Trading Carlos?

When Mike Matheny was finally let go by the St. Louis Cardinals a large portion of the fanbase rejoiced.  Matheny the subject of  ridicule since his hire has left Cardinal Nation with a gleaming light of hope at the end of the longest mediocrity tunnel this era has seen.  Now that he is gone it is time for the Cardinals to look to the future, as they rebuild the culture and the team they have to figure out who they should take a long for the ride.  Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak have to look at this roster and figure out who they want to be a part of the next ERA of Cardinals baseball.  Is Carlos Martinez a part of those plans?

Let’s look at the positives of Carlos Martinez.  At the end of the 2018 season Carlos will be 27 years old,  he will have a contract that is team friendly based on the price of quality starting pitchers.  Earning just $11.5 Million per year over the next three seasons he will not hurt your budget.  Carlos currently ranks 33rd in the league in starting pitcher salary per season behind guys like James Shields, Tyler Chatwood and our old St. Louis friends Lance Lynn and Mike Leake.

Carlos has been great for three straight season propelling himself to the top of the rotation accumulating 43 wins and averaging 30 starts per year during that span.  He proudly represented the Cardinals in two All- Star games, 2015 and 2017.  Despite some minor injuries Carlos has stayed healthy enough to keep his spot at the top of the rotation.  While other such as Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have broken down, Carlos seems to come back from injuries strong and capable.   Outside of a handful of pitchers in the league he would be an ace on most staffs.

Now let’s look at the negatives. Carlos has been known to be an emotional player,  during the stress of a playoff run and/or series he has been known to get a little flustered.  The veteran presence of Yadier Molina has been able to hide some of those issues.  Martinez can be wild at times his BB/9 has reached a career high so far in 2018 at 4.67.

While erratic at times Carlos will still find himself on the list of top potential targets of any team if made available.  With the firing of Matheny, Cardinals management has made it clear that they are not afraid to shake things up.  While moving Martinez may be looked at as giving up on the 2018 season, would he not bring back the most of any player on your current roster?

Imagine you are the Yankees, stacked with a loaded farm system and the Cardinals have made this great cost controlled pitcher available.  How can you not offer up some of your top prospects to get him. As a Cardinals fan can you really be that upset if you move on from Carlos, when you have seen the strength of your developing pitchers.

Cardinals get: Gleyber Torres,  Domingo German, Dermis Garcia

Yankees get: Carlos Martinez, Jedd Gyorko

While this is obviously hypothetical, I cannot see any way as an organization you cannot at least open up the negotiation.  The Cardinals have been looking for a dynamic position player to take the reigns of the team since the departure of Albert Pujols. Moving on from Carlos Martinez will have backlash,  while he is great on the field he is also a charismatic personality that people are enthralled in seeing. The Cardinals will have a better idea of where they are right out of the All- Star break heading to Chicago for 5 games that can make or break your season.  At that point they have to decide whether Martinez is the future himself or is the key to bringing in the future.

 

Who is Trae Santos?

The Frontier League Homerun Derby took place at Carshield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri this week.  Fans filled the stadium for a chance to see former Cardinals greats compete with Frontier League All-Stars in matchup of local favorites vs. unknown up and comers.  Former Cardinals Mark Whiten, Ray Lankford, Kerry Robinson and Rick Ankiel were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance. To their surprise they were upstaged by a little known first baseman playing just across the river for the Gateway Grizzlies.  His name was Trae Santos.

Trae Santos put on a show from the first pitch launching mammoth homers over the giant right field wall at Carshield Field.  Santos ran through the Frontier League competitors smashing 22 homers in the first two rounds, setting up a matchup with former Cardinal P/OF Rick Ankiel.  Santos dispatched of Ankiel rather quickly beating his 3 homers in just a few swings.  Fans that had come to see the former Cardinals greats swing left wondering who was this power hitting machine manning first for the Grizzlies.  Who was Trae Santos?

In 2005, star pitcher and first baseman Trae Santos led the Guam Little League team all the way to the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With that success, the Santos family made a momentous decision. They decided to move their family to America where Trae began to make his mark the baseball community. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres out of Troy University.  Playing 4 seasons in affiliated ball Santos had trouble standing out.  Hitting his peak during the 2015 season, Santos hit 14 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League. Unable to improve on those numbers the Padres released Santos after the 2016 season, leaving Trae at a crossroads in his career.

“The phones weren’t really ringing last year.  I just kept working on my swing and hitting the gym everyday. Waiting for that opportunity.” said Santos when asked about taking the 2017 season off.

Manager Phil Warren gave Trae a call with an invite to tryout for the Gateway Grizzlies.  With the departure of long time first baseman Craig Massoni their was an opening on the Gateway roster.   Looking for pop in the middle of the order Santos seemed to fit right into the needs of the team.  Beating out Kristian Brito for the starting first baseman spot, Santos jumped right into the middle of the Gateway lineup.  Santos came out the gates struggling in 2018.  Showing signs of rust from the year off of competitive baseball.  After a few weeks into the season Santo was hitting well below .200.  Phil Warren refused to give up on the young slugger.

“I sat Trae down and told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself.  These guys are out here trying to get you out.  Stop worrying so much and just do what you know you can do.” said Warren.

The brief conversation paid off huge for Santos as he was able to turn things around almost immediately.   Hitting .288 with 11HRS, 34RBI’s, earning himself a slot in the Frontier League All-Star game his comeback was complete.

Santos has had a roller coaster career so far in baseball.  Right now he is heading towards the top of the coaster in hopes that there will not be the long drop this time.  At the age of 25 getting a call back to affiliated ball will be a long shot.  But the statement he made during the Homerun Derby will live on in the history of the Frontier League.  Maybe Santos will not be the second player ever to make it to the Majors but he will go down in the Frontier League history books along with the creation of the Baseball’s Best Burger and Brett Gray’s 25 strikeout night.

Come see Trae Santos lead the Gateway Grizzlies in the second half of the season beginning July 14th vs. the River City Rascals.

Top 5 Sports Blunders

Athletes can do amazing things.  They physically have the ability to defy logic while in play.  Their gifts are respected, honored and immortalized in history.  But even athletes make mistakes, JR Smith’s recent mistake in Game 1 of the NBA Finals may go down as one of the worst of all time.  It had me thinking what other brain farts on the field were worse.  So here is my top ten Sports Blunders of all time.

5. Ruben Rivera’s worst baserunning ever

Ruben Rivera never really lived up to his cousin Mariano’s family legacy.  A career .216 hitter with little impact in his professional career does have something historic on his resume. Rivera may have the worst baserunning moment in the history of Major League Baseball.  In 2003 while playing for the Giants Rivera was on base in the 9th with the game on the line, Marquis Grissom roped a shot to right field that was overrun by the fielder.  Rivera then proceeded to resort to third grade t-ball status.  It must be seen to be believed.

Rivera gets completely confused around second base, at first unsure about what is happening in the outfield, where the outfielder misplays a line drive.  Once Rivera realizes that the ball is still in play and no out has been recorded, he heads to third, but forgets to tag up at second.  He goes back to do that, and then heads to third, where it looks like he will be out by 10 feet.  However, the third baseman misplays the ball and it kicks away from him.  Eventually Rivera is tagged out and his career was tagged out shortly after.

4. 1982 NCAA Tournament Game:  Fred Brown passes it to the wrong team.

The 1982 NCAA Championships matched two iconic programs fighting it out as Michael Jordan’s North Carolina Tarheels taking on the Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas.  This game had everything you could want, future NBA legends, Hall of Fame Coaches and back and forth action.   With 17 seconds left in the game and North Carolina leading 63-62, Georgetown Guard Fred Brown mistook Carolina’s James Worthy for a teammate and passed the ball right to his opponent. Worthy was fouled by Eric Smith with two seconds to go.  With no timeouts left the Hoyas were unable to get the ball down the court after two missed free throws.  In the heat of the moment even the best make mistakes but this one will live on in the memory of Hoya fans as an all time blunder.

3. Leon Lett fumble recovery… sort of.

Leon Lett was a 2-time pro bowl defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys during their early 90’s dominate run.  Lett was a dominant force at times for a strong Cowboys defense.  While his playing career had many highlights he is known more for his two massive mistakes. His famous Super Bowl fumble was pretty embarrassing but the Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills so the embarrassing moment was overshadowed by victory

On Thanksgiving day in 1993,  during a rare snow and sleet storm in Dallas, the Cowboys, who came into the game with a 7–3 record, were leading the 8–2 Miami Dolphins by a score of 14–13 with 15 seconds remaining in the game.But instead of allowing the ball to die down and let the refs pick it up, Leon Lett comes rumbling, bumbling and stumbling on top of the ball, squirting it into the arms of shocked Dolphins. Re-kick. The Dolphins take advantage of the second chance and win.

2. Jim Joyce Noooo!

Mental mistakes don’t always just happen to athletes officials some times don’t make the best decisions. On June 2 2010 the Detroit Tigers were taking on the Cleveland Indians in a central division showdown.  The Tigers had Armando Gallarraga on the mound putting on an amazing performance retiring 26 straight Indian batters when Jason Donald stepped up to the plate.  Donald hit a weak ground ball to First Baseman Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera tossed to the covering Gallarraga to complete just the 21st ever Perfect Game in MLB history…..or so we thought.

Veteran umpire Jim Joyce called Donald safe at first thus ending the bid for perfection.  Upon review it showed that he baserunner was out by at least a step and a half.  Joyce, whom was voted as the top umpire in Major League Baseball the year before had just made one of the most epic wrong calls in the history of the game.

Gallarraga never was able to capture the same stuff he had that night, his career ending after a few subpar seasons.  Jim Joyce is still umpiring, but every time his name is brought up you can’t help but think of that call.

1.Chris Webber’s huge mistake

Chris Webber was arguably the best college basketball player in the country during his time at Michigan.  Webber, the #1 ranked recruit going into the 1991-1992 season brought size, speed and athleticism to the power forward position unlike anything the game had seen.  He could run point, post you up and hit jumper in your face while grabbing ten boards a game.  The cornerstone of the historic Fab Five teams college resume will always be tarnished but not because Michigan was forced to bring down the banners.  It will be tarnished for the biggest mental mistake in the history of college basketball.

On April 5th 1993 the Webber’s Michigan Wolverines were in the National Championship game against Dean’ Smith’s North Carolina Tarheels.  With seconds left in the game and the Wolverines down Webber had the ball and charged down court. Then it happened

“Webber brings it into the frontcourt … they have no timeouts remaining … Oh! He calls it, too many timeouts! That’s a technical foul! He called a timeout, and Michigan doesn’t have any!”

North Carolina shot the two technical free throws and sealed up another National Title.  Webber and his teammates had to just watched as for the second year in a row their dreams of a championship would go down the drain.  Webber to this day doesn’t want to talk about the miss timed timeout.  He went on to have a great NBA career, currently one of my favorite NBA Analyst to listen to.  But forever I will remember him as the guy that called the worst timeout in college basketball history

Six Man Rotation Pros and Cons

The St. Louis Cardinals saw a small glimpse of the future this weekend.  Jack Flaherty took the mound and dazzled the Busch Stadium crowd with a masterful performance that has now forced the hands of Cardinals management to make a decision they had thought and possibly hoped they wouldn’t be forced to make in 2018.  Flaherty has solidified himself in the rotation similar to the way Luke Weaver did in 2017, he took the decision away from them with his performance.   The Cardinals now stare at a rotation that features Miles Mikolas, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty and at the moment Jon Gant.  Formidable as that is the impending return of Carlos Martinez is coming along with a prospect by the name of Alex Reyes…perhaps you have heard of him?  With Gant being the guy most likely to enjoy another bus trip back to Memphis that leaves the birds with an interesting decision.  Six starters, traditionally five spots.  What do they do?  This is a decision that is best handled the old fashion way pros and cons list!

Pros

Six man rotation can save innings for young starters

In a day of Tommy John surgeries being passed around like chicken pox in a kindergarten class room innings restrictions have become the new fun trend of the MLB.  Bulldogs like Nolan Ryan and Cris Carpenter are no longer seemed to exist in a time where players and agents look at the long term over the short.  The Cardinals will feature one of the youngest rotations in baseball with an average age of 25.  They will also feature a rotation that has had its fair share of injuries.  Martinez, Wacha and Reyes stand out as players that have dealt with injuries during their young careers.  While Flaherty, Weaver and Mikolas have all not been featured in rotations for the length of a Major League Baseball season. A six man rotation will allow the Cardinals to limit the innings for the starters will also keeping their starter regiment the same thus not having to worry about transitioning them from the bullpen.

Don’t have to leave an asset in he minors

There seems to be nothing worse for a fanbase then to watch a young talent sit in AAA.  The backlash for Jack Flaherty dominating in Memphis while Adam Wainwright was trying to “find” it at the major league level was frustrating for the fanbase.  Carson Kelly has been another example of a young player that seems to have nothing left to prove at the minor league level but has been blocked by a veteran.  Problem for him is that there is only one player allowed to play catcher per game and that one player for the Cardinals is a potential hall of famer still playing at a high level.  The Cardinals have major league ready starters that have to be played.  Reyes, Weaver and Flaherty cannot waste a year helping Memphis win a championship when they can help the big club bring home a World Series.

Cons

Less starts from your #1

Carlos Martinez, when healthy, is a Cy Young candidate.  He has also graduated to Adam Wainwrights role as a team leader.    Moving to a six man rotation would mean limiting his games started and potentially setting him up for less opportunities down the home stretch of the season.  Limiting your best pitcher is never a recipe for success.

It’s never been done.

The Los Angeles Angels talked about the potential of a six man rotation after signing Japanese sensation Shoehei Otani.  Ultimately deciding not to invest in what I am sure baseball purist see as an abomination to the game.  There is no statistical proof that a six man rotation will improve the likelihood pitcher injuries or improve overall performance.  We live in a baseball world that relies on stats and with no stats to support this strategy then it may as well not be an option.

 

Sabermetrician Russell Carleton wrote that six-man rotations offer few obvious benefits in terms of pitching performance: The extra day of rest doesn’t seem to increase pitcher strikeout rates or reduce walk rates. And, because the extra man entails splitting up the workload among a larger group of people, it tends to dilute the effect of truly great starting pitchers. Over a full season, a six-man rotation results in about 30-50 fewer innings per starter.

The Cardinals have a great problem coming their way when their starters are healthy.  They also have a mind in the dugout like Mike Maddux that can help Matheny transition into a new way of thinking.  Would it be easier to have one of these guys go to the bullpen?  The answer is yes, but would it make your team better to have a potential ace coming in for maybe an inning?  No! I don’t see the Cardinals going with a six man rotation based on the comments from John Mozeliak, but wouldn’t it be cool if for once the Cardinals were at the forefront of alternative baseball thinking.

Grizzlies All-Star Reliever set for new role

In the summer of 2017 Micheal Elwood was in Kansas enjoying a Country Stampede concert.   No longer thinking about continuing his baseball career after a Gateway Grizzlies Manager Phil Warren said that there was no room on the roster for him. “I figured that was the end,” said Elwood. He had accepted that maybe his time as a baseball player was over.  Then right as Chase Rice took the stage Elwood received a phone call  from Normal Cornbelters Manager Brooks Carey.  Carey was calling Elwood to offer him a spot on the Cornbelters roster based on his tryout with Gateway. His time as a baseball player was not over yet.

Micheal Elwood, 25,  spent his college career pitching for Canisius College located in Buffalo, New York.  Originally a shortstop/first baseman made the transition to full time pitcher his sophomore year.  “I was pitching in a summer game in Buffalo and after the game a few scouts came up to me and said every pitch I threw was over 90 MPH. I was shocked.”   The transformation into full time pitcher had become official.  He began to focus on pitching, having his most successful season during his senior campaign finishing with 5-4 record, and a 4.26 ERA having thrown in 57 innings throughout the year.

