun, C

8. Carlos Gomez, CF

8. Yovani Gallardo, P

Quick Take – The Brewers sacrificed some offense for defense in 2010. This isn’t the powerful Brewers’ lineup of the last couple of years. There are a lot of automatic outs from seven through nine.

Chicago Cubs

1. Alfonso Soriano, LF

2. Kosuke Fukudome, RF

3. Derek Lee, 1B

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

5. Marlon Byrd, CF

6. Geovany Soto, C

7. Ryan Theriot, SS

8. Mike Fontenot, 2B

9. Carlos Zambrano, P

Quick Take – This lineup is getting old in a hurry. If Soriano, Ramirez, and Soto can come back from disappointing 2009 seasons, the Cubs could be in business in 2010. However, I still think they are going to be hard pressed to score runs in 2010.

Cincinnati Reds

1. Drew Stubbs, CF

2. Brandon Phillips, 2B

3. Joey Votto, 1B

4. Jay Bruce, RF

5. Scott Rolen, 3B

6. Ramon Hernandez, C

7. Paul Janish, SS

8. Chris Dickerson, LF

9. Bronson Arroyo, P

Quick Take – This lineup looks good for now and even better for the future. If Bruce can stay healthy, he could have a breakout year in 2010. I would like someone better than Janish at SS, but top prospect Todd Frazier isn’t ready to take over just yet.

Houston Astros

1. Michael Bourn, CF

2. Kaz Matsui, 2B

3. Lance Berkman, 1B

4. Carlos Lee, LF

5. Hunter Pence, RF

6. Pedro Feliz, 3B

7. J.R. Towles, C

8. Tommy Manzella, SS

9. Roy Oswalt, P

Quick Take – This six through nine is brutal. It’s hard to have a top offense when the bottom part of your lineup is this bad. Top catching prospect Jason Castro is not too far away, so this is Towles’ last stand with the Astros.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF

2. Akinori Iwamura, 2B

3. Garrett Jones, 1B

4. Ryan Doumit, C

5. Andy LaRoche, 3B

6. Lastings Milledge, LF

7. Ryan Church, RF

8. Ronny Cedeno, SS

9. Zach Duke, P

Quick Take – I think in order to maximize their offense’s potential, the Pirates will play Jones at first and Church in right instead of playing Jones in right and Jeff Clement at first. The Pirates’ offense will be better in 2010, but will still have a hard time scoring runs on a consistent basis.

Last, but not least, tomorrow we will take a look at the National League West.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Cardinals Keep Matt Holliday, Sign Him To Seven-Year Deal

January 6, 2010

It’s really hard to keep a good man down.

After super agent Scott Boras was only able to get Adrian Beltre a one-year deal for $9 million, you just knew he was going to come back with a vengeance in his next contract negotiation.

And come back with a vengeance, Boras did.

As first reported by’s Jon Heyman, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Boras client Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120 million contract. The seventh year is a vesting option and each year of the contract will pay Holliday $17 million.

This is a huge win for Boras’ camp.

If you really think about it, Boras got the Cardinals to pony up $120 million when there was no other team even remotely interested in Holliday. Essentially the Cardinals bid against themselves.

Boras was hell-bent on getting Holliday more on an annual basis than what Jason Bay got. As usual, Boras got what he wanted. Holliday’s annual salary is $500,000 more than what Bay will get.

Holliday is staying in St Louis

I understand the money, but I don’t understand the years. Seven years is a lot to commit to Holliday, who will be 30-years-old next week. If no one else was bidding for Holliday, then why give him the two extra years?

For the Cardinals, I get why they had to sign Holliday.

At the beginning of the offseason, I had the Cardinals, along with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as the three teams whose offseason was more important than any other teams.

I felt the Cardinals’ offseason was extremely important to the overall direction of the franchise because not only was Holliday a free agent, but manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan were free agents as well.

Not to mention that Albert Pujols is a free agent in two years and the Cardinals have to show a commitment to winning in order for Pujols to stick around after the 2012 season. So far, the Cardinals have done everything you could possibly ask them to do in terms of showing a commitment to winning now and in the future.

They re-signed LaRussa and Duncan (who might be the biggest key to the Cardinals’ success), they replaced Joel Pineiro with Brad Penny, which I like, and they made a serious commitment to Holliday. Holliday gives the Cardinals a legitimate bat to hit behind Pujols.

Holliday did hit .353 with 13 home runs and a Pujolsian 1.023 OPS in 63 games last year for the Red Birds, so it’s not like the Cardinals gave $120 million to Craig Paquette.

