Good afternoon. I hope you're all doing well. Thank you for joining our weekly live chat. What's good word in St. Louis? Fire away.
Actually, it doesn't work that way. You can't just sell a guy. You can trade some international bonus pool and you can have teams agree to pay remaining portions of contracts you acquire, but you don't just sell the players.
I wouldn't trade DeJong for Simmons straight up for multiple reasons. DeJong is a tremendous value, considering he's under the team's control at a relative cheap price for five more years. Simmons will earn $11 million next year, $13 million in 2019 and $15 million in 2020 and then become a free agent. By comparison, DeJong wouldn't even be eligible for arbitration until 2020. Don't get me wrong, Simmons is a brilliant defensive shortstop, but the Cardinals have bigger needs to address with their payroll this offseason.
This is a very good question. It's important to realize that the Midwest fan bases and media quite simply don't put pressure on management to win quite like the media and fans do in Boston and New York. There are higher standards and expectations to win in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. When you work in New York, it's tremendously competitive. You're always competing against the best and hungriest beat writers on a daily basis. You have multiple newspapers sending beat writers and columnists into the clubhouse to dig daily. The players, managers and owners know they must perform because if they screw up, the New York Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Newsday, Newark Star-Ledger, Bergen Record and the Gannett paper in Westchester County and several national outlets will expose them. That's what makes it difficult to compete in that market. But I've always noted that cities like Houston and St. Louis are also quite difficult in a different way because when there is only one major paper the players and ownership tend to get away with certain things that wouldn't be acceptable in other markets. Here's an example. In 2000, former Astros ace Mike Hampton had a horrible start in San Francisco for the Mets. He was struggling and decided to just bail on the media after he was rocked in San Francisco. Well, the next day he picked up the clips and realized that he had been crushed in every New York paper. He apologized and never tried that again. He had gotten away with that in Houston, but we crushed him in New York. Long story short, if there were six newspapers holding the Cardinals accountable instead of one, I bet you the pressure would be higher for Bill DeWitt Jr. to make a managerial move. With all that said, keep in mind that a famous football coach or GM once said that if you listen to the fans and media too much you'll eventually join them.
The NBA actually has been more proactive about discussing this issue. Remember that many of the NBA's biggest stars and coaches have spoken out about social injustices and even about their thoughts on President Trump. It's not just Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Gregg Popovich.
If this question includes players who will become free agents, let's start with Lance Lynn, Seung-Hwan Oh, Zach Duke, Alberto Rosario, Alex Mejia, Trevor Rosenthal. I wouldn't be surprised if Mike Mayers is taken off the roster to make room for players the club wants to protect from the Rule 5 draft. I would assume Ryan Sherriff is safe, but it wouldn't surprise me if they opt to take him off the roster. Breyvic Jose Valera is another one who might be taken off the roster.
U.S. Soccer must take an important inventory. I would hope that U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati would tender his resignation. If he doesn't resign, he should be fired. True soccer countries would have already fired him. If you consider the fact that the U.S. has missed two consecutive Olympics in men's soccer and also had an embarrassing showing in women's soccer at the last Olympics, you have to appreciate that the men's and women's teams are at their lowest points in two decades. Moreover, the U.S. men's team had an embarrassing showing throughout the entire Hexagonal qualifying round. Although the Trinidad and Tobago was the ultimate embarrassing final blow, the U.S. struggled throughout the entire round. Looking a bit deeper into the U.S. soccer culture, we must figure out a way to address what Jurgen Klinsmann once described as the inverted U.S. soccer pyramid. In all other soccer players, teams and soccer associations pay to develop the top talent. In America, we have a pay to play system that ignores and misses many of the best athletic and soccer talent in America. A poor family cannot afford to pay the expensive $5,000 a year it takes to play for the alleged "top" clubs in America. You have to pay to be discovered in America. That's the case for boys and girls. If you're a stud athlete in a rural town, the Mizzou football team will find you if you're one of the truly best athletes. If you're a stud soccer player in a poor community or a rural area and cannot afford to play club soccer, it's almost impossible to be discovered by U.S. Soccer. An 11-year-old kid from a poor family is essentially locked out of the top clubs in America. That same kid in Mexico is playing on the streets daily with his friends and then eventually discovered and paid to develop by a Mexican club. That's why Mexico has won multiple U-17 men's World Cups and an Olympic gold medal since 2005. The U.S., however, cannot even make it to the Olympics or the World Cup.
I didn't level a charge. Dexter wasn't exactly hiding his late arrivals, by the way.
The Red Sox were built to win this year. The Cardinals were not. That's one important distinction. Farrell managed a team that finished with the third highest payroll in baseball at $222,552,008, according to Sporrac.com. His payroll was essentially $73 million higher than the Cardinals', so he was obviously held to a higher standards. Also, the expectations are higher in Boston than in St. Louis, and it's not even close.
First of all, the U.S. men's national team had one of the biggest choke jobs in U.S. sports history last night at Trinidad and Tobago. Facing the smallest of minnows in international soccer, not to mention the last-place team in the CONCACAF Hexagonal round, the U.S. men urinated all over themselves last night. Bruce Arena and his players will wear that shame for the rest of their lives. They should be embarrassed. The whole soccer system in America is backward. The pay to play system that hurts diversity in baseball also hurts soccer. The best athletes in America don't play soccer. The best athletes in most soccer countries play soccer. Major League Soccer offers a watered down product. There are too many teams for such a small talent pool. Even worse, some of the biggest stars in U.S. Soccer run back to MLS. You want your best soccer stars playing regularly in the best leagues in Europe. Heck, if Mexico doesn't watch out they'll also be hurt a bit because the Dos Santos brothers and even Carlos Vela are rushing back for money grabs in MLS. As Jurgen Klinsmann noted a few times, the U.S. talent pool is hurt because it doesn't have enough players playing in Europe.
Mike Matheny takes his fair share of criticism, and he's definitely not perfect. But the thing to remember here is that the Cardinals' talent was quite lacking this year. This was not a playoff team if you consider how badly some of the most important relievers at the start of the year underachieved. If Trevor Rosenthal, Brett Cecil, Seung-Hwan Oh and Kevin Siegrist had performed up to expectations the Cardinals would have made the playoffs and perhaps even won the NL Central. I genuinely believe that. Some folks gave Rosenthal a pass, but he was no better than average if you consider his entire body of work. He had a couple of great months, but a top setup man and closer must give you a full strong year to be considered a success.
Bruce Arena definitely deserves some blame, but this one is on the players. I'd like to believe that soccer in America has grown enough that we should be able to get a result at Trinidad and Tobago with even the worse MLS coach on the sidelines.
Compare the talent Tony La Russa had at his disposal to the talent Mike Matheny had the last two years. The fact is that the Cardinals need better players more than they need a new manager. I'm not saying Matheny is perfect, but I don't think many managers would have driven this roster to the playoffs in a year key bullpen pieces imploded, several stars got off to slow starts and the top young arm in baseball had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Whine all you want about Matheny, but tell me how even a Hall of Fame manager such as La Russa would have won with Brett Cecil, Kevin Siegrist, Seung-Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal underachieving as bad as they did? Granted, I bet a veteran manager like La Russa might have had the clout to alter his outfield defense to move Dexter Fowler out of center. But Fowler didn't cost the Cardinals any games in center.
They all feel pressure at this point. They are hungry to get back in the playoffs. I must caution fans, however, that the Cardinals aren't just going to throw money at this roster. They have a budget and commitment to have a payroll just in the top third of baseball. They have not taken shortcuts in terms of tanking or rebuilding. They have tried to remain competitive while not taking a step back. It's not easy to win every year in markets that don't have $200 million payrolls.
All I'll say is that last winter was a lonely place when I banged and banged and banged the drums for another bat. In some circles around this town I was ridiculed as an outsider who just didn't understand that Bill DeWitt Jr. and the Cardinals had a tried and true system that works. I don't think folks realize that I had actually covered some baseball. Just remember next offseason that this October I've already stated that it's foolish for the Cardinals to think that they only need a middle-of-the-order bat and a closer. They also need starting pitcher.
It's too early to tell. The Cardinals need to address their most pressing needs - middle of the order bat and closer - before seeing what's available. If they fix those issues, I don't think they need to go out and get a No. 2 starter. They just need a solid No. 3 or 4 who can steady the rotation until Alex Reyes or Jack Flaherty or Dakota Hudson or Sandy Alcantara are ready to step right in. If healthy, Reyes will be a front-line starter. The Cardinals just need a quality veteran who can buy them time until they can have a rotation led by Martinez and Reyes with Wacha and Weaver and Wainwright. They need a veteran who can provide insurance in case Wainwright cannot last the entire season.