Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

Needing a closer, the 1996 Cardinals wanted Dennis Eckersley. What they didn’t want was the obligation to pay his entire salary.

dennis_eckersley3When the Athletics agreed to pay part of the sum and Eckersley agreed to defer much of the rest, the Cardinals agreed to a deal.

Twenty years ago, on Feb. 13, 1996, the Cardinals acquired Eckersley from the Athletics for reliever Steve Montgomery.

Eckerlsey, 41, was under contract to receive $2.2 million in 1996.

To make the trade, all sides agreed to this arrangement: The Athletics would pay him $700,000, the Cardinals would pay him $500,000 and Eckersley would defer $1 million to another year, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Sticking together

Looking to rebuild after finishing in last place in 1995, the Athletics were eager to grant Eckersley’s request to be traded to St. Louis. Eckersley sought to be reunited with manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Eckersley had been transformed from a starter to a closer by La Russa and Duncan after he was traded to the Athletics by the Cubs in April 1987. With Eckersley reliably sealing wins, the Athletics won three consecutive American League pennants and a World Series title from 1988-90.

Asked about La Russa by Chicago Tribune columnist Jerome Holtzman, Eckersley said, “I respect everything about him.”

Because he had pitched in the big leagues for at least 10 years, including the last five in a row with one club, Eckersley could veto a trade.

“If he goes elsewhere, it’ll be St. Louis,” Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson told columnist Bob Nightengale of The Sporting News. “It won’t be anywhere else.”

Experience wanted

La Russa, who left the Athletics after the 1995 season to become manager of the Cardinals, told Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch he was “hoping” Eckersley could be acquired by the time training camp opened at St. Petersburg, Fla. Acknowledging that negotiations were held up, La Russa added, “I don’t know if it can happen.”

Eckersley had one of his worst seasons in 1995. Though he earned 29 saves in 38 chances, Eckersley had a 4.83 ERA in 52 appearances. It was his third consecutive season with an ERA above 4.00. From 1988 through 1992, Eckersley had posted ERAs below 3.00 each year.

“Eck has got plenty left physically,” La Russa said. “Mentally and emotionally, he’s still at the top of his game.”

Tom Henke, who had 36 saves and a 1.82 ERA for the 1995 Cardinals, had retired, leaving St. Louis without an established closer.

The Cardinals envisioned Eckersley as a fit for the role while a pair of potential successors, T.J. Mathews and John Frascatore, continued to develop.

Oakland connections

After the deal was made, La Russa said, “We’re getting a guy who will be anywhere from good to great as a closer this year.”

Said Eckersley: “To be an effective closer, you have to have a manager who knows how to use you.”

The Athletics reportedly wanted Mathews _ who would be dealt to Oakland a year later for slugger Mark McGwire _ but settled for Montgomery, 25, a prospect who earned 36 saves for manager Mike Ramsey at Class AA Arkansas in 1995.

“This was more to accommodate Dennis than acquire Steve,” Alderson told the San Francisco Chronicle. “… This is what Dennis wanted and, given where we are, this is probably best for us, too.”

Eckersley joined Rick Honeycutt, Mike Gallego and Todd Stottlemyre as the fourth former Athletics player the Cardinals had acquired since La Russa became St. Louis manager.

Eckersley went on to pitch two seasons for the Cardinals. He had 30 saves in 38 chances (0-6 record, 3.30 ERA) in 1996. He followed that with 36 saves in 44 chances (1-5 record, 3.91 ERA) in 1997.

In two years with the Athletics, Montgomery was a combined 1-1 with a 9.45 ERA. He also pitched for the 1999 Phillies and 2000 Padres.

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley, Cardinals

Previously: Dennis Eckersley is oldest to lead Cardinals in saves

Read Full Post »

If Jedd Gyorko hits as well for the Cardinals as he did against them, St. Louis will have added a productive batter to its lineup.

jedd_gyorkoAcquired by the Cardinals from the Padres in a trade for outfielder Jon Jay on Dec. 8, 2015, Gyorko entered the 2016 season as a versatile infielder who can perform at second base, shortstop and third base.

