05/25/2004: The business of baseball interfering with the sport?
Pujols will most likely be out Sunday in a very important game due to a hip flexor strain. And we have no backup first baseman. He thought about going with Edmonds, but he hasn't carried his first baseman glove in over year. Now, it looks like he might go with our "secret weapon" Marlon Anderson. Do John Gall and John Mabry even exist? Tony is smoking crack. No way these guys should be down in AAA and guys like Roger Cedeno are on the big club. [as noted here Sunday night; Phat Al got into the lineup Sunday night and actually launched a prodigous homer out to Waveland Ave. --LRC]However, it appears that the baroque MLB roster and waiver rules may be tying the Cardinals' hands. An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that a fair number of the Memphis Redbirds roster are players with prior major league service, and unfortunately, some of those players have 5 or more years service in the majors. Quoth Joe Strauss in the Post:
The Redbirds roster includes 17 players with major-league service, 13 who were up last season. [Memphis GM Dave] Chase bluntly refers to the team's everyday lineup as "castoffs," technically true since most signed as minor-league free agents.Basically, it seems that these players aren't being called up to St. Louis because of the fact that their flexibility is extremely limited; given their major league service they can't be optioned back down to Memphis without clearing the waiver wires, and the organization doesn't want to risk their being claimed by another team, particulary by a division rival. Ray Mileur of The Cardinals Birdhouse seems to concur here; he wrote in the Birdhouse's Mail Bag feature:
"It's a lot different," [pitcher Alan] Benes says. "Ten years ago guys were developing in this league. Now, if you're in this league, you're already developed with a few exceptions. There are some young kids trying to get better. But for the most part, you've got guys trying to fine-tune and get back to the level where they need to be."
Benes, 32, is one of those who are stuck. The Cardinals discussed promoting him earlier this season but balked because he has no remaining options and, given his major-league service time, must clear waivers to be sent back down. The real possibility of a division rival claiming him creates a huge hurdle.
"Basically what it means is that once you have more than five years' service time, you don't have any more options," says Benes, who has five years plus 105 days, effectively making him a hostage. "All the guys in my situation agree to an option, but you still have to clear waivers. You can get around the option but you can't get around the waivers."
[First baseman/outfielder John] Mabry occupies the same place. With more than nine years service time, he hasn't been able to force the Cardinals' hand despite ranking among the league leaders in home runs and batting average.
John Mabry has not been called up because he can't play [this looks like it's poorly phrased to me; I don't think Mileur means to say that Mabry hasn't been called up because he can't play; rather he hasn't been called up in spite of playing well], it has to do with who to send down and who has options and all those other rules about transactions that can boggle the mind. So Mabry in still in Memphis because it is good business, that doesn't mean it's good baseball.Of course, that doesn't preclude criticizing the organization for getting into this mess; perhaps though it's more appropriate to criticize Walt Jocketty or the player development staff rather than Tony LaRussa.
Of course, I could be wrong....
Len on 05.25.04 @ 09:29 AM CST