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Archive for the ‘Trades’ Category

After making a pitch for Barry Larkin of the Reds, the Cardinals, shopping for a shortstop, turned to a younger, less expensive model, Edgar Renteria of the Marlins.

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 14, 1998, the Cardinals traded pitchers Braden Looper and Armando Almanza, plus infielder Pablo Ozuna, to the Marlins for Renteria.

The Cardinals went to the baseball winter meetings at Nashville determined to acquire a shortstop to replace Royce Clayton, whom they traded to the Rangers five months earlier.

Larkin and Renteria were atop the Cardinals’ shopping list and, if they couldn’t get either one, Pat Meares of the Twins was an alternative, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Seeing red

Larkin was unhappy with the Reds and asked to be traded. The Reds had their second consecutive losing season in 1998 and Larkin, who had a Hall of Fame resume, wanted to be with a contender. Reds general manager Jim Bowden had vowed to rebuild the roster around Larkin and second baseman Bret Boone, so when Bowden traded Boone to the Braves in November 1998, Larkin felt betrayed.

“I’ve been lied to consistently,” Larkin said to the Dayton Daily News. “I’ve heard rebuild, rebuild, rebuild to get better. If that’s the case, I should see some light at the end of the tunnel. All I see is a tunnel filled with water.”

Because he had spent 10 years in the major leagues, including the last five with the same club, Larkin could veto any trade. He gave the Reds a list of five teams to which he would accept a trade: Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres and Rangers.

“If they can move me, please do it now,” Larkin told the Dayton newspaper on the eve of the winter meetings.

“I feel as if I’m being held hostage by a team with no immediate plans to be competitive.”

Trade talk

Larkin batted .309 with 34 doubles for the 1998 Reds, earning his eighth of nine Silver Slugger awards. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner ranked second among National League shortstops in fielding percentage that year.

The Cardinals “keep inquiring about Larkin,” the Dayton newspaper reported.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty offered the Reds a package of players, including pitcher Manny Aybar, who in 1998 was 10-0 for minor-league Memphis and 6-6 for the Cardinals.

Bowden’s response to Jocketty was: “You know who I want.”

According to the St. Louis and Dayton newspapers, the players Bowden wanted in exchange for Larkin were outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher Rick Ankiel.

Bowden said the Cardinals and Mariners, who made a bid on behalf of Larkin’s friend, Ken Griffey Jr., were the clubs most interested in Larkin “but neither offered quality big-league players or top-notch prospects. We listened, but nothing was substantial. Teams felt they could steal him for nothing.”

Big catch

Unable to reach an agreement with the Reds, the Cardinals turned to the Marlins.

Renteria became a Marlins hero in 1997 when he delivered a championship-clinching RBI-single against Charles Nagy of the Indians in the 11th inning of World Series Game 7. Video

In 1998, Renteria batted .282 with 41 stolen bases for the Marlins and was named to the National League all-star team.

Renteria, 22, was younger than Larkin, 34, and Larkin was under contract to make $5.3 million in 1999 compared with $2 million for Renteria.

The Marlins were agreeable to trading Renteria because they had a highly regarded shortstop prospect, Alex Gonzalez, who was ready to play in the big leagues.

Initially, the Cardinals and Marlins discussed a deal of Renteria for Looper and another pitcher, Mike Busby, the Palm Beach Post reported, but Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski, looking to get three players instead of two, opted for Almanza and Ozuna, along with Looper, rather than Busby.

“I want to play for the Cardinals,” Renteria said. “I want to show the fans I can play hard for a team that can win.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he planned to bat Renteria in the leadoff spot, with Drew second and Mark McGwire third.

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz rated the acquisition of Renteria a plus for the Cardinals. “He’s magic in the field and will take excellent care of Ozzie Smith’s cherished ground,” Miklasz concluded.

Good as expected

Renteria played six seasons (1999-2004) for the Cardinals and helped them to four postseason appearances. His best season for St. Louis was 2003 when he hit .330 with 47 doubles, 100 RBI and 34 stolen bases.

