STL sports chat Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat Ben Frederickson

Bring your Cardinals, Blues and St. Louis sports questions, and talk to Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson in a live chat starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    Greetings, chatters. Hope everyone is having a good week. Spring training is officially underway, down to the first pitcher injury. I'm heading to Florida next week for my spring shift. First, I'll catch the BattleHawks home opener. The Blues are struggling, and it's worth wondering if all that talk about adding offense should turn into talk about adding a defenseman. Let's kick it around. Ready? Let's roll.
    Could you clue me in on the timing involved in stealing a sign? Usually the catcher flashes a sign and the pitcher almost immediately goes into his wind up to make the pitch. I would guess 5 seconds go by before the pitcher releases the ball. How can an opposing team see the sign, interpret it, and communicate it to the batter—and him understand it and adjust—in such a short time period? Was the guy beating the trash can the same one watching the video? I am just not clear about the mechanics of it all.
    I can try, sure. The report from Manfred and the reporting that led to it provided some details on how it happened in 2017, during the trash-can banging days. But first, it's worth remembering the Astros were, according to Manfred, stealing signs and relaying them to hitters during parts of 2018 as well, while not using the trash-can system. What remains mostly unknown, unless I've just missed it, is how that worked in 2018. But in 2017, we have a sense of it. A camera positioned in the outfield was feeding directly to a monitor the Astros could use to see the signs. Those signs were decoded to the point that shortly after they were given by the catcher, as the pitch was being delivered, a certain bang (one or two) could alert the hitter what kind of pitch was coming: fastball, offspeed, etc. If you find some of the videos that have come out from 2017, you can hear the banging while a hitter prepares to load to swing.
    Benfred,

    Are you ready for the dome to be rocking this weekend? So excited to see it on TV, I will be cheering the team on from MN. Very impressed with Ta'amu and I think the Battlehawks have a good shot to win a championship. What has your impression of the XFL been thus far? Ka Kaw!
    It will be rocking, no doubt.
    The tickets are pretty much sold out.
    The team is not opening the upper bowl, but I do wonder how full that could get if they decided to.
    Some of the prices for tickets on the secondary market are crazy high, considering the relatively low face value of the tickets.
    It's become a thing. People want to be there for the first one. To send a message. And to show support to a team that cares about being here.
    The BattleHawks have done a good job of using a short amount of time to create good will here, from volunteering to just getting out and about in the community.
    A sports team that loves St. Louis will be loved back.
    Another example will be on display Sunday.
    I won't pretend to know if this team can win the championship.
    I've only watched the BattleHawks games.
    They need to clean up some penalties before they have a chance of winning it all.
    Ben,

    With the news of Mikolas being shelved for start of the season (hopefully that's it), does that hurt their run prevention model? If the defense and pitching isn't as good as last year, how do you see the season playing out?
    If there defense and pitching isn't as good as last season, they will need to score more runs to make up for it if they aren't going to take a step back.
    Everyone here probably feels the same way about the offense, though perhaps to varying degrees.
    It's a lot to ask this offense to do more than last season, considering the additions made from outside (zero) and the departures (Ozuna and Martinez).
    Could it get better?
    Sure.
    Could it be about the same?
    Likely.
    Could it be worse?
    Yes.
    There are no guarantees, because the Cardinals added no guarantees.
    So, a step back in the areas that were really strong -- pitching, defense, baserunning -- could be costly.
    Any arm injury to a starting pitcher is serious, but the Cardinals did add some protection for the rotation this offseason. Kim and Martinez have a spot in the rotation until Mikolas is ready. Or someone could push one of them out by out-pitching them: Gomber, Ponce, etc.
    There's still good depth there.
    Really appreciate your insightful comments re: Manfred and the Astros scandal. Just curious, are views resonating on sports pages elsewhere?
    Thanks.
    I've read varying opinions.
    I do think baseball gets a more intense focus here, because it is such a popular sport for our city.
    There's also a clear Cardinals tie to this scandal.
    Well, two.
    One is Jeff Albert, the hitting coach who was with Houston before he rejoined the Cardinals.
