WHAT WAS UP WITH THE BLUES EARLY IN THE SEASON?
QUESTION: How do you explain the Blues’ lackluster play to begin the season? Speaking less in terms of strategy and more in terms of energy. Even after Yeo was fired, there were games in which the team just seemed disinterested. Any theories as to where that energy was back then?
GORDO: The players keep saying they just needed time to jell on the ice and off of it. It didn’t help that Yeo constantly shuffled his mix while desperately trying to win from game to game. But there was no good reason for the team to be that bad. The talent was there.
Credit Craig Berube for pulling the group together. He simplified the tactics, but the biggest achievement was getting guys to pull together. The Chief does not play games with players. The Chief will break it down for you in 20 words or less with a firm, direct delivery.
WILL THEY BRING BACK BERUBE?
QUESTION: What are the odds on Berube being brought back? What’s the biggest change he brought that turned around this team?
GORDO: He has to come back at this point, right? 100 percent. This team was dead in the water. As I noted earlier this season, he brought the team together. The team atmosphere went stale, a la the Cardinals, and Berube somehow fixed that. His ability to do that without Doug Armstrong having to change up the roster speaks volumes about his leadership.
WHAT’S A WIN-WIN EXTENSION FOR GOLDSCHMIDT?
QUESTION: What would be a palatable Goldschmidt extension for both sides? 4-5 years at $25 million per?
GORDO: I believe he will need more like $30 million a year if he hits to his ability. That is high for the Cardinals, but the man will have some leverage. Just look at the money Mikolas got. Ordinary veterans are getting dinged in this market, but productive players are still getting paid.
Follow-up: How long will the deal for Goldschmidt have to be to make him feel comfortable here?
GORDO: I’m guessing it would five big-dollar years tacked onto the back of this season to get his attention. The Cardinals love to add option years with triggers that could make the deal even longer.
Will Goldschmidt take the sure thing from the Cardinals this season or bet on himself to get something bigger in a market that tends to punish guys in their 30s? The market is extreme, rewarding the very top guys but shunning everybody else. Goldschmidt needs to consider the frustration J.D. Martinez felt before landing in Boston.
CYNICS WEIGH IN ON CARDS’ SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK
COMMENT: Ownership better hope that they can re-sign Goldschmidt. Without him or even Ozuna in 2020, this offense is weak. Then again, as long as the sheep go through the turnstiles, DeWitt doesn’t care. Just compete for that second wildcard, good enough.
GORDO: If both Ozuna and Goldschmidt exit after this season, that would sure leave an offensive hole. So I do believe the Cardinals will spend big on Goldschmidt if wants to stick around. I don’t see the 2020 free-agent market offering the right solutions at the right price for this franchise and it’s unlikely that prospects like Nolan Gorman and Elehuris Montero would be ready to produce at a high level.
COMMENT: It makes me scratch my head when the Cards dole out millions to a pitcher over 30 and later this season they plan to do the same with a hitter over 30. Clearly for the hitter they will be paying some for what he did and not as much for what they hope he will do. What are we missing about this plan?
GORDO: The Cardinals are willing to give Goldschmidt a contract that might be a bit rich in the last year or two. Why? Because he is an elite hitter in the near term. There is value in that. Some waste at the back of a contract is a price of doing business. There is a limit to how much of that the Cardinals will accept, though, and that is why Harper did not get a 13-year offer here.
PHILS OR PADRES: WHICH TEAM MADE THE BETTER DEAL?
QUESTION: Whose deal is better from the team perspective, Machado/Padres or Harper/Phillies? I’m thinking Harper from the viewpoint of the lower AAV. And realistically, the last 3 years of that contract have to be viewed as a defacto deferred salary.
GORDO: True enough about the deferred salary point. Remember, Washington’s offer had lots of deferred money. This structure will help the Phillies buy more talent with fewer luxury tax issues — assuming there even is a luxury tax in the next collective bargaining agreement. On the other hand, Machado plays a premium position. Productive outfielders are in greater supply than productive left-side infielders.