His career batting average versus the Cardinals is .342 (25-for-73), with five home runs and 16 RBI in 20 games.

Two of Gyorko’s best games came against the Cardinals in 2014.

Here is a look at those performances:

Sweet swing

Batting sixth and playing second base, Gyorko was 3-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored against the Cardinals in a 12-1 Padres victory at San Diego on July 30, 2014.

He got a hit apiece off three pitchers.

Gyorko began his barrage with a solo home run in the fourth inning off starter Joe Kelly.

“Pitches were up that should have been down,” Kelly told the Associated Press.

In the sixth, Gyorko singled off Carlos Martinez. An inning later, with the bases loaded and one out, Gyorko hit a three-run double off Seth Maness, giving San Diego a 9-1 lead.

‘It was probably our ugliest loss of the year,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

Gyorko had been activated two days earlier after a 44-day stint on the disabled list because of foot problems.

“It obviously feels good to swing the bat the way I wanted to,” Gyorko said. “It feels a lot like how I was swinging it there at the end of the year last year. It’s something to build on, but I still have a long way to go.” Boxscore

Grand game

Two weeks later, on Aug. 16, 2014, at St. Louis, Gyorko hit a grand slam, lifting the Padres to a 9-5 victory over the Cardinals.

Batting fifth and playing second base, Gyorko was 2-for-3 with five RBI, two runs scored and two walks.

In the third, Gyorko’s two-out, RBI-single off Shelby Miller scored Abraham Almonte from third base, sparking a four-run Padres inning and tying the score at 4-4.

Said Miller: “Unacceptable. Obviously, it doesn’t sit well with me. I should have done a better job of making pitches.”

The Cardinals led, 5-4, entering the seventh. With one out and the bases loaded, Gyorko connected on a 94-mph fastball from reliever Kevin Siegrist, launching a grand slam over the left field wall and giving the Padres an 8-5 lead.

“It was a fastball down and in,” Gyorko said. “It probably wasn’t a bad pitch. I just put a good swing on it.”

The home run was the 31st of Gyorko’s big-league career, moving him past Mark Loretta as the Padres’ all-time home run leader as a second baseman.

“That’s a credit to the guys hitting in front of me,” Gyorko told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Really, they are doing a great job of getting on base. I just have to capitalize more like tonight.”

The grand slam was the third of Gyorko’s big-league career and the only one yielded by Siegrist with the Cardinals. Boxscore

Afterward, Siegrist was demoted to the minor leagues and Martinez was recalled from Class AAA Memphis to replace him.

Said Matheny of Siegrist: “He feels physically strong, but there’s just something that’s a click off.”

Previously: Cards steals leader Jon Jay plays similar to Wally Moon

Previously: Jon Jay matched Curt Flood as flawless in center

Read Full Post »

When Walt “No Neck” Williams played in the Cardinals’ system, he was hailed as the best hitter in the minor leagues and was said to have the potential to be the next Minnie Minoso.

walt_williamsThough he impressed the Cardinals, he never played for them at the major-league level. At the time, the Cardinals were stocked with premier outfielders such as Lou Brock and Curt Flood, with prospects such as Bobby Tolan waiting in reserve.

When the Cardnals acquired Roger Maris from the Yankees in December 1966, Williams was deemed expendable.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1966, the Cardinals traded Williams and reliever Don Dennis to the White Sox for catcher Johnny Romano and minor-league pitcher Leland White.

Williams, 72, died Jan. 23, 2016, in Abilene, Texas, near his hometown of Brownwood. The story of how he joined the Cardinals’ organization and solidified himself as a quality hitter is presented here in tribute.