Overall with the Cardinals, Renteria won three Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards and posted a .290 batting average with 148 steals. He batted .333 for the Cardinals in the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox.

After that World Series, Renteria became a free agent and signed with the Red Sox.

In 2010, playing for the Giants against the Rangers, Renteria was the recipient of the World Series Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .412 with two home runs.

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Wally Moon shined for the Cardinals for four years, but wore out his welcome in a single season when he slumped at the plate and displayed what some perceived as an indifferent attitude toward his outfield play.

Sixty years ago, on Dec. 4, 1958, the Cardinals traded Moon and reliever Phil Paine to the Dodgers for outfielder Gino Cimoli.

Four years earlier, Moon won the 1954 National League Rookie of the Year Award when he batted .304 and scored 106 runs for the Cardinals. He followed that by batting .295 with 19 home runs in 1955, .298 with a league-leading 11 triples in 1956 and .295 with 24 home runs in 1957.

Moon, a left-handed batter, posted consistently high on-base percentages, including a .390 mark in 1956. He combined with Stan Musial and Ken Boyer to give the Cardinals a formidable attack.

Though he went into a tailspin in 1958 and hit .238 with seven home runs, he didn’t start a game for a month after injuring his left elbow.

After the 1958 season, Moon joined the Cardinals on their goodwill tour of Japan, impressed new manager Solly Hemus and appeared to be back in the club’s plans, but the Dodgers, who’d shown interest in Moon all year, convinced general manager Bing Devine to trade him.

The deal revived Moon’s career and sparked the Dodgers to a World Series championship.

Season of struggles

During spring training in 1958, the Cardinals got trade offers for Moon from the Phillies and Reds, but Devine was reluctant to give up a power hitter, according to The Sporting News.

Moon never got untracked at training camp and Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson was disappointed in his “light hitting and uninspiring defensive play,” The Sporting News reported.

In April, the Dodgers offered to deal outfielder Duke Snider to the Cardinals for Moon and Boyer, the Post-Dispatch reported, but Devine didn’t want to give up both players.

Moon’s funk carried through the first two months of the regular season. He was batting .246 with no home runs entering a May 31 game against the Giants at St. Louis. In the fifth inning, Moon, playing center field, and left fielder Joe Cunningham collided at the outfield wall while chasing a line drive by Orlando Cepeda. Moon suffered severe bruises to his left elbow and didn’t start another game until June 29. Boxscore

Moon hit .211 in July, rebounded in August with five home runs and 20 RBI and slumped again in September, batting .204.

Full Moon rising

The Cardinals finished 72-82 in 1958 and Hemus replaced Hutchinson after the season.

On Oct. 3, 1958, the Los Angeles Times reported Devine met with Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and discussed a deal of Moon for Cimoli. The Times described Cimoli as “a gifted athlete but something less than a favorite” of manager Walter Alston. Cimoli was in and out of the Dodgers lineup in 1958 “and made no attempt to veil his dissatisfaction with the situation,” the Times reported.

The Cubs wanted Cimoli, too, and Bavasi was in no rush to deal. “We’re being offered players for Cimoli that would help our farm clubs, but they wouldn’t strengthen the Dodgers,” Bavasi said.

As the Cardinals prepared to embark on their trip to Japan, trade talks with the Dodgers cooled, the Times reported, because “there are other St. Louis players Bavasi would prefer to Moon.”

Also, Hemus wanted to keep Moon and told The Sporting News, “You just can’t give up on a guy like that.”

Devine became less receptive to offers for Moon and noted, “A poor year sometimes is a challenge to a player and he comes back with a great season. We feel Moon can do it.”

After the goodwill tour, Hemus said Moon “looked good, improved … He looked like the Moon of old at times.”

Determined to deal

At the 1958 baseball winter meetings, the Braves made a bid to acquire Moon and the Cardinals were talking to the Cubs about left-handed power hitter Walt Moryn. The Cardinals also resumed negotiations with the Dodgers, and when Devine offered to include Paine, the Moon-for-Cimoli deal was made.