So I vote for Manny on this one, despite the higher AAV.
Follow-up: How many 0-for-4 games this season before the toughest fans on the planet turn on the overhyped and overpaid Harper?
GORDO: Yeah, I don’t know why Harper would choose Philly for a few more bucks over San Francisco. Playing for the Giants would be a sweet gig. They are a few years from contending again, but there would be no pressure. And it’s San Francisco! Harper wanted to break Giancarlo Stanton’s record at all costs. As you note, there may be a real cost to that.
DID CARDS ADJUST THEIR APPROACH TO FREE AGENCY?
COMMENT: It seems like when I hear local media discuss the Folwer/Leake/Cecil contracts that the onus isn’t laid at Mo’s feet but it is almost a “shame on free agency” take. Should we not be concerned that the Cards have adjusted their model because they got burned in free agency? Maybe find someone who is better at identifying free agents? Fowler was a response to a lack of a name player, Leake was a response to losing out on Price and Cecil was a massive overpay.
GORDO: I don’t believe the Cardinals adjusted their model. They looked at both free agency and trades this winter. They traded for Goldschmidt and spent on Miller in free agency. They had two glaring needs and filled them both. Had they had more needs, they probably would have made another mid-level buy in free agency.
But this team has never used free agency as a team-building strategy. Free agency is for filling gaps.
REYES IN THE ROTATION?
QUESTION: How should the Cardinals rotation line up at the start of the season?
GORDO: Mikolas, Martinez, Wacha, Flaherty and Wainwright. Obviously, Martinez is now questionable for Opening Day with his chronic shoulder issue, so my next pick would be Reyes — if is he is good to go. Given the injury history with Martinez, Wacha, Wainwright and Reyes, it’s safe to say that the rotation could be fluid this season. Fortunately the Cardinals have uncommon depth there.
Follow-up: How careful will the Cardinals have to be with Reyes? Would 150-170 innings be reasonable, or a stretch?
GORDO: Good question. I imagine he will be handled with great care. In the last five seasons of pro ball, Reyes has thrown just 405 innings, with a high of 111 back in 2016. If he ends up in the bullpen, the club will have to monitor him carefully. Can he handle work on back-to-back days? Every other day? And if he sticks in the rotation, at what point will fatigue set in? Will extra days of rest be sufficient or must he skip starts with short DL stints?
Rather than set a limit on him in February, the smart approach will be watching him closely from spring training on and adjust accordingly.
WHAT DOES KIMBREL WANT?
QUESTION: What is Craig Kimbrel’s agent hoping will ultimately materialize at this late juncture? What teams (Cardinals?) might be involved?
GORDO: That camp still wants a long-term deal. Teams seem interested in just a one-year offer at this time. There is a lot of risk in a short-term deal for a reliever with that sort of mileage on him. Kimbrel was seeking $100 million over six years when the market opened. The Phillies might have gone big on him had they missed on Harper, but it’s hard to see a team like the Braves and Twins going more than a few seasons for him.
This is quite a standoff. There was even talk of Kimbrel sitting out the season, but his agent shot that down.
Follow-up: Missing out on re-signing Bud Norris seems to be another mistake by the Cards’ front office. He ends up with Toronto on a minor league deal. If he makes it to the majors it’s only $3M out of pocket. Seems like he would’ve been nice insurance for the Cardinals.
GORDO: I agree that one more proven reliever would have put this team over the top heading into the season. But I would have aimed higher than Bud, who did overachieve here for most of last season.
COULD THE BLUES STILL BLOW IT?
QUESTION: A 51-year championship drought (or is it 52?) will do this to a fan, so I gotta know: Is there any way the Blues DON’T make the playoffs this year?
GORDO: Sure, a team can always collapse. The three teams out of the playoff bracket at the moment — Colorado, Arizona and Chicago — could push hard until the end. The Blackhawks just got Corey Crawford back and that could be huge.
