January 12, 2009

Impact La Russa seeks must come from team effort

Team effort may just have to be the "impact player" Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa has been hoping for since August of '08.

When the Cards had a shot at the playoffs, no trade was made to secure a player that might've pushed the St. Louis team into the hunt for the World Series. Not even a trade that went sour. Just, nothing.

La Russa was joined by Cardinal Nation during the off-season, patiently awaiting GM John Mozeliak to make a move of significance. Instead, the entire hot stove season was spent watching the Cardinals' NL Central competition picking off what talent the big market coast teams took a pass on.

At various times since last season, through the Winter Meetings that took place in Las Vegas, La Russa had made noises--sometimes hints; sometimes declarations; sometimes statements that seemed like begging. What came of it?

Some decent but risky acquisitions, to wit: Khalil Greene, Trevor Miller, Royce Ring, a few minor leaguers.

Impact players, however ... uh-uh.

By now, a frustrated Cardinal Nation has pretty much settled on the fact that the only thing going on all winter was bargain shopping. All the "we'll spend the money" talk was just that--talk. At the last second, ownership cried poor, leaving Cardinal Nation to feel like they may have been betrayed.

There was an exception to the Cardinals' "cheaping," though. Be forewarned, however, there were scary results. When the Cards actually made to bonafide offer to lefty closer Brian Fuentes, the now ex-Rox reliever took a deal for less money. Now that could be taken a couple ways: a) Fuentes used the Cards to get a better deal where he really wanted to land; b) Fuentes would rather take less money and play for a team that had shown through action (in-season and off-season) that they want to go for the big prize.

Sure, there could be a late-winter deal yet. The Cards have done it before--Kyle Lohse. But the writing's on the dugout wall already, and that is: TLR's impact bat, or pitcher, or player, will have to take the form of "team effort." After all, baseball is a team game, and the Cards do have a decent squad. Just, maybe not as decent as the Chicago Cubs, or the Milwaukee Brewers, or the Houston Astros, and maybe not the Pittsburgh Pirates or Cincinnati Reds.

The great thing about baseball is that you never know when some adversity will result in some great team chemistry, the stuff of which makes a real impact, the stuff that ignores a bunch of stats that don't add up to a pennant contender.

The '09 team will just have to take on that underdog role and decide to become an "impact team" if they want to have a successful season.

photo by chetthejet