Rushed to majors

At 19, Williams signed with the Houston Colt .45s and was assigned to Class A. He achieved immediate success, batting .341 (143 hits in 105 games combined) for Durham and Modesto in 1963.

At spring training in 1964, Williams, 20, impressed the Colt .45s _ he nailed three runners at home with his outfield throws _ and he opened the 1964 big-league season with Houston.

Williams told The Sporting News it was during this time that someone in the Colt .45s front office gave him the nickname of “No Neck.”

At 5 feet 6 and 190 pounds, Williams was described by one writer as “built along the lines of a fireplug,” creating a perception that his head was touching his shoulders.

Overmatched, Williams was hitless in nine at-bats for the Colt .45s. He was placed on waivers in May 1964 and claimed by the Cardinals, who assigned him to Class A Winnipeg.

Coached by Cardinals

In the Cardinals’ system, Williams quickly re-established himself as a fierce hitter and elite prospect. He batted .318 (114 hits in 88 games) for manager Ron Plaza at Winnipeg.

After the season, the Cardinals sent Williams to the Florida Instructional League. His manager there was the respected instructor, George Kissell. Williams thrived, hitting .320 for the instructional league team.

In 1965, Williams was moved up a level to Class AA Tulsa. Playing for manager Vern Rapp, Williams hit safely in Tulsa’s first 18 games. He hit .418 (28-for-67) during that streak.

Williams finished the 1965 season with a .330 batting average (189 hits in 141 games), 36 stolen bases and 106 runs scored.

In 1966, Tulsa joined the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. Charlie Metro was manager. The Cardinals assigned Williams and two other top outfield prospects, Tolan and Ted Savage, to Tulsa.

Williams, batting leadoff and playing left field, had another stellar season with Tulsa. He led the league in batting average, hitting .330 (193 hits in 146 games) for the second consecutive season, and produced 54 doubles, 25 steals and 107 runs scored.

Change in plans

Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam and manager Red Schoendienst had considered promoting Williams to St. Louis during the 1966 season, The Sporting News reported. However, they opted to let him play at Tulsa, knowing he was unlikely to get many at-bats on a Cardinals club that featured starting outfielders Brock, Flood and Mike Shannon.

Based on his minor-league success, Williams was rated a top contender to win a spot with the 1967 Cardinals. That changed, however, on Dec. 8, 1966, when the Cardinals traded for Maris. The plan was to move Shannon to third base and start Maris in an outfield with Brock and Flood.

A week later, Williams was dealt to the White Sox.

“Williams should be a crowd pleaser (with Chicago),” Howsam said. “When you take a look at our outfield picture, you can see why we could afford to deal him.”

Hit man

The White Sox were ecstatic to acquire a prospect whom they expected would contend for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1967.

“We picked up the best hitter in the minor leagues,” said White Sox general manager Ed Short.

Comparisons were made to Minoso, an all-star outfielder who six times batted better than .300 for the White Sox.

“White Sox officials believe they may just have another Minnie Minoso in No Neck Williams,” The Sporting News gushed.

Les Moss, manager of the White Sox’s Class AAA Indianapolis team, had seen Williams play for Tulsa and said, “He’s the nearest thing to Minnie in his hustle, desire and aggressiveness that I’ve seen around anywhere. He’s no power hitter, but he can whack that ball. He’s an excellent leadoff man.”

Said Metro: “The White Sox got themselves a fine-looking prospect. He not only was the best hitter in the league, but he’s a pretty fair outfielder … He overcomes mistakes with his speed.”

No fooling around

Williams hit .358 in spring training for the 1967 White Sox, closing with 10 hits in his last 17 at-bats. He was named Opening Day starting left fielder by White Sox manager Eddie Stanky.

“He’s really an aggressive hitter,” Stanky said. “He doesn’t fool around up there at the plate. He attacks the ball. He’s one of the few players who can tie into a high pitch and whack it for a line drive.”

