The St. Louis Cardinals are back in first place all by themselves after winning their fourth game in a row last night. The Cardinals have the opportunity to sweep their five game home stand tonight if they can beat the Astros in their final meeting of the year and possibly for several years depending on how the schedules play out next year. Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Pirates lost their fourth in a row yesterday and the NL Central is back to looking the way it has for pretty much the entire season.
The Cardinals traded Mitchell Boggs to the Colorado Rockies yesterday and got an international signing slot in return. Major League Baseball allows each team a certain number of international signing slots which many of them use to sign top prospects from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries. Those signing slots have become highly coveted and I can recall several instances this year where players have been traded for those slots. The idea is to put themselves in the best possible position to sign the top international players and obviously the further down the list you are, the less chance you have of getting the top prospects.
This has recently become a major factor in making trades and I suspect we will hear much more about it as the month progresses and we get closer to the non waiver trade deadline on July 31. The Kansas City Royals have won the first two games of their four game series in New York with the Yankees. As usual the Royals have won both their games with pitching and their offense has done just enough to allow them to squeeze out a victory although they did manage to put five runs on the board Monday night. In looking at the representatives the St. Louis Cardinals are sending to this year’s all star game it shows how ell the team has been put together by general manager John Mozeliak. Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina are the two players selected by the fans to be starters and they are the two veterans who have assumed most of the leadership duties on the Cardinals.
Beltran’s story is kind of remarkable in that his career was thought to be on a definite down slide when he was signed to a two year free agent contract by the Cardinals before the 2012 season. Beltran had missed pretty much two whole years because of nagging knee injuries and had undergone at least two knee surgeries over the past three years. During the time he was able to play his offensive numbers were well below what they had been earlier in his career and his defense appeared to be greatly diminished by his numerous knee issues. He was not considered a marque free agent when the Cardinals signed him and many questioned the wisdom of giving him a two year contract.
However, he proved the critics wrong almost immediately last year as he got off to a great start and kept going. He tailed off a little bit at one point last year but continued to play every day and contributed to the team in many other ways when his bat cooled off. He also embraced the St. Louis community and has done far more than anyone could have ever thought possible. We’ve talked about Yadier Molina in this blog before. Molina has slowly and quietly become one of the best players in the game and is an essential part of the Cardinals success with his glove, his bat, and his ability to lead on and off the field.
There is no question in my mind that he is the best catcher in baseball but the last couple of years have shown he is one of the top hitters in the game as well. Yadier Molina is the heart and soul of the Cardinals and is the one player who in my mind they must have on the field to be successful. Alan Craig and Matt Carpenter represent the youth movement of the Cardinals and why they now have the best minor leagues system in the game. Quite frankly Alan Craig if a professional hitter and has been since he first came to the major leagues. His defense has slowly improved and although he isn’t exactly a household name he has proven his value to the Cardinals many times over. Craig fit very nicely into the hole left by the defection of Albert Pujols last year.
Matt Carpenter is one of the most exciting young players in baseball and quickly established himself as the everyday second baseman and more than filled the Cardinals need for a leadoff hitter. He is just getting started in his young career and is going to be exciting to watch as he continues to improve over the next several years. There is no work yet on who will replace Adam Wainright on the NL all star squad but after another outstanding pitching performance last night he certainly showed why he was selected to the team.
He is clearly the ace of the Cardinals pitching staff and even if Chris Carpenter is somehow able to come back Wainright is still the Cardinals No. 1 pitcher. We will be back on Friday with a look ahead to this weekend’s sports action as I believe the British Open gets underway tomorrow as well as everything else going on in the world of baseball and NASCAR and whatever else we can find. Thanks as always for taking the time to read this blog and I hope you will do the same for all the other excellent blogs on this site. Have a wonderful Wednesday!