Cardinals Philly Cheese – July 24, 2009

Clubhouse and press conference reaction to the Matt Holliday trade and much more direct from Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.

Most have probably seen the Matt Holliday – John Mozeliak – Tony La Russa press conference from Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park already – or can view it on MLB.com, I imagine. So, I will keep my paraphrasing of that to a minimum.

 

A smaller group of us spoke earlier with a delighted La Russa, who now must feel the pressure to win. He has been given the tools he needs. In fact, three of his first four hitters Friday night are the new acquisitions – second baseman Julio Lugo, third baseman Mark DeRosa and Holliday.

 

Summarizing La Russa pre-press conference:

 

Really deepens lineup. One key to improve is often to get deeper – to keep the pressure on.

 

The guy who protects Albert is the guy you don't want to face (as an opponent)

 

Mark McGwire sees a lot of Holliday. Says he is outstanding, quality player. Mark is one of his biggest fans. Mark thinks playing in StL will be a neat experience. He knows Matt better than TLR. Mac left voice mail for TLR today – hasn't had time to return call. "He is a big, huge Holliday fan." He wanted Matt to be a Cardinal.

 

Holliday always hit well against StL. "We saw it painfully," TLR cracked.

 

Mo told TLR yesterday there was a chance.

 

"I always felt our organization was making efforts to help us. It did and we are really excited." They tried last year but nothing fell into place. This year it did.

 

Asked if Holliday will mean fewer intentional walks to Albert, La Russa was careful not to disrespect the guys previously hitting cleanup. It was "really an unfair assignment. They competed. The opposition has a different feeling about Holliday." Managers, coaches, opposing players, the entire league is aware of Holliday. The last month he has looked like the hitter he is.

 

On playing in StL: All-Stars commented on the passion for baseball in the city. Other side will get applause if they do well – respectful appreciation. If you wear Birds on the Bat, you are adored. Has a tendency to fire up players, who repay the fans.

 

"I know the guy is a high character type – we've all heard it – worker, teammate, competitor. He has no flaws."

 

"There was no bad time to add him."

 

May manage a little differently with him – push to create an open base if trouble putting hits together.

 

Other La Russa comments:

 

Lugo playing because we "gotta get a look at him". Good history in the park (14-for-30, .467). RHP Saturday and Sunday (Friday starter J.A. Happ is LHP.) Skip could probably use a day off.

 

Train trip from D.C. was "outstanding – even better than we expected". Helped that StL won. Only thing missing was Red Schoendienst telling stories. (Mike Shannon told me it was also the first time he had taken a train in association with a team.)

 

Holliday press conference comments:

 

Was still on West Coast time. Woke up around 11:30 a.m.. Cell phone not working well in NY hotel. Billy Beane finally texted him and he called back and was told he was traded. With Friday afternoon traffic, was advised to take the train from NYC to Philly. Got in 20 minutes before press conference. Wife and two sons traveling with him.

 

On McGwire help: Mental focus. What to look for from pitchers. Mechanical things. Mostly a great friend.

 

Beane told him last week he was not sure Matt would be traded. Said he must get the equivalent of two first-round picks to do a deal.

 

Very positive comments about Albert – "greatest player in the game", being in a pennant race again.

 

Dodged question about contract and free agency.

 

Mo press conference comments:

 

Decided to make deal, but not that quickly consummated. Looked at when trading for DeRosa. A week ago, decided to explore it again. Both sides are equally disgusted where they ended up last night.

 

"Open to something" regarding contract extension, but will explore it later. Right now wants to let him fit in and to be a Cardinal.

 

Always difficult but if a deal is believed to be fair… Not always in contention. We liked our team before and now we like it better.

 

A great compliment to our farm system. Last year, a lot was written about no trade. Didn't feel right return. Cost for Holliday was steep. Players coming from behind need to step up.

 

Knew Brett Wallace would be requirement of deal. Settling on second and third players were difficulty getting to the finish line.

 

TLR press conference comments:

 

Heck of a move from our club. Guys who will lose at-bats are even excited because it improves chances to win. Philly has depth in their lineup.

 

Other news:

 

Friday starter Joel Pineiro was controlling the pregame clubhouse music with some spicy salsa music.

 

Kyle McClellan was another person very positive on the train travel experience, describing in detail the various cars.

 

Brendan Ryan's brother Paul (a Scout subscriber like you!) and a cadre of friends are in town from Los Angeles as they try to hit as many ballparks as possible. Ryan was fiddling on his laptop before the game designing his own Nike shoes. I suggested "Air Boog" could outsell Jordans.

 

Good news on Joe Mather. Word is that his surgery was minor, removal of some cartilage and a cyst and recovery time is six weeks. That could put him back in the Memphis lineup as soon as August, says the clubhouse talk.

 

Say what you want about Todd Wellemeyer's results on the mound this season, but he is working hard. I saw him working out heavily for some time on agility drills in a wide hallway under the eye of conditioning coach Pete Prinzi.

 

Though he was optioned out to Memphis, Brian Barden traveled to Philly and was at the park before the game. I spoke with him as a clubhouse attendant gathered his bats for the trip to New Orleans, where he will rejoin the Redbirds.

 

One last angle on the Holliday trade. I asked equipment manager Rip Rowan how he handles the new arrivals with little to no notice. The line of the day: "I feel like a rock star's roadie." Rowan says their uniform provider, Majestic, has all players' sizes on record. That way, he could call and order up unis for the new guys. In the meantime, Julio Lugo, who wears an odd 31-35-57 pant, is using one of Cesar Izturis' old pairs of uniform pants. Holliday's locker was outfitted with "two of everything" you can think of down to shoes and gloves, waiting for his arrival. Rowan assumed Holliday would bring nothing, a good assumption since he departed from his hotel. Update: Holliday settled for a pair of Mark DeRosa's batting gloves and Todd Wellemeyer's shoes.

 

Personal take: I have a bunch of emails asking my view of the Holliday trade. I will recap what I just said on MLB.com earlier this evening.

 

The jury will be out until at least October and perhaps longer.

 

If the Cardinals can convince Scott Boras and Holliday to re-sign with St. Louis for a fair price, then it is a good trade. If Holliday walks, then six years of Brett Wallace plus two top draftees was too much for two months of Holliday plus two 2010 picks – unless the Cardinals win the 2009 World Series, that is. In that case, all sins are forgiven.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

 

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