Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

When push came to shove during a game at Cincinnati, both the Cardinals and the plate umpire behaved badly.

On April 22, 1952, Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky confronted umpire Scotty Robb, who responded with a shove.

Two weeks later, Robb submitted his resignation to National League president Warren Giles, then accepted a surprise offer to continue umpiring in the American League.

Law and order

A Baltimore native, Douglas Walker Robb, known as Scotty, played semipro baseball until an arm injury prompted him to move into umpiring. He umpired college and minor-league games before serving two years (1944-45) in the Navy.

Robb was 38 when he became a National League umpire in August 1947. In his debut game, Cardinals versus Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York, he umpired at third base. Johnny Mize drove in four runs against his former club, powering the Giants to a 6-5 victory. Boxscore

Three years later, on July 2, 1950, Robb had a confrontation with Stanky in a game between the Braves and Giants at the Polo Grounds.

With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning, the Giants had a runner on first, none out, when Stanky came to the plate with “visions of a game-winning rally,” the New York Daily News reported.

Nicknamed “The Brat,” Stanky got upset when Robb, working the plate, called Bob Chipman’s first pitch to him a strike. Stanky took an angry swing at the next delivery and missed badly. Strike two. After watching a pitch go outside, Stanky grounded into a rally-killing double play.

“Angrier than ever when he reached the bench, Stanky threw a couple of water buckets onto the grass,” the Daily News reported, and Robb ejected him.

Giants manager Leo Durocher came out of the dugout to argue and Robb tossed him, too.

As Stanky and Durocher made the long walk across the outfield to the clubhouse behind the bleachers in center, Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson threw a towel in the direction of Robb and he also was ejected.

In a flash, the Giants had lost their second baseman, center fielder and manager.

“It was a senseless rhubarb and strictly the Giants’ fault,” declared the Boston Globe.

Robb took “a wicked booing” from Giants fans the remainder of the game, the Globe noted, especially after the Braves struck for four runs in the ninth and won, 6-3. Boxscore

Boiling point

The Giants traded Stanky, 36, to the Cardinals in December 1951 and he became their player-manager, replacing Marty Marion.

After the Cardinals split their first six games in 1952, Stanky selected rookie pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell, 21, to make his big-league debut in a start against the Reds at Crosley Field.

Mizell, who allowed the Reds two runs in the first and none for the rest of the game, showed more poise than Stanky and some of his veteran players.

In the third inning, Robb, the plate umpire, called out the Cardinals’ Solly Hemus on strikes for the second time in the game. Hemus barked at Robb before heaving his bat toward the grandstand on the first-base side near the visitors’ dugout.

Robb ejected Hemus, prompting Stanky to rush out of the dugout. Robb ordered Stanky to leave the field, but instead he got as close as he could to the umpire. Stanky stood toe to toe with Robb, gestured excitedly, waved his index finger in his face and berated him, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

“I wanted to know why Hemus was put out of the game,” Stanky told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

According to the Dayton Journal Herald, Stanky and Robb “were jostling each other in a startling fashion.”

During what the Globe-Democrat described as a “tornadic argument,” Robb thought Stanky touched or bumped him.

According to Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “As far as press box observers could tell, it was a phantom touch, as light-fingered and as unobtrusive as a pickpocket.”

Stanky said to the Globe-Democrat, “I told Robb that I never touched him. If I did, it was not intentional, and probably was caused by the fact that his momentum as he was walking toward our dugout carried him into me.”

Enraged, Robb threw down his mask, put both hands on Stanky’s chest and vigorously shoved him back a few steps. “The umpire squared off and Stanky, obviously stunned, then started toward Robb,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“It appeared as if the two might start swinging at each other,” the Globe-Democrat noted. 

Umpires joined Cardinals players and coaches in getting between the two and preventing further damage.

Stanky told the Post-Dispatch, “Getting shoved that way and not being able to strike back was the most embarrassing, the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me on a ball field.”

Robb ejected Stanky and the game continued. Gene Mauch replaced Hemus at shortstop.

Stan the Mad

More trouble happened in the seventh. With the Cardinals trailing, 2-1, Stan Musial batted with two outs and a runner on first. Musial hit a grounder sharply down the line at first. Umpire Lon Warneke, Musial’s former Cardinals teammate, ruled it a foul ball. “From the press box, the ball appeared to be foul by at least two feet,” the Cincinnati Enquirer noted.

