Yes, I’m pretty sure the Cardinals have gone to plaid, but I’ll explain that later. Focus on poker first, because I have a serious poker/baseball question to ask.
Are the Cardinals going “all in” for 2011? For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phrase “all in”, it’s a poker term that refers to a player betting everything by pushing all his or her remaining chips into the center of the table or “pot”. If all other players “fold”, then the hand is over, and the player who went “all in” wins the hand. If one or more of the other players “calls”, then the hand continues. If the “all in” player wins the hand, then he or she wins big and survives to play on. If the player loses, then the player is eliminated from further play. It’s basically all or nothing, go big or go home, boom or bust. Now that I’ve provided a minimal explanation, I return to the original question. Are the Cardinals going “all in” for 2011?
I’m inclined to say that the answer is “yes”, and I’ll give you several reasons why I think so.
- Lance Berkman signed for 1 yr at $8M, and John Mozeliak indicated that the team outbid everybody else. There was a bidding war for Berkman and the Cardinals won? Is there going to be a “Flat Puma” cardboard cutout day? If so, then count me in. Wait? The Cardinals won a bidding war?
- Ryan Theriot was anointed the team’s starting SS without competing for the job, but he’s only signed for 1 year. What’s that? He hasn’t played SS for a while. No problem. You say he’s never put up a dWAR over 1.0 for a single season. No worries. He’s signed for 1 year at $3.3M. Bargain. Sure, he does cover less ground than Brendan Ryan did and costs more, but that won’t be a problem. All the balls will go right to him. Nobody will notice a difference. Look, the team consulted with “Peggy” from USA Prime Credit, and “she” likes this move. “Peggy” considers Theriot to be “tenacious like bull” which is just another way of saying “scrappy”.
- Chris Carpenter‘s last guaranteed contract year is 2011, and the team hasn’t stumbled all over itself yet to pick up his $15M option for 2012. He’s probably a bit motivated. Why not restructure that last year to bring him back at less than $15M and ensure that trade speculation doesn’t become a distraction?
- Albert Pujols still doesn’t have a contract extension yet, and a big run could convince him that the team is serious about competing. Oceanfront property. Arizona. If he’s not convinced by now, then maybe he never will be.
- Ryan Franklin is only signed through the 2011 season. If he does return in 2012, I predict that he’ll no longer be the closer. Actually, I think that when he enters the game, the PA system should play the “I’m A Random Wind Storm – Mayhem” commercial from Allstate. You know, the one that starts out with the guy sitting on the limb repeating the word “shaky” over and over again.
- The payroll monster is getting fed like never before. The Cardinals started 2010 somewhere around $93M, and they will probably start 2011 just over $110M. I haven’t done the research (and probably never will), but that might be the biggest year-over-year jump in franchise history.
I’ve always been intrigued about the possibility of a team truly throwing caution to the wind and going “all in” for a single season. My criteria for such a scenario are as follows:
- The team must push payroll past the breaking point, past light speed, past ludicrous speed, and all the way to plaid. (Click here for the scene from Spaceballs. You know you wanna watch it. )
- The team must repress young talented players in favor of over-the-hill players who are offering a “last-gasp” shot at recaptured glory.
- The team must have an aging leader (Carp?) who inspires men to defend Greece against the invading Persians. Yes, you are picturing Carp as Leonidas. It’s true that you can’t unsee something. You’re welcome.
- The team must have some absolutely stupid nicknames. Ryan Theriot“of Fire”? Matt “Last” Holliday? Jose Oquendo “Stick”? “Chief Justice” Jon Jay? Skip Schumaker“s Mark”? Now please everyone groan exactly 5 times in unison. Okay, excellent.
- The team must be scrappy. (Isn’t Aaron Miles still available?) NOTE: I’m just joking. Don’t do this. Really. Don’t. He can get his first career strikeout somewhere else.
- The team must receive significant contributions from inexpensive bench players. (Looking at you Craig, Jay, Greene, and maybe Descalso) This one could get interesting, especially after the weak bench performance of 2010. Gone are Nick Stavinoha, Randy Winn, Felipe Lopez, and Aaron Miles. How will TLR work to get at-bats for the bench players to keep them sharp? Both TLR and Mo indicated that Allen Craig will get some time at 3B in spring training to give the team a viable option behind David Freese, and I think that he might be the key bench player to watch because of his power. Jay makes sense as the defensive substitution for Berkman, but that won’t necessarily get him a lot of swings. This teams needs to turn over the lineup a lot to keep everyone sharp, and that’s something it didn’t do well last year. Oh where have you gone So Taguchi?
- Finally, the team must pull off a ridiculous trade deadline deal that nobody saw coming. If I knew the players involved, that would mean that I see it coming, so it wouldn’t count.
What do you think? Are the Cardinals going all-in? Have they pushed all their chips to the center of the table yet? Need more information to make up your mind? Let’s take a look at what they are committed to spending for 2011 so far:
- Matt Holliday – $17,000,000
- Albert Pujols – $16,000,000
- Chris Carpenter – $15,000,000
- Kyle Lohse – $11,875,000
- Jake Westbrook – $8,000,000
- Lance Berkman – $8,000,000
- Adam Wainwright – $6,500,000
- Yadier Molina – $5,250,000
- Ryan Franklin – $3,500,000
- Ryan Theriot – $3,300,000
- Skip Schumaker – $2,700,000
- Trever Miller – $2,000,000
- Gerald Laird – $1,100,000
Yep, that’s $100,225,000 for 13 players. That’s almost absurd. Do you want to hear something even more absurd? Way back on September 30th of 2010, I wrote “I’m A Lousy GM, but I’m Good At Adding Payroll“. In that article, I envisioned a world in which Jake Westbrook returned to the Cardinals, and the team signed some expensive free agent. The final payroll for opening day? $109,075,000. I thought that to be a ridiculous figure at the time. Once all the pre-arbitration players (Jason Motte, Colby Rasmus, David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, Mitchell Boggs) and the lone arbitration-eligible player (Kyle McClellan) deals are done, I’ll be most interested to see the final tally.
Like it? Wish you were a random wind storm? Find me on Twitter and make an absolutely ridiculous Spaceballs reference!