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ryan's hope AND Game 121 Open Thread: August 20, 2007

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pineiro

lilly

3-2, 4.25

13-5, 3.74

that counts as a win in my book. getting out of having to face zambrano can only be good.

yesterday, for the second time this year, a cardinal minor-league affiliate won after getting no-hit for most of the game. the gcl cardinals did it back on july 7, you may recall, posting a 1-0 victory after getting no-hit for the first 14 innings of the game. yesterday it was quad cities' turn: blake wood, the royals' 3d-round pick in the 2006 draft (out of georgia tech), held the swing hitless for 8 innings and then --- having reached his pitch-count limit, obviously --- was lifted for a relief pitcher. a relief pitcher with a 5.55 era. why the opposing manager chose this particular guy to protect a 1-0 lead is beyond me; the team's saves leader was available (indeed, he eventually entered the game after it was too late). mysterious things happen in the minors sometimes. . . . . the swing's leadoff man, antonio dejesus, drew a leadoff walk and stole second; then daryl jones broke up the no-no and tied the game with a base knock to center. jones took second on the throw home, and the swing spent most of the rest of the inning attempting to bunt. the first one failed; the next moved jones over to 3d; and the last, a suicide squeeze by christian lopez, plated jones and gave the swing a 2-1 lead, which they made stick. they're 5.5 games ahead in the 2d-half standings and are well positioned to become the 2d st louis farm team to quality for the postseason. springfield is already in, having won its first-half title.

speaking of springfield, their win couldn't have been any more different from QC's; they clubbed 20 hits and bludgeoned corpus christi 17-10. colby rasmus (who's been batting leadoff lately) had the only two extra-base hits among the 20, a double and a homer; he and #2 hitter jose martinez combined for 9 hits and a walk in 12 plate appearances. martinez, the 21-year-old shortstop, seems to like the hot weather; he's hitting .370 in august with a .562 slugging percentage. last year at quad cities he warmed up in july, hitting .327 and slugging .514. . . . this guy will probably be at triple A next year and might have a chance to compete for playing time in st louis lineup by 2009.

unless he's blocked by brendan ryan, that is. ryan is even hotter than martinez at the moment, batting .424 over the last 30 days (big leagues only) with a slugging pct of .667. the manager likes him (and why shouldn't he); he already has amassed 79 at-bats and, with kennedy out of action, is sure to get regular playing time the rest of the way. depending on how things go, ryan has a chance to crack the la russa era's top-10 list of rookie-season at-bats.

and more important than that ---- he has a chance to become the cardinals' first homegrown shortstop in 30+ years. the last shortstop to come out of the system and become a long-term starter at the position was garry templeton, who came up in 1976. since then, the cardinal shortstops have all come from other organizations via trade (ozzie smith, royce clayton, edgar renteria) or free agency (david eckstein). since templeton, only four homegrown shortstops have played more than 100 games for st louis: mike ramsey (168 games between 1978 and 1983), placido polanco (121 games, 1998-2002), tim jones (119 games, 1988-93), and tripp cromer (106 games, 1993-95). none of these guys ever started as many as 100 games at short in a single year; they were all just backups. if ryan does get a shot at the full-time job, he'll be the first since luis ordaz, who started 46 games as a rookie in 1998.

for comparison's sake, here's a list of homegrown players at the other nonpitching positions --- ie, guys who game up through the system and became full-time regulars for at least a few seasons:

c: molina, marrero, zeile, pagnozzi, mike lavalliere
1b: pujols, john mabry, keith hernandez (who reached the big leagues for good the same year as templeton, 1976)
2b: geronimo pena, alicea, herr, oberkfell
3b: polanco, zeile, pendleton, oberkfell, reitz, hector cruz
of: chris duncan, taguchi, pujols, jd drew, brian jordan, lankford, gilkey, coleman, mcgee, van slyke, david green, dane iorg, jerry mumphrey
another way to break it down: since templeton left after the 1981 season, the cardinals have had a homegrown regular at catcher for 13 of 25 seasons; at first base for 9 seasons; at second for 13; at 3b for 15; in left field for 19; in center for 17; and in right for 11. but at shortstop, they've had a homegrown regular only one year --- 1995, when tripp cromer took over for an ailing, aging ozzie and started 86 games of the team's 143 games.

a large part of the explanation here lies in the fact that the cardinals' incumbents for most of this period were so good that a prospect had no chance in hell of cracking the lineup; ozzie and edgar held the position for 19 of the last 25 years. since templeton came up in 1976, the cardinals almost always have had one of the best shortstops in the league; of the five primary regulars during that era, four (templeton, ozzie, edgar, and eckstein) were all-stars, two were serial gold glovers, two won silver sluggers, and one was a postseason mvp. the only real opening for a rookie ss came in 1998, at the tail end of the royce clayton era; ordaz and polanco both got reasonably long looks, but the former couldn't hit and the latter couldn't cover the ground at ss. hence the trade for renteria during the ensuing off-season.

a few other shortstops did come out of the cardinal system and go on to become regulars for other teams. rafael santana passed through the st louis sytem (they got him as a double A player from toronto) and got traded to the mets for jose oquendo; he was the starting ss on the great strawberry-gooden teams of the 1980s. jose uribe was sent to san francisco in 1984-85 as part of the package that fetched jack clark and started there for six years, including two division-winning seasons. and of course there's jack wilson, the pirates' everyday ss for the last 6 years. so the pipeline hasn't been entirely dry.

can brendan ryan become the first homegrown ss since templeton? i wrote at length about that possibility at Future Redbirds back in may, and azruavatar updated the picture just last week. he's surely not this good a hitter ---- in 79 at-bats for st louis, he has hit more homers than he did in any full minor-league season --- but his glove is big-league caliber, and he obviously doesn't get intimidated. with that glove, all he needs to supply is .720 ops, and i'm a lot more confident today that he can produce at that level than i was 3 months ago.

and if he doesn't stick, jose martinez and (hopefully) pete kozma will be right behind him to take their shots.