Roster Turnover Should Be on the Menu

An editorial by regular contributor Jerry Modene explains why regular roster changes are needed while noting that some cannot keep them in perspective.

Regarding roster turnover, the problem with Sports Illustrated's John Donovan and some of the other writers - and, unfortunately, too many of our fans - is not so much that the Cardinals didn't do anything, but that the team didn't - in their estimation - do enough in the off-season in terms of big-headline moves.

But that's always been Walt Jocketty's way; it's very rare that he made a headline move - trading for guys like Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen, and Larry Walker is far more rare for Walt than his quiet, even underappreciated signings of useful - even key - players like Mike Matheny, Kent Bottenfield, Mark Grudzielanek, Jeff Suppan, etc. in recent years.

I've referred to this syndrome for some years now as the "Steinbrennerization" of baseball fans; we live in an age of instant gratification which may work fine for football, with its 16-game season, but not very well for baseball, with its long, every-day-for-six-months haul. Some people expect general managers to snap up every big-name free agent out there, or trade two utility infielders and a batboy for an ace starting pitcher, and you just can't run a baseball team like that - you just can't.

Right now, people are making big deals out of the moves teams like the White Sox and Blue Jays and Mets made during the winter, going so far as to talk about the White Sox' potential for repeating as champions - which I don't really see happening - or the Mets finally dethroning the Braves' run in the National League East (which was supposed to happen, if I recall correctly, the last time the Mets made big off-season moves). The Blue Jays made a lot of sexy signings but still rank no better than third in a tough American League East division.

Meanwhile, the Cards "do it right", maintaining some semblance of payroll responsibility, not making huge splashes in the winter (I'm still not sure why they were so all-fired hot for A.J. Burnett), filling holes where they need to be filled, and - as always - taking flak because they signed a solid and affordable reliever in Braden Looper instead of breaking the bank for Billy Wagner, or a solid right fielder in Juan Encarnacion instead of going for an overrated - and overpaid - Jacque Jones.

The Gary Bennett signing was a good one - it'll be nice to have a backup catcher who would actually be capable of starting every day for a while if Yadier Molina were to get hurt - and I really like the chance they're taking with Scott Spiezio and Junior Spivey, both solid players who became affordable because of their injury problems the last couple of years. I'm also liking the possibility of Larry Bigbie having a breakout season; he strikes me as a quintessential Cardinal-type of player.

Anyway, getting back to the roster turnover. Of course the Cardinals turn the roster over; good teams do that, especially in this age of arbitration and free agency. The days of the Dodgers keeping their infield together for nearly 10 seasons are long gone, and no less than Whitey Herzog wrote in his 1999 book that you absolutely have to roll your bench over every couple of years - to keep them from getting stale, and to keep them from getting antsy over the fact that they're not starting players.

So to suggest that there's something wrong with the Cardinals just because they have replaced guys like John Mabry and Reggie Sanders and Walker and Einar Diaz and Abraham Nunez and Matt Morris and Ray King and Julian Tavarez with guys like Spiezio and Bigbie and Encarnacion and Bennett and Deivi Cruz and Sidney Ponson and Juan Mateo and Looper is simply a case of people not looking at the big picture, and a case of short-sighted sportswriters and fans who want an all-star at every position on the field and on the bench.

© 2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories