Rant And Roll

Because it’s a religious holiday weekend I thought I’d spend my time today indulging in a little less reverence. Rant and Roll, duck in search of cover.

In my local paper there was a letter to the editor written by a woman concerned because a reporter used the phrase “Paddy Wagon.” And here we go with the ever-popular political correctness again. PC Time is a wonderful way to spend your days. No wonder blogging is evolving into the more popular form of news reading.

I wonder how many readers were even aware that old phrase is, or rather was, a derogatory inference to rounding up the stereotypical drunken Irish? I also wonder if the woman that feigned offense to the term had considered the phrase was probably coined at a time when the police ranks were filled with the O’Malley’s and O’Reilly’s. And they themselves used it, probably invented it.
I’m not insensitive to many of the issues surrounding minorities and special interest groups, but I thought the Irish immigrant’s time under that umbrella ended long before my birth. I personally have never met an Irish descendant that wanted to fight over that stereotype. I guess it would be bad form to continue to discuss how well they do fight, and how much alcohol needs to be consumed before it occurs.

Back to Baseball…

Continuing to rant and roll, why is it the Cardinals don’t face the same media questions that the Yankees do on player development?
I suppose that could be answered by the fact their on-field dollars are spent so much more effectively, having the 14th highest payroll, yet still the favorite to win the National League out-right. And the Yankees sit almost 120 million above them and don’t have the same good-thoughts among the pundits. But did you know New York has at present six regular players that were developed in their system? The Cardinals have but two in Yadir Molina and Albert Pujols.  For the record – I defined regular players by ignoring bench guys and interchangeable middle relievers, concentrating on position players who play regularly, rotation pitchers and those with the most important roles in the pen.

And the argument that is sure to be made is – The Cardinals don’t overpay for their homegrown like the Yankees. Yeah? Who did they discard in recent years? Dimitri Young is a guy they traded before he was a regular player; Matt Morris (First round in 1995) comes to mind but few others this decade. They trade well and manage their money efficiently, but overall their best development in recent years has come in utility-types.

They may have hit gold in the 2005 draft, but the years leading up to it have been dismal. They may escape the development cellar with last year’s crop but that’s in limbo, and they are the worst in the high minors at present with too few ready to help. And I’m not pointing the finger at the organization alone for Rick Ankiel, but there is an argument to be made. I’ve got a library of words both published and unpublished on the business of baseball, and one thing is consistent if you understand the middle-management concept of asset management. The organization, no matter the business and discipline, takes the hit if a major asset fails. And that is without regard for underlying circumstances not always within human control.

Here’s a look at Triple-A Memphis to end the segment, a few prospects that could be forced into action in 2006, ignoring the players best described as the extended major league roster ala Junior Spivey.

Top Prospect
Anthony Reyes P – I’ve mentioned on this blog I think he’s slightly overrated, but he’s still quality, the best the Cardinals have at the moment. I’m not taking on the likes of Tony La Russa here. If he ever wanted a little tangle-tango I’d oblige, but would prefer to give him the respect I think warranted and deserved. The one thing I don’t like is a flip-flop treatment of high-minor starting pitching prospects. I’m a firm believer that they shouldn’t be brought up to rot in a bullpen just because there’s an injury space open. They need a starter, fine, but keep them on schedule in the minor rotation otherwise. I think the breakdown likelihood increases when the schedule is broken, and don’t believe it best-serves the development or health when a young arm is asked to bounce between the pen and a rotation. Those actions fail the aforementioned asset management test.

Lowish Prospect
Travis Hanson 3B – I like Hanson a little as a lowish sleeper prospect, a top-10 in the Cardinals organization but not many other clubs. He’s got emerging power, strong baseball instincts, and an innate ability for the RBI but has trouble making consistent contact and is prone to long slumps because of it.
He can play three infield positions and that combined with the baseball IQ should make him a favoritie of his manager. He could be a utility player in the future and I likened him to Joe Carter a couple of years ago for his ability to drive in runs and the low batting average issue.  But that’s a high-side comparison that hasn’t come to fruition and the power at peak should be less.

Late Bloomer?
Chris Duncan OF – The soon-to-be 25-year-old first rounder in 1999 has started to show some late power, perhaps a result of increasing discipline at the plate. The power potential is what he was drafted on but it’s just beginning to be realized in the box scores. He hit two home runs on Friday for Triple-A Memphis, his first of the season as he attempts a conversion to left field.  If successful he’s an interesting late bloomer but will always be a first baseman playing the outfield, large and not blessed with speed or quick feet. And I don’t think I need to mention why he needs to play the outfield to make the Cardinals as a regular.

Dan Quon

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