Yesterday, Tony LaRussa proved once again that he is indeed the Cardinals GM by getting rid of Colby Rasmus. What Tony wants, he gets. I’ve seen both sides of the arguments, and the only writers who feel like the deal makes any sense are those that have to enter the Cardinals locker room on a regular basis. The national writers are talking about how the Cardinals got robbed, and I happen to agree with them. Peter Gammons tweeted “Maybe Edwin Jackson becomes better than .500, but old adage when managers make trades, general managers often trade jobs.”
We all know that Colby is gone for one reason, Tony LaRussa. The Cards and Tony can spin it any way they want, but Tony ran him out of town. He made comments that made it impossible for Mo to keep Colby. And once again, he lowered the trade value of a player by making it known he has a personal problem with him. This time, it was that Colby didn’t listen to anyone other than the other Tony. The main problem I have with the trade is what is does to the Cardinals in the future, starting with next year. The next problem I have with it is that I don’t think this is the year the Cardinals should go all in. I still think the Brewers are the better team, and hopefully I’m wrong on that, time will tell. I do feel if they make the playoffs they are better suited to make a run than the Cards.
So let’s look at the future, starting with this year. For 2011, the Cardinals still have a shot to make the playoffs. They have a great shot. In most years, that means that baseball is a crap shoot, and you have a great chance to advance. Most years, that is. More than likely, the winner of the NL Central is going to be playing the Phillies in the first round. Even if Roy Oswalt isn’t ready for the playoffs, you still have to win three games against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. With Adam Wainwright, there’s a great possibility of that happening. We all know of that heartbreak though. The Giants pulled off the upset last year because they have dominant pitching all the way around. In fact, I don’t think it was that big of an upset. When I talk about dominant pitching, I’m talking about getting strikeouts, which typically coincide with leading in most other areas as well. In 2011, the NL team leaders in strikeouts are:
The Cardinals are only ahead of the Pirates (640), and tied with the Nationals at 670. The Phillies, Giants, and Braves also lead the league in WHIP at 1.17, 1.20 and 1.22, in that order. The Giants, Phillies and Braves are also 1, 2 and 4 in ERA at 3.09, 3.11 and 3.29. So, if the Cards win the NL Central and make it past the Phillies, you’ll face the defending champs or the Braves. Both those teams also have dominant pitching.
What will the Cardinals team look like in 2012? I’ve said all along I don’t think the Cardinals should pay for Albert Pujols to return. If they pay him what he wants, they are going to be paying for past performance, not future. Whether they pay him or not, it makes no sense to trade Colby. If they pay Pujols, they are going to need to surround Pujols with cost controlled talent. If they don’t pay Pujols, they are going to have a hole in the lineup they need to replace. Colby Rasmus should have been a big part of that plan. Colby is never going to be Jim Edmonds, but he’s only 24, the same age Edmonds was when he was 8th in ROY voting. In other words, where’s the patience? That answer is easy; Tony LaRussa doesn’t have any and doesn’t care about the Cardinals long term. He’ll be long gone in the next two years or so I would guess, if not sooner.
The nonsense with being a good clubhouse guy is starting to get out of hand. A good clubhouse guy is starting to mean that your personality better resemble one man and one man alone, TLR. Going back and taking a look at the Brendan Ryan trade is one example. How many more wins would the Cardinals have if Brendan was kept around? Currently, BR has a WAR of 2.2 and Ryan Theriot has a -0.2. That -0.2 is next to last in all of MLB for shortstops.
The next thing about this trade is that Jon Jay becomes an everyday player. I like Jon Jay. I think Jay has a lot of talent. However, I’m pretty sure Jon Jay is never going to hit 30 HR’s. In fact, I don’t think Jay will ever hit 20. I’m not sure Jay is ever going to be better than he is now. He’s also 2 years older than Colby. Jay is a nice piece to have on a team that has Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, nothing more.
I’ve kept quiet and tried to understand LaRussa for quite a while. However, LaRussa does not have an eye for young talent. The Cardinals bullpen is made up of players that were not good enough to make the team out of spring training in LaRussa’s eyes, or in Mitchell Boggs case, was sent to the minors to keep giving chances to players like Ryan Franklin and Miguel Batista. Before jumping on me, let’s remember that LaRussa didn’t plan to start 2001 with Pujols. Let’s remember that Braden Looper was tried as closer before Wainwright in 2006. Let’s remember that Jason Motte was kept over Chris Perez. Let’s remember how good Danny Haren was the first year after he left and how good he continues to be. LaRussa wants players that go through their growing pains somewhere else unless they are incredible from day one like Pujols, Molina and Wainwright.
As long as the Cardinals make the playoffs, anything can happen. Maybe I’m way off base and Dave Duncan can turn Edwin Jackson around. Maybe Jackson, along with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia can shut down and out pitch the Phillies, Giants and Red Sox. I’ll always be pulling for them. However, I hope in the very near future that someone else has the chance to lead the Cardinals to October. Let’s just hope that we get to experience Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez before they are traded for having struggles under TLR.