Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed LHP Mike Hampton, and assigned him to Reno (Triple-A). [8/21]
Released INF-R Bobby Crosby; recalled UT-R Ryan Roberts from Reno. [8/24]
Activated RHP Leo Rosales from the 60-day DL; recalled RHP Carlos Rosa, 1B-L Brandon Allen, and INF-S Tony Abreu from Reno. [9/1]
Purchased the contract of LHP Mike Hampton and recalled LHP Zach Kroenke from Reno. [9/3]
Recalled OF-R Cole Gillsepie from Reno. [9/7]
Designated RHP Cesar Valdez for assignment; purchased the contract of C-R Konrad Schmidt from Mobile (Double-A). [9/13]
Outrighted RHP Cesar Valdez to Reno. [9/16]

Obvious Good Move:
You want a good move from a team that is giving Mike Hampton a last chance? It used to be that this sort of desperate effort to hang on was the butt of jokes in venues as obvious as Tank McNamara, when it made light of Steve Carlton‘s unwillingness to give up 25 years ago. OK, let’s see… how about cutting Bobby Crosby? I figure a few A’s fans might get a contact high from that.

Non-Obvious Good Move:
Replacing Crosby with Roberts. Not that there’s any kind of impending greatness in the former Blue Jay organizational soldier, but he’s not a complete joke at the plate, and he renewed his emergency catcher’s license with a couple of appearances behind the plate with the Aces, giving him almost the complete Swiss-army knife’s set of skills for a super-utilityman (he’s short of a permission to play center, having last played there in 2007).

Calling up Allen. You might consider the failure to deal Adam LaRoche as one of the notable non-accomplishments of the DiPoto interregnum before Kevin Towers’ arrival as the new GM, but enthusiasm for Allen’s prospect status should definitely be set at “indifferent” after he hit just .261/.405/.528 in the PCL, even with the benefit of one of the world’s best hitter’s parks. He’ll only be 25 next season, and it’s hard not to like a kid who walks in 17 percent of his plate appearances, but the standard for adequacy at first base is high, perhaps too high for Allen to easily reach. An attempt to check out his adaptability in left field suggests he’s going to be in the PCL for a long time, but there’s always the chance that LaRoche’s option doesn’t get picked up, and the Snakes employ Allen because going without a first baseman would betray a lack of seriousness.

What About the Children?
I suppose we could cite Schmidt here, because if he doesn’t have a future as Germany’s chancellor, somebody’s going to have to wind up as Miguel Montero‘s caddy, and why not an undrafted free agent who has been knocking around the organization since 2007? Unfortunately, he’s already 26 years old, and this season’s “success” at Double-A involved his generating walks in five percent of his PAs, and he committed 12 throwing errors in just 89 games behind the plate. Zach Kroenke might stick around as a situational lefty after shutting southpaws down by limiting them to .188/.255/.297 at Reno; arguing against that kind of dominance was his striking out just 15 percent of them.

Kevin Towers has got a big job ahead of him, so his deal, running through 2012 with consecutive club options for two-year terms after that initial stretch seems a bit strange-unless it’s about allowing him the freedom to get away as soon as he might like.

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Designated LHP Randy Flores for assignment; recalled MI-S Jonathan Herrera from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [8/20]
Released RF-L Brad Hawpe. [8/24]
Noted to loss of LHP Randy Flores on a waiver claim by the Twins. [8/25]
Outrighted LHP Greg Smith to Colorado Springs; signed RHP Luis Ayala, and assigned him to Colorado Springs; recalled LHP Franklin Morales from Colorado Springs. [8/26]
Placed RHP Manny Corpas on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 8/26; recalled RHP Samuel Deduno from Colorado Springs; placed MI-R Clint Barmes on the Bereavement Leave List. [8/27]
Placed 3B-L Ian Stewart on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to 8/26; activated MI-R Clint Barmes from the Bereavement Leave List. [8/30]
Acquired RHP Manny Delcarmen from the Red Sox for RHP Chris Balcom-Miller. [8/31]
Activated RHP Taylor Buchholz from the 15-day DL; recalled INF-R Chris Nelson from Colorado Springs. [9/1]
Activated RHP Aaron Cook from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Activated RHP Matt Daley from the 60-day DL; recalled C-R Michael McKenry from Colorado Springs. [9/6]
Designated RHP Taylor Buchholz for assignment; purchased the contracts of C-R Paul Phillips and OF-R Jay Payton from Colorado Springs; recalled RHP Edgmer Escalona from Colorado Springs. [9/7]
Noted the loss of RHP Taylor Buchholz to the Blue Jays on a waiver claim. [9/9]
Activated LHP Jeff Francis from the 15-day DL. [9/12]
Placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day DL (fractured fibula), retroactive to 9/9; acquired RHP Octavio Dotel from the Dodgers for a PTBNL; transferred RHP Manuel Corpas from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/18]
Activated 3B-L Ian Stewart from the 15-day DL. [9/23]

