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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

The Cardinals thought so highly of Alex Johnson that they traded two all-star infielders, first baseman Bill White and shortstop Dick Groat, to acquire him and then told Lou Brock to shift outfield positions to accommodate the heralded newcomer.

alex_johnsonJohnson never fulfilled his potential with St. Louis. Instead of joining Brock and Curt Flood as an outfield regular, Johnson got demoted to the minors in his first Cardinals season and then backed up Roger Maris in his second and last year with St. Louis.

This is the story of the star-crossed Cardinals career of Alex Johnson, who died Feb. 28, 2015, at age 72 in Detroit.

Phillies phenom

At 21, Johnson debuted in the big leagues with the 1964 Phillies. He hit .296 in two seasons with Philadelphia.

Bob Howsam, the Cardinals’ general manager, envisioned Johnson as an ideal fit to join Brock and Flood in forming a fleet, productive St. Louis outfield.

On Oct. 27, 1965, the Cardinals dealt White, Groat and catcher Bob Uecker to the Phillies for Johnson, catcher Pat Corrales and pitcher Art Mahaffey.

Howsam paid a hefty price. In eight years with the Cardinals, White was a five-time all-star who hit .298 and won the Gold Glove Award six times. In three years with St. Louis, Groat was a two-time all-star who batted .289. Both were key contributors to the Cardinals’ World Series championship season in 1964.

Power potential

“We expect Johnson to hit the long ball for us,” Howsam told The Sporting News. “Playing everyday instead of just against left-handed pitchers, he may even surpass White in long-ball hitting over the full season.”

Said Cardinals vice president Stan Musial, who was consulted by Howsam before the deal was made: “Over the long haul is what we’re thinking about. We’re trying to analyze our team better and it’s a switch to the youth system.”

The Cardinals believed Johnson would hit for a higher average and had more speed than Mike Shannon, who had been their right fielder in 1964 and 1965.

Johnson had hit .307 against left-handed pitching for the 1965 Phillies. He also hit .424 (14-for-33) in 11 games versus the Cardinals that season.

Move over, Lou

Soon after joining the Cardinals, Johnson reported to their Florida Instructional League camp at St. Petersburg and worked with manager Red Schoendienst and coach Dick Sisler.

“He has a better arm than I thought he did,” Schoendienst said. “His arm is adequate.”

The Cardinals decided to shift Brock from left to right and start Johnson in left, with Flood in center. Shannon was relegated to a reserve role.

“I know the Cardinals made a big deal to get Johnson, but all I want is a chance,” Shannon said. “… I think I can hit .300. I’m strong. I can run and I’ve got good power.”

Johnson hit .286 in spring training and opened the 1966 regular season as the everyday left fielder.

He flopped.

Overmatched

Johnson started each of the Cardinals’ first 20 games and hit .195. The Cardinals’ record was 8-12 and Johnson received part of the blame.

“It’s not the pitchers getting me out,” Johnson said. “I’ve been getting myself out. I’ve been going for the long taters.”

On May 8, 1966, the Cardinals played their final game at Busch Stadium, formerly Sportsman’s Park. Johnson had the last at-bat in the venerable ballpark, bouncing into a game-ending double play. Boxscore

Four days later, the Cardinals played their first game at the new Busch Stadium. Johnson started in left field and was 1-for-4 with a run scored. Boxscore

The Cardinals, though, had seen enough. On May 18, 1966, they sent Johnson to Class AAA Tulsa and called up outfielder Bobby Tolan. Brock returned to left field and Shannon took over in right.

In 25 games with the Cardinals, Johnson batted .186 with two home runs.

Wrote The Sporting News: “Something had to be done to divert attention from that White-Johnson deal … Johnson appeared overmatched in his first opportunity at a regular job. He has plenty of raw talent and good speed. There is considerable hope for him, especially if he can develop the ability to learn from coaches both in the minors and in the majors. He has not adapted well to instruction and he has been easy to pitch to.”

