In what has become an annual tradition, The Brewers Bar recently participated in the Playing Pepper series with our blog friends Cards Conclave. Click here for a friendly interrogation by Daniel Shoptaw, aka Cardinal70 (follow him on Twitter @C70), of yours truly, along with Kyle and Jaymes of Brew Crew Ball.
Daniel was kind enough to submit to his own interrogation, see his answers to my questions below. Thank again to C70 for being a good sport and for offering further evidence that Cardinals fans are much more tolerable than Cubs fans.
(Please note C70’s answers were submitted before spring training.)
1. About the *sigh* Cubs…did you get swept up in the first-championship-in-108-years storyline? Or did the Cubs’ success horrify you as it did all patriotic Americans?
I’m still fairly surprised that we are going to see a 2017 season, as I expected a Cubs win to open the seventh seal and cause the end of time. I know some said that we should root for the drought to end, but long losing streaks are part of the fabric of baseball. The texture of the game is not the same today. Now, if the Cubs don’t win again for another 100+ years, I’ll be able to handle this one a little better, I guess.
2. If you were general manager, what would a Molina contract extension look like, and how does it compare to what you think will actually happen with Yadi?
I actually wrote about this back in December. Molina is obviously getting older and may have had more wear on the body than any catcher his age in a long, long time. That said, he had an outstanding second half offensively last year, so there’s at least the thought that there is still something in the tank. If Molina can be open and honest about what the next couple of years will look like, I think there is a chance to be a bit creative. Carson Kelly ranks as the top catching prospect in the game now, so a contract with the expectation that he will transition from regular starter to backup over four years (starting this season) would be a smart play, I think.
That said, I don’t know if Yadi’s “play every day” mentality would work in regards to this. This is a situation where the fans want the front office to forgo their usual cautious (and successful) process and just sign Yadi, but I don’t know that they’ll do that. They seem to be unwilling to throw a lot of money at him with Kelly waiting in the wings.
3. Along those lines, how to do you feel about the Cardinals’ offseason? Dexter Fowler and Carlos Martinez seem like the bigger pieces to those of us outside St. Louis, but were there any under-the-radar moves that you have strong feelings about?
Fowler was definitely the big prize of the offseason and getting Martinez locked up for a long time to come at a team-friendly rate is huge as well. Those were the most important parts of the offseason, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Brett Cecil does out of the bullpen. Non-closer relievers never are an exciting, splashy move in the winter and he’s been quite overshadowed by Fowler’s contract (and personality), but after losing Zach Duke, acquiring a solid lefty for the pen was a must and Cecil looks like much more than a LOOGY. If he can help give Mike Matheny enough options to keep from running folks into the ground, that could be a huge win.
4. I always root for Cuban defectors, even if they play for the Cardinals. I noticed Aledmys Diaz had a great rookie year. Do you think he keeps it up or underperforms in 2017?
It’s tough to know about Diaz. There’s always been a lot of talent there, but he never put it together in the minor leagues until the last six weeks in 2015, after he’d been designated for assignment to remove him from the 40-man roster. That may have been a wakeup call, he may have finally adjusted to coming from Cuba, who knows, but since then he’s been stellar at the plate. His defense was shaky early last year, but it got better as the year went along. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some regression offensively, but I think he’ll be above-average in that regard. Pair that with solid defense and he’s a huge cog in the 2017 Cardinal machine.
5. Speaking of underperforming, Adam Wainwright led the league in hits and earned runs surrendered last year. Could this be the beginning of the end? As a Brewers fan, I sure hope so.
There’s still a lot of hope around Wainwright and probably for good reason. After all, he missed basically all the 2015 season, so some of the struggles last year were getting back to pitching shape, getting his legs back, etc. I would feel better if his September had been stronger, but overall I don’t think we’re done with Wainwright just yet. Is he going to be back in the Cy Young conversation? Probably not. Is he the best pitcher on the Cardinals? I think not, assuming Martinez doesn’t falter. But can he be an effective #2 guy? Absolutely.
6. What about the 2017 excites you the most? And by the same token, what are you most concerned about?
There’s a lot of things that could go very right for the Cardinals, making this a special team. I’m very excited to see how Dexter Fowler integrates with this team and how Matt Carpenter sliding down the lineup makes for a more potent offense. I’m quite excited to see Alex Reyes on a regular basis and having a rotation of Martinez, Waino, and Reyes for much if not all the year. There are a lot of good possibilities in St. Louis this season.
Of course, there are a lot of concerns. Besides Martinez, there are questions about almost everyone in the rotation—will Waino bounce back, how will Lance Lynn do after a year off, is Michael Wacha healthy, effective, or even in the rotation at all—which could make things a little dicey. What if Carpenter doesn’t click lower in the lineup? He’s had struggles (in small samples) out of the leadoff role before. What if Fowler can’t come close to his season last year? What if we have to hear more about Joe Maddon being a huge genius and the Cubs win again?
I think there’s still more excitement than anxiety with this club. It feels like it should be around the 90-win mark. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some issues, though.