Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wherein I propose a plan for the Cardinals

With Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury and trip to the operating table the Cardinals are in real trouble. My first thought upon hearing the news? They have to trade Pujols. My second thought? They'll have to wait until at least June 1 to trade Pujols because they'll have to at least pretend to be trying to win in his last season as a Cardinal, because otherwise the fans would leave in droves.

But then I had an idea for a longer-term plan. This started with the idea that TJ surgery is a well-known commodity. See Joe Nathan, Edinson Volquez just to name a few. It's a pretty good bet Wainwright will be in camp this time next year getting ready for the season and a pretty good bet he'll preform at a pretty high level in 2012. So they could do this:

1. Trade Wainwright. He's owed $6.5 mil for this year and the Cards hold '12 and '13 options for $9 mil and $12 mil, respectively. Those would have vested had Wainwright made it through the season, but he didn't and they won't. So the Cards, could just let him go or trade him. The team trading for him would have to assume he'll be back and be worth the options. (No reason to trade for him except to pick-up the options.) If he performs in '12 and '13 the way he did in '09 and '10, he's worth far more than the options. (Can you trade a player that's on the disabled list?)

2. Trade Carpenter. He's owed $15 mil for this year with a club option for $15 mil for next year ($1 mil buyout). (More on this in a moment.)

3. Trade Holliday if they can. He's owed $17 mil per year through at least '16. He'd be hard to move, and wouldn't bring much back, but salary relief here would be the end game.

4. Wait for it . . . trade Pujols.

Can you image the haul the Cardinals could get for these four (really three) talents? They could rebuild very quickly and in three years be the kings of the division.

But here's what I would do:

1. Try and renegotiate with Wainwright. I think the club options on Wainwright are team-friendly, assuming he's healthy. But the club has some negotiating power right now and they should use it. I would propose moving everything up a year, $6.5 mil for this year, repeat that next year and then do $9 mil for '13 and $12 mil. for '14. This tacks a year on, defers some money, but overall gives Wainwright more money ($34 mil instead of $27.5). The Cards would have him through 2014 and presumably get three good years from him for just over $11 mil per. Sounds like a good deal to me.

2. Keep Holliday. He's signed through 2016.

3. Trade Carpenter right now. Can you imagine what the Yankees would give up for Carpenter right now? I'd start with asking for Phil Hughes and something else, maybe Joba. But if the Yankees balk, I'd ask for one of their top two pitching prospects (Banuelos or Betances), Ivan Nova, and Joba. Nova and Joba fill the Wainwright and Carpenter spots this year and the prospect competes with Shelby Miller for a spot in the '12 rotation that would include Wainwright, Garcia, Joba,and Nova. (They'd have to get rid of Lohse, which might be hard.) I could see an argument for waiting until the trade deadline to get more value of Carpenter, but I'd think he has more value to the Yankees right now. (Just ask the nearest Yankee fan.)

4. Announce the team will still play hard, but is rebuilding for a '12 and beyond dynasty. There are two obstacles to this plan so they will also have to ...

5. Sign Albert now! Tell the agent they'll pay what it takes and get it done. I think this is the only way the fans will accept the punting of what would otherwise be Albert's last year in St.L. (As an aside, I think the Cards can still sign Pujols after this season no matter what happens by matching Albert's highest other offer.)

The other obstacle? TLR. He won't have any interest in managing a rebuilding team even if for just one year. Worst case scenario, he's on a one-year deal and will have to manage out the season anyway. Best case scenario (and I admit I'm biased here) he quits. Everybody wins.

So in '12, they have Albert in the fold (and happy), still have Holliday, have Wainwright back, and a bunch of great young arms to fill out the rotation and add bullpen depth. That's the makings of a great staff in '12.

As a Reds fan I hope the Cards ignore all of my advice, keep Carpenter, lose Wainwright and Pujols, and have only Holliday to show for there big payroll after 2012.

Oscar preview

I had the good fortune to see all ten Oscar-nominated movies this year and quite a few of the other movies with major nominations. I wanted to share my thoughts, but also to share with you this much more comprehensive preview from my sister, who indicates we have similar tastes. I'm not sure I would have said that, but after reading her excellent recap, I have to agree. (By the way, I think Annette Bening lost to Hilary Swank both times.)

Here is how I would rank the ten nominees:

1. True Grit

I love the Coen Brothers' movies, and this one did not let me down. Some would call the dialogue hokey, but I thought it was classic Coen Bros. (Think Raising Arizona.) I agree with Laura that Hailee Steinfeld should have been a best actress nominee (and not a supporting actress), and the film was beautiful. But I don't think True Grit has a chance to win.

2. The Social Network

I was completely engaged in The Social Network. I am not an Aaron Sorkin fan at all, but I thought both the dialogue and the way he crafted the story were terrific, going with the deposition testimony and the flashbacks. I read the book the movie was based on, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (that's how much I liked it, I went out and bought the book to learn more) and it had none of the deposition testimony or the litigation. So that was all Sorkin. But like any movie based on fact, I wonder how much of it is actually true. With actual deposition testimony available, presumably it was very accurate, but you know Hollywood. It's between this and The King's Speech for the award.

3. The King's Speech

Laura mentions (as has every media outlet) how terrific Colin Firth was as the stammering future king, and no doubt he was. He should have won last year for best actor in A Single Man, and may win this year, but the real star of this movie was Geoffrey Rush. He is nominated in the best supporting category but he gave the single best performance of any actor in any role (that I saw) this year. And he still may lose to Christian Bale in the supporting category.

4. Black Swan

A terrific psychological thriller. I'll try not to spoil anything here, but stop reading if you haven't seen it and plan to. You start out wondering why everyone in Natalie Portman's character's world is crazy. Let's just say the journey to realizing that isn't necessarily true was one of the great cinema rides this year. It wasn't quite Requiem For a Dream, but I was on the edge of my seat for the entire movie.

5. 127 Hours

In case you haven't crawled out from under your rock (pun intended) and you don't know what this is about I won't spoil it, but let me just say who knew this could be so much fun to watch.

6. The Fighter

Now that I'm out of the top 5 I can be a little more critical. This was a great movie. Amy Adams was terrific and definitely deserved her best supporting actress nomination. The movie was inspiring, funny, and heartbreaking. But toward the end it got a little too sports movie. I will say that Mark Wahlberg is very talented. He always surrounds himself with great actors (think Boogie Nights) but holds his own and is always under-appreciated.

7. The Kids Are Alright

I've loved Mark Ruffalo ever since seeing him for the first time in one of my favorite movies, You Can Count On Me (with Laura Linney). But as Rachel pointed out, he played basically the same character in this movie as he does in most of his movies. This was a great film but just not in the class of the top five on this list.

8. Toy Story 3

I guess I'm getting more sentimental. I wouldn't typically have a kids' cartoon in my top ten, but this was a very good movie and a great story.

9. Inception

Any movie that includes a string-the-rope-across-the-slope-to-knock-the-driver-off-the-snowmobile scene can't win the Oscar.

10. Winter's Bone

Winter's Bone was a decent movie, with good performances. It should not be an Oscar contender, however. Blue Valentine would have been a better choice.

As far as the telecast, the big excitement is whether or not Banksy will show up (I say he won't). Either way, and whether or not it wins for documentary, put Exit Through The Gift Shop in your Netflix cue.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A great night

A pretty boring trip to LaRosa's turned very exciting last night. But first some background. I mentioned on my last post that some new ventures have kept me occupied, but they also prevented us from scheduling the spring training trip that we wanted to take this year. So that, coupled with the bad weather this winter, has had us down.

So last night at 7:00, we both got on Twitter to participate in Brandon Phillips's Twitter contest. He posted a question about himself and the first to respond would win a trip to Spring Training. The question was what was his favorite drink. Knowing that he doesn't drink alcohol, and figuring him for a wholesome, healthy guy, Rachel took an educated guess and said "milk." And she did all of that rather quickly. (I said OJ, just a hair behind her.) Looking at his Twitter feed, Rachel was the first to respond "milk" and I was the first to respond with "OJ" so I had a feeling we had a shot and was a little excited.

