Tony La Russa officially set to return to the Cardinals in 2011

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa speaks to reporters before a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 13, 2010. La Russa who was given a two game suspension for his part in a bench clearing brawl during a game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati last week, will not manage the next two games.  UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom is reporting that the Cardinals have officially announced the return of manager Tony La Russa for the 2011 season. It’ll be his 16th as St. Louis’ skipper.

NBC Sports has the details:

Despite his taking some time to make an official decision La Russa’s return has been assumed for a while now and with an excellent core of Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Jaime Garcia, and Colby Rasmus the Cardinals are sure to be contenders in 2011 after disappointingly going 86-76 this season.

However, it remains to be seen if Rasmus will be around in 2011 after reportedly feuding with La Russa for much of the season. He’s one of the best young all-around players in baseball, hitting .276/.361/.498 with 23 homers in 144 games as a 23-year-old center fielder, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals think he can co-exist with the 66-year-old La Russa for another season (or maybe even two).

Assuming there is a problem between La Russa and Rasmus, the Cardinals have an interesting dilemma on their hands. If La Russa will only be around for another year, it would behoove St. Louis to keep one of their key young players. If he’s going to be a part of their future for the next two or three years, then maybe the Cards should deal Rasmus and get a piece that will help them win next year. (Or deal Rasmus for a minor leaguer that can help them down the road.)

That said, the best thing would be for La Russa and Rasmus to settle their differences so the front office isn’t forced into doing something it doesn’t want to (i.e. trading the young outfielder). The Cards are built to win now and it won’t be long before their window starts closing fast. Rasmus an help them next year.

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Report: Colby Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season

St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus makes the out against Chicago Cubs batter Aramis Ramirez during the first inning of their MLB National League baseball game in St. Louis, Missouri, August 15, 2010.  REUTERS/Sarah Conard (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Cardinals’ centerfielder Colby Rasmus requested a trade earlier this season due to frustrations with manager Tony La Russa.

The La Russa-Rasmus relationship remains a source of intrigue. During spring training Rasmus made clear the issues he confronted as a rookie. He and his father, Tony, then began a series of July hitting tutorials at a county high school that annoyed the manager. Club sources insist that Rasmus’ frustrations with La Russa led him to request a trade earlier this year and that his lengthy absence last month due to a right calf strain also resurrected concerns. The organization has long considered Rasmus untouchable in trade talks. Few dispute his talents and potential but there remains a question of toughness and willingness to accept criticism. There are those who share the same clubhouse who wonder if La Russa has “lost” Rasmus, or if Rasmus has permanently withdrawn from the taskmaster.

I’ve never understood why La Russa continues to give Rasmus as many days off as he has. Here the Cardinals are yesterday, playing the Reds in a pivotal series and Nick Stavinoha (0-for-3) is starting over Rasmus (double in the ninth as a pinch hitter). Even if Rasmus is a mental midget (I’m not saying he is – just going off the report above), he’s too talented to ride the bench as much as he does.

This is an interesting storyline in St. Louis and certainly one worth following with La Russa questionable to return next season.

2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals win this division sauced out of their minds on a nightly basis. That said, would anyone really be surprised if Carpenter’s arm falls off and the starting pitching (which is among the best in the league) suffers? It’s happened before, so if you answered “yes” to the proposed question then you sir or madam, have not been paying attention. Still, the addition of Brad Penny (who pitched well in the second half last year) will strengthen the club’s starting pitching and Kyle Lohse is a fine middle of the rotation guy. Pujols and Holliday will ignite the offense again, although Colby Rasmus might be the key to whether or not this team makes a serious World Series run. Skip Schumaker is a solid table setter, but how Rasmus fairs hitting in front of Pujols and Holliday could be the difference between the Cards winning the NL Central again and playing for a championship. David Freese better produce too or else the club will regret not acquiring a veteran third baseman in the offseason. All in all, the Cardinals are the best the NL Central has to offer and should make another postseason appearance this season. But how far they go beyond that depends on whether or not Carpenter and Wainwright can continue their magic and if Pujols and Holliday receive help from the rest of the lineup.

Read the rest of this entry »’s MLB 2009 midseason awards

Jon Heyman of hands out his 2009 midseason awards as baseball’s All-State Game approaches.

1. Joe Mauer, Twins. Looks like it’ll be three times for an AL catcher winning a batting title, with the previous two winners also being Mauer. Superb pick by former GM Terry Ryan and those great Twins scouts taking Mauer over the higher-priced Mark Prior. Terrific defender. On a level by himself.

1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. No contest here. His numbers (33, 82, .336) are crazy, even for him. The absolute best.

AL Cy Young
1. Zack Greinke, Royals. He doesn’t have that sub-Gibby ERA anymore (now there’s an breakable record), but he has generally been the best pitcher in the league. How else to win 10 games with that offense?

NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecum, Giants. What happened to that slow start? He’s 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 141 strikeouts. The Giants have to get off their duff and try to lock this guy up.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays. Toronto was ripped for taking the left-hander a spot ahead of Troy Tulowitzki, but he’s 6-3 with 2.85 ERA.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Colby Rasmus, Cardinals. After a poor spring he’s showing the talent that everyone saw in him last spring (10, 32, .282).

You can check out the rest of Heyman’s awards here.

Heyman’s awards are littered with young players, which is great for the game of baseball as it tries to shed its steroid image. Players like Mauer, Greinke and Lincecum (just to name a few) are helping turn around baseball and make the game fun to watch again. It seems like more teams are playing small ball these days and it’s making for tighter games and more exciting finishes.

Baseball seems fun again.

2009 MLB Preview: #13 St. Louis Cardinals

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Offseason Movement: The biggest move the Cardinals made this offseason was acquiring former Padres’ shortstop Khalil Greene, who the club hopes will bring a little pop to the lineup. St. Louis also added pitchers Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes, the latter of which posted a 2.23 ERA in 46 1/3 innings last season in Minnesota.

Top Prospect: Colby Rasmus, OF
Rasmus isn’t just the Cardinals’ top prospect – he’s one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Although St. Louis is expected to go with Chris Duncan as their starting left fielder, Rasmus’ potential is going to force him onto the field in 2009. The 22-year old isn’t expected to produce a high average right away, but he flashes good power and speed, while his defense is above average as well. Rasmus is a stud prospect and could become a household name in the next couple years.

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