Williams, 23, hit .240 in 104 games as a White Sox rookie. He went on to play 10 years in the majors (with the Colt .45s, White Sox, Indians and Yankees), batting .270 overall. His best season was in 1969 when he hit .304 (143 hits in 135 games) for the White Sox and ranked third among AL right fielders in assists (with 10).

Neither of the players acquired by the Cardinals for Williams contributed much. Romano, a backup to catcher Tim McCarver, had slugged 15 home runs for the 1966 White Sox, but he hit .121 in 24 games for the 1967 Cardinals and was released after the season. White, a left-hander, never appeared in a big-league game for St. Louis.

With Brock, Flood and Maris in the outfield and Shannon at third base, the 1967 Cardinals won the National League pennant and World Series championship.

Previously: 2nd career as Cardinal was long, fruitful for Ted Savage

Previously: How Oscar Taveras connects to Bobby Tolan as Cardinals

Read Full Post »

Weakened while treating a bleeding ulcer, Cardinals pitcher Brooks Lawrence was ineffective in 1955. He went from being the Opening Day starter to getting demoted to the minor leagues that season.

brooks_lawrenceThough the Cardinals needed pitching, they decided Lawrence wouldn’t regain the effectiveness he showed as a rookie in 1954.

Sixty years ago, on Jan. 31, 1956, St. Louis traded Lawrence and minor-league pitcher Sonny Senerchia to the Reds for reliever Jackie Collum.

It turned out the Cardinals gave up on Lawrence too soon.

With his strength back and his ulcer under control, Lawrence pitched for the Reds in 1956 the way he had as a Cardinals rookie.

It was yet another example of Lawrence’s ability to persevere.

Long road to majors

Lawrence served in the Pacific with the Army during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for using a machine gun to fight off an enemy plane that was firing on U.S. soldiers. He attended Miami University in Ohio and began his professional pitching career in the Indians organization in 1949.

By 1953, he was discouraged still to be at the Class B level.

Mickey Owen, the former Cardinals catcher, had managed Lawrence in the winter league at Puerto Rico and suggested to the Reds that they acquire Lawrence. They did, but they left him exposed in the December 1953 minor-league draft and the Cardinals claimed him.

Lawrence opened the 1954 season with the Cardinals’ Class AAA club at Columbus, Ohio. He was 6-4 with a 5.53 ERA when the Cardinals, desperate for pitching, promoted him to the big leagues in June 1954.

Milestone performance

In his debut against the Pirates at Pittsburgh, Lawrence, 29, started and pitched a four-hitter. He became the first African-American pitcher to earn a win for the Cardinals. Boxscore

From there, Lawrence established himself as a valuable, versatile pitcher. In 35 appearances, including 18 starts, he was 15-6 with a 3.74 ERA for the 1954 Cardinals. He ranked second on the club in wins and complete games (eight).

Lawrence was adept at starting (9-2, 3.85 ERA) and relieving (6-4, 3.25 ERA) for the 1954 Cardinals.

Against the Cubs that season, Lawrence was 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA.

Medical emergency

Shortly after the 1954 season, Lawrence was home in Springfield, Ohio, when he collapsed.

“I was coming out of the bathroom and passed out from loss of blood,” he told The Sporting News.

Lawrence was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. He needed eight transfusions and spent 10 days in a hospital. “The doctor told me that if they had waited a half hour longer to bring me to the hospital it would have been too late,” Lawrence said.

According to The Sporting News, Lawrence was placed on a strict diet of milk, cream and baby food.

“I reported for spring training in 1955 weighing 217 pounds,” Lawrence said. “That’s about 12 pounds more than I usually weigh. I was healthy and looked it, but I wasn’t strong.”

Shaky season

Lawrence was the choice of manager Eddie Stanky to be the 1955 Cardinals’ Opening Day starter at Chicago against the Cubs. He was shelled for five runs and lifted before he could complete the first inning. Boxscore

The poor start foreshadowed his season. In 46 games, including 10 starts, for the 1955 Cardinals, Lawrence was 3-8 with a 6.56 ERA.

