Enclosed you will find Johnny's final grades for the term. I just want to say, once again, what a tremendous pleasure it has been having him in class this year. You will recall, back at the midpoint of the term, I sent along Johnny's grades, along with notes for possible areas of improvement. I have endeavoured to provide you with a similar report at this point, in the hopes that we can work together to further your son's development.
There are, of course, opportunities for improvement. I have done what I can to identify said areas, and I trust that you will take any and all steps necessary to see that these areas are given the appropriate attention. Remember, a symbiotic relationship between the institutional and the home is of paramount import when a child's future is in question.
All in all, it has been a productive and exhilarating year for me, and I hope for the students as well. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or just wish to check in on some bit of minutiae in the progress that John has made, I encourage you to contact me at any time. Until such time as we speak again, I remain,
Dr. Reginald Ecthelion Dante "Red" Barontonoviel
P.S.- Overall, John's conduct this year was exceptional: however, I would request you please ask him to stop forcing everyone to call him 'Mr. Mo'.
You may all recall I took a look at the job that John Mozeliak did in his first offseason as the Cardinals' General Manager. Well, now that the first actual baseball season of Mo's regime has been completed, I thought it would be a good time to look back at the moves Mr. Mozeliak made, as well as those he didn't make. After all, it's all well and good to grade job performance sans results, but in the end, the results are what really matter. So how did Mr. Mo do?
I thought we would just go right through the same list that I used before, and see if the grades look any different now, as compared to the January edition of the Cardinals.
When Mozeliak took over the Cardinal front office, there was turmoil everywhere. He quickly moved to establish at least a semblance of order, of continuity, of just flat out order. At the very least, the work Mo did to try and unite the Cards' house divided was one of the real bright spots of the early part of the offseason.
Now, though, we hear once again of problems within the team's management structure. It no longer seems that Mozeliak and La Russa, his on field manager, are quite on the same page. Of course, it's impossible to pin the blame one place or another; there is such a thing as positive tension, and the conflict between uniformed personnel and the front office types may just be one of those cases. One way or the other, though, you still have to wonder whether or not the harmony that Mozeliak worked so hard to establish will prove to be lasting or not.
Overall Grade: B
All right. I'm going to level with you guys. I honestly don't have much of an idea how these things worked out. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I would be able to tell if an assistant GM were doing a good job or not. So I'm just going to cop right out on this one and say that hey, all the new Cardinal hires are sailing right along, doing whatever it is they're supposed to be doing.
With one notable exception. The one and only person on this list that I do think has done a great job this year is Brent Strom, the Cards' new pitching coordinator. I was impressed early on with the resume that Strom brought to the position, and I've become more and more impressed with all that I've seen from Strom as the year has gone on. From his preseason mini camps for the Cards' top prospects to the whole 'classic mechanics' paradigm that is just beginning to take root in the organisation, I think Strom is one of the brightest, and most intriguing, minds I've come across in a long time in the game. Fantastic hire.
Overall grade: A
On Field Moves
Resigning Joel Pineiro
Oy. This one isn't looking so good, is it? Score one for the 'regress to the mean' crowd. Still, the circumstances here were less than ideal, with lots of uncertainty and funky timing. Regardless, you can't escape the fact that, based on a handful of starts not at all in line with the direction Joel was heading, the Cardinals handed a two year deal to a pitcher who put up an ERA over 5.00 this year. Boooo.
Picking up Izzy's Option
Now this is interesting. What we ended up with was a player who badly damaged the team's chance to win this season, yet it's tough to really say that anyone should have seen it coming. In the end, I still think that picking up the option on Isringhausen was the right move, even though it didn't end up working out so well.
Bitter irony department: and I quote, "What .500 team (or worse), team really needs an $8 million closer?" Well, as it turns out, if the Cardinals' had had a competent closing corps, they wouldn't have been nearly as close to .500 as they ended up. Sigh.
Declining to offer Eckstein arbitration/ signing Cesar Izturis
It's funny how things work out sometimes, isn't it? Back in January, I really didn't like this move. I thought that offering Eck arbitration was a no brainer, especially considering who the Cards ended up getting to replace him.
In this case, Izturis actually turned out to be a slightly better signing than I had expected. And yes, I say that with full knowledge that he was a truly awful offensive player this year. However, his defense was a significant upgrade over Eckstein, and the improved middle infield defense had a lot to do with the success that the Cardinal starters were able to enjoy this season. Eckstein didn't exactly tear it up north of the border, nor, to be honest, once he got to Arizona either. I'm actually grading up on this one. Don't get me wrong, I don't really want to see Cesar back in a Cardinal uniform next season, but he actually wasn't as big of a disaster as I had feared. Most of what I thought back then does, in fact, still ring fairly true, but at least we got one plus tool, a glove, out of the deal.
