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. Tuesday.

    Greetings chatters, thank you for keeping the Tuesday tradition rolling without games to discuss. I'm anchored in here for the next few hours, as long as there is something to talk about. Did anyone stay up for the games in South Korea last night? I tried. Couldn't make it. Guess I'll have to drop the decaf in the pm and get the real juice to make it to the fist inning.
    Ben, Cards get no respect from the WSJ this morning. They pick the Cards to finish 6th in the proposed 10 team Central division. Only Mil, CWS, and the horrible KC and Det teams finish lower. Seem about right to you?
    Can hypothetical what-ifs about a season that may or may not happen be counted as bulletin board material?
    Why the heck not?
    WSJ took a stab at predicting the order of finish of the three 10-team divisions that could replace the American and National Leagues for the shortened, zany 2020 season.
    Here's the projected order of finish for the so-called Central Division: Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers.
    Personally, I think you would have a National League Central representative somewhere in the top-three.
    Could be the Cards, Cubs, Reds or Brewers.
    I've been slower than most to assume the Reds are going to become a force.
    I think they will be better, a lot better, but they can be a lot better and still be hanging around with the Cubs, Cards and Brewers near the top of the NL Central.
    I'm higher on the White Sox than some.
    A Sporting Director hire is the next big hiring splash for MLS4THELOU and will give us a lot to go off of for what their on the field plans will be. Any news on a Sporting Director hire or who they're showing interest in?
    That hire will be informative, for sure. No clue on when it could come, though. As I reported a while back, the team is more or less on lockdown when it comes to topics other than site prep and construction along with pandemic-related issues, like the recent food donation partnership that is sending meals to front-line healthcare workers at hospitals. It's a bit challenging to know how to move forward on interviews and hires until there is a sense of what the landscape looks like after the pandemic. That doesn't mean the wheels are in motion. It does mean I'm not hearing much about the process, at least for now. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
    Ben. during your work as a sports columnists, how often do you attend a cardinals game during the season? Sure pray we have a season this summer.
    I write four times per week for print (sometimes more) and a sizable chunk of those columns are about the Cards. That's not including chats, a weekly Cards video and radio hits that require me to be around the team for reporting purposes. So, I'm there a lot. Most home games. Try to spend Sundays at home when I can. I don't usually hit the road unless it's a postseason series, or a big regular-season series, like last year's four-game sweep at Wrigley Field. So, yes, I'm missing going to the ballpark. I'm missing not knowing what's going to happen on the next pitch, the thrill of a true deadline rush when you're trying to explain what happened in real time for tomorrow's paper. I miss the banter with players and coaches. Most importantly, to be honest, I miss the conversations with colleagues. It makes us all better. There isn't a day at the ballpark when I don't learn something about baseball. It helps, sitting next to a Hall of Famer (Commish) and a future one (DG). It's a thrill every time. I hope we get some sort of season, too. I don't know if I will be there for it or not. I haven't heard any chatter about how media access could work in whatever the 2020 MLB season looks like.
    BenFred, what are thoughts on Ray Hartmann's column in the RFT regarding the Cardinals going after CARES Act money?
  • I have a lot of respect for Ray. Dogged reporter. Fearless commentator. And I thought he made some good points about whether it's ethical for sports teams to pursue tax-relief programs that were launched in order to help with the coronavirus crisis.
    I disagree with some of the points.
    One is small. The Forbes analysis of teams' worth and value has never been proven to be accurate. Forbes doesn't show its numbers. We should just trust them? I have no doubt the Cardinals are not valuable as a franchise, but I'm also hesitant to just trust a random formula that attempts to assign it.
    The other is larger. I don't expect the Cardinals to behave like anything other than what they are -- a big, successful business that happens to specialize in baseball. Big, successful businesses often tend to be pretty good at making the decisions that make money when there is money to be made, along with decisions that save money when there is money to be saved. And if there is a way to save money AND pair it with keeping people employed, the Cardinals know they are not going to face much backlash from that.
    No one here is crying for the Cardinals, but ignoring the impact of the pandemic on the local baseball team would be shortsighted as well. The team has worked to keep employees on without games, to pay minor leaguers without games, etc. It's in the process of sending back money for April games.
    If the program is not meant for the business of sports, those businesses should be exempt from applying.
    And I'm never surprised by the Cardinals operating like a big business. Ever. If that is off-putting, and to some it will be, then my suggestion -- in all seriousness -- is to take the business-like approach and not support the team financially.
