Posted on: December 6, 2011 9:23 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 1:56 am
DALLAS -- The Marlins spent an extraordinary amount of time Tuesday afternoon and evening wooing free agent slugger Albert Pujols and appeared to be thundering toward their finish line as darkness enveloped Dallas on a cold Tuesday night.
Whether it is also Pujols' finish line remains to be seen.
The Marlins pushed very, very hard through the night Tuesday to finish a Pujols deal with a 10-year offer, according to sources, worth in excess of $200 million. Closing in on 1 a.m. CDT, sources said the Marlins reached a point where there would be no immediate answer, and they would resume discussions with the Pujols Camp on Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said that the Cardinals presented the slugger with a new offer, their first since last February when Pujols rejected a reported nine-year offer worth a reported $195 million.
Meantime, USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported an unidentified team made a third offer of at least 10 years in what is becoming the most expensive bidding war in baseball history.
Sources with knowledge of the talks said that they expected the Pujols camp to let things play out a little longer.
That strategy did not mesh with what the Fish wanted Tuesday, and they may have to make a decision as a result. As owner Jeffrey Loria canceled dinner plans Tuesday to remain in the Hilton Anatole and try to knock off a deal for the iconic slugger, the Marlins remained players on free agent pitchers Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson.
Marlins officials emerged from an elevator after what appeared to have been a long meeting with Dan Lozano, Pujols' agent, shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. But club president David Samson repeatedly told reporters, "Nothing to report."
The Marlins want an answer from Pujols sooner rather than later -- they pushed for an answer Tuesday night -- so they can move on to one of those other options if they can't get him. They also want an answer from Pujols soon because of growing concern that they are being used as leverage to jack up the Cardinals' bid.
Bottom line: The Marlins badly want Pujols, but they do now want to lose out on other free agent options if Pujols is a rigged game and it's a fait accompli that he's returning to St. Louis. Whether or not the Marlins sign Pujols, they still want to improve their starting pitching. Without Pujols, they'll look to the free agent market. If they add Pujols, they will look to trade current first baseman Gaby Sanchez for pitching.
Mozeliak did not specify the Cards' new offer to Pujols either in years or dollars. When asked by St. Louis reporters in whose court the ball is in, Mozeliak replied, "Theirs."
"I suspect [a response] is going to come quickly," Mozeliak told St. Louis reporters. "That would have to come from that camp. ... In this situation, we're participants. I don't think we're dictating anything."
The Marlins believed that their offer had to be higher than that of the Cardinals to combat what one source termed the "statue effect." Meaning, if Pujols finished his career in St. Louis, the next step will be that the club and city will erect a statue of him next to the one of Hall of Famer Stan Musial outside of Busch Stadium.
Consequently, the Marlins have put together what sources call a "creative" offer, one that is so complicated that Loria and other Marlins executives met with Dan Haslem of the Commissioner's Office late Tuesday afternoon to review parts of it and, apparently, make sure it is in line with baseball rules and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
"Jeffrey is an art dealer. He's accustomed to obtaining special works of art," one National League executive said Tuesday night. "Maybe this is another special work of art."
Surely, they would tell you that Pujols is exactly that in St. Louis.
Whether he'll be on permanent loan anytime soon at the Marlins' posh new baseball museum in Miami is the subject that continues to dominate these meetings.
Posted on: November 13, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2011 6:50 pm
The Cardinals on Sunday named former big league catcher Mike Matheny as their new manager and will formally introduce him in a news conference on Monday morning in St. Louis.
Presumably, they've already handed Matheny a guidebook blueprint for replacing an all-time legend (Tony La Russa), taking over a World Series champion as a rookie skipper and making a managerial debut in the big leagues -- not in the minor leagues.
The truth? The only way Matheny's debut job could be any more difficult is if the club loses icon Albert Pujols via free agency.
Wait, hold that thought!
While Pujols was being wined and dined by the Miami Marlins over the weekend, the Cardinals whittled their short list of La Russa replacements to a final one.
The contrast between him and La Russa could not be more stark:
La Russa managed more games than any manager in major-league history after Connie Mack.
Matheny, 40, spent part of last season as a roving minor-league instructor for the Cardinals, and part of it in the St. Louis broadcast booth. He has never been a manager.
