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Archive for the ‘Executives’ Category

As an infielder who struggled to hit, Dal Maxvill overcame the odds and started in 21 World Series games for the Cardinals. As a coach with no experience as a baseball executive, Maxvill again overcame the odds and became general manager of the Cardinals.

dal_maxvill3Thirty years ago, on Feb. 25, 1985, Maxvill was the surprise choice of the Cardinals to replace Joe McDonald as general manager. Maxvill was a coach with the Atlanta Braves when the Cardinals approached him about becoming their top baseball executive.

“It seemed a rather sizeable leap to go from third-base coach to general manager,” Rick Hummel wrote in The Sporting News.

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said, “I had my doubts about him when he was hired … He’d never made a trade, never negotiated a contract and I wondered what the hell was going through their minds when they hired him.”

Baseball and business

Maxvill, 46, said he hadn’t applied for the job and was approached by club officials. Team owner Gussie Busch said he was seeking a candidate who knew both baseball and the Cardinals organization and also had business experience.

Busch believed Maxvill met the criteria.

Maxvill had played for the Cardinals from 1962-72. Replacing the injured Julian Javier, he started seven games at second base in the 1964 World Series. He started seven games at shortstop in the 1967 World Series and again in the 1968 World Series. Maxvill won a Gold Glove Award in 1968. He hit .220 in his Cardinals career.

Maxvill was a Cardinals coach from 1979-80 and an instructor in 1981. He and former Cardinals reliever Joe Hoerner were co-owners of a St. Louis travel agency.

The Cardinals offered Maxvill a one-year contract.

“Of all the people we considered, myself and the other members of the executive committee unanimously agreed that Dal Maxvill has the qualifications we were looking for in a general manager,” Busch told the Associated Press.

Fred Kuhlmann, chief operating officer of the Cardinals, said Tal Smith, a consultant hired to lead the search for a general manager, gave Maxvill “as enthusiastic a recommendation as there could be.”

Cardinals connections

Two other former Cardinals players _ broadcasters Tim McCarver and Joe Torre _ were considered before Maxvill was offered the position, The Sporting News reported.

“I’ve been a Cardinals fan since I was 3,” said Maxvill, a native of Granite City, Ill. “My mother and father took me to see Enos Slaughter, Terry Moore and Red Schoendienst.”

Schoendienst, a Cardinals coach in 1985, was Maxvill’s manager from 1965-72.

“Once, I was his boss,” Schoendienst said. “Now, he’s mine.”

Good deal

On April 2, 1985, Maxvill made his first trade, acquiring infielder Jose Oquendo from the Mets for infielder Angel Salazar and minor-league pitcher John Young. Oquendo played for the Cardinals from 1986-95. In 2015, he entered his 17th season as a Cardinals coach.

The Cardinals won two pennants, 1985 and 1987, with Maxvill as general manager.

“He turned out to be a hell of a baseball executive,” Herzog said of Maxvill. “… Maxie is smart and he caught on fast.”

Maxvill was Cardinals general manager from 1985-94 until he was fired by team president Mark Lamping and replaced by Walt Jocketty.

Previously: How ouster of Joe McDonald put Whitey Herzog in peril

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The first night home game for the Cardinals had two unintended consequences: It prompted the dismissal of their manager and led to a ban on serving beverages in glass bottles.

sportsmans_park2Seventy-five years ago, on Jan. 31, 1940, the National League Cardinals and the American League Browns agreed to share the $150,000 cost to install lights at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company of St. Louis was hired to do the structural work and Westinghouse Electrical Supply Company was given the job of putting in the reflectors and floodlights on eight steel towers.

“It will require electrical energy totaling 1,176,000 watts per hour, not including lighting in the stands, to turn night into day at the historic old Grand Boulevard establishment,” The Sporting News reported. “This, it is said, would be sufficient juice to take care of the lighting needs of a city of 25,000 persons.”

The Browns got the honor of playing the first night game in St. Louis on May 24, 1940, against the Indians. Before 24,827 spectators on a Friday night, Bob Feller pitched a seven-hitter, struck out nine and hit his first big-league home run, leading the Indians to a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

Eleven nights later, the Cardinals got their first chance to play under the lights at home.

