Remembering Oscar Taveras: A Poem

Since the minute I heard the news that shook Cardinal nation last night, I wanted to write something to commemorate Oscar. However, I didn’t think it was right to write anything unless it was able to capture the emotion of it all, that wouldn’t be fair to him. I probably didn’t do that, because I’m certainly not a poet by any regards. This is the best I could do though, and I hope you all will enjoy it and remember Oscar fondly. Here goes nothing:

 

A swing so majestic, full of power and might

And a warm, bright smile that could bring the day light

We watched and waited for the day this hero came

With one of his mighty swings, #18 brought rain

It was a sign of great things to come, a great career still ahead

“He’s the next Albert,” that’s what the scouts said

Craig was sent to Boston, to free up room in right

OT could play forever, the future looks so bright

Soon October arrived, like an old friend in the fall

LA crumbled, just like the Berlin Wall

The Giants were next, to the Cards this was a wrench

Especially in game 2, trailing, with OT on the bench

Mike called his number in the 7th, Machi was the foe

Down by a run, could OT become a hero?

A 2-1 splitter was the tool Machi would implore

In one split second we all thought “I’ve seen that swing before”

Like a warrior slashing his sword, perfection in his craft

Sweet music to the ears, the song? Oscar’s bat

The ball a comet, leaving a trail as it passed the wall

OT crossed home and tipped his cap, a Cardinal curtain call

That was the last time Busch would feel the grace of 18

For life can be so cruel, and death’s bite is fierce and mean

October 26th, the fall classic being played

To Cardinal fans, nothing more, than another dreadful day

“There is more to life than baseball” they say to all the kids

There is no harsher reminder than what this tragedy did

The World Series seemed weightless, a petty, small thing

The important matter was a Cardinal, gaining his wings

Taken at 22, so young, and so unfair

The emotion of it all seems just too much to bear

Baseball heaven is blessed, to gain another great

I imagine that bright smile, passing through the pearly gates

Gone, but not forgotten in the hearts of me and you

Take care of DK and Josh, OT, we miss them too

There is no rhyme or reason, no easy rational

Fly high 18, we love you, forever a Cardinal

 

Oscar Francisco Taveras (1992-2014)

Credit: Cole Claybourn

Credit: Cole Claybourn

September UCB Project: Cardinals Top 7 Prospects

Let me start by apologizing for my lack of writing. Work keeps me at my busiest during the early and late part of the seasons and really only allows me to blog during the dog days as well as the postseason.

Anyways, for my top 7 prospect lists, I’m defining a “prospect” as a player that has yet to make their Major League debut. As a newbie to the prospect world, I may not be as knowledgeable as I should be, but here it goes:

Honorable Mention: Jack Flaherty, Magneuris Sierra, Breyvic Valera

Notes: I’m not big on ranking low minors guys high on prospect lists. It is so hard to guess what a players future might be playing at a level like that, hence listing Flaherty and Sierra here. I’m a huge Valera fan, he is a great contact hitter, but playing 2nd base and possessing absolutely no pop leaves him just outside the top