But the Blues do play a favorable schedule, loaded with games against teams currently out of the postseason field. I believe they have a better chance of winning the division than missing the playoffs.
Follow-up: How are you feeling about the Blues chances over the next 2-4 years? Trending up or down?
GORDO: This season and next should be fine, since Pietrangelo and Schenn each have a year left on their deal. After that the salary projections get more challenging. If Binnington is legit, that helps a great deal. The Blues would only need to make minor changes with Sundqvist, Barbashev, Thomas, Kyrou, Blais, MacEachern, et al, coming along to fill bigger roles. The Blues could feature a nice mix of young guys and veterans for some time.
THOSE ‘JERKS’ FROM CAROLINA
QUESTION: Your thoughts about Carolina players behaving like NFL players with their dance routines?
GORDO: I’m an old get-off-my-lawn guy. I don’t like it. How would Garth Butcher respond to the Canes rubbing in a victory with a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” on the ice postgame? Not well, I’m guessing. But the days of blood grudges and cheapjack goon tactics are long gone from the NHL. Today’s players don’t mind seeing the other side carrying on like so many Cub Scouts in their den mother’s basement.
Follow-up: Veteran hockey analyst Don Cherry calls the Hurricanes a “bunch of jerks” for their shenanigans. Is he right on the money, or is he just an insufferable blow-hard?
GORDO: Don Cherry calling the Canes “jerks”, which was a little much. But if I was a team captain in the NHL, I would tell my owner that my team will never celebrate postgame by carrying on like 11-year-olds on a sugar high. If the team needs a postgame skit to sell tickets, that’s why the mascot and the ice girls are on the payroll. If the owner wants a captain to lead postgame skits, then he should ask somebody else in the room to wear the “C.”
TRAFFIC JAM ON BLUES’ ROSTER NEXT SEASON?
QUESTION: The Blues seem to have quite a bit of forward depth with more young guys on the way. How might next year’s forward group shake out? Maroon likely not back and opens a spot, anyone else maybe not back? Who seems to be “locks” for next year? What young guys (Kyrou?) might they want to open a spot for?
GORDO: Kyrou is too talented to trap in the AHL next season, so it gets interesting. The Blues love what Maroon brings to the chemistry here, but there is some crowding as you note. Zach Sanford has slipped a bit lately, but he is still developing. MacEachern has made a case for himself, but can he keep it up? Blais has earned a spot here and yet he has to ride the San Antonio shuttle. Giving up on Fabbri might be a mistake. The NHL is a skating league and he is showing flashes of his old self.
There will be some decisions to make here. Perhaps the Blues will convert some of his surplus into draft picks this summer while restocking. But there are no obvious calls to make with this group.
QUESTION: What sporting event, season, and/or team which your covered do you look back on with the fondest memories?
GORDO: The ’99 Rams were an all-timer. Unheralded team wins it all — you can’t beat that. There was crummy weather in Atlanta that week, but the Super Bowl was great.
Most fun ever: ’01 Rams in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Great week and another great game, albeit not the outcome fans here wanted.
Villanova beating Georgetown might be the single greatest game I covered. Crazy upset. And the David Freese Game in the World Series . . . one pitch away from defeat twice and the Cardinals win. Epic stuff. I was doing the live chat during that game for STLtoday and let’s just say the mood shifted a few times.
Follow-up: How many of the other NHL arenas have you been to? Favorite or suggested arenas fans should look at seeing?
GORDO: In the old 21-team days I was at 100 percent. The memories! Maple Leaf Gardens, Le Colissee, Montreal Forum, Chicago Stadium . . . those were the great stops. I haven’t been to many of the new ones, but for Barclay’s Center (ugh) in Brooklyn, revamped Madison Square Garden (good), and XCel Energy Center (excellent) in St. Paul. Today I would put Vegas on the bucket list for the fun factor and Toronto and Montreal on the list for the history.