Now it's time to read the tea leaves, although I doubt the newspapers would appreciate you calling them that. What does Derrick Goold know that we don't? (N.B.: An A paper will parse this for tense, name location, and Dave Duncan's use of the em-dash.)
Mitchell Boggs, Blake Hawksworth and Jason Motte figure to be the favorites to fill out the bullpen. But Duncan also mentioned Rich Hill - a starter candidate - and there's also the return of Josh Kinney, Rule 5 pick Ben Jukich and a handful of other younger pitchers who could elbow their way in.
"Hawksworth was impressive with what he did last year, Boggs, Motte - you still have got guys who haven't established themselves," Duncan said. "They've got a leg up because of what they did last year. But they've still got to be better than the competition."
Hawksworth at a remove from Boggs and Motte? Boggs placed with full-season, full-time reliever Motte? Ben Jukich has been asked to report to camp, instead of just assuring Cincinnati management that he threw a few average innings and forging Dave Duncan's signature on the return slip? Now that players are doing things we can't see, and coaches are having meetings we won't hear about, we're left to speculate about comments that, in the grand Bull Durham tradition, explicitly reject speculation.
And where does it get us? Luckily, we have a record of that very speculation in the VEB archives—
2009: The recent conversion of Skip Schumaker to second base was enough cause for me to construct a lineup of players playing out of position, some of whom could earn extra La Russa points by playing out of two positions at once; Chuck talked, topically, about outfield and second base defense. Albert Pujols said the Cardinals had to remain competitive if he were to remain a Cardinal.
The big news this time last year, of course, was Adam Kennedy's surprise release and Skip Schumaker's even more surprising conversion from joke second baseman to purported second baseman. That would remain big news, but in the end both players did about equally well for—one more surprise—reasons we couldn't possibly have guessed. Kennedy's sterling defense collapsed, and he spent some time at third base, but he also turned in his best offensive season in years; Schumaker had the usual Schumaker year but clawed his way up into defensive relevance in the middle infield.
2008: lboros and Bernie Miklasz are both surprised and angry to learn that Matt Clement won't be ready for opening day. Of all the Cardinals' star-crossed non-trade deadline acquisitions (you know, it really is), Clement seems to have made the least impact on me—ten years from now there's almost no chance I remember that on this day in 2008, lboros was dismayed to learn he wouldn't start the season with the Cardinals.
You'll also notice the transition to the new platform—you're looking at it—being discussed. I'd say that's at least as important, in the long run, as some of the moves the Cardinals considered making at this point in the offseason, among them giving Bartolo Colon a once-over.
2007: This is where the Cardinals start to seem comparatively distant to me. There's a community projection for Jim Edmonds, which brings a tear to my heartless-blogger eyes, and which shows once more this community's ability to peg projection systems (if not the actual seasons) with remarkable accuracy. Valatan's announcement that pitchers and catchers have reported is combined with Ray Lankford apologia, which is always a plus. And the late-offseason acquisitions include a returning Preston Wilson, for whatever reason.
2006: Trade rumor, one that had just died as February, 2006 kicked into less-low gear: Jim Edmonds for Chien Ming Wang and Robbie Cano. Cano was coming off a batting average-driven 106 OPS+, with just 16 walks in 551 plate appearances; Wang, who I could have sworn was still called Tiger Wang at this point, had finally cracked the Yankees after a long career as an injured prospect with a funny name, but his strikeout rate in limited action was 3.6 per nine innings. Both players were good then, and would turn out to be very valuable later on, but 2005 was the last year of Jim Edmonds's incredible peak—that would have been a remarkable bit of selling high, even for Walt Jocketty.
(I remember there was a reasonably large contingent of sabermetric types convinced that Cano was a low-OBP slug who would end up at first base, and for good reason—his UZR that year, though it was considerably harder to find than it is now, was over -20. Trading Edmonds for the Robbie Cano would have been an astute move, but he could just as easily have been Jorge Cantu.)