    The other is the hacking scandal, which -- if you believe Chris Correa -- was an unethical and illegal reaction by the Cardinals to an unethical decision by the Astros to take proprietary information from the Cardinals.
    So, there's a lot of interest here.
  • Cardinals pitching feels to me stronger at this point of the year than last year - both rotation and relief. Agree?
  • The uncertainty about Mikolas could dent that a bit.
    Like you, I'm pretty optimistic about the Cards pitching.
    I'm one of the few who thinks Hudson will be better this year, not worse.
    Wainwright's age is always going to make him a question mark, but he showed last season it's more about his health than his years, and he feels good.
    Flaherty should only keep ascending.
    Martinez is in good shape and seems focused.
    Kim is going to push Martinez.
    And the bullpen is stocked with young, good arms who don't care about how they are used.
    That's how you build a good bullpen in the modern age.
    I'm high on Cards pitching at the moment.
    If more guys get hurt, maybe not so much.
  • Mo is snake bit. His trades aren’t working out , his free agent signings aren’t working out and is extensions look terrible now if Tommy John is required
    I'm not in Jupiter, and won't be until next week, but I've read nothing about Mikolas receiving Tommy John. News from P-D colleague Derrick Goold this morning is that Mikolas is getting another platelet rich plasma injection and will rest up to see if that helps. Let's see how that takes before the rush to shut him down for a season. Better to miss Mikolas for a month than get him for a month and then miss him for the rest of the season. If a president of baseball operation's job is determined by pitchers with extensions getting arm injuries, there wouldn't be any good presidents out there. Pitchers hurt their arms. It happens. The depth the Cardinals added in Kim this offseason looks a lot smarter now, and this increases pressure on Martinez to pitch like a starter. Could also open up the door for someone like Alex Reyes to get some early action in the rotation, before Mikolas returns, if he does.
    Seems areando giving gm another chance to get good roster? What u suppose happens next
    That's one interpretation of his spring training comments.
    Another interpretation would be he wants out.
    Most telling might have been Bridich's totally awkward and standoffish no-comment when offered a chance to smooth the water a little bit publicly.
    Arenado's comments sounded a lot like the ones Stanton made before he pushed his way to a trade.
    They share an agent, you know.
    Battlehawks lost a hard fought battle down in Houston. Jordan Ta'amu is quickly becoming the face of sports in St. Louis. Thoughts on the XFL after 2 weeks?
    My first thought is that second take seems a bit rushed.
    The BattleHawks have done nothing to dull the excitement of their first home game.
    A nice win. A competitive loss that was impacted by a bad non-call. People are fired up for XFL here, and that will show Sunday.
    Thoughts on the league as a whole: It has to be as good of a launch as could be expected.
    Sustaining momentum will be the key.
    There's a newness to it that makes people want to watch. How do they keep eyeballs when that fades? 
  • I was disappointed last year when both Ozuna and Carlos Martinez showed up for spring training not physically ready. This year seems to reflect a different culture re: preparedness with CMart, Holliday, even Brett Cecil seeming to have stepped it up. Does it seem to you a change in managment or leadership approach has had this effect?
    It would be significant news if Holliday was at this camp as a player.
    Did you mean Carpenter?
    Carpeternter's deal last year was that he changed some of his offseason workouts to help spare his shoulder, and he thinks that led to a loss of weight and strength as the season progressed.
    The manager has not changed between last spring training and this spring training.
    Shildt was entering his first full season as manager this time last year.
    Cecil showed up more than ready last year. He had lost so much weight it affected how he pitched. He's in a better place now it seems, but we will see how he pitches.
    Martinez had a very clear reason to show up more prepared this spring. The Cardinals hired a competitor this offseason. If he doesn't pitch well, he could lose a rotation spot to Kim, or someone else. But Kim was the clear challenger, and Martinez treated his offseason as such. He's determined to prove he can be a top-shelf starter again, and committed himself to an offseason program that would let him prove it.
    Guys toggle with training programs and diets and all sorts of things during the offseason.
    Some work and some don't.
    Some become cited as reasons for lack of success when play is disappointing.
    Sometimes the correlation is fair, and sometimes it's a bit of a reach.
    It's so early into spring it's still too early to tell who did it right and who didn't.