“The Cardinals made a mistake in letting me go because Cimoli isn’t the longball hitter they need,” Moon said.

Devine admitted the Cardinals sought a power threat in return for Moon, but opted for Cimoli because he “not only is better defensively, but also his ability to hit to right-center will be useful at Busch Stadium.”

According to Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg, Moon “disappointed consistently afield, both fly chasing and throwing. He seemed so satisfied with his inadequacies that his lean and hungry look appeared merely an unfortunate illusion.”

Alston acknowledged Moon “isn’t a great defensive outfielder,” but said he enhanced the Dodgers’ lineup because “he’s aggressive, he can run and what I like best about him is his power.”

The Dodgers projected Moon to be their left fielder and the Cardinals planned for Cimoli to start in center.

Cimoli said he looked forward to joining the Cardinals because “I can sit next to Stan Musial and pick up some hitting pointers.”

That’s a winner

Actually, Musial advised Moon, suggesting he develop an inside-out swing to take advantage of the short distance from home plate to the left-field screen at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Moon got off to hot start for the 1959 Dodgers, batting .352 in April. He also finished strong, hitting 11 home runs in the last two months of the season, including six in a six-game September stretch.

Moon concluded the season with a .302 batting mark, 19 home runs, 93 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .394. The Sporting News described him as “a dedicated hustler whose inspiration lifted the entire team.”

The Dodgers clinched the National League pennant and beat the White Sox in the World Series. Moon hit a two-run home run in the decisive Game 6. Boxscore

Cimoli batted .279 with 40 doubles for the 1959 Cardinals, who finished next-to-last at 71-83. After a torrid start, when he hit 30 doubles in three months, Cimoli tailed off in the second half and was traded to the Pirates in December.

Moon produced two more big seasons for the Dodgers, batting .299 with a .383 on-base percentage in 1960 and .328 with a .434 on-base percentage in 1961.

He was a role player from 1962-65 and concluded his playing career with another World Series championship with the 1965 Dodgers.

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Chuck Essegian, a Renaissance man who played the violin, studied to be a doctor, became a lawyer, and excelled at baseball and football, began the 1959 major-league season as a Cardinals reserve and ended it as a World Series hero for the Dodgers.

On Dec. 3, 1958, the Cardinals acquired Essegian from the Phillies for shortstop Ruben Amaro.

Essegian was an outfielder with a weak throwing arm, but the Cardinals were intrigued by his power.

After a short stint with them, Essegian was demoted by the Cardinals to the minor leagues in June 1959 and nearly quit baseball to pursue a medical career, but reconsidered after the club offered to relocate him to a West Coast franchise.

Four months later, Essegian achieved an unprecedented feat in the World Series.

Stanford standout

Essegian (pronounced Uh-see-jee-un) was born in Boston and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was a boy. Essegian’s father was an Armenian immigrant who became a mail carrier.

Essegian was a standout baseball and football player at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles as well as a promising violinist. “If he could belt a tune the way he batters that baseball, the Philharmonic missed a hot bet,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

He enrolled at Stanford, played baseball and was a linebacker and fullback in football, appearing in the 1952 Rose Bowl game against Illinois. Essegian earned a degree in biology and considered pursuing a career as a doctor or dentist, but first tried professional baseball.

From 1953-55, Essegian played mostly for unaffiliated minor-league clubs. In 1956, he led the Northwest League in batting at .366 for Salem (Ore.).

Essegian asked the National Association, the organization overseeing minor-league baseball, to declare him a free agent because of irregularities in the handling of his 1956 contract. On Dec. 4, 1956, National Association president George Trautman ruled in favor of Essegian, granting him free agency and giving Salem 30 days to appeal, The Sporting News reported.

The next morning, Dec. 5, 1956, the minor-league draft was held and the Cardinals’ Rochester farm team, unaware Essegian was a free agent, selected him off Salem’s roster.

