Month: November 2013

The Elvis Andrus Effect


By now, you get it.  The Cards are looking for a long term answer at shortstop that could bolster their lineup and maintain their habit of defensively strengthened infield units. Unless you have been harboring yourself under a rock with Walter White and Breaking Bad’s 6o + episodes, there’s a fair chance you have heard about this.  I am going to tell you why Elvis Andrus is a great fit for the St. Louis Cardinals.

I wrote last week about the idea of Troy Tulowitzki becoming a St. Louis Cardinal.  However, anyone who plays monopoly knows that getting Tulo would put a mighty fine dent in our young player pool and hinge a 7 year, 134 million dollar salary on a team that doesn’t like to carry too much weight on the plane.  That’s exactly why I called it the Idea of Tulowitzki.  People ran at me afterwards thinking I was telling the Cards to do whatever it took to march this man down the Mississippi River immediately.   Offer up a part of the Ballpark Village stock and get him here.   Let him co-sign the Imos name and put him in red.   Trade his mountains for our Arch.  Name a few streets after him, right???….

NO.  I was merely saying it was worth looking into and I would support it.   So let’s move on and let the suits ponder that dreamy proposition.   If you ask me today or even next month who I want the Cards to chase down in a trade this winter, my guy is Elvis Andrus.   The Texas Rangers shortstop is under control until 2022, but he can opt out after 2018 or 2019.    That’s at least five years at a relatively modest salary.   He will make 6.75 million in 2014.  Then he makes 15 million for the next four years.   If he doesn’t opt out, the total cost of his Rangers negotiated extension is 8 years and 120 million.   For a fine shortstop, that’s not a bad price.   Andrus is 4 years younger than Tulo, is not injury prone and comes at a cheaper price.   Andrus is attractive and would work very well in St. Louis for a number of reasons.

Consider the positives.   Andrus would immediately alter the look of the Cards lineup.  He slides in perfectly into the #2 hole and gives you a newfound boost of speed on the bases.   He stole 42 bases in 2013 and has average about 31 in his five year career.   In an offensive down year by many analysts, Andrus still collected 168 hits, scored 91 runs and hit .271 with 67 RBI.  Over his last 5 seasons, per Bernie Miklasz, his 16 wins above replacement trails only Tulo and Hanley Rameriz.   Andrus is a two time all star who is still awaiting his true breakout season.   A young, speedy fine defensive shortstop.   We got a taste of his ability in the 2011 World Series.  Andrus can take over a game.   Imagine him and Wong in this lineup with their speed and base stealing ability.  The Cards offense would change overnight.

What cost?  Texas is looking for a power bat to play first base and hit DH.   Matt Adams is going to fall into this discussion and I would be able to part with him.  Allen Craig is another story.  He would be hard to give up because he is such a proven cost effective run producer.  On one leg, look at what he did in the World Series.   Adams, however, had a great rookie season that saw time off the bench and filling in at first base.  In under 300 at bats, he stroked 17 home runs and collected 51 RBI. He began to get solved by pitching in the playoffs but is very young and also cost effective.   However, you have to give up something sweet in order to get a fine piece of pie.

What else?   Texas are stocked on young pitching but would pull a few known quality arms off our heap.  They may want a reliever/starter type like Kevin Siegrist.  I would part with him.  They could a proven starter like Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly.  They also may want Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez.    Young lefthanded prospect Marco Gonzales is probably off limits because he is the leftie of the future and someone I am sure Mo would hold onto.   Which one is more expendable out of Carlos and Shelby?

In my eyes, due to his versatility and untouched ability, Carlos Martinez is the one you hold onto tighter.   What if Miller can’t develop a fine secondary pitch?  He was very good in 2013 but hitters started to hit him in September.   He throws a lot of pitches.  The Cards shut him down basically in the playoffs.  Please don’t tell me he was a long reliever because I will laugh at you.   Miller could develop into a Max Scherzer type one day but he needs a couple more pitches to meet that mark.   I don’t want to part with either Miller or Martinez but in my eyes right now, Miller is more expendable.

Texas may want other players.   Look for a package of Adams, Lynn and Siegrist and maybe another prospect.    For a player like Elvis Andrus I would make that trade.  When it comes to losing pitchers, remember the current scouting team of the Cards won’t suddenly just start drafting badly.   John Mozeliak and his team have turned the Cardinals farm system into a well oiled machine that could run for years.  Guys like Gonzales, Lee Stoppelman, Tim Cooney and other young guns will be coming up soon.  Please don’t think the line ends with Wacha and Martinez because I assure you it does not.

Elvis Andrus has the defensive flair that Jed Lowrie does not.   He isn’t as injury prone or expensive as Tulo.   He is a better overall option than J.J. Hardy because he brings a speed element that has been missing from this team for decades.  He hit better on the road than at hitter friendly Rangers Park in Arlington(.293 in 2013).  He hits lefties and righties equally well.  His strongest hitting months in 2013 came in the past 2 months, when he hit .303 and .313 and stole 18 of his 42 bases.  Andrus is cost controlled, young and has his best years still ahead him even though sitting as a two time All Star at the moment.  Something about him just feels right, safe and exciting.   Sure, he could get hurt and miss time.  Every player can.   The sweet isn’t as sweet without the bitter in life and that applies in every sports transaction.

Are there other good options out there besides Andrus?  Sure there are.  Are there better overall options for the Cardinals when it comes to price in dollars and players? In my opinion, there are not.  Elvis Andrus is the man I want wearing Cardinal Red at shortstop in 2014 and beyond.

What is your take?  Respond with thoughts and inquiries to my email, or find me on Twitter at my handle, @buffa82.

Thanks for reading this.

Peyton Manning Rolls Along


The people that don’t like Peyton Manning are usually people that don’t like the perfect athlete he resembles.  A guy who can dish it straight in interviews, play very well on a football field, admit his mistakes, take losing well, and put out some hilarious commercials in his downtime.  He does it all very well and doesn’t come off like a boring robot like Tom Brady.  Manning is interesting and before he steps on a football field, some people hate that.   I have always liked him, cheered for him and gotten a kick out of his TV spots.  That’s the difference.  I see him as a great football player who has had his ups and downs, won a ring and is looking to win more.  To me, he is better than ever these days than he ever was in Indianapolis with the Colts.  With the tag of being one of the greats, nobody has handled it better than Peyton.  He happens to have the off the field respect and personality image going for him as well.   It’s hard not to like if you ask me.

Last night, Manning rolled right along and helped his Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 and hand that mighty defense its first loss.  Manning was solid if not spectacular.  He completed 60 percent of his passes and threw a 70 yard bomb.  He threw a touchdown, zero interceptions but lost a fumble.  That will get the critics rolling in a small area picking apart his performance.   When I think of Peyton, I think of Yadi Molina on a football field.   A coach and player inside one body out there calling plays and making them happen.   He doesn’t make excuses or point fingers.   After the game tonight, Peyton will say he played well, not feel the need to thank the lord but credit the prep, his teammates and the coaching staff.  He deflects attention when he could command it like Ron Burgundy.   Once again, Manning helped his team take down a very good team and win on Sunday.  The Broncos and Chiefs are both 9-1.