He has, however, managed games from behind the plate as a catcher for 13 years in Milwaukee, Toronto, St. Louis and San Francisco. He spent five years behind the plate for La Russa's Cardinals, from 2000-2004, and during that time forged a solid relationship and earned a tremendous amount of respect from La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.
How much? As Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote earlier this month, La Russa once described Matheny "as the only big-league ballplayer he'd let one of his daughters marry." As Strauss noted then, the fact that the Cardinals would consider allowing Matheny to become their next manager might be nearly as impressive.
Matheny was said by industry sources to have been very impressive when he went through the Cardinal interview process earlier this month. That surely came as no surprise to general manager John Mozeliak and the club, given that Matheny was a clubhouse leader during his time in St. Louis whose leadership qualities were unquestioned.
That, and Matheny's familiarity with the Cardinals organization are the qualities that the club hopes make for a smooth transition. As a player, his attention to detail was evident, among many other areas, in the four Gold Gloves he won -- three of them while wearing a Cardinals uniform. He also helped mentor a young Yadier Molina, a relationship that should grow further and work as one of St. Louis' strengths in 2012.
One key for an inexperienced manager is his staff, and with Duncan expected to return, Matheny will have the game's most respected pitching coach at his right hand.
Another important hire will be Matheny's bench coach, presumably a veteran man with managerial experience. Colleague Danny Knobler is hearing that former Red Sox and Dodgers manager Grady Little is a possibility to join Matheny in St. Louis.
Matheny was chosen ahead of five other candidates: Terry Francona, who most recently managed the Red Sox; Chris Maloney, who managed St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate in Memphis last year; Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Famer and former Cubs star who managed Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate; Joe McEwing, who managed the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, and Jose Oquendo, the Cardinals' third-base coach.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:18 pm
While schoolkids across the land sweat through final exams, the Cardinals dive into their latest test in a season full of them: Overcoming the hip injury that sent starter Kyle McClellan to the disabled list this week.
In McClellan's place, rookie right-hander Lance Lynn will get a look. Summoned from Triple-A Memphis to start Thursday night's game against San Francisco (on short rest, nonetheless), Lynn, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2008 draft, was 5-3 with a 4.06 ERA.
Few pitchers in the game have been as valuable as the unassuming McClellan, who, along with Kyle Lohse, has done wonders in keeping the Cardinals atop the NL Central even after losing Adam Wainwright for the season this spring and while Chris Carpenter battles through a (so far) disappointing season.
"In Jupiter this spring, the sky was falling," general manager John Mozeliak said last week, referring to the immediate aftermath of Wainwright's elbow injury. "People said it was doomsday for the organization.
"To see what McClellan has been able to do, giving us a chance to win baseball games, has been special. Both guys, McClellan and Lohse, have done it from different directions: Lohse is healthy [following forearm surgery last summer], and McClellan came in from the bullpen. Both have helped steady the ship."
McClellan, the National League's first six-game winner this season, is expected to miss two weeks with the left hip flexor strain. Because he had made 202 major-league appearances before this season with zero starts, and never pitched more than 75 2/3 innings in the majors, the Cards figured they would have to limit his innings at some point this season. They hope maybe this will be a natural way of doing so.
"There's enough good rotations in this league, if you want to compete successfully, you need to trot out somebody that gives you a chance every day," manager Tony La Russa said recently of McClellan. "[Wainwright] was a huge hole, and Kyle's wanted it and he worked hard every day and he's done a real good job."
As usual, the Cardinals have had the angles figured. They've had McClellan prepare as a starter the past couple of springs to give them options, and they've been rewarded for their preparedness this year.
"I like him in the bullpen so much, but Dunc has been saying since the first year that this guy could be a starter," La Russa said of pitching coach Dave Duncan. "As he so often does, Dunc has got it figured out."
McClellan had a 3.11 ERA through his first 10 outings, but that swelled to 3.86 during a seven-run, four-inning stint while battling the sore hip against San Francisco on Monday.
Meantime, with McClellan out, the Cardinals will lean even more on Lohse. Fully recovered from surgery last May 28 to relieve nerve compression in his right forearm, Lohse so far has been dominant.
In nine post-surgery starts late in 2010, Lohse was 3-4 with a 7.25 ERA.