Rochester was allowed to cancel its selection and choose another player, but stuck with Essegian, hoping the free agency ruling was reversed on appeal.

While awaiting the results of the appeal, Essegian took graduate courses, “which may lead to a career in dentistry,” the Capital Journal in Salem reported.

On Feb. 15, 1957, an executive committee of the minor leagues rejected Salem’s appeal.

Free to make his own deal, Essegian signed with the Phillies.

Cards come calling

Essegian spent 1957 in the Phillies’ farm system and led the Eastern League in batting at .355 for Schenectady.

In 1958, Essegian reached the major leagues, batted .246 for the Phillies and hit his first big-league home run on May 6 against Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers. Essegian became a friend of Phillies second baseman Solly Hemus, who after the season was named manager of the Cardinals. Hemus suggested the club acquire Essegian.

Essegian, 27, displayed impressive power for the 1959 Cardinals in spring training. On March 15, he hit two home runs against Dick Donovan of the White Sox in an exhibition game at Tampa and the next day he hit another home run off the Yankees’ Don Larsen at St. Petersburg.

Essegian “doesn’t have a good throwing arm, a result of a football injury,” but “is eager to give baseball a good try before returning to medical school at his alma mater,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Essegian made the Opening Day roster and in his second regular-season game for the Cardinals he drove in three runs against the Dodgers. Boxscore

Highlights were few, however. Essegian hit .179 and on June 3, 1959, the Cardinals assigned him to Rochester.

Essegian balked at reporting and “talked of quitting baseball unless he could spend more time on the West Coast,” according to The Sporting News.

After the Cardinals assured him they’d try to accommodate him, Essegian went to Rochester and hit four home runs in 10 games. Good to their word, the Cardinals traded Essegian and pitcher Lloyd Merritt to the Dodgers on June 15, 1959, for infielder Dick Gray.

Series slugger

Essegian was sent to Spokane and hit nine home runs before being called up to the Dodgers on Aug. 4, 1959. Batting .304 over the last two months of the season, Essegian earned a World Series roster spot against the White Sox.

In Game 2 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, the White Sox led, 2-1, in the seventh when Essegian, batting for pitcher Johnny Podres, got a high slider from Bob Shaw and drove it deep into the upper deck in left for a home run, tying the score. “It had to be the best ball I ever hit,” Essegian said. The Dodgers won, 4-3, and Essegian was credited with sparking the comeback. Boxscore

The Dodgers led the decisive Game 6, 8-3, in the ninth at Chicago when manager Walter Alston, playing a hunch, had Essegian bat for Duke Snider. Essegian lined the first pitch from Ray Moore into the lower left-field stands, capping a 9-3 championship-clinching triumph.

“He broke his bat on that homer, you know,” said Dodgers coach Pee Wee Reese. “How about that for power?” Boxscore

Essegian became the first player to hit two pinch-hit home runs in a World Series. Another former Cardinal, Bernie Carbo, matched the feat in 1975 for the Red Sox against the Reds.

Essegian also became the second athlete to play in a Rose Bowl and a World Series. The other, Jackie Jensen, appeared in the 1949 Rose Bowl for Cal and the 1950 World Series for the Yankees.

Law and order

Even with his World Series heroics, Essegian barely survived the last roster cut at spring training in 1960 and his name was omitted from the Opening Day game program.

A crowd of 67,550 filled Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to see the defending World Series champions open the 1960 season against the Cubs. With the score tied 2-2 in the 11th, Essegian batted for pitcher Don Drysdale and hit a slider from Don Elston high into the left-field seats for a walkoff home run. Boxscore

The 1960 season was Essegian’s last with the Dodgers. In 1961, he played for three American League teams _ Orioles, Athletics and Indians. He became an everyday player for the first time in the big leagues in 1962 and hit 21 home runs for the Indians. “Because of his medical school aspirations, (teammates) are calling him Dr. Essegian and Ben Casey,” The Sporting News reported. “He’s handsome and has the scowl. All he needs is the stethoscope.”

Traded back to the Athletics, Essegian played his last year in the big leagues in 1963. He spent 1964 with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League and hit 15 home runs.

Essegian never did become a doctor or dentist. Instead, he earned a law degree and became a prosecutor in Pasadena before entering private practice.

Though often asked about the World Series home runs, Essegian downplayed the feat.

“I didn’t think that was so spectacular,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I was just doing a job. Luck has a great deal to do with something like that. You have to have the right situation, the right pitch and be lucky enough to hit it.”

In a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Essegian said, “I’m not sure, but I think those home runs probably hurt my career. You kind of get labeled as a certain kind of player. If you’re a pinch-hitter, you’re a pinch-hitter because you’re not good enough to play everyday.”

In 161 regular-season plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in the major leagues, Essegian hit three home runs. In four World Series plate appearances as a pinch-hitter in the 1959 World Series, he hit two.

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In seeking a third consecutive pennant, the Cardinals traded six players to get a No. 5 starter for their rotation.

Fifty years ago, on Dec. 3, 1968, the Cardinals acquired pitcher Dave Giusti from the Padres for infielder Ed Spiezio, outfielder Ron Davis, catcher Danny Breeden and pitcher Philip Knuckles.

Two months earlier, on Oct. 11, 1968, the Cardinals got Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh from the Astros for catchers Johnny Edwards and Tommy Smith, but three days later the Padres selected Giusti in the National League expansion draft.

The Cardinals, who won league championships in 1967 and 1968, were determined to add Giusti to a 1969 starting rotation with Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Nelson Briles and Ray Washburn, but the payoff didn’t match the price.

In exchange for Edwards, Smith, Spiezio, Davis, Breeden and Knuckles, the Cardinals got a pitcher who earned three wins in his lone season with them.

Houston calling

Giusti was a successful college pitcher at Syracuse and nearly signed with the Cardinals when he turned pro in June 1961. The Cardinals and Houston Colt .45s each offered Giusti a signing bonus of $35,000 and Giusti was leaning toward choosing St. Louis, partly because his former Syracuse roommate, Doug Clemens, was a Cardinals outfielder.

“If the Cardinals had hurried just a bit at that point, they undoubtedly would have landed Giusti,” The Sporting News reported.

Giusti opted for the Colt .45s, who were entering the National League as an expansion club in 1962, because he said “it would be the fastest way to the big leagues.”

Giusti made his major-league debut in April 1962 and developed into a durable starter for the club, which was renamed the Astros in 1965. In each of three consecutive seasons (1966-68), Giusti reached double digits in wins and topped 200 innings pitched.

During the off-seasons, Giusti, who earned a master’s degree in physical education, was a substitute teacher in a Syracuse suburb.

Giusti was delighted when the Cardinals acquired him from the Astros. With Dal Maxvill at shortstop, “I’ll have more experience behind me at that spot than I’ve had before,” Giusti said, and with an outfield of Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Vada Pinson to chase down drives “you don’t have to worry about making the perfect pitch all the time.”

Come and go

To help stock the rosters of the expansion Expos and Padres, the National League held a draft on Oct. 14, 1968, consisting of six rounds. The Expos and Padres each were allowed to select five players per round from the existing National League franchises.

Each existing team initially could protect 15 players. A team could protect three more players each time one was taken from its list of unprotected.

After the Cardinals got Giusti from the Astros, he asked general manager Bing Devine whether he’d be protected and Devine “didn’t say yes or no,” Giusti said.

The Cardinals wavered until the last minute before protecting Washburn instead of Giusti, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The Cardinals would have protected Giusti in the second round if another one of their players was chosen in the first round, according to the Post-Dispatch, but Giusti was the first Cardinals player drafted. The Padres selected Giusti with their second pick in the first round.

“I’m very disappointed,” Giusti said. “Nobody in St. Louis told me this was going to happen. I wanted to work for a championship club.”

Let’s make up

Trade offers for Giusti poured in to the Padres from the Reds, Orioles, Astros and Cardinals. The Reds were offering shortstop Leo Cardenas or outfielder Hal McRae, The Sporting News reported.

Devine came up with the package of four players at positions the Padres were looking to fill. “We needed numbers and the Cards wanted the proven starting pitcher,” said Padres president Buzzie Bavasi.

Devine called to inform Giusti he’d been reacquired by the Cardinals and said, “You can stop being mad at me. We’ve got you back.”

In addition to a fastball and slider, Giusti threw a palmball, which is similar to a changeup. “The difference is the pitcher grips the ball back in the palm rather than with the fingertips,” the Post-Dispatch explained.

“Learning to throw the palmball was a matter of survival,” Giusti said. “I found out early that the hitters up here can hit the fastball. I had to come up with another pitch.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Billy Muffett: “He can throw the palmball over the plate just about any time he wants. He’s not afraid to throw it no matter what the situation. He never tips off the pitch.”

Starter to closer

In his first regular-season appearance for the Cardinals, on April 12, 1969, Giusti pitched a shutout and scored the lone run in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. The run came in the third inning when Giusti doubled and scored on Flood’s double against Don Cardwell. Boxscore

Giusti pitched a three-hitter against the Cubs for his second Cardinals win. Boxscore.

His season began to unravel in late May when he wrenched his back while fielding during batting practice. He was on the disabled list for a month and in his absence Chuck Taylor and Mike Torrez won spots in the rotation. Giusti was relegated to long-inning relief in August and September as the Cardinals faded from contention.

He finished the season at 3-7 with a 3.61 ERA in 22 appearances.

On Oct. 21, 1969, the Cardinals traded Giusti and catcher Dave Ricketts to the Pirates for outfielders Carl Taylor and Frank Vanzin. Pirates general manager Joe Brown made the deal on the recommendation of outfielder Roberto Clemente, who told him Giusti “always had good stuff and he is a tough competitor.”

The Pirates converted Giusti into a closer and in 1971 he led the National League in saves (30) for the World Series champions. Giusti pitched 5.1 scoreless innings against the Orioles in the 1971 World Series and earned a save in Game 4 when he retired all six batters he faced. Boxscore

In seven seasons (1970-76) with the Pirates, Giusti was 47-28 with a 2.94 ERA and 133 saves.

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As a big-league shortstop, Khalil Greene had special physical skills, but a mental health condition rendered him unable to continue his playing career.

On Dec. 4, 2008, the Cardinals acquired Greene from the Padres for pitchers Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson unaware Greene suffered from social anxiety disorder.

The Cardinals were seeking a replacement at shortstop for Cesar Izturis, who became a free agent, and Greene appealed because he hit for power and, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was “an above-average defender.”

Greene also was shy, or introverted, but those personality traits, the Cardinals found out, carried deeper meaning.

Early success

Khalil Thabit Greene was born in Butler, Pa., and went to high school in Key West, Fla. His father was a jeweler and his mother was a teacher.

Greene was brought up in the Baha’i Faith, whose followers “believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life,” the organization’s website explains.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Khalil translates to “friend of God” and Thabit means “steadfast.”

Greene enrolled at Clemson University and earned a degree in sociology. He also excelled at baseball, completing a four-year career as Clemson’s all-time leader in hits, doubles, RBI, extra-base hits and total bases.

The Padres chose Greene in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft and he made his big-league debut with them on Sept. 3, 2003.

From 2004 through 2007, Greene averaged 18 home runs and 72 RBI per year and had his best season in 2007 when he produced 27 home runs and 97 RBI.

Greene was limited to 105 games in 2008 because of a season-ending injury on July 30 when he fractured his left hand after punching a storage chest in frustration. “I would say that was very out of character,” Greene told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch.

Though Greene batted .213 in 2008, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was unhesitant in dealing for him. “It’s our strong belief that last year (2008) was an aberration,” Mozeliak said.

Seventy percent of respondents to a stltoday.com poll gave the trade a thumbs up.

Under pressure

At spring training with the Cardinals in 2009, Greene, 29, impressed, hitting .408 with 17 RBI in exhibition games.