Musial thought otherwise.

“Stan, who seldom protests a decision, kicked the dirt viciously several times,” the Globe-Democrat reported.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Musial was “drop-kicking dirt with the skill of a football field goal specialist.”

Perhaps to prevent Musial from getting ejected for the only time in his career, Cardinals reliever Al Brazle ran from the bullpen onto the field to argue on Musial’s behalf. Warneke ejected Brazle. Boxscore

Tough job

National League president Warren Giles was at the game and witnessed the shenanigans. The next day, Giles met for 45 minutes with Stanky, Hemus and the four umpires _ Robb, Warneke, Babe Pinelli and Dusty Boggess _ to get their versions of what happened.

As the meeting ended, Robb and Stanky shook hands. “It’s all over now,” Stanky told The Sporting News. “We’ll forget it and start anew.”

A few hours later, Giles, a former Cardinals minor-league executive, announced he was fining Hemus $25 and Stanky $50 for their roles in the incident. Giles publicly reprimanded Robb and said he fined the umpire an amount greater than the combined fines of Hemus and Stanky. Years later, The Sporting News reported Robb was fined $200.

Robb “seemed to feel he had been humiliated by Giles’ reprimand and fine,” The Sporting News reported.

The next game Robb worked was on April 26 when the Cardinals played the Cubs at St. Louis. In the seventh inning, Warneke ejected Stanky for arguing a call at third base. Boxscore

Unable to overcome the feeling that Giles hadn’t supported him, Robb resigned on May 5 and said he would operate a printing business in New Jersey.

Two days later, Robb was stunned when American League president Will Harrirdge offered him an umpiring job.

“When Mr. Harridge approached me with an offer, I was so choked up I couldn’t talk for a minute or two,” Robb told The Sporting News.

Harridge said, “I signed what I believed to be a good umpire and the kind of gentleman we would like to have on our staff.”

Robb umpired in the American League through June 1953, then retired from baseball at age 44.

“It’s a lonesome, difficult life,” Robb told The Sporting News. “An umpire must live like a hermit, avoiding casual acquaintances and not associating with players, managers or coaches. The travel is bad … and the pay wasn’t too good either.”

Read Full Post »

Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst had the self-confidence to make a bold decision when he thought it would give his team its best chance to win.

A prime example of how Schoendienst put team ahead of individual occurred on July 22, 1968, when the Cardinals trailed the Phillies by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

With two on and none out, Orlando Cepeda was due to bat for the Cardinals. Cepeda was the cleanup hitter and the most recent winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award, but he hadn’t been producing lately with runners in scoring position.

Schoendienst chose to let Lou Brock bat for Cepeda. The move stunned Cepeda, who never had been removed for a pinch-hitter, but the decision to let one future Hall of Famer bat for another turned out well.

Setting the table

Sparked by a three-run home run from Don Lock against Steve Carlton, the Phillies led the Cardinals, 4-2, entering the last of the ninth at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.

The Cardinals’ first batter was Julian Javier. Using a bat borrowed from Curt Flood, he fought off an inside fastball from Phillies left-hander Woodie Fryman and blooped a single into shallow right, breaking the bat.

“It was my sweet stroker,” Flood told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when asked about the bat. “I had used it a couple of weeks.”

John Boozer, a right-hander with a 1-0 record and five saves, relieved Fryman. The first batter he faced, Flood, noticed that third baseman Tony Taylor was playing back on the infield and guarding the line against an extra-base hit. Flood made the decision to try for a bunt single.

“Flood laid down a gorgeous drag bunt,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported.

Taylor charged in, grabbed the ball and threw high to first. Flood easily beat the throw for a single, and Javier advanced to second.

Phillies manager Bob Skinner, a former Cardinals teammate of Flood, said, “Give the guy credit for making the play. It’s a do or die play.”

Rare opportunity

With runners on first and second, none out, the situation seemed ideal for Cepeda, who had 111 RBI for the Cardinals the previous year, but Schoendienst had other ideas.

Cepeda had produced a mere two RBI for the month and none since July 13. (He ended up with five RBI for July.) Cardinals fans booed him the day before when he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts versus Mets left-hander Jerry Koosman.

