On June 30th, Mark Mulder made his triumphant return to the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals. Unlike the previous 202 major league appearances in his career, this one was as a reliever, tossing a scoreless inning in closing out a 7-1 victory over the New York Mets.
Two days later, Mulder pitched again. This time it ended with different results, yielding two runs on as many hits while recording only one out. Technically speaking, it was also a blown save – albeit in the seventh inning. But the Cardinals rallied to win the game 8-7 over the same Mets.
On the basis of these two superlative outings, Mulder will be handed the ball as the starter for tonight’s contest against the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since a triumvirate of trouncings late in the 2007 campaign.
See you later, Mitchell Boggs. And please, take your 3-0 record and your 95-plus mile per hour fastball with movement with you.
Once again, it’s Mulder time. Yes sir, I know I’m convinced. Third year’s a charm. In fact, I’m so pumped I think I’m going to run out and buy an authentic, $400 Mulder jersey from the Cardinals Team Store over my lunch hour. Coincidentally, nothing says “I’m an idiot” like spending more money on a baseball jersey than you did for your last suit.
On second thought, perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to get excited. You know how the old saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 642 times, shame on me for thinking this will be the time Mark Mulder comes back and pitches like he did for the Oakland A’s.
In fact, let’s just put it on the record now (even though I’ve said this as far back as the 2006 offseason). If you have small children, you may want them to leave the room. Because on this, the day of Mark Mulder’s return to the starting rotation, what I’m about to say my shock and disturb you. I know I’m going to go way out on a limb here, but…
Mark Mulder will never again pitch effectively as a starter for the St. Louis Cardinals.
There, I said it. Not that this is some big prediction. It doesn’t take Miss Cleo or one of Dionne Warwick’s pals to figure this stuff out. It’s like predicting Coldplay will never record a song that isn’t totally gay.
Let’s face it, the guy hasn’t been right since the second half of the 2004 season. I’ve long contended that the Oakland Athletics knew they were dealing damaged goods in exchange for reliever Kiko Calero, prospect Daric Barton, and soon-to-be standout ace and perennial All-Star Dan Haren. Can’t prove it, but I can speculate all day long.
And let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not like Mulder’s been tearing it up during his minor league rehab stint. He went unbeaten in rehab starts at Class AA or lower, but in Class AAA starts he was 0-3 with 20 earned runs and 28 hits in 13 1/3 innings.
If that impressed Tony La Russa enough to give Mulder a shot at the rotation, perhaps Mitchell Boggs should try his Max Patkin routine. Maybe he could repeatedly toss the ball into the stands. Or maybe he could try jumping on the dugout and barking at the on deck batter like a basset hound. Those are all about as good as giving up 20 runs in 13 innings.
In any event, whether or not the Cardinals got swindled by Billy Beane and Co. is really not the issue here. This article is not about criticizing a bad trade, other than how it relates to Tony La Russa’s willingness to do anything and everything to avoid putting a good young pitcher (Haren) in the rotation and trust his talent more than the amount of ink on the back of his baseball card.
Everyone makes a bad trade now and then. Even with this colossal stinker, former Cards GM Walt Jocketty’s good-trade, bad-trade ratio was still about 9-1.
This isn’t even about how we’ve paid Mulder close to 11 million dollars since 2006 to basically nothing. If Mulder repeats his 2007 performance this year, the Cardinals will have paid him a grand total of nearly 20 million dollars. In return, Mulder will have won as many games as…well, me.
Dear Bill DeWitt, as long as you’re comfortable forking over mountains of cash to guys with absolutely nothing left in the tank, how about giving me a shot? I don’t even require much in the way of compensation. In fact, if you want, you can just pay me in used ballpark toilets. I hear those are quite valuable. And don’t wash it either. I want it to be “authentic”, just like my $400 Mulder jersey.
Instead, this is about how not simply owning up and admitting you got hoodwinked has hurt the ballclub for the past two years. Mulder was a free agent after a pathetic 2006 and we signed him to another supposedly incentive-laden deal anyway. At least that’s what we were told.
My question is, what “incentives” did Mulder reach during a 2007 campaign that saw him get walloped to the tune of 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA in three starts spanning 11 innings. For that, the Cardinals paid him $4.5 million?
Come on. Just admit it you got swindled, admit your mistake, stop trying to resurrect a rotting dead horse and let’s all move on with our lives. If the Cardinals are to get anything out of this deal, it would be that La Russa would learn from this. A veteran pitcher is NOT ALWAYS better than a young one with loads of talent and potential.
In fact, given how ridiculous the market for pitching has become in recent years, I’m inclined to believe that most franchises not named the Yankees or Red Sox are better off raising the majority of their own pitching through the farm system.
Unless you think giving multi-year deals totaling tens of millions of dollars to .500 pitchers with 5.00 ERA’s that will likely require arm surgery at some point during the life of the guaranteed contract is a sound financial practice.
In this day and age, it sure seems like most franchises are better off getting the bulk of their pitching by drafting and developing. Free agency can be used primarily for acquiring everyday position players in order to fill glaring needs. With everyday players, you have a better chance of getting what you pay for.
Everyday players just don’t get hurt as often as pitchers, who are always one twinge of the elbow away from a two-year stint on the disabled list.
Just ask Chris Carpenter and Matt Clement, both of whom will be lucky to make it as far as Mulder has this season.