The Cardinals still have some holes to fill, like a third baseman (Miguel Tejada?), but they have filled all of their important holes this offseason.

The question that remains for the Cardinals is can they compete on a long-term basis with two players taking up a majority of their payroll?

The Cardinals aren’t a big market team, but they aren’t a small market team either. They are right in the meaty part of the curve. Their payroll usually settles in around the $95 million mark.

Pujols is a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. He will make $16 million in that final year. Pujols can realistically ask for $35 million a year if he wanted to.

If Alex Rodriguez is worth $32 million, then Pujols has every right to ask for more than ARod. But lets say that Pujols accepts a home-town discount and signs an extension for $25 million a year and the Cardinals’ payroll bumps up to $110 million in 2013.

With Holliday making $17 million and Pujols making $25 million, can the Cardinals compete with two players taking up 38 percent of the team’s payroll?

I think they can.

However, it’s going to take a major commitment to restocking their minor league system. They traded away the majority of their top prospects in the Holliday and DeRosa trades.

The Cardinals right now have a farm system that ranks towards the bottom in baseball.

The Cardinals are going to need some young talent to come through their system in order for the Cardinals to be competitive with a $110 million payroll and two guys taking up a significant portion of that payroll.

Holliday has a career .318 average with 152 home runs and a .933 OPS in six seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Oakland A’s and Cardinals.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Albert Pujols Unanimously Wins NL MVP

November 24, 2009

My preseason NL MVP pick: Albert Pujols

NL MVP winner: Albert Pujols

I am shocked that St. Louis Cardinals 1B won the National League MVP award unanimously. The way the voting has been going, I am surprised James Loney didn’t get a first-place vote.

Pujols won his third MVP award today

Pujols received all 32 first-place votes to win his second consecutive NL MVP award. Pujols becomes the first player to win back-to-back MVP awards since Barry Bonds won four in a row from 2001-2004.

Hanley Ramirez finished second followed by Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder. I am a little surprised Troy Tulowitzki didn’t finish higher, but what can you do?

2009 was another banner year for Pujols. Pujols led the majors in home runs (47), runs (124), slugging percentage (.658) and intentional walks (44), and led the NL in OBP (.443).

You know, I really thought Pujols winning the MVP award unanimously would finally make Cardinal fans stop whining and crying this offseason.

But alas, I was wrong.

Here is a classic “Tweet” from a Cardinal fan that will go nameless. “What in the definition of MVP makes Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright better than Tim Lincecum, who was good enough for BBWAA to win Cy?”

Even when one of their players win an award, they still whine about something else that happened over a week ago. It’s unbelievable.

Cardinal fans should be more concerned with whether or not Pujols is going to re-sign after the 2010 season instead of being concerned with Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright winning the CY Young.

This is Pujols’ third NL MVP award and will go into 2010 as the early favorite to win the award again.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Albert Pujols And The Cardinals Already Playing The Free Agent Game

October 30, 2009

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols appeared on St. Louis sports station WXOS 101.1 FM on Thursday morning. Pujols was asked to explain comments made during an interview in the Dominican Republic.

In the interview, Pujols suggested he was in no hurry to sign a contract extension with the Cardinals.

Albert pujols

Pujols' story is all to familiar

“The fans know and the Cardinals know that I want to be a Cardinal for my whole career,” Pujols said. “I love this city. The way that this city has embraced me and my family, I don’t deserve the city to do that. And when you hear all of the players that come around to this town and say, ‘You guys are lucky that you are playing in St. Louis,’ we have the best fans. I want to be a Cardinal for the rest of my career.

“And what I told those people (in the D.R.) was ‘Listen, why do people keep talking about my contract? I have two years (left) and we don’t have to worry about it.’ You know the Cardinals need to worry about signing Matt Holliday and all the free agents.There’s no rush for me to sign right now, you know? But if they come tomorrow and say ‘Albert, you know, we want to lock you up,’—hey they know that we’re open to that.

“But I think part of that was (me) putting things in their place and the Cardinals don’t have to rush to sign me right now because we still have two years. But I’d love to finish my career here. And all that got all confused, or whatever, maybe because of the way that I said it. But people know that I want to be a Cardinal for the rest of my life. I’ve said it in the past.”

I hate to burst your bubble Cardinals fans, but this sounds all too familar. It looks like Pujols and the Cardinals have already starting playing the free agent game.

Here is how these games usually go.

Star player says he loves the city and wants to finish out his career for his current team.

Team offers “fair” deal, but lower than what the player can get in the open market in hopes that he takes a hometown discount.

