For whatever reason — money? — the Cardinals decided to let Football Championship Series (FCS) schools Southern Illinois University and Southeast Missouri State University play a college football game Saturday afternoon on the outfield grass at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. The game was attended by only 14,618 and it left the field at “Baseball Heaven” in need of a full sod replacement.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was on the scene and wrote about the damage:
Worst case: Pretty much what happened. Thursday night’s rain and Friday’s day-long soaker followed an extended smoldering and dry period that had left the outfield a slip-and-slide zone. Conditions were dicey enough that the Cardinals and the two schools discussed canceling the event, which would have forced SEMO to host the game Sunday. Recent flooding in Colorado imperiled some grass farms just as the Cardinals decided they would need 13 truckloads of sod.
Head groundskeeper Bill Findley is racing against the clock to get the field back into baseball shape with the Cards due back in town Monday for the start of a six-game season-ending homestand against the Nationals and Cubs. Postseason games will follow, and over 100,000 square feet of new grass has to take hold.
Matt Holliday spoke openly about his opinion of the event Saturday to lead beat writer Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch: “It was already kicking up when the baseball players were on it,” said the Cardinals’ starting left fielder. “It’s something you think about — the condition of the field, how it’s going to play and what a football game would do to that. And you think about at this point of the season, being in a pennant chase and the timing of it. You don’t want anything to keep the field from being at its best.”
In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.
Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.
In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.