Obvious Good Move:
Putting Jhoulys Chacin back in the rotation when Francis broke down, and leaving him there once Francis came back. The rotation picture for 2011 was interesting enough before his arrival, with Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Jason Hammel under control, Jorge De La Rosa bound for free agency, and Francis available via a somewhat pricey club option. Will they punt on Francis and gun for De La Rosa, counting on Chacin to fill the last slot? Shopping Cook doesn’t seem likely to deliver much success-he’ll get a raise if he’s dealt, and his value’s down after an injury-marred campaign. That, and discarding Greg Smith-I think Kevin Goldstein beat everyone else to the punch with the observation that he’d just had the best season he’d ever have back in 2008.

Non-Obvious Good Move:
Credit their giving Eric Young Jr. a shot at second base-he hasn’t really delivered, but the Rockies already knew what they had on tap in Barmes, so credit the Rockies with not settling for another struggle with getting the veteran to post an OBP above .300. I was willing to credit the decision to trade for Delcarmen at the time, but if they don’t like what they see, they can non-tender him easily enough.

There’s a lot of middling to outright bad news on offense. Todd Helton has outhit Jason Giambi since the All-Star break, but not so well as to really say having him around is a decidedly good thing. Melvin Mora hit effectively enough to replace Stewart, but the defense takes a definite hit when the old Oriole’s at the hot corner. Chris Iannetta is going rotten on the bench, inviting questions over whether someone else might profit from trying to fish him off the roster.

Perhaps even more disappointing is the outfield situation. Ditching Hawpe made sense, but things haven’t gone so well in his absence. Dexter Fowler‘s demotion did not inspire better post-recall production-his OBP dropped from 15 percent in the first half to eight in the second, which from his roost in one of the top two slots in the order has been throttling offensive opportunities. Seth Smith has struggled badly enough to lose playing time not just to Ryan Spilborghs, but also to a back-from-the-dead Zombie Payton, a decision that makes you wonder whose brain he ate first. Carlos Gonzalez is merely a decent regular in center made out to be a star because of his home park.

What About the Children?
With the race going down to the wire, even as the Rockies perhaps fatally stumble, there’s not much role for most of the latest arrivals beyond witnesses and game-ending chores. The name to note here might only belong to McKenry, and even that is just an honorary notation for the former top prospect after a weak season with the Sky Sox after hitting just .265/.328/.424 overall, and an awful .188/.247/.243 (with no homers) away from his hitter-friendly home park. He did at least throw out 29 percent of opposing stolen-base attempts, but it would be fair to say that his age-25 season put a pretty significant dent in any future plans for him.

Barring another walk-on-water miracle to finish up this season’s story, it’s looking like a bittersweet season of merely being there. The frustration of seeing the free-wheeling patchwork of the Pads and Giants to earn a tri-pennant shouldn’t upset the Rockies’ formula for success-outstanding starting pitching and quality defense, with the benefit of some exceptionally multi-talented stars like CarGo and Tulo. The question is whether they can afford to keep waiting for Fowler to develop, or to let Helton moulder away like a ruin at first base, when they really could use the help on offense.

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Placed C-R Jason LaRue on the 15-day DL (concussion), retroactive to 8/4; recalled OF-R Nick Stavinoha from Memphis. [8/13]
Activated RHP Kyle Lohse from the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Fernando Salas to Memphis; transferred 3B-R David Freese from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/15]
Optioned C/1B-R Steven Hill to Memphis; activated INF-R Tyler Greene from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Memphis; recalled C-L Bryan Anderson from Memphis; transferred RHP Adam Ottavino from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/17]
Acquired 3B-R Pedro Feliz from the Astros for RHP David Carpenter; transferred C-R Jason LaRue from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/19]
Optioned OF-R Nick Stavinoha to Memphis; activated 3B-R Pedro Feliz. [8/20]
Placed LHP Dennys Reyes on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 8/16; recalled RHP Fernando Salas from Memphis. [8/24]
Activated RHP Jason Motte from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B/OF-R Allen Craig to Memphis. [8/30]
Activated LHP Dennys Reyes and RHP Jeff Suppan from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R Matt Pagnozzi and OF-R Nick Stavinoha from Memphis. [9/1]
Recalled INF-R Tyler Greene from Memphis. [9/7]
Purchased the contract of 2B-L Daniel Descalso from Memphis; recalled RHP P.J. Walters, 1B-L Mark Hamilton, 1B/OF-R Allen Craig, and OF-R Joe Mather from Memphis Redbirds; designated LHP Evan MacLane for assignment. [9/18]
Released INF-S Felipe Lopez. [9/21]
Outrighted LHP Evan MacLane to Memphis. [9/22]
Recalled C/1B-R Steven Hill from Memphis. [9/24]

