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Series Preview: Cardinals vs Red Sox, August 5-7

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The Cardinals (59-51) and Red Sox (49-62) meet for the first time since last October. How things have changed.

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Allen Craig
Allen Craig
Jim Rogash
Series Preview

  • Lance Lynn and Rubby De La Rosa start tonight at 7:15 central.
  • Shelby Miller pitches, somehow, against Joe Kelly tomorrow at 7:15.
  • Adam Wainwright is scheduled against Brandon Workman Thursday at 6:15.
Mise-en-scene

What is there to say? Allen Craig and Joe Kelly are playing baseball for the other team now. I understand the trade; I like the trade. But I can't shake this feeling that I'm rooting for a team which no longer exists. Especially Allen Craig, who played a a key role in what will likely remain the most joyously remarkable baseball experience of my life, but Joe Kelly also have left indelible marks in the fanbase's collective memory. Yes, we root for laundry, but few among us don't get attached to many of the players who wear it.  Good luck to them both. Just not right now.

Morning edit: Allen Craig was just placed on the DL with an ankle injury. So much for good luck.

But it's not just the players who have swapped their red birds for red socks who shape this series as a stunning example of the ephemeral nature of the modern roster.

Here is a list of players who participated in the 2013 World Series who are no longer on the team they played for:

Axford, John

Beltran, Carlos

Berry, Quintin

Carp, Mike

Craig, Allen

Dempster, Ryan

Doubront, Felix

Drew, Stephen

Ellsbury, Jacob

Freese, David

Gomes, Jonny

Kelly, Joe

Lackey, John

Lester, Jon

Peavy, Jake

Saltalammachia, Jarrod

Others, including Pete Kozma, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Shane Victorino played key roles but are now in the minors or injured.

It's been just nine months.

*****

Anyway, we know how the Cardinals got to where they are. Their surprising struggles have been thoroughly discussed. If the Cardinals have struggled, the Red Sox have collapsed. To find out what happened in Boston, I exchanged questions with Joon Lee of SBN's Over The Monster.

Q&A

1. I figured the Red Sox would contend again. What went wrong in 2014?

The offense has been abysmal. Besides Brock Holt, aka Superman in the flesh, most of the lineup has been disappointing. Dustin Pedroia's power has been nearly nonexistent, David Ortiz is not hitting for as high an average as he has in the past and the young guys, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, have gone through extended periods of struggle. The team has struggled to hit in runners in scoring position. Everything that went right in 2013 has gone the complete opposite direction in 2014.


2. Let's talk about the trade. What should Cardinals' fans expect out of John Lackey?

The last two years have been somewhat of a rejuvenation for John Lackey. After undergoing Tommy John surgery, he returned to the form that made him the pitcher who got the big contract after his time with the Angels. Lackey is an emotional guy, and that's definitely an understatement. He shows up teammates when they make mistakes and is incredibly emotional with every mistake. That being said, it's a product of his passion and wanting to win. He throws a high percentage of strikes, but he keeps the ball in the ballpark. He's a bulldog pitcher who has the voice worthy of a Muppet. He is generally well-liked by teammates and viewed as a leader. What you saw in the World Series is what you're going to get.

3. Lackey initially said and has now reaffirmed he's willing to play in StL for the $500K in his contract next year. It is rumored this wasn't the case in Boston. Was there bad blood? What was the deal?

I don't think there was necessarily bad blood. I'm actually not quite sure what the deal was there, but there were rumors that Lackey would retire or play in Japan (which would not have been possible due to the current collective bargaining agreement).

4. What can you tell us about Corey Littrell?

Former fifth-round pick out of Kentucky. A polished lefty who used to touchmid-90's with fastball, but not much else. He mixes pitches well, but is ultimately a low ceiling guy. Doesn't have great command and was not considered a top-30 prospect in system. Considered a top-40 prospect by some.

5. Thinking about the Lester trade as well, were you surprised the team went for major league talent instead of prospects? What does this signal about the team's plans going forward?

I was somewhat blindsided that the team received Yoenis Cespedes in return for Lester. During the time leading up to the deadline, all of the rumors consisted of young prospects coming back to Boston. Manager John Farrell made the message crystal clear in his press conference before Friday's game: the team is not rebuilding situation. They are re-tooling. Farrell emphasized on multiple occasions that it is not common that a team can acquire one, let alone two, potential middle of the order bats in Cespedes and Allen Craig. They very clearly plan on competing in 2015.

6. I see some unfamiliar names on the roster. What should we know about Christian Vazquez, Brock Holt, and Mookie Betts?

Mookie Betts is the latest prospect that has rocketed through the Red Sox farm system and established himself as a top-20 prospect in all of baseball. He's an athletic former three-sport athlete (baseball, basketball and bowling) and came up as a second baseman. He began in May to play centerfield because Pedroia currently blocks the path to second base and team currently lacks outfield prospects. Betts is a doubles hitter who is fast and extremely athletic. High character with a good head on his shoulders.

Brock Holt is everything. Holt has been somewhat of a revelation this year. Holt has played every position on the baseball field with the exception of pitcher and catcher. Since being called up for his second stint in the big leagues in 2014, Holt has hit the cover off the ball, establishing himself atop the lineup as a leadoff hitter and has been absolutely dynamic. He does not have the power to hit home runs, but he sprays the ball all over the field and has done a good job of getting on base.

Christian Vazquez is the best defensive catcher the Red Sox have developed in years and it really is not even close. Vazquez is lauded for his ability to frame pitches and his cannon arm that reminds scouts of Pudge Rodriguez. Vazquez was timed to have a pop time (from glove to throw) of 1.8 seconds, a time that would've ranked among the best in baseball alongside Yadier Molina. Vazquez has an incredibly accurate and strong arm. Vazquez learned to catch by watching a video of Rodriguez catch on repeat during his childhood. He is currently mentored by the Molina brothers. He is also a red-headed Puerto Rican with a lot of freckles.

7. Who do you think wins the AL East the most often over the next five years? Why?

It's really tough to say at the moment because the division has the potential to change so quickly. The Blue Jays and Orioles are atop the division now, but the Yankees and Red Sox have the resources to go out and change the face of their team in an instant. The Rays have struggled to develop and draft talent over the last couple of years and because of their success, they haven't been in a position to draft talents like David Price and Evan Longoria (and don't forget Tim Beckham!). That being said, you can never count Andrew Friedman and company out. The Orioles, for whatever reason, refuse to go out and get an ace. They do have Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, but the best pitcher to come out of their system in recent years appears to be Jake Arrieta, and he is no longer even on the team. Based purely on the farm system, the Red Sox are far and away in the best position to deal from their surplus of young talent to go out and get a star. The Yankees farm system is abysmal, the Blue Jays have an average to below-average system and the Orioles system is slightly above-average. So based on farm system talent and financial flexibility alone? I would go with the Red Sox because they have a ton of resources to make moves and have the money on top of it to take risks.

Thanks for your time, Joon. My answers to his questions about the Cardinals are here on Over the Monster.

Editor's Note: Oh, hi there. It's me, Aaron Finkel. I'm here today to tell you about an exciting new opportunity offered by FANDUEL. SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link for today's games. The Cardinals might not be able to start Allen Craig tonight, but that doesn't mean you can't. Try FANDUEL today!