Though Cepeda hit well against Boozer in his career (.375 with two home runs), it was a different story in 1968. Cepeda would go hitless in four at-bats versus Boozer for the year.

Schoendienst liked the notion of having Brock, a left-handed batter, face Boozer. (Brock would hit .391 versus Boozer in his career and go 3-for-5 against him in 1968. Also, left-handed batters would hit .352 versus Boozer for the season.) Plus, Schoendienst figured Brock was less likely to hit into a double play. (Cepeda grounded into a team-high 13 double plays in 1968 compared with four by Brock.)

With the Phillies starting a left-hander (Fryman), Schoendienst had intended to give Brock, who complained of leg muscle soreness, a day off, but with the game on the line and Boozer on the mound, the manager couldn’t resist making a move.

“You don’t always have a Brock sitting on your bench in such a situation,” Schoendienst said to the Post-Dispatch. “If there was no Brock, I wouldn’t have used anyone to pinch-hit.”

Right stuff

Cepeda told the Post-Dispatch he never had been lifted for a pinch-hitter at any level of amateur or professional baseball. When Schoendienst sent Brock to bat for him, Cepeda flung his helmet and stormed into the clubhouse.

“Anyone who knows this proud Puerto Rican must realize what a severe blow it was to his pride,” The Sporting News noted.

Brock was seeking his first hit versus the Phillies in 1968. He had gone hitless in 17 at-bats against them.

Using a bat borrowed from Javier, Brock grounded a 2-and-1 pitch from Boozer into right field for a single, scoring Javier and narrowing the Phillies’ lead to 4-3. Flood advanced to third on the play.

It was Brock’s only hit in three appearances as a pinch-batter in 1968. (For his career, Brock batted .258 with 33 hits as a pinch-batter.)

Mike Shannon followed and belted a 2-and-0 pitch from Boozer over Lock’s head in right. The ball bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double. The hit drove in Flood, tying the score at 4-4, and moved Brock to third.

Left-hander Grant Jackson replaced Boozer. Tim McCarver, a left-handed batter, smacked Jackson’s first pitch to deep center, a sacrifice fly that scored Brock with the winning run. Boxscore

Learning experience

Soon afterward, Schoendienst went to the clubhouse and met with Cepeda.

“Cepeda was mad, and it’s good that he was mad because it shows he wants to play,” Schoendienst told the Post-Dispatch.

Cepeda said, “This is a new experience for me. I wanted to bat. I was mad at first, but you never stop learning in this game. The manager made the right move. I haven’t been hitting. You know Brock is not going to hit into many double plays. He’s been hitting well.”

The next night, Cepeda had two hits and scored three runs in a Cardinals rout of the Phillies.

After hitting .325 with 25 home runs and 111 RBI in 1967, Cepeda finished at .248 with 16 homers and 73 RBI in 1968. For the season, he hit .217 with runners in scoring position, but the Cardinals still won their second consecutive National League pennant.

In March 1969, the Cardinals traded Cepeda to the Braves for Joe Torre.

Read Full Post »

Tino Martinez and Tony La Russa had much in common: Both were born and raised in Tampa, graduated from the same high school, went into the major leagues and helped teams get to the World Series.

On Dec. 18, 2001, Martinez joined La Russa on the Cardinals.

A free-agent first baseman, Martinez had been a consistent run producer for the Yankees, who won five American League pennants and four World Series titles in his six seasons with them.

La Russa had managed the Athletics to three American League pennants and one World Series championship before becoming Cardinals manager.

Though La Russa eventually would win three National League pennants and two World Series crowns with the Cardinals, Martinez wouldn’t get to be a part of that success.

Path to majors

A left-handed batter, Constantino Martinez attended Tampa Catholic High School and helped its baseball team win a state championship in 1982.

After his sophomore year, he transferred to Tampa Jefferson High School. More than 20 years earlier, in 1962, La Russa, a classmate of Martinez’s father, had batted .479 as a shortstop for Jefferson High School. La Russa was signed by the Athletics to a package worth $100,000 the same night he received his high school diploma.

Martinez was a first baseman for Jefferson High School. His friend, Luis Gonzalez, was the second baseman. Gonzalez went on to play 19 seasons in the majors as an outfielder, primarily with the Astros and Diamondbacks.