Dark times

On June 4, 1940, 23,500 spectators turned out on a Tuesday night to see the Cardinals open a series against the Dodgers.

A runner-up to the National League champion Reds in 1939, the Cardinals stumbled early in 1940, losing 16 of their first 24 games. Their record was 14-22 entering the Dodgers series. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon was becoming increasingly impatient with second-year manager Ray Blades.

Seeking a sharp, winning performance before the large crowd in the club’s first night home game, Breadon saw just the opposite. Sparked by a three-run home run by Pete Coscarart off Mort Cooper, the Dodgers scored five in the first.

As the Dodgers added to the lead, “pop bottles thrown from the bleachers littered the outfield,” The Sporting News reported, “partly because the Dodgers rattled long drives off the wall and partly because of (inconsistent) umpiring.”

Though Cardinals cleanup batter Joe Medwick, who had gone hitless in his last 16 times at bat, went 5-for-5 with three doubles, the Cardinals stranded 14 and the Dodgers won, 10-1, behind left-hander Vito Tamulis, who scattered 11 hits. Boxscore

Changing times

Disheartened by the debacle, Breadon made up his mind right then to fire Blades, The Sporting News reported.

The announcement of Blades’ firing came two days later, surprising general manager Branch Rickey, who hadn’t been informed by Breadon of the decision. Billy Southworth, managing the Cardinals’ minor-league club at Rochester, N.Y., was Breadon’s choice to replace Blades.

Breadon also announced that the Cardinals would use paper cups instead of bottles for serving cold drinks in the Sportsman’s Park bleachers.

Night moves

The 1940 Cardinals would play seven home night games, winning three.

Their first home night win occurred on a Tuesday, July 2, 1940, when right-hander Bill McGee pitched a seven-hit shutout and contributed a two-run single, beating the Reds, 4-0, before 14,944. Boxscore

A look at the Cardinals’ other five night home games in 1940:

_ Harry Danning had three hits, including two doubles, and a RBI for the Giants in an 8-6, 11-inning victory on Thursday night July 11 before 10,363. Boxscore

_ Hugh Mulcahy pitched a five-hit shutout in a 3-0 Phillies win on Wednesday night July 17 before 7,113. Boxscore

_ Joe Orengo tied the score with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Cardinals got a run in the 11th to beat the Pirates, 7-6, on Wednesday night Aug. 14 before 11,077. Boxscore

_ Al Glossop had two RBI and rookie Nick Strincevich pitched a five-hitter, leading the Braves to a 3-1 triumph on Monday night Aug. 26 before 8,472. Boxscore

_ Johnny Mize and Marty Marion each had two RBI, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night Sept. 4 before 16,197. Boxscore

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: Top 5 reasons why Sam Breadon should be in Hall of Fame

Previously: How Mike Gonzalez became first Cuban manager in majors

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Thirty years ago, the Cardinals forced out general manager Joe McDonald, friend and working partner of Whitey Herzog. The move signaled to Herzog, the Cardinals’ manager, that he, too, was vulnerable and could be ousted if his club didn’t contend in 1985.

joe_mcdonaldHerzog responded by leading the Cardinals to National League pennants in two of the next three seasons (1985 and ’87), securing his reputation as an innovative winner and capping a managerial career that would lead to his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Jan. 3, 1985, Cardinals owner Gussie Busch said McDonald, the franchise’s general manager since 1982, had resigned and would remain with the club as a consultant. While vaguely acknowledging McDonald had made “a number of contributions to the team,” Busch also said “a change was needed to build the club into a pennant winner.”

In The Sporting News, Rick Hummel noted that Busch’s statement “did not sound as if the move (by McDonald) was voluntary.” McDonald, 55, confirmed as much, telling the Associated Press he intended to “look for another job” and was “too young to retire.”

Internal strife

After the Cardinals won the World Series championship in 1982 with Herzog as manager and McDonald as general manager, they finished fourth in the six-team NL East in 1983 and third in 1984.