  • What is your take on Yadi’s free agency bomb? Is he trying to get leverage in any negotiation? I know you wrote a piece about how the Cards and Yadi need each other, but frankly I think deep down the Cards would be ok letting him walk if they could escape the PR fallout.
  • I did write about it. I'll grab the link and paste below.
    The Cardinals would survive without Molina. No one is bigger than the team. But that public disappointment you mentioned would be severe, and it's also worth thinking about what would be lost. What Molina does at the plate is near the bottom of the list of his importance to the team. What he does behind it is is incredibly valuable. He's the pitching coach at times, the defensive coordinator at times. He's the team's enforcer and motivator at times. When the camera goes to the dugout, he's the player you most often see with the manager talking over strategy. When the trainers come rushing out to check on a pitcher, how often is it that Yadi spotted something wrong before anyone in the dugout? Answer: Often. On top of all of this throw in his legacy and what it means to Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. Molina finishing his career in a Cardinals uniform has value to the owner, period. He is on pace to join Stan Musial and Bob Gibson as the Hall of Famers who spent their entire careers with the Cardinals. In some ways, Molina is the foil to Pujols. The one who stayed. That's not something the Cardinals are eager to let go. And if Molina puts them in a position where they become OK with letting it go, he's crazy. No team will value him like the Cardinals do. The Cardinals have shown a willingness to pay for legacy, and they are not going to draw the line at Molina. Unless he has unrealistic demands, this will all be worked out. If he has unrealistic demands, it will be a sign he's ready for a change.
  • How do you see this whole crisis affecting the Cards lineup in 2021? It seems like a good time to reboot and start a youth movement, except for Goldy.
  • A lost season would be very painful for teams that were hoping to get strong seasons from veterans who might not have many left.
    The Cardinals have a lot of those players.
    Matt Carpenter.
    Dexter Fowler.
    Yadier Molina.
    Even Paul Goldschmidt.
    And that's just the lineup, not the pitching staff.
    I'll point back to a number I dug up before spring training went off the rails.
    Between Brad Miller’s $2 million deal and the $130 million remaining on the record-breaking Goldschmidt extension announced last spring, the Cardinals are locked into paying their 30-and-above crowd more than $320 million, and that’s not including any vesting options, contract buyouts or extensions (Yadier Molina) that could come.
    The Cardinals were already asking a lot from beyond-their-prime players, and if the 2020 season does return in some fashion, they will be asking a lot of those players in a setting they have never experienced.
    The game's recent trends suggest every day without a game played makes things harder for the guys on the wrong side of 30.
  • Are you buying or selling the early Drink recruiting hype?
  • No one should be "selling" it.
    Drinkwitz is pulling good players out of St. Louis, the kind of players that his predecessor couldn't get.
    That's good.
    It's also worth remembering a commitment is non-binding and, for now, these kids can't take campus visits elsewhere.
    There could be a fight to flip them when those restrictions lift, and how Drinkwitz does holding commitments will be just as important as securing them.
    Recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, but getting commitments is not the only thing that matters.
    Butch Jones made an amazing splash at Tennessee when he was first hired. His energy and slogans and buzz words had everybody fired up, and his social media presence worked with prospects. He didn't do a good enough job turning the talent into winning football games, and he got fired. Now he's Nick Saban's glorified intern.
    Drinkwitz kind of reminds be of Jones with his slogans and "swagger" but I hope he's a better football coach.
  • Remember when the Cardinals sold the urinals from Busch II? Seems like a good time to have another sale as they're not going to need a lot of urinals, seats, concession stands etc anytime soon.
  • Some of the frats at Mizzou could put a competitive offer on the urinal troughs.
    Could you explain why they put up that WS trophy statue at the stadium? Is it suppose to suggest that the Cards are the best team of all time? Thank you, thank you very much.
    I'm sure it's to represent the Cardinals having more World Series championships (11) than any other National League team.
    I think for many fans it's a frustrating reminder the team hasn't won one since 2011.
    Which model for baseball do you prefer when they return? The regional or the ones in Florida/AZ?
  • My only strong opinion about any of the floated scenarios is that the all-in-Arizona idea sounded really dumb, and any of the alternatives is better. No matter what happens, it's going to be drastically different from what we've known. The new-look and temporary divisions floated from both plans seem to lump the Cardinals in with some really, really good teams, so there doesn't seem to be an easier path there. And besides, it might be a situation where every team gets a chance at the postseason in some big bracket scenario anyway.
    Ben, I haven’t read this anywhere but seems like MLB could move to a pair of six game series or a total of 12 straight games, then a day off, in order to simplify logistics and reduce travel. You could even do it home and away. Thoughts?
  • The emphasis on decreasing travel that was really prominent in the early leaked proposals seems to have been scaled back a bit in more recent ones, not surprising as certain states are beginning to lift restrictions. That's why I've stressed all along to wait for next week's proposal, and then the next one, because they are adapting in real time, based on each week's news. Ideal would probably be having each team play in its home stadium, just for aesthetic purposes. But you better believe some of this will be influenced by what is most cost effective for the league. Minimizing travel saves money. Using one feed for broadcasts saves money. If there are no crowds anyway, why does it matter to the league where the games are played? If you are going to scrap the divisions, scrap the schedule and redesign it to get as many games as you can in the cheapest, safest way. That would be my plan if I worked for the league. As for the schedule of how the games are played, the only thing that has gotten much attention is the idea of the seven-inning double-headers to maximize games and decrease the chance of marathon games in those situations. As to your suggestion, I don't think anything is off the table, but remember the players have to agree to the terms, too.
    Yesterday Gould mentioned the 20% cap on salary reductions. That would put Yadi at a minimum salary of $16M unless he reached FA status and signed a lesser deal. Do you think the Cards will view $16M as too high? Is Yadi putting pressure on to get only the minimum reduction? Will Yadi play along if they tell him it is less and he will have to go to FA but have a deal in hand?
    Goold, not Gould.
    And yes, that rule exists.
    It doesn't have to be much of a hurdle, though, as we saw play out with the Cardinals and Wainwright.
    It was mostly just a delay, in that case.
    Could be the same thing here, but that assumes a lot we just don't know.
    Wainwright was on the record as saying he wanted to be with the Cardinals, and that he wanted a contract that rewarded him for his accomplishments, in part because he had received a lot of money from the organization during times he was hurt, etc. Wainwright embraced the incentive-laden deal. Welcomed it.
    I don't know if Molina would do the same.
    Molina hasn't said, and the Cardinals have not said how they view his value in terms of dollars. They have been very clear about how they view his value to the team. If he's determined to make those things match, there could be some friction up ahead.
    I can't imagine another team giving 38-year-old Molina $16 million. Not in today's game. Not in the post-coronavirus climate.
    I can imagine the Cardinals giving him $10 million, or a contract that can take him there or above it if he meets certain incentives. I can imagine that contract including an option that is based on certain milestones that would have to be met in terms of health and production.
    Again, I don't think Molina is going anywhere.
    He is going to have to be patient until the Cardinals can get back to the business of baseball, though, because continued comments about not having an extension will eventually do him more harm than good, I think.
    Been playing a lot of RBI on the NES during These Times. Who's your favorite Tengen Leaguer?
    Never got into the video games. Not that I didn't want to. All of my buddies had systems growing up. Sega. N64. Game Cube. And then the big jumps to XBox and PlayStations. I never had one myself. My parents always told me it would make me get fat. I showed them, by getting fat anyway. And who knows, maybe I would have been a pro gamer.
    Jumping off of Hochman's column...do you think little league baseball games should be played this weekend? There's one correct answer.
    No, I don't.
    But I don't expect the people in charge of these leagues and tournaments to make that decision.
    The tournaments can't happen if parents in places with stay-at-home guidelines don't let their kids play.
    Period.
    What are the Blues chances of winning the Cup next season if Pietrangelo is still here ... and what are their chances if he's not here?
    The Blues have played a lot of hockey, and they have had a lot of different captains over the years, and only one has led them to the promised land.
    I don't count that as a random thing.
    Berube's promotion was huge.
    Binnington's arrival was huge.
    But to shrug off or minimize Pietrangelo's leadership and example as the leader of the team would be a mistake.
    I wish I could put a number on it like you asked.
    I'm sure the Blues do, too.
    It would make this ongoing story line a lot easier to navigate for Doug Armstrong.
    The Blues want Petro back. They will be competitive. But they might not be able or willing to win the bidding, and if that's what is most important to him, he might be gone. I remain unconvinced that pure contract amount is the most important to him. I think other factors, like the chance to win more championships with the Blues, are going to be considered. One look at the team the Blues beat in the finals last season, the Bruins, proves there are great teams -- annually -- that are great because key leaders are willing to take a little bit less in a salary-cap league to reap the rewards of being in contention -- real contention -- every year. 
    The Blues have done a good job of preparing for life without Petro if that comes. Colton Parayko's future is so bright. But Pietrangelo did what no Blues captain has done in the past, and he's playing great hockey. The Blues must do what they can to keep him, and he should consider what the Blues -- and life in St. Louis -- can offer him on top of pure salary.
    With each passing day, I feel like we move closer to not having college football to watch this fall. What do you think will happen to that sport?
    by Johnny Roland's Wheels edited by Mike Smith 5/5/2020 5:48:49 PM
    Really? Most of the headlines seem to suggest the opposite. More and more campus leaders are saying they expect students to return in the fall, and if that happens you better believe there will be an attempt to play. Could be in front of no fans, but if students are gathering in lecture halls and living in dorms, college football will try to get off the ground. Some programs might abstain. I read an interesting column from Dan Wetzel that wondered if the SEC might go it alone, and I would not be surprised by that, though I think other will try, too. Again, with all of this, the question isn't about getting going as much as it is about what happens if getting going goes off the rails. What if Nick Saban or Coach O or someone else gets coronavirus? What happens if two players test positive? Then what? All of these potential scenarios include best-case scenarios for ramping things up, but none include how to navigate around realistic wrenches that could be thrown into the process. Here's another question: What's in place to guarantee uber-competitive college football programs don't cover up or hide a positive test in order to keep moving forward? If you don't think that is a possibility, you haven't been around college football very long. Is there a third-party testing service? Haven't heard anything about that, have we?
    Do you think the Cards would sign Pujols to a 1-day contract so he retires as a Card, assuming Pujols wanted that?
  • It's a good question I don't know the answer to, but I know how I would answer it.
    I wouldn't.
    Not out of spite or anything.
    It would just feel fake.
    Pujols made his decision. The Cardinals ended up being better off for it, probably. A lot of his key milestones came with the Angels. And he has that tricky personal services contract that would be cumbersome to navigate around unless it's dropped or negotiated out of by Pujols.
    Put him in the Cardinals Hall of Fame. Retire the number. Build him a statue if it suits you. But he didn't finish his career with the Cardinals, so don't pretend he did. That's how I see it.
    What grade do you give Cuonzo Martin as a recruiter, and why? I'd rate it about a C-minus effort so far. He's roughly a .500 coach at Mizzou, though struggling big time in league play. Thanks for the chat!
    I thought he would have landed one of the bigger fish out of St. Louis by now, so that can be scored against him.
    Some of the guys he did land -- Jeremiah Tilmon and Mario McKinney -- have not worked out like anyone hoped.
    Is that a knock on recruiting, or development, or the players? 
    I don't know.
    Grading a coach as a recruiter is less important, to me, than grading a coach as a coach, in general.
    Recruiting is a part of coaching. So is developing the guys you've recruited, setting the best game plan for the team, etc.
    I think a C-grade a a coach overall is fair.
    Some will say that's too nice, but I'll continue to point to the hole Mizzou is attempting to free itself from.
    Under Martin, the Tigers are 50-45. That .521 winning percentage ranks 11th in he SEC during that span. That includes one NCAA tournament appearance in his three seasons.
    No one's throwing a parade for that. Believe me.
    But consider that in the three seasons before the Tigers were 27-68 with a .284 winning percentage that was dead last in the 14-team SEC by a country mile. Zero NCAA tournament appearances during that span. Just one season with a double-digit win total.
    College basketball rebuilds do not take as long as college football rebuilds, but they do take some time when you are  trying to distance the program from a run as the least competitive Power 5 team in the nation. Throw in some pretty bizarre bad injury luck -- the bad back of five-star signee Michael Porter Jr., the bad knees of his brother Jeremiah Tilmon, the bad foot of Jeremiah Tilmon -- and things become more difficult. Factor in the fan apathy around the program that came rushing back the moment the Porter splash fizzled, and things become more difficult. It's an uphill grind.
    Martin is not immune from criticism. He has missed on some of the prospects he hoped to land. He has lost some of the players he hoped to count on due to transfers. He has moved Mizzou forward from where it was, but now he needs to take it another step forward.
    Whether that happens or not will not be based on eye-catching recruiting hauls as much as it is based on the development of the players he does sign.
    It's not as sexy as MPJ, and it might not work, but Martin is going to get more time to prove it can.
    Mizzou will not be paying a Jim Sterk hire a $6 million buyout in the post-coronavirus climate.
    I was just reading Goolds response to a chatter that asked about if the Cardinals need a tax break. IMHO, the organization is making north of 100 million profit every year!!!! Plus they just go an extra 40-50 million extra from tv revenue. So my question is why in world would they need a tax break? They can pay their employees which includes, concessions, minor leaguers, and pros. To me that just being greedy. They have plenty of brinks trucks and generations of future families retirements already paid for. Sorry for the rant but that just made me upset
    We hit on that earlier in the chat.
    Fair stance to take.
    However, the Cardinals never pretend to be anything other but a big baseball business, so I'm never really surprised when they act like one.
    So do you think there will be any more National League games without a DH?
    If I had to bet today. I would bet on no.
    I take every tax break the government allows me to take. I think most people do.
    If the tax breaks were not meant to be used by sports teams that are working to keep employees employed, that should have been spelled out. Requests can be rejected, too. Like I said, no one is breaking out the violins for the plight of sports owners, but teams are generating no income at the moment, and they're being asked to pay employees, players, minor leaguers, debt collection on real estate. These things add up fast, so I'm not at all surprised a tax break that a team could qualify for is being pursued. I imagine most teams are pursuing what they are capable or receiving -- unless they fear the public backlash will outweigh the reward. It won't for the Cardinals in St. Louis.
    I just dont think the cards need to pay Molina for the past , no team in baseball would give a 38 year old catcher whose skills have diminished even 7 million next year. the cards need to quit paying for players past their prime and try and spend on younger stars . A 2 year contract for Molina is ridiculous- if he leaves he leaves he will still be a much loved cardinal and i dont think many fans will complain IF Dewitt spends the money he saved on improving the club.
    Two things to consider . . . 
    The Cardinals DO pay players for the past, to some extent. It's rare. It's limited to a certain group of players. Legacy guys. Matt Carpenter's extension was influenced by the legacy part. It wasn't the only reason, but it was part of the reason. The Cardinals wanted him to finish his career in their uniform. They said that at the press conference. A pitcher not named Adam Wainwright who had Adam Wainwright's recent seasons probably would not be on the team right now. The Cardinals handle legacy players different, and the line is not going to be drawn at Molina. Believe that. Is there a breaking point? Sure. We saw it with Pujols. Molina is not in Pujols' position though.
    Whatever Molina gets, whether in St. Louis or elsewhere, will have more to do with what he can do than what he can't. You might not value those things, and that's OK, but the Cardinals do. And some team out there probably would. The Cardinals value them more, because they've had firsthand evidence of them for 16 seasons. How Molina brings along a young pitcher. How he calls a game. How he shifts the defense. What he sees and relays to the coaches and managers. How he leads the team. These things have monetary value. Ask pitchers who have pitched to Molina, then not. Ask teammates.
    Lastly, I do think there would be public push back. If Molina ends up on another team over a difference of a million dollars I think it would, in general, make the team look worse than the player. The Cardinals pay for legacy. They've painted themselves as a team that does that. You can make a case that they should change, and they probably should, but don't start with the Hall of Fame catcher who is truly beloved.
    Should the Cardinals wait until the end of this year (if this year happens) before negotiating with Molina, to see what kind of season he has? The risk goes both ways, Moliha could have a great season and be in a position to ask for a better contract than he can now.
    That parenthetical phrase you included is a big one.
    How can a team negotiate in good faith -- even if it could during the current stoppage, which it really cant -- without knowing if there is a 2020 season or what that season will look like?
    I know I wouldn't want to be making any commitments at the moment.
    Molina didn't say he would leave for another team if he didn't have an extension by a certain time. He said he wants to continue with the Cardinals if they want to have him. Really the only news of his interview was that he knows he wants to keep playing, whether here or elsewhere. He's not going to let the Cardinals make the decision for him, as he previously suggested.
    I don't think there's any rush, and I don't think Molina could have a season in 2020 that made him more valuable to another team than he will be for the Cardinals. Whether that value matches up with his own is the big question.
    It appears we have fielded all questions.
    Thanks for stopping by.
    We will do it again next week.
    Cheers.
    -BF
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