    Example: If Martinez gets hurt tomorrow, he will be questioned about his offseason program. As in, did he overdo it? 
    We have to see how guys hold up, and perform.
    Does anyone outside the front office really believe Miles Mikolas will pitch this year? I can’t even count the number of times we have been down this path before.
    What would you like them to say?
    "Hey folks, Miles had a setback, so we are going to assume the worst and say he's done for the year, but we will update you if that turns out to be too negative."
    They are going to be as positive as they can be, in part because that's what they want the player to be.
    He gets the shot. He sits three weeks to a month. They see where he is then.
    Now, is it wrong to use the past as a context? No. Any time a pitcher has an arm injury, it's a big deal. No matter what the team says. And sometimes the plan of treatment doesn't work out as expected. We know this. You don't need the Cardinals to tell you this. 
    Comments about Jeff Albert's public denial of culpability or knowledge in the Houston cheating scandal? Does it seem plausible to you that a coach like that could be hyper-attentive and analytical of the at-bats and not sense what was really going on?
    He needed to answer the questions.
    He did.
    Credit to him for doing that while other Houston coaches continue to hide from the questions.
    Now, do we have to believe him? No.
    It's really, really hard to believe that the No. 2 hitting coach who was in the dugout in 2018 did not know the team was working to steal signs and relay them to hitters.
    And that was happening in at least part of 2018, per Manfred's report.
    This was not the trash-can banging system. That did not happen in 2018. But the report specifically says sign-stealing was happening in parts of the 2018 season. There are few specifics at the moment about what that looked like.
    Again, Albert isn't just saying he was not involved. He is saying he did not know. If information comes out that calls that comment into question, he and the Cardinals are going to look bad, because the Cardinals are taking his word. I think that would be the tipping point here, if something comes out that goes against what Albert told Mozeliak.
    At this moment, there is no proof Albert isn't telling the truth. We can say, hey, this is hard to believe, but until there is factual proof it's not the truth, this is where things stand. The Cardinals are buying his story, and no one has hard evidence to say why they shouldn't.
    Why are the Cardinals doing this? A few reasons. They seem to believe him, first of all. They think he is good at his job and want him on the staff. They made a lot of decisions to streamline things toward his liking, including firing some longstanding hitting coaches. And yeah, they are stubborn, and don't like to admit they made a mistake until they have to, sometimes after they should.
     
    KK have 5th slot to loose now?
    Seems like it. Still quite early though.
    The last time two young hitters showed promise in the organization, Grichuk & Piscotty (Diaz too), the team thrust them into the middle of the order only to watch them regress under heightened expectations at a young age. My question is, if a Thomas or Carlson show promise as hitters, will the team repeat this course of action, or will they pursue the needed proven bat to allow the young players to mature organically?
  • I didn't see many signs of that pursuit you mentioned this offseason, did you?
    I think you have your answer.
    The wild-card of course would be Arenado, but the much-discussed hurdles we've been over time and time again remain.
    If the young guys hit, they're going to get chances to be hitting in important spots sooner rather than later it seems.
    Should Ken Rosenthal have followed up Carlos Carrera's specific comment that Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and Tony Kemp did not use the sign stealing system with the question: Does that mean everyone else on the Astros did use it?
    Not sure he needed to.
    That was pretty clear, wasn't it?
    It was easier for Correa to name the few guys who did not use it than name the long list of players who did.
    Another thing: Correa didn't just say Altuve didn't use it. He also said Altuve got mad when people hit the trash can during his at-bats. That meant he used it, even if begrudgingly, more than once. How many is more than once? See the gray area that exists?
    Hi, Ben. Thanks for taking my comment. Regarding penalties for the Astros' sign stealing. I think Manfred's punishment was way too light. A lot of people -- myself included -- criticized his predecessor, Bud Selig as being "Bud Lite," But Manfred's response to the scandal was equally poor. I know that MLB can't take back the Astros' players' World Series rings or their winning shares. But, ironically, baseball can take a cue from one of the most corrupt organizations in America -- the NCAA -- and simply vacate the title; let the records show no World Series champion in 2017. That seems a simple enough and appropriate penalty. Do you agree? Thanks for your time.