Expectations were the Cardinals would finish out of contention in 1985, too. After the 1984 season, closer Bruce Sutter had become a free agent and bolted the Cardinals for the Braves. McDonald then dealt the club’s top run producer, right fielder George Hendrick, to the Pirates.

Concern about the direction the Cardinals were headed was one reason Busch was unhappy with McDonald. Another: Busch was irked that McDonald hadn’t informed him about personal problems plaguing Cardinals outfielder David Green, who was entering a treatment center.

In his book, “That’s a Winner,” Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck wrote, “McDonald made the mistake of not informing Mr. Busch before the story was in the news. Busch had made it clear he did not want to be surprised by anything he heard about his team. He wanted the information first _ and that was one of the reasons McDonald was fired as general manager.”

Committee rules

In a story headlined “Herzog’s Future Could Be In Doubt,” Hummel wrote, “Now that Joe McDonald has resigned, or been fired, as the St. Louis Cardinals general manager, what will become of manager Whitey Herzog, McDonald’s close friend? … Herzog couldn’t be blamed for wondering what the future of the Cardinals is … His input in the organization seems to have been lessened considerably in the past couple of years.”

A three-man executive committee of Busch, attorney Lou Susman and chief operating officer Fred Kuhlmann played a larger role in key Cardinals decisions.

Wrote Hummel, “Herzog and McDonald found it increasingly difficult to work within that framework because they had to get approval from the executive committee on most proposed transactions and, as often as not, they could not find all three members of the committee in town at the same time.”

In his book “White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d never seen an organization that was as screwed up as ours was when 1985 began.”

Met as Mets

McDonald and Herzog worked together in the Mets organization from 1966-72. In 1967, Bing Devine, the former Cardinals general manager who had become a Mets executive, named McDonald director of scouting and Herzog director of player development.

Herzog went on to become a big-league manager. McDonald became general manager of the Mets in 1975, replacing Bob Scheffing, and held that position through 1979 until new ownership replaced him with Frank Cashen.

McDonald and Herzog were reunited in 1980 when McDonald joined the Cardinals as assistant to Herzog, who was both general manager and manager.

In February 1982, Herzog, tired of negotiating player contracts, suggested to Busch that McDonald should become general manager. Busch agreed and the announcement was made in April 1982.

Life after Cardinals

After the Cardinals ousted McDonald, they contracted with Tal Smith, a consultant and longtime baseball executive, to assist them in a search for a replacement. On Feb. 25, 1985, Dal Maxvill, the former Cardinals shortstop, was named general manager.

Meanwhile, McDonald pursued his plan to find another front-office job.

In 1987, McDonald joined the Tigers as director of player development. He replaced Bill Lajoie as Tigers general manager in 1991 and held that position for two years before he was replaced by Jerry Walker.

After leaving the Tigers, McDonald became a scout for the Angels, Rockies and Red Sox. He was a Red Sox scout when they won World Series championships against the Cardinals in 2004 and 2013.

Previously: Why Gussie Busch fired Bing Devine in championship year

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to trade George Hendrick

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Ten years ago, the Angels gave the Cardinals a perfect Christmas gift.

david_ecksteinOn Dec. 21, 2004, the Angels opted not to re-sign their shortstop, David Eckstein, making him a free agent.

The Cardinals, desperate to replace shortstop Edgar Renteria, who had become a free agent and signed with the Red Sox, hardly could believe their good fortune.

Eckstein was one player who filled two needs. He could replace Renteria at shortstop and he also could bat leadoff. Like Renteria, Tony Womack, who batted leadoff for the 2004 Cardinals, had become a free agent. Womack signed with the Yankees.

Pouncing on the opportunity to acquire a player described by general manager Walt Jocketty as “a perfect fit,” the Cardinals signed Eckstein on Dec. 23, two days after he became available.

It was a move they’d never regret, one that felt right from the very moment it occurred.

Eckstein ignited the Cardinals with his hustle, heart and smarts, leading them to two postseason appearances and a 2006 World Series championship.

Shortstop roulette

Though Eckstein had sparked the Angels to their only World Series title in 2002 and had led American League shortstops in fielding percentage in 2004, the Angels sought an upgrade, citing Eckstein’s lack of arm strength as a liability.

Meanwhile, Renteria, a three-time all-star with the Cardinals, had bolted to the Red Sox, who gave him a four-year, $40 million contract.

With Renteria joining Boston, Orlando Cabrera, the shortstop who helped the Red Sox sweep the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, declared for free agency. The Angels pursued him, offering a four-year, $32 million deal. When Cabrera accepted, Eckstein became expendable.

According to the Associated Press, the Cardinals, unable to find a suitable replacement for Renteria, were considering signing shortstop Barry Larkin, 40, who had become a free agent after 19 seasons with the Reds. When Eckstein became available, the Cardinals called with a three-year, $10.2 million offer.

Eckstein, 29, accepted. It was a bargain for the Cardinals.

“They were very aggressive,” Eckstein said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They were pretty much the first team to call … It was clear that this was a good fit. The best fit.”

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ assistant general manager, told the Associated Press, “David was the player we focused on right away after Cabrera signed.”

Said Jocketty to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch: “We felt this was the guy, the perfect fit for our club for a lot of reasons. For his personality, for the way he goes about playing the game. He’s a gamer through and through. He’s the kind of player St. Louis will embrace. I think he will become a cult hero with our fans. He’s a hustler.”

Angels players and media were disappointed Eckstein departed.

Wrote San Bernardino Sun columnist Paul Oberjuerge: “The Angels just shot Bambi.”

Said Angels first baseman Darin Erstad to MLB.com: “He’s been the heart and soul of the team, an inspiration for all of us.”

Size doesn’t matter

Eckstein, 5 feet 6, 170 pounds, had 156 hits in 142 games for the 2004 Angels. He struck out just 49 times in 637 plate appearances. He made only six errors in 138 games at shortstop.

In the 2002 World Series against the Giants, Eckstein batted .310 with nine hits, three walks and six runs scored for the Angels.

Wrote Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, “Eckstein is the kind of old-school player who commands such great respect and appreciation in St. Louis, a traditional baseball town.”

Rex Hudler, an Angels broadcaster who had been a hustling utilityman for the Cardinals from 1990-92, told Miklasz that he had named his son, David, in honor of Eckstein.

“He’s going to be revered as the new Huckleberry Finn of St. Louis and Missouri,” Hudler said of Eckstein.

Hudler said his 8-year-old daughter cried when she learned Eckstein was leaving the Angels. “Kids are his biggest fans,” Hudler said. “The children look up to him and relate to him because he’s so small … He inspires all of those kids who have been told they aren’t good enough.”

Asked about Eckstein’s subpar arm, Hudler replied, “He’s so smart. Extremely intelligent. He studies the hitters. He positions himself perfectly. He’s always in the right place. The ball comes right to him. I’ve never seen him make a mental mistake.”

Said Eckstein: “I don’t really look like your typical pro athlete. It means I always have to prove myself … I don’t want to lose that edge.”

St. Louis sparkplug

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was delighted by the acquisition, calling Eckstein “a winning player.”

After speaking with La Russa, Eckstein told the Associated Press, “Mr. La Russa just said to play my game, be a pest at the plate and play solid defense.”

That’s exactly what Eckstein did for the Cardinals.

In three seasons (2005-07) as the St. Louis shortstop, Eckstein twice was named an all-star. He batted .297 with 465 hits in 398 career games for the Cardinals. He had a .357 on-base percentage with them. In 2005, Eckstein ranked second among National League shortstops in both assists (517) and double plays turned (123).

His crowning achievement came in 2006 when he was named winner of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award. Eckstein hit .364 (8-for-22) in the five-game series versus the Tigers, with four RBI and three runs scored.

Previously: 4 Series aces for Cards: Gibson, Porter, Eckstein, Freese

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Branch Rickey is well known for being the Dodgers general manager who broke baseball’s color barrier by bringing Jackie Robinson to the major leagues. What is less known is that Rickey was the Cardinals general manager who made Mike Gonzalez the first Cuban manager in the major leagues.

mike_gonzalezOn Dec. 17, 2014, President Obama announced that relations between the United States and Cuba would be reopened, ending more than 50 years of hostility between the two nations.

Long before that, Gonzalez, a Havana native, helped form a connection between the Cardinals and Cuba.

A catcher, Gonzalez had three stints with the Cardinals as a player: 1915-18, 1924-25 and 1931-32. He also played for the Braves, Reds, Giants and Cubs.

During his 17-year playing career in the majors, Gonzalez developed a reputation for his baseball savvy. It was while scouting for the Giants that Gonzalez wired a report to manager John McGraw about a prospect: “Good field, no hit.” The phrase became part of baseball’s lexicon.

Shrewd strategist

In 1934, Gonzalez became a coach on the staff of Cardinals manager Frankie Frisch. Four years later, when Frisch was fired on Sept. 11, 1938, Rickey named Gonzalez as manager of the Cardinals.

Though it was a stopgap measure _ most reports indicated Rickey would hire someone from within the minor-league system to manage the 1939 Cardinals _ the move was significant.

In reporting that Gonzalez, 47, was the first Cuban to manage in the big leagues, The Sporting News described him as “a shrewd diamond strategist, a keen judge of talent and a capable instructor.”

Frisch called Gonzalez “a great guy, loyal and true and one of the smartest birds I ever knew.”

Citing his stellar reputation as a coach for the Cardinals, The Sporting News wrote of Gonzalez, “The athletes who have played under his coaching direction have learned to respect his judgment and to take his orders implicitly.”

Gonzalez also had the ability to decode the signs flashed by opponents. “One year, the Cardinals won almost all their games with one of the second-division clubs, largely because Gonzalez was able to call virtually every pitch and tell exactly when the enemy was going to hit-and-run or try to steal,” The Sporting News reported.

Successful start

Gonzalez made his debut as Cardinals manager on Sept. 14, 1938, in the first game of a doubleheader at Philadelphia. Despite yielding nine runs and 13 hits, starter Max Macon pitched a complete game and got the win in a 12-9 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

The Cardinals swept the doubleheader, winning the second game, 3-2, behind starter Mort Cooper, who pitched a complete game three-hitter while walking eight in his big-league debut. Boxscore

Gonzalez led the Cardinals to wins in his first five games as manager, then lost six in a row. He finished with an 8-8 record.

Ray Blades became manager of the 1939 Cardinals and Gonzalez remained as a coach.

Second stint

In June 1940, Blades was fired and Gonzalez was named to his second stint as Cardinals manager. Again, it was an interim role. The Cardinals were 1-5 under Gonzalez. Billy Southworth took over as Cardinals manager and he kept Gonzalez as a coach.

The Cardinals would win two World Series titles and three pennants under Southworth, who would earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1946, Southworth left the Cardinals to become manager of the Braves. He was replaced by Eddie Dyer, who maintained Gonzalez as a coach.

The 1946 season would be the 13th and final season for Gonzalez as a Cardinals coach. It ended memorably. In Game 7 of the 1946 World Series, Enos Slaughter scored the winning run on a mad dash from first base on a hit by Harry Walker. Slaughter ran through a stop sign from Gonzalez, who was coaching third, and later claimed he thought the Cuban had yelled “Go, go, go” instead of “No, no, no.”

Cuban managers

Gonzalez was the first of seven Cubans who managed in the majors, according to baseball-reference.com. The others:

_ Preston Gomez: 1969-72 Padres, 1974-75 Astros and 1980 Cubs.

_ Marty Martinez: 1986 Mariners (one game).

_ Cookie Rojas: 1988 Angels and 2001 Marlins (one game).

_ Tony Perez: 1993 Reds and 2001 Marlins.

_ Carlos Tosca: 2002-04 Blue Jays.

_ Fredi Gonzalez: 2007-10 Marlins and 2011-14 Braves.

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cardinals to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: Baseball and romance: Cardinals’ Cuban adventures

Previously: The top 5 Cubans to play for the Cardinals

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Seeking a starter to replace Woody Williams in the rotation, the Cardinals used a prospect, Dan Haren, to help land an ace, Mark Mulder. In retrospect, they would have done better to keep Haren.

mark_mulderTen years ago, on Dec. 18, 2004, the Cardinals acquired Mulder from the Athletics for Haren, reliever Kiko Calero and first baseman Daric Barton.

The Cardinals were praised for adding Mulder to a rotation of Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Matt Morris.

Haren, though, turned out to be more durable than Mulder.

Mulder had one strong season for the Cardinals, suffered shoulder ailments and pitched his final game for them in 2008 at age 31.

Haren, who was 6-10 over two seasons (2003-2004) for St. Louis, developed into one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors. Since leaving the Cardinals, Haren has had 10 seasons in a row of double-digit wins and has made 30 starts or more in each of those years. At 34, Haren has a career record of 142-122 in 12 big-league seasons. He is 136-112 since leaving St. Louis. The right-hander was traded by the Dodgers to the Marlins for the 2015 season.

After compiling an 81-42 record in five years with the Athletics, Mulder was 16-8 in 32 starts for the 2005 Cardinals. The left-hander then went a combined 6-10 for the Cardinals from 2006 to 2008.

Making a splash

By December 2004, four prominent free agents _ Woody Williams (11-8 in 2004), shortstop Edgar Renteria, catcher Mike Matheny and second baseman Tony Womack _ had departed the Cardinals since they faced the Red Sox in the World Series two months earlier.

Eager to make a splashy move to show that the Cardinals would fight to repeat as National League champions, general manager Walt Jocketty spoke with his Athletics counterpart, Billy Beane, about Mulder and fellow starting pitcher Tim Hudson.

On Dec. 16, 2004, the Athletics dealt Hudson to the Braves for pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer and outfielder Charles Thomas. Two days later, the Cardinals got Mulder.

Elite starter

“This is something we’ve been working on for two or three weeks,” Jocketty said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’ve been going back and forth between Hudson and Mulder and we felt like, in our case, we had control of Mulder for an extra year (on his contract) … Both are quality, top of the rotation starters.”

Bernie Miklasz, columnist for the Post-Dispatch, described Mulder as “an elite starting pitcher” and “a legitimate front-of-rotation starter.”

From 2001-2004, only Curt Schilling had more wins (74) than Mulder (72).

“He’s an intelligent guy, a great athlete, a great fit,” Jocketty said of Mulder.

Red flag

Miklasz and his colleague, reporter Derrick Goold, did note, however, that Mulder had faltered in the second half of the 2004 season after starting the All-Star Game for the American League. Mulder was winless in his last seven 2004 starts, posting an 0-4 record and 7.27 ERA. Overall, Mulder was 17-8 in 2004 but with a 4.43 ERA.

Wrote Miklasz: “Is he wearing down after averaging 212 innings over the past four seasons?”

Jocketty and Mulder denied that the pitcher was weakened or injured.

“We took our time and thoroughly researched this … As far as we’re concerned, he’s fine,” Jocketty said of Mulder. “There are no physical problems at all. We made sure.”

Said Mulder: “I wasn’t hurt at all … There was nothing wrong with me.”

Asked to explain why Mulder was ineffective in the second half of 2004, Jocketty replied, “He put a lot of pressure on himself … He tried to do too much.”

Swift start

Any concerns about Mulder were erased early in the 2005 season. He won seven of his first nine decisions for the Cardinals. After stumbling in June (2-3, 7.18 ERA), Mulder recovered and was a combined 7-3 over the last three months of the season. He was especially effective against left-handed batters, limiting them to a .191 average in 2005.

Haren, meanwhile, had 14 wins for the 2005 Athletics, posting a 3.73 ERA in 34 starts. Calero contributed four wins and a save in 58 relief appearances.

In 2006, Mulder won five of his first six decisions for St. Louis. Then the shoulder woes began. Mulder made just two starts after June 20 and finished the 2006 season at 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA. He was 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA for the 2007 Cardinals; 0-0 with a 10.80 for the 2008 Cardinals.

Previously: Why Mike Matheny ended his playing career as a Giant

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