Regarding his quiet demeanor, Greene told the Post-Dispatch, “I internalize more and that leads people to assume different things about me.”

The Cardinals’ high expectations for Greene were evident in the season opener on April 6, 2009, when manager Tony La Russa batted him in the cleanup spot between Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Boxscore

Greene struggled, batting .219 in April and .171 in May. Teammates noticed Greene punishing himself during the season’s first road trip, the Post-Dispatch reported.

On May 29, 2009, the Cardinals placed Greene on the disabled list because of social anxiety disorder.

“We’re trying to take some things off him for a while,” La Russa said.

Greene’s condition “is brought on by fatigue caused by incessant stress,” Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch reported. “Any failure, such as a strikeout or an error, reinforces a sense of frustration that finds release only through verbal or physical outbursts, followed by embarrassment and regret.”

Said Greene: “It’s about trying to find balance, about not being too hard on myself and being able to let it go sometimes.”

Tough tests

The Cardinals reinstated Greene on June 18, 2009, and he hit home runs against the Royals in each of his first three games back. After that, he went into a slump, the anxiety resurfaced and the Cardinals returned him to the disabled list on June 29, 2009.

“When he had success in Kansas City, that wasn’t really the test,” La Russa said to the Associated Press. “The test is when you struggle and how you handle it.”

Greene went home to South Carolina to spend time with his wife and parents and receive treatment.

Brendan Ryan had taken over as Cardinals shortstop and was playing well, so when Greene returned to the club for the last two months of the season he primarily was used as a pinch-hitter and reserve infielder.

“I need to get a sense of gratification when things are going well while being able to see any shortcomings in a way that’s not such a debilitating thing,” Greene said.

On Aug. 28, 2009, Greene hit the first pinch-hit home run of his big-league career, tying the score at 2-2 in the eighth inning against the Nationals. The Busch Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation and his teammates pushed him toward the top step of the dugout to make a curtain call and tip his cap, telling him, “Get out there. You earned it.” Boxscore

Greene finished the 2009 season with a .200 batting average, six home runs and 24 RBI in 77 games. He did hit .353 (12-for-34) with runners in scoring position.

In November 2009, Greene entered free agency and two months later signed a $750,000, one-year deal with the Rangers, who projected him for a utility role.

“This is a situation that will be good for me in a lot of ways,” Greene said. “It’s an exciting team to play for and it looks like a neat place to play.”

On Feb. 25, 2010, the Rangers voided the contract, saying a private matter would keep Greene from reporting to spring training. At age 30, he was finished as a professional ballplayer.

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Ricky Bottalico was acquired by the Cardinals to be a setup reliever, became the closer instead and didn’t perform well enough to keep the job.

Twenty years ago, on Nov. 19, 1998, the Cardinals got Bottalico and pitcher Garrett Stephenson from the Phillies for outfielder Ron Gant and pitchers Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte. The Cardinals also agreed to pay $6 million toward Gant’s salary over the next two years and Brantley’s salary in 1999.

With an 0-5 record, eight blown save chances and a 4.44 ERA, Brantley was a bust as Cardinals closer in 1998 and he relinquished the role to Juan Acevedo over the last two months of the season. Acevedo responded with 15 saves and the Cardinals were convinced he’d be their closer in 1999. “Our people have (Acevedo) ranked among the top five in the National League,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

What the Cardinals wanted were established setup relievers to protect late-inning leads before turning to Acevedo in the ninth. They thought they’d acquired an ideal tandem in Bottalico, a right-hander, and Scott Radinsky, a left-hander they signed as a free agent after he posted a 2.63 ERA and 13 saves for the 1998 Dodgers.

Quick study

Bottalico was a catcher in college at Florida Southern and Central Connecticut, but wasn’t selected in the major-league draft. The Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent in July 1991 and projected him to be a pitcher.

“I knew I threw the ball hard, but I really didn’t have even a windup at that point,” Bottalico said. “I was throwing more like a catcher, straight from the ear.”