He was equally bad as a starter (2-5, 6.58 ERA) as he was a reliever (1-3, 6.55 ERA).

Against the Cubs that season, Lawrence was 0-3 with an 11.37 ERA.

After Lawrence was demoted to Class AAA Oakland in August, Cardinals manager Harry Walker said, “He’s a good man and I hope he proves again that he’s a good pitcher.”

In less than three weeks with Oakland, Lawrence was 5-1 with a 2.37 ERA.

Change environment

Frank Lane became Cardinals general manager after the 1955 season and was tasked with rebuilding a club that had finished 68-86.

Lane contacted his Reds counterpart, Gabe Paul, and inquired about a pair of former Cardinals, Collum and third baseman Ray Jablonski. “When I heard what he wanted in return,” Lane said, “I told him he must have been the key man in the Brink’s holdup.”

Paul countered by saying Lane “was too much in love with St. Louis major and minor leaguers” to strike a deal.

Columnist Dick Young reported that Paul called Lawrence “to ascertain that the pitcher’s ulcers have not been kicking up.”

Cardinals doctors declared Lawrence cured of ulcers, The Sporting News reported.

Said Lawrence: “There was nothing wrong with my arm last year. That ulcer was the trouble.”

Make a deal

The trade was made when Lane agreed to take only Collum and package a minor leaguer of the Reds’ choice with Lawrence.

“It’s not earth-shaking,” Lane said to United Press about the trade, “but it’s a start.”

Surprised, Lawrence said he thought the Cardinals “would have at least given me a good look” in spring training.

Lawrence said he had worked for the water department in Springfield that winter. “I operated an air hammer,” he said. “That takes the fat off you.”

Collum, who had pitched for the Cardinals from 1951-53 and was 9-8 with a 3.63 ERA for the 1955 Reds, “is not a great pitcher, but he’s a great competitor,” Lane said.

Used mostly in relief with the 1956 Cardinals, Collum was 6-2 with seven saves and a 4.20 ERA.

Lawrence won his first 13 decisions with the 1956 Reds and finished the season 19-10 with a 3.99 ERA.

Previously: The debut of Bill Greason, first black Cardinals pitcher

Read Full Post »

Deemed too expensive to be a reserve and not enough of a power hitter to remain the everyday left fielder, Bernard Gilkey no longer fit into the Cardinals’ plans.

bernard_gilkey3Looking to restock their farm system, the Cardinals were offered packages of prospects by the Mets, White Sox and Royals for Gilkey.

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 22, 1996, the Cardinals traded Gilkey, 29, to the Mets for three minor-league players: right-handed pitchers Eric Ludwick and Erik Hiljus and outfielder Yudith Ozorio.

In the short term, the deal had little impact on the Cardinals, even though Gilkey had a career year with the 1996 Mets. The Cardinals won the 1996 National League Central Division championship and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 1987.

In the long term, the trade hurt the Cardinals because they didn’t get the pitching help they needed. Neither Ludwick nor Hiljus could help a staff whose team ERA increased each year from 1997 through 1999, contributing to the Cardinals missing the playoffs in those seasons.

Hometown regular

Gilkey, a St. Louis native, debuted with the Cardinals in 1990, replaced Vince Coleman as the starting left fielder in 1991 and held the position through 1995.

For those six years, he batted .282 with 602 hits in 593 games, with an on-base percentage of .354. In 1993, his best Cardinals season, Gilkey batted .305 with 170 hits in 137 games, including 40 doubles, 16 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .370 on-base percentage.

However, Gilkey never hit more than 17 home runs or produced more than 70 RBI in a season with St. Louis.

In December 1995, the Cardinals signed free-agent Ron Gant, 30, to a contract for five years and $25 million. Gant had three times hit 32 or more home runs with the Braves and twice had topped 100 RBI. He had driven in at least 80 in five consecutive seasons.