So many people complain about Peyton’s arm strength.  It doesn’t take a anatomy and physiology major to notice the man has lost a little steam on his fastball.   He has had four neck surgeries.   He will never be the same as he was in his hey day in Indianapolis.  It’s just not medically possible.   However, Peyton has made up for his physical shortcomings by using that big all important muscle up above.  The brain.   He doesn’t need to throw every pass hard.  He just needs to be accurate.  As long as his receivers know where to go, the pass will get there.   Why focus on his arm strength when it isn’t required in the offense he calls?   Some guys in the NFL have to throw hard to get the pass where it needs to be.    The Broncos and Peyton(I refuse to give much credit to their offensive coordinator, because that is essentially Peyton himself) have devised a plan to shred defenses without throwing lasers across the field.

Last week against the Chargers in San Diego, Manning completed 70 percent of his passes and threw 4 touchdowns.  He threw 3 interceptions against Washington the week before but threw 4 touchdowns and helped the Broncos demolish the Redskins by completing 68 percent of his 44 passes.   There’s an artform to Manning’s new found tenure with the Broncos.  Do everything you can do and leave the rest to the defense and critics.    Critics in the past loved to blame the loss of Peyton’s team on him and forget the rest of the team plays too and Manning can’t play cornerback.  That’s easy fodder for discussion but forgets the greatest story.  Manning’s comeback with the Broncos.

I understood why the Colts cut him loose.  I just didn’t agree with it.  Now, seeing Andrew Luck’s success may cause you to question my logic but hear me out.   Peyton led the Colts to the promise land once and was on the door step many times.  While he had a lot of surgery done to his neck, I think he was owed a year to prove he could come back and be effective without the arm strength.  Then the Colts selected Luck and then he was awesome.   Manning was kind of left for dead by many critics.   Many thought he simply couldn’t come back from the 4th surgery at his age.  In my eyes, he has defied that theory and proven to be as sharp if not sharper with Denver.  It’s an amazing transformation in his career that I believe will result(this year or next) in a second Super Bowl for Manning.

The projections for the rest of the season after last night’s game for Manning lay out like this: 5776 yards, 71 completion percentage, 59 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 7 fumbles(that doesn’t include lost fumbles) and a quarterback rating of 121.   That’s not bad for a guy who treats the game right, plays it great and never stops competing while serving as an on the field coach.  Peyton Manning is just rolling along during this second phase of his career.   A career in comedy awaits him after his retirement.  Watch his SNL skits and try not to laugh.

My belief is he needs another ring to put him up there with the best quarterbacks and overall players of all time.   If he keeps playing the way he is, on one foot and with an average offensive line, I think he will get that ring.   Next week, he takes on his nemesis, Brady, in a great matchup of two great AFC teams.  On the same stage as last night, Sunday Night Football, two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game will duel in New England.  This will be Manning’s fiercest test because he hasn’t played historically well in New England.  However, those tumultuous years came with the Colts when he was trying to throw bullets everywhere and resembled more of a gunslinger.   He’s a different quarterback these days and that may be the difference.

How does he fare this year in his 2nd year with Denver?  Will he get that second and most coveted ring?   Well, luckily, he didn’t predict 4, 5, or 6 like Lebron James did.   We will have to wait and see but I think Peyton’s critics(and there are plenty) should take a step back first and realize how far the 37 year old Manning has come since early 2012.   Did anybody think he would make it back with a new team and be as good if not better than his legendary days with the Colts?   I never lost an ounce of faith.  The man is simply great.

Thanks for staying,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter


Blues Plant Their Feet At Home


Let me tell you something.  The Blues 7-3 pummeling of the Colorado Avalanche tonight was one of the best experiences I have had watching this team in a couple years.  The Avalanche came in with the best winning percentage in the NHL and the Note greeted them with a beating that turned the game into a boxing slugfest towards the end of the second period.   The first period played out like most of the Blues-Coyotes game played at Scottrade on Tuesday.  Close, hard nosed, and gritty hockey that marked two top teams going at it.   Then, the game took a turn for blowout city.  Whatever pride walking in that accompanied the Colorado team, the Blues took it all by the time they left the ice for good this evening.

The Blues wasted little time in the second period, scoring nearly three minutes in on a sweet play by the trio of Derek Roy, T.J. Oshie and David Backes.  Then, Alex Steen collected the first of his 2 goals 5 minutes later on a snap shot.   Shortly afterwards, Vladimir Tarasenko buried a slap shot to make it 4-1.  Finally, around 15 minutes in, Chris Stewart joined the party by cleaning up a rebound with a tap in goal.   When this happens in hockey, the losing team will resort to a higher level of physicality to make up for their lousy play.  So the fights began.  Stewart responded to a high knee hit attempt by pummeling Cory Sarich into submission.   Before leaving the ice, Stewart asked the fans to raise the roof.  No worries, Stewie, your teammates were just getting warmed up.

Less than a minute later, fan favorite and pound for pound king Vladimir Sobotka was asked to throw down and accepted the duel, throwing Matt Duchene to the ice, picking him up and slugging him three times before dropping him again.   The Avalanche opened the SOBE door and got denied, but more so tried to bully the Blues and got their asses handed to them instead.   The carnage wasn’t over yet.  Cody McLeod stepped onto the ice and asked Blues enforcer Ryan Reaves to dance.  So Reaves unleashed the monkey arms and beat the spit out of McLeod, raining down punches on him like the refs weren’t even there.   Let me say this.  If you ask a man to fight, they are free to punch you until they can be separated.   The Blues went all 1970’s Flyers on the Avalanche tonight.  They put up a quick 5 spot and then responded to the expected threats by taking the fight right back to the team leaking oil.  This was the Blues best overall showing in a game this season and it’s not even close.  Against a very good team, they beat them in every area possible.

Sure, Jaro Halak allowed 2 soft goals and shook his head every time.   Every goalie should treat big leads like they don’t exist so the focus doesn’t lessen.   Halak made some quality saves early and continued with a few more in the last period as the teams traded 2 goals a piece but overall, Halak wasn’t sharp tonight.  When it comes to sports karma, I will take this lapse in execution.  If our goalie wants to pick a night to be off, choose the night where 7 goals are your backbone and margin for error is near the ceiling.

The boys didn’t stop pressing and that won the game here tonight.   Look at Tarasenko dive for a puck late in the third period of a 5 goal game.   Very impressive.   That’s the right way to play hockey.   Keep skating, applying pressure, shooting on net and don’t take your foot off the gas.   For such a fast sport, a certain ruthless mentality is required.  You don’t run up scores in hockey.  You score as many goals as possible to put the other team down and keep them there.  Leads evaporate in hockey and tonight was nothing short of domination by the home team.

This has been a season charging home stand.  Last Tuesday, the team came back from a 2-1 deficit in Montreal to steal a game on the road.  We narrowly beat a feisty Calgary team before dispatching of the Penguins and Sidney Crosby on Saturday.   After losing to a very good Phoenix Coyotes team on Tuesday, the Blues responded with a landslide victory tonight against Colorado.

The record is now 12-2-3 on the season.  TWO regulation losses so far.  This is quite the impressive start and while it shouldn’t be taken for granted, there is room to feel a little pride as a Blues fan.   This is the kind of great electric play you want to see from your team after a tough loss 48 hours earlier.  Steen’s 16 goal start is very impressive but don’t forget about T.J. Oshie’s 14 assists, 4 of which came tonight.   A guy with all kinds of talent and as versatile and strong on his skates as anyone, Oshie is becoming a late blooming playmaker.   Derek Roy has been exciting and a breath of fresh air.    Backes has 7 goals and 12 assists.  Tarasenko has 6 goals.  Alex Pietrangelo has 15 points.   Production is coming from all over the roster.  The goaltending hasn’t been superb but keeps the team in the game and refuses to break.

Can this continue?  You never know.  That saying is the kiss of bittersweet death in competitive sports.   Forget about the rest of the season, focus on Saturday and celebrate what the Blues did tonight on home ice against Patrick Roy’s talented group of players.   An impressive feat that deserves attention.

Thanks for staying to the end,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter Credit

Cards Can’t Live Without Yadi



****By this time you know Yadi Molina lost the MVP to Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen.   So what?  Here is a blog I posted on Arch City Sports today.  My reasons for Yadi being the most valuable player in the National League.  Read it and weep.  

Look, I am not going to overload your brain with stats, delicate details and other factors here in telling you why Yadi Molina deserves to be named MVP for 2013.  If you are a baseball fan or a devoted Cards fan, you know those numbers like they are written on the back of your hand.   If you are a Pittsburgh fan reading this setting up to defend your pick, Andrew McCutchen, be prepared to be disappointed and shown the door.   There are so many writers and voters out there who get wooed by a narrative(Pirates comeback season) or the showy stats(home runs and RBI) and forget what the real meaning behind the Most Valuable Player Award.   Call me a homer if you want but there isn’t a player more valuable to his team in baseball than Yadi Molina is to the Cardinals.    This isn’t calculus.  This is pure logic.

Take Molina away from the Cardinals and what kind of team do  you have?   When Molina went down in August, the Cards nose dived out of first place and nearly lost their grip on the season.  When he came back, they regained control and got back in the race.   There’s a quick reason.   Could any other player help guide this young pitching staff that saw 36 wins produced by rookie pitchers along towards a National League pennant?   How many teams have a pitching staff that includes maybe one pitcher who is willing to shake off their catcher?

Molina is integral to the Cardinals success because he isn’t just the best defensive catcher in the game, he is also one of the smartest hitters in the game.   Molina doesn’t just control the running game.  He shuts it down.   He doesn’t just produce a problem for other teams.  He forces other team to draw up a different game plan when facing him.   When Carlos Martinez loses his shit on the mound and needs a kick in the ass, Yadi gave it to him countless times in September and October.   When Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller needed a voice of reason in the middle of chaos, Yadi was there.  He is a leader on the field every time he steps on it and is as vital to the Cardinal Way as anyone in red and white.

The most amazing things about Molina can’t be found on a stat sheet.  They can only be found and understood by people who know, love, live and breathe baseball.  The same player who hit .216 in his third year now hits .300 easy every season and usually finishes around .317.  Players hurt their teams by striking out a lot.   Yadi struck out 55 times in 505 at bats in 2013.  Along with 12 HR and 80 RBI, Yadi banged 44 doubles around the field and compiled a .359 on base percentage.   Sure, those aren’t monstrous Miguel Cabrera like stats.   Voters are blinded by long balls and bats chasing the triple crown.   As I said, the things that Yadi does day in and day out can’t be found on a stat sheet.  He is a special player.

He is the oil to this team’s engine.   Take it away and it will dry out before it makes the six month trip.   He is the backbone of the pitching staff and the sniper in the lineup waiting to spray the ball to any part of the field.   His stare makes runners stay close to the bag and make hitters nervous at the plate.   He is a quietly intense competitor and a man who probably played half the games this season on one leg.   Take him out of the lineup and face his wrath.  Just ask Mike Matheny.  Yadi took his job and now demands playing time under his watch even when he isn’t at his best.

The most valuable player isn’t the person who hits the ball the farthest on a baseball field.  This isn’t the silver slugger award ceremony.  The MVP goes to the player a team can’t do without.  If Andrew McCutchen went down during the stretch run, the Pirates could have slipped Marlon Byrd into center field and moved Garrett Jones into right field.  If the Cards lose Molina, they have to turn to Tony Cruz or Rob Johnson in 2013 with the season on the line.  Do you see where I am getting at?   Without Molina, the Cards wouldn’t have made it to October in the first place.  He is their heart and soul.  Everybody knows it.  Isn’t it time for the man to be crowned with the right award after 10 years of transforming himself into the Most Valuable Player?   My answer is yes.  Sorry Pittsburgh.  You can’t have all the year end awards.

That’s all I got.

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

United Cardinal Bloggers Roundtable Question

Every year, once the season ends, the United Cardinal Bloggers, a blog I write about the Cards for, holds a roundtable discussion.   Via google email chat groups, one person sends out a question in the morning and the rest of the crew answers.  Today, I posted my question about the hottest topic at Busch right now.  The Shortstop Dilemma.


This is my official question/paragraph opener to the group-

Since it hasn’t been broached yet, I am going to ask what is the best measure to take in the hunt for a shortstop?   Who do you want Mo to target and who would work best for this team?   Do we want the big splash of Tulo?  The lineup changing speed of Andrus(40 + SB in 2013)?  A guy like Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera?  Do you want to go young with Jurickson Profar?
Who do you want playing shortstop in 2014 for the Cardinals and why?
Here are the responses.
*Honestly, I don’t want to go young (Profar), I want someone established but not “old”.  The team needs a long-term fix that is more of a certainty, not a two-year fix or a gamble on a rebound.

Andrus makes the most sense to me, though if the rumors are true the price of players being asked for is crazy.  If you could get him for a couple of arms and a position player, I’m good with that.  The Cards have the financial freedom to absorb the salary and he’s a player that has established what he brings to the table.  
Tulo is an injury risk.  Lowrie and Cabrera offer interesting and viable fall back options.  Otherwise, there’s not much out there and it may be another stop-gap player that can be there for a year or two. *sigh*
I have a feeling that we will wake up with a player like Peralta because Mo will not overspend.  It’s not a bad thing, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if they gave up a little more than they were comfortable with for a guy that could be here for a good, long time.
Bill Ivie
Founder | I-70 Baseball
Freelance Writer | i70baseball | Bleacher Report
As long as they can hit the ball and play Gold Glove caliber defense, I’ll be happy.  That and I want stability at the position.  No more automatic outs when the position comes up to hit.  No more screaming when another ball gets booted when it could easily have been stopped.  No more revolving shortstop come opening day.  This has been the Cardinals biggest problem.  They went from stability with Ozzie from 1982-1996 to Royce Clayton to Edgar Renteria to David Eckstein.  But since the end of the 2007 season, it’s been a new SS each year come Opening Day and that has to stop.  I don’t care who the new guy is as long as they can play GG defense and hit the ball.
The Cards drafted SS heavy this past summer.  They took Oscar Mercado with their second round pick and two others in the first ten rounds.  What is their ETA with Mercado?  Will he be a fast riser through the system like Piscotty and Wacha?  Or do they have other plans in mind?
Daniel Solzman
As I put on Twitter yesterday, I would like the Cardinals to go after someone that you did not list in the question. The players that I like on your list will take a large crop of players to get, and I am not ready to part with those types of prospects just yet.

This leaves me with two players–one player I have been pulling for all season–Jonathan Schoop from the Orioles–or a player I just came across from a friend (@LuckySTLFan) and eventually after digging through statistics, projections, highlights–Chris Owings from the Diamondbacks. I am actually leaning more towards Owings to be honest. After running the numbers and checking out projections, I legitimately believe that Owings could be the right-handed version of Matt Carpenter for years to come.
To acquire either, it would likely require one big name, a la Matt Adams, Lance Lynn, or possibly even Shelby Miller, but neither will require the Cardinals to trade players that I consider “untouchables”–Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, and Oscar Taveras.
Will they necessarily go after either of the players I just listed? We will likely never know, but I assure you all that the front office “won’t leave any stone unturned” when it comes to searching for the shortstop of the future.
Also, when it comes to SS’s in the system already, Juan Herrera, the player acquired in the Scrabble trade, is likely to prospect to watch. I love Mercado, but I think Herrera is better defensively and hit decently well in Peoria after the trade.