Star player signs with another team for more money.

Team says we “tried” and paints the star player as the bad guy for leaving for the money.

Star player takes out a full-page ad in the Sunday paper saying how much he loved the city and wished he could have stayed.

It’s been the same story between player and team since the inception of free agency.

Listen, I hope Pujols stays with the Cardinals. It’s good for the game of baseball. Just like it’s good for Joe Mauer to stay with the Minnesota Twins, Roy Halladay to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Prince Fielder to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers.

But let’s be realistic. Unless Pujols takes a hometown discount, the Cardinals are going to be hard pressed to sign him.

Pujols should ask for $40 million a year. That is what he is worth. Everyone in America should be able to have the opportunity to get paid what they are worth–Pujols is no different.

Can the Cardinals, whose payroll usually is around the $90 to $99 million mark, afford to pay one player $40 million and still be competitive?

The Texas Rangers tried that with Alex Rodriguez and we all know how that worked out.

The Cardinals and Pujols have already started the free agent game. It will be fascinating to see how this turns out.

Albert Pujols To Have Surgery

October 20, 2009

According to’s Ken Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will have surgery on Wednesday to remove five bone spurs from his right elbow.

Pujols will be ready for spring training

Pujols will be ready for spring training

Now before every Cardinals fan wants to jump off a bridge because of this news–relax, it’s not that bad. Pujols is expected to be ready for spring training and should make a full recovery.

Pujols will have his surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL. Is there an athlete on the planet who doesn’t use Andrews for surgery?

This guys client list is a who’s who of professional athletes.

Pujols hit .327/47/135 with a .443 OBP and a 1.101 OPS for the Cardinals in 2009.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

Cardinals Face Franchise Defining Offseason

October 13, 2009

Every year, whether a team won 90-plus games like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or a team’s season ended in April like the Washington Nationals, every team faces major offseason decisions.

Some decisions are solely made for the next season and some decisions can shape the course of the franchise for a years to come. Decisions can be made by trades, arbitration, and of course, free agency.

For the St. Louis Cardinals, they face an offseason of free agency that will define the course of their franchise for years to come.

The Cardinals have a myriad of impending free agents, including Matt Holliday, Joel Pineiro, Mark DeRosa, Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus, John Smoltz, Khalil Greene, and Todd Wellemeyer.

However, the most important free agent for the Cardinals is manager Tony LaRussa. LaRussa’s contract is up at the end of the month and if LaRussa doesn’t come back, it could set the Cardinals’ franchise back for years to come.

LaRussa is a free agent

LaRussa is a free agent at the end of the month

LaRussa gives the Cardinals credibility and credibility usually means winning. When players come to play for LaRussa, they know they are in a winning environment. Top players always want to play for him (unless your name is Scott Rolen).

Just think about the course of events if LaRussa leaves.

If LaRussa leaves, then pitching coach Dave Duncan leaves. Duncan is just as important to the Cardinals’ success as LaRussa. Duncan, time and time again is able to take mediocre pitchers and turn them into winners.

Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Mike Moore, Dennis Eckersly, Jeff Suppan, and Chris Carpenter all had their careers turned around by Duncan.

That allows the Cardinals to spend their resources on offensive players such as Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds, Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and Albert Pujols.

Speaking of Pujols.

If LaRussa leaves at the end of the month, it could very possibly mean Pujols could leave after the 2010 season. Pujols is a free agent at the end of the 2010 season and I would say right now there is an 85 percent chance he stays with the Cardinals.

If LaRussa leaves, then I would say that percentage goes down to 25. Pujols has only played for LaRussa in his career and has said that all he wants is for the Cardinals to put a competitive team on the field year after year. Pujols knows every year his teams have a chance of competing with LaRussa at the helm.

Do you think he is going to take a home-town discount playing for Eric Wedge (I am just throwing his name out there. He is not rumored to be going to the Cardinals if LaRussa leaves) or some second rate manager?

That is why LaRussa coming back is so important. Him leaving sets off a chain of events that could set the Cardinals into rebuilding mode after the 2010 season.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., GM John Mozeliak, LaRussa met for two hours yesterday reviewing the season.

It will be interesting to see what happens with LaRussa. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on LaRussa coming back and signing a new deal with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Bullpen Saves The Day For The Dodgers In Game One

October 8, 2009

In one of the most brutal postseason games to watch in quite some time, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the St Louis Cardinals 5-3 in Game One of their National League Division Series.

