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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals 2012 Winter Warm-Up leftovers

Having returned from covering the St. Louis Cardinals’ annual Winter Warm-Up this past weekend, I thought I would share some miscellaneous thoughts and experiences.

Another one rides the bus (not)

After interviewing about 30 players and executives over the course of the weekend, it got to be kind of funny as the same media members tended to ask the same questions over and over. One of them was if the player had the opportunity to talk with new manager Mike Matheny yet.

Mitchell Boggs replied that he and Mike were on one of the Caravans together so they chatted a bit. One writer followed up by asking if they had a lot of extra time to talk on the bus. Boggs turned very serious and said, “The manager of the St. Louis Cardinals does not ride the bus!” Of course, we all laughed.

How can I find… ?

Each of the interviews from WWU is posted at TheCardinalNation.com in its entirety for subscribers interested in hearing what everyone said in detail. Bits and pieces are elsewhere around the net, but I worked very hard to get everything in one place. I also have some special articles ahead this week. In addition, a group of player photos is coming that is far superior to anything I could have taken.

I was amazed that several hundred people were lined up in the hotel lobby for multiple hours ahead of WWU opening each day. Team officials did not release a count but seemed happy with attendance. The only blemish was Yadier Molina‘s no-show.

The end for TLR

Tony La Russa, likely in his Cardinals swan song, signed autographs for at least an extra hour and perhaps even longer on Monday, but decided to skip talking with the media. He did make a nice speech at the end of Sunday night’s Baseball Writers Dinner.

After a number of jokes at the expense of Albert Pujols were thrown out by presenters, two dinner speakers came out loud and strong in telling fans to respect what the new Angel had accomplished during his 11 years with St. Louis. The two were La Russa and his successor.

La Russa was among those who skipped Tuesday’s White House visit. 21 members of the 2011 Champions were scheduled to attend. I did not count them all in the White House video.

The Writers’ Dinner went extra innings

Held Sunday evening, The Baseball Writers’ Association of America 54th Annual Dinner is one of the last three of its type in the country that remains. The proceeds go to scholarships, a worthy cause, and with a reported 1,400 in attendance, it should have been a financial success. With so much to celebrate, this year’s program ran 3 ½ hours, considerably past what organizers had planned.

When asked the next day for his impression of the evening, Kyle McClellan’s reply was initially blunt, but he quickly tempered his comments.

“Long. It was very lengthy,” the local product said. “It was good though to see everybody again… that is one of the cool things about St. Louis, the history. To have guys like Ozzie and Lou Brock there, you don’t have that with a lot of organizations.”

The audio of the entire dinner program can he heard at KMOX.com.

Pujols: Wash, rinse, repeat

On Monday, team president Bill DeWitt III mentioned his father, club chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr., was caught a little off guard by the large turnout of reporters awaiting him on Sunday. To his credit, the chairman patiently answered questions for almost 20 minutes. Most of the time was spent rehashing the Pujols situation rather than looking forward. It seemed every time a question was asked in a new direction, the next ones returned to number 5. At least that is what I remember thinking at the time.

You can read stories about that all over the web and I have the complete audio of Bill DeWitt Jr’s remarks posted on the main site (audio is subscriber-only).

The next day, DeWitt III perhaps correctly noted the fans seem to have accepted the Pujols situation better than the media, in fact more positively than the club executives expected.

“8 out of 10 of the questions were about the Pujols situation,” DeWitt III recalled. “It is a subject of endless fascination, I think, mostly with the media. Because I think what is amazing about it is that our fans get it. The reaction that I saw following the decision kind of surprised me in a way – that it was really so understanding. Usually you kind of get beat up for whatever decision you make one way or the other. There are two camps. These are decisions that are not easy and I think people understood that we gave it our best shot.

“As Tony (La Russa) said last night at the Writers’ Dinner, it is just a tough system that is created that would allow a player to end up somewhere else after he made such a great contribution to one club. He was saying, ‘Don’t blame the Cardinals. Don’t blame Albert.’ I think there is something to that,” DeWitt III said.

At this point, the team president went into what the Cardinals considered doing, but did not.

“Our fan base is so knowledgeable that there were some things that we were tempted to say about how things went down. Not so much negative against Pujols or anything like that, but just defending the way we approached it, going back over time – having given it a good shot two years ago, one year ago, then in this off-season.  I think there were some accusations about if we should have done it earlier and things of that nature.

“You can go back in time and I think the instinct we had was to lay it all out there. But then, we saw the reaction. And the reaction was overwhelmingly, I think, sympathetic to the way we handled it. And given that reaction, we just decided to let it go. Let the last word be theirs. I think that was probably a good move because any time you just get into a ‘he said, she said’ pissing match, it doesn’t leave a good taste,” DeWitt III said.

The team president suspects time will heal some of the wounds.

“I still think in my heart of hearts – even though he signed a personal services agreement with Anaheim which commits him to wearing an Angels cap forever, it seems – something about it makes me wonder or just think if he will have a reception back here at some point some day that will be better than the way it left. So, we will see. We wish him well,” DeWitt III concluded.

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26 Responses to “Cardinals 2012 Winter Warm-Up leftovers”

  1. crdswmn says:

    “You can go back in time and I think the instinct we had was to lay it all out there. But then, we saw the reaction. And the reaction was overwhelmingly, I think, sympathetic to the way we handled it. And given that reaction, we just decided to let it go. Let the last word be theirs. I think that was probably a good move because any time you just get into a ‘he said, she said’ pissing match, it doesn’t leave a good taste,” DeWitt III said.