    Respectfully, I disagree.
    And I would point to the same NCAA as reason.
    Those vacated titles are still celebrated by the schools that lost them.
    They are not wiped from memories, and fans of those teams relish that this is the case.
    Baseball is not college basketball, though. Baseball cares about history and broken rules. Scandals live forever in baseball, and this one certainly will. Let the Astros keep their trophy and championship as a scarlet letter of sorts. It's hollow and tarnished. Don't give the players or their supporters the motivation of stripping it. They spoiled it, so they should have to live with the reminder of it.
    That's my take.
    I know not everyone agrees.
    I have to think the Dodgers would not want it.
    And pretending that World Series didn't happen? That's not logical.
    The cheating Astros won it. That should be the memory.
    Am I’m pessimistic to assume the phrase next man up should be changed to next man down when referring to the cardinal rotation?
    How so?
    The Cardinals brought six starters to camp for five spots.
    One is sidelined with an injury early in camp, leaving five for five.
    Swapping Kim for Mikolas means less certainty, but then again there wasn't much certainty about Mikolas when he came over from Japan and then had the best season of any Cardinals starter that first year.
    Ben, I hate to speculate too much on Bouwmeester's status going forward but realistically I would be shocked to see him play too much more going forward (if at all). Do you see this changing the approach the Blues have with trade deadline and off-season moves? Does this potentially also have an affect on Petro you think?
    Yeah, I'm not going there yet.
    I don't know, and I'm not going to guess.
    I do think it's completely fair to wonder if the Blues need to take a hard look at the available defensemen before the trade deadline. The Justin Faulk trade-and-extension is looking so far like a rare recent misfire by Doug Armstrong. We've spent a lot of time talking about how the Blues need to get that top-six forward, but Sanford is playing great and there's discussion that Vladimir Tarasenko could be back sooner than initially expected, so that would increase the argument for him to play during the regular season, if he can get a good chunk of games beneath his belt for conditioning purposes. Meanwhile the Blues are losing games because their defense is all off a sudden quite soft.
    Do you think Manfred's weak precedent on Houston cheating is more about protecting the owners than protecting the players?
    What exactly did people expect Manfred to do to Jim Crane?
    One, Manfred works for the owners.
    Two, the $5 million fine he put on Crane was the highest fine allowed by the MLB constitution.
    After that, what can he do?
    He could have taken more draft picks. Perhaps he should have. That's a fair argument.
    It's also worth noting, and I'm no Crane apologist, that Manfred had evidence of Crane telling Luhnow that the team needed to be in compliance with Manfred's warning about sign stealing after the Red Sox Apple watch incident.
    That warning was never passed on from Luhnow to the team.
    Manfred's investigation found the clear break, and Crane was on the right side of that.
    The popular argument has been to punish the players. What goes unmentioned there is that Manfred has to run discipline through the players' union to some degree. He says there is now cooperation between the league and players' union about creating a standard of discipline for players for sign-stealing. It's a shame that wasn't created before this incident. Manfred has argued that he would not have gotten the details of what happened without granting the players immunity. If that's the case, then he should have made a point to punish all of -- and not just some of -- the non-players involved, including the two Astros officials who are still on the payroll despite The Wall Street Journal report that named them as key contributors to the Codebreaker system. Manfred also screwed up by excluding damning evidence that Luhnow knew about and encouraged the system from his final report, because The WSJ exposed he did think Luhnow knew and encouraged it -- yet the report claimed player-driven. That has led to more distrust of Manfred, and he could not afford that in this scandal.
    I have really enjoyed watching the 2 Battlehawk games. Sunday should be a lot of fun to watch at the Dome. Really hope this league makes it.
  • The TV contracts will help. A lot.
  • I know Mikolas' injury is not ideal, but I am hopeful that this ends up being the break Reyes deserves to crack the rotation. This team needs some more electricity, more excitement. Having Flaherty, Reyes and Martinez in the rotation would create the buzz. FYI - buzz is the opposite of what the offense is creating right now.
    Expecting Reyes to pitch a full season's worth of innings as a starter seems a bit unrealistic, but hoping he can be a nice fill-in for a while is not.
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