"I think he really needed all of last year to recover," Mozeliak says. "It was a unique surgery, not common in our sport. He had to get himself strong to where his confidence was back.
"You see a difference in him now in how he approaches things."
Posted on: February 24, 2011 11:19 am
Edited on: February 24, 2011 11:57 am
JUPITER, Fla. -- Ace pitcher Adam Wainwright is done for 2011 and is expected to miss much of 2012 as well. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak confirmed what the club believed a day earlier: Wainwright will undergo Tommy John ligament transfer surgery.
"I don't want to be melodramatic here, but you're losing an ace," Mozeliak said late Thursday morning as the Cardinals worked out. "It's not something you're going to replace overnight, but we have four capable pitchers who can step up.
"It's not as if we have no bullets. Everybody moves up one and now you have to fill the fifth spot."
Together with Chris Carpenter, Wainwright was a huge part of a Cardinals team expected to contend again in the NL Central. With Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and a healthy Kyle Lohse, Mozeliak made clear that the club is not cashing in on 2011 before it even begins.
"As far as our expectations of the season, nothing changes," the GM said. "We still expect to be good. The talent level in the clubhouse is still very high."
The Cardinals first will look internally to fill the gaping void, with Kyle McClellan the odds-on favorite to move from the bullpen into the rotation. The club will take a look at several other pitchers in these early weeks of spring as well: Adam Ottavino, Brian Tallet, P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson among them.
Miguel Batista could be in that mix as well. But it might make more sense for McClellan to step up and then Batista to fill his late-innings role.
Wainwright, 29, was second in NL Cy Young voting last season, won 20 games and pitched 230 1/3 innings. His wins ranked only behind Philadelphia's Roy Halladay, and his innings-pitched workload ranked only behind Halladay and Carpenter. Wainwright's career-low 2.42 ERA trailed only Florida's Josh Johnson.
Once they were eliminated from playoff contention, the Cardinals shut Wainwright down early last season, skipping his final start, when he complained of soreness near his elbow. The diagnosis came back forearm strain, and Wainwright was put on a rest-and-rehabilitate schedule.
He has a history of elbow problems going back to 1998, and they occurred again in 2004.
"We didn't think it was going to go away," Mozeliak said. "We always knew that there was this risk.
"I don't think he would have changed anything. He pitched very well with it."
The Cardinals just picked up Wainwright's two-year, $21 million option through 2013, but language in the deal allows them to void it if the right-hander is on the disabled list with an arm injury at the end of the 2011 season.
"News of this is so fresh, in terms of contractual obligations and 2012, we're just trying to get through the day," Mozeliak said. "We'll have time to reflect on that."
Speaking earlier in the day, manager Tony La Russa said, "It's much more unfortunate for Adam, and it's really tough on us. You make adjustments. One key thing is how deep you are.
If you're not deep, a hit like this can sink you."
Beginning this week, the Cardinals will work like crazy so that this devastating injury does not sink them for 2011.
It will not be easy.
Posted on: February 16, 2011 4:57 pm
-- Reaction from the Pujols side Wednesday came in the form of a statement from agent Dan Lozano:
"After engaging in discussions with the St. Louis Cardinals Organization, we have suspended further negotiations until after the conclusion of the 2011 season, due to today's self-imposed deadline. At the beginning of this process, Albert decided a timetable needed to be established in which we would negotiate. We exchanged proposals with the Cardinals during that time. While both parties were hopeful that an agreement could be reached, a difference of opinion in determining Albert's value simply could not be resolved. Albert's production over the last 10 years is nothing short of historic. He is not only the best player in baseball, and on his way to having a Hall of Fame career, but an iconic figure in sports. The expiration of today's deadline does not eliminate the possibility of Albert returning to the Cardinals in 2012, but simply delays negotiations until the conclusion of the Cardinals' season.
"Albert's decision to suspend negotiations until after the season is made out of respect to his teammates, coaching staff and the Cardinals Organization. He wants to prevent this issue from becoming a distraction throughout the year. Albert cares a great deal about his teammates, manager Tony La Russa, and his coaching staff and respects their ability to prepare each and every day. Albert has also decided that he will not discuss his contract status for the duration of the season, including Spring Training. He asks the media to please respect this request. Albert would also like to reassure the Cardinals Nation that he is determined to bring a World Championship back to the city of St. Louis. He feels as strongly as ever that this team has the potential to win the World Series. That alone is why he will not permit his contractual situation to become a distraction or take away from his ability to reach that goal."