At Tulsa, Johnson prospered under manager Charlie Metro, batting .355 with 104 hits in 80 games.

Carlton to Cubs?

After the 1966 season, Howsam agreed to a proposed deal to send Johnson, Tolan and pitchers Steve Carlton and Nelson Briles to the Cubs for outfielder Billy Williams, The Sporting News reported. The trade was vetoed by Cardinals “super brass,” who presumably included Musial.

“We needed a lefthanded-hitting outfielder and we went after (Billy) Williams,” Musial confirmed.

After the proposed trade was nixed, Howsam dealt third baseman Charlie Smith to the Yankees for outfielder Roger Maris. Soon after, Howsam resigned to become general manager of the Reds and was replaced by Musial.

Still struggling

In spring training, the 1967 Cardinals assigned hitting instructor Joe Medwick to work with Johnson. “I told him, ‘The only guy who is keeping you down is yourself. You’ve got all the equipment,’ ” Medwick said. “Alex was pulling too many pitches.”

Some thought Johnson and Maris would platoon in right field for the 1967 Cardinals. Maris, though, won the job outright, with Shannon replacing Smith at third base and Johnson taking a reserve outfield role.

In May 1967, The Sporting News reported that Johnson was “swinging at too many bad balls and fouling off too many good ones.”

According to the magazine, Musial “had tried hard to deal Johnson to an American League club, but there were no takers.”

Johnson hit .223 with one home run in 81 games for the 1967 Cardinals, who won the National League pennant. He didn’t appear in the World Series against the Red Sox.

After the Cardinals won the championship, Musial resigned in triumph and was replaced by Bing Devine, in his second stint as St. Louis general manager. Devine’s first trade was to send Johnson to the Reds for outfielder Dick Simpson.

In two seasons with the Cardinals, Johnson hit .211 in 106 games with three home runs, 18 RBI and a dismal .258 on-base percentage.

“Alex just might put everything together one of these days and become quite a ballplayer,” Schoendienst said after the trade.

Red was right

Reunited with Howsam and Metro (who had become a Reds scout), Johnson blossomed. He hit .313 with 146 RBI in two seasons with Cincinnati.

Traded to the Angels, Johnson was the 1970 American League batting champion, hitting .329.

Still, his career continued to be marred by controversy and accusations of an indifferent attitude.

Said Cardinals coach Dick Sisler: “The tag on Johnson is that he will not accept advice from a manager or a competent coach. He easily could have become a great Cardinal player, but he showed no interest.”

In 13 years with the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Angels, Indians, Rangers, Yankees and Tigers, Johnson batted .288 with 1,331 hits.

Previously: Here’s how Mike Shannon became a Cardinals catcher

Previously: Bill White: We thought Lou Brock deal was nuts

Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial

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Jim King spent five years in the Cardinals organization, learning from the likes of George Kissell and Johnny Keane, but he twice departed the Redbirds and never got much of a chance to make an impact with them at the big-league level.

jim_kingKing, an outfielder who started in the first big-league game played in California and who spent 11 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Senators, died Feb. 23, 2015, in his native Arkansas. He was 82.

The Cardinals prepared King for the big leagues.

After making his professional debut at 17 in 1950 with the independent Vernon Dusters of the Class D Longhorn League, King was signed by the Cardinals. He played in the St. Louis minor-league system from 1951-54, including two stints with Omaha clubs managed by Kissell, the franchise’s iconic instructor.

In 1954, King had his best season in the Cardinals organization, hitting .314 with 31 doubles and 25 home runs for an Omaha team managed by former St. Louis catcher Ferrell Anderson. King, who had a strong arm, also contributed 19 outfield assists.

Courted by Cubs

King caught the attention of Wid Matthews, director of personnel for the Cubs. On Nov. 22, 1954, the Cubs claimed King from the Cardinals in the minor-league draft.

King made his major-league debut with the Cubs in 1955 and played for them for two seasons.

