MCLAUGHLIN: Cards Have A ‘Heartbeat’
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I didn’t want to write a column on a single subject. So, I thought I would write about certain topics that have caught my eye the last 24 hours. Here goes…
The Cardinals will enjoy an off day in Philadelphia and gear up for what may be the make-or-break series of the year against the Phillies. As GM John Mozeliak said to me on the way out of Pittsburgh: “We have a heartbeat.”
That “heartbeat,” I believe, will bring Tony La Russa back for at least another season with the Cardinals. His club could have folded and they didn’t and haven’t. They’ve played hard. And in many ways, that’s a reflection of La Russa and his staff: that they have gotten what they can from an injury-riddled roster. His message hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. From a 162 perspective, they are playing a “hard nine.” I think he’s back.
The return of Chris Carpenter to the Cardinals is huge for next season and the year after. He’s not only an innings-eater, but when he’s right, I’d take him against anybody in the game. Carpenter still has nasty stuff. And don’t discount what he means inside the Cardinals clubhouse. He’s as competitive a player, not just pitcher, you will find in professional sports. That means a lot. The Cardinals have many young players that respect what Carpenter has done in the game — and the fact that he’s still looked as a huge asset to the club.
Good for Carp and his family (that have developed roots in the community) that he is staying, and good for the Cardinals. Carpenter, a huge Blues fan, has season tickets for the upcoming season. I wouldn’t mess with him on skates.
As we look at next year, the rotation is set…but everything is fluid.
I may be in the minority here, but I would like to see Nick Punto back with the club. Within the last 10 days, Punto has come up with some huge at-bats. In baseball terms, the Cardinals could bring him back and do it relatively on the cheap. He gives the club a competitive at bat and his glove is superb.
The problem with this season is that Punto has been injured. If La Russa comes back, Punto is the perfect La Russa-type player. Why not offer a contract that protects the club, but will take care of Punto if he shows up to spring training healthy? He can play multiple positions and play very well defensively.
Finally, I would love to see Skip Schumaker back with the Cardinals next year and beyond. It’s been said before, but I’m not sure fans understand what the guy has done. To switch positions at the level of major league baseball is remarkable. Not only has Schumaker played second base, he’s improved with every game defensively. He’s a MAJOR leader in the clubhouse. He hits .300. NEVER complains. Believe me, there are teams that would love to have a player like that.
In many ways, it comes down to economics on whether he returns, but Schumaker understands that. And I believe that he would do what he needs to do to come back. He’s arbitration-eligible, but he understands what his role is. Schumaker is the kind of player/person you pull for. I think it can work out.
More random thoughts next week. Fingers crossed in Philly.
Dan McLaughlin, the television voice of the Cardinals, hosts “The Sports Hub” weeknights from 9p-12a on KMOX.