Last time to trot out this cliche lede: if you don't like the World Baseball Classic after that game, then there's nothing to be done. I started off an Ichiro skeptic—no walks, no power, inexplicably stuck in right field—but he is just too enjoyable, too generationally unique, a player not to enjoy watching.It's not just the hits and the fielding and the weird wrists-first bat motion—it's that the man has never made an awkward motion in his life. If he appeared on Dancing with the Stars, like the guy who was my idol in junior high, they would have to rename it to Stars Dancing with Ichiro.
The awkward part of the World Baseball Classic is that I've gotten all this playoff baseball in March, and now there's a solid week until opening day. So: back to caring about how deep a player goes into a game, who's going to win out in the endurance match at second base... who's going to San Diego to complete the Khalil Greene trade.
I would say Luke Gregerson—a strikeout an inning as a 24-year-old in AA—was a best-case scenario, since some worried Cardinals fans were as far afield as Jason Motte and Jon Jay re: the PTBNL. Gregerson might make a good middle reliever, but the Cardinals had a glut and they traded from it. Now that we know Player Who Was Named Earlier I think it's fair, finally, to declare this an A trade for Mozeliak.
Tyler Greene getting cut means my fearless roster predictions live to fight another day, but the real dark horse as far as screwing up my plans to go public as a psychic go is David Freese, who seems all the way back in the competition for third base just as we hear that Troy Glaus has started down the Matt Clement slide. Dan'n'Al are live on the field:
DAN: Well, partner, this is like making that big trade that seems to come at some undefined point without any warning whatsoever, almost at random, only you don't have to trade anybody!
AL: You know, it really is.
Freese's return to relevance illustrates the ultimate mutability of Spring Training performance. You can have open competitions, you can marvel at someone's improvement, you can put someone in the doghouse, but in the end Spring Training, and the sketchy information it provides, is a tool, not a contest.
Allen Craig wasn't going to hit his way onto the team, because he just wasn't in the plans, and there was no information out there this spring that was going to change that; David Freese wasn't going to lose out on the third base job because of a spring disappearing act, because he's still got that entire year of being David Freese as equally valuable evidence. It's frustrating when it applies to the Allen Craigs of the world, but it's probably for the best.
The other bit of late-spring intrigue is Kyle McClellan, who's been shaky enough to merit a full article on the mothership. Speaking of information, McClellan's final 2008 numbers don't exactly make him look like an Opening Day lock; to be in the moment and feel like he's the only reliever worth turning to in July is one thing, but the fact remains that his career stats above A ball look like this:
I don't doubt that McClellan is a major league pitcher, but he doesn't have a long track record—just a few great months at each stop, an ugly September, and an ugly March.
More pertinently, the Cardinals have no idea what they want to do with him; I can imagine getting into starter's shape while aware, all the while, that you're destined for the pen is a tough way to go into your second season in the bigs. It wouldn't be a terrible shame if the Cardinals wedged him into the crowded Memphis rotation for a month to see if that long-time Duncan dream is worth dumping Pineiro for, once and for all. It would be, if nothing else, one more way to leverage that deep right-handed bullpen.