Pete Kozma Is Here and He Makes the Team Better. Yes, Really.

I’m not going to say that I’m Pete Kozma’s biggest hater, because it might not be true. As far as I know, Kozma may have crippled a classmate with a baseball bat in a high school fight and gotten away with it because he was on the baseball team. That guy, if he exists, probably dislikes Pete Kozma more than me, though I doubt he exists because Pete Kozma couldn’t do that kind of damage with a baseball bat.

Even if I’m not Kozma’s biggest hater, I have made an extensive record of my criticism. And that is going to make what I’m about to write all the more shocking: bringing up Kozma was the right move and will actually improve the team.

Now, I certainly don’t like the circumstances of Kozma’s return. He shouldn’t be on the roster because two starting pitchers got hurt, but he should be on the roster. And not because he’s good. I’m never going to say that Kozma is good.

In 2013, Kozma hit .217/.275/.273, which is actually a bit worse than I expected because I thought he’d stumble into a few more HR and at least pull his SLG above his OBP. It was an atrocious year with the bat that silenced all his boosters and left him stranded in AAA. However, Kozma showed remarkable growth with the glove, especially for a player who had lost his position on the defensive spectrum just one year earlier to Ryan Jackson. I don’t think he was as good as, say, fangraphs which put him as 4th in UZR/150, but he had more range than he showed early in his minor league career and he wasn’t nearly as boneheaded as Tyler Greene.

Nothing in Kozma’s 2014 at AAA shows that he’s learned how to hit. A .234/.341/.372 slash line might indicate some improvement with his batting eye but comes with a hell of a small sample size warning. So what has changed? Why am I happy to see Kozma in the majors when I couldn’t wait for him to be gone last year? Well, it’s all about the other options.

Before Kolten Wong, who himself was struggling through a sore shoulder, went on the DL, the Cardinals had two infield bats on the bench. Mark Ellis is hitting .193/.280/.220 and Daniel Descalso is hitting a putrid .176/.233/.221. These are numbers that would even make 2013 Kozma shake his head.

Now one of those two is the starter at 2b. Maybe they’re in a platoon. It doesn’t really matter, because the result is the same. They are barely outslugging the Cards pitchers (.210) in over 200 PAs. Ellis could shake off the relentless encroachment of old age and return to form. But Descalso has never been good. Never this bad, but never good.  Most importantly, Descalso can’t play shortstop. Mike Matheny thinks he can, but he’s wrong and the experiments have to end.

Right now, Pete Kozma is a more useful player than Daniel Descalso. He might even be more useful than Mark Ellis. He’s probably also better to have around than Shane Robinson as well, since they have the same noodle bat but Kozma can give Peralta some rest. When Wong comes back, or when the pitching staff gets so thoroughly strafed in Colorado that we need a thirteenth arm, Descalso should be the one on his way out, not Kozma.

Until Ellis shows he’s not dead or Greg Garcia proves himself or Mo makes a trade, Pete Kozma is probably the best bench infielder the Cardinals have. Which makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and dream of Nick Punto.




Ecuador