Trading Jim Edmonds for David Freese
Wow. Um, well, this wasn't too bad, huh? Yes, it was very, very difficult to watch Jimmy Baseball play some good ball in a Cubs' uni, but I think we all see just how necessary it was to move him. Do we see the breakout of Ryan Ludwick this year if Edmonds is still around taking at bats? What about Ankiel? The Cards needed opportunity in the outfield, and that's just what they got. Plus, David Freese was a legitimate contender for the organisational Player of the Year award, proving himself a legit prospect even though he's a little old. Fantastic deal all around.
Signing Matt Clement
Sigh. Was it terrible to bring Clement in? No. He was a higher upside arm than some of the other guys out there on the cheap. In the end, though, Clement never threw a pitch for the Cardinals, and was released during the season when it became clear his stuff just wasn't coming back. A justifiable risk, but I think it's fair to wonder whether the Cards should have seen it coming a bit more than they seemed to.
Signing Jason LaRue
I said then that LaRue is a backup catcher and, as such, represents a ridiculously unimportant move. Well, that was before I got a look at the awesomeness that is the Jason LaRue lifestyle. The hair. The 'stache. You just can't get that kind of greatness very often.
In all seriousness, LaRue was quite good as a backup this season. He hit a little better than I thought, and he did a nice job behind the plate. Another good signing.
The Aaron Miles Saga
I have no idea how I feel about this one, honestly. I was happy when the Cards let Miles go, then ticked off when they brought him back. Then he goes out and has a fairly productive year. It wasn't the worst move, as Brendan Ryan certainly bombed, but I still don't see that Miles is really that vital a part of the team. But such is the state of the St. Louis middle infield. It's all just plain blah.
Releasing So Taguchi
Absolutely the right move. See the Jim Edmonds situation for additional details on the OF crunch.
Scotty Ro for Troy Glaus
This. Was. Awesome. While Rolen continued to have shoulder troubles later in the year as he wore down again, Glaus was everything the Cardinals expected, and more. His defense was far better than I had been expecting, and his bat was right about as advertised. There was that odd little power outage to begin the year, but sometimes things like that just happen. Add to that that he had not a whiff of the foot troubles that helped to depress his stock in the first place, and this one is a slam dunk.
Picking up Brian Barton in the Rule 5
Once again, a move that worked out quite well. Was it frustrating watching Barton play less than a lot of us here felt he should? Absolutely. However, this is a Mozeliak report card, and he doesn't fill out the lineup card.
Barton proved himself capable with the bat, exciting on the bases (though I wish he had been given the green light a bit more often), and just fine in the outfield. I think the arm concerns in ST turned out to be largely overblown. In the end, the Cards added a player with the tools to be at least a platoon outfielder for basically nothing. Not a bad day's work.
These are moves that hadn't happened yet when I did this before. Pretty self explanatory, yes?
The signing of Kyle Lohse just may have been the turning point of the season. Up until then, there was a palpable sense of foreboding hanging over the Cards' season before it even started. The rotation looked to be a mess, and the offense had been positively offensive in the spring. When Joel Pineiro went down with a groin strain and looked to miss the first couple weeks of the season, it looked as if 2008 was going to be a miserable repeat of 2007.
And then came Kyle.
One of the big name free agent pitchers of the offseason, Lohse had found himself sitting home in mid spring training, waiting to see if any team needed his services when the Cardinals came calling. He signed a one year, $4.25 million deal, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mo gets a ton of credit here for acting quickly and decisively to bring in help for the rotation in order to keep his team from starting in an even deeper hole. Face it; George Peppard couldn't have brought a deal together any better than this.
Note: I'm only considering the one year deal and Lohse's performance this year here. The contract he just signed is part of this offseason in my opinion, and I'm only interested in things that affected the 2008 season. The extension is a separate issue.
Trading Anthony Reyes for Luis Perdomo
Let's face it: Mo did the best he could to try and make it work for Anthony here. Unfortunately, when things get to a certain point of broken, it just ain't gonna happen. Such was the situation with Reyes and the Cards. I admired how Mo stepped in at the end of ST and kept Anthony on the team, going against La Russa and Duncan to do so. That shows real leadership. Unfortunately, in the end, the Cards still ended up dealing one of their former top prospects for a Double A reliever. Perdomo could end up being decent, but even so, it's a poor reflection on the organisation the way this whole thing worked out. Mozeliak did probably as good a job as could be expected, all things considered.
The Deadline (Non) Moves
Now, this one is quite likely to create some real controversy. There was quite a lot of angst at the time, mostly from a certain segment of fans, over Mo's failure to get anything done at the deadline to improve the team, particularly the bullpen. Easy to see why, when you consider that the 'pen is probably the single biggest reason the Cardinals' players are making tee times right now, rather than still playing baseball.
