The Cardinal Nation blog

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

TCN blog 2013 top story #1: Stan Musial’s passing

Needless to say, coming into 2013, it was impossible to predict what would become the top story of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals. While the baseball world knew that 92-year-old Stan Musial had been in declining health, few if any were willing to accept “The Man” could leave us so “soon.”

The greatest St. Louis Cardinals player of all time passed away on Saturday, January 19 at his home in Ladue, surrounded by family. It is one of those times I will always remember. I learned of the news during the Winter Warm-Up fan event as I was working on the day’s articles that evening at the Hyatt.

Soon, I was immersed in Musial retrospectives, both for my site and others. I was asked to go on WFAN Radio in New York later than night. The fact that my time slot was between 4:30 and 5:00 A.M. did not matter, as I would have had trouble sleeping, anyway.

Even 11 months after the fact, it is impossible for me to simply recap seven decades of Musial’s contributions as a lifelong Cardinal to the game of baseball and its fans – first as a superstar player, Hall of Famer, executive, restaurateur, friend of Presidents and Popes and ambassador for the game we all love so much.

You can read high level information about Musial’s life all over the web, including this article at The Cardinal Nation: “Baseball world mourns death of Stan Musial”

However, I encourage you – especially during this long winter off-season away from live baseball – to dig deeper into Musial’s considerable legacy. I highly recommend these three books:

“Stan Musial: ‘The Man’s’ own story as told to Bob Broeg”, Doubleday, 1964.
“Musial: From Stash to Stan The Man” by James M. Giglio, University of Missouri Press, 2001.
“Stan Musial: An American Life” by George Vescey, Ballantine, 2011.

Next, I will wrap up the series with my prediction for the top five Cardinals stories of 2014 and audit how well I did in attempting to predict 2013’s biggest news items one year ago.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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42 Responses to “TCN blog 2013 top story #1: Stan Musial’s passing”

  1. [...] 20. Matheny’s extension 19. Oscar’s ongoing ouchie 18. Beltran walks again 17. Eventful external minor league ownership 16. Missing Motte 15. The Craig-Adams two-step 14. Peralta, PEDs and penalties 13. Steady, unsteady rotation middle 12. The Freese-Bourjos trade 11. Young bullpen guns 10. Seamless closer transition 9. Chris Carpenter finally gives in 8. Wacha’s emergence 7. Miller’s puzzling rookie year 6. La Russa’s unanimous Hall selection 5. Wainwright’s continuing leadership 4. Matt Carpenter’s rise 3. Molina’s MVP bid 2. Back on top of the National League 1. Stan Musial’s passing [...]

  2. blingboy says:

    Thanks for the memories, Stan.

    On another note, I bet the Dodgers pay way, way, way more for Kershaw than the Cards did for Wainwright. Probably absurd number of years at high AV for a pitcher. Not wishing him anything bad, but chances are the Dodgers will end up taking a bath on the kind of contract I figure they will give him. He’s not going to start 33 times and throw 200+ quality innings forever, but the Dodgers will convince themselves that he will.

    • Brian Walton says:

      When I read a blurb the other day speculating about Kershaw’s contract, I had the same kind of thoughts about the likely contrast with Wainwright.

      The Cardinals have done a very good job doing what it takes to get key deals done early before they become major problems. The Pujols situation is one of the rare exceptions and it turned out for the best, too.

    • crdswmn says:

      I have been hearing talk about Kershaw perhaps testing FA. Over the past few days, a number of folks on MLB Network radio have all been saying they think Kershaw is not in a big hurry to sign back with the Dodgers. They say the Dodgers are very concerned that Kershaw is going to skip on them and that is why they are pursuing Tanaka. Speculation is that he won’t sign and will do the FA thing next offseason.

      Kershaw apparently is not wedded to staying in LA. He has never settled down there like many of his teammates have. He is from Texas, and I would bet he would like to play there, so who knows, maybe it will be the Rangers who end up with him.

      • Brian Walton says:

        Perhaps most important is his wife. As her Twitter profile proclaims: “Love the beach from coast to coast, my heart is in Africa and home will always be Texas. Married my high school sweetheart & our passion is Kershaw’s Challenge.” (highlighting is mine)

        • blingboy says:

          She didn’t say anything about being insulted?

          • crdswmn says:

            I get the feeling that money is not the issue with them. The Dodgers could well afford to pony up more money than almost any other team. I suspect it is one of those situations where they just may not want to stay in LA long term.

            • blingboy says:

              “I get the feeling that money is not the issue with them.”

              If its LA vs Texas, I guarantee money won’t be an issue. Whose pen runs out of ink writing the zeros on the check will determine it all.

        • crdswmn says:

          Another possibility would be Houston, but whether he would want to play there or whether they could afford him are big question marks.

          The Rangers have 4 of their 5 starting spots under contract long term. The 5th spot is probably going to be either Ogando or Tepesch. I would imagine if Kershaw were truly an option for the Rangers, either or both of them would be sacrificed.

  3. blingboy says:

    I know the Cards want Wong to ‘win’ the starting 2B job in ST. But I wonder if it is a case where he is going to ‘win’ it no matter what. Sort of like how TLR seems to have decided who was going to ‘win’ the Smith/Clayton competition, no matter what.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Huge difference. This is Wong’s job to lose. His competition is an outsider with less Cardinals heritage than him.

      In the Ozzie/Clayton situation, Walt had given up some good talent to acquire Clayton and Ozzie was in his 40′s already and in decline. TLR (and Walt?) was dishonest saying it was an open competition. The new guys in town probably did not want to create ill will with the fans by admitting that a future Hall of Famer and one of the last links to the glory days of the 80s was being phased out, though that was clearly the case.

      In hindsight, from the aspect of doing what is best for the team, I have no problem with the transition itself. Obviously some big egos were involved and bruises ensued because of how it was perceived to have been handled.

      Anyway, back to today’s issue. Unless Wong is truly overmatched and it would be better for him to go to Memphis, he should be the second baseman. That doesn’t mean that Ellis will rust on the bench. I don’t see anything to be other than straightforward about here.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        I don’t believe Mo paid Ellis $5+ million to pinch hit. And I dont think Ellis would have signed here without assurance he’d have a fair shot at a starting job.

        • Brian Walton says:

          $5 million is peanuts. They paid Wigginton that much (they thought over two years) to do just that (pinch hit from the right side) and then to simply go away. If you read the articles when Ellis was signed, everyone said all the right things. Nobody had to say anything else. You can bet that Ellis knows Wong is not a sure thing and will be ready if Kolten is not.

          (P.S. If you can produce a single quote in which Ellis is assured he would be given a chance to start, fair or unfair, please share it.)

          Do I think Ellis was signed because the Cards think Wong will fail? No, I don’t. Do I believe they want to have a good backup ready in case of injury or ineffectiveness? Absolutely.

          Daniel Descalso has averaged over 385 plate appearances in the last three seasons. I can see Ellis achieving that easily even if Wong is Rookie of the Year good.

        • blingboy says:

          “I dont think Ellis would have signed here without assurance he’d have a fair shot at a starting job.”

          That’s what I’m afraid of. We’ll have to see if Ellis’s perception of the reality of the situation at the end of ST matches whatever assurance he got.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Guys, all I can suggest is to go back and read the quotes from Ellis and from Mo.

            Why try to create controversy where there isn’t any?

            • CariocaCardinal says:

              The quotes there seem very consistent with what I said. I never said he’d be handed the starting job. I said he’d be given a fair shot to compete for one. I see nothing in the quotes that contradict that.

              • Brian Walton says:

                In other words, you’ve got nothing but your speculation.

              • blingboy says:

                As I understand, Ellis was given to understand that the Cards are hoping Wong can win the job, and think he can, but he has to win it on the field in ST. Which means Ellis can also win it.

                I do not think Ellis would have taken a one year deal, so early in the off season, unless he was given the belief that he had a fair and square shot at a starter job.

                My original thought was what happens if the reality is that he doesn’t have a fair chance at it, and that becomes obvious to him at the end of ST. Or at least his perception is that he was mislead, and did not in fact have a fair chance. Further, I think there is some chance of that happening.

                Of course, if Wong does win it fair and square, Ellis will be on board 100%.

                f

                • Brian Walton says:

                  No. Ellis won’t win the job. Wong has to lose it. There is a big difference that is not being understood or at least accepted here.

