Cardinals looking for upgrade over Brendan Ryan at shortstop

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Brendan Ryan is one of the elite defensive shortstops in baseball, but he followed up a solid 2009 season at the plate by hitting just .223 with a lowly .573 OPS this year and general manager John Mozeliak told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Cardinals will look to upgrade the position this offseason.

Mozeliak indicated that they may also look to upgrade over Skip Schumaker at second base, but shortstop is a higher priority because there’s more optimism about Schumaker bouncing back from his poor 2010:

The basic agenda is how can we get more offense out of those positions or both. There is a school of thought that Skip will produce more than he did last year. There’s a comfort level of that being probable. In Brendan’s case you would hope there would be some improvement, too. But if there were a way to address one of those positions in a positive way, we would pursue it. We probably have more of an emphasis on short than second at this point.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported yesterday that the Cardinals “will likely be aggressive in pursuit of Juan Uribe” and Strauss has written previously that manager Tony La Russa would like to bring in Miguel Tejada.” Uribe and and especially Tejada would be a clear downgrade from Ryan defensively, but based on Mozeliak’s comments the Cardinals are focused on improving the offense even if it means sacrificing some glove work.

Matt Shepard to be the Tigers new full-time play-by-play guy

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Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.

This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.

Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.

Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.