STL sports chat with Ben Frederickson

STL sports chat with 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. Monday.

    Ben: Do you have any explanation for why the Cardinals, a franchise that has rightfully been praised throughout baseball for its business acumen and sustainable model, has a bizarre blindspot when it comes to investing in aging players? All the metrics show that in a post-PED world, post-30 players will decline, and often those declines will be sharp. The saw it even in Albert Pujols (guess the last time he hit .300--2010, his age 30 season, which was also his last truly great season. Within two years he would be unable to put up an .800 OPS). Yet, undeterred, they overspent for Dexter Fowler. And then, despite seeing two of Dexter's three seasons in STL produce bottom 10 OPS numbers in the NL, they decided to extend 33-year-old Matt Carpenter for top dollar. And now they're trapped by the $37 million they owe these two for each of the next TWO seasons.

    Ben, what gives? How can such a smart organization be so foolish when it comes to age. It's weird--when they see a young superstar on the market, all they see is the downside of a long-term deal. When they see an aging vet, all they see is the upside. I just don't get it.
    I think there are a few things going on here.
     
    One is the common-sense realization that, if every team stays away from "older" players, there is value in getting the most out of those players. See how smart the Nationals looked for signing Howie Kendrick, for example. There are "older" players who are playing great baseball. Adam Wainwright's one-year deal looked smart for the Cardinals last season.
     
    The Cardinals take themselves out of most if not all high-priced free-agent bidding wars for elite players at elite ages because those are the most expensive deals with the longest commitments. The result means their big deals, relatively speaking, come from a more affordable yet riskier pool of candidates, like Fowler. This is what has the Cardinals in a bind. It's not that they don't spend. It's that they have spent in ways they likely regret now.
     
    The third reason is perhaps the most important to mention here. The Cardinals can't often be accused of working with their hearts instead of their heads, but they do it when it comes to certain players. The Matt Carpenter extension is an example. A Yadier Molina extension this spring would be another example. Certain players -- Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter -- are treated differently because of their performance in the uniform over their careers, because of the organization's desire to keep them in that uniform. This is not all that surprising. It happens in pretty much every business. It is happening less and less across baseball, though. 
     
    In one of Goold's podcast you both discussed the Cardinals being in their sweetspot this offseason being at the top of division and not making rash roster decisions to try and take a leap and improve. While some certainty would be nice as a fan, doesn't bode well that they are in a place where they have done extremely well in the past? While spending money or player equity would be nice to see as a measure of committing to a superior product on the field, the Cardinals have done really poorly and hampered themselves with a lot of dead money and missed on several prospects now. So why not go with what you excel at?
    It's an interesting theory worth considering.
    This offseason is certainly more familiar territory for the Cardinals.
    They have a first-place finish and an NLCS appearance in hand, the National League manager of the year, and look out and see a division that is either retreating or moving laterally -- except for the Reds.
    And the Reds could be a real threat, but it's more desirable to have the Reds charging the front than the Cubs and Brewers, together.
    If you ignore the Cardinals' insistence that they never make moves based on the moves made by their opponents, and we probably should, because that's hard to believe, then you can connect some of the dots between some of the regrettable recent contracts -- Fowler, Cecil, Gregerson -- and the attempt to regain ground lost in the division.
    The point is the Cardinals seem to make better deals when they're not chasing, and they don't seem to be chasing as much now as they were in recent offseasons.
    And no, that doesn't excuse the bad contracts because of the competitive division.
    Gonna head that one off at the pass before people pounce on it.
     
    If the Cardinals by some chance re-sign Ozuna, does that effectively end the open competition for the outfield despite lack luster production from CF and RF last year?
    Great question.
    It shouldn't.
    Do you think by the end of his senior season we will see Mizzou's Mitchell Smith on an SEC All-Defensive Team? What is the probability of him upping his offensive game? For a while there, I thought Kim Anderson granted him a scholarship because Kim just needed another body but, now, I am beginning to think Mitchell Smith could really turn into a valuable piece for Mizzou - if he is not already. Thanks, Ben, for the chat.
    That would be a great goal for him.
    He's so long and versatile, he can guard multiple positions and cause havoc against all of them, when he's locked in.
    I'm with you about his role.
    There have been times I've wondered why he's on the court.
    Credit to him for carving out a niche and expanding it.
    Playing good defense will get you a spot on Cuonzo Martin's team, and now Smith is starting because of it. There is more offense to be tapped into there as well.
    Remember two seasons ago, when the team flourished despite losing Michael Porter Jr?
    I kind of feel like that is happening, to some degree, around Jermiah Tilmon this season.
    The Tigers hoped to rely on him, feed him, play through him etc.
    He's still out there and certainly has his moments, but he's not capable of being that player, not now and maybe never.
    The team looked kind of shell shocked about it for a while, but now seems to be finding other ways to win instead of dissolving when Tilmon isn't playing well or isn't playing at all.
     