                  I am not going to take the time to pull the quotes out where Mo calls Ellis a bench player. Mo even admitted he was surprised that Ellis took the offer so fast.

                  As was discussed here at the time, there are other reasons besides money and playing time that factor into why some guys take jobs. Ellis acknowledged it in his comments, though we will never know how heavily it weighed in.

                  • blingboy says:

                    “Wong has to lose it.”

                    I can accept that as the way it is understood by the parties. But my point is the same. What if he is not going to lose it no matter what?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      Why would you think that?

                    • blingboy says:

                      I want to make clear that I do not necessarily think that is the reality of the situation. I do think it is possible, though.

                      The Smith/Clayton example is a good one, IMO. Not because the circumstances are the same, as you point out, but because it illustrates the plausibility of a player becoming convinced he was mislead as to the nature of a two player/one job dynamic.

                      As to your question, we know the Cards want Wong to be the starter if he can handle it. So the question is what does it take for him to lose it? Suppose he’s hitting .165 and a bit shaky in the field and on the bases, but the offense is rocking and rolling and the team is toasting the rest of the NL Central? Does he lose it? What does Ellis think about not getting the job then?

                      When Ellis took the deal so quickly, I wonder if Mo was not only surprised, but also saw it as a red flag that the parties may have a somewhat different understanding of the situation?

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      bling, yes, in the scenario you describe, I think Wong would be sent down.

                      Why do you think there would be a misunderstanding regarding Ellis’ role when both parties said the same thing?

                    • crdswmn says:

                      Why can’t you accept the possibility that Ellis is nearing the end of his baseball career, and has different motivations than he did at the beginning of his career? That maybe playing for the Cardinals, a perennially contending team, with good teammates and good fans and in a location more in line with where he grew up, is the motivating factor here? That he sees playing for the Cardinals as his best chance to get to the World Series? It worked for both Berkman and Beltran. Ellis has explained that HE was surprised the Cardinals wanted him, and that he talked to both Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday about playing here and was convinced it was where he wanted to be. Neither Schu nor Holliday could have promised him anything about playing time, I am sure they just told him the positives about playing for the Cardinals.

                      It is possible for someone to NOT have mercenary motives.

                  • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

                    I’ll tell you what the contract reads, especially from where it surfaced in the market…………. Ellis will be given all LH starts…………. he will be the first one off the bench pinch hitting for a LH hitter and likely bumping Wong defensively at that point……………. The incentive is if he ends up doing more……….
                    He wants the numbers too….just like they want the numbers for Wong…… It’s a mercenary position……….. your tone is contrived Brian………..somebody give you a job?

                    Mo quotes………..Ellis Quotes????????????? wacky

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Ellis has played well for a long time. He knows he can do the job and knows Wong did not do much during his first ML at bats. Ellis likely sees this as a situation where he could collect some at bats against RHPs when Wong struggles, while getting most ABs against LHPs.
    Ellis signing is a vote of confidence in the Cards as a playoff contender. Near the end of a long career, he will want to play for a winner.
    Mo shelling out bucks for Peralta and Ellis likewise is because he is hopeful they will put us on top.

  5. blingboy says:

    “Why can’t you accept the possibility that Ellis is nearing the end of his baseball career, and has different motivations than he did at the beginning of his career?”

    I do accept that as a possibility. Why do you consider it the only possibility?

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      Ellis could have been the Yankee. He had offers. He has a good job. They aren’t going to pressure Wong with this. BD bought a platoon. I like it. Whats the matter with you guys. Competitive Ball has been dead here for 2 yrs now.

    • crdswmn says:

      I don’t. But I am not accepting something that there is no evidence of. The idea that Ellis wouldn’t have signed with the knowledge that he would not be competing for a starting job so therefore there must have been a misunderstanding, which is what I understand your premise to be, has no basis in any evidence that I know of. All of the written material and quotes indicate that Ellis knows Wong is the presumptive starting second baseman, and that he signed with that knowledge. Whatever his motivations for signing, there is no evidence that he signed under false pretenses.

  6. blingboy says:

    I’m willing to admit my Ellis idea didn’t generate any traction.

    I wonder if he’s mad his autograph is only $5.

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