With Martinez and Gonzalez on the team, Jefferson High School reached the state final before losing to Miami Hialeah.

While attending the University of Tampa, Martinez was selected by the Mariners in the first round of the 1988 amateur baseball draft. Martinez entered the big leagues with the Mariners in August 1990. He played six seasons for them, including 1995, when he produced 31 home runs and 111 RBI.

In December 1995, the Mariners dealt Martinez to the Yankees, who needed a first baseman after the retirement of Don Mattingly.

Playing for manager Joe Torre, who joined the Yankees after being ousted by the Cardinals, Martinez generated 105 or more RBI in five of six seasons with the Yankees. His best year was 1997 when he had 44 home runs and 141 RBI.

In 2001, the Yankees played the Diamondbacks in the World Series. The Diamondbacks’ top hitter was Martinez’s friend and former prep teammate, Luis Gonzalez, who had 57 home runs and 142 RBI that year.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of World Series Game 4, Martinez hit a two-run home against Byung-Hyun Kim, tying the score. The Yankees won in the 10th on Derek Jeter’s walkoff home run versus Kim. Boxscore and Video

In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, Gonzalez, playing in his lone World Series, drove in the winning run with a single against Mariano Rivera, giving the Diamondbacks the championship. Boxscore

Match game

After the World Series, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman called Martinez’s agent and informed him the club planned to sign free agent Jason Giambi to be their first baseman in 2002. For the first time in his career, Martinez, a month away from turning 34, also was a free agent.

When first baseman Mark McGwire told the Cardinals he was retiring, Martinez saw an opportunity. “St. Louis was my first choice,” he told the Tampa Tribune.

Before the start of the baseball winter meetings in December 2001, Martinez called Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty.

“I asked them to consider me in their plans if I’d fit in,” Martinez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I wanted to make sure I initiated something so they could keep my name in their minds.”

Jocketty recalled, “With him calling like that, it impressed me a lot. He said he really liked what he saw here and what he perceived this organization to be.”

Thrilled by Martinez’s interest, La Russa told the St. Petersburg Times, “I knew his dad. His family knows our family. I know not just what kind of player he is, I know the character of the player. He’d be a great fit for us.”

Meet me in St. Louis

The Cardinals also were bidding for free-agent outfielder Moises Alou. If they got Alou, they planned to put him in left field and shift Albert Pujols to first base. The club budget allowed for the signing of Alou or Martinez, not both.

Martinez drew interest from the Athletics, Braves and Orioles, but he chose the Cardinals when they offered a three-year contract worth $21 million. The deal also included a club option for a fourth year. The Cubs got Alou with a three-year offer worth $27 million.

According to the Tampa Tribune, the first call Martinez got after signing came from Luis Gonzalez. “He was about as excited as I was,” Martinez said.

La Russa told the Post-Dispatch, “He’s going to be good for our players. He’s got his priorities right. It isn’t about stats and money. It’s about competing and winning.”

In an analysis of the signing, columnist Bernie Miklasz noted, “La Russa covets Tino’s presence and a little dose of that Yankees magic,” but also cautioned that Martinez’s “stroke was custom-fitted for the short dimension down the right-field line at Yankee Stadium.”

Production drop

The first signs of trouble showed at spring training. Martinez hit .180 with no home runs and two RBI in Florida Grapefruit League exhibition games. “Scouts say his bat looked slow in spring training,” The Sporting News reported.

When the season began, Martinez hit .198 in his first 116 at-bats. Published reports noted he repeatedly lunged at low off-speed pitches.

Though his hitting improved in the second half of the 2002 season and his fielding was strong, Martinez fell short of expectations. He hit 21 home runs but had his lowest RBI total (75) since the strike-shortened 1994 season. He hit .246 with runners in scoring position and a mere .207 overall versus left-handers.

Martinez later said he played much of the 2002 season with an inflamed left rotator cuff that prevented him from fully extending for outside pitches, The Sporting News reported.

The Cardinals won a division title in 2002, but fell short in their quest for a pennant. In 2003, Martinez produced 15 home runs and 69 RBI. He hit .210 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals finished third in a six-team division.

After the season, the Cardinals traded Martinez to the Rays, giving him a chance to play for his hometown team.

Read Full Post »

Sparky Anderson had a hand in convincing the Cardinals to stick with Julian Javier as their second baseman.

