Joe Strauss from the St. Louis Post Dispatch posted an article today that says GM John Mozeliak believes significant change at shortstop is more likely than at second base or center field. Well, that’s good news and bad news. Here is the link to the article:
Good news first. That news is that Mozeliak called Rasmus “almost impossible to replace”. That’s good to hear, and I hope that whatever really happened between Rasmus and LaRussa is over and done with. I’m not sure if Mo played peacemaker in the deal, what really happened behind the scenes, etc. I think Tony’s ego gets in the way quite often with rookies, younger players and veterans. I hope in his last few years he learns to change his approach a bit, adapt and overcome. As a disclaimer, I’m not a LaRussa basher, far from it actually, but he does drive me a little crazy sometimes. I hope Tony understands the potential that Rasmus still brings, and they can coexist.
Here’s part of the article that sums up CF, 2B and SS:
As part of his winter blueprint, Mozeliak insists the club will more readily examine alternatives to Gold Glove contender Brendan Ryan at shortstop than second baseman Skip Schumaker or center fielder Colby Rasmus. Mozeliak called Rasmus “almost impossible to replace” given his production, potential and relatively low salary while admitting to strong support for Schumaker from manager Tony LaRussa and his coaching staff.
“The basic agenda is how can we get more offense out of those (infield) positions or both,” Mozeliak said. “There is a school of thought that Skip will produce more than he did last year. There’s a comfort level of that being probable. In Brendan’s case you would hope there would be some improvement, too. But if there were a way to address one of those positions in a positive way, we would pursue it. We probably have more of an emphasis on short than second at this point.”
These two paragraphs say a ton to me. The main thing is I don’t see how anyone individually, or collectively as a group would believe that Skip brings more potential to the table than Ryan. I guess Mo, Tony and everyone else involved really believe that 2010 was a fluke for Skip, and that Ryan has little chance to improve. I really would have thought that the Cardinals would have given Ryan another year to figure it out offensively, and decide whether 2009 was closer to what he could do offensively than 2010.
The problem with this thinking, however, is that Skip had the lowest UZR among all second basemen, and Ryan had the highest UZR among all shortstops. Even if Skip has an offensive year in 2011 closer to his 2008 or 2009 stats, that fact remains that he is one of, if not the worst defensive 2nd basemen in MLB. Can a team that thrives on getting ground ball outs continue to have someone so weak at 2B on defense when he doesn’t hit for power or have good speed? Wouldn’t it be better to try and figure out if Brendan Ryan can hit again with his exceptional range rather than take a chance on Skip hitting and fielding?
The Cardinals have to make a change, we all know it. There were too many easy outs in the lineup throughout the year, and I don’t think it would be wise to try and hope for the best and bring back the same team. I do believe the solution is easier than they’re making it though. I think you move Skip back to the OF, making him the 4th outfielder. I think you keep Ryan’s defense and at least give him until the end of May to see if he’s producing offensively. Plug in someone at 2nd base who is either an offensive upgrade in power, or put someone there like Orlando Hudson that plays gold glove defense.
We can’t forget that Mark McGwire tinkered with Ryan’s swing before the year started and what that might have done to him, but it obviously didn’t help. Maybe Brendan will never come close to hitting .292 again, but I don’t think you throw in the towel yet. Along with playing gold glove defense, Ryan has legit speed. We may never see a lot of it under LaRussa, but it’s there. He’s energetic to a team that lacked spark. For some reason though, I think he’s been in Tony’s doghouse, and that’s a tough place for any player to ever come out of.
I don’t want to see the Cardinals waste the best years of Holliday, Pujols, Molina and Wainwright. Maybe making a move at shortstop and leaving Skip at second is the way to go, I just don’t see it that way when it comes down to the choice of the two positions. Mozeliak did mention a possible change at both, which is fine, but if it’s just at shortstop, I think it’s a mistake.