When we got home, Rachel had two private Twitter messages from BP and we started getting really excited. She messaged back and he announced she had won. Then, he called her and was very gracious and generous, basically telling us to pick the dates we want to come and to let him know. He would set us up with air fare, tickets, a hotel, and introduce us around to some players and to Dusty.

Rachel's Twitter feed exploded with congrats from a ton of folks and a ton of new followers. One crazy fan (who has a live internet show) messaged her to call into his show last night to talk about the contest. Overall, a great night. By the way, you can follow Rachel (@redsgal12), me (@bigzbluesox), and, more importantly, BP (@DatDudeBP) on Twitter.

Keep checking back because I will be blogging about the trip in detail. In the meantime, you have to read this blog post from last August where you can learn why Rachel is so deserving of winning such an awesome contest.

And thanks, BP. What a great guy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baseball is back

For guys like me, baseball is all year round (I've already made a fantasy baseball trade). But it's official today as pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training. I haven't been blogging regularly (or at all, really) because of some new ventures that have been taking up the majority of my time, but I'm hoping to blog more regularly during spring training and into the season. I appreciate your sticking with me.

The big question heading into spring training is what happens with the Cardinals and Albert Pujols. Right now, it looks like the answer to that is, "nothing." It seems very unlikely that the two sides can strike a deal by Wednesday, Albert's self-imposed deadline. Let's start this discussion with Albert's value. He's played ten seasons in the big leagues. In seven of his ten seasons he finished first or second in the MVP voting. In his "worst" season, he finished ninth. The other two years? Fourth and third.

He's never hit below .312, never hit fewer than 32 home runs, never knocked in fewer than 103 runs, and never slugged below .561. Once, he scored fewer than 100 runs (99 in '07) and once had an OBP below .400 (.394 in '02). He's never missed as many as 20 games in a season. Here is his 162-game-average stat line:

596 AB, 123 R, 198 H, 42 HR, 128 rbi, .331/.426/.624.

As Jim Memmelo (a Cubs guy) said on MLB Network Radio this morning, he's not a first-ballot hall-of-famer, he's a pre-ballot hall-of-famer.

So where does that leave us with the contract negotiations? They're not about how much he's worth; he's worth a lot more than any other player and probably more than he can be paid in this market. It's about what the Cards can (or are willing to) pay. Rest assured, if he goes on the market after 2011, he will find a team willing to pay his demand.

But the Cards aren't being asked to pay for this Albert, they're being asked to pay for the next Albert. When the Reds gave Jr. a huge payday after the '99 season, he looked like a sure thing to be worth every penny. At that point, Jr. had a career slash stat line of .299/.380/.569. Not quite Albert (no surprise, we spent the first part of this basically arguing there is no other Albert) but certainly the superstar everyone thought he was. After that, his career stats were .262/.355/.493. When you factor in diminishing defense and stolen bases, Jr. was just a tick better than Mike Cameron over that period, one of the guys the Reds traded to get Jr.

The current salary structure in baseball is out-dated. Players are reaching the pinnacles of their careers in terms of pay grade right when they should be starting to decline in their on-field skills. It's the second time a guy hits free agency. (Albert already signed a big $100 mil. deal -- this is his second big contract.) One look at the prospects list and it's clear where teams are going. Baseball is going to look like a fantasy roster with the top top players getting huge contracts (with marketing and ticket sales a huge driving force) and the rest of the team filled out with cheap pre-free agency players. With the fans' rabid interest in prospects, it's easier for a team to use a prospect because all the fans know who he is. In fact, sometimes it's hard for a team not to. (See Buster Posey and Aroldis Chapman from last season.)

What does Albert's future entail? That's the $64,000.00 (or $300 mil.) question. So the Cards only have to predict if Pujols will play the next ten years like his last ten, or follow Jr.'s career path. If it's the former, he's worth the $300 mil. If it's the latter, and they sign him, Pujols will do for the Cards what Jr. did for the Reds, provide a decade of below .500 baseball.