In March 1965, the Cardinals were considering trading Javier, their second baseman since 1960. Anderson, three weeks into his job as a manager in the Cardinals’ farm system, spoke up at an organizational staff meeting and advocated for keeping Javier.

Anderson’s assessment wasn’t the sole reason Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam didn’t trade Javier, but it was a contributing factor.

Until he joined the Cardinals that month, Anderson hadn’t worked with Howsam. The discussion about Javier gave Howsam the chance to see how Anderson evaluated talent and how he expressed himself when offering opinions that were contrary to others in the organization.

It was the start of a strong working relationship. Five years later, when Howsam was general manager of the Reds, he hired Anderson to be the Cincinnati manager, launching him on a path to a Hall of Fame career.

Performance review

Julian Javier was part of the all-Cardinals National League starting infield in the 1963 All-Star Game, and he helped the Cardinals become World Series champions in 1964.

Bing Devine, the Cardinals’ general manager when Javier was acquired from the Pirates in 1960, was replaced by Howsam in August 1964. Naturally, Howsam began making his own evaluations of the roster.

Javier produced a career-high 65 RBI in 1964 and reached double figures in home runs (12) for the first time, but he batted .241 and his on-base percentage of .282 was awful. Javier also made a career-high 27 errors. After the season, while playing winter baseball in the Dominican Republic, Javier lost control of his emotions and punched umpire Emmett Ashford.

Some within the Cardinals’ organization concluded Javier might be more of a liability than an asset. Internal options to play second base included a couple of local candidates, Jerry Buchek and Dal Maxvill. When a hip injury prevented Javier from being able to play in the 1964 World Series, Maxvill started all seven games at second base and didn’t commit an error.

Dinner conversation

Sparky Anderson got fired after managing minor-league Toronto in 1964 and was selling cars at a dealership in Los Angeles. Anderson wanted to get back into baseball, and when the manager of the Cardinals’ farm club at Rock Hill, S.C., suddenly resigned on the eve of spring training in 1965, Anderson got the job.

In his third week with the Cardinals at spring training, Anderson went to dinner with farm director Sheldon “Chief” Bender, minor-league manager George Kissell and scout Mo Mozzali.

In his book, “The Main Spark,” Anderson said, “There was a lot of conversation about Julian Javier. They were talking about the possibility of dealing Hooley to another club before the start of the season.”

Anderson asked his dinner companions, “Does he have good range?” Probably the best in the league among second basemen, he was told.

“Does he throw well?,” Anderson asked. The best of the second basemen in the league, came the response.

“Does he make the double play?” Anderson wanted to know. Again, the answer was he was the best at it in the National League.

“Then why the hell are you talking about trading him?,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, his colleagues said Javier was inclined to be lazy and loafed a bit.

In his book, Anderson said he told the group if Javier did so many things well, “but was a little on the lazy side, the organization should be able to find someone who can handle him and get the most out of him. A club should have a better reason for trading a good player than the fact he dogs it a little.”

No to yes men

The next day, Howsam led an organizational staff meeting in the Cardinals’ spring training clubhouse. Joining Howsam were Bender, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst, his coaches, Mozzali and all of the club’s minor-league managers.

After Schoendienst talked about the big-league roster, Howsam called on Mozzali, who raised the topic of trading Javier. In the middle of his remarks, Mozzali said, “Mr. Howsam, at dinner last night, Sparky here had some opinions that I think you might want brought out to all of us.”

As a newcomer to the organization, Anderson was surprised to be called out to express an opinion about a prominent player. In his book, Anderson said, “I was petrified.”

“Yes, I’d like to hear his opinion,” Howsam replied.

Anderson said he “sort of apologized” and explained his comments were intended as casual dinner conversation, but Howsam repeated that he’d like for Anderson to share his views.

“So I told him what I’d told the others, emphasizing that it didn’t seem logical to want to trade the No. 1 man at a position for that reason,” Anderson said. “Why not try to find somebody who could motivate him?”

Howsam thanked Anderson for his perspective.

Javier remained the Cardinals’ second baseman.

“Not that I believe I had that much influence at that stage,” Anderson said in his book, “but the point is Howsam is a listener. He’ll hear any man’s opinion. He doesn’t always go with your recommendation, but he’ll hear you out, then make up his own mind.”

