Scratchin' Where It Don't Itch

Add Rex Duncan to the list of St. Louis Cardinals backers who are uncomfortable with the team's trade deadline moves. Duncan is worried his Cardinals-induced itch isn't going to go away any time soon.

As one who's frankly been derelict in his authorly duties, I'm always delighted to hear from some of the folks who have continued to correspond with me from my more productive days as a contributor to The Birdhouse. I'm genuinely flattered to hear from them, and they sometimes ask some questions that get my Birdhouse motor cranking again.

For example, Randy emailed to ask me my opinion about the trade of Hector Luna for Ron Belliard. My response to Randy was that I was rather surprised at the trade, given that I didn't think second base was a particularly pressing priority. As one prone to the torments of allergy to poison ivy, I know that when my left ankle itches, I don't scratch my right wrist. I'm not so sure the Cardinals didn't do just that, though. Addressing the powerful itch in the outfield doesn't seem to be resolved by scratching at second base.

Don't get me wrong. I think Ronnie Belliard is something of an upgrade at that position. He's a former All-Star who at 31 brings some good offensive statistics and regular service to the starting line-up. Funny, though, that when you compare him to the departed Luna, they are very similar statistically. Also, Belliard is a second baseman – period. Luna is a six-position player including all three outfield slots, short, second, and third bases. Luna is still young with much potential. Belliard is a proven and predictable commodity. Belliard is a coming free agent. Luna has a few years to go on his contract.

After a blistering start, it has become clear that Aaron Miles is the odd man out, now. After his blistering start, Miles has cooled off offensively but still packs a solid glove. So Miles goes to the bench and now we have a professional second baseman in a reserve role, not a six-position reserve.

So, my thoughts on the trade? Mainly that is one of those off-the-radar moves that doesn't grab the headlines like the Greg Maddux trade, but could prove to be a bit of a positive for the Cardinals by the end of the season. It certainly wasn't the BIG move that I'd anticipated, and it actually seems to weaken the bench. My calculations had the mysterious Jason Marquis plying his trade elsewhere by now. Julie, that'll teach you to ask me about trade rumors.

Then, just when the Belliard trade was sinking in, my senses reeled at news that the Cardinals at acquired hard-throwing reliever Jorge Sosa from the Braves for AAA pitcher Rich Scalamandre. In considering the potential contributions of Jorge Sosa to the Redbird bullpen, three things cross my mind. First, I'm not too sure Dave Duncan needs another project. Second, who remembers Esteban Yan? Third, with his trade to the Braves, Rich Scalamandre will probably become a Cy Young Award winner in a couple of years.

As for the Cardinals, I'd hoped they would have been qualitatively better at some of their weaker positions by now and that unfortunately didn't happen. Walt Jocketty probably tried to land a hard-hitting outfielder or a quality starter. As a mid-market enterprise, the Cardinals have to be cognizant of value, and I understand and respect that philosophy. They can't afford to give up more than someone is worth. That said, it just seems like they failed to scratch the worst itches, and my experience is that those itches usually get worse instead of better over time.

Rex Duncan can be reached via email at

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