Bottalico was sent to the low levels of the Phillies farm system and was used as a starter. “I learned more about pitching in the first week of minor-league baseball than in the whole rest of my life,” Bottalico said.

After making 11 starts in 1992, he was converted into a closer and began a quick ascension through the farm system. “The Phillies saw my intensity level,” Bottalico said. “Once they saw that, I was labeled for a closer’s role.”

Bottalico debuted in the big leagues with the Phillies in 1994 and he had 34 saves for them in each of two seasons, 1996 and 1997.

In April 1998, Bottalico had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. He sat out two months, returned in July and “struggled to regain his control and velocity,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Left-handed batters hit .375 against Bottalico in 1998. He had an 11.68 ERA in August and a 5.59 ERA in September.

Something is amiss

The Cardinals approached the Phillies in November 1998 and suggested trading Gant for Bottalico, Phillies manager Terry Francona said. “We were dying for a 30-homer guy like Gant,” said Phillies general manager Ed Wade.

To sweeten the deal, the Cardinals said they’d include Brantley and Politte and would pay portions of the remainder of Gant’s and Brantley’s contracts, Francona said.

The Phillies included Stephenson in the package because he’d filed a grievance against them, claiming he was sent to the minors while injured, and “wore out his welcome here,” Wade said.

Though Bottalico was 1-5 with a 6.44 ERA for the 1998 Phillies, Jocketty called him “a guy we’ve liked for a long time” and said Cardinals doctors were convinced the pitcher’s arm was sound. “My arm hasn’t felt this good in years,” Bottalico said.

Early in the 1999 season, Bottalico pitched well for the Cardinals and Acevedo didn’t. Bottalico had a 1.46 ERA in 11 appearances in April. By mid-May, Acevedo had a 6.75 ERA, so the Cardinals made Bottalico the closer.

Though Bottalico had stretches of success, he faltered in the final two months of the season. His ERA in August was 9.72 and in September it was 7.84.

Meanwhile, Radinsky injured his elbow and didn’t pitch for the Cardinals in August and September.

The relievers who began the season as the Cardinals’ top three all produced poor results:

_ Acevedo, 4-5, 5.06 ERA, four saves as a reliever.

_ Bottalico, 3-7, 4.91 ERA, 20 saves and eight blown save chances.

_ Radinsky, 2-1, 4.88 ERA, three saves.

Bottalico had “too many walks, too many late-inning home runs, too little confidence” during the second half of the season, the Post-Dispatch surmised.

The pitcher who turned out to provide a boost was the throw-in from the Phillies deal. Stephenson, sent to the minors early in spring training, was called up to the Cardinals in June 1999 and won his first five decisions. He finished 6-3 with a 4.22 ERA. In 2000, he was a 16-game winner for the Cardinals.

One and done

The Cardinals were 75-86 in 1999 and they vowed to make moves to improve.

On Nov. 16, 1999, the Cardinals acquired reliever Dave Veres from the Rockies and projected him to be their closer in 2000.

Soon after, the Cardinals offered to deal Bottalico and outfielder Eric Davis to the Dodgers for starting pitcher Ismael Valdez and second baseman Eric Young, the Post-Dispatch reported. When the Dodgers balked at taking Davis, talks continued about a swap of Bottalico for Young.

On Dec. 12, 1999, the Dodgers got what they considered a better offer and dealt Valdez and Young to the Cubs for pitchers Terry Adams, Chad Ricketts and Brian Stephenson. A week later, the Cardinals got second baseman Fernando Vina for Acevedo, catcher Eliezer Alfonzo and pitcher Matt Parker.

Unable to trade Bottalico and unwilling to pay him the $2.2 million salary he got in 1999, the Cardinals decided they wouldn’t offer him a contract for 2000, making him a free agent. “I had a feeling this is what they might do,” Bottalico said.

In January 2000, Bottalico signed a one-year contract with the Royals, bringing his short, unfulfilling stint with the Cardinals to an official end.

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