The season still hasn't begun—allow me to continue stretching personal anecdotes into minor post-fodder.
Here's the anecdote: remember those halcyon days right after it was obvious that the Looper conversion was going to work? I'm talking about when he came out of April, 2007 with a 1.91 ERA... anyway, after that moment I think it's fair to say that my idea of pitching in the rotation was shaken forever. If Braden Looper, a ROOGY who'd lost five miles an hour off his fastball in the bullpen, could be made into a fine starter, who couldn't be? My exuberance knew no bounds—If you'd asked me at that moment to name you a feasible Cardinals rotation, you probably would have gotten:
- SP Braden Looper: Providing experienced rotation leadership.
- SP Tyler Johnson: A dominant starter in A-ball. Ready to make the jump back into the rotation with his high-80s fastball and slider.
- SP Josh Kinney: He throws just like Looper, only he has a better slider! Consider it done.
- SP Jason Isringhausen: One of the top starting prospects in baseball, just ten short years ago.
- SP Jeff Weaver: Look, I just really liked Jeff Weaver.
- SP Jason Motte: The former catcher starts in configuration A. Who cares about a second pitch when you threw out 75% of potential base stealers in the minor leagues?
- C Brett Wallace: He looks like a catcher, doesn't he? In the same way that Schumaker looks like a second baseman? I rest my case.
- 1B Yadier Molina: There are few late-inning surprises I enjoy more than Yadi playing first base, because he plays it exactly like he catches: he gets his body in front of everything, and he doesn't dive after balls so much as getting into a crouch and sliding toward them. He'll provide an excellent competitive advantage when Motte is trying to pick a fastball hitter off of first base.
- 2B Skip Schumaker: The emotional leader of the all-Schumaker team.
- 3B Albert Pujols: I've even worked this out with his ragged arm; he's just got to throw it to Motte, who has to act like he's about to throw it right at the baserunner. When the baserunner dives out of the baseline, the umpire will call him out.
- SS Aaron Miles: An emeritus pick for the team; nobody plays shortstop like they're out of position quite like Aaron Miles did, and he would finally be at home on a team like this. (When Troy Glaus—70 career innings at short—gets off the DL, the Cubs can have Miles back.)
- LF Brendan Ryan: As La Russa proved this past September, you simply can't overestimate the competitive advantage you get by making sure your corner outfielders are quick on the double play turn.
- CF Rick Ankiel: The cog around which this team operates—see configuration B.
- RF Chris Perez: Perez doesn't seem like he'd have very much range in the outfield, but if he plays behind Ankiel in right and just throws out a potential double a game I think he makes it up.
Pretty solid, right? I expect to hear from La Russa any day now. But that's not all—this lineup transforms, in a way that La Russa and Michael Bay can both appreciate. Presenting Configuration B:
- SP Rick Ankiel
- C Jason Motte
- 1B Brett Wallace
- 2B Bryan Anderson
- 3B Yadier Molina
- SS Albert Pujols
- LF Brendan Ryan
- CF Skip Schumaker
- RF Chris Perez
Hey, if you're like me, you're a big fan of Joe Posnanski's blog. It's probably the best one in the business, and it's produced such gems as this Musial article, one of the great pieces of Cardinal writing on the internet. What if I told you that, over the next few weeks, VEB would become more like Joe Posnanski's blog? You'd be excited, right?
Well, couch it in the hypothetical no more—VEB is ready to join Poz in the exciting world of flogging personal projects.
The Maple Street Cardinals Annual, which you can order at the preceding link, comes out in a few days. It features articles from Larry Borowsky, whom you may have heard of, Aaron Schafer, at whose pseudonym you might nod appreciatively every Wednesday, and yours truly, among others like Will Leitch of Deadspin fame. And those are just the ones I've managed to hear about pre-publication. The best part about the book, in my mind, is the long-form stuff the form allows; I got a chance to write a 2,500 word piece ranking Cardinals MVPs, which would only have caused eye injuries on the computer.
Anyway: you'll hear more about it. I guarantee it. If I can clear the copyright issues with Posnanski's lawyers I might try inserting the newsstand date after every plausible mention of the book (3/3/09). But we'll see.