    Hi Ben,

    Just wanted to share a poem I wrote several years back that was published on the baseball-almanac website.


    It's cold outside. The wind is harsh.
    There's snow upon the ground.
    You put on your coat, your gloves, your hat,
    And go toss the football around.

    It's just not the same, though. The session is brief.
    In no time, you've gone back inside.
    You turn on the TV, or get on the net,
    In search of any news they can provide.

    You look at the calendar and shake your head.
    The time is surely not short.
    You count up the months, the days, the hours,
    Until pitchers and catchers report.

    You dream of Spring with the grass so green,
    And the temperature on the rise,
    When the fortunate few get together again,
    To seek that ultimate prize.

    The holidays come and go. Your family takes pride,
    In the dinners over which they strove.
    While the turkey is cooking, a smile hits your face.
    You're reminded of another "hot stove".

    The talk of free agents and trades being made
    Gives you hope for the upcoming year.
    You dream of the slugger, the pitcher, the coach
    That this year you'll get to cheer.

    So, during this winter, when you're thinking of baseball,
    And it makes you want to groan.
    Cheer up. Fans like us can take solace
    In knowing we aren't alone.
    Steve P, ladies and gents.
    The P is for poet.
    Ok, whether or not my previous post makes it through, I got my rant out of the way. Let's talk positives.

