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

The unfortunate case of Mark Trentacosta

In every summer’s draft, there seems to be one or two players who are reported as signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, but end up not becoming a professional.

The reason could be cold feet, a misunderstanding or perhaps a medical problem. Usually, the specific details of individual cases do not come out.

That isn’t the case with 2012 34th round selection Mark Trentacosta. The left-handed pitcher from the University of Cal Irvine told a very unfortunate story to the Daily Pilot, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Times.

Through a series of puzzling decisions and regulations, the pitcher never signed a professional contract, yet is ineligible to return to the Anteaters for his senior season.

You can read the details in the linked-to article, but the essence is that only after Trentacosta traveled from California to Jupiter, Fla. to Johnson City, Tenn. did the Cardinals organization sent him home without signing him. The reason stated was a degenerative disc disease identified during his physicals, a diagnosis the player’s professional care givers dispute.

To make matters worse, Trentacosta spent more time with the Cardinals on expense than the NCAA would allow. He would have to reimburse the organization to retain his collegiate eligibility, a move he could not afford.

Because Trentacosta did not sign a contract, he was not paid a salary, so would end up having to cover considerable expenses out of his own pocket for his time in professional limbo in return for regaining his eligibility.

In addition to not being able to return to collegiate ball, he is blocked from making his living as a pro ballplayer. The Cardinals retain his rights, precluding him from signing with another organization as a free agent until after the 2013 draft.

A sadder and wiser Trentacosta is back in school, with his immediate focus on getting his degree rather than securing strikeouts.

I asked the Cardinals if they would comment on the points made in the article but was not given an official response.

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30 Responses to “The unfortunate case of Mark Trentacosta”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    This is an interesting story and nice that it has come out.
    The Cards seem to have an ethical onus to give Trentacosta a little bit of money as recompense for luring him to Johnson City, before they finally got off the dime and decided he was medically a bad bet. If they were to give him money that has been charged to him, he could buy back his college eligibility.
    I can understand decisions to refuse to sign guys who seem to have a medical problem. Teams are not allowed to medically evaluate someone until after they are drafted. Its fine to withdraw an offer based on medical condition.
    However, its a real shame that Trentacosta was not made financially whole and thereby allowed to retain his college eligibility next spring. With all the money teams spend on players, this is a very small amount of money and a real shame that the Cards did not do the right thing, by this individual..

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      Actually the team can’t pay him money to pay them back as that would make him a professional. he I’d think he’d have a malpractice suit based on their being things in his medical record that are not accurate. heck, he might end up making more than he would have as a minor leaguer.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        The Cards did not provide medical treatment, so Trentacosta would not have a case for malpractice. And he can hardly sue a team for its internal bumbling.
        He might be able to sue for financial and emotional damages that a big heartless business lured an upstanding young man in good faith from amateur ranks and then gave him no genuine chance to try pro ball.
        Maybe Trentacosta could pitch for an indy team next spring and get an offer from another ML team.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          you couldn’t be more wrong – misdiagnosis is malpractice whether treatment is provided or not. It actually is an easy way out. he sues the Cards and they settle out of court quickly for enough for him to pay back the money for him to regain his eligibility. he in turn waives all further claims against them.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Trentacosta’s “medical” expert is a chiropractor, a psuedo-scientific cult. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiropractic
            Teams have a right to evaluate a guy medically, before hiring him and assuming potential medical liabilities. If a genuine medical adviser does not like a prognosis, the Cards need to heed their expert. They do not need to hire Trentacosta if likely in future to encounter back pain and need expensive surgeries.
            We sometimes choose to take on high upside pitchers with iffy medical conditions. Scott Bittle (2009-4) and Tyler Mills (2011-9) may be examples. We seem less willing to accept medical risks for low round, small bonus pitchers like Folina (rd 27), Deese (22), and Trentacosta (34). Their potential future medical costs may outweigh their value.

          • crdswmn says:

            I’m not a malpractice expert but there would be some interesting issues if such a case is brought. For instance, who is the defendant? The Cardinals or the doctor? You can sue the employer of a doctor for malpractice but usually the employer is itself a healthcare provider (ie a hospital or medical consortium, etc). Suing a non medical entity such as a baseball team for malpractice would raise some interesting questions. Also, what is the forum for such a suit? The training facility where the physical was provided is in Florida and I assume the doctor is licensed there. Florida would seem the likely forum and I would assume because the Cardinals have a business presence there they would be subject to jurisdiction there. If it is in Florida, then Florida malpractice law would apply. Typically misdiagnosis suits are brought because physical harm is brought to the patient as a result. In this case it seems the harm is economic, not physical. Does Florida malpractice law allow such a suit?