  • Tim Cooney LHP – Cooney is the definition of a solid, but not special prospect. I was extremely impressed with Cooney’s control and fastball life when I had the opportunity to watch him. However, just being on this list worries me with Cooney. The Cardinals have not been shy about cycling pitchers to the big leagues, but Cooney hasn’t made it yet. Marco Gonzales and Nick Greenwood are a couple of lefties that got the call before Cooney this year, concerning.
  • Stephen Piscotty OF – Widely considered the top prospect in the system, I’m admittedly low on Piscotty. I must be missing the hype. Piscotty is an average defender in right field, with a plus arm. It’s supposed to be the bat that plays for the converted 3rd baseman, but Piscotty had a disappointing year at the plate for AAA Memphis. The .355 OBP is playable, for a .288 average with only a .406 slugging isn’t where it needs to be for a corner outfielder. If Piscotty isn’t going to hit the ball over the fence (9 home runs) he will need more than the 32 doubles he posted this year. A right handed Matt Carpenter, with fewer walks, seems like a decent comparison.
  • Rowan Wick OF – Wick burst on the scene by breaking the State College home run record (14) in only 119 AB’s. Wick slashed .378/.475/.815 for an INSANE 1.29 OPS. That drastically dropped to .220/.291/.433 when Wick got the call to Peoria. The power was still on display for the 21 year old outfielder though, posting 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 home runs in 141 AB’s. The knock on Wick is the inability to make contact. 91 K’s in 260 AB’s is glaring. When making my list, I just couldn’t ignore Wick’s power in an organization that desperately lacks it.
  • Mason Katz 2B – An even bigger shock than ranking Piscotty 6th, is ranking Katz 4th. I’ll tell you know that I have Katz rated as the best position prospect in the Cardinals system. Katz does two things incredibly well; he gets on base, and hits the ball over the fence. Katz is 24 and still hasn’t made it past A Peoria yet, which is startling. On the other hand, he plays 2nd base and slugged .436 this year w/ 20 bombs. While only hitting .237, Katz managed to get on base at a .321 clip so I’m not as worried about the lack of average.
  • Luke Weaver SP – Bring on the pitchers! Despite calling up Wacha, Miller, Martinez, Rosenthal, Gonzales, etc, Weaver is the second of four pitchers on this list. There isn’t much to talk about statistically with Weaver given that he only has 9.1 professional innings under his belt. The 2014 first round pick is expected to take a Wacha/Gonzales type fast track to the major leagues, and we should all be excited to see another young top arm in the system.
  • Alex Reyes SP – Electric is the first word that comes to mind with Reyes. Reyes struck out 137, yes 137, in just 109.1 innings at Peoria this year. Reyes mid 90’s velocity is a huge plus for an arm just barely 20 years old. Reyes also possesses a devastating breaking pitch. The only step left for this kid is to harness his control. 61 BB in 109.1 is just far too many. Even if Reyes has to sacrifice a few K’s to reduce the walks, his talent will play.
  • Rob Kaminsky SP – I’ll make this short and sweet. Kaminsky is young (20), left handed, possesses good velocity, good off speed stuff, good control, and impressive stats (1.88 ERA in A this year). Mix all that together, and you have the Cardinals top prospect.

Jon Jay, Lead Off Hitter

Jon Jay

No debate sparks more argument among Cardinals fans than the center field debate. I wrote about it preseason, in which I voted for Peter Bourjos to start in center.

Here’s that link: https://gatewaysc.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/pb-jay/

I still like Bourjos, and think he is a really nice piece to have on the roster, but the debate is over. Jon Jay has up and run away with the centerfield job, and frankly has become criminally underrated. Let us not forget that Jay was the leadoff man for the Cardinals not long ago, and possesses a career OBP of .358.

Fans turned on Jay last year because of a career low .276 average. Amazingly, Jay still maintained a .351 OBP which was higher than the .344 OBP he carried while hitting .297 in 2011. However, the Cardinal Centerfielder also posted career lows in slugging, and had a horrendous year defensively.

That is all in the past. Jon Jay is back, and better than ever. Jay’s average sits at .302, creeping up on his career high .305. His OBP of .372 is one point lower than his career high, and he is carrying the second highest SLG% of his career. Shockingly, Jay’s OPS sits at .772, higher than Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.

People will say what they will about Jay’s average being fueled by BABIP, and they aren’t wrong. Jay posts a ridiculously high .355 BABIP this year, .056 higher than the league average. I hear all the time on twitter “once Jay stops BABIPing, he will decline.” That would absolutely be true, but frankly, there is no sign that Jay will stop having an insanely high BABIP. In 2010 Jay had a .350 BABIP, and people called in unsustainable. In 2011, that number dipped to .340, and again it seemed unsustainable. Last year, Jay’s career low average was caused by a career low .325 BABIP, which was still good for .028 above the league average. That was the only year of Jay’s career in which he did not post a BABIP of .340 or better. It’s hard to say that Jay is going to decline once his BABIP does, because for the last five years, BABIP has been no issue for the Miami native.

