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a september to dismember

i hope you and all of yours are high and dry this morning in st louis. nl central standings since september 1:

astros 9 2 -
reds 7 5 2.5
bucs 6 7 4
cubs 4 6 4.5
cards 4 8 5.5
brewers 3 11 7.5

reverse the cards’ wins and losses (and they’ve certainly had their chances), and they’d be half a game out of the wild-card lead this morning and tied in the loss column . . . . . if i wasn’t disappointed in the cardinals’ season heretofore, i’m feeling a few twinges right about now. what has changed? opportunity. in august the cubs and brewers both won 20 games, and our boys simply couldn’t keep up and fell off the pace; no shame in that. but the brewers will be lucky to win 10 games in september; they’re holding the door wide open, begging some other team to walk in and take their playoff spot, and the cards are rejecting the invitation. it’s the 3d straight year the team has run out of gas in september; the cards haven’t played well in september when it mattered (ie, when in a tight playoff race) since 2002, when they went 21-6, and 2001, when they went 20-8.

thank god for october 2006. without that, this would be one irate fan base right about now. hell, a lot of you are irate anyway . . . . . . . just be glad you don’t root for the brewers.

i had mixed feelings about the article about mozeliak in the sunday post-dispatch. i was pleased by the report that mo refused to trade jason motte for will ohman --- that deal might have shut up a portion of the talk-radio crowd for a week or two, but it would have hurt the organization in the long run (and it probably wouldn’t have helped in the short run --- ohman has a 6.75 era since the trade deadline). and i was encouraged by this statement:

I don’t think [public sentiment] should be my compass. There are always going to be people who want you to do more. I want to see us stick to the plan and how we accomplish it. I know a lot of people interpret that as "play the kids and do nothing more than that." I can assure you that is not my position.

mo doesn’t explicitly state what his position is, but i’m hoping it’s based on the concept of value. la russa spoke recently of impact as the imperative; i still disagree with that. i don’t believe this team is simply an impact player or two away from being a strong championship contender; they might be a player or two away from being an october participant, but i’d like to see the cards aim for 100 wins, not 92. rather than simply focusing on 2009, the goal this off-season should be to position the team for a 2- to 4-year run. that process began last winter, when the cards shed age and payroll entanglements and got younger / cheaper in a hurry. now is not the time to lurch back in the other direction. they obviously need to upgrade in the middle infield, but if "upgrade" means 3 yrs / $18m for orlando cabrera or jack wilson, no thanks; i’d sooner bring back izturis on another 1-year deal. the way to upgrade is to deal for a young player with upside. for example, the angels have a ridiculous surplus at shortstop, with 3 very good ones at the top rungs of their system --- brandon wood, sean rodriguez, and the current big-league starter, erick aybar. all three are 25 or younger and ready to play now. the angels, as ever, will go into the off-season looking for a power hitter, and the cards have a surplus of those in the system. . . . that’s the type of target i’d like to see the team set --- one of the angels’ youngsters, or somebody like chin-lung hoo (if the dodgers re-sign furcal), brent lillibridge (whose stock is way down), asdrubal cabrera (ditto), guys like that. no doubt i’m leaving out some worthwhile names; just going off the top o me head.

eventually the cardinal shortstop might be nico vasquez; check out alex eisenberg’s scouting breakdown at Baseball Intellect.

congratulations to the batavia muckdogs, champs of the new york-penn league; unless i’m mistaken, they’re the first st louis affiliate to win a league championship since the 2005 palm beach cardinals --- a team that featured mark worrell, mike parisi, joe mather, brendan ryan, and jason motte (as a catcher). the batavia team is mainly stocked with players from the 2008 draft, with a smattering of graduates from the cards’ caribbean academies; a lot of muckdogs had promising seasons. the farm system deepens.

congratulations are also in order to carlos zambrano, whose demeanor on the mound vaguely reminds me of joaquin andujar’s --- tough guy, tends to irritate his opponents. i’ve been lucky enough to witness two no-hitters in person; there’s nothing more exciting short of a posteason game.