09/28/2004: So how did Walt do?
Brian Gunn at Redbird Nation has an interesting rundown on Walt Jocketty's roster moves (or perhaps more accurately, his lack of moves compared to the somewhat frenetic wheeling and dealing engaged in by the Chicago Chubs and the Houston disAstros which made them the choice of most baseball pundits to contend for the NL Central title).
The Astros and Cubs won the NL Central in the preseason polls. They were the two sexiest teams in the division, full of movement and life and optimism. The Astros beefed up on a double helping of ex-Yankees, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, while the Cubs fattened themselves with the likes of Derrek Lee, LaTroy Hawkins, Michael Barrett, Todd Walker, and Greg Maddux. In the springtime, both clubs appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated – one read BRINGING IT HOME: THE BEST OF TIMES FOR ROGER CLEMENS, while the other announced HELL FREEZES OVER: THE CUBS WILL WIN THE WORLD SERIES.
Meanwhile, the Cards more or less sat on their hands all winter. They pulled off one splashy move – dealing J.D. Drew for pitching – but they mostly watched as other teams gobbled up the pricey free agents. At the time, local columnists and chat room trolls were begging for the Cards to do something – anything! – to improve the team, but Walt Jocketty was content to make a series of quiet moves, a nip here and a tuck there, nothing too drastic. It seemed to many people (and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them) that the Cards were on the wayward side of history, destined for another third-place finish.
We were all wrong. It remains to be seen whether Walt’s team can go all the way this year, but it’s hard to argue with his roster moves. So I thought it’d be fun to go back and evaluate all the choices he made last winter. I’m not going to give the moves letter grades or anything like that (the way myopic “draft experts” do 24 hrs. after the NFL draft ends) – after all, many of these deals can’t be fully evaluated for many years. If, say, Jeff Suppan wins 20 games next year, or if Eli Marrero bops 40 homers the year after that, it’ll greatly affect our reading of Jocketty’s moves. It’s sorta like Zhou Enlai’s response to Henry Kissinger when asked, in the early 1970’s, about his views on the French Revolution: "It’s too soon to tell."
Len on 09.28.04 @ 07:25 AM CST