    Drew Lock. As a Mizzou grad and lifelong Broncos fan, I was stunned to see him fall to the second round, but I was psyched to see the Broncos pick him . . . until 9000-year-old Vic "I know everything about football" Fangio opened his mouth and decided that Lock knew nothing about being a quarterback. Now, I'm psyched again. Despite a terrible offensive line and a throwback offense, Lock looks great. Confident. Accurate with the ball. Unfazed by the moment. If the Broncos gets some imagination in their offensive scheme, and get any kind of O-line play (big "if" as Elway has shown no ability to put a line together), he's going to be the guy in Denver for a long time.
  • No argument there.
    It's hard to find a team with more to be excited about entering a playoff-less offseason than the Broncos.
    Their search for a quarterback seems to have ended.
    And is there a better place for Lock to be than Denver, where he can lean on Elway and Peyton Manning for advice about how turn a debut into a strong first full season?
    Elway has his QB, I think. He should probably consider hiring a coach who sees that and can maximize it.
    Your characterization of the team's spending is up to you, but your numbers are off. The Cardinals had a top-10 payroll last season. They have more than $140 million committed to 11 players for 2020, and that's not counting the raises for players with fewer than three years experience. And Ozuna is not included in those numbers. Calling the Cardinals cheap is a common refrain, but it's not accurate in this case. You would be better off criticizing them for spending money in ways that have not worked.
    Do you think Boston will trade Mookie Betts, and do you think the Cardinals will go after him? I know he isn't the left handed bat they are looking for, but would love for him to be in our lineup.
    Boston might, but I don't think it will be to the Cardinals. A team that is has said it's not going to make win-the-offseason type moves is not the team that makes a big trade for Mookie.
    Binnington was standing in his own way as much as the scouts and coaches.
    He shared last season that his commitment and work ethic improved greatly during his so-called lost seasons.
    Hey Ben... good morning and happy new year... almost... Disagree with the Allen comment.. Yes, he is a valuable backup... But, as we have learned, or will soon, 'You cannot keep everyone.' The Blues, even with the open window, have to start figuring out how to make moves, if not now, next year and after, on how to fit everyone into the salary cap..If they sign AP, that's $8-$10 mill... You can't keep Allen... And saying Binnington's injury = collapse, that's' a wee bit of catastrophic thinking... Husso is a highly regarded prospect, 3 years in the minors, next year he should be ready to step in as backup... Unless we are just 'going for the cup' this year, next year, you have to start making those moves... I'm even for letting AP walk.... The blues will still have 2 or 3 all star level defenseman, and I think actually Parayko is a better all around player than AP anyway... Sometimes you gotta make the hard decisions Benny!!!!!
    You can't keep everyone.
    That's the truth.
    You can keep from trading off key pieces while you're in a prime spot to make a run at repeating as champion.
    That's called maximizing a championship window.
    Armstrong is (and should be) worried about doing what he can to make the most out of this season. That should dictate his trade-deadline moves. Not fretting over the cap for next season. There will be time for that, like after another parade. 
    Hey Ben..I know its been a few weeks now, but I'm still really excited about Coach Drink. His enthusiasm seems to be infectious and genuine...and something the program has been lacking. Drink is all over social media which is something I think that resonates with kids today, and it can only help in recruiting. I also loved his recent comments about the "rivalry" with Arkansas too, he didn't shrink into coachspeak at all, he embraced it and pretty much said bring it on. I know this is all worthless if they can't go out and get it done on the field, but I haven't been this excited about the program in a few years.
    You make great points. I've noticed his social media splash as well. It's been hard not to. And that stuff does matter. It's where kids are. It's what they are watching. Except most of them have moved on from Twitter to Instagram and Tic Toc, and God knows what else. Not sure if Drink has Tic Toc, but he will get one if it helps him in recruiting.
  • Ben i like the deal for Kim. Smart move by the front office. But before everyone hyperventilates about possibly loosing Ozuna ( when we got him he slugged 37 dingers and drove in over a hundred and could throw) I'd like to see what we have in all these young outfielders. I saw Pujos as a minor leaguer in Jupiter so you never know
    Actually, Ozuna couldn't really throw when the Cardinals got him, remember?
    But I get your point.
    The loss of Ozuna's production doesn't look as scary if the offense wasn't so scary last season. 
    But the offense was scary last season, and Ozuna's bat, while not always on, was one of the most reliable in that lineup.
    Are you in line for a Baseball Hall of Fame vote at some point? Who would you be inclined to vote for if you had a ballot this year? Personally, I'm feeling better about Rolen's chances of getting in at some point (not this year) after seeing how many votes he's picked up already - +28 votes already on returning ballots, and he seems to be doing really well with first time voters as well.
    I won't have a vote for 5-6 years still, so it will be a while.
    That's a great question and one I haven't thought that much about to be honest.
    Let me think on it and I'll roll out a fake ballot here next week?
    That would be good practice for me. 
    Deal?
    In the last podcast when you were discussing the KK signing you both framed it as him vs C-mart in a sense, while I don't disagree, could it also be seen as hedging their bet on Wainwright as well if he can't reproduce his 2019 results?
    Sure.
    Adding depth for the rotation can become help for whatever tire goes flat.
    But until there is some reason to think Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas won't be starting, the competition for spot No. 5 is between Kim and Martinez.
    Kim is the new man on the scene, signed to compete for the rotation but open for relief if it's asked of him.
    Martinez is trying to prove he can start again, and will need to prove that in such a way that he is not more appealing as a closer, a valuable role he's good at.
    The other guys just have to keep doing what they did.
    The Illini made it to a bowl this year, do you think they will continue to improve with Lovie as head coach, or will they just keep bouncing back and forth between being bad and average?
    They should be better next season than they were this season.
    A big crop of juniors are going to return.
    Are you aware of any chats such as this that other newspapers carry? I'd be interested in joining them to hear what other teams fans are asking/commenting on?
  • I don't think many, if any, do them like we do at the P-D.
    Let me know if you find them.
    I have to think we offer the most in terms of length of chat, and number of chats per week.
  • Do the Blues stand pat at the trading deadline or do they look for scoring help?
    Too early too tell for sure, because one injury could derail things and open up a need for outside help in a hurry, but this is starting to look like last season, isn't it? That's when Army stood back and let the team continue to gel, because he didn't want to risk messing with the chemistry. That approach would make sense now, if the deadline was tomorrow. We'll see.
    What would a trade for Nolan Arenado look like for the Cardinals?
    The first step would be the Cardinals wanting a new third baseman.
    They say they don't want a new third baseman.
    First quarter of 2020 was the plan unless it's changed.
    I don't think The Governors will be the name. 
    Trade petro for a draft pick, with the uncertainty of being unable to sign him why not get something for him instead of nothing, just seems like good business.


    i kid i kid Goold always says sarcasm is welcome in his chat, maybe yours too?
    Why stop there?
    Trade Robert Thomas right now because he's going to be too expensive to keep down the line! 
  • Do you feel that all of the mixed messaging from the Cardinals front office has any thing to do with the mixed feelings about the club from the fans?
    I don't really see too many mixed messages at this point.
    I see the Cardinals' messages, and the message fans don't love to hear.
    The Cardinals have been pretty clear that they don't expect seismic moves this offseason, and that they don't plan on changing the payroll all that much.
    They said they wanted some rotation depth of some kind, then go it. 
    They have said Ozuna is still in play, and he remains unsigned so he's still in play.
    They have said they could be interested in an outfield addition -- if Ozuna isn't back, I imagine -- and those talks have not stopped.
     
     
    Ben, how surprised were you to see Mizzou beat IL in the Bragging Rights game? I was a little shocked - IL was pretty good up to that point, just having knocked off Mich the week prior. Whether or not they make the tournament is s different story but I would say a step in the right direction and a resume builder
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