Take 5 on the Cardinals:
1. With a surplus of coveted outfield prospects and some young power arms who could entice potential trade partners, will Cardinals GM John Mozeliak be able to pull off a big trade to put his team in position to make another run to the NL pennant? The pieces are there. It depends on how Mozeliak views his team. But one baseball scout who tracks the Cardinals offered an interesting opinion when I spoke with him Friday: If the Cardinals go for for a big move, they’ll try to acquire a formidable starting pitcher so they can go into a postseason series lined up with Adam Wainwight, Michael Wacha and the elite-level Pitcher to be Acquired Later. Nothing against Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller or the others, the scout said. But if they fade out, the Cardinals would regret not having a third big-gun pitcher to go with Waino and Wacha.
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2. Welcome back, Allen Craig.
3. Another scout told me that Cards RH reliever Carlos Martinez will continue to be pummeled by lefthanded batters unless he cultivates a changeup that he throws early in the count to prevent them from jumping on his fastball and sinker.
4. Since April 28 (and through Thursday) the Cardinals had increased their walk rate, had a .340 on-base percentage and entered the weekend tied for fourth in the NL over that time with an average of 4.33 runs a game. Before April 27, the Cardinals had a .309 on-base percentage and were 14th in the league at 3.42 runs a game. Better plate discipline is getting the offense going.
5. With the considerable (justifiable) hype over outfield prospects Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, leave some room in your excitement for James Ramsey, who is killing it down at Class AA Springfield. Ramsey entered the weekend with a .311 average, .399 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage.
5a. When the Cardinals bring up Taveras, Mozeliak will expect him to play frequently. But as we saw earlier this season with Kolten Wong, Peter Bourjos and Grichuk, an increasingly assertive Mike Matheny has his own beliefs on who should be playing. An executive with another NL team told me he’d like to see a candid photo of Mozeliak’s reaction when a lineup card is posted that has Taveras on the bench, with Matheny faves Jon Jay or Shane Robinson starting instead.
READING TIME, FIVE MINUTES
Free Paul Stastny.
Well, obviously he’s already free. Or almost. The Colorado Avalanche center can become a free agent July 1, and I’d be surprised if the Blues decline to make an aggressive bid on him. Stastny, who grew up in St. Louis, scored 25 goals this season. But more impressive: He had five goals during Colorado’s seven-game loss to Minnesota in the first playoff round. The Blues need forwards capable of scoring in the postseason. Can you imagine Stastny anchoring a line with Jaden Schwartz on one side and Vladimir Tarasenko on the other?
St. Charles native Mark Buehrle, 35, is off to the best start of a major-league career that began with the White Sox in 2000. The Blue Jays’ lefthander is 8-1 with a 2.16 ERA. He’s only the eighth MLB lefty to have amassed eight wins through his team’s first 48 games of the season. Buehrle’s excellence has helped elevate Toronto into first place in the AL East. And he’s doing it while throwing a fastball averaging an oh-so-slow 84 mph. The Cardinals will probably encounter Buehrle when they play a three-game series in Toronto beginning June 6. He’s on turn to pitch that weekend. “He’s old reliable,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Speaking to Kevin Wheeler on WXOS (101.1 FM) radio in St. Louis, NFL analyst Rob Rang of CBS Sports predicted exciting things from quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams in 2014. “Bradford must stay healthy,” Rang said. “But with their two first-round draft choices, the Rams were in place to take one of those quarterbacks. And the fact that they didn’t speaks to the confidence that (coach) Jeff Fisher has in Sam Bradford. And frankly, I think it’s going to pay off in a big way for them next year. I’m very excited to see if the Rams can duplicate the success that we’ve seen a number of teams go through in the topsy-turvy NFL in going from last to first in the division.” (By the way, I’m writing about Bradford and the Rams in Sunday’s Post-Dispatch.)
Pro Football Focus recently issued its list of the NFL’s best 101 players for the 2013 season. The rankings were based on game grades compiled through video study. And PFF’s second-best NFL player (any position) in 2013 was Rams defensive end Robert Quinn. Only Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt finished with a higher grade. “Quinn broke out in 2013 and immediately became the new standard for speed edge rushing in the NFL,” PFF wrote. “Most pass-rushers use their speed to set up a devastating inside move, but often in games Quinn’s speed around the corner has proved to be so great that he hasn’t needed to resort to his inside move, destroying tackles around the corner at speeds that need to be seen to be believed.”
A new football stadium and a Super Bowl for the franchise? What a nice fantasy. But let’s work on getting Rams owner Stan Kroenke to return a call from one of our area’s most prominent business leaders before we start organizing those STL Super Bowl activities. ... I’m not convinced that new Arizona chief baseball officer Tony La Russa will fire Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson after the season. TLR likes Gibson a lot. But if La Russa makes a managerial change, a lot of baseball people think TLR will look to St. Louis, with Mike Aldrete and Jose Oquendo emerging as candidates.
Speaking of Kroenke: He owns several other pro sports franchises. There’s Arsenal of the prestigious English Premier League, the NBA Denver Nuggets, the NHL Avalanche, and Colorado of Major League Soccer. Forbes recently came out with its franchise valuations for international soccer clubs; Arsenal ranked fifth in the world with an estimated value of $1.33 billion. Combine that with the Rams ($875 million), the Nuggets ($495 million), the Avs ($337 million) and the MLS team, and Kroenke’s sports-franchise holdings are worth an estimated $3.8 billion.
It’s great to see reliever Jason Motte back on the mound, throwing fastballs for the Cardinals. He’s beloved in the clubhouse, respected throughout the game and tireless in his devotion to helping those less fortunate. This is one of the really good guys in professional sports. … Kudos to Rams tight end Jared Cook, who had a golf tournament at Old Hickory in St. Peters earlier this week to raise funds for Little Patriots Embraced, a St. Louis-based nonproﬁt organization that serves families of active duty military, with a special focus on children.
THE NICE SECTION
Fisher will host his annual “Coach Fisher & Friends” Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday, June 8 at GCS Ballpark in Sauget. There will be a celebrity home run derby, softball game and postgame fireworks show. Proceeds benefit five charities: the BackStopppers,the Jack and J.T. Snow Scientific Research Foundation, Mercy Ministries, Wounded Warrior Project and Catch-A-Dream Foundation.
Rams players scheduled to attend include Quinn, Cook, Greg Robinson, Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers, Johnny Hekker, Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, T.J. McDonald, Alec Ogletree, Rodger Saffold, Eugene Sims, Zac Stacy, Greg Zuerlein, T.J. Moe and Aaron Donald. National anthem by Tess Boyer, the former Rams cheerleader and finalist on “The Voice” competition on NBC.
The festivities begin at 5:45 p.m. and should be over by around 9 p.m. General admission tickets are available for $10. Field and reserved field seats are $25. All tickets may be purchased through the Gateway Grizzlies at www.gatewaygrizzlies.com/tickets.
Sponsorships are available by calling 314-781-5233. Sponsors are invited to a special VIP reception hosted by Fisher on Wednesday, June 4..