— A: That's a great question, Bandit, and I'd have to say, no, I don't think St. Louis goes all the way without that deal, as well as the one that brought shortstop Rafael Furcal and cash for a Double-A outfield prospect. And that's why I believe general manager John Mozeliak is an underrated part of the Cardinals' success story.
John Jay's ability to play an excellent defensive center field and hit enough helped made Rasmus expendable. Skip Schumaker also played solidly in center field, and Allen Craig got a few more at-bats in Rasmus' absence.
Edwin Jackson's postseason wasn't impressive, but he went 5-2-3.58 in 12 regular-season starts with St. Louis, filling a rotation spot and allowing Kyle McClellan to return to the bullpen.
Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski were key parts of the bullpen down the stretch and in the postseason, giving manager Tony La Russa far more than he would have received from Trever Miller and Brian Tallet, the two left-handed relievers who went to Toronto with Rasmus.
And although Furcal's postseason wasn't great, he and Ryan Theriot were an upgrade as a double-play combination over Theriot and the second-base rotation before Furcal's arrival.
And lest we forget the Cardinals didn't make the playoffs until the final day of the regular season, so there was a very fine line between a near-miss wild-card attempt and a victory parade through downtown St. Louis.
All that said, I'd still make the deal from the Toronto perspective. Rasmus is a very talented player who to date has underachieved. But don't forget, he's only 24. His best days are coming, likely soon.
I liken the career path of Rasmus to that of Jeff Francoeur, who came up as a very hyped prospect, struggled in Atlanta, and now at age 27, actually is a bit underrated as one of the game's best defensive right fielders with a .285/20 HR/87 RBI/47 2B/22 SB season in Kansas City.
A: No argument here with Pena's credentials. He's done a good job in six seasons on the Yankees staff — the past three as Joe Girardi's bench coach — and I hope he gets another shot at managing after being prematurely fired in Kansas City, where he was the AL Manager of the Year in 2003, then let go after 2005.
My problem with your scenario is I find it unlikely that the Yankees would give the Red Sox permission to talk to Pena, given the rivalry. Teams almost always allow interviews in situations where a promotion is involved (as opposed to a lateral move), but this might be one of the exceptions to the rule.
As for the next Red Sox manager, I've written before that I don't think you'll see a big name such as Bobby Valentine or Tony La Russa take over for Terry Francona. If former Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell had stuck around another year on Francona's staff — rather than take the Blue Jays' managerial job — I think he would have been Francona's successor.
But with that no longer a possibility (the Blue Jays won't allow Farrell to interview with the Red Sox), I see Boston hiring someone of similar profile: Cerebral, someone who fits the organization's lean to an analytical/statistical approach, a lower-profile type. Perhaps somebody such as Ron Roenicke, who got Milwaukee to the NLCS after a long tenure on Mike Scioscia's staff in Anaheim.
A: That's definitely the nature of the NL West, more so than the other divisions — and I see a couple of reasons why:
1) You don't have a superpower there — a Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies with a huge payroll advantage over the other teams in the division. The NL West team that historically had the sizable payroll edge — the Dodgers — has been in chaos in the Frank McCourt era, leveling the division playing field some.
2) You also don't have one of those traditionally struggling/desperately low payroll franchises such as the Pirates and Royals. The Padres are close since John Moores was forced to sell the club, and we'll see how things go from here.
But in that past, they were able to have their successful seasons due to management types such as Kevin Towers, managers such as Jack McKeon and Bruce Bochy, and stay-at-superstars such as Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman.
3) So what you have are five franchises that for the most part, fluctuate somewhere between 70-92 wins each season, and that lends itself to teams moving way up and down in terms of what place they finish.
Over the past five seasons, the NL West champs have won 94, 90, 95, 92 and 90 games, while only twice has a team finished with fewer than 70 wins — the 2010 Diamondbacks and 2008 Padres.
It all makes for a very interesting and unpredictable division — capped off by this year's Diamondbacks, whose 29-game improvement from 2010 is a very rare accomplishment, even in the NL West.