Feb 2011 20

Well, I’d say there was a veritable amount of action occurring in St. Louis sports this weekend. The Blues shook up the core of their roster, the Rams released one of their top players, and a Cardinal legend (near legend?) bid his farewell to baseball. Some thoughts on each.

Rams Release Atogwe

The guy’s done nothing but perform at a high level for an underachieving Rams team, but it seems like they just don’t want to pay him anything. In a payroll-saving maneuver, the Rams have once again released OshemOshimmegOJ Atogwe. Perhaps one of the most underrated strong safeties in the game, Atogwe’s more than lived up to his third-round draft pick. Last season, the Rams signed him to a five-year deal, but apparently they decided he isn’t worth the $8 million roster bonus he was due. This marks the second time the Rams have done this to him to save money, and yet he insists he wants to remain a Ram. I sincerely hope that the Rams can re-sign him. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be for a while with the impending labor issues facing the NFL.

Blues Make Trades, Score Touchdown (and a safety)

In an effort to make a playoff push and re-tool the core of their roster, the Blues traded three players this weekend, including their captain and an alternate.

They traded captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for a prospect and a draft pick. I didn’t hear too many cries of anguish over this one. Whether justified or not, Brewer drew the ire of a lot of Blues fans over the course of the last few years. Certainly he wasn’t mentioned among the top defenders in the league, but he always put forth his top effort, which is perhaps why Blues players consistently and unanimously decided to make him captain. He undoubtedly never gained popularity due in no small part to the fact that he was the main prize the Blues got in their trade of former captain Chris Pronger.

The second trade, however, shook the Blues community even more. After Friday night’s win over Buffalo, it was announced that the Blues had traded Jay McClement and Erik Johnson, the first overall draft pick of 2006. McClement was a solid third- or fourth-line center who contributed solidly on the penalty kill. It’s the trade of Johnson that caught most people off-guard. Johnson was expected to take over the throne of top defenseman for the Blues from Pronger and Hall of Famer Al MacInnis, but after two and a half seasons (not including the lost one due to a vengeful golf cart), he never fully lived up to that billing.

In exchange, however, the Blues got two promising young players, both of whom contributed immediately. In exchange for Jay and Erik, the Blues got defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and power forward Chris Stewart. Shattenkirk’s a rookie but is putting up solid offensive numbers, posting 27 points thus far in 47 games. Stewart, however, is the focal point of the trade, as the Blues have been desperate for top-notch scorers. Last year, in just his second season, Stewart posted 28 goals and 64 points in 77 games. This year, he was slow to return from a broken hand, posting just five points in his last 13 games with the Avalanche. Before that, however, he had 11 goals and 25 points in 23 games. He proceeded to score two goals in his Blues debut last night, with Shattenkirk assisting on one, as the Blues managed to score a season-high nine goals against the Los Angeles Ducks of Anaheim. Or whatever they’re called.

This could potentially set the Blues up with a potent offense, if they can consistently stay healthy. David Backes is considered a top power forward in the game today, and Stewart gives them a potent tandem. If the Blues can gain full health for a stretch, this could turn into some exciting hockey as the season unwinds. As long as the Blues goalies don’t give up three goals in five shots on a regular basis.

Jimmy Ballgame Calls it a Career

Edmonds making his Game 7 catch.

Finally, in a move that I pretty much expected from the moment they announced the signing, Jim Edmonds announced his retirement after it was determined he’d put himself at great risk if he tried to play baseball on his injured foot. Although it’s possible Edmonds may have made the team if he were healthy, his limits and the Cardinals’ desire to develop outfield talent would have likely made him a fringe player. And it’s highly doubtable Edmonds would have accepted a demotion to AAA.

I’m happy the Cardinals decided to sign him, even if it was just to retire as a Cardinal. His career was derailed in the end by injuries, but such is to be expected from a player who had such a reckless style of play. To make a highlight reel of Edmonds’ career in the field and at the plate would fill a DVD. Edmonds won eight gold gloves, six of them with the Cardinals, and for the first six years he was here, he was a solid, stable offensive force. In the eight years he was here, he hit .285 with 241 HR and 731 RBI.

For most Cardinals fans, perhaps the culmination of Edmonds’ career was the 2004 NLCS, when his two-way skills truly shone through. Game 7 was, of course, the catch on Ausmus, when he prevented two runs from scoring. But Game 6 was, for me, his finest moment as a Cardinal. The raw emotion when he hit the walk-off home run into the October night…that’s what baseball’s all about.

Edmonds may not have a strong Hall of Fame case, and he may never get his number retired as a Cardinal, but he will go down as one of the best to play in a Cardinals uniform. It was a pleasure to see you play, Jimmy, and you will be missed. I hope that down the road, everyone may truly appreciate just how much fun you made the game.

And hopefully the memory of this will be faded.


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