In the offense’s current state, I would love to see Jay moved to the leadoff spot. Many, including myself, believe that Matt Carpenter makes for the ideal number two hitter. The only thing hindering that is that the Cardinals haven’t had anyone else to hit leadoff, now they do. This works for many reasons. Number one, Kolten Wong’s .292 OBP belongs nowhere near the top of the lineup. Secondly, the Cardinal offense has been crippled this year by double plays from the two hole. Four players have taken 40+ AB’s from the two hole this year, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong, and Jon Jay. Those four also happen to carry the four highest double play percentages on the roster. I have grown weary watching Matt Carpenter lead off the game by getting on base, only to be erased seconds later.

Moving Jay to lead off, and Carpenter down to second almost completely erases this issue. Jay’s OBP is only .007 lower than Carpenter’s and would be a .81 improvement over Kolten Wong. Simply put, the top two spots in the order would be getting on base 8% more often than they currently are. As far as the double play situation, Matt Carpenter holds the lowest double play percentage on the roster, so that issue would be relieved as well.

For an offense struggling as mightily as the Cardinals have, a little lineup reconstruction certainly wouldn’t hurt. The point being, is that Jon Jay can provide a healthy boost to the offense if used correctly. It’s time to stop with BABIP argument, and start appreciating the offensive weapon that Jay is becoming.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Offseason Additions: Greg Robinson

2014 NFL Draft

Well Rams fans, after about a week off, I am back at it again breaking down the addition of Rams first round pick Greg Robinson.

The Rams selected Robinson with the number 2 overall pick this past spring after a standout redshirt sophomore season at Auburn University, where he helped lead the Tigers to an SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship game.

Robinson put up some very impressive numbers at the NFL combine as he ranked 2nd among offensive linemen in the 40 yard dash, 7th in bench press, and 3rd in broad jump (his full combine results and scouting report and be found at http://www.nfl.com/combine/profiles/Greg-Robinson?id=2543458 .

I will be the first to admit that I was very disappointed with this pick when it was made. I had high hopes going into the draft and Robinson wasn’t the flashy pick that I was hoping for, like Watkins or Clowney. But the more time that I have had to think about it, Robinson was the right choice.

With an offensive line that already featured Jake Long, Rodger Saffold, and Joe Barksdale (all of whom have the potential to be starters in this league), the addition Robinson gives the offensive line the potential to be dominant. The NFC West is a division that will be won in the trenches, and the Rams are prepared for that. Robinson is expected to be the everyday left guard but is also a very good insurance policy if Jake Long is not ready to play week 1 or is bitten by the injury bug again.

There hasn’t been much talk coming out of camp about how Robinson has faired, but it seems he may be having trouble adjusting to life in the NFL. Don’t panic, there is always a leaning curve when a player enters the league and you should expect Robinson is no exception, especially while working at multiple positions.

Robinson has the potential to be one of the greatest left tackles in the league for many years to come but is still a raw product at this point so I am forced to give this pick a B+. Robinson has all of the physical tools and makeup to be great left tackle in the NFL, but a little more polish would be nice, especially from a guy taken with the number two pick. In my opinion, when a player is drafted that highly, you want someone who is a little more NFL ready. Robinson has shown that he is a great run blocker. His draft stock stemmed from how dominant he was in Auburn’s run happy offense. Pass protection is where Robinson focus on improvement needs to be. Left tackle is a pass protecting position in the NFL, and right now Robinson fits more in the mold of the mauling right tackle, or even guard. That is my only rationalization for not giving this pick an A rating. I firmly believe the Rams possess the right coaching to develop Robinson into a household name among NFL fans. Personally, I can’t wait to see how this offensive line comes together in 2014, after nearly a decade of drowning in mediocrity.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

Eric

Time is now for Anderson, Tigers to Recruit Missouri.