On the other side, the manager was clamouring for an impact bat, though where that bat was going to play is still a bit of mystery to me, to be completely honest. La Russa went so far as to question the team's commitment to winning in the press, at least in an indirect, passive aggressive sort of way. Add in all the rumours flying around about Matt Holliday and his Coors Field Park Factor Power being on the block, and you have a pretty tough situation to navigate.
And in the middle of all this, you had Mo, the first year GM, trying not to pull a Jack, as in And the Beanstalk. The Rockies apparently wanted two top prospects for lefty reliever Brian Fuentes, and Fuentes now reportedly wants something in the range of 3/$37 for the pleasure of his company. You look around the league, and virtually none of the players rumoured to be on the move ended up going anywhere. To me, that speaks of a trade market that got out of hand, big time.
Really, the only guy that I wish the Cards could have gotten their hands on was Damaso Marte, the lefty reliever from the Pirates. He ended up going to the Yankees along with Xavier Nady in a deal that probably didn't add up all that well from the Pittsburgh side of the ledger. Of course, Marte then got hurt, so there is that to consider, and the asking price for a divisional rival may very well have been steeper, so I can't really throw much of a fit here, either.
After the smoke cleared, the Cardinals were the team they were before the deadline. And, on balance, I think that was probably the best result we could have hoped for. Was it frustrating to watch the team fall out of contention down the stretch and wonder what might have been? Yes. But the price that likely would have been paid to upgrade the team in any meaningful way would have been steep indeed; probably much steeper than made sense for this team. Sometime you just have to bite the bullet and take the punch. I think it was absolutely the right (non) move to make. Were there some other creative deals that might have been put together? Maybe, which is why I can't give an unequivocal A here. Still, this was for the best, all things considered.
Signing Felipe Lopez
Yes, I'm aware of all the reasons why Floppy is a bad bet going forward. I've made all those arguments myself, hoping to stave off the (likely) inevitable contract he's going to get. Unsustainable BABIP, terrible defense, and all that.
Yet I'm going to give Mo a decent grade on bringing in Lopez here. Sustainable or not, Lopez has more athleticism, offensively at least, than any of the other middle infielders the Cards have on the roster. Using him in the outfield is an awful idea, but again, Mo doesn't fill out the lineup cards. I don't want to see Lopez back next year, not even as a backup, to be honest, but bringing him in was a low risk move with just enough possible payoff to make it worthwhile.
Leaving Colby at home
Ah, the final piece of the puzzle. This one's really going to get everyone up in arms, and rightly so. Depending on where you stand, this is either a bullshit point that the anti- La Russa faction brings up to try and knock down your hero, or this is a monumental failure by a franchise to leverage one of its most valuable assets, instead preferring to play utility infielders in center field during a pennant race. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
I was not at all happy that Rasmus didn't get the call, to be honest with you. I think it would have been a fantastic opportunity to get the kid into the clubhouse, and allow him to begin the process of getting acclimated to the majors, if only a little bit. And when you're running Adam Kennedy out into right field on a daily basis, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. If nothing else, we know that Colby plays an excellent defensive center field, so even if he didn't hit, he would have been adding to the team.
Then again, he was hurt, and I'm sure there were concerns that he wasn't ready to be trying to play at a high level so soon. There was thought that he would play winter ball, and he didn't tear up Triple A, and he's only 21, and he hasn't earned it, and yadda, yadda, yadda. Can you tell by my tone where I'm coming down on this one?
In the end, I think this one was a judgement call. You could certainly make an argument for either side, and I can see both points of view. Still, I wish Colby had gotten the call. Even if he hadn't played a lick, I think it would have been good for him to get here, get a look at the stadium, see the crowds, taste the dream. What better way to keep a guy's spirits up and keep him motivated than to give him a taste of what he's been working for all along? We should all remember that Colby is most likely going to be a huge part of this franchise's future for quite a while. At the very least, getting him to St. Louis for the learning experience alone would have been worth it. I think the organisation really missed a chance here.
Final Adjusted Grade: B+
I know we were all frustrated by the way the season ended. It got very, very ugly there at the end, and it left a bad taste in our collective mouths. Still, I think it's important to remember just how bad a lot of us thought this team would be. What we ended up with was an exciting, hungry bunch of players for most of the year that stayed in the race until very nearly the end. The farm system is intact, as Mozeliak managed to avoid getting overly anxious and jumping into a bad deal because the team was fairly close. We have a pretty good idea of what we have going forward with most of the players that needed to get a look. And most of all, with a whole boat load of money finally coming off the books this offseason, the Cardinals have some real flexibility. Let's hope they don't squander it all on magic beans.
Good job, Mr. Mo. All in all, I think you acquitted yourself quite admirably. I'll just bet you get that ten speed you were hoping for in the offseason.