Bernie Miklasz has a story about Tony La Russa and the Cardinals in the Post-Disptach today. In it he talks about how some of the Cardinals’ moves — Lance Berkman in right field, letting Brendan Ryan go and replacing him with Ryan Theriot, etc. — may have the statheads going crazy, but that La Russa doesn’t care. He’s all about intensity and grinders and scrappers, you see, and whatever the latest conventional wisdom is on the part of the sabermetric community can go to hell.
Those of us who skew more toward the statty side of things may scoff, but La Russa has a message for us:
He constantly recurs to one intangible intensity … playing little ball, scrambling to manufacture runs, “looking for just 90 feet every once in a while,” La Russa says, energizes a team. It puts a team on the balls of its feet, ready to run. And that intensity carries over into its defense.
Oh, wait. That’s not a quote from Miklasz’s article at all. It’s from George Will’s Sports Illustrated profile of La Russa from 1990. A profile that, while far more expansive, has La Russa hitting all of the same notes. That article was written as his Bash Brothers Athletics team was about to win 103 games and a third straight AL Pennant. Except they weren’t all bash. They were second in the league in stolen bases too, despite all that power.
I know some Cardinals fans who are worried about the 2011 season. I’d probably be a bit worried if I were them too. But La Russa has always done it his way. He has always bucked expectations of others, often stubbornly so. And he has always won. He’s probably entitled to a little benefit of the doubt by now.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.