Joseph M. Schwarz
Butler University
Pharmacy Class of 2015
If we are looking for a stopgap then I would be ok with JJ Hardy. If we want someone young NOW then the D-Backs have a few they are willing to listen about in Gregorius and Owings.

Our farm shortstops are about 2-3 years away in Kenneth Peoples-Walls and Oscar Mercado. The other two, Garcia and Lemmerman, are not likely to make the grade. 

-Tom Knuppel


Bill hit it on the head that the Cardinals will not overspend. Now the question becomes where the limit is and who sets it? Mo and Co. surely could go to ownership for the right player/contract but in a trade situation the assets are the key.

I’ll admit to enjoying the Tulo talk because if nothing else St. Louis did it on the team’s terms. Yes, every team knows that SS is a need under the Arch but not for an unlikely deal. Andrus could be an option with the right pieces going to Texas but the most appealing in my opinion could be dealing with Oakland again.

Lowrie has proven to be less of a gamble and already was a target for the Cards on a few different occasions. Reading the letter of the law in regards to the question, however, I’m going to stick with Tulo just because it makes the potential lineup even scarier. We can talk about 2015 and on at a later date 😉

-Joshua and Christi Gilliam


As long as it’s someone better than Kozma, I won’t be too picky. If I can have someone that can hit .275 and have comparable defense to Kozma, then it would be perfect. 

Getting Tulo would be a dream. as he is one of the best, if not the best SS in the league right now. He’s a bit older, but he has a lot of time on his contract and he is superb. I think a more realistic option, and one that would not make the Cardinals “bet the farm” on him, would be Andrus. 
The Cardinals have been stocking up on SS prospects this last year, through the draft and the trade that was mentioned earlier. I would like to see if one of those options would be good in a year or two. If that is true, then Tulo could be the stop-gap needed to get to one of those prospects. My mantra right now, like most others, though, is “In Mo I Trust”.
-Ben Chambers
The View From Here
We can’t rely on a future SS in the system. Peoples-Walls is moving to OF and the others are still really raw. I am starting to lean towards Elvis Andrus, but it depends on what it would take to get him. I am also not one that wants to hold on to all the prospects. 
Peoples Walls is a great athlete and that’s why he is getting moved to the outfield. 
Sorry for the short response. I’m on my lunch break and on my phone!
John Nagel

My preference would be the 2003 version of Edgar Renteria. Barring that, the preference is Elvis Andrus because of his age (25), speed (165 steals in 5 MLB seasons) and adequate hitting (796 hits in 757 career games). Cardinals lineup needs an infusion of speed (Andrus and Kolten Wong would create havoc  for opponents) and, with Andrus, Cardinals can have a premier shortstop who hasn’t even entered his prime years yet.

Mark Tomasik

I feel like this is the offseason to fix shortstop for a good long time.  You never know how highly prized these prospects will be again, you don’t know when you’ll have the money again.  It really is a perfect confluence.
I think there are a number of solid options out there.  I was initially hesitant over Andrus due to his contract, but I think 1) the Cards would get Texas to pay some, 2) they can absorb that into their payroll readily, especially with the new contract money, and 3) Andrus is younger than I thought he was.  Put all that together and he’s a desirable trade target once again.
I’m not sold on Tulowitzki and I’d really not like to see stopgaps like Drew and Peralta, but many of the other names bandied about sound just fine to me.
-Daniel Shoptaw
Author, C70 At The Bat  Twitter: @C70

Co-Admin, CardsClubhouse
Radio Shows: Gateway To Baseball Heaven (Sundays) and UCB Radio Hour (Wednesdays, in host rotation)
It is clear that shortstop is THE position this winter, and with that said, I’m sure that something comes of it, albeit at a cost one way or the other that will make Cardinal followers do the Brett Wallace-for-Matt Holliday gasp (remember that? It’s even funnier now). 

With that said, the field breaks into a couple of tiers to me: the property elite (Tulowitzki & Andrus), the property second raters (Lowrie, Hardy, Astrubel, Aybar, Everth Cabrera) and the property projects (Gregorius, various back ups). Then there are the free agents (Drew, Peralta, Furcal…kinda kidding).
The problem here is that the elite is going to cost big in money and talent, the second raters are prone to create overpays in talent, at a cheaper price and the youngers are uncertain commodities.
At this point, while Andrus and Tulowitzki are relatively affordable, sexy team upgrades, I don’t like the loss they take to gain. In the same vein, I’m not a fan of overpaying for a Lowrie or Hardy, who’s value is certainly boosted more because of the lack of what the Cardinals have over what their actual value is. 
The real problem is that there’s a steep fall off from Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez to Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. Basically, the cost is too great to deal for All-Stars when its not necessary.
In this situation, I’d like Stephen Drew. Yeah, he’ll get more than he’s worth, but he’ll essentially get Beltran’s money and fill an instant need the same way Carlos did when he showed up. He can play a plus shortstop, can hit enough to make the 8 spot a threat and won’t cost anything that’s here as is. So keep the Shelby’s, Martinez’s and Adams in house and add at the cost of nothing more than money that’s been vacated any way.
-Matt Whitener
The Cardinals are certainly leaving no stone unturned in their search for a shortstop.  The Cardinals have checked in on Profar and Andrus with the Rangers, Tulowitzki with the Rockies and Lowrie of the A’s, among others.Personally, I would like to see them get Andrus or Profar, as Texas has already said one of their 3 infielders (along with Kinsler) is available. Given the choice, I would prefer Profar.

While Andrus is proven, he has the extra baggae of the large contract.  Profar would be under team control for at least the next 5 years and at a much cheaper rate than Andrus.  

Profar gives the Cardinals more payroll flexibility, especially when all these young hurlers start reaching arbitration in a few years.

While he is not as proven as Andrus (or the others), he has tremendous upside and, in my opinion, is worth the risk.

-Mark Sherrard(Cardinals Fan in Cubs Land)
I like the Andrus option myself all things being equal. Could you imagine Andrus and Carpenter at the top of a lineup, followed up by Holliday, Craig, Molina, Taveras (?). I am always a sucker for the longball, but have to keep in mind that power is down across the league and very few shortstops hit a lot of HR.The Cardinals are obviously wanting an offensive upgrade (since they have a great defender with Kozma) while not sacrificing too much defensively. Specifically to the question I want Mo to target a high OBP speed guy with good defense. This team is not going to hit .330 with RISP next season no matter how much we want to believe that.Create more runs by stealing bases. If the new MO of this team is power arms, good situational hitting, and fundamental defensive play, I would like to see them get a shortstop who could defend the position well for years to come while providing decent pop and speeding up the game a little bit.

Chris Mallonee
There it is.  The perspective of many Cardinal writers in and outside the city of St. Louis.   If you are still alert, awake and willing, here is my take.  Short and blunt.
While the idea of Tulowitzki is dreamy and sweet, I really see the Cards going another way.   Colorado will ask for too much and force Mo to straighten his bow tie and go elsewhere, which is fine.   In order to part with their superstar player, the Rockies will want at least 4 of our diamonds and Mozeliak won’t give them up.   I don’t blame him.  Call him whatever you want and repeat his favorite line(At the end of the day) all day long but respect the man for being smart, practical and sharp in player related discussions.   He won’t part with too many of his toys for a 30 year injury prone guy with 134 million due to his bank account.   You have to stare at the mustang before you move onto the economically friendly sedan.
My choice would be Elvis Andrus.   He has years on his contract but is younger than Tulo and will bring a different element to the Cards lineup.  SPEED!  He stole over 40 bases in 2013 and gets on base, drives in a fair share of runs and can hit the triples.   His defense is solid and he will fit brilliantly into the #2 hole in the lineup.   When he played us in the 2011 World Series, he showed true skill and an ability to change a game.  Pair him up with a young Kolten Wong up the middle and inside the same lineup and you have two players who could easily steal 35+ bases a season for a long time.  It would be a complete transformation for this ballclub.   Going from the slugging days of La Russa to the base stealing days of the future.   He my choice.
I understand the arguments for Profar, Owings and Schoop.  They are young controllable and cheap.   They don’t have a real baseball card yet but they have mountains of potential.   Profar is the most enticing but may cost you a lot because he is the #1 rated prospect in baseball(right ahead of Oscar Taveras).  Owings may be cheaper.
Jed Lowrie also makes a lot of sense and may cost a few players but won’t cost you too pretty a penny at the moment.   He was big time producer for Billy Beane’s Athletics in 2013.
I absolutely don’t want Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta.  The time is now to strike and get a long term solution at shortstop.  Don’t waste it by signing one of those hacks.  Trust me on that.
Andrus is my logical first choice, Lowrie seems a decent second,  but the younger guys aren’t that bad of an option either.   If I want to hop on a cloud, I will take Tulo. Somehow, I just don’t see that happening.
Thanks for reading and head to for more Cards commentary and information.
-Dan Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter

Eight Facts About Me

I try not to do a lot of talking about myself, even on my own blog.  It can be counter productive and won’t last long before I need a violin, a soap box glass case of emotion to hide in.  I come here to inform and dish on subjects.   Sometimes, though, I feel the need to enlighten my readers about who I am and what makes me tick.  A few details from the blood and bones.  This started on Facebook and I was given a task to provide 8 facts about myself.  I decided to share it on here too.   Enjoy….or not.

8 Facts About ME-


1.) Without my coffee, I am a complete asshole in the morning. Scratch that. I am a complete ass if I haven’t had coffee in a couple hours. It’s my fuel.

2.) Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to have a family. Took mental notes watching my dad growing up. My proudest moments in life are marrying my wife and watching Vin come into this world and fight his way towards health.

3.) My sense of humor directly from my dad, Rich. Apple didn’t even fall off the branch.

4.) I live and die by the St. Louis Cardinals. For 6 months a year, they control my mood.

5.) Writing is my single greatest passion and my favorite medicine. I will never stop doing it because it is therapeutic for me.

6.) I am fascinated by the world of film. The people who make them. The stories that live inside them. The collaboration. The wonderful magic that takes place as a result of them and how they can lift us up at any given time.

7.) I work out because it is an obsession that manifested inside me during high school. What started out as morning crunches in front of Sportscenter before high school in the morning became two a days in college and now is something I can’t stop doing.

8.) Take away everything but leave me my phone. I am addicted to my IPhone and can’t put it down for long. The world I live in. Take my clothes, the canoli but leave me my mobile device so I can check social media.

Eight more facts when I turn 40!!! Goodnight ladies and gents.


@buffa82 on Twitter


Movie Review-12 Years A Slave


Here I am again folks, to deliver a film-addict review special.  One of my film-addict colleagues, Landon Burris, gave this film the highest rating possible(5/5) and after seeing it, I find it hard to disagree with him.   12 Years a Slave isn’t just a movie.  It’s an experience and one that will haunt your thoughts after you leave the theater.  Any film about slavery is powerful, but director Steve McQueen(remember this brave filmmaker’s name) puts a fresh spin on the tragic period.

PLOT-Based on a true story, this is the story of a free black man named Solomon Northup living in New York with his family and making a fine living who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.  Stripped of his identity as well as his soul, Northup is forced into a life he never saw coming and the rest is tragic history.

Buffa’s Take-This film is as powerful as it gets and will command attention at the Oscars.  I went in with a clear head and loving life as we know it, but when I left the film I felt like holding onto what I have a little tighter.  This story will rock your senses and remind you what is sacred, privileged and not a given in this world.   What if everything you had was suddenly taken from you based on the color of your skin and your placing in society?   McQueen and star Chiwetel Ejiofor team up for this masterpiece and don’t hold any punches when it comes to telling the full story of Northup.

A long time brilliant character actor and occasional leading man, British wonder Ejiofor is outstanding as Northup and gives a performance that asks for nothing in return and doesn’t attempt to manipulate your emotions.  It’s just a plain old great piece of work and a convincing portrayal of an ordinary good man trapped in hell on earth.  Slowly, the strong minded Northup comes undone and Ejiofor doesn’t spare you anything with his performance.   Fighting back tears, hiding his identity through a rugged tyranny overseen by Edwin Epps(the never better Michael Fassbender, holding the hot hand right now) and simply surviving.   Ejiofor takes you for this ride and doesn’t let you go, even when he isn’t in the scene.  His soulful performance looms over the entire film.

Fassbender, who blew my mind in McQueen’s previous film Shame, is also worthy of Oscar attention as Epps, the pure evil slave owner who tests our leading man in every possible way.  The only thing more hated back then than a black human being was a smart brave black human being and the collision of minds of Northup and Epps is mesmerizing.   Fassbender is ridiculously versatile and shows off his menace here.  For a man who played a sex addict, a lawyer, a young Magneto and now this, The Irish-German bred actor is on the heels of Hollywood domination.   In order to play that role right, Fassbender has to reach down to a depth that most actors simply don’t own.  Both actors are more than Oscar worthy.  They are memorable and transcendent.

The rest of the supporting cast makes great use of their minimal screen time.   The white hot British actor Benedict Cumberbatch(Star Trek Into Darkness, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes) carries an aura of broken nobility in his scenes as a slave owner who takes a liking to Solomon.   Paul Giamatti and Paul Dano redefine blunt sinister behavior, with Giamatti displaying a special disdain in a role lasting no more than 5 minutes.   Lupita Nyon’g is sensational as a fellow slave who connects with Solomon.  Sarah Paulson is the feminine batch of evil that soaks up a part of every scene she is in.   Brad Pitt, who co-produced the film, has two scenes that resonate due to the restraint he brings to his role.   The cast is marvelous and easily the best ensemble of the year.

McQueen doesn’t overpower you narrative and lets the simplicity of Northup’s torturous situation play out slowly.  The man is an artist at the grave human details of the hard life and puts his camera to fine use here.  The cinematography is heart wrenching.   Hans Zimmer’s score is eloquent and slow moving instead of overbearing. Everything works so well in this film that it seems like a documentary style history lesson.

After you watch this film, you will leave the theater and appreciate the free air you breathe.   12 Years A Slave reminds you what slavery did to millions and how evil of a head it grew during its reign.  Freedom is the greatest thing in this world and you will be hard pressed to find another film that deals with the subject better.   12 Years A Slave isn’t just one of the best films of the year.  It’s one of the best films I have seen in the last 10 years.  It demands your attention.

Thanks for reading and come back next time for the Dose of Buffa Film-Addict Review special!

