Why didn't the Cardinals beat the Astros? Easy—no hitting and a lousy bullpen, plus the fact that none of our pitchers are named "Roy Oswalt." There's no shame in losing to the best pitcher in baseball; it's just one of those things that happens. Fortunately, the Cardinals' problems are solveable, and if there's anything that we've learned from the past ten years, it's that Walt Jocketty gets the job done. I'm excited to see what he does over the winter and spring, but in the meantime, since it's close to Halloween, let's put on our WJ mask and pretend to play "Let's Make a Deal," baseball edition.
I keep Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder, and I pencil in Anthony Reyes to make the big club during Spring training. I'd like to sign Matt Morris, but not for what the Yankees or Red Sox are liable to offer him, so good luck and goodbye. I'm trading Marquis and Suppan for spare parts, then using the money saved to sign Billy Wagner as my closer. If Izzy's still under contract, I'm trading him for a good setup man. They can trade every single arm in the bullpen as far as I'm concerned. They weren't worth a bucket of spit to us in the playoffs this year. My feelings about Izzy are well documented. We need a fireballer of the sort that when he comes into games, opposing fans turn off their televisions.
What about starters? It's hard to know at this point who will be available. My wish list starts in Florida, but those prices might be out of the Cardinals' range. It may sound crazy, but Randy Johnson might be available as a free agent. I know he's old, but Dave Duncan could probably get one more good year out of him.
So how's this for a starting rotation:
A. J. Burnett
That matches up a lot better against Houston or Chicago next season.
No changes, save one: keep Scott Rolen healthy at all costs. If an opposing player even brushes up gently beside him on the basepaths, that player gets a fastball between the shoulder blades the next time up at the plate. Pujols, Grudzielanek, Eckstein and Rolen give you solid defense and a good mix of speed, power and timely hitting. I'd like to see Grudz batting second rather than seventh, though. We need a good contact hitter to execute the hit-and-run with Eckstein leading off and getting on base, and Walker and Edmonds struck out too much for that.
I would keep Jim Edmonds in center field. Sure, he can be infuriating at the plate, but he's gonna save you as many runs with his defense as he loses by not coming through at the plate. I'd rather see him hitting sixth rather than third at this point in his career. We need a right fielder to replace Walker, and though I wouldn't mind seeing Reggie Sanders return in left, we also need to remember that he'll be 38 years old next year, so grooming a replacement is necessary. Again, the free agent market and players available in trade will determine this to a great extent, and I'll comment on who's available when the list comes out. There are a lot of quality outfielders to be had, but protecting Pujols has to be our primary concern. And at the risk of causing Tuck's head to burst into flames, don't be surprised if Rick Ankiel has a big spring with the bat and ends up making the club.
I hope they can keep Taguchi and Nuñez, but beyond that, the bench turnover will probably be the same as it is every year. Walt and Tony like to have solid defensive replacements, and this year has shown that to be a wise course of action, but I still insist (as I did last year) that we need a BIG BAT off the bench who could also fill a DH position if and when we get back to the World Series.
Any ideas, Sandlotters?