            Many many issues here and I don’t think it is a simple matter. There could be legal roadblocks that would diminish the likelihood that the Cardinals would just settle the matter, especially if the legal roadblocks prevent the suit from being brought at all.

            • CariocaCardinal says:

              Tell me that any lawyer wouldn’t salivate over something noted in a person’s medical record about the patient feeling pain when the never talked to the patient. Showing damages would seem the hardest part.

              • crdswmn says:

                Without know the Florida law on malpractice I wouldn’t know what the standard of proof is or what elements need to be proven. I think a malpractice suit is iffy under this set of facts, but not knowing Florida law I cannot dismiss it altogether.

                Another possibility besides malpractice could be some sort of equitable contract claim. Though nothing was signed, if Florida law allows for a breach of a verbal contract or equitable detrimental reliance claim, he may have an option there.

                • crdswmn says:

                  Of course if it is a contract claim it could be brought in Missouri as well if the medical issues are tangential to the claim. Enforcement of verbal agreements are very limited in Missouri, but detrimental reliance claims have a better track record. Plaintiffs tend to do much better in the City of St. Louis as a general rule.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    In 2009, there was a pitcher, Folina, who the Cards backed away from after he reported to Batavia and refused to sign. There was a rumor it was a PED or drug matter. Folina was a senior, IIRC, and eligible to sign with other teams, so this was fine.
    In 2011, there was another senior pitcher, Deeese, who we backed off of, reputedly for a medical reason. Deese too would have been eligible to try out for and be signed by another team, so no harm to him.
    Its a different situation when the injured player is a college junior and the Cards are charging so much money that he cannot afford to pay this off and buy back his college eligibility. Jn this kind of circumstance, the ML team seems to be doing harm to this amateur who is getting shafted through no fault of his own. Mo or the DeWitts should be embarrassed and rectify this injustice.

  3. blingboy says:

    It sounds like Philly will take a direct hit. Too bad. Maybe it will get storm surged too.

  4. Kansasbirdman says:

    Anyone know how many more years on Furcal’s contract?

    • Brian Walton says:

      One more year. Sign Stephen Drew, move Furcal to 2B to protect his arm. Done! ;-)

      • blingboy says:

        Boras will want a lot of money just for somebody to give Kozma a run for his money. :)

      • Kansasbirdman says:

        The talking heads want Elvis Andrus at SS as apparently the Rangers have a 19 yrold up and coming and are looking to move him.

        Of course, these same folks say that Kolton Wong is ready for 2b at the Major League Level next year, maybe, but I am not for pressing- that could backfire, protect assets.

      • friendmouse says:

        Works for me! I believe Kozma has a good future, but he’s not completely “ready for prime time” just yet.

        As if it were my money, I wish Drew was not so expensive, but even so, he’s probably worth every penny.

  5. friendmouse says:

    Hello, folks. All my absences are “un-excused,” so I understand if I need an indefinite suspension or just outright “flunk” me. I deserve it.

    Obviously we are all disappointed that we didn’t go all the way this year. But I, for one (and I expect I am not alone) am a bit surprised that our ‘birds made it as far as they did with all the hurdles they found in their path.

    And I know we’ve had some “spirited” exchanges herein relating to Skip Schumaker and his “station” on the team. Does ANYONE know, or have heard of, ANY credible reason as to why Schumaker was relegated to the bench for most of the last month of the season and all the playoffs? Props to Descalso for his bat coming alive especially early in the playoffs, but still…no one knew he would bat so well based upon his regular season. No credible measure that I’ve seen demonstrates defensive superiority of DD over SS. So…what is (was) it?!?!!

    I think something MUST have happened between either SS and MM, or (more likely, in my opinion) between SS and Moz. And, if so, I can understand the parties involved not voluntarily saying anything about it, but I might (reasonably?) expect Bernie M. or one of St. Louis’s hot-shot sports “journalists” to dig for an answer, which, to me at least, seems totally befuddling! Again I plead…can anyone answer this mystery for me? I would appreciate it.

