Karraker’s Conversation Pieces: Now, Albert?

Conversation piece: Albert Pujols starts a game at third base for the first time since 2002, and does so for the good of the team. Really? Now? Guys like Brian Barden, Felipe Lopez, Pedro Feliz, Tyler Greene, Jarrett Hoffpauier and Joe Thurston have been required to play third for the club in the last few years, and now is the time to move? I don’t get it.

How much better off would the Cardinals have been in 2009 if, when Troy Glaus was ready, they would have played Pujols at third and Glaus at first? Brett Wallace is hitting .333 with a .410 on-base percentage, and was traded because there was no way he could ever play first base (not that I’d take the Matt Holliday deal back). All of the statements, all of the reasons for not moving Pujols to third over the years look disingenuous now. Granted, Pujols has a bad elbow, and it may feel good now. But he was moved to first because that elbow could blow out at any time. And now, in the last year of his contract, the Cardinals acquiesce and move him to third base? Amazing.

Conversation piece: The Cincinnati Reds are worried about Aroldis Chapman. After turning in 12 straight scoreless outings to start the season, Chapman has allowed runs in each of his past four games and has been charged with nine earned runs and 12 walks. Twice, he could not retire a batter.

What do the Reds do? Place him on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Reds team doctor Tim Kremcheck diagnosed the issue after Chapman almost blew a seven-run lead against the Cardinals on Saturday. The diagnosis came without benefit of an MRI. The Reds were able to “make” him hurt. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told that, “We’ll let him settle it down a little bit and give Bryan (Price, the Reds’ pitching coach) an opportunity to keep working with him when he gets better. We’ll get him on a rehab assignment, then get him back.”

What a great idea. A struggling pitcher, but you think there might be something there to work with, so you come up some inflammation or a pulled muscle … something. The Cardinals have the same problem with Ryan Franklin. In 12 outings, Franklin has allowed at least a hit in each, and at least one run in 10 of the 12. When lefty Brian Tallet is ready to return from the disabled list next week, it just makes sense for the Cardinals to do what Jocketty and the Reds did with Chapman. Come up with an injury, let him settle down a little bit, let him work with pitching coach Dave Duncan and get him out on a rehab assignment. I know the Cardinals are creative enough to do this. It’s the only logical move to make in the bullpen when Tallet returns.

Conversation piece: The Eighth U.S. circuit court of appeals, based here in St. Louis, not only grants the NFL a permanent stay in their quest to keep their players locked out, but strongly hints that they’ll side with the owners when arguments are heard here on June 3. Several things really stand out, including this: “In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court (Judge Susan Richard Nelson in Minnesota) had the jurisdiction to enjoin the League’s lockout, and accordingly conclude that the League has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits.”

There was a report Monday night of progress being made in forced mediation between players and owners, but that report was summarily shot down. There seems little chance of any real progress being made until mid-July, at the earliest, after the appeals court makes its ruling. Sure, the owners want to believe that they have the upper hand in this situation. But why should the players, after everything they’ve done so far, take a ruling on a stay seriously? The NFLPA should play out the string, because they aren’t going to get any worse of a deal if they lose the NFL’s appeal than they would right now.

It is interesting that several knowledgeable people suggested that getting to the Eighth Circuit was the owners’ plan all along, that they knew they would lose in Minnesota, and felt good about their chances in appellate court. If the owners win, there will never be better evidence that the country’s judicial system is as politicized and polarized as the rest of society.

Conversation piece: You hate LeBron James and the fact that he, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade decided to form in triumvirate in Miami. Well, the NBA loves it. The Heat’s loss to Chicago on TNT Sunday night drew the highest cable rating of any NBA game ever, generating a 6.2 rating and 11.1 million viewers.

If James were playing in Cleveland under the same circumstances, as we have seen, the ratings wouldn’t be as high. If Wade were playing this game without LeBron, even with an in-his-prime Shaquille O’Neal, TNT wouldn’t enjoy such success. Americans love to have teams to hate, titans like the Yankees, Cowboys, Celtics, Lakers, Duke basketball and Notre Dame football. The Heat have reached that level, and for that the NBA is saying “Thank You.” If this series goes seven games, the ratings may challenge the best we ever saw from Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams. That’s how must-see LeBron and his mates are.