This was three-hours and fifty three minutes of unwatchable baseball. Both starting pitchers–Chris Carpenter and Randy Wolf couldn’t have been worse and both teams left a combined 30 runners on base. The 30 runners left on base was a record for a nine-inning postseason game.

I thought the National League was known for fast-paced, crisp baseball?

Let’s start with the Cardinals. What on earth happened to Carpenter in this game? He looked like Carpenter on the Toronto Blue Jays, circa 2001.

I couldn’t get over how badly Carpenter was missing his spots. If Yadier Molina was setting up inside, Carpenter threw the ball six inches outside. If Molina wanted the ball low, Carpenter threw the ball at a batter’s letters.

I don’t know if it was playoff nerves or what? But I have never seen Carpenter off like that in a Cardinals uniform.

The other Cardinal I am going to get on is Matt Holliday. I know it was only one AB, but his first inning AB with the bases loaded was terrible.

We got a clear indication early on that Joe Torre is not going to let Albert Pujols beat him in this series. That means that Holliday is going to have to step up.

Bases loaded, nobody out, Wolf already on the ropes, and Holliday stands there with the bat on his shoulders looking at the same pitch–not once, but twice.

That just can’t happen in that spot.

Now let’s talk about the lesser of two evils last night–the Dodgers. Just as I suspected Wolf was, well, Wolf. Six hits, two runs, and five walks in three-and-two-thirds of less than stellar pitching.

The Dodgers’ offense helped him out with a solid 12-hit attack led by Rafael Furcal (3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored) and Matt Kemp (two-run HR in the first that set the tempo for the game). But the real stars of this game for the Dodgers was their bullpen.

Jeff Weaver (yes, Jeff Weaver), Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill (very underrated pickup at the trade deadline), and closer Jonathan Broxton combined to shut down the Cardinals for five-and-one-third innings.

Weaver did to the Cardinals last night, what he did to other teams in a Cardinals’ uniform in 2006. Somehow, in his last 31 postseason innings Jeff Weaver has a 2.32 ERA. How is that possible?

The Cardinals did have a rally going in the ninth against Broxton. Mark DeRosa doubled home Ryan Ludwick to make the score 5-3. But Broxton got pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel looking at a pitch literally right down the middle to end the game.

Honestly, what on earth was Ankiel looking for in that situation? He really has no excuse on that one.

Dodgers lead the series 1-0. Game Two is Thursday at 6:07 ET.

Let’s hope Game Two is better to watch than Game One. It can’t get much worse.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twiter @ theghostofmlg

Looking Back On Some Baseball Bets

October 5, 2009

Before the regular season started, I gave some predictions on some prop bets for the baseball season. Now that the regular season is almost over, I thought it would be a good time today to look back at some of those predictions I made.

All lines were curtesy of

Player Bets

Aubrey Huff. Over/Under 23 1/2 Hr’s – I like the Over Huff had 15 Hr’s

Dustin Pedroia. Over/Under 40 1/2 Doubles – I like the Over Pedroia had 48 doubles

Josh Beckett. Over/Under 14 1/2 Wins – I like the Over* Beckett won 17 games

Joba Chamberlain. Over/Under 13 1/2 Wins – I like the Under Chamberlain won 9 games

Derek Jeter. Over/Under .303 average – I like the Over Jeter hit .334

Evan Longoria. Over/Under 107 1/2 RBI – I like the Over Longoria had 113 RBI

BJ Ryan. Over/Under 34 1/2 Saves – I like the Under* Ryan had two saves

Zack Greinke. Over/Under 13 1/2 Wins – I like the Over Greinke had 16 wins

Miguel Cabrera. Over/Under 34 1/2 Hr’s – I like the Over Cabrera has 33 Hr’s

Gary Sheffield. Over/Under 18 1/2 Hr’s – I like the Under Sheffield had 10 Hr’s

Bobby Abreu. Over/Under 99 1/2 RBI – I like the Under Abreu had 103 RBI

Brian Fuentes. Over/Under 32 1/2 Saves – I like the Under Fuentes had 48 saves

Ken Griffey Jr. Over/Under 18 1/2 Hr’s – I like the Under Griffey Jr. had 19 Hr’s

Brett Myers. Over/Under 11 1/2 Wins – I like the Over Myers had four wins

Albert Pujols. Over/Under 117 1/2 RBI – I like the Over Pujols had 135 RBI

Adrian Gonzalez. Over/Under 29 1/2 Hr’s – I like the Over Gonzalez had 40 Hr’s

Randy Johnson. Over/Under 10 1/2 Wins – I like the Under Johnson had eight wins

Team Bets

Tigers. Over/Under 81 1/2 Wins – I like the Under* Tigers will have 86 0r 87 wins

Twins. Over/Under 83 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Twins will have 86 or 87 wins

Braves. Over/Under 84 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Braves won 86

Dodgers. Over/Under 84 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Dodgers won 95

Mets. Over/Under 89 1/2 Wins. I like the Under Mets won 70

Cardinals. Over/Under 82 1/2 Wins. I like the Over* Cards won 91

Giants. Over/Under 80 1/2 Wins. I like the Under Giants won 88

Royals. Over/Under 75 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Royals won 65

* indicates Best Bet

Not bad. I went three out of four on my “best bets.” I was really surprised the Tigers had the year they did. I definitely didn’t see it coming.

Overall, I went 16 for 25. That’s 64 percent for those of you scoring at home. If Cabrera can hit two Hr’s on Tuesday night, I can get up to 68 percent.

I think if you went to Las Vegas and won 64 percent of the time you would take it.

I will revisit the rest of my predictions after the season ends.

St. Louis Cardinals Clinch Playoff Spot

September 27, 2009

About an hour and change after the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a postseason birth, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to follow suit. The Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 in a potential first-round preview.

The win gave the Cardinals their eighth playoff appearance in 14 years in under Tony LaRussa.

There were a lot of factors that win into the Cardinals clinching a playoff spot — Albert Pujols’ MVP season, the trades for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa or the emergence of Adam Wainwright. For me, the most important factor was Chris Carpenter staying relatively healthy.

Carpenter is 16-4 this season with a 2.30 ERA and a ridiculous 1.01 WHIP. Carpenter has re-established himself as the Cardinals’ ace and is once again looking to win the NL Cy Young award.

It’s no coincidence that when Carpenter wasn’t healthy the last two years, the Cardinals missed the playoffs.

When it comes to the playoffs, I think the most important question for the Cardinals is whether or not closer Ryan Franklin can get the job done in a pressure situation. Remember, Franklin has never pitched in the postseason before.

He has looked terrible in September and closing games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in October is a lot different than closing games in July against the San Diego Padres. 

I was watching the Cardinals – Rockies game last night and you know a guy is shaky when you are not even a fan of the team and you are nervous that he was going to implode at any second.

I just have a gut feeling that John Smoltz might factor into the closing situation as some point during October.

Pujols, Cardinals End Mets Season…

August 5, 2009

Remember watching wrestling on Saturday morning back in the 80’s when they would have these really good wrestlers like Tito Santana or Don Muraco wrestle scrubs or “jobbers”  like Reno Riggins or Barry O? They were one of those things because I was younger I knew the outcome of the match, but really didn’t.

It would be five minutes of Tito Santana just working some guy over. Occasionally the jobber would get a punch or two in, but it would never amount to anything. I would watch the whole match just to see someone like Santana’s finishing move to put this guy out of his misery.

In the earlier days – it was the figure four leglock and in the later days it was the flying forearm (or the flying jalapeno has Bobby Heenan would say). Well, last night Albert Pujols and the rest of the St Louis Cardinals hit the New York Mets with a flying forearm by beating the Mets 12-7 in come from behind fashion and for all intents and purposes ended the 2009 season for the Metropolitans.

The Mets had a 7-4 lead with Johan Santana on the mound. But then Francisco Rodriguez imploded in the ninth and Albert Pujols broke out of his semi-slump in a big way (four for five with two HR’s and five RBI). If you can’t hold a three-run lead with your best pitcher and top closer on the mound – it’s over.

The Mets got hit with a Santana-like flying forearm last night

The Mets got hit with a Santana-like flying forearm last night

The Mets’ season has been like a jobber’s match in the 80’s. They have been worked over, every now and then would throw a couple of punches to make you somewhat believe they could win, and in the end you kind of knew the outcome, but really didn’t.

Living in New York there are plenty of fans who still had the pipedream that the Mets’ injured stars like Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran would come back and it would be THE METS this year who would make a late run and sneak into the playoffs. Not going to happen.

The Mets are 10 games out of first in the NL East and are now nine games out of a Wild Card spot. The Mets have too many teams to pass and are too injured (Reyes may be out for the season now) in order to make a run at anything.

Here is all you need to know about the Mets’ season. Second baseman Luis Castillo sprained his ankle tripping down the steps to the dugout while trying to avoid someone’s glove after grounding out to second in the seventh inning.

That would be the equivalent of not only losing the match, but getting hit over the head with a steal chair afterwards.