    Very interesting.

    • Kansasbirdman says:

      In other words, let Dee and AP hang themselves with thier numerous and unprovoked comments, complaints and statements? It does seem to reinforce fans’ loyalty when one side keeps going to the megaphone with complaints while the other remains silent (caveat: only when the public opinion- by that I mean Cardinal Fans- are already lining up on the side of the silent party). I guess a shorter way of saying all that is “thou doth protest too much”.

      Crdswmn, what’s your take?

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        In my assessment, in the realm of fan perception, in free agency, the player is at a disadvantage. One, baseball fans are generally * a fan of a particular team as opposed to a player (due to players mobility, family tradition, residence of the fan, etc.). Two, players salaries and team payrolls are known quantitites for the fan. Three, income of the team and expense are not easy to discern and are generally unknowns * so therefore, they are ignored as part of the equation.

        So with those considerations, when a player is demanding a huge contract/compensation, and a team has had a fairly constant payroll (or in this instance even increased payroll in a well-timed move) it seems as though the player is not demanding more profit from the ownership, it seems as though they are seeking a larger share of the pie (which is a constant as far as the fan is concerned). Thus the player’s stance seems greedy, and seems to even be an attack on the team (the team being the entity to which the fan holds loyalty). Therefore, it would appear that in these battles, the ‘team’ is going to win in the court of public opinion a greater percentage of the time, the conditions are in thier favor.

        So little snippets (pictures) of the negotiation released by the Pujols camp is not going to be enough to sway the fans’ opinions. They would have to release a detailed account, and that account would have to show unfair dealing on the part of the ownership (in that case you would also be separating the “ownership” from the ‘team’- ownership being an entity fans would be more predisposed to distrust *). So by just complaining, and saying that the team did not make him feel welcome or insulted him by not coming forth with a sufficient offer, he is just playing into the narrative already established *(that of the greedy player), and reinforcing the perception that he is greedy, if they actually did not handle it fairly, a detailed account would also potentially reeducate the fanbase- which is what would be necessary to break the established foundation* which is being used by fans to view the situation.

        *- no citation, just my opinion

        • blingboy says:

          Anybody can wear out their welcome, however good they are. It seems like a certain amount of Albert fatigue had set in, even before this final round of negotiations.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    One of the players in the Montero/Pineda deal between the Bombers and Mariners was Venezuelan RHP Jose Campos. I saw it reported Campos tried to sign with the Cards, but his parents refused to sign the contract. Later he signed for a little more money with the Mariners. This must have been 2008. Its good to see the Cards in there scouting and competing for Venezuelan amateurs, even if we lost out on this one.

    • blingboy says:

      Never heard of many of them. Perhaps the expansion of the early invite program takes the place of instructs that was done away with a couple years ago.

      Its seems kind of an eclectic mix. Top shelf guys and real newbies. You’ll have to get down there, Brian, and give us the scoop.

      • Brian Walton says:

        I tried to explain in the article the differences in the two groups of early invitees and why…

      • T8Ball says:

        I was a tad disappointed that Tyler Rahmatulla and Matt Williams didn’t receive invites. Oh well, I’m not depressed by any means, but I rather wanted a glimpse of what they could do. I guess middle infield bats with POP potential excite me.

        Leads me to a question. At the start of the season they’ll be 22 years of age. Both were in JC short-season last year and their offensive production could be attributed to their age. I would expect they’ll both start off in full season clubs. Brian, would you consider 22 year olds to be too old for QC? Would they benefit more from say a start in PMB? Would the club benefit more, so they can accurately access the two?

        I’ll readily admit, that I’m a novice to the inner workings of the Clubs Minor League system, so forgive my naivety. But there is no doubt over the last 4-5 years my interest level has grown, and I’ve done my best to more actively follow the MiLeaguers.

  3. T8Ball says:

    ESPN’s Sunday Night game schedule is out.

    2 games on the road. Include the opener at Miami that’s 3 ESPN games, all on the road. Defending Champs get no Home Love? Looks like 11-12 games are still TBD, so maybe we’ll get rewarded.

    • crdswmn says:

      There will be home games. Last year almost all of the ESPN Cardinals games were at home. They want to broadcast from stadiums with large crowds. There are also Monday and Wednesday night games.

  4. blingboy says:

    Poor Nolan. Game six scrambled his brain. He’s paying $110M for six years of Darvish. That’s $18M+ per. No MLB experience and he hasn’t had a TJ yet.

    Wonder if Yo will have as much trouble adapting to the MLB strike zone as Uncle Walt’s Cuban. He found out if you have to put it where they can reach it, throwing hard isn’t enough in the bigs.

    • Kansasbirdman says:

      How is the strike zone different in MLB as opposed to different places? Btw, how does MLB define the zone? Edge of plate, knees to chest?

      Is that why AP always crouches? (Or does it give him more power?)

    • easton714 says:

      Chapman didn’t have problems because of some strikezone change. He’s always had concerns about command. Darvish doesn’t. Darvish is not even remotely comparable to Chapman in terms of ability or polish.

  5. easton714 says:

    The crouch is his stance. It just is what it is. Some stand upright (Holliday). Some spread their feet way out and crouch (Pujols).

    The strikezeone side effect is negligible. By that I mean that a player would rather have a comfortable stance than make the strikezone a few inches smaller.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I recall in later years, what I called Pujols’ elevator stance seemed to diminish. He used to bend his knees and rise and fall while readying himself for the pitch in what I thought was a fairly pronounced manner.

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