In 1957, Cubs general manager John Holland was seeking to overhaul the roster. Cardinals general manager Frank Lane was seeking a left-handed pull hitter who could benefit from the Busch Stadium I dimensions. The distance along the right field line from home plate to the outfield at the former Sportsman’s Park was an enticing 310 feet.

Holland made a special trip to Memphis to talk with Lane as the Cardinals headed north from spring training. Their talks continued in the Busch Stadium press box lounge when the Cubs and Cardinals played in St. Louis during the first week of the 1957 regular season, The Sporting News reported.

Second chance

On April 20, 1957, the Cardinals reacquired King from the Cubs for outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Ed Mayer.

“The deal for King was completed within 48 hours, culminating a lengthy series of conversations between Lane and Holland,” St. Louis writer Bob Broeg reported.

Broeg described King as “a pull hitter for whom the Busch Stadium dimensions are tailored” and declared that the Cardinals were “stronger and deeper” with King on the roster.

Said Lane: “He’s got the knack of pulling, an asset especially with our short right field, and he won’t be handicapped in St. Louis by the wind blowing in as it does so often off the lake in Chicago, making hitting tough for left-handers.”

The Cardinals issued uniform No. 9 to King. It was the number worn by Cardinals standout Enos Slaughter (and later by Roger Maris, Joe Torre and Terry Pendleton) before it was retired by the club.

King was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. On May 15, 1957, less than a month after he was acquired, the Cardinals sent King to Class AAA Omaha in order to get their roster to the mandated 25-player limit.

Wrote Broeg in The Sporting News: “Entirely unexpected was the decision to send down King rather than Tom Alston, the good-field, no-hit first baseman … Although mum was the word around the club, it was apparent that owner Gussie Busch … had requested that Alston be given another chance or, at least, a longer look.”

At Omaha, King played for manager Johnny Keane (who, seven years later, would lead the Cardinals to a World Series title) and hit 20 home runs in 116 games before being called back to the Cardinals in September.

In 22 games overall for the 1957 Cardinals, King hit .314 (11-for-35). All his hits were singles.

California connection

King appeared poised to earn a spot on the 1958 Cardinals. However, the Cardinals were seeking catching help. The Giants needed a lefthanded-hitting outfielder to replace Don Mueller. On April 2, 1958, the Cardinals traded King to the Giants for catcher Ray Katt.

When the Dodgers faced the Giants on April 15, 1958, at San Francisco’s Seals Stadium in the first regular-season major-league game played in California, King was in the starting lineup, playing left field and batting second, just ahead of Willie Mays. King was 2-for-3 with two walks, a run scored and a RBI-single off Don Drysdale. Boxscore

King had his best seasons with the 1963 Senators (24 home runs) and 1964 Senators (18 home runs). He broke Mickey Vernon’s Senators single-season record of 20 home runs by a left-handed batter. On June 8, 1964, King hit three solo home runs in a game at Washington against the Athletics. Boxscore

In a big-league career spanning 1955 to 1967 with the Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Senators, White Sox and Indians, King hit .240 with 117 home runs. After his baseball career, he worked for 24 years for the White River Telephone and Alltel Telephone companies before retiring.

Previously: How Cardinals nearly traded Bob Gibson to Senators

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In a deal that triggered their transformation into champions, the 1985 Cardinals got a sleeping giant to wake up their offense.

jack_clark4Thirty years ago, on Feb. 1, 1985, the Cardinals acquired Jack Clark from the Giants for Dave LaPoint, David Green, Jose Uribe and Gary Rajsich.

Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog saw Clark as the answer for an offense that lacked consistent power.

“I’m getting a sleeping giant who immediately fits right into our picture a lot better,” Herzog said to The Sporting News.

Clark, 29, was a proven run producer, but he had missed three months of the 1984 season because of right knee surgery. He also had developed a reputation as a malcontent.