Money ball

Gilkey was paid $1.6 million in 1995, when he led NL left fielders in fielding percentage (.986) and batted .298 with 17 home runs, 69 RBI and a .358 on-base percentage.

Eligible for salary arbitration, Gilkey was seeking $3 million in 1996. The Cardinals offered $2.5 million. A settlement likely could be reached for $2.8 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Still, the Cardinals were looking to acquire a closer, either Dennis Eckersley of the Athletics or free-agent Gregg Olson. Trading Gilkey would help free up the money to make such a deal.

“The only reason we’d have to move Gilkey is because of money,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch.

It’s business

Projecting a 1996 outfield of Gant in left, Ray Lankford in center and Brian Jordan in right, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa discussed the possibility of moving Gilkey to first base. “We were saying that, but I didn’t see that as an alternative,” Jocketty said. “That probably would have hurt us defensively.”

On the day he was traded, Gilkey said, “I’m not bitter. I understand business.”

He was, however, hurt by the rejection.

“Once they signed Ron Gant, I knew the opportunity for me playing in St. Louis was slim,” Gilkey said. “It’s kind of shocking to know that you’ve played with the St. Louis Cardinals through all the down times and you did whatever you could to help. All of a sudden, they turn into contenders and they send me on my way.”

Of the players acquired by the Cardinals, Ludwick, 24, projected to be the most promising. He had a 13-6 record and 3.31 ERA in 27 games for Mets farm teams in 1995. “We have excellent reports on him,” Jocketty said.

Hiljus, 23, was 10-8 with a 3.94 ERA in the minors in 1995. Ozorio, 21, batted .217 with 40 stolen bases in Class A.

The aftermath

Joining a revamped Mets outfield that included another former Cardinal, Lance Johnson, in center, Gilkey had a sensational 1996 season. He batted .317 with 181 hits in 153 games, including 44 doubles, 30 home runs, 117 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a .393 on-base percentage.

Gant hit .246 with 103 hits in 122 games, including 14 doubles, 30 home runs, 82 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .359 on-base percentage for the 1996 Cardinals.

Though Gilkey outperformed Gant in 1996, the Cardinals finished 88-74 and reached the NL Championship Series. The Mets finished 71-91.

Neither Hiljus nor Ozorio would ever play for St. Louis. Both were out of the Cardinals’ organization after the 1997 season.

Ludwick, older brother of outfielder Ryan Ludwick, pitched well at Class AAA Louisville _ 2.83 ERA in 11 starts in 1996 and 2.92 ERA in 24 games in 1997 _ but flopped in two stints with the Cardinals. He was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in six games for the 1996 Cardinals and 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA in five appearances for the 1997 Cardinals.

On July 31, 1997, the Cardinals traded Ludwick and pitchers T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein to the Athletics for first baseman Mark McGwire.

Previously: How Bernard Gilkey foiled an opponent’s masterpiece

Previously: How Bernard Gilkey spoiled Frank Castillo’s big moment

Previously: How Cardinals struck it rich with 1995 free-agent haul

Read Full Post »

Valuing a mentor who could help him develop into a consistently productive starting pitcher, Todd Stottlemyre sought a trade from the Athletics to either the Yankees or the Cardinals.

todd_stottlemyre2His father, Mel, was pitching coach of the Yankees. Dave Duncan, who had served as somewhat of a surrogate father to Todd with the Athletics, was pitching coach of the Cardinals.

Twenty years ago, on Jan. 9, 1996, the Athletics honored his request, trading Stottlemyre to the Cardinals for outfielder Allen Battle and minor-league pitchers Carl Dale, Bret Wagner and Jay Witasick.

Stottlemyre, 30, joined free-agent acquisition Andy Benes as right-handers who bolstered a 1996 Cardinals rotation that included holdovers Donovan Osborne, Alan Benes and Mike Morgan.