Photo Credit-Blogs/Indiewire

The Idea of Tulowitzki


Before you look at the logical aspects of trading for Troy Tulowitzki, just hold the idea in your head for a minute.   The power hitting superstar shortstop raking his cleats over the shortstop dirt at Busch Stadium in April, 2014.   Don’t lie to me and tell me you don’t feel the tingling sensation in your bones as we speak.   It’s a compulsive aroma lurking in the mind when you put the Cards and Tulo together.  He would instantly make a position left vacant and bland for the past 6 years look very formidable.  The lineup would become unstoppable and the loss of Carlos Beltran’s bat wouldn’t be an issue at all.   There are few times in a franchise’s history that a lot of things fall into place for you to acquire a player like Tulo(that will be what I call him because I don’t feel like spelling his name 45 times inside one article).

Let’s look at the situation.  It’s impossible to break into it too far because it’s only a scheduled chat between two general managers at this point.   Jeff Passan is a legit baseball reporter and his columm at Yahoo isn’t all smoke and mirrors.  This report is legit and real but just a scheduled conversation without heavy armor involved.  Troy Renick, writer for a Denver newspaper, tweeted in September after the Cards completed a series there that talks would occur in the offseason.   This was destined to happen.  The Rockies have Troy and the Cards have lots of pitching.   Here, I will discuss the idea of it happening and tell you in the end if I like it or not.

Risks Involved in Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki-

*Who would the Cards have to give up to even consider landing Tulo?  Before you get into the years left on his contract and his health, look at the players the Rockies would want.  They are losing Todd Helton and without Troy would have a powerless team so you can imagine Matt Adams could be involved.  Allen Craig and Oscar Taveras would be asked about but I can’t imagine Mozeliak dealing those commodities.  The Rockies need pitching the most.  You rebuild with pitching and form a championship winning team around that mold.   Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Lance Lynn would be talked about.  Colorado would want established talent, a few prospects and maybe even a couple position players.  They would ask for the gravy and the meat in this deal.   Mo knows this and will be prepared for it.   The Cards have a smart GM in Mozeliak and a man who won’t easily hand over his beloved fruit.  The exchange in this deal would have a heavy impact on the Cards side and that is undeniable.

*Tulo’s health.  In his seven year career, Troy has played 140 games or more only 3 times.   He came up in 2006, played 25 games and hit .240.   In 2007, he played his most games(155) and broke out offensively.   He banged in 99 runs, hit 24 home runs, stroked 177 hits and scored 104 runs.   In 2008, Tulo had the injury blues spike quick.  He only played 101 games.  In 2009, he played 151 games and put up fantastic offensive numbers and also supplied gold glove caliber defense at shortstop.   In 2010, he played 122 games but his production was remarkable.   Missing 40 games, Tulo still collected 27 HR, 95 RBI, 148 hits, 89 runs scored, and had a .381 on base percentage.  After another highly productive year and 143 games in 2011, Troy only played 47 games in 2012.   His injuries are upper and lower body.  He has had problems with his knees, shoulders and hamstring.   In 2013, he played 126 games and missed the rest due to a broken rib yet put up decent numbers again.  Tulo’s ability to produce when he is on the field is alluring but his injury history is the biggest threat in this proposal.

*His contract is a burden.   He has 7 years and 134 million guaranteed left and any team acquiring him would assume most or all of it.   Guaranteed cash is the sharpest nail in the money side and Tulo is set up for the rest of his career.   His contract bumps up to 20 million in 2015 and stays that way until 2020, when it dips to 14 with a 15 million dollar option for 2021.  Basically, the Cardinals will be paying this man a healthy chunk of cash to play shortstop but remember, acquiring a high profile player comes with a cost.  They would have a great player under control for 7 seasons.  That is a reward and hazard at the same time.

Now that we have talked about the rougher edges of the deal, let’s look at the huge dreamy positive.

*Tulo changes your lineup instantly.  He brings pop and an ability to get on base to an already potent roster of hitters and softens the loss of Beltran.   Matt Adams wouldn’t be asked to be a full time producer just yet and be given another year to grow into the role.  Matt Holliday would welcome a close friend into the mix for run producing in Cardinal Nation.   His effect on the lineup would be legitimate and I could see him hitting 2nd, 3rd or 5th in the lineup.   The biggest hole in the Cardinals lineup in 2013 was the shortstop position.  That would be flipped immediately if Troy comes to St. Louis.   He is a game changing player with big impact possibilities.  For the first time in nearly 10 years, the Cardinals would have an All Star tentpole at shortstop.   An impact position would become one of the biggest strengths on the team.   As noted earlier, Tulo is a plus defender and would work well with a groundball pitching staff.   The biggest weakness on the team would become a huge strength.  That can’t be said enough.  The sweet is as equal as the bitter in this proposal.  Instead of riding Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso for 162 games, the Cardinals could start Tulo at least 135 of those games.  In a game full of risk and unpredictability, I will take that average over 7 seasons.  Think about it.  I have done plenty of it.

Sure, there are other possibilities.  Please don’t take this article as me pining every single cell in my brain towards a deal for Tulo.   I am basically breaking it down for you and myself as we roll along here.   The Cardinals have a ton of young pitching and several teams need it.   The Cleveland Indians have Asdrubal Cabrera, who carries pop in his bat, holes in his glove and costs a third of Tulo’s salary with a lot less liability in years.   The Texas Rangers need pitching badly, and have established shortstop Elvis Andrus and the much talked about phenom Jurickson Profar.   Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta are free agents that make up for their lack of an electrifying resume with their low liability.  Mozeliak has plenty of ways to go here but will start with the exploration of Tulowitzki.   According to Jim Bowden at ESPN, Mo is looking to trade a young pitcher for a young shortstop under control.

The easiest starting mark is Shelby Miller and a few others for Tulo.   Something tells me the dirt will be  a lot thicker if these conversations escalate.  Mozeliak will have to part with a vital member of his wolfpack.   Miller is top of the rotation ace material and could develop into a Max Scherzer type down the road.   He isn’t a player you want to throw to the table.   However, the emergence of Michael Wacha and the pipeline of pitching in the Cards farm system makes you at least push Shelby onto the border for consideration.   You can’t gain huge without losing big in the major leagues.  At least not in 2013.   The search for a shortstop is the topic of the winter for the St. Louis Cardinals and I have a feeling there will be plenty of tweeting, article writing, and hot topic flare tossing before spring training commences.

Keep this in mind.   Losing players you love for Tulo is hard but the biggest parts of this deal come down to medical histories and the endurance of the human body.   Executives and scouts have said moving Tulo to third base down the line may help his longevity but that is no guarantee.   Mo will have to ask himself if he wants to roll the dice on a player who has never played 156 games and has played only 101 or less twice.  Tulo could change your lineup but also force you to rearrange your training room and force you to inquire scientists about upcoming medical discoveries.  Is the juice worth the squeeze or does Tulo scare our business expect GM away from the table?   Will Mo break his usual protective mold or open up the department store door for other GM’s to come in and shop with his eye on the prize?   What is for Christmas for Cardinals fans?  So many questions and elements at play here could lead to a 2,000 word article.  I won’t do that today.

I end with this.  The Cards have plenty of pitching depth.   They will only continue to score good draft picks as the future rolls into frame, beginning with the Carlos Beltran departure compensation pick.  The scouting executives under Mo are making smart moves so don’t expect his pitching surplus to weaken any time soon.  The Cards have loads of pitching waiting for the bullpen and rotation.  What they don’t have is a long term answer at the shortstop position.   They have Ryan Jackson and Greg Garcia down on the farm and neither show more promise than Pete Kozma.  They need an impact shortstop.  Right now.   So when names like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez pop up in talks, remember this team is grooming starters and relievers these days like Columbia grows delicious coffee beans.   One way to look at is asking yourself does the cost of losing Miller stay equal or emerge greater than the risk of acquiring Tulo?  Another way is asking yourself when will this kind of possibility come along again.  The Cards have financial flexibility to make this deal.  They can handle the risk because they draft a lot better than the Cubs.  They can do this because this team has shown an ability to deal with sudden injury better than any other M.L.B. team.

Yes, if the details line up right, I am all for the Cards acquiring Troy Tulowitzki.  I don’t talk crazy and don’t consume medication for it, but my words are my own.   Consider them and respond.  A writer can ask for nothing more.

Thanks for reading and have a great day,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Photo Credit-Sports Illustrated

Cardinals Burning Questions: Round 1


Now that the offseason is settling into our house, the baseball homesick minds have to start breaking down what happened and what will happen going forward.  This week, I participated in The United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion.  Here are my answers to the first week’s burning questions.

1.)Grading Mike Matheny’s second season as manager

Grading Matheny’s season isn’t easy because while the result was 2 wins shy of a World Championship, he made a few mistakes that would have crippled other teams less stocked with such an arsenal of young talent.  Matheny was very solid again this season and for me that means a B+ grade.  What he lost in injuries to key veterans and young arms was made up for with a late brigade of future pitching power and the full time arrival of Matt Adams.  Matheny’s biggest attribute is also the thing that lessens his grade from the A level.  His loyalty.   He leaned towards his heart instead of his head and in the end I believe it costed him and the team dearly.

Mozelaik didn’t set him up with the greatest set of cards when he didn’t stock the bench at the trading deadline, but Matheny failing to make key adjustments in the later part of the season and into the World Series was damaging.  What started as a severe loyalty to fallen closer Mitchell Boggs(including giving him one extra closing opportunity mid season that blew up a winning streak) ended with his unwillingness to insert fresh players into roles.
His playoff roster construction was simply bad team management.  He gave two respect spots to Edward Mujica and didn’t feel like using rookie Shelby Miller more than once.  In some crazy way, I expected Ty Wigginton to show up on the roster as well just to make it seem right.  Matheny also didn’t turn Tony Cruz loose by putting Rob Johnson on the postseason roster.  He depleted his bench by putting players on it he hoped to never actually use.  Name another manager that wins a World Series and does that.
Matheny needed to bench David Freese in the World Series.  The former Mr. October had done little to deserve every start in the World Series and ended it without an RBI.  If Tony La Russa can bench Scott Rolen in the 2006 World Series, Matheny had to find a way to sit Matheny, insert the speedy Kolten Wong(pickoff or not) and switch things around.  Playing Jon Jay(also no World Series RBI) Shane Robinson at a time where Jay was the lesser player was also a big mistake.   His loyalty to Freese and Jay hurt this team’s offensive chances.
Let’s not forget that if Mozelaik hadn’t basically banished Fernando Salas and Boggs, there was a good chance Mike would have used them more.   Matheny’s greatness came from his ability to stick with the right rookies and go with youth over age.  He inserted Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal into the closer role for good returns.  He engaged Joe Kelly a little too late out of the garage and fired up the Wacha Train in the final stages.  His key plus also happened to be his weakness when he failed to recognize a leaking part.   The pitching changes, bunt craziness and other little bits of Matheny brokerage was also hard to watch at times.
In the end, Matheny pushed the team 3 wins further than he did in 2012 but may have hindered his team with his moves late in the playoffs.  When I think of Mike Matheny, I see a talented young man still learning to be a manager in the majors.  This team would obviously run through a wall for him and that won’t change going forward.  Matheny simply has to know when to say when with his players and their abilities.   If someone else is a better option, go with the solution now rather than their resume.  I do expect Matheny to improve as he goes along.
2.) What to do with David Freese?
It’s hard to think of Freese and not get a little emotional.  The local kid who came here in a deal for departing slugger Jim Edmonds who turned into an unlikely World Series hero in 2011 is a fine story to tell your kids but these days that is all it amounts to.  An older story.   Freese’s heroics did happen just two years ago and he put together a fine 2012 season which begs the question of whether to keep him or not.   My answer is only if he wants to be a bench player.  Part time at best and most of the time a late inning pinch hitter/DH/injury backup.   His days as a starting third baseman are over.   Blame it on injury or something else, but I’d say its a ceiling collision of one man’s talent with the ever growing pitching surplus of Major League Baseball.
Kolten Wong deserves the opportunity to get a healthy dose of at bats at second base and no way will Matheny take out Carpenter’s bat, fluke or not.  David Freese will have to decide if he wants to play full time for a lot less elsewhere or will he take a seat on the bench and earn 4 million here where there is a guaranteed chance of winning.  Paying him 4 million won’t be stupid.  Signing a veteran as good or less than Freese will likely cost you more.   This decision comes down to Freese.  Hopefully Mo is blunt with David in those talks.  Do you want to be a part time contributor/pinch hitter here or a full time player somewhere else a little bit less awesome?   His age and the Cards burgeoning vessel of youth puts this Lou Hero on the bubble.
3.) With so many arms in the running for a rotation spot in 2014, what group makes up my starting 5 for opening day?
Barring further injury, my starting rotation out of the listed candidates has to Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez unless Lance Lynn finds a way around an offseason trade.
Lynn is premium trade material.  He has a fine resume that includes over 30 wins in two seasons and good bullpen work.   He is young and hungry and may need a change of scenery to lower his pouting potential.
Jaime is making 7 million this year so he needs to be in the rotation and he is a lefty who can be great when he is on.  Let’s hope his feelings are in check.
Joe Kelly is Mr. Stretch.   He can start, relieve, and close and will find himself in that long arm bullpen spot to begin the season as insurance in case someone gets hurt.  Few can do what he does effectively.   Be solid out of the bullpen and win a lot of starts.  His mindset is key and helps him adjust.  I am surprised teams don’t target him in a trade because of his versatility.
Lyons and Gast are Memphis starters until injuries happen.   They performed well in 2013 but won’t climb over guys like Martinez and Kelly for starts, at least not again.  These guys are also trade depth because they proved they can come up to big leagues and instantly win games.  Look for them to be add on’s to big deals Mozelaik keeps up his sleeve.
Trevor Rosenthal is a setup-closer with this team for a long time.   He has the makeup, ability and finish to go into the ninth and let it rip.  We saw it for good when he saved 3 games in the final week of the season and basically made the Pirates, Dodgers and Red Sox look stupid for a month.   He has a propane heater and a decent changeup and if he was going to try his hand at starting again, he would have to redefine that third pitch.   I get why he wants to start but at this point it’s futile.  Jason Motte will be back but won’t be ready to even compete for the closer role until July.   Motte had the surgery in May of 2013 which means he may not touch a baseball diamond during a real game until late April/early May.  He will find his control and slowly develop back into that stopper we knew from 2011 and 2012.  He will set up until the Cards really deem it necessary to switch him and Rosenthal.  If Trevor is throwing gas and closing everything, it won’t happen unless Motte is electric.  I do think Motte gets back to the closer role sometime, but too late for Rosenthal to switch back to starting.  Motte makes 6 million this year but needs to get healthy.   Rosenthal may say he would like to start but watching him close in October I see a man empowered and having a lot of fun.  Let’s not believe he is wanting to truly move just yet ladies and gents.
Waino, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez for me in early April.
That’s all this week.  This next week, I present my question to the roundtable and what it is will depend on what hasn’t been put forth up to that moment.  Expect 3-4 more burning questions next week.  I expect Carlos Beltran’s rejection of the one year qualifying offer to make one of the questions, but to me it’s a non issue and needs to be thrown to the side.  Beltran was paid handsomely for 2 years and only missed 28 games and bashed 56 home runs and played solid baseball.  He wants 3-4 years and that won’t come here.  So long Carlos.
Also to be addressed-Jon Jay, Closer Situation in 2014, Oscar Taveras, and Kolten Wong.
Thanks for reading,
Photo Credit-Bleacher Report
Attention all readers.  One of the blogs I write for, United Cardinal Bloggers, has posted an awards session for The Cardinals. You can vote by going to this page.  Check it out and get involved.  

Taking A Look At The Blues


Now that the sting of the Cards World Series loss has started to evaporate and the Rams are in decline mode this season, I can look at this hockey team up the street on 14th and Clark with 100 % focus.  Sure, we have heard these kind of bells and whistles before but once again the Note are riding high to start a season.   After disposing of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at Scottrade, the Blues are 11-2-2.   One of their best starts to a season in franchise history and something to make the sudden sourness of St. Louis sports fade away for a little while this month.   At the beginning of October things were rocking in St. Louis sports.  The Cards were headed to postseason play with a title in their vision and the Rams were looking decent so far in their season.   A month later, the Birds fell flat in Boston and lost a painful World Series and Sam Bradford tore up his knee and sent the Rams season spiraling downward into “Draft Watch’ oblivion.  However, the Blues have fired off a series of impressive wins this season and showed a resilience and full team ability to win games.   Let’s talk about a few things, including that Alex Steen guy.

Steen Breakout.  Suddenly, the NHL network knows this guy’s name along with the city of St. Louis.  The Canadian who came over to St. Louis in a trade for Lee Stempniak from Toronto right around Thanksgiving in 2008, Steen has been an energetic spark plug for the team on both ends of the ice since.   This year, though, he is becoming something else.  A goal scoring threat.  A legit net blaster.   Through 15 games, he has 14 goals.   In 40 games last season, he had 8.   His highest total in his career came in 2009-2010 with the Blues when he sunk 24 goals in 68 games.  It’s safe to say the man is something else this season and no it is not all luck.   Steen is more aggressive and getting his nose dirty in the forecheck every shift and battling for pucks.  The man with the crooked nose is letting it all go and it’s effort and the ability to shoot the puck that is making him find the back of the net.   A player can have all the talent and skill in the world but if they are timid with the puck, few goals will find their way back to their stick.  Steen is getting good feeds from David Backes and T.J. Oshie and firing on goal and looking pretty accurate.  While most of the team sends lawn darts to the back of the boards or off the post, Steen is showing more accuracy.  He won’t continue to score at this pace so don’t lose a best friend over a fantasy hockey trade just yet.   Appreciate it while it lasts and understand it is not blind luck.   Steen is coming into his own as a complete hockey player and a man I liked ever since he put the note on his chest.  It’s nice when success happens to a good guy and someone who has paid his NHL dues.

Steady As They Go In Net.  Going into the season, the Blues had goaltending depth unlike most NHL teams.   Carrying two goalies capable of playing well in the clutch in Jaro Halak and Brian Elliot, they also held the silver bullet down on the farm in Jake Allen.   The two vets know the team will eventually belong to the kid, so they aren’t wasting their time raising their stock this year.   Halak is 9-2-1 with a 2.19 goals against average and Elliot is 2-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average.  Each goalie has a save percentage of 92 percent.   They don’t throw every game on their back and carry it home.  They support their fellow skaters, make decent saves, a few great ones and collect the W.  Each player is playing in a walk season so it’s the best possible situation for a team holding onto young blood while the older wolves duke it out in net.  Halak and Elliot are both 28 years older and looking for work next season so don’t expect them to settle down any time soon.  Each has a chip on their shoulder.  Halak’s is his easy ability to get hurt and miss a significant amount of time.  This is a talented Slovak who has only played a high of 57 games in a season in his time here in St. Louis.  Halak made his name with excellent play in the 2009-2010 Eastern Conference Finals when he took over for Carey Price and nearly carried the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup final.   As a Blue, he has been solid yet far too vulnerable.   Elliot is a great backup who can shine for periods of time as a starter yet runs into a wall in the playoffs and also can falter easily.  Two goalies with different styles holding the fort this season will be interesting.  So far, so good.

The Slow Developing Big Guys.  We can only hope Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund find their footing and begin to pitch in this season.  They have 3 goals and 10 points between them after 15 games and while that is a small sample size, the icebreaking fact is these two players can go very cold for a long stretch.  Stewart can get aggressive and be a table setter at times and Bergie is a big body around the net, but these two well paid lads have to kick it up a notch.   Straighten out the shots and put them in the net.   Be the goal scorers this team pays you to be.   You two saw what happened to David Perron right?   We traded him for a guy whose name no one knows or can properly pronounce.  Just an alert section.

The Reaves Sessions.  It’s been a long time since this team had an enforcer who could actually play and handle a puck.   Ryan Reaves is a fine 4th line grinder who can smash someone’s teeth in and finish a beautiful play in front of the net.  Tonight, after picking a fight and winning against the Penguins tough guy, Reaves crashed the net all night and pulled off the most wicked tip in I have seen this year.   A goal that gave the Blues a 1-0 lead.   First, Reaves supplied the team with a pair of testicles and finished it with a go ahead goal.  Cam Janssen, Tony Twist, Kelly Chase, Reed Low and D.J. King weren’t known for touching the puck much less handling it.   Reaves is impressing me every night.  I have always had a soft spot for enforcers.   This guy is making my stand easy to make.

What To Make Of This Start?  The same as you do with Steen’s fast start.  Appreciate it while preparing for reality to hit soon enough.  The Blues have a problem of taking bad penalties in their offensive zone and can take periods of hockey off and leave their goalie hanging out to dry.   Like every great team, the Blues will hit a wall.  It’s how they react to that fall and move on from it that will determine their spot in the standings come April.   Hockey is so different than baseball or football.   You don’t play every day but there are areas where you play 3 games in 5 nights and need to sustain a level of play.   As head coach Ken Hitchcock(in his first full season as the skipper) pointed out, the Blues can’t afford to have too many passengers on their team.  Free loaders failing to make a dent and do their part(hello Stewie and Bergie).   Everyone on this team has to be ready to go and contribute.  Tonight, David Backes and T.J. Oshie may not have shown up in the goals or assists column but they played their asses off.   Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester had a great game and took Sidney Crosby out of the equation.   Sidney remains scoreless against the Blues in his tremendous career.  Vladimir Sobotka continues to build his versatile legend around Scottrade by being a man who can kill a penalty or fill in on the second line and put together an offensive rush while throwing his 170 pounds into any size opposing player.  The Blues are made or broken by players like Sobotka.   Role players.  How long will this last?   That depends on health, scheduling and this team’s ability to trade the #1 star of the night each game.   One thing is for sure.  Once again, as the holidays near, the St. Louis Blues will be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference and have the roster to make a serious run at a Stanley Cup championship.  Hold off on giving Steen the Hart Trophy and making the Conference Champions shirts for now.  Let’s just enjoy this fine stretch of hockey that the Blues are playing.

Thanks for staying,

Dan Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter