Curtain Closes

The Curtain Closes on the “regular” MLB season tomorrow. There really hasn’t been anything “regular” about it. It’s time to look backwards & Forward on this journey. Here goes….1st from the past…
….back in July, Mike Petriello wrote that the Cardinals were tier 4 of the MLB teams as “borderline contenders” along with the Angels, Brewers, D-Backs, Phillies & Reds. Petriello wrote, “The Cardinals did just about nothing, yet still have a good team. It’s easy to see any of these teams making noise in October; it might be as easy to see a lot of “one game over .500” records out of this group, too. Right on the mark!!
….So while a couple national writers didn’t rave about the Cards chances in the pre-season. Whitey Herzog did just that. On Sept 2, in an interview with Frank Cusamano, Whitey said, “”I think the key to the Cardinals is getting the best 13 pitchers healthy before the playoffs start and then I think they’ve got a heck of a chance. Because they’re deeper and have more really good middle relief pitchers than anybody else. And Mike’s had to use some guys that I know he’d like to put other people in. So their record is deceiving,” Whitey has been a straight-shooter in the past but….
…As we continue to look back @ 2020….Some weird facts about this weird season..
…the Milwaukee Brewers may make the playoffs despite NEVER being over .500 an any point of this season! They started 0-1,then 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 5-5, 10-10, 11-11 and after winning 4 in a row—26-26.
…The White Sox don’t have Ruth & Gehrig…but Anderson & Abreu. Tim Anderson is fighting for his 2nd consecutive AL batting title while Jose Abreu could lead the AL in RBI’s for the 2nd straight year and is 2nd to Luke Voit (yes…that St. Louisianan from Lafayette HS) in HR & Slugging Percentage.
…the Triple Crown of Pitching—Wins, ERA, Strikeouts could be captured by Shane Bieber of Cleveland this year! It isn’t 100% certain…but the odds are heavily in his favor with Trevor Bauer having a chance to grab the strikeout crown. He doesn’t just lead the AL…he leads the entire MLB in all 3 categories. It’s the 1st time since 2011 when Justin Verlander (AL) & Clayton Kershaw (NL)won all 3 categories. It’s only happened FIVE times since the turn of the century. Steve Carlton did it once…Bob Gibson never did it…WOW! How is it that Cleveland… for the last several years….has a very high quality starting staff? That’s how they compete every year for the playoffs..that’s their mantra. Makes me wonder… what is the Cardinals mantra these days? Starting Pitching? Power? Speed? Bullpen? Defense?
…As the curtain closes, once again the winner of doing the most with the least is the Tampa Bay Rays. Competing in the same division as the Yankees & Red Sox, TB wins the division! According to SpotRac, Their 2020 team salary is 28th in the MLB at $26.7m. At #1 in the MLB, in the same division, the NY Yankees are at $109+m for 2020! The Cards are @#12 overall at a $63.3m level. The Cards are 2nd in the NL Central in spending …behind only the Cubs.Looking back…Tampa Bay finished last in 9 of its first 10 years then really turned things around. In their 11th year(2008), suddenly…out of nowhere… TB made it to the World Series (under Joe Maddon) but lost to the Phils. Since 2009, the Rays will be appearing in their 5th post-season this year. Always with a meager, often the lowest, payroll! Kudos!
… Jonathan Mayo, national sportswriter, listed his 2020 All-Rookie Team– C: Sean Murphy, A’s; 1B: Jared Walsh, Angels; 2B: Jake Cronenworth, Padres; 3B: Alec Bohm, Phillies; SS: Willi Castro, Tigers; OF: Kyle Lewis, Mariners; OF: Luis Robert, White Sox; OF Ryan Mountcastle, Orioles; Starting Staff: Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers; Sixto Sánchez, Marlins; Dane Dunning, White Sox; Dustin May, Dodgers; Ian Anderson, Braves Bullpen: Devin Williams, Brewers; James Karinchak, Indians. The only Cardinal listed was on the 2nd team- Kwang Hyun Kim. While it IS Kim’s 1st MLB year, he’s not a “real” rookie.. at least, in my mind since he’s been a professional pitcher in Korea previously.
….The Curtain also Closed….in a big, big, big hurry @ St Louis City SC. Still a couple years away from taking to the pitch, St Louis SC set a MLS record for season ticket deposits in its opening hours. There were 30,000 seats reserved in the first 15 minutes and 50,000 in the first 24 hours! WOW! Both were MLS league records! Congrats to the starved Lou soccer fans who have been yearning for a top tier American team for years.
Now…to the fun part….looking at the crystal ball of the future.
….starting with our Red/White crystal ball….Currently, I think the Birds most stability is “up the middle”….and that’s not without questions. Yadi’s free agency looms over the Cards. They seem ill-equipped to play without him in 2021 & 22. Paul DeJong has been the every-day SS for 3 years now. Last year, he played almost every game, hit .233 with 30 dingers. This year it’s a higher .250 batting mark with a scant 3 HR. His fielding seems steady to me. Opponents are getting him out on high fastballs that he just can’t seem to lay off. He starts a new 3 year contract next year with the Cards holding options on years 4 & 5. He’s not Cal Ripken but I think he’s really one of our minor concerns. His middle-infield teammate Kolton Wong is much more of an enigma to me. He’s in his 7th year of being the primary 2B for StL. However, he seemed to miss lots of games despite being healthy under Matheny. Mike Shildt did increase it to 148 games last year. As a result, Wong batted .285 (personal high) and registered his career best OPS @ .784. With his willingness to go to left field and bunt…now, he’s seeming like a true leadoff man. Wong’s contract for $12.5 million option for 2021 should be renewed! Behind the plate, Yadier Molina’s $20m contract expires also. His pre-season comments that he’d now consider offers outside of the Cards elicited many reactions. His longevity, clubhouse leadership, pitch calling are his current strengths. This IS the very 1st post-season decision for the Cards. I’d renew…but not at $20m/year. He’s earned $155m in his career. In CF, I’m satisfied with Harrison Bader. His defense is way above average, very good speed…. just have an OB% of .320 (MLB average) and it’s all good. I’d keep him. Paul Goldschmidt will be @ 1b next year. 3B is an issue as are the corner outfielders. I’d attempt to package a couple of those young OF …or even Dexter….and some middle relievers for a strong, proven OF or 3B to bat behind Goldy!
…The Cards mgmt. refuses to swallow contracts..or any part of contracts..for the most part. This may be causing stagnation. I don’t see how they can afford to KEEP Matt Carpenter next year. The Cards mgmt. didn’t get the overall production from their top 7 salaries of 2020 that was expected-Goldschmidt, Molina, Carpenter, Mikolas, Fowler, Andrew Miller , Carlos Martinez. Did any exceed or meet expectations? A focus, this off season , must be an analysis regarding the player evaluations & the expectations for each player.
… We will need a starter..Hudson will be coming off arm-issues..Waino can’t keep doing this ’20 level…Kim looks good….Flaherty is “in”… but….it can’t be Carlos. Batters are hitting .340 against him in 2020, his WHIP of 2.10 is a career high, his strikeouts per/9 inn is at its lowest point since his rookie year; his helium supported ERA is 9.90. Further, I noticed a wider girth on him. He’s not the same pitcher or athlete that he has been in the past. He’s my primary trade bait. In the pen, Miller’s 14 appearances in 2020 guaranteed a contract renewal for him. I’d try to trade him…we already have bullpen depth…. at a much cheaper price.
….My black/gold crystal ball says—Mizzou plays a strong 1st half against Alabama today then depth slows them down in 2nd half.
…oops… my crystal ball just went dark….send me YOUR thoughts on past or future sports events.