Green, 24, was a prized prospect, but he hadn’t fulfilled his potential and his personal problems led to him being admitted to a treatment center in 1984.

“You’re really gambling on his potential,” Herzog said. “Of all the players I’ve had the opportunity to manage, David Green has more ability than anyone as far as hitting, hitting with power, speed and throwing arm. (Garry) Templeton and George Brett are in that category, but Green has more power than either, he runs better than either and he throws better than George.”

Prime target

After the Cardinals traded their top run producer, George Hendrick, to the Pirates in a December 1984 deal that brought them pitcher John Tudor, Herzog sought a replacement for the heart of the batting order. Clark was a prime target.

“It all happened rather quickly,” Giants general manager Tom Haller said. “The Cardinals instigated talks about Clark and we threw some names at him.”

In his book “The White Rat: A Life in Baseball,” Herzog said, “I’d always wondered what it would be like to write his name down on my lineup card. We went after Jack Clark hammer and tong in the winter of 1984-85.

“With Hendrick gone, we stepped up the campaign for Clark, the same kind of hitter George had been, only better. We knew he was unhappy in San Francisco, playing in that disgraceful ballpark of theirs (Candlestick Park). The Giants were down on him because he was unhappy there.”

Let’s make a deal

The trade initially called for the Cardinals to receive Clark and minor-league pitcher Colin Ward. Talks hit a snag when it was discovered Clark had several financial incentives in his contract, including a clause that stated Clark would be given a $250,000 payment if he joined another team in 1987.

When Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed to compensate the Cardinals with $125,000, Ward was dropped from the deal and the transaction was completed.

“I’ll be playing somewhere I can be more productive and it will be more fun coming to the park every day,” Clark said to columnist Stan Isle. “You don’t develop good work habits at Candlestick Park. You can’t always do what you want to do out there, like trying to hit Nolan Ryan with dust blowing in your eyes.”

Said Herzog to the Associated Press: “Jack Clark puts us in the situation of definite contenders again. Here’s a guy who can win a ballgame with one swing of the bat. He’s the only player in the league besides (Mike) Schmidt who could hit 20 homers a year playing in our park.”

Said Lurie to columnist Art Spander, “Nobody in the organization was anxious to trade Jack Clark … but we need players; we need starting pitchers. We’re supposed to be getting some top prospects.”

Upper hand

The deal was lopsided in favor of the Cardinals.

The Giants, who had finished in last place in the National League West at 66-96 in 1984, did even worse after the trade, finishing last again at 62-100 in 1985.

Green, primarily playing first base, hit .248 with 20 RBI in 106 games in 1985.

Uribe, who had played for the 1984 Cardinals under the name Jose Gonzalez, was the everyday shortstop for the 1985 Giants. He hit .237 and committed 26 errors.

Rajsich hit .165 as a utility player. LaPoint was 7-17 with a 3.57 ERA in 31 starts.

Clark connects

The Cardinals, who had finished in third place in the NL East at 84-78 in 1984, won the division title at 101-61 in 1985.

Sparked by the additions of Clark and rookie left fielder Vince Coleman, the Cardinals, who scored 652 runs in 1984, scored a league-leading 747 runs in 1985.

Clark, primarily playing first base, had a .393 on-base percentage and .502 slugging percentage for the 1985 Cardinals. He had 26 doubles, 22 home runs, 83 walks and 87 RBI. Clark hit the game-winning home run that clinched the pennant for St. Louis in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series versus the Dodgers.

In the book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Herzog said, “Jack Clark could pull a bullet … I could be blindfolded and tell when Jack was taking (batting practice). He was the only guy I had who didn’t sound like he was hitting underwater … The man’s power scared people, kept the defenses honest and kept our jackrabbits circling the bases.”

In three seasons with the Cardinals, Clark had a .413 on-base percentage and a .522 slugging percentage, powering St. Louis to two pennants.

