Rotation, Rotation, Rotation.

After more than a month off from blogging(is that a word?) I’m back to it. I took so long off because it seamed like the Cardials took the holidays off. And well, there just wasn’t that much to talk about. I was waiting on Mark Mulder, and Jeff Weaver to make up their minds about where they wanted to play. And now that they have, I think I have enough material to fill a post or two. So without further delay, it’s time to make it bounce.  

When it comes to putting together a championship winning baseball team, it all starts and ends with your starting rotation. It bodes well for the Cardinals then that they have the best starting pitcher in the NL to lead their rotation. Mr. Cy Young himself, Chris Carpenter. The man needs no more introduction than that. Since his return to health he has proved himself as the premiere pitcher in the NL. Sure you can give some argument to Roger *Juice Man* Clemens. Or The Big Unit, or John Smoltz. Or even Rockets teammate Roy Oswalt. But in all honesty, both the Rocket and Unit are way, waaayyyy past their prime. Neather one can barley get out of the 5th inning. Don’t forget the Rocket only pitches half a year now. Smoltzie is still a horse, but one that is close to being put out to pasture. Oswalt is the only pitcher who comes close to Carp in current ability, pitch selection, and over Ace of the Staff stuff. But if I had to choose one of them to start a Game 7 of a World Series for me, I’d pick Carp in a heart beat. Despite what Roy did to us Cardinals fans in October of 2005, Carp is my man. Roy for all his abilities has never won anything. Carp has a Cy Young, and a big ol’e ring for his efforts. He has been there, done that, killed the bad guy, and got the girl. He has it all.

 Not only does he have the tools to be the Ace of a Staff, but now it appears he has become, whether he likes it or not, the leader of the Cardinals pitching staff. He is the man that all the pitchers, even the bullpen guys look up to. For example, Loop has called him all off season for pointers on what to expect in the spring when he starts learning to be a starter. TJ and Randy Flores have gotten sage advise from him last season that helped them become the lock down relievers that helped the Cardinals win a World Series. Anthony and Adam have listened to him in the dugouts, and on the golf courses when he speaks of how to handle a certain pitch count, or hitter on the opposing team. He has become, for you older readers out there, my generations Bob Gibson. Don’t believe me? Check the facts brother. If Carp keeps it up, even though he is not as young as he used to be, he could make it to the hall of fame. Another ring or two,and a couple more Cy Young’s and he is a no doubter. What I love most about him is his attitude on the mound. He isn’t all in your face, show boatie. He just stands out there on the mound, towering above the batter, grips it, and rips it. He is surgeon like with his control. He has that killer instinct that my grandfather and father told me Gibby had. He controls the tempo of the game. He makes the batter hit the pitches he wants him to hit. And he has had excellent results so far. So yes, with Carp at the helm, the Cardinals sure are starting off on the right foot. It’s just that next step, well that’s the one you got to watch out for. Because it’s a doozey.

Following Carp is one Kip Wells. He is a guy I’ve seen many times pitch for the Pirates. In my opinion for the most part he has had good control, but bad luck seeing how he has pitched for the Pirates. Who have not had the kind of defense that helps any of their pitchers rest easy at night. Plus Three Rivers, eerrrrrrrr, excuse me, PNC Park does give up lots and lots of doubles and triples. It can also give up some cheapy home runs. There is a reason the great Albert Pujols refers to it has his home, away from home. Actually I’m sure if you asked him, and he gave you an honest answer, he’d say he’d rather play 81 games a year there, than at Busch III. Anyway, before Kippy had some weird clot thing in his shoulder, he was on Walt Jockety and Dave Duncan’s wish lists of pitcher they’d like to have pitch for the Cardinals. Well, now that he is all healthy, they both have their wish. According to Dave, Kippy should, should be good for 15-18 wins. As a proud native of the Show Me State, I’ll believe that when I see it. Now I think his celling is 15 wins. And if he does not loose more than 10, the Cardinals should look at the $4million they are paying him this season as money well spent. But, and this is a big BUT, he is fully capable of crapping in his own bed from time to time. So by no means is he close to what a say, Jeff Suppon or Jeff Weaver are capable of doing. Dave finally got his wish with Kip on the staff, lets just hope he is getting exactly what he is hoping for. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Next in line are two guys Cardinals Nation has been clammering for, for a long, LONG time. Well, Cardinal Nation, your wish, is the Cardinals command. Even if it’s a few years late. Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright are now in the starting rotation. Both are young, have good arms. And possess above average major league pitching tools. Anthony is more fragile than Adam. If that’s the right word for it. He has clearly been handled with kid gloves by the origination since making it to the show. They do not want to over tax him, and in my opinion have gone above and beyond to call in protecting what they hope will be the Ace of the Staff in the near future. Adam is a different story, he came to us from the vaunted pitching factory that is the Atlanta Braves. In relation to Anthony, he has been more than healthy. There are no worries on the Cardinals end that he will break down. Like there seam to be when it comes to Anthony. That does not mean there fears are unfounded. His pitching style mimics Mark Prior’s. A guy who hasn’t met a DL list he doesn’t want to make sweet love to. Plus back at USC, Anthony had his shoulder torn up,and put back together. So there is reason for concern. Anthony has also shown that he in not quite up to the full MLB season grind that Adam is. He wore down hard and fast in September. Does anyone remember that jason marquis was on the division series roster and Anthony was not? So the Cardinals definitely have more faith in Adam health wise, than they do Anthony. What they both have to do now is pitch a full season in the bigs, don’t get shelled. Give the team a chance to win in the games they pitch. And don’t get hurt. Their time has come. They both have showed everyone just what they can do. Anthony has the ability to shut down a teams offence on any given day. And all Adam has done is showed us he has big brass balls of steel. With his pitching talent, what more do you need? IF both stay healthy, both will be in the upper tier of the Cardinals rotation for many years to come. But if they regress, or are injury prone, things can and will get ugly for the Cardinals fast. They are putting a lot of pressure on these two young men. It is now their time to shine, grab the brass ring, and kiss the girl. Will they both be a success? Only time will tell. Well Cardinal Nation, just like Dave Duncan, be careful what you wish for.