-- One reason the Cardinals remain reasonably confident -- publically, at least -- that they can still retain Pujols is because of the tenor of the negotiations. "I don't think any bridges were burned in the process," general manager John Mozeliak said. "Looking toward next year, I don't think we put ourselves in a bad position."
-- Sometimes, enough isn't enough. As Cardinals Chairman of the Board Bill DeWitt Jr. reminded Wednesday, back when Pujols signed his current seven-year, $100 million deal with the Cards in February, 2004, it was considered a very, very big deal.
Now, as for any regrets during the current talks, which broke down and did not result in a new deal by Pujols' self-imposed noon deadline?
"I regret that that contract wasn't longer," DeWitt cracked. "I remember this specifically. Some of my contemporaries at MLB at the time said, 'That's a long contract.' I remember saying, 'It won't be long enough.' And here we are."
-- DeWitt on whether there is a parallel with the Yankees/Derek Jeter negotiations this past winter (Pujols is 31, Jeter 36): "I think one difference is where they are in their careers when they're hitting free agency. With Albert and the city, it does parallel. Ownership and the front office here are looking at the positive, we're not looking at the negative side through the media. I think there's a stark difference there."
-- Great line from ace Chris Carpenter as the ace pitcher was leaving after practice around 11:30 a.m. while walking by a group of reporters toward his car: "He's STILL not here?!" Speaking, of course, of Pujols.
Sunblock Day? While it may have felt colder to the Cardinals, it was a beautiful, 75-degree day here in Jupiter with plenty of sun.
Likes: Cameron Maybin ripping Panda Express ... and then reversing course when he found that one of the Padres' minority owners owns Panda Express. Very comical. ... Dave O'Brien, the excellent Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, took a motorcycle ride with new manager Fredi Gonzalez. Then they pulled off the road, did an interview and the very well-done result is here. ... It was released last summer, but the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. re-issue is well worth it. ... A new Drive-By Truckers disc, Go-Go Boots. Haven't picked it up yet. Will soon. ... Mick Jagger was pretty impressive at the Grammy Awards on Sunday. ... Blue Valentine. Hard movie to watch, but Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are terrific. ... The blackened grouper at the Abbey Road Bar and Grill in Jupiter. Still.
Dislikes: Went back to the rental car counter the other day to get a map, then walked back to what I thought was my Nissan Altima, opened the driver's side door ... and startled a man who was sitting behind the wheel preparing to leave. He wasn't trying to steal my car, though. Yep, it was me -- I walked up to the wrong vehicle.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Broken bottles broken plates
-- Bob Dylan, Everything is Broken
Posted on: February 16, 2011 2:33 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 2:42 pm
The Cardinals expressed disappointment Wednesday that they couldn't reach an agreement on a new contract for Pujols, and Pujols' Camp issued a statement confirming that it has "suspended negotiation until after the conclusion of the 2011 season."
There was not much talking in the past several days, according to sources with knowledge of the talks. The Cardinals presented Pujols with an offer "around the first of the year", according to general manager John Mozeliak. Bill DeWitt Jr., chairman of the board, confirmed that the Cardinals used that as a basis as conversations evolved from there, discussing ways to tweak various parts of that deal without ever pulling it from the table and presenting a whole new offer.
Either way, it never achieved liftoff, and Wednesday's conclusion pretty much has been expected all week.
The Cardinals are determined to take another run at Pujols after the season. For now, Mozeliak and DeWitt said, they would respect Pujols' wish to not be bothered with contract talk during the season. However, if Camp Pujols were to change its mind and approach the Cardinals, Mozeliak said, the club is "always open for business."
Meanwhile, Mozeliak said Pujols will play his usual key role on the Cardinals' club this summer and that even with free agency looming, a pre-emptive strike by exploring possible trade paths is not on the team's radar.
"It is not," Mozeliak said. "It's not something we would either consider or do."
It should be noted that Pujols has full no-trade powers as a "10-and-5 man" -- 10 years in the majors, the past five with the same club.