Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Cardinals at Indians

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With the Cardinals and Indians less than an hour from first pitch, here’s a few things to consider:

A pair of aces:

– Chris Carpenter (4-0, 1.23) toes the rubber for the Cardinals. He’s
coming off his worst start of the season against the Marlins, which is
saying a lot, considering that he allowed three runs over six innings.
The 2005 Cy Young award winner has limited opponents two runs or less
in all six of his other starts. He’s holding opposing batters to a .163
batting average and has served up just one home run in 44 innings
pitched this season.

– Cliff Lee (3-6, 3.17) starts for the Indians. The defending Cy
Young award winner was hit hard by the Royals in his last start,
yielding four runs on 11 hits over six innings as part of a
no-decision. The four runs were the most Lee has allowed since April
11. Lee has a 2.31 ERA over his last 11 starts, after a 9.90 ERA over
his first two starts. Righties are batting .322 off the southpaw.

El Hombre en fuego:

– With his 27th career multi-homer game on Saturday, Albert Pujols
has went deep in three consecutive games. He’s tied with Raul Ibanez
for the National League lead in home runs with 22 and is second to
Ibanez with 57 RBI.

Missing Sizemore:

– With Grady Sizemore on the disabled list due to an elbow injury,
the Indians first turned to Ben Francisco to lead off, but mired in a
4-for-30 funk, the Indians inserted Jamey Carroll there on Friday. So
far, Carroll is 2-for-8 with a walk from the top spot.

Fantasy angle:

– With the Cardinals loading their lineup with right-handed batters against the southpaw Lee, rookie Colby Rasmus takes a seat.

– Kerry Wood hasn’t allowed a run in his last nine appearances, spanning 8 1/3 innings.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.