Since the Cardinals saw their first-half-of-the-decade-dynasty crumble in 2007, I’ve been an advocate of the Redbird administration’s draft and develop philosophy. While I’m sure John Mozeliak and Jeff Luhnow appreciate my support, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan haven’t been so enthusiastic.
Joe Strauss reports in today’s Post-Dispatch that Mozeliak would like to see St. Louisan David Freese be the regular third baseman in 2010.
Last spring, when Troy Glaus was hurt, Brett Wallace never stood a chance of making the roster as a third baseman, and Freese, who had injured an ankle in a winter car accident, just got a sniff before being sent out. Older rookies Brian Barden and Joe Thurston, as you know, handled the bulk of the third base chores until the Cards traded for a proven veteran in Mark DeRosa.
Duncan has made clear his displeasure with recent offerings from the minor league system. LaRussa has been more willing to embrace the arrivals of young stars like Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina and quickly make them everyday players. Ultimately, though, like many managers and coaches, Tony prefers veterans.
Even the great Pujols was going to be sent down after spring training 2001, but a Bobby Bonilla injury forced the Cardinals to keep him. Molina got his everyday chance when Mike Matheny left in free agency. Ryan Ludwick, Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker all became regulars well after fans thought they should. Schumaker, in fact, hit .435 in July of 2007, and was sent down in August. Jason Motte got one game as the Cardinal closer in 2009, vanquished in favor of veteran Ryan Franklin. Colby Rasmus got his everyday chance only after Rick Ankiel slammed into a wall in May, and Rasmus wound up playing over 100 games.
So do we really think Freese has paid his dues in LaRussa’s eyes? I’ve wanted to see him get a chance for some time. LaRussa’s history, however, would lead us to believe that Freese has to earn his stripes, pay his dues, to not be anointed.
Unless Tony is embracing a new philosophy…and his old one works, by the way…I would expect a third base competition next spring. If DeRosa is on the team, he starts as The Man at that position. If he’s not, some six year minor league free agent is going to compete for the spot.
Freese might wind up being the Cardinal third baseman next year, as Mozeliak hopes, but with LaRussa at the helm, he’s going to have to earn it.