The Horror, the Horror:
At the point that the Cards acquired Pedro Feliz, they were three games behind the Reds with a 65-53 record. They went 9-16 in their next 25 games with Feliz starting all but one, and were seven games out. The Reds had only gone 13-12 during that same span, but it didn’t matter-Cincinnati didn’t need to win the division, so much as watch as St. Louis lost it. That wasn’t all on Feliz, of course, since he was but another bitter fruit of a decision tree whose other offshoots determined that Jon Jay would be a good enough replacement for Ryan Ludwick, or that they could keep getting by with half-players up the middle, enduring Skip Schumaker‘s stumble-bum antics at the keystone and Brendan Ryan‘s well-intentioned flailing at the plate. If they were going to shop in the Feliz-level aisle for crummy low-end place-holders at third base, why not just roll the dice with Ruben Gotay, on the off chance he delivers value in a Glenn Gulliver-level vein as a walks-and-errors temp vs. right-handers at the hot corner? In the end, the stars-and-scrubs formula went a bit too heavy on the latter.

Obvious Good Move:
It’s a tough lot to pick from, but I’d have to lean toward their bringing up Descalso before they had to. The 2007 third-rounder out of UC Davis-how ’bout them Aggies?-isn’t going to be a star, but he managed to bounce back well enough from missing a month to a broken collarbone this summer to earn a call-up. He may not be defensively slick at second, but he’s also not Schumaker-level bad afield, he doesn’t have a platoon issue, and if they finally skip their fascination with the outfielder, they’d be making space for a classic second-base scrapper with some line-drive pop and adequate patience at the plate, reflected in his .282/.350/.421 line with Memphis.

Non-Obvious Good Move:
Getting Bryan Anderson up with LaRue’s departure, since it’s just as well to get a potentially perfect caddy for Yadier Molina squared away and working with the big-leaguers.

Kyle Lohse’s return to action provided next to nothing by way of good news. He has yet to deliver a quality start since reactivation, giving up 32 runs in 31 ⅔ IP across seven starts. His teammates helped him fall into three wins, but he’s not looking any better than before his latest breakdown.

John Law Likes Obedience to a Schedule:
Feliz may be terrible, but at least he was showing up to work on time. F-Lop’s failure to do likewise earned him his walking papers to his future a few weeks short of a full season.

What About the Children?
They’ve been beaten around the head with the regression stick when it came to Jay’s inevitable implosion, but he should hang around as a decent fourth outfield type. I’ve already brought up Descalso and Anderson; the former should get a chance to earn an everyday job, the latter should join Jay among the useful home-grown benchies.

This year’s failure boils down to an indictment of the brass’ ability to select the best second-rank supports for what might be the best quartet of ballplayers on any roster anywhere (Pujols, Holliday, Wainwright, Carpenter). Getting eight quality starts out of 10 from Jake Westbrook was nice, especially as Jaime Garcia predictably tired (the rookie’s RA/9 spiked to 5.3 per nine in his eight starts). Unfortunately, they couldn’t afford a Ludwick-sized hole in the lineup as the cost of adding that bit of reinforcement; robbing the offense to shore up the rotation enriched them very little.

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Christina, while I don't necessarily disagree with your Cardinals analysis, it should probably be pointed out that Ludwick, since the trade, has been sort of a, well, dudwick. A .227/.324/.347 line since joining San Diego is rather difficult to blame on ballpark effects, and small sample size is also not so easy to invoke when the sample size has expanded to over 200 plate appearances. The Cardinals may have seen something coming there, and cut bait before a declining Lud could bite them, rather than somebody else.
Point taken, but would he have done that if he hadn't been traded? We'll never know. That certainly wasn't what the Cards were guaranteed to get, because causation's a slippery bitch as such things go.
We'll never know, of course, but note also that the second-half collapse followed a month-long stay on the DL. I think there's some evidence here that the Cardinals knew something that the rest of us didn't.

The elephant in this room, actually, isn't the bad roster management, but rather, the fact that the Cardinals are making something of a habit out of this late-collapse thing. This is the sixth year in a row that their September record has been at .500 or below, and in 2004, while it did break .500, it wasn't nearly as good as what it had been earlier that year. In fact, in every year since 2003, their September has been clearly poorer than their season as a whole. This year's collapse was merely more severe than most, and started earlier; otherwise it's part of the pattern. That's getting beyond the ability of mere chance to explain. Want to take a shot at it?
Doug Melvin?
"the Snakes employ Allen because going without a first baseman would betray a lack of seriousness"

I don't think even Eddie Feigner tried that. But perhaps we shouldn't scoff at innovation.