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Pogotheostrich wrote:I'd also like to notePhil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune
j_d_mcnugent wrote:so basically his points are either more debatable than he seems to think they are or just plain wrong. perhaps he should have written an article about how the cubs have done little to address their problems.
After Series debacle, Cards are rebuilding nicely
By Murray Chass
New York Times Baseball Columnist
Just before last month's winter meetings, Walt Jocketty received a telephone call from one of his players.
"I know we need a pitcher or two," Jocketty, the Cardinals' general manager, said Larry Walker had told him. "I'm willing to defer money. I'll call some other guys if you'd like."
Jocketty said he thanked Walker for the offer but told him a contract revision was not necessary. The Cardinals might have been swept in four games by Boston in the World Series and they might have lost some players to free agency, but their future wasn't gloomy.
Indeed, less than two weeks after Walker called, Jocketty bolstered the Cardinals' starting rotation by acquiring Mark Mulder from Oakland. And just to make sure Mulder and the other pitchers have someone behind`them to catch the ball, Jocketty signed David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek as free agents.
"We're retooling," Jocketty said.
Good teams are supposed to be strong up the middle, but the Cardinals lost their catcher, Mike Matheny; their shortstop, Edgar Renteria; and their second baseman, Tony Womack. "We still have a Gold Glove center fielder," Jocketty said, referring to Jim Edmonds. "We have a young catcher we're excited about offensively and defensively. He comes from that great blood line of the Molina family."
He was talking about Yadier Molina, who at 22 is the youngest of the major leagues' three catching Molina brothers. Bengie and Jose play for Anaheim. Matheny led all position players with a .999 fielding percentage, committing only one error and allowing two passed balls, and a team can't help but miss a player of his caliber.
But because the Cardinals felt that Molina was ready to be an everyday starter, they weren't prepared to give Matheny the three-year, $10.5 million contract he received from San Francisco. Molina started 39 games last season and caught in 51. He committed two errors and had four passed balls, but offensively, he had a better batting average and better on-base and slugging percentages than Matheny.
The Cardinals' middle infielders went to different teams in the American League East. Womack signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Yankees, and Renteria became Boston's shortstop with a four-year, $40 million contract. Their departures were unusual because the Cardinals had had a recent history of retaining players who could leave as free agents.
When Mark McGwire arrived in St. Louis via a trade in 1997, he figured to leave as a free agent after the season, but he enjoyed his half-season stay so much he signed a new contract with the Cardinals. Edmonds did the same thing after he was traded to St. Louis in 2000.
Jocketty thought Renteria would follow the same pattern.
"I know he was very comfortable here," Jocketty said. But Renteria chose money.
"We went further than we thought we would with him, but he took more money with Boston," Jocketty said. "In the end, between our last offer and what he signed for, there was a difference of $4 million or $5 million."
Womack also surprised him, Jocketty said. "We were going to offer him salary arbitration with the idea we were going to continue negotiating with him," he said. "Then the Yankees came at him hard and fast and needed a decision that night. We were working on several other things."
Three days after Renteria signed with Boston, the Angels signed another free-agent shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, and did not tender a contract to Eckstein, making him a free agent. Three days later, the Cardinals signed him to a three-year, $10.25 million contract.
The Cardinals took a little longer before choosing Grudzielanek as their second baseman from a group that also included Alex Cora, Miguel Cairo and Roberto Alomar.
"It's the last spot we have to fill, and we don't have a lot of money to spend," Jocketty said a day before signing Grudzielanek to a one-year, $1 million contract.
The core of the Cardinals remains intact. Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Walker and Edmonds make up that core. Mulder joins Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis as starting pitchers.
"With Mulder, we're excited about our rotation," Jocketty said.
Rick Ankiel, who lost his control in 2000, then had elbow problems in 2002 and 2003, is the wild card of the pitching staff. "Ankiel looks like he's back on track," Jocketty said. "He pitched really well in winter ball. Molina was his catcher and commented on how well he pitched."
The Cardinals plan to use Ankiel as a relief pitcher but may need him to begin the season as a starter.
"Morris had surgery on his shoulder; they cleaned up some things, nothing serious," Jocketty said. "He may be a few weeks behind, and we may use Ankiel as a starter in that situation."
Jocketty said the Cardinals were over their World Series disappointment. "We were happy to be in it," he said. "We used so much energy to win the league championship series. It was such a dramatic series for us; we got to the World Series, and that first game was pivotal for us. If we had won that game, it could have changed the whole series."
But after rallying from a 7-2 deficit and tying the score at 7-7 and 9-9, the Cardinals lost, 11-9. They offered the Red Sox no challenge in the next three games.
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