    • blingboy says:

      IMO its just that Skip was a TLR guy. Tony loved him. It was fine when Skip was hitting .300.

      Tony’s gone and so is Skip’s .300 avg. Mike has his own favorites.

    • crdswmn says:

      Because Skip’s hitting started tanking beginning in August. He went from hitting .385 in the month of July to hitting .250 in the month of August. From August 28 to the end of the season, Skip was hitting ,149. Skip’s glove was the worst of all the 2B options but he was kept in the lineup because of his bat. When that went south, he just wasn’t a good option anymore.

      It was simply performance. It was bad.

      • crdswmn says:

        As for defense, Descalso’s defensive numbers were much better than Skip’s.

        DD career UZR is -1.6 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) -1

        Skip career UZR is -29.6 Defensive Runs Saved -31

        Quite a big difference. These are the numbers that the Cardinals are looking at.

        • blingboy says:

          Skip was a bad second baseman a couple years ago, which is not surprising since he was an outfielder then.

          The Cards are probably more interested in which is the better second baseman now. If so, then they will have noticed that Descalso’s UZR/150 at 2B last year was -1.9 while Skip’s was -0.9.

          Furcal’s UZR/150 was -10.1 in 2012 after having been -9.4 the year before. Prior to that he was a good defensive shortstop, but he’s not now.

          We really need to get away from all the negative numbers up the middle. Furcal is not the answer at short and niether DD nor Skip is the answer at 2B.

  6. friendmouse says:

    Thanks, bling, crds, and brian for replying. I cannot say I’m yet satisfied, but you helped.

    I have never argued that Schumaker is a GREAT 2nd baseman, but I think he’s better than he’s been credited with being. And yes, one would have to believe that the Cardinals have people in the organization who know tons more about the player and their roles than you or I do, but to me, THE most frustrating thing has been that there is no seeming LOGIC to their use of Schumaker, or their preference for using Greene or Descalso instead. It just reeks of subterfuge. Westie, that’s right down your alley…maybe you’ve got some insight or at least an interesting theory??

    Oh, well…I’m almost, but not quite, to the point of accepting it and employing the worn-out phrase “It is what it is,” and move on. I’m all for getting a Gold Glove calilber hitting machine for our permanent second baseman, but doubt there are any for sale. Maybe one of the “kids” will be ready sooner than later. In the meantime…I’m left to wonder.

    • crdswmn says:

      Well, you and I will just have to disagree FM. For the first time in forever, the use of Schumaker HAS seemed logical to me. IMO he has been misused in the past, put in situations he is simply not suited for. His arm is better suited for the OF and his slowness and lack of range is better suited for the corner OF (not going to the do the Must Be Power in the Corners nonsense, so don’t anyone even try it). Skip is a bench player/PH, nothing more, because his lack of defensive skills makes him ill suited for a starter.

      When Skip’s best tool, his ability to hit for average, went in the toilet, he became a liability. That’s why he wasn’t used.

  7. friendmouse says:

    Okay, I’ll agree to disagree as it relates to Skip Schumaker. But perhaps we COULD agree that he may be better served by playing for another ball club (although I’d miss him, it would be better) and THEN we can ascertain his true value and witness whether or not his skill-set is major-league material. Of course, at that point, with him no longer being a Cardinal, he would fall into that classification of B-Ryan, R-Ankiel, C-Rasmus, R-Ludwick, et al, of “Who cares?!” And I don’t want that! :)

    • crdswmn says:

      If Schumaker’s ability to hit for average returns and he can maintain it for the entire season, I don’t mind having him on the bench. However, if the club thinks they can get value for him in a trade, they should do it. My opinion is that he would have the same role on another team. He does not have the skill set to be a Major League starter.

  8. blingboy says:

    Both Skip and DD look a lot better at 2B when they are hitting than when they aren’t. I have no faith that either will put together such a good 2013 offensively to offset below average defense. A middle infield with above average range and ability would make a huge difference over 162 games.

    Skip’s defensive attributes at 2B, or lack thereof, have been argued on past threads, so I agree that little is to be gained by getting into it again.

    IMO opinion the worst scenario is a declining Furcal hanging in at SS as many games as he can, with whoever taking up the slack, and one utility guy or another manning 2B all year.

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