Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

Inside this week; expectations the key to surviving the Cardinals lack of activity at the winter meetings; Money, money, money the new performance enhancement substance, giving some teams an unfair competitive advantage; How to beat the Cubs almost every time; Trade proposal, Rick Ankiel to the New York Yankees for ...

Depending on what you were expecting to happen at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas, I think it is safe to assume that many Cardinal fans were extremely disappointed that the St. Louis brain trust didn't come home a little richer, with a legitimate closer, a front line starter or another lefty to help shore up the bullpen, all wrapped up in new shiny contracts for Christmas.

Personally, I wasn't really expecting the Cardinals to do that much, certainly I wasn't scanning the wires looking for that front page breaking news story that was going to bolster the Cardinals chances to win a 11th World Series championship next season, therefore I avoided the let down, followed by the depression experienced by many fans throughout Cardinal Nation.

To say I wasn't expecting anything isn't a slam on the Cardinals' organization, in fact, I have been more than impressed with how the current team ownership has managed affairs since taking over the Cardinals back in 1996. The bottom line is, I don't expect this small market club to compete on the free-agent market with teams like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees & Mets, teams that are using payroll performance enhancement substances to give them an unfair advantage over what is left of the competition.

The contracts that were signed this past week were insane. Francisco Rodriguez got $37 million to close for the New York Mets, while the New York Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a $161 deal, the biggest contract ever for a pitcher, followed by a mere $82.5 million dollar deal for A.J. Burnett. Almost a quarter of a billion dollars for just three players, who don't even play every day. For that kind of money, you could by two U.S. Senate seats and a couple of Congressional seats from the Governor of Illinois. I'm suppose to be upset because the Cardinals didn't ink these players to a deal? Please.

I've often been amused by hypocrisy in general and specifically in baseball as it relates to the steroid and performance enhancement substances issue of the 80's and 90s, yet payroll steroids, that is the featuring performance enhancement substances with street names like; greenbacks, bread, bucks, clams, smackers, cold hard cash, dead presidents and the Benjamins, threatens the future of the game more than a shot of anabolic steroids in the ass, or to be more politically correct, the ventrogluteal part of the gluteus, of some dumb ballplayer gambling with his life and career.

The Yankees are the biggest addicts with the worst greenback habit among the payroll performance enhancement substances abusers. They started the 2008 season with a reported payroll of $209,081,579, which is more money than the payrolls of the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins combined. If we had a real commissioner who was concerned about the integrity of the game, you would think he would look into this substance abuse addiction.

The Yankees payroll for 2009 must be approaching $250 million and as far as I'm concerned, if they win a championship, they should put an asterisk next to the Yankees name in the record books, standings and on the trophy.

Here ends the rant.

Now while I didn't expect the Cardinals to make a big splash at the winter meetings, that doesn't leave Cardinals management off the hook. I expect them to field a competitive team year in and year out and once again, I'm rarely disappointed. Granted the Cardinals finished in fourth place this past season, but they still managed to win 86 games, despite dealing with a wheel-barrel full of adversity for the entire season.

Here's my bottom line on the 2008 campaign, (not the Obama-McCain thing), the baseball thingy. I was as proud of the 2008 ballclub as any other club in franchise history and I think the 2009 team will be even more competitive next season even if the Cardinals don't make another move, using their in-house options for a closer, a starter and another lefty in the bullpen, St. Louis should still be able to give the Chicago Cubs a run for their money.

Second bottom line, worst case scenario if plan A, B and C fails, when the Cubs come to town next year, decorate the ballpark like it was the playoffs, add the National League Division and Championship Series logos on the field and on the programs. The mere fact that it looks like a playoff game, will improve the Cardinals chances of winning regardless of who is in the St. Louis bullpen.


RICK ANKIEL – The New York Post reported last week that the New York Yankees are among a growing list of suitors wanting to trade for Ankiel. Rick, who is one year away from free agency, is arbitration eligible and will likely make in the neighborhood of $3 million dollars for the 2009 season. I can understand from the business side of the house the reason for the Cardinals shopping Ankiel, that doesn't mean as a fan, I have to like it.

Here is my trade proposal to the financially decadent New York Yankees, with all their money to burn. We'll give you Rick Ankiel, in return, the Steinbrenner's fill in the barren, muddy, sometimes rainwater-filled hole next to the new Busch Stadium and build the $650 million mixed-use retail/entertainment and residential district, St. Louis Ballpark Village.

Ankiel for the Ballpark Village, I could live with that deal, ok, I know $650 million is a little steep, heck I'd even throw in a couple of prospects, because that is just the kind of guy I am, other than that, I'm emotionally invested in Ankiel and I want him to play for St. Louis indefinitely.

AARON MILES – There is talk in Cincinnati that former St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty is interested in signing St. Louis free-agent infielder Aaron Miles who has been non-tendered by St. Louis. The Cardinals are probably still going to try to get a deal done with Miles after the holidays, but look for the Reds and perhaps another team to throw enough money at him for him to play somewhere else next season. Jocketty has already spoiled the Cardinals plans in signing lefty-reliever Arthur Rhodes, Miles could be next on the Reds GM's Christmas shopping list.

RANDY FLORES – Was non-tendered Friday night and has probably played his last game in St. Louis. On a personal level a sad day for me, a Flores fan. If you knew Randy, you had to love him. No one was more proud of being a St. Louis Cardinal or represented the club any better. The thing that touched me the most about Randy was his way with the kids. A couple of years ago at a Winter Warm Up, without any advance notice, Randy answered the call and gave an off the cuff speech to a couple of hundred kids and their parents about education, values, motivation, etc., he was great. Flores' numbers from last season are not a true measure of what Flores meant to the organization. Hopefully, he'll get another chance, if not with St. Louis, somewhere else.

ADAM KENNEDY - Although he asked to be traded late last season, it appears he will be the Cardinals second baseman going into spring training. Kennedy, who hit .280 in the third year of a three-year, $10 million contract, "just wants to play," manager Tony La Russa said. "He ended up on a plus note."

COLBY RASMUS - Manager Tony La Russa is high on the chances of the Cardinals top prospect making the club next spring even though Rasmus hit just .251 in an injury-plagued season at Class AAA Memphis. "This guy has a chance to be an impact, everyday player," La Russa said. "He has a chance to be a very special package."

RULE 5 RECAP – Perdomo, we hardly knew you. The right-handed reliever, acquired from Cleveland in July through the Anthony Reyes trade, was picked up by the Giants with the No. 6 pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday. Perdomo appeared in 15 games for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, posting a 4.50 ERA in 18 innings. He struck out 22 batters and allowed 18 hits. San Francisco must keep the 24-year-old Perdomo on its roster for the 2009 season, or he will be offered back to the Cardinals for $25,000. St. Louis receives $50,000 for the move.

Memphis Redbirds outfielder and fan favorite Cody Haerther was chosen by the Toronto Blue Jays again, the only difference this time, Cody won't be returning to the Cardinals if he is left unprotected by Toronto in the future.

St. Louis didn't select a player in the major league portion of the draft but took right-handed pitcher Russell Haltiwanger from the Royals in the Triple-A phase. Haltiwanger pitched in 35 games at Single-A Wilmington, posting a 3.83 ERA and 4-1 record. Haltiwanger, another name I'll have to learn to spell correctly. Whatever happen to the days of Bob Gibson, Ken Boyer, Brock, Dick Groat, Bill White and the hardest name I had to learn to spell was Ray Sadecki?

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