Javier helped the Cardinals win two more pennants and another World Series title. In the 1967 World Series, when the Cardinals prevailed against the Red Sox, Javier batted .360, hit a three-run home run in Game 7 and fielded splendidly, making 12 putouts and contributing 20 assists.

Howsam was gone from the Cardinals by then. He left in January 1967 to become general manager of the Reds. Anderson, still managing at the Class A level in the Cardinals’ system, departed after the 1967 season to manage a Class AA club with the Reds.

After coaching for the Padres in 1969, Anderson was hired by Howsam to manage the Reds.

In March 1972, Howsam acquired Javier from the Cardinals. Used as a utility player by Anderson, Javier completed his playing career by helping the Reds win the 1972 National League pennant.

Read Full Post »

An experiment with technology went haywire for the Reds in a game against the Cardinals.

On Aug. 18, 1961, Reds manager Fred Hutchinson used a shortwave radio to communicate instructions from the bench to his third-base coach.

The innovative effort lasted an inning before Hutchinson went back to using traditional hand signals to relay signs.

Sign language

The Reds were the surprise of the National League in 1961. In addition to talents such as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Wally Post, the Reds were loaded with former Cardinals. They included the manager (Fred Hutchinson), hitting coach (Dick Sisler), relief ace (Jim Brosnan) and three infield starters (second baseman Don Blasingame, shortstop Eddie Kasko and third baseman Gene Freese).

On Aug. 18, the Reds (73-46) were in first place, 13 games ahead of St. Louis (58-57) and one ahead of the second-place Dodgers (69-44), entering a weekend series with the Cardinals at Cincinnati.

Earlier that season, the Dodgers unveiled a walkie-talkie system for manager Walter Alston to communicate with base coaches, the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. The Reds were determined not to be left out of the modern communications game.

Before the series opener against the Cardinals, Hutchinson informed reporters of the new way he planned to send instructions to the third-base coach.

Hutchinson had a microphone in the dugout and coach Reggie Otero, stationed at third, was provided an earpiece.

“A blue wire, connected to an amplifier in the dugout, has been run underground to the third-base coaching box, where it forms a loop around Otero,” the Dayton Journal-Herald reported. “Otero is equipped with a receiver under his shirt and an earplug. Anything broadcast through the amplifier can be heard by Otero as long as he’s within the loop.”

Party line

In the first inning, Otero heard Hutchinson’s instructions just fine. Problem was, so did a lot of others.

Because of a snafu in the system, Hutchinson’s instructions to Otero also were coming through the loudspeaker in the press box.

Fans in seats near the press box could hear what was being said, too, United Press International reported.

“It threw the Reds’ bosses into a tizzy,” the Associated Press noted.

General manager Bill DeWitt Sr. called Hutchinson in the dugout and told him to stop using the shortwave device.

Hutchinson went back to using hand signals to send signs to Otero, who relayed them the same way to the batters and runners.

Unfazed, the Reds scored four runs in four innings against Bob Gibson. Gordy Coleman hit a three-run triple with two outs in the first. Frank Robinson stole home with two outs in the third.

Behind the complete-game pitching of American League castoff Ken Johnson, who mixed knuckleballs with sinkers, the Reds won, 6-3. Boxscore

They finished the season four games ahead of the Dodgers and became National League champions for the first time in 21 years.

Read Full Post »

Center fielder Colby Rasmus lost his place in the starting lineup when he lost the confidence of manager Tony La Russa. Then Rasmus lost his spot on the club.

On July 27, 2011, Rasmus was the marquee name in a multi-player trade the Cardinals made with the Blue Jays. The Cardinals dealt Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters for pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.

Rasmus underachieved with the Blue Jays. The trio of pitchers acquired for him all earned wins in the 2011 postseason, helping the Cardinals become World Series champions.

Family feud

A left-handed batter, Rasmus was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, within the Cardinals’ organization, Rasmus became known as “Luhnow’s boy” because he was the first draft pick of scouting director Jeff Luhnow. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. became enamored of Luhnow, a data-driven analyst who clashed with general manager Walt Jocketty, and put him in charge of the Cardinals’ player development group.

Rasmus was 22 when he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He hit .251 with 16 home runs as a rookie.

