When can we let go of Colby Rasmus?
I'm so tired of hearing the national "experts" rip the Cardinals for the deal that sent the centerfielder to Toronto for trade deadline help. To hear the way those guys spin it, the Cardinals have promised to disburse all their players to the other teams in the National League Central at the end of the season in return for the next Babe Ruth.
The reality is that they gave up ONE malcontented player that would have been on the Cardinals major league roster in 2012. And they had an in-house replacement ready to go to fill his position. The Redbirds' task of putting a team on the field for 2012 isn't one iota more difficult now than it was a week ago. In fact, if 25-year-old lefty reliever Marc Rzepczinski returns to the starting rotation and finds success while Rasmus continues to play indifferent outfield and bat .240 for the Blue Jays they might have to reconsider who won this trade.
The Cardinals knew last season when Rasmus demanded to be traded because his manager -- gasp -- told him what to do and how to play that Rasmus wasn't going to be the granite on which they laid the foundation of the future Cardinals. He wasn't going to be the centerpiece of this club in 2015, much less 2012.
General Manager John Mozeliak said Sunday night on national television that he is still hopeful that the Birds will be able to sign Albert Pujols to a contract extension and that the club plans to do everything it can to make that a reality. But even if Pujols doesn't come back, Rasmus wasn't going to be the big man on campus. When it comes to leading by example on the field, that job would belong to the $17 million a year, 300 hitting guy who mans left field, Matt Holliday. If you want to talk about the leader in the clubhouse... the Rah, rah guy who makes lets win one for the Gipper speeches, that's Yadi Molina.
Does anyone really believe that Colby Rasmus even has a clue who the Gipper was?
Even if Rasmus goes on to have great success somewhere else, that doesn't mean he ever would have had it here. I've said it a million times before, the guy is an overgrown high school baseball player. When he was a kid, he was better than all the other players. He never had to worry about learning to hit situationally or throw to the right base. He just relied on his natural abilities to sock impressive homers. Now that he's in the big leagues, he doesn't know how to play the game the way it is supposed to be played. And, more importantly, he doesn't want to learn.
I don't fault Tony La Russa for being too mean to Rasmus. I think he tried to be strict with the kid early on in his major league career and Colby crumbled. He always protected him through the mistakes and explained it away in post game press conferences. If I was manager it would have been a lot tougher for Colby. If I was skipper during the game in Colorado where Rasmus stood still and watched a ball he presumed was going to be a homer fly over his head and bounce off the outfield wall, I would have called timeout and taken him out of the game in front of 40,000 people.
It wouldn't have been the first time he brushed it off when someone got on him about being lazy or stupid. During the first week of the season there was a ball hit toward right center. Lance Berkman and his 35-year-old legs ran twice as far as Colby would have had to go to get the ball. When Berkman threw the ball in he said something to Rasmus in a terse tone. Rasmus turned his palms skyward and shrugged his shoulders in response. And then Berkman really laid into him.
It doesn't matter how many homers Rasmus hits or if he can raise his batting average from .245 to .300. He's a negative in the calculus of putting together a ball team if he gives up more runs than he creates. And it's devastating to see a guy like Rasmus climb the team hierarchy because of seniority.
Imagine that Albert Pujols leaves and Matt Holliday starts to slow as Rasmus becomes a 28-29 year old player. Young kids come up to fill the holes in the roster and they see the team's highest paid, highest profile player refuse to listen to coaches, loaf in the outfield and show up late to meetings. What does that do for the composition of your club.
If the Cardinals really want to build from within, they needed more than for any other reason to get rid of Rasmus to make sure the kids learn to do things the Cardinals way, not the Rasmus way.