While according to some, perhaps the Cards got the least desirable of the three; yet, that remains to be proven. By all accounts, Eckstein is a very solid player and owns a World Championship ring. Many view his salary as the best bargain of the three shortstops by a substantial margin. I have to agree.
We sat down prior to Sunday's game.
David, were you surprised when you were non-tendered by the Angels?
A little bit. I talked to my agent a month prior and he said he thought we would get something done. But, you know, it's a business.
With Adam Kennedy out due to injury, was moving to second base ever discussed?
No, that was never an option. The only thing they told me the final day was that they were trying to sign Cabrera and if they signed him, then I might be non-tendered. But, if not, then I would be the shortstop. And, that's all they told me.
How quickly did it come together with the Cardinals once you were set free?
I think they contacted on Wednesday and it was done on Thursday afternoon.
Were you surprised at the speed it happened?
People who have gone through this say it definitely happens. The thing about it was that there were four other teams that were in contact with my agent, also. And they had all put offers on the table. That was all on Wednesday. So, on Thursday, when St. Louis had called back and a couple of other teams had called back, we pretty much told St. Louis that we were only going to go through them. We would not take the offer to anybody else. This is where I kind of wanted to go. And, they definitely showed a great interest, so once we took an offer from four other clubs; that was it. We didn't listen to any other offers. We didn't take that offer back to them at all. It was just straight with us and St. Louis.
I can imagine the Cardinals appreciated that style of negotiating, especially given how others conduct business differently, stringing out timeframes and playing offers off against each other.
Yeah. That is not the kind of person that I want to be or player I want to be. The option to come here was good enough for me (laughs). I was very excited. I had even gotten a phone call prior to this from (closer Troy) Percival (now with Detroit), saying "Don't sign. Don't sign. I can get you." But, I wasn't going to sit there and turn it into a drama or anything like that. I didn't get back to the other clubs, either.
Well, the Tigers already have a shortstop in Carlos Guillen, though I guess he could have moved over…
Or, they were talking about second, too. It was one of those things where it was an open door, where I could have been at second there or shortstop somewhere else.
So, you can play second when you need to?
Yes. Oh yeah. It just wasn't one of those things where I was going to let the other teams in there. That is not the style I like to play.
Can you comment on the other teams who expressed interest?
I'd rather not.
Was the third year of the contract a big deal for you? Was that a decision-maker?
When there was a chance of me being non-tendered, I was talking about wanting three years. That was one of my things, because you want the security. That was one of the things that was kind of important to me. You don't want to sit there and be moving every single year. St. Louis was definitely fine with it and said that was ok. I had multi-year offers from other teams, too. It wasn't the first offer, either. Once people are talking about that, you definitely want to get the third year.
Let's talk about play on the field. What have they told you about base stealing? Do you have the green light?
It is one of those things that depends upon the situation. There is definitely a green light in the system and it depends on the day. If you prove to be successful on the bases, you'll get more chances.
Given the lack of speed on the team, isn't this really important?
You've got to be sure you can be safe. With the lineup behind you, you have to pick and choose your spots. Definitely, you want to be aggressive. But, you've got to choose your spots. You don't want to run into outs with the guys we have in this lineup.
Who have you been working with?
In addition to Dave (McKay), I've talked with Lou Brock. He's given me help in reading pitchers and stuff like that. Especially at first base over there, Dave McKay. We have the times (release times for pitchers and catchers) and Joe Pettini does a great job from the bench. Just learning the pitchers.
Coming over from the American League, will you be more careful until you see these pitchers in action?
You have to make sure you have a high percentage of your stolen bases such that you're going to make it. Learning the pitchers is one of those things. But, the great thing about it is that these guys have kept books on every single guy, so we'll know the times he usually throws to home plate and stuff like that, any kind of move he has. We'll learn all that stuff before we go out there.
So, you'll know timing-wise if it is a better situation to go, both from the pitcher and catcher?
Yes, without a doubt.
How is it going with your new double-play partner, Mark Grudzielanek, given you haven't had all that much time together yet?
It's going really good. We've been pretty much inseparable. Wherever he goes, I go. That's the way Tony has set it up. We work together every single day. So, it's been going pretty good.
One last question. You've heard about the Cardinals' fans. What are your early impressions?
You hear about it, but it is something that you have to experience. You can sit there, even here, and most of the fans are from Missouri or somewhere close to there in the Midwest. They come down here to see the Cardinals and are behind you 100%. And that has been nice.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.