In July 2010, La Russa and Rasmus had a heated exchange in the dugout. Rasmus requested a trade on more than one occasion. The Cardinals kept him and he batted .276 with 23 home runs for the season, but with more strikeouts (148) than hits (128). No other player on the 2010 Cardinals struck out 100 times.

The relationship between Rasmus, La Russa and the coaches deteriorated in 2011. La Russa said coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete offered to help Rasmus but were rejected. Rasmus instead took instruction from his father, Tony Rasmus, a high school coach who played three seasons in the Angels’ farm system.

“It’s just a fact,” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. “He was listening to someone else about his hitting.”

Colby Rasmus told Toronto’s National Post, “My dad coached me all the way growing up. He has a big interest in my baseball, wants me to play good and knows my swing pretty well.”

Tony Rasmus was discovered in the Busch Stadium clubhouse video room after working with his son in an indoor batting cage, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Rasmus struggled to make consistent contact. In mid-July, his batting average dropped to .241. Fed up, La Russa benched him and started Jon Jay in center.

Time to act

Concerned Rasmus was becoming what the Post-Dispatch described as “an eroding asset,” the Cardinals made him available for trade.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak “believed he had to cash in Rasmus now or risk seeing the trade chip lose more value idling on the bench,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted.

The Blue Jays, White Sox and Rays showed the most interest.

The Cardinals talked to the White Sox about pitchers Edwin Jackson and Matt Thornton. The Rays offered pitchers Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell and a prospect, but lost interest when Mozeliak wanted another pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Blue Jays became front-runners for Rasmus when they acquired Edwin Jackson from the White Sox, and packaged him with Dotel, Rzepczynski and Patterson.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos “has long coveted Rasmus, and he moved heaven, earth and a passel of players to get him,” the National Post reported.

On the day of the trade, the Cardinals (55-48) were in first place, a half-game ahead of the Brewers (55-49) in the National League Central Division.

“The soap opera triangle between Tony La Russa, Colby Rasmus and Tony Rasmus is gone, along with whatever distractions it caused,” declared the Post-Dispatch.

In announcing the deal, Mozeliak said, “This is a window to win.”

Miklasz noted, “In dealing Rasmus, the Cardinals should have secured a No. 2 starter and an elite prospect. This deal has short-term value. It makes sense for 2011.”

In conclusion, Miklasz wrote, “The Cardinals clearly wanted to get Colby and his daddy as far away as possible.”

Anthopoulos told the National Post, “We think we’re getting a player who has a chance to be part of this core. They’re hard to add.”

In three seasons with St. Louis, Rasmus batted .259 and had 330 hits and 320 strikeouts. “I might not have done as well as some people wanted me to, but I played hard and, looking back on it, that’s all I can say,” Rasmus said. “I’m happy with what I did.”

Tony Rasmus went on Toronto radio programs and criticized La Russa and the Cardinals. In response, Miklasz advised that Colby Rasmus “already has a reputation for letting his father control him and fight battles for him. By going off on Toronto radio shows, Tony Rasmus is only reinforcing the opinion that Colby is immature and in need of protection by daddy.”

Return on investment

Rasmus batted .173 for the 2011 Blue Jays and had more strikeouts (39) than hits (23).

The 2011 Cardinals surged in September, posting an 18-8 record for the month and finishing at 90-72. Though they placed second in their division and fourth overall in the league, the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs.

In the National League Division Series, Edwin Jackson, who was 5-2 for the Cardinals in the regular season, started and won Game 4 against the Phillies. Boxscore

Octavio Dotel, who had three wins and a save for the Cardinals in September, had two wins in the playoffs. He beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the Division Series Boxscore and won Game 5 against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series. Boxscore

Marc Rzepczynski was the winning pitcher in the pennant-clinching Championship Series Game 6 versus the Brewers. Boxscore. He also pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the World Series against the Rangers.

Rasmus went on to play four seasons with the Blue Jays, batting .234 with far more strikeouts (447) than hits (342).

He also played for the Astros, Rays and Orioles. He was 31 when he played his last game in the majors.

Though he never played in a World Series or got named an all-star, Rasmus received $47.4 million in salary during his career in the majors, according to baseball-reference.com. In 10 seasons, he batted .241 with 891 hits and 1,106 strikeouts. Video of career highlights

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »