Tag:St. Louis Cardinals
Posted on: February 16, 2011 4:57 pm
 

Stuff my editors whacked from the column

JUPITER, Fla. -- Outtakes from the Cardinals camp and Albert Pujols watch Wednesday:

-- 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
"Broken switches broken gates
"Broken dishes broken parts
"Streets are filled with broken hearts
"Broken words never meant to be spoken
"Everything is broken"

-- Bob Dylan, Everything is Broken

Posted on: February 16, 2011 2:33 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2011 2:42 pm
 

Cardinals: We will not explore a trade for Pujols

JUPITER, Fla. -- Now the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols move from the positioning and posturing into the unknown.

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.

Posted on: February 16, 2011 10:15 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 10:29 am
 

La Russa on Pujols talks: 'I'm tapped out'

JUPITER, Fla. -- Less than two hours to the noon self-imposed deadline Albert Pujols has set for a new contract with the Cardinals, there remain no signs here of anything other than high noon passing quietly and the situation raging on through the 2011 season and the big man's impending free agency.

Manager Tony La Russa addressed a large group of reporters and television cameras around 9:30 a.m. on his way out for the day's workout and said, well, not much.

"I think the last two days I've done more than enough talking," La Russa said. "I don't have anything more to say than I already did.

"There isn't anything more I can add to what I said. I'm tapped out. I'm anxious to get back to our baseball team."

He did address comments from players' union boss Michael Weiner, who flatly denied La Russa's accusations Tuesday that the union is putting the hammer down on Pujols to not accept anything less than a record contract.

"I saw it," La Russa said. "It kind of omitted part of what I said, that if I was running the union, I'm not sure I'd handle it any differently.

"But it strains credibility a little to think there hasn't been any contact. He's too significant."

Mostly, La Russa did his best to deflect the looming deadline as best as he could.

"Our staff's concentration is on the 2011 season," La Russa said. "I go back to Chicago. All teams, every year there's the potential for all kinds of distractions. They come in many forms. If you give in to them, you're not that good a team.

"If we give into it, we're not good enough and we would end up getting beaten by something else. You can do it [block out distractions]. It can be done.

"You've got to be good enough."
 
La Russa also welcomed the large media crowd.

"I'm serious about that," he said. "If we're going to be any good, we hope to draw attention to the team. The fact that you're here, for whatever reason, I think the guys are enjoying it."

Posted on: February 16, 2011 12:11 am
Edited on: February 16, 2011 10:30 am
 

Cards, Pujols not expected to agree by Wednesday

JUPITER, Fla. -- With just hours remaining before Albert Pujols' self-imposed deadline to reach a contractual agreement with the Cardinals, sources with knowledge of the talks say there is zero momentum toward a deal and that Pujols is expected to report to camp on Thursday ready to focus on the season and then, likely, free agency.

At the conclusion of a wild day Tuesday on which St. Louis manager Tony La Russa ripped the Major League Players Assn. for pressuring Pujols to push for a record-setting contract and an apparently erroneous report surfaced on SI.com that said the Cardinals made an eight-year offer to their star first baseman, Pujols and the Cardinals were said to be no closer to a deal than they were at the beginning of the week ... or last week ... or the week before.

Despite pushing the deadline back 24 hours out of respect to Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who was in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to receive the presidential Medal of Freedom, the two sides continue to move in different universes.

Union boss Michael Wiener earlier in the day strongly denied to multiple news outlets that the players assn. had anything to do with the Pujols talks. This after La Russa said before the Cardinals pitchers and catchers worked out Tuesday that "I know what he's going through with the union and, to some extent, his representatives. His representatives are getting beat up by the union. 'Set the bar. Set the bar.' That's bull----."

Later came the report that the Cardinals had ponied up an eight-year offer to Pujols.

Late Tuesday night, however, a source familiar with the negotiations told CBSSports.com that no such offer had been made.

"That's completely inaccurate and false," the source said.

Failing some sort of last-ditch effort that suddenly kicks these talks into overdrive Wednesday morning, the Cardinals will enter 2011 with a major, major distraction on their hands by failing to lock up a franchise icon, and Pujols will sail into the summer charged with blocking out an uncertain future.

It is not the optimal condition for either side, to say the least. And there will be plenty of opinions as to who's at fault.

Pujols, for insisting on a deal that compares with or surpasses Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $275 million contract despite the fact that the Cardinals don't have Yankee money?

The Cardinals, for failing to move earlier to sign Pujols long-term and thus avoid the very kind of feeding frenzy that is taking place at their spring camp?

You can argue that Pujols, who has never made more than $14.545 million, has been one of baseball's biggest values over the past decade and that the Cardinals now owe him.

You can also argue that if Pujols indeed is seeking something like a 10-year, $300 million deal, then, despite his iconic status in St. Louis, it would be a financial disaster that could cripple the Cardinals from being competitive in future years.

Despite Wednesday's deadline, the Cardinals, of course, will retain exclusive rights to Pujols until the 2011-2012 free agency period begins five days after the conclusion of next fall's World Series.

Little is certain at this point on how this epic staredown will play out.

But at the moment, the overwhelming indications are that Wednesday's deadline will come and go, with a major gap remaining between the Cardinals and Pujols.

Posted on: February 13, 2011 10:56 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 10:57 pm
 

Pujols, La Russa and "spectacular" distractions

So, is the Cardinals season about to be torpedoed before it even begins?

There was manager Tony La Russa on Sunday, before the first Cardinal of the spring even officially took the field, getting out in front of the issue that right now appears poised to overtake St. Louis' summer.

La Russa admitted Sunday that the Pujols contract situation potentially is a "spectacular distraction" that could turn into a "spectacular excuse" is the Cardinals play poorly.

Understand a couple of things about this.

One, La Russa is a master manipulator who plays mind games as well as anybody in the league. He is adept at spinning situations to create the ultimate "us against them" mentality in the clubhouse.

Two, La Russa thrives in this arena, and he's yet to meet a challenge he doesn't think he can whip. So you bet the Cardinals will be well schooled in the first team meeting of the spring on the volatility of the Pujols talks, what it will mean if any of them starts yapping out of school and of the age-old clubhouse adage, "What you see here, what you hear here, what you discuss here, stays here."

It's hard to remember a La Russa-managed club that hasn't had its share of distractions, some of them even spectacular, many of them orchestrated by La Russa himself. Mark McGwire's return to the game last spring -- sponsored by La Russa -- eventually gave way to peace and quiet. Later in the summer, La Russa's tiff with outfielder Cody Rasmus went public after the manager spelled out his displeasure with Rasmus.

It was La Russa himself who was arrested near the Cardinals' spring facility in Florida in 2007 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Later that summer, in the aftermath of pitcher Josh Hancock's traffic death, La Russa caused quite a stir when he threatened to take his fungo bat to any reporter who crossed the line with questions about the tragedy.

He has famously feuded with Scott Rolen (hastening Rolen's departure from the Cardinals) as well as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith (a rift that remains). And remember his Cold War with the umpires in 2003? Among other things, La Russa said that Jerry Crawford has "made it a point to get us."

While none of this relates directly to Pujols, the point is, with the Cardinals, it's always something. Always, there is some controversy or slight, real or perceived, up around the next corner. And it doesn't always mean disaster. Sometimes, the Cardinals thrive in this atmosphere.

Unquestionably, if Pujols and the club cannot resolve the contract differences by midweek and the three-time MVP cuts off talks for the year on Wednesday, this likely will wind up the mother of all spectacular Cardinals distractions. And things could go off the rails, quickly.

But a ticked off Pujols playing with a chip on his shoulder might not be the worst thing in the world. As La Russa said Sunday, the man is "as strong between the ears as anybody I've ever met."

As for the Cardinals, if there is any team -- and any manager -- qualified to head straight out into this sort of storm, it is St. Louis and La Russa.

Doesn't mean it will be a pleasant summer.

But it doesn't mean the Cardinals can't win, either.

Posted on: November 30, 2010 9:50 pm
 

Shortstops on the move, Rays' Bartlett next?

Shortstops fell quickly from the board Tuesday, which likely will lead to more urgency in Tampa Bay's trade talks surrounding Jason Bartlett over the next few days.

Juan Uribe signed with the Dodgers, Miguel Tejada agreed to terms with the Giants and the Cardinals acquired Ryan Theriot from the Dodgers for reliever Blake Hawksworth.

Meanwhile, even after striking a deal with Tejada, the Giants, according to sources, are one of several clubs engaging the Rays in conversations regarding Bartlett.

With Reid Brignac ready to play shortstop every day for the Rays and Tampa about to be decimated by the free agent market, general manager Andrew Friedman is investigating multiple scenarios. While All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford is expected to leave, the Rays also expect gaping holes in their bullpen.

Already this winter, set-up man Joaquin Benoit has signed with Detroit. Closer Rafael Soriano is expected to leave (for the Angels, perhaps?) and Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Chad Qualls each declined arbitration on Tuesday.

Consequently, the Rays are said by rivals to be casting a wide net for relief help.

Aside from the Giants, the Orioles and Padres have expressed interest, according to sources. The Cardinals kicked the tires as well before nabbing Theriot for Hawksworth, who would have fit one of the areas the Rays are attempting to re-load.

San Diego could offer closer Heath Bell, who is eligible for free agency after 2011 and is expected to be moved sometime between now and the July trade deadline. Having lost Tejada to the Giants on Tuesday and having declined to offer arbitration to David Eckstein, the Padres are down to Everth Cabrera, Jerry Hairston Jr. and rookie Matt Antonelli as serviceable middle infielders.

Bartlett is eligible for arbitration for the third consecutive season before he can become a free agent after the 2011 season.

 

Posted on: October 18, 2010 9:33 pm
 

Batting around Giants Game 3 lineup options

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants went home from Monday's off-day workout expecting lineup changes for Game 3 but not quite sure what they would be.

Infielder Juan Uribe underwent an MRI exam on his bruised wrist and manager Bruce Bochy indicated he would not know whether Uribe would be a go until Tuesday.

"Yes, it will impact our lineup," Bochy said as the Giants worked out Monday. "If he's good to go, he'll be out there. So it's just a matter now of waiting to see how he feels and the results from the MRI."

The best guess as to the Giants' Game 3 lineup goes something like this: Edgar Renteria likely will play shortstop, either Uribe or Pablo Sandoval will start at third base and Aaron Rowand probably will play center field.

Bochy wasn't definitive as he finished preparations for Game 3, but there were indications that the Giants had seen enough -- for now -- of Mike Fontenot's shaky third base defense and of leadoff man Andres Torres' continued struggles (3-for-25 this postseason with 12 strikeouts).

On whether Uribe would play short or third if he's able to go at all, Bochy said, "I can't answer that right now. I'll talk to the guys as far as the whole lineup. But getting back to Uribe, he will impact how we go. We have a couple of options. We know whether Pablo is at third or Edgar plays short, Uribe at third, or if Juan can't go, you've got Edgar and Pablo."

A bit later, Bochy made it crystal clear: "If Juan is not available, yes, Pablo will be out there."

As for Torres, Bochy left that hanging, too -- with hints left all over the place.

"I'm not prepared to tell you what we're going to do until I talk to the players," Bochy said. "I know Andres is battling it right now."

So assuming Renteria is at short, Uribe or Sandova (likely Sandoval) is at third and Rowand in center, that leaves one more big question: Who will supplant Torres atop the lineup?

Hot-hitting Cody Ross is one option. Rowand is another. So is Renteria.

Looking at the numbers against Phillies starter Cole Hamels, Ross or Renteria would appear to be the best options. For his career, Ross is batting .300 (9-for-30) against Hamels with a .323 on-base percentage, four home runs and six RBIs. Renteria is at .250 (6-for-24) with a .333 OBP. Rowand is only hitting .200 (3-for-15) with a .200 OBP.

"Ross has done it [batted leadoff]," Bochy said. "When Torres wasn't in there, Row's done it. Edgar has done it. So these are things that we're talking about now."

Likes: No surprise that Tony La Russa will be back with St. Louis in 2011. How would any manager in his right mind leave a team whose centerpieces include Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday. ... Supposed to be beautiful 70 degrees when Game 3 of the NLCS starts here at 1:07 p.m. local time Tuesday. ... Critics are giving solid reviews to the new Elton John/Leon Russell disc The Union. But I may have to buy it just for the goofy cover shot of two weirdos at the piano. ...

Dislikes: Sure am glad I wasn’t on the road when Junior Seau drove off the cliff in my home town. Glad my wife wasn't on the road, too.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I'm just a guitar in the pawn shop on the corner
"Hey come on by and listen to my song
"I've seen at least a million of those tiny smokey barrooms
"And I've helped to heal some heartaches
"And I've helped to sell some beer
"And the last one to help me
"Just couldn't wait to sell me
"For 20 dollars and left me hanging here
"But I dream about the spot light
"And the roaring of the people
"And I wonder if I'm ever gonna hear 'em sing along"

-- Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song

Posted on: September 5, 2010 12:32 pm
 

Reds hoping to get Bruce back soon

ST. LOUIS -- Accelerator down and looking to extend their eight-game NL Central lead even more, the Reds were happy on Sunday to find that outfielder Jay Bruce is feeling better.

He still wasn't in manager Dusty Baker's lineup Sunday, the fifth consecutive game that Bruce will sit with a sore right side, and he'll likely miss Monday's series opener in Colorado as well. But the Reds are hopeful that Bruce, hitting .274 with 18 homers and 58 RBIs, will return this week.

The Reds aren't penciling in an exact day, however.

"I don't want him until he doesn't feel it anymore," Baker said Sunday morning. "Running, throwing, hitting ... when he comes back, I want him to stay back."

Bruce went down at the worst possible time, not simply because it's September, but because he was red hot when he hurt his side. From the time the Cardinals swept the Reds in Cincinnati in early August until he was hurt on Aug. 30, Bruce was batting .396 with eight homers and 15 RBI over 16 games.

In his absence, the Reds have played with an outfield of Jonny Gomes in left, Drew Stubbs in center and Chris Heisey in right. With Jim Edmonds and Laynce Nix banged up, those three are pretty much locked in. The Reds have been hitting fly balls to infielder Miguel Cairo and view him as an option in an emergency.

"But hopefully, we don't need him," Baker said.

Especially in Colorado's Coors Field, where the outfield is one of the league's biggest.

"You need Willie Mays, Curt Flood and Paul Blair out there in Colorado," Baker quipped.

Likes: The Cubs dedicating a statue of Hall of Famer Billy Williams on Tuesday. Great outfielder, great guy. ... The Cardinals planning to move back to 50,000-watt KMOX next season, which was their radio home for 51 years through 2006. Hope Detroit follows suit and re-connects with WJR sometime soon. Part of the reason for the huge fan bases of some of the Midwestern teams is that even people who couldn't get to games could pull in the radio signal from thousands of miles away. I know things are different now with television and satellite radio, but I still think the move to smaller radio stations for more lucrative contracts was short-sighted. ... Glad to see Notre Dame win under new coach Brian Kelly. College football is better when the Irish are good. ... What a great ending to the LSU-North Carolina football game Saturday night. ... The baby back ribs at Joe Buck's joint in downtown St. Louis. ... The weather this weekend. Sunshine, 70s, no humidity, just a gorgeous weekend with a hint of fall in the air. Perfect baseball weather, great for the opening of football. "These are the prettiest days I think I've ever seen in St. Louis," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday morning. "I'm serious." ... Ah, memories. My dad had a Plymouth Valiant, too, but it was green (see rock 'n' roll lyrics below). First car I drove.

Dislikes: The combination of the Cubs' awful season and St. Louis' fade has the Cardinals offering tickets to the Cubs' series at Busch Stadium later this month at 50 percent off. How about that?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I was sitting with Mary
"In my dad’s blue Valiant
"Rain was coming down
"And the radio was playing
"Mary was talking
"A million miles a minute
"I could not hear one word she was saying"

-- Marc Cohn, Listening to Levon

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com