Cards News & Notes
Jason LaRue is retiring. Sadly, he didn’t get to hang ‘em up on his own terms. LaRue’s career ended when Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked him in the face during the Cards-Reds brawl August 10. The 36-year-old knows he was close to the end, but it’s still disappointing that the end had to come this way. The painful decision was a simple one for the Cards backup catcher. He suffered a severe concussion that made watching TV and driving impossible for a while. He had to leave the team to get help from his family at his San Antonio home. Joe Strauss outlines LaRue’s story from August to his decision Sunday.
“Riding in a car going to the doctors I’d have to close my eyes,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest things in the world to explain. You don’t feel right. It’s been a little more than a month since it happened and I’m finally starting to feel more normal.”
LaRue and his wife Heather have three young sons who often romped through the Cardinals post-game clubhouse. They frequently followed the team to road series, adding to a sense of family that made LaRue so fond of playing for the franchise.
“They’re the most important thing to me,” he says. “I’m not going to play the game and get brain-damaged just because I want to play. The game has treated me right. I don’t have to work again.”
“I’m 36. At this age, you know every year can be your last year,” LaRue says. “From Day One I played like it was going to be my last when I walked on the field. I surpassed all my goals playing 11 years. Did I think it might be my last even before what happened? Absolutely. You never really know. But I know now.”
“I was going to retire on my own terms,” LaRue says. “It’s unfortunate that the blow that decided it came from someone kicking me in the head with spikes. I wouldn’t say I would change things if you could rewrite history. They say things happen for certain reasons. In this case, I couldn’t tell you why. Does it suck that my career is over because Johnny Cueto started kicking me in the head? Yes, it sucks.
“I expected to walk away when I felt it was right. The bottom line: it’s unfortunate.”
LaRue is a class act and did a great job for St. Louis. He was respected by his teammates and handled the pitching staff well. It’s hard not to like guys like him who battle for everything they get and earn their keep based on smarts rather than talent.
Tony La Russa has to be out of his mind. While the Cardinals play out the string, the skipper is talking about big plans for next year. Even though this team has been almost no threat on the basepaths, he thinks three to four players can steal 30 bases next year. Some even higher. These players make up the same team that currently doesn’t have a player with more than 15 steals. Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene were among the speedsters who would make a difference next year. The only problem is they aren’t exactly hitting machines. You have to be on base to steal and it’s hard to see them on base enough to get 30.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt to try the an aggressive style of ball next year. The Cards need a jolt of life. Maybe some Whiteyball or at least something close to it will bring life back to St. Louis.
Adam Wainwright is still firing and he still has something worth shooting for. The Cardinals may be dead in the standings, but Wainwright has plenty of incentive to pitch well in the final two weeks. He has 19 wins on the year. That means he only needs one more to get 20 — the benchmark for greatness in a single season. Last season, he finished with 19 wins and a close finish in the Cy Young race. This year, he wants 20. He has been special all year. No. 20 would just commemorate his run of dominance.
Keep an eye on Daniel Descalso during these final weeks of the season. He could be the future second baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals. Descalso is considered the most major league ready position prospect in the Cards system. He is getting his first taste of the big leagues along with first baseman Mark Hamilton. Both were in Triple-A Memphis which lost in the Pacific Coast League championship. Descalso hit .282 with nine home runs and 71 RBIs this year. He could replace Skip Schumaker who has had an up-and-down year. Hamilton has some power, but with Albert Pujols manning first base, it’s tough to see him fitting into St. Louis’ plans. He batted .298 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs.
The Muckdogs agreed to a two-year deal to continue their affiliation with the Cardinals. The Cards Single-A short season club currently calls Batavia, NY, home but that could change depending on team ownership during the deal. For now, Central New York gets more minor league baseball and the Cardinals have their minor league system set.