Bernie Miklasz, columnist of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote, “This winter, the Cardinals have actually recruited starting pitchers who can throw fastballs by hitters.”

Stottlemyre certainly could do that. In 1995, he ranked first among American League right-handers in strikeouts. One reason he wanted to join the Cardinals, though, is that Duncan was helping him learn to throw more than a fastball.

Bound for Blue Jays

Todd Stottlemyre, whose father started in three games against the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in the 1964 World Series (he won Game 2 and lost Game 7), was drafted by St. Louis in 1985, but didn’t sign. Instead, he was chosen in a later draft by the Blue Jays and signed with them.

Stottlemyre debuted in the big leagues with the 1988 Blue Jays. He helped Toronto win consecutive World Series championships in 1992-93 and achieved double-digit win totals in four consecutive seasons (1990-93). However, he produced winning records in just two of seven years with the Blue Jays and overall was 69-70 with a 4.39 ERA for them.

After the 1994 season, Stottlemyre became a free agent and signed with the Athletics. Tony La Russa was the manager and Duncan was the pitching coach. Stottlemyre posted a 14-7 record and 4.55 ERA for them. He struck out 205 in 209.2 innings. Among AL pitchers in 1995, only left-hander Randy Johnson of the Mariners struck out more batters.

Stottlemyre credited Duncan and La Russa with his development.

“I felt that last year I took another step toward being able to pitch to my capability,” Stottlemyre said to the Post-Dispatch about his season in Oakland. “I felt I was more in control of myself throughout more ballgames … I’ve been able to get control of my curveball and changeup and off-speed pitches instead of just being a fastball, slideball pitcher.”

Meet me in St. Louis

After the 1995 season, La Russa left the Athletics to become Cardinals manager. Duncan joined him as pitching coach. That’s when St. Louis became an attractive destination point for Stottlemyre.

“We feel his best years are ahead of him,” Duncan said. “Last year, he made tremendous progress as a pitcher. Consistency was the key with him.”

The Athletics, looking to rebuild after finishing in last place in the AL West in 1995, were willing to trade Stottlemyre to restock their roster.

“He wanted to be elsewhere and it made sense for him to be elsewhere if we could get some value in return,” Sandy Alderson, Athletics general manager, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mike Jorgensen, Cardinals director of player development, said all three pitchers dealt to the Athletics were big-league prospects. “When you go shopping in the high-rent district, you know it’s going to be expensive,” Jorgensen said to the Post-Dispatch.

Consistent Cardinal

The trade benefitted the Cardinals more than it did the Athletics.

Stottlemyre was 14-11 with a 3.87 ERA in helping the 1996 Cardinals win the NL Central Division title. He led the 1996 Cardinals in strikeouts (194), complete games (five) and shutouts (two) and was second in wins.

Stottlemyre was 12-9 with a 3.88 ERA for the 1997 Cardinals and 9-9 with a 3.51 ERA for the 1998 Cardinals before he was traded with shortstop Royce Clayton to the Rangers for third baseman Fernando Tatis, pitcher Darren Oliver and outfielder Mark Little on July 31, 1998.

Overall, Stottlemyre was 35-29 with a 3.77 ERA for St. Louis and had three consecutive seasons with ERAs below 4.00 for the only time in his big-league career.

Of the four players traded by the Cardinals for Stottlemyre, only Witasick contributed much to the Athletics. In two stints with Oakland, Witasick was 5-5 with a 5.26 ERA. He pitched 12 years in the big leagues, appearing in the 2001 World Series with the Yankees and the 2002 World Series with the Giants.

Battle hit .192 in 47 games for the 1996 Athletics. It was his only season with Oakland.

Neither Dale nor Wagner pitched for the Athletics. Dale appeared in four games in the majors with the 1999 Brewers. Wagner, a 1994 No. 1 draft choice of the Cardinals, never appeared in the big leagues.

Previously: How Cardinals struck it rich with 1995 free-agent haul

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers