Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rolen On

-Now that the dust has settled, some thoughts on the Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus deal.

First, let me get out of the way that I think a deal had to be done. There was no way to avoid the fact that the Rolen-Tony LaRussa rift was going to obscure everything positive the Cardinals may achieve in 2008. LaRussa made it clear with his comments at the Winter meetings that he wasn't about to mollycoddle his third baseman anymore. Rolen had made it clear that he wasn't about to pretend to be happy with TLR either. The press would have had a field day with the feud, especially if there was nothing interesting (in a winning way) about the coming season. Some say the Billy Martin/Reggie Jackson Yankees managed to win despite their feuding. True. But those were the 1970's Yankees, not the rebuilding 2008 Cardinals. Those Yankees could endure a ton of distractions and still out-talent their opponents. These Redbirds have no such roster luxury.

Secondly, considering that everyone else in baseball knew that John Mozeliak was dealing from a weakened position, he got amazing value in return. If you take out the feud factor, I'm not sure the Cardinals shouldn't make this trade anyway. I'm of the opinion (even though I can't analyze his medical records and have never performed shoulder surgery) that Scott Rolen is never going to be anywhere close to the player he was in his early St. Louis days. If the Blue Jays think he can be, more power to them. I also don't claim to be an expert on the foot ailment that forced Troy Glaus into the operating room. But, it seems to be a more baseball-friendly problem than the one that's required multiple operations on Rolen. It may be over-simplification, but Glaus isn't trying to hit homers with his feet. If he hits one he can crawl around the bases. Rolen needs a healthy shoulder to swing a bat....effectively. The addition of Glaus (as long as he's healthy) gives LaRussa a lot more flexibility in building a solid lineup. Everyone knew that Rolen had become no threat to hit it deep and offered no protection in the lineup for Albert Pujols, or anyone else.

Let me go off into Conspiracy Theory Land for a second. What if Scott Rolen goes out on the Toronto field and just tears it up. What if the guy is suddenly totally healthy and smacks 40 homers...fields flawlessly...and is generally the player we all came to know and love in a Cardinals uniform? What if? Could that signal the possibility that Mr. Rolen wasn't giving his all the last few years to get under the skin of his skipper and force the Cardinals into a trade? He had a long-term deal and knew he would make the money no matter what his numbers were. Could he have been more healthy than he appeared to be? Could he have been playing well enough to be on the lineup card...but not well enough to satisfy his boss...or the fans? Would he throw away a possible shot at the Hall of Fame in order to rid himself of another manager? Seems like a stretch. But the thought has to cross your mind.

One other thing to think about if you're a Blue Jays fan. Scott Rolen has now gone through two managers and basically forced his two previous organizations to move him out of town. Jays skipper John Gibbons isn't known for his diplomatic acumen with players. He's had physical run-ins with some. So, how long will the honeymoon last if this guy looks at Scotty a little funny...or suggests that the thin-skinned third-baseman make an adjustment in his swing?...or worse, benches him without asking permission. Ohhhh Canada.

Before I sound like I'm piling on the former Cardinal, let me say that I really enjoyed Rolen's on-field approach to the game. He sprinted around the bases after a homer. Of course, everyone enjoyed the way he sucked up grounders at third. And you especially couldn't help but like him in comparison to some of the "look at me" players in today's game. But, I still like Mr. Mo's deal...and think it was exactly what the doctor (excuse the pun) ordered.

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