The Screwing Of Schumaker
During the Winter Meetings, Cardinal fans eager to hear news about a deal for a healthy, long-term shortstop were saddened to hear that the team was instead spending its time trying to trade fan favorite Skip Schumaker. Unsurprisingly, the 32 year-old utility had a few interested parties.
Now comes the latest Post-Dispatch editorial, which features Joe Strauss slurping on the corporate anus with a propagandizing rimjob that paints the club’s attempts to trade Schumaker as “something that just happens sometimes.” It sounds like the kind of soothing, “we all gotta go” bullshit they tell the kids in a Disney movie right before they shoot Old Yeller in the head with a rifle.
Of course, I’m not going to attempt to portray Schumaker as a star player worthy of a huge contract or a set-in-stone place in the organization. As Strauss rightly points out, Schumaker has hovered around “replacement level” for most of his career. He’s not an All Star. Even in recent Cardinal history Schumaker has been mostly a bit player, content to tirelessly toil in the shadows of some of baseball’s biggest names.
But Schumaker did not go unnoticed. A Cardinal since 2000, he is one of a handful of players remaining from the 2006 championship team. He was considered part of the team’s emotional core, a tough-minded player who overcame limited tools with determination and passion. Tony La Russa valued Schumaker so much that he moved Skip to second base to get his .300 average into the lineup. As usual, Schumaker made the switch work, enduring a humiliating transition to help push the 2011 team to another World Championship.
Following that 2011 victory, Schumaker faced free agency. Given his three previously successful seasons, his youth, and his versatility, Schumaker could’ve commanded a decent salary from some team. However, Skip really only wanted one thing: to remain a Cardinal. This organization was all he’d ever known, and he was lovingly embraced and encouraged by an adoring fan base.
So Skip did what so few players do today – he took less money to stay. The Cardinals gave Schumaker a two year contract worth $3M. That average annual value ($1.5M a season) was less than Schumaker made the previous two seasons, and reflected the move to second that he willingly undertook for the sake of the team.
But the first year of that new contract found Schumaker playing for brand-new manager Mike Matheny, a good-looking puppet for the bespectacled John “Wizard of Oz” Mozeliak pushing buttons behind the curtain. And, for whatever reason, Schumaker was less valued in the eyes of Mozeliak and his team of number-crunchers.
The facts show that Mozeliak, his accounting staff, and Matheny were all wrong about Schumaker in 2012. Skip hit for a much higher average than Mozeliak favorite Daniel Descalso, and he also had a comparable fielding percentage at second. Unbelievably, this former outfielder was the best second baseman on the 2012 Cardinals, and yet he was not allowed to play there most of the time.
Even with a September slump, Schumaker ranked 12th in average out of everyone who played second base in the National League in 2012. For $1.5M, Schumaker had a better average than Chase Utley ($15M in 2012), Rickie Weeks ($10M in 2012), Dan Uggla ($13M in 2012) , and Orlando Hudson ($5.5M in 2012).
For just $1.5M, Schumaker approximated the defense of Descalso and Dan Uggla ($10M in 2012) while outperforming Omar Infante ($4M in 2012), Rickie Weeks ($10M in 2012), Chase Utley ($15M in 2012), and Emilio Bonifacio ($2.2M in 2012).
Added to that value is the fact that Schumaker, an admitted team leader, humbly took on an auxilary role and converted himself into a second baseman to fill a need for the sake of the team. Even when he was wrongfully benched in favor of Descalso, Schumaker never complained; he took the demotion in stride and continued to prepare himself for whatever role was needed.
That kind of humility, determination, and work ethic should be rewarded. Instead, the Cardinals are attempting to take advantage of the favorable contract Schumaker afforded them by unceremoniously dumping him.
I guess that’s why Strauss’ depiction of this Schumaker deal irritates me so much. The article is so obviously pandering to the Cardinal line, attempting to rewrite history in order to make this insulting move feel like, in the words of Forrest Gump’s mother, “just a natural part of life.” To that end, Strauss feebly equates this assassination of Schumaker with the exit of Jim Edmonds. That’s bullshit, of course; Edmonds was breaking down physically at the end of his Cardinal tenure and often found himself at odds with TLR. The Edmonds example is completely irrelevant to the club’s reprehensible handling of Schumaker over the last several months.
The spreadsheets littering the darkened stat rooms below Busch Stadium may not show it, but Skip Schumaker was part of the heartbeat of this team for a long time. He gave this team everything he had, and he did so at a bargain. You don’t find that kind of player – or that kind of man – around just any old corner in a game soaked in greed and overestimation.
I’m sure that the Cardinals will soon find a way to maximize their profits by selling off Schumaker’s team-friendly contract to the highest bidder. I’m also sure Joe Strauss will be there to suck his master’s cock when they do with an exceptionally well-written sales pitch for the BFIB™ like a caustic Leni Reifenstahl.
But I, for one, am sickened by the lack of gratitude and appreciation for this underrated and important Cardinal. Like many others, Skip Schumaker will continue to find a home in the hearts of faithful Cardinal fans long after Mozeliak’s precious computers decay on a scrap heap.