Report: Rasmus requested trade earlier this season

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Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a bit of news that will add lighter fluid to the stack of rumors hinting at a “rift” between Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and 24-year-old outfielder Colby Rasmus.

Strauss heard from sources that Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season because of “frustrations” with La Russa and his lack of everyday playing time. 

It’s not hard to believe.  Ryan Ludwick, in fact, made a similar request just before he was traded to the Padres in late July and it’s beginning to look like we may have a scapegoat for what has been a horribly disappointing season in St. Louis: the skipper himself. 

La Russa has a Hall of Fame track record as a manager and has enjoyed a great amount of success over the past 15 years in the Gateway City.  But it’s time for the Cardinals to step forward and acknowledge that Rasmus, a five-tool player with sky-high upside, is far more important to the Cardinals’ future than La Russa, a 65-year-old manager who is so out of touch that he thought sending his superstar Latino first baseman to a Glenn Beck rally was a good idea.

Rasmus needs to play every day, or at least more than 145 games per season.  He started only 114 times last year and has started only 97 times in 133 opportunities in 2010.  Even if you attribute 20 of those missed starts this year to a calf injury, that still leaves 16 unexplained absences.

La Russa enjoys tweaking his lineups often and finding at-bats for mediocre veterans — see: Aaron Miles and Randy Winn.  That sort of mix-and-match strategy has worked in the past and Tony has a couple of rings to show for it, but this year it has upset his offensive core. 

Or, at least Rasmus and Ludwick.  Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are well-paid family men who probably go unaffected by clubhouse dynamics.

The solution to this problem in St. Louis comes down to simple math.  One, 24-year-old center fielders with 30-homer power don’t come around often.  Two, I can find you a 65-year-old manager down at the local softball lot.  Not to be over-dramatic, but my guess is the random old man will have the presence of mind to lead a team with three sub-3.00 ERA starters (and Albert friggin’ Pujols) to the postseason while also managing to maintain a healthy relationship with the hugely talented Rasmus.

If the Cardinals do decide to shake things up this offseason, the cuts should start at the top.

UPDATE:  La Russa has confirmed the report, according to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest, also saying that Rasmus requested a trade last season.

UPDATE:  Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse grabbed a few telling quotes from Rasmus on Sunday morning.  Asked if he was happy with the Cardinals, the center fielder said, “I’d rather not answer that if I don’t have to.”

Game 6: This is why the Astros traded for Justin Verlander

Associated Press
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Houston’s pitching has not been their biggest problem as they’ve watched their 2-0 series lead turn in to a 3-2 series deficit. It has not been good, mind you — Charlie Morton got rocked in Game 3, the bullpen collapsed on Game 4 and Dallas Keuchel was suddenly mortal in Game 5 — but even then it’s not been the biggest concern. The real problem has been the lack of offense.

The Astros led the majors in runs (896), batting average (.282), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging (.478) during the regular season and were second to the Yankees in homers. Despite that, they have scored just nine runs and have hit only one homer. The team’s ALCS batting line, those two wins included, is .147/.234/.213. As such, facing off against Luis Severino and a rested Yankees bullpen tonight can’t give them a ton of confidence.

They do have one thing going for them, however: Justin Verlander. The same Justin Verlander who received only two runs of support in Game 2 of the series but made it hold up thanks to his 124-pitch, 13-strikeout complete game victory. You can’t really expect a starter to do that sort of thing two times in a row, but that’s what the Astros acquired him for at the end of August. In a league where there are vanishingly few horses a team can ride to victory, Verlander stands as one of the few remaining old school aces. Expect A.J. Hinch to keep the bit in Verlander’s mouth for as long as this game is close and, even then, maybe an inning longer.

Is there any reason for optimism regarding the Astros’ lineup? Sure, of course. They didn’t suddenly all forget how to hit. Every team goes through a stretch of 3-5 games where the hits don’t seem to fall. There may, possibly, be some reason for hope in the man they’re facing too. Severino lasted only four innings in Game 2, having been removed early after taking a ground ball off his left wrist. Severino said he was fine and wished that Joe Girardi hadn’t taken him out, but (a) he was acting a little odd, shaking his arm out like he was trying to shake off some pain; and (b) starting pitchers almost always lie and say they’re better than they are. I’m certain Severino is healthy enough to go, but there’s at least a small chance that he’s vulnerable, somehow. At the very least Astros hitters can walk to the plate convincing themselves of it. Any edge you can either get or imagine, right?

Game 6 seems like it will have to be a matter of a small edge one way or another for both teams, really. The Yankees are rolling, but their assignment tonight is a tough one as they try to chase a guy who fancies himself — and has often shown himself — to be a rare throwback to those 1960s and 1970s aces who only seem to get better as the ballgame goes on. The Astros, meanwhile, are tasked with solving a young, fireballing stuff monster who has something to prove after his early exit in Game 2 and, even if he can’t prove it, a corps of relief aces who are among the most formidable in baseball. Add to that the notion that Major League Baseball, Fox and most commentators and casual fans outside of Houston want to see the 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series matchup and the Astros have to be thinking everything’s against them.

Which is OK, though, right? Ballplayers love it when no one believes in them. That’s not better than six or seven runs of support, but the Astros will take anything they can get at the moment.