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Not for the squeamish

Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 8:32 AM


Welcome to the first edition of the Balls & Strikes Mailbag.

Q. We've seen a lot of changes this year to the Cardinals with Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan and Albert Pujols leaving, which loss is going to have the biggest impact on the 2012 squad? - James F.

A. This is a question I really struggled with even before we knew Duncan was hanging up his cleats. While the lost of Albert should not be underestimated, personally, I think it's the easiest move to compensate for. The team has done a good job in retaining Berkman and bringing in Carlos Beltran who, assuming they both remain healthy, should bring the team near where it was offensively in 2012 when Albert had his career lowest (still great, just not for him) season. What isn't made up for offensively, will hopefully come back from the pitching mound with the return of Adam Wainwright from Tommy John surgery.

The loss of Duncan will likely be felt in terms of the presence and his ability to re-juvenate a worn-out arm nearing the end of its career. Liliquist, on the other hand, is a coach accustomed to young pitchers after working in the minor leagues for some time and young pitching is something the Cardinals farm system has a lot of. Expect to see more of what he can do over the next two seasons as guys like Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez make their way to the majors.

I know I'll get hate mail, but the biggest loss, or at least x-factor, is with the loss of LaRussa. Losing a Hall of Fame caliber manager will always be felt. The entire style of play for the team will change. Even veterans on the team will likely be affected by that change of style. I'm not saying any of this will be bad, but it's the x-factor. We just don't know.

With no prior managing experience for comparison, we don't know what kind of ball Matheny will want to play. He's spent an extensive amount of time with Whitey Herzog and the interest in Tyler Greene leads me to believe maybe Matheny wants some speed on the bench. Ask me this again in June.

Q. Will Yadier Molina leave the Cardinals when he becomes a free agent next year since his close friend Albert did this year? - Bob L.

A. What road Yadi takes in the future is definitely a mystery. Yes, he and Albert are extremely close, but with practically his whole family in the majors, Yadi knows this is a business.

The real issue is, if Yadi goes into free agency will the Cardinals sign him anyway? My guess on this one is no. On the free agent market, he's going to bring big bucks - especially for a 30-year-old catcher. As much as I like Yadi and appreciate all he has done for the club, I can't see the Cardinals paying him the $12-15 he could get on the market.

A lot of that, though, will depend on his performance this year. If he can throw up offensive numbers similar to last year and still seems healthy (knees, etc.), then they might be willing to go higher than I anticipate. While some catchers play deep into their 30s, that's the exception, not the rule. Should we expect that from Yadi? He hasn't given us a reason not to. However, I still expect the Cardinals to be conservative in their efforts to retain him.

Now, with all of that said, I don't think he will leave specifically because he feels Albert got a bum deal from the team, but it's still possible he could leave, but there's only one person who can answer either of those questions and that is Yadi himself.


I decided I would throw this completely unrelated news tidbit in today's mailbag just for fun. You should beware however, because it is not for the squeamish.

As if Cardinals fans haven't had enough adjustments this offseason, next Wednesday there will be another one.

When Topps 2012 Series 1 line drops on Feb. 1, it will have a card it in that could be hard for Cardinals fans to look at.

That card, the first of Albert Pujols in an Angels jersey, was actually leaked online yesterday and shown by CNBC Sports. The card shows Albert catching a ball at first base in Kansas City. Presumably, since he has never played a game as a member of the Angels, what you are actually looking at is a well-photoshopped Cardinals jersey.

The picture is posted on the blog link for today's column.


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either email cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

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Who is this Albert you speak of? I know no Albert.

-- Posted by bluejay_fan_natic20 on Wed, Jan 25, 2012, at 7:23 PM

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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