Elwood struggled through is first Frontier League season finishing with a a 7.12 ERA while appearing in 13 games for the Cornbelters.  Despite the rough start Elwood received an invite back to spring training for the 2017 season. Making the 13 hour trip from his home in Texas to Bloomington, Il ready to make his mark in the Frontier league, another call came from Brooks Carey.  Carey informed Elwood that he had been traded to the Gateway Grizzlies the original team that he had tried out for.  Elwood turned his car around and began to head to Sauget, Illinois.

Elwood made an immediate impact with the Gateway Grizzlies  becoming a force out of the bullpen. Working 32 innings across 21 appearances  with a team-leading three wins against zero loses holding a 3.09 ERA in the first half of the season earning him a spot in the Frontier League All- Star game as one of three Gateway Grizzlies representatives. Elwood continued to impress finishing the season with a 3.05 ERA over 42 appearances.

Entering the 2018 season the Gateway Grizzlies had to fill the void left by departing veteran pitchers, JaVuan West, Will Landsheft, and Vince Molesky.  Starting pitching became a need.  Elwood was given the chance to fill one of the holes in the rotation.  “I realized that I can be most helpful to the organization as a starter. I have a knuckleball that I can use more as a starter.” said Elwood when asked about his new role. “We have so many strong arms at the end of the bullpen and the front of the rotation hopefully I can give us six or seven strong every night.”

Elwood will be entering his third season in the Frontier League, for the first time going into the season with a defined role and high expectations.  “We have five guys in the rotation that have been in pro ball for a long time. I learn from them everyday. I think we have all of the pieces to have a championship team.”

Elwood’s new role has will be tested for the first time Wed. May 16th at the Washington Wild Things.  If all goes to plan he will be making his first home start for Gateway will be their next home stand May 22-24 against the Lake Erie Crushers.

 

Jayson Tatum- Make Basketball Great Again in the STL

The last time the city of St. Louis had a professional basketball team was in 1976.  The ABA’s St. Louis Spirits did not make it into the NBA when the two leagues merged.  As the Spirits left so did the spirit of professional basketball in the Gateway City.  It is time for the city to recapture its passion for the sport by watching one of its native sons emerge on the grandest stage professional basketball has to show.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge made a controversial move when he traded away the #1 overall pick to the 76ers. Washinton’s Markelle Fultz was looked at as the can’t miss star of the draft.  His length and athleticism was thought to be elite on all levels.  Ainge took the gamble moving down to draft Duke Freshman  and St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Jayson Tatum has emerged as an underrated rookie star for the Boston Celtics. If you are not sure who Jayson Tatum is, he is the guy  from the Imo’s commercials.

While flashier rookies  like Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell have been getting the headlines Tatum has quietly brought his team to the verge of the the Eastern Conference finals. Tatum, a graduate of Chaminade Preparatory School in Creve Coeur, Missouri, has given St. Louis sports fans a reason to watch the NBA playoffs.  With key stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward going do with season ending injuries Tatum was forced to take a more prominent role on a team that finished  with the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. His scoring and defense have transitioned perfectly into the professional level.  Unlike most lottery draft picks Tatum has not been forced to be the savior of the organization.  Instead he was put in a position that allowed him to play a role, he was able to develop throughout rather then burden himself with the weight of the organization.  The regular season went well for Tatum averaging 13.9 PPG, 5 RB, shooting 43% from three and an astounding 53% shooting overall.  Tatum’s production has been taken to the next level for the Celtics in the playoffs.

In Game 1 of the second round series against the third seed Philadelphia 76ers, Tatum had a career-high 28 points in a 117–101 win, becoming the first Celtics rookie to score 25 or more points in a playoff game since Larry Bird (Maybe you have heard of him) during the 1980 NBA Playoffs, also against the 76ers. Tatum continued his strong play in Game 2 of the series scoring 21 points, those points would be the fourth game in a row Tatum reached the 20 point mark, making him the youngest player ever to accomplish that surpassing a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant (Maybe you have heard of him).  Brad Stevens has been called the best coach in the NBA for his ability to develop players, having them exceed expectations by putting them in a place the helps them excel.  The best example of the Stevens approach has been the production of Jayson Tatum.