Let me start off my saying that this is in no way meant to criticize the job that Kim Anderson has done so far. Anderson has been nearly flawless in his very short tenure. The former Central Missouri coach retained top recruits Jakeenan Gant, Namon Wright, and assistant coach Tim Fuller. The addition of assistant Rob Fulford was just as big as it helped land top recruit Montaque Gill-Caesar (AKA “Teki”). Anderson has also made it clear that there will be no nonsense under him, quickly dismissing Torren Jones from the team after a rules violation.

The major selling point of hiring Anderson was that he was a Missouri guy. He was going to bring pride back to Missouri, and make being a Missouri Tiger mean something. Hopefully, that will include in state recruiting, something the

Credit: CBS.com

Credit: CBS.com

past two Missouri coaches failed miserably at. Missouri produced some very good athletes, particularly basketball players. Since 2007, 12 ESPN Top 100 recruits have come out of the state of Missouri, and exactly zero of them committed to their hometown school.

  • 2007
    • George Goode – Louisville
  • 2008
    • Scott Suggs – Washington
    • John Brandenburg – Northeastern
    • Anthony Booker – SIU-Carbondale
  • 2009
    • Tyler Griffey – Illinois
  • 2011
    • Bradley Beal – Florida
    • Otto Porter – Georgetown
    • Ben McClemore – Kansas
    • BJ Young – Arkansas
  • 2012
    • Cam Beidschied – Notre Dame (transferred to Mizzou)
  • 2013
    • Ismael Wainright – Baylor
  • 2014
    • Jordan Barnett – Texas

It is time to start keeping the hometown kids home, now more than ever. In the next two years, Missouri will produce at least four more top 100 recruits. Waynesville big Juwan Morgan, Hickman guard Jimmy Whitt, Chaminade big Tyler Cook, and Chaminade forward Jayson Tatum. Morgan, a member of the 2015 class, is a borderline top 100 guy, but would be a welcomed addition to a program that desperately needs good big men. Whitt, another 2015 kid, is from Columbia which should give the Tigers a distinct advantage in recruiting him. Ranked 52nd nationally by Rivals, Whitt is a lanky 6’2 guard with a knack for scoring the basketball.

The 2016 class could include more than two top 100 guys, but the rankings have not been released yet. For now we know that Chaminade teammates Tyler Cook and Jayson Tatum will surely be highly ranked. Cook already has offers from Mizzou, Florida, and Kansas. The 6’8, 240 pound center, like Morgan, would be a very welcome addition to a team that lacks talented big men. While Cook, Whitt, and Morgan are all talented players, Jayson Tatum is the Holy Grail.

Bradley Beal, who has made a name for himself in the NBA, was the most highly touted recruit in the state’s history until Tatum came along. Ironically Tatum attends Chaminade, the same school Beal graduated from. In year’s past,

Jayson Tatum could be the best ever from Missouri.

Jayson Tatum could be the best ever from Missouri.

Chaminade has been a funnel to Florida, where both Beal, and fellow Chaminade grad (and NBA star), David Lee committed. Tatum is ranked fourth in his class by Rivals, but Scout.com ranks him as the top player in the 2014 class. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Tatum play, do so, immediately. A 6’7 combo forward, he can do it all. One possession you may find him posting up on the block and hitting a Dirk-esque fade away. The next possession he will run the point and break his man down off the bounce.

It is time to keep the home town kids home, get it done Coach Anderson.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports.

AJ

Offseason Additions: Gregg Williams

Here we go again Rams fans. Training camps are under way and the start of the season is right around the corner. A lot has happened since the end of last season and many more roster decisions are still to come. Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down the moves we have already made as well as moves as they happen.

To start things off with a bang I am going to break down the addition of Gregg Williams, the new Rams defensive coordinator.

Credit: StLouisRams.com

Credit: StLouisRams.com

This isn’t Williams’s first stint in St. Louis. He was signed as the Rams defensive coordinator before the 2012 season, but was suspended indefinitely before the start of the season due to his involvement in a bounty scandal while he was coaching for the New Orleans Saints (which you can read more about here http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7718136/sean-payton-new-orleans-saints-banned-one-year-bounties )

This looks like a match made in heaven. Williams’s defenses are known for putting pressure on opposing team’s quarterbacks and the Rams were ranked 3rd in the NFL last season at getting to other teams QBs. This year’s team has the potential to be even better without the addition of Williams. His blitz heavy scheme is designed to give defensive linemen one on one match-ups and I would like to wish good luck to anyone who plans on blocking last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Robert Quinn. Quinn is unblockable in one on one matchups let alone the rest of our defensive line which is widely considered as the best in the league.

In order for teams to be successful under Williams’ defensive scheme they need to have linebackers that are fast, athletic, and that have high football IQs, it’s a good thing that the rams have a pair of them. James Laurinaitis might not be the most athletic player on our defense but he more than makes up for it with his preparation which allows him to seemingly always be in the right place at the right time come game day. Then we have Alec Ogletree, who had an outstanding rookie season last year. Ogletree is an extremely athletic linebacker who has the ability to roam all over the field to make plays. His athleticism makes him a huge asset to this defense as he has the ability to be a force blitzing the quarterback. Tree can also match one on one with other team’s tight ends, a valuable asset for a linebacker. The point I am trying to make here is that usually when a team brings in a new coordinator, it takes a couple of years for that coordinator to get players that fit the type of scheme they are trying to run, but in the case of Williams and the Rams, those players are already in place.

I have to grade the addition of Gregg Williams as an A++. This guy knows how to coach defenses and has turned some really bad defenses into really good ones. This Rams team already had the potential to be one of the best in the league and adding Williams should help them live up to that potential. The hype around this Rams defense is higher than any other in recent memory and myself, as well as every other Rams fan out there, can’t wait to see how good this defense really is.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

Eric

Discordance Ruling the Cardinals

This has been a strange year for the Cardinals, as strange as any that I can remember. It has left fans scratching their heads on a daily basis, and for the first time that I can remember, I’m questioning the front office.

There is an obvious discordance between Mozeliak and Matheny on a few things, particularly the Oscar Taveras situation. Mo has stated time and time again that if Taveras is going to be in the major leagues, he needs to play. Matheny obviously hasn’t gotten that message. “Matheny’s guys” (Craig, Jay, Cruz) continue to get the bulk of the playing time, and I’m not sure Mo is thrilled about it. This past week he practically called out the skipper in front of the media, threatening to send OT back to AAA if he didn’t start seeing the field more. Tony La Russa didn’t always see eye to eye with the front office, but I can’t really remember there being this obvious of a disagreement.

Besides that, there seems to be more confusion than ever on what exactly needs to be done to help this team. Mo has always been the type of GM to have a very precise plan on what to do, and when to do it. That hasn’t been the case this year. Wong and Taveras have both ridden the bus back and forth from St. Louis to Memphis, and injuries have caused disarray within the pitching staff. Most recently, Yadier Molina’s thumb injury has caused the greatest confusion yet. It’s very unlike Mozeliak to sign a George Kottaras only to release him five plate appearances later. It is even more unlike Mozeliak to sign a guy like AJ Pierzynski.

I’m sure people are sick of hearing the term “The Cardinal Way,” but if there is one player in baseball that doesn’t fit it, it’s Pierzynski. Hated anywhere he goes, this is a signing that I believe wouldn’t happen in years past. But Mo’s hand has

Credit: SI.com

Credit: SI.com

been forced by injuries, the incompetence of his manager, and the underachievement of his veteran players.

This team just hasn’t been fun to watch at times this year, more so than most. Perhaps bringing in a polarizing figure like Pierzynski could change that, but a 37 year old catcher isn’t going to fix all of this team’s problems. For the first time in my fandom, I don’t think Mo knows how to fix all of the teams problems. Pitching and offense are both a need, but an unwillingness to part with prospects will probably prevent the Cardinals from acquiring both.

A lot can change between now and July 31st, but on the needs to happen first. The GM and the manager need to get on the same page, it will be very difficult for a team to achieve full potential otherwise. Whatever happens, I’m going to sit back (attempt to) relax, and enjoy the potentially bumpy ride that lies ahead.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