Even though the Baltimore Orioles were nowhere near the World Series this year, there is still much to be learned from the 2011 champion St. Louis Cardinals.
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Trading for shortstop JJ Hardy was a great move.
For starters, it all begins up top in the front office. Walt Jocketty was the GM in St. Louis from October 1994 until October 2007, and he put together quite a team. Under his watch, the Cardinals won six National League Central titles and won two National League pennants and won the 2006 World Series. Some of those players are on the team still.
The Cardinals replaced Jocketty with John Mozeliak in October 2007, and he has continued their winning ways. Some of his draft picks have yet to flourish, but he made some great moves for key role-players that paid off in the Cardinals’ amazing run in 2011.
Take a look at the lineup. Players like Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay were home grown players who came up through the Cardinals’ organization. If you look at their pitching staff, one of their starters, Jaime Garcia, was a home grown player. In his two World Series starts, Garcia pitched ten innings with an ERA of 1.80.
St. Louis closer Jason Motte was another player who came up through the Cards’ farm system. Other pitchers like Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, and Octavio Dotel came over in smart trades.
Free agency was the other source of the Cardinals’ success. Mozeliak signed Lance Berkman, who had a huge World Series as he hit .423 and led the team with 11 hits. Mozeliak also signed Rafael Furcal, Nick Punto and Kyle Lohse. Jocketty signed their ace Chris Carpenter back in 2002.
If you’re wondering about the NLCS and World Series MVP David Freese, he was one of Mozeliak’s first moves back in December 2007 as the Cards traded fan favorite Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for Freese. Oh, and one other thing…the Cardinals 2011 payroll was just over $109 million.
What can the Baltimore Orioles learn from this? First off, they need better scouting and development. Garcia, Jay, and Freese were second-year players, yet they all jumped right in and got the job done.
Baltimore’s second year players like Brian Matusz, who was supposed to be the ace of the staff, regressed in his second year (I still blame Mark Connor for that). Jake Arrieta pitched well before getting hurt, so I’m hopeful he will come back strong in 2012.
Homegrown catcher Matt Wieters (right) is developing into one of the league’s best. But other moves have been iffy at best. (Photos by Todd Olszewski, Orioles)
Another area of improvement can be smarter spending. $8 million for Vladimir Guerrero? Really? A 36-year-old designated hitter for $8 million? They need to improve on that. The Orioles’ payroll in 2011 was just over $86 million, so with the departure of a few free agents, they will have some money to spend, and they can get some value if they look for it and not just a famous name to go on the back of a jersey.
Trading for J.J. Hardy was a great move, as was trading for Mark Reynolds. Trades seem to be an area of expertise for Baltimore, so if they can keep up with that and work on their free agent signings, they can put together a decent squad.
We all know competing in the AL East is brutal. Baltimore doesn’t spend like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, so they have to make sure their scouting and front office are top- notch and develop the talent from within, something they have not done in quite some time.
On the other hand, look where the Red Sox’ $160,257,476 payroll put them this season: in their mansions watching the playoffs on plasma, same as the bargain-basement Orioles. Money isn’t everything.
by Andy Mindzak