St. Louis has had its fair share of NBA talent over the last few years.  Players like Larry Hughes, Darius Miles, and Bradley Beal have made an impact at the NBA level but Tatum is showing that he may end up being the best of the bunch.  He goes about his business quietly and professionally.  He plays in a major market and will be put in the spotlight as he develops and he will develop under the leadership of Brad Stevens.  Next season the Celtics may be the favorite in the Eastern Conference when their injured stars return but for now Tatum is the guy leading the charge of the dynamic Boston offense.  Tatum is the star that the St. Louis fan base needs, giving the fanbase a player and a team to follow.

Tatum is becoming the face of St. Louis basketball.

 

 

Pham leading off makes sense

The St. Louis Cardinals lineup debate has been centered around the struggles of Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler. Both players have spent time in the leadoff spot for the majority of their careers, because of this the casual fan has this predetermination that they have to be at the top of the lineup to be effective.  That isn’t what makes sense right now in the Cardinals lineup.  During the two game series with the Chicago White Sox, Mike Matheny decided to put Tommy Pham in the leadoff spot.  While the offense didn’t explode, it could be the move that ends up making the Cardinals better offensively the rest of the 2018 season.

When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler in December, 2016, they were wanting a player with speed who could get on base at the top of the lineup.  This would allow the Cardinals to shift Matt Carpenter to a more RBI-producing role in the middle of lineup that they believed he was better suited for.  The Cardinals abandoned that approach early in 2017 more out of necessity than anything else.  Opening the 2018 campaign, Matheny decided that it was time to put Fowler back in that role in order to accommodate his new toy Marcell Ozuna in the number four spot in the order.  It did not hurt that the top four in the lineup would now feature switch hitter, right handed hitter, left handed hitter and right handed hitter 1-4 in the lineup.  The traditionalist that Mike Matheny is assumed this would cause problems for opposing managers late in games. Matheny’s plan made sense to start the season but with the struggles of Fowler much like 2017, Matheny has been forced to make a change to his lineup once again.

Matt Carpenter was not the leadoff batter for the Cardinals last season until June 7. Once June 7 hit, so did Carpenter. His xwOBA (Execpted Weighted On-base Average)was a solid .368 and his wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average) was 20 points higher at .388, indicating Carpenter’s results might have been a bit lucky. In 2018, Carpenter has seen his luck change a bit even though most advanced statistics have stayed the same and some have improved according to baseballsavant.com. It took Carpenter awhile to find his groove in 2017, I look for him to turn it around as the season goes on.  If he continues to barrel the ball at at 17% rate he will eventually find the holes in the defense.  So the question is why not put Carpenter in the lead off spot?

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 3.39.59 PM.pngScreen Shot 2018-05-03 at 3.39.41 PM.png

The answer is no, with Matt Carpenter in the two hole Tommy Pham can feel free to take off whenever he sees an advantage.  Carpenter famously likes to take pitches,  at times seems to prefer to hit with a few strikes on him.  Carpenter’s patience can be a virtue.  The more he takes the better read Pham can get on a pitcher which will allow him to utilize his speed.   With Pham on the move, it can move the defense out of their lefty shift opening up more hitting lanes for Carpenter.  The argument for Carpenter continues to be that he only hits while in the leadoff spot.  His stats do prove the historically he is a better hitter in that spot. Is is just that he can’t hit anywhere else or is it that he has never been given a chance to prove himself anywhere else for long enough?

The movement of Tommy Pham into the lead off spot will allow the Cardinals to put their most productive hitter in a position to get more at bats.  Pham’s .330 BA, .447 OBP both lead the club.  Pham will also be able to move on the base paths more freely while hitting in the lead off spot.  Matheny has to find a way to spark the offense. Tommy Pham is the spark that can light the offensive fire.  He can bring immediate energy to the team similar to the way he lead off the first game of the White Sox series.  Mike has to continue to let this play out.  Carpenter will adjust and Fowler will benefit from the move.  Fowler will be able to let his swing loose and utilize his power from both sides of the plate.  A free swinging Fowler at this point in his career is his best option.  Tommy Pham leading off makes sense for him and for the team as a whole.