Posts Tagged ‘Larry Walker’

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.

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The Colorado Rockies Are Winning From Within

August 27, 2009

I say this with a staunch and unblemished record of heterosexuality — I have a man-crush on the Colorado Rockies. That’s right, not just one player, but the entire team.

I usually reserve my man-crushes for individual players like Michael Young, Chase Utley, or back in the day George Brett. However, the Rockies are a different case. I love the way this team plays.

Tulo is a home grown Rockie

Tulo is a home grown Rockie

They play great defense, they can beat you with a big fly or small ball, they have a very high baseball IQ, and this team can pitch. They are a very fun team to watch on a night in and night out basis.

However, above everything I just mentioned, there is one thing that stands out to me when I watch this team. It’s the fact that the Rockies are winning with home grown talent.

Everywhere you look on the field, the Rockies have players that they drafted and groomed in their farm system. Look at the core of this team…

Chris Iannetta – Drafted in the 4th round of the 2004 draft

Todd Helton- Drafted in the 1st round of the 1995 draft

Clint Barmes – Drafted in the 10th round of the 2000 draft

Troy Tulowitzki- Drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 draft

Ian Stewart – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 draft

Seth Smith – Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft

Dexter Fowler – Drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 draft

Brad Hawpe – Drafted in the 11th round of the 2000 draft

Garrett Atkins – Drafted in the 5th round of the 2000 draft

Ryan Spilborghs – Drafted in the 7th round of the 2002 draft

Ubaldo Jimenez – Signed as an amateur free agent in 2001

Aaron Cook – Drafted in the 2nd round of the 1997 draft

Other key contributors such as Carlos Gonzalez, Huston Street, Jason Marquis, and Jason Hammel have been acquired via trades. Only Matt Herges, Josh Fogg, and Juan Rincon were signed to free agent contracts and their contacts were all minor league deals.

To break down the Rockies current 25-man roster, 52 percent are home grown talent (drafted, signed as an undrafted free agent, or signed as an amateur free agent and developed in the Rockies system), 36 percent came from trades, and just 12 percent came from minor league free agent contracts.

That 52 percent would be higher (64 percent) if Dexter Fowler and Aaron Cook weren’t currently on the DL. To have over 50 percent of your talent come from drafts and amateur free agent signings is amazing.

It just goes to show what a tremendous job Dan O’Dowd has done recently in reshifting his strategy of handing out large free agent contracts to reinvesting that money back into their minor league system, scouting, and the draft.

Back in the day, the Rockies tried to play with the big boys in the free agent signing game. Mike Hampton, the late Darryl Kile, Denny Neagle, Larry Walker, Darryl Hamilton and the legendary Tom Goodwin all signed free agent contracts to come to Colorado.

Those days are long gone. The Rockies have found their winning formula and the ingredients have come from within.