Pete Kozma is the Cardinals’ starting shortstop

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There’s been no official announcement in the wake of Rafael Furcal’s season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery, but manager Mike Matheny made it clear that Pete Kozma will be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop.

That’s no surprise, as Kozma played shockingly well down the stretch last season after stepping into the lineup for the injured Furcal and his only real competition for the job this spring is Ronny Cedeno.

However, based on his minor-league track record Kozma is going to be overmatched as a regular. Kozma has hit just .236 with a .308 on-base percentage and .344 slugging percentage in 671 games as a minor leaguer through age 24, including just .232 with a .292 OBP and .355 SLG in 131 games at Triple-A last season.

Aside from his 26-game stint with the Cardinals last season there’s nothing in Kozma’s track record to suggest he can handle major-league pitching and in fact based on his production at Triple-A he projects as one of the majors’ worst hitters. Assuming he turns back into a pumpkin it’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Kozma’s late-season magic buys him.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.