What would Whitey La Russa do ?


Or Tony Herzog, if you prefer.

When it was announced that Matt Holliday had an appendicitis, the Cardinals offense took a huge blow. Since it happened on April 1, it took a while before we were willing to believe this was not the best orchestrated April Fool prank ever played on the sporting community. But apparently, it is true and the Cardinals will be without their cleanup slugger for a while. How long is not yet known, but it is hard to believe that any abdominal surgery won’t sideline the big guy for at least a couple of weeks.

That means that Matt Holliday will likely be going on the 15 day disabled list. It also means that Tony La Russa and John Mozeliak get to make a roster move.

We already know what Tony La Russa will do. When the sun rises, he calls up a pitcher from Memphis. When the sun sets, he calls up another pitcher. If it rains, a pitcher. If it doesn’t rain – I think you get the picture.

Prepare yourself. Fernando Salas is already on I-55 heading north.

But what would happen if we could borrow Seth Brundle’s (The Fly) teleportation machine and throw Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa in there together ? We would get an interesting fusion of Herzog’s old-school baseball tactics to go with La Russa’s spreadsheets and actuarial tables. What would Whitey La Russa do ?

Roster Moves

The current state of the 40 man roster (being full) severely limits what the front office can do. If they want to bring up a player not on the 40 man roster, he will have to be added, thus exposing one of the other prospects to the waiver process. The only non-active player that the Cardinals could affort to put through that process is the only one they won’t: Pete Kozma.

So Cardinals fans, there goes Matt Carpenter and Nick Stavinoha. Of the two, Stavinoha would have been the better choice. He is a right handed hitter and has faced major league pitching. As much as we enjoyed the show that Matt Carpenter put on in Jupiter, the best place for him is in Memphis, playing every day.

Unless the San Diego Padres are going to give Ryan Ludwick back, the remaining choices on the 40 man roster are Mark Hamilton, Zack Cox, Adron Chambers, Stephen Hill and Bryan Anderson. Guess what, every single one of those is a left handed batter. The Cardinals need another left handed hitter about as much as they need another emergency appendectomy.

If it had been Albert Pujols that went down, Mark Hamilton might be a consideration, but not as an outfielder.

The only reasonable conclusion is for John Mozeliak to recall Fernando Salas. He was going to do this anyway, prior to the Cardinals setting out on a long road trip. All this does is keep Daniel Descalso with the big club a little bit longer.

Who plays left field ?

This is even easier than figuring out who takes Matt Holliday’s spot on the activer roster. When we were about 10 years old, we would put the weakest defender in right field. In the big leagues, the rule of thumb is the exact opposite. Not only do you face some impressive left handed batters that can turn on a pitch, right handers in the big leagues can actually hit the ball to the opposite field. More important is the distance of the throw from right field to third base – you actually put your best arm in right field.

Of the outfielders on the roster, the weakest arm would be Lance Berkman. Throw in that he has played more games in left field than right, and he was somewhat of a ghost in spring training, Berkman should be moved to left field.

The best outfield arm on the roster is probably Skip Schumaker. Whitey La Russa would have absolutely no problem putting Schumaker in right field and Daniel Descalso at second base, perhaps platooning with Allen Craig against left handed pitchers. Tony La Russa will not do that, so expect to see Jon Jay and Allen Craig platoon in left field, instead of right – but we can hope.

The Batting Order

All that remains is to fill out the first lineup card in the post-Holliday’s-appendix era. Realizing that Matt Holliday cannot be replaced, Whitey La Russa will quickly figure out some new ways to generate offense, other than standing on base waiting for the three run homer.

Here is Whitey La Russa’s lineup card

Ryan Theriot – ss

Colby Rasmus – cf

Lance Berkman – lf

Albert Pujols – 1b

David Freese – 3b

Jon Jay/Allen Craig – rf

Yadier Molina – c

Skip Schumaker – 2b

Jake Westbrook – p

There is no way that Tony La Russa will move Albert Pujols down to cleanup. That’s unfortunate because this is only for 2 or 3 weeks, and that would give him more RBI chances with Berkman ahead of him than behind. Plus it will give Berkman more pitches to hit.

The other thing that Whitey La Russa will do (that Tony won’t) is to use the running game. There is nobody in the Cardinals system that can singlehandedly produce the offense that Holliday has, so why try. Instead, find other ways to generate offense. Hit and run with abandon. Turn some of the young legs loose to get into scoring position by stealing a base.

We will know in a couple of hours what Tony La Russa will do. For the next two weeks, I sort of wish Whitey La Russa really existed.

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