ST. LOUIS — As election day euphoria (or indigestion) nears our city, let's talk about the baseball team that has already opened up offseason action. The St. Louis Cardinals kicked off their rehab session by officially signing Adam Wainwright to a one-year deal as well as re-aligning their coaching staff.
All that's left to do is add a few players, win 97 games, and move onto the World Series. Let's tackle a few things as those dreams fester into a (far-sighted?) reality.
WELCOME IN CLAPP AND ALBERT
Smart moves. That's what I would call the hiring of Stubby Clapp as the first base coach and Jeff Albert as the hitting coach. Clapp's Memphis Redbird team won the Pacific Coast League championship, which garnered the attention of the Toronto Blue Jays for a managerial job interview, but the 45-year-old former player and coach ended up returning to the Cardinals organization. Together with Mike Shildt, Clapp will gain the necessary big league knowledge to move onto an eventual managing job. Remember, Shildt was just at third base in 2017.
Albert comes from the Houston Astros, who have developed some of the best hitters in the game the past three seasons. Originally hired by former Cardinals scouting genius Jeff Luhnow, Albert has developed hitting mechanics for MLB players that cuts down on strikeouts, heightens efficiency, and makes the overall lineup better. Don't worry about why you have never heard of him before; just understand what he can do for this team. If Albert can help Tyler O'Neill and Paul DeJong cut down on their strikeouts while helping Harrison Bader find stability at the plate, it's a huge win.
WAINWRIGHT AND INCENTIVES
As the ink dried Monday morning on his new contract, Wainwright's guaranteed money take is two million dollars. After that, it becomes very complicated and only fit for a math addict to figure out. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal provided the numbers, which gave thousands a collective headache.
Basically, if used in the rotation all year, Wainwright can make around $10 million. If he is a standard reliever and makes 60 appearances, the total climbs to $5 million. If he makes 60 appearances and finishes 55 games, Wainwright can make $9 million. All together, it's a low-liability deal for the Cardinals to bring back a pitcher who may retire after the 2019 season if he runs into an injury or two.
If you applied Wainwright's 2019 bonus structure to the 2018 season, he makes $2.5 million. That's it.
The numbers show an overall decline in performance. The ERA that was once at 3.00 now climbs to 4.75. The WHIP that once said around 1.03 now hits 1.53. While I like and respect Wainwright deeply, it's hard for me to see him escaping May without at least one disabled list trip. This is a nostalgia deal.
IF NOT HARPER AND MACHADO, THEN WHO?
Let's say we bet on the history of the Cardinals and say they won't land either superstar...then what?
They can sign other players who could help the team and lineup without handicapping future payrolls with an 8-10 year deal stuffed with monster cash. Vegas and many baseball outlets have the Cardinals landing former Toronto Blue Jay third baseman Josh Donaldson. If you bring in Donaldson, there needs to be another move. Get Donaldson to shore up the infield, platoon O'Neill and Dexter Fowler in right field, and sign Craig Kimbrel to be the closer.
What about Michael Brantley? The former Cleveland Indians outfielder is a steady producer, reaching a 6.7 WAR season once upon a time, but settling into the 3-4.0 WAR range most of his career. A .781 OPS and 114 OPS+ don't pull me out of my chair, but he's a fine component. DeWitt Jr. could sign Donaldson and Brantley, shoring up the lineup in a big way. Like Donaldson, Brantley is leaning towards the wrong side of 30. He just finished a 5-year deal, so he will command at least another 4-5 year deal.
If the Cardinals don't nag a big fish, it's not the end of the world. There is talent out there. This team needs two players to full engage with contention for a pennant.
THE RED SOX WON, BUT HOW ABOUT GAME 3?
Boston may have won the World Series, becoming the true powerhouse of the century, but Game 3 was what many will remember about the 2018 World Series. It started around 7 p.m. at night and ended around 3 a.m. The game's official time was 7 hours and 20 minutes. The two teams used 18 total pitchers, and Red Sox reliever Nathan Eovaldi threw 97 pitches. There were 131 batters sent to the plate and 561 pitches thrown. Max Muncy almost won the game in the 15th inning before walking it off in the 18th inning. It was easily the longest game in postseason and World Series history.
THE CLEVELAND BROWNS MAY NEVER WIN A SUPER BOWL
I am beginning to think this franchise is cursed. They drafted well this past summer and assembled a fine roster. They won two games and become relevant. Hue Jackson was on a win or be gone promise to start the season, and he was rightfully canned this week after another loss. No matter what, the Browns just don't win. They may never win again. Fans pour into that stadium and support the team, but 2018 will probably be a disappointment. Maybe they can convince converted baseball player Tim Tebow to change back to football and lure departed basketball superstar Lebron James to try something new. In a world, right?
PLAYER AGENTS AS GENERAL MANAGERS?
Welcome into New York, Brodie Van Wagenen. No, he isn't the twin brother who once gave Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg a hard time. He's the new General Manager of the New York Mets. What USA Today deemed "the strangest hire" certainly seems that way. A bold stroke for a nationally relevant franchise. A player agent for 18 years, Van Wagenen switched teams this week, strapping on the front office suit uniform instead of the rabble-rousing player rep. It's just weird. While it's not as weird as a Marlins General Manager coming down to manage the team, it's out there as far as strategy is concerned. I would tell you what could happen, but this is an absolute first. Stay tuned.
LEBRON'S LAKERS STATUS...
How's it going down there for King James? Los Angeles is 2-5 to start the season, and they are allowing a lot of points. This would be adequate if James could clone himself and play multiple positions. As it is, I feel like this is a long-winded project for him to do something amazing. Win a championship with three different teams. Somehow, I think he can pull it off. Just wait a few years though.
THE OFFICE OF REIS AND GIFS CHANGING THE CARDINALS BLOGGING SCOPE
When it comes to sports blogging, the number of scribes grows by a 100 every season for each team. A new site, new roster of writers, and minds yearning to spin their take on a complicated and layered game that stretches seemingly all year long. It's a dedicated commitment, but out of all the blogs out there, I want to tip my cap to Birds On The Black. In a nutshell, they are doing it the best.
It starts with the master, creator Cardinal Gifs. You can find him on Twitter, @cardinalgifs, and you should. Remember that cool graphic of Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozeliak sitting on a bundle of cash two weeks ago? That was all Gifs. He doesn't just take a picture and choose a filter for it like a surfboarder wonderwalker on Instagram; Gifs has rewrote the gif game. Check out his imagery alone on IG and you know where I'm coming from. He turns it into an artform. While he's always been a good follow, 2018 is where he became a must-follow. He interacts with followers, creates home run contests for each game, and generally speaks the truth. Thanks for thinking the Cardinals called out a hit on a Cub, Joe Maddon.
The roster of writers assembled is like a Lollapalooza of Cards writers. Kyle Reis is your resident minor league Cardinal expert and host of the weekly Twitter periscope, Prospects After Dark--but he can also talk Major League birds. @StlCardsCards, aka Bruno, may be the most original content creator on the internet. If you think of the most bizarre yet entertaining story, he's wrote it two months ago. He brings a special blend of insight and humor to the site. Tara Wellman is on Bruno's creative level, blending social media, YouTube, and daily bits to create unique content. It doesn't stop there. Ben Cerutti, Stew Stilez, Alex Crisafulli, Erik Manning, Nicholas Childress, Chuck Brownson, and Dennis bring the goods as well. Check them out. Thank me later.
THE SPEED ROUND
*I'd like to introduce once again a shorter spring training for 2019. Players don't need a month.
*Does anyone watch the WNBA anymore?
*HBO Boxing has two big fight nights left, but the network is airing a special 24/7 for the Tigers Woods-Phil Mickelson match. I'll take what I can get.
*I want Liev Schreiber to narrate my life story.
*Stop comparing retired players to current players and prospects. It's old.
*I was once called the Michael Scott of Twitter Hot Takes, but not as funny. After really thinking it over, I'll own that.
*Hot takes are just opinions. There were people who said outrageously stupid things and started the hot take fever.
That's all I got. Have a Happy Halloween and make sure you store some chilled mini-Twix bars for your resident South City bald writer here. Thanks.