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the question to the answer

carpenter threw off a mound. film at 11.

re yesterday's game, we now know for sure that the offense is fully repaired: it produced runs even with anthony reyes on the mound. in their first 33 games (ie, through may 11), the cardinals were dead last in the nl in runs scored (105); in the 33 games since, they rank 1st in the league (181).

yesterday, for the first time all season, they scored enough runs to get reyes off the hook for a loss. the kid surely didn't win over any skeptics with his performance. indeed, the argument over him remains as unsettled as --- well, as unsettled as a young major-league pitcher. those who never saw anything all that special about him will look at the loud line score and the high pitch count and remain unimpressed; those of us who still believe he has potential will point to the four scoreless innings and say he held 'em close, gave the cards a chance to get back into the game.

in my opinion, the never-ending debate about him is really just a proxy debate about the future of the organization. as a general rule (and i realize there are individual exceptions here), those of us who urge patience with reyes tend to think that players like him --- young, cheap, and homegrown --- represent the key to the cardinals' future and therefore are too valuable to give up on. and those who are ready to give up on him tend to believe (again, generalizing very liberally) that the cards should just stick with formula that produced 6 division winners in 7 years: bring in competent veterans who know how to play the game and let tony and dave get the most out of 'em. the argument over reyes could also be construed as a proxy for the luhnow v jocketty argument (which rages daily on the p-d boards and the talk-radio airwaves), which in turn is a proxy for the ever-popular stathead v seamhead dispute. for those of us who place a certain amount of credence in stats, reyes' minor-league numbers are too good to ignore --- they bear too many hallmarks of eventual major-league success. so we have faith that he'll eventually get it figured out and become a decent pitcher; we interpret his current problems as a mere learning phase. those who don't buy into the stathead perspective just see another pitcher who isn't performing and is no more likely to turn it around than anybody else.

reyes may or may not be a cardinal for the long haul; he might stick, he might get traded, he might pitch himself out of the big leagues. but even after his fate is settled, the argument over him won't be; it'll just shift to another point of focus, to jaime garcia or adam ottavino or eddie degerman.

one might even relate the argument over reyes to the argument over the ownership --- ie, are they cheap or merely prudent? that subject came up again over the weekend in bernie's sunday column about the dynamics of the cardinal clubhouse:

The players see what's going on: Here's a franchise that won the World Series, draws more than 3 million fans a summer and pulls in piles of cash on sales of merchandise and anything else that can be bartered to the Redbirds-loving public -- and the best rotation it comes up with is Wells, Todd Wellemeyer and converted relievers?
this debate, too, seemingly will never be settled. i still haven't been shown any convincing evidence that the cardinals would be significantly better off if they'd just thrown more money at a free-agent pitcher. jason schmidt is 1-4 with a 6.31 era and has made only 6 starts all year (and only 1 longer than 5 innings). he's owed $34m over the next two seasons; the cardinals will find a better use for that money. jeff suppan gave up 9 runs in 4 and 2/3 innings yesterday, ballooning his 2007 era to 4.69. since throwing a complete game vs the cardinals the day after josh hancock died, supps has a 6.37 era in 9 starts; only 1 quality start in that span, and just 6 q.s. in 15 outings for the season. compare his stats to looper's:
w-l era whip q.s.
suppan 7-7 4.69 1.458 6
looper 6-6 4.66 1.410 9

supps hasn't been a whit better than looper, but he puts a much bigger dent in the payroll; rather than paying him $30m over the next 3 seasons, the cardinals will have that sum to put toward a player who's actually good. check out the stats of vicente padilla (3-8, 6.57), adam eaton (7-4, 5.33), miguel batista (7-5, 5.10), jeff weaver (0-6, 10.97) --- where is this difference-maker who could have turned the season around, if not for the owners' penurious ways? the cards' $1m rent-a-wreck, ryan franklin, could provide the same innings and the same results as those guys. the option's there, waiting. . . .

when the owners fail to shell out the bucks for a real difference-maker, then i'll join the chorus of criticism. i did just that when they failed to pony up for a.j. burnett, because i thought burnett was such a player (that question is as unsettled as the one about reyes; burnett is 15-14 with a 3.99 era a year and a half into the five-year deal). but refusing to overpay for so-so players isn't cheap; it's smart. . . . .

. . . . blah, blah, blah. these debates will not end soon, i'm afraid.