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

Previously: Why Cardinals were right to try George Hendrick

Previously: Redbirds ripoff: How Bob Horner replaced Jack Clark

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Four years after impressing the Angels as rookie sensations, reliever Jordan Walden and outfielder Peter Bourjos are being reunited on the 2015 Cardinals. If they produce for the Cardinals like they did for the 2011 Angels, it would help St. Louis remain an elite contender in the National League.

jordan_waldenWalden and Bourjos both made their major-league debuts with the Angels in August 2010. In their first full big-league seasons, Walden was the closer and Bourjos was the regular center fielder for a 2011 Angels team that achieved 86 wins.

The Cardinals acquired Walden and outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Walden is expected to excel in a setup role in the 2015 Cardinals bullpen. He also serves as insurance in case closer Trevor Rosenthal is hurt or ineffective.

Bourjos, acquired by the Cardinals with outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Angels for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas on Nov. 22, 2013, hit .231 with nine doubles and five triples in 119 games for the 2014 Cardinals.

The 2015 Cardinals would like to see Bourjos perform like he did in 2011 when he hit .271 with 26 doubles and 11 triples in 147 games for the Angels.

Walden also was stellar that season, producing a 5-5 record with 32 saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 2011 Angels. He broke the Angels’ rookie record for saves (22) set by Ken Tatum in 1969.

Walden, 27, is 12-13 with 38 saves and a 3.10 ERA in five big-league seasons with the Angels and Braves.

Here are 5 key items Cardinals fans should know about Jordan Walden:

1. Dazzling debut

With the Twins leading the Angels, 4-0, on Aug. 22, 2010, at Minneapolis, Walden was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth in his big-league debut.

He threw a fastball clocked at 99 mph to the first batter he faced, Joe Mauer.

Mauer walked and Jason Kubel singled, putting runners on first and third with no outs.

Walden then struck out Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome before getting Delmon Young on a ground out, stranding the runners.

Asked afterward how Walden ranked among Angels pitching prospects, manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register, “Jordan is a guy who has the most upside of the guys we were looking at.” Boxscore

2. Cardinals connections

On June 17, 2011, Walden and Bourjos combined to help Angels starting pitcher Joel Pineiro, a former Cardinal, earn his 100th win in the majors.

Facing the Mets at New York, Bourjos hit a RBI-double off starter Chris Capuano in the top of the sixth, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Bourjos made a leaping grab of a Ronny Paulino drive off Pineiro before crashing into the center field wall.

In the ninth, with the Angels ahead, 4-3, Walden came in for the save. He walked the first two batters, Jose Reyes and Justin Turner. He then struck out Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan on sliders.

“He threw some terrific breaking balls,” Scioscia said of Walden. Boxscore

3. Replacing Rivera

Walden was named to the 2011 American League all-star team as a replacement for the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who had a triceps injury. “Even being mentioned in the same sentence with him is pretty awesome,” Walden said.

Walden, who had 19 saves, a 2.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings at the time of his selection, was the sixth Angels rookie to make an AL all-star team and the first since pitcher Jason Dickson in 1997.

4. Change of pace

Walden, a right-hander, has held left-handed batters to a .199 average in his career in the majors. Right-handed batters have hit .232 against him.

One reason for his success against left-handed batters is his changeup, which darts down when thrown well. “I like to show it to lefties because it fades away from them,” Walden said.

5. Angels angst

With the signing of free agent Albert Pujols from the Cardinals, the 2012 Angels were considered a certain pennant contender. Instead, despite the addition of a second wild-card team, the Angels failed to qualify for the postseason.

Part of the blame was placed on Bourjos, who slumped to a .220 batting mark with 37 hits in 101 games, and on Walden, who had an 8.31 ERA after his first six appearances.

Walden was replaced as the closer by Ernesto Frieri.

So desperate for relief help were the 2012 Angels that 40-year-old Jason Isringhausen, the former Cardinals closer, made 50 appearances for them.

Walden did recover and finished the 2012 season at 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings. Still, the Angels traded him to the Braves for pitcher Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30, 2012.