Now we get to the enigma of the rotation. One we won’t get a look at till probably the All Star break. Mark Mulder. I was a big supporter of resigning him at almost any cost. The Cardinals could not afford to just let him walk away after two sup-par seasons, when they gave up the talents of Darek Barton, Kiko Caliero, and Danny Haren. I am very glad to hear Mark genuinely wanted to come back as well, and show us fans *the Real Mark Mulder.* And I hope he does. But as the great blog Viva El Birdos pointed out a few weeks ago, a pitcher coming back from the injury he had does not bounce back quickly. It takes years. Did you read that? YEARS. Anyone looking for Mark to come riding in on a Budweiser Clydesdale after the All Star break in July, to save the day and be the rock at the #2 position is going to be sorely disappointed. We might not see the *Real Mark* till July alright. July of 2008. If it really was his shoulder that was the problem, and not his hip or whacked out mechanics. He won’t be 100% for a year, maybe two years removed from his surgery. He should not bank on being the *Real Mark* this season, and neither should you. And hopefully neither will the Cardinals. If Kippy, or one of the kids craps their beds, or the 5th starter to be named later, or GOD forbid Carp gets hurt, or is unCarplike for the first half. Hopefully with the money they saved not bringing back Soup or Dream Weaver or not signing Jason Schmidt. The Cardinals will have the trading chips and cash to bring in any number of the #2 starters that will be out there come July. Because hear me now and believe me later, Mark Mulder won’t be saving the Cardinals rotation come July of 2007. No matter how bad he or anyone else wants it. This is not the type of injury you come back from and are 100% right away. It’s going to take time. So everyone, Mark, the fans, the Cardinals, needs to bring him along slow, not rush him. And let him get back into the flow as fast as his shoulder will allow it.

The next in the long line of starting pitching prospects are Brad Thompson, the aforementioned Loop, Chris Narveson, yadda yadda yadda, Ryan Franklin. Each has their up side, Narveson I think has the most potential. Then Brad and Loop. Both have not started in a while, for Loop it’s been what, 20 years? So I don’t think they will win the 5th spot. Although stranger things have happened. Of those, Franklin is the one I least want to see wearing the Birds on the Bat come April. I’ve seen him *pitch* in Cincinnati, with the luxury of MLB Extra Innings, I’ve seen him *pitch* in Seattle. And frankly, he sucks hard core. I think it’s is a waste of a perfectly good $1million+ dollars to have brought him in to fight for the 5th starting spot. He is a terrible pitcher. He has no business being on a major league roster, let alone being a major league starter. He flat out cannot get batters out, gives up too many extra base hits. And he is, in my humble opinion, and pardon my french, but this term fits him to a tee, he is an asshole. I don’t like him. I never have, and I never will. Something about him, the way he carries himself rubs me the wrong way. I hate his attitude. He reminds me of jason marquis, the bad one. He does not take instruction well. He just gets on the mound, and tries to throw the ball right threw the catcher and ump. He is cocky, arrogant. And above all, a bad, BAD pitcher. But for some reason Dave and Tony love the guy. They have used terms like, *He has a live arm.* Whatever that means. Heck, both my arms are alive, does that mean I can be the 5th starter for the Cardinals this season? No,and neither should Franklin. Apparently he is willing to sleep with anyone to be in the show, so he is open to *pitching* out of the bullpen. If you can call him throwing the ball in the direction of home plate, ducking, and praying to whatever god he prays to that A. the ball will not hit and kill him. B. go over the fence or find a hole for a extra base hit. Or C. hit the batter. So he has a good chance of traveling with the team once they leave Florida. Unless Tony and Dave come to their collective senses and cut him before that happens.

On the other hand, if he wins 20 games for us, and the clinching game of the 2007 World Series, I’ve always loved him and have been his biggest supporter from the day he first picked up a baseball. And I always knew deep down in my heart that if he just found the right team, the right pitching coach, he could be a star. You heard it here first.

So there you have it everyone. Your 2007 St. Louis Cardinals Starting rotation. With Carp and Dave at the helm, they have a very good and solid foundation. But after that, nothing but hopes and dreams. With a healthy and improved offence this season, along with a much improved bullpen. The Cardinals should have no problem winning the Central Division, and going deep into the playoffs. Only thing keeping them from that is, the rotation. It simply can’t be a one man show. Kippy,Adam,Anthony, #5, and to an extent Mulder have to pull their weight. They all have to raise their level of play. And do their best to bring their *A game* to the park on the days they pitch.  The Cardinals are the defending World Series Champions. No one will take them lightly. Each and every team will be looking to knock them off. They have a bulls-eye on their backs now. The Cardinals will go only as far as those 4 men take them. (I’m counting the 5th starter and Mulder as one because #5 is just holding Mark’s spot till he returns.) They hold in their hands the Cardinals fate. Will they once again reach the promise land? Or will this be the season of discontent? Only time will tell.

The one thing we do know is the future is now when it comes to the youth movement in the starting rotation for the Cardinals. Things are about to get very interesting in Cardinal Nation. To my knowledge no World Series winner has lost all but one of their starters, (remember Mulder is no guarantee to be back) and gone on to make the playoffs the next year. And who knows how Dave and Tony will be able to teach the young kids, yet lead this team in their defence of their World Series title? Buckle your safety belts, it’s going to be a wild and bumpy ride.


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