In two seasons with the Braves in a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel, Walden was 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA, four saves and 116 strikeouts in 97 innings.

Previously: How Jason Heyward, Hank Aaron made powerful connection

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In a storybook start to his major-league career, Jason Heyward hit a home run with his first swing minutes after being anointed by one of the game’s all-time sluggers.

jason_heywardThe Cardinals, who acquired Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, are counting on him having magic moments for them, too.

On April 5, 2010, the Braves opened their season against the Cubs at Atlanta. Heyward, a Georgia prep standout selected by the Braves in the first round of the amateur draft three years earlier, was tabbed by manager Bobby Cox to debut in right field and bat seventh.

Hank Aaron, the Braves icon, was there to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Heyward, 20, was given the honor of catching the toss.

After delivering the pitch, Aaron offered advice to the rookie.

He said, ‘Have fun. You’re ready to do this,’ ” Heyward told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Electric feeling

Soon after, in the opening inning, Heyward stood in the left-hand side of the batter’s box, taking his first big-league at-bat. The score was tied at 3-3. The Braves had two runners on base. Carlos Zambrano, an imposing right-hander, was pitching.

Zambrano’s first two deliveries to Heyward missed the strike zone. Heyward didn’t bite at either.

On the 2-and-0 pitch, Zambrano threw a sinking fastball toward the inner part of the plate.

Heyward swung and sent a drive 446 feet into the right-field stands. A three-run home run.

Turner Field erupted in pandemonium. The crowd noise was so loud, “I couldn’t hear myself think,” Heyward said.

Said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones: “I haven’t felt electricity like that in a long time.”

Watching from the dugout, Terry Pendleton, the Braves hitting coach who had played third base for two pennant-winning Cardinals clubs, said, “As soon as he hit it, we started high-fiving and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ You can’t script something like that.” Video

Gifted athlete

Heyward, 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, produced a RBI-single in the eighth off Justin Berg. He finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored in the Braves’ 16-5 victory. Boxscore

“He’s by far the best 20-year-old I’ve ever seen,” said Braves catcher Brian McCann.

Said Cox: “He’s a very talented kid and, when he’s not hitting, he’s going to help us in the outfield. He’s a very gifted athlete and a terrific defensive player.”

Heyward had hit .520 with eight home runs in his senior year in high school. Baseball America rated him the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2007 draft.

The first player chosen in that draft was pitcher David Price by the Rays. The Braves, with the 14th pick, made Heyward the first outfielder taken in the first round. Four picks later, the Cardinals selected infielder Pete Kozma.

Said Roy Clark, Braves director of scouting: “We are ecstatic, as you might imagine. We didn’t anticipate Mr. Heyward getting to us. He’s just a quality person. Great kid. Not only that, he’s got tremendous upside. We thought he was one of, if not the best, position players in the draft.”

Seeking consistency

Heyward followed the Opening Day home run with an impressive first season. He hit .277 with 29 doubles, 18 home runs, 72 RBI and 144 hits in 142 games for the 2010 Braves. His on-base percentage was .393.

Since then, his production has been inconsistent. He slumped in 2011, hitting .227, then rebounded in 2012 with 27 home runs and 82 RBI. He had just 38 RBI in an injury-plagued 2013, then produced 155 hits in 149 games in 2014.

Heyward has a .262 batting average with 644 hits in 681 games and a .351 on-base percentage in five big-league seasons.

Cox was right about Heyward’s fielding skills. Heyward has won two Gold Glove awards.

The Braves traded Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

The Cardinals needed a right fielder to replace Oscar Taveras, who died in an auto accident. The Braves needed pitching.

At 25, Heyward still hasn’t entered his prime. Whether he has reached his peak is a question that remains unanswered.

Previously: Home run vs. Cardinals put Hank Aaron on road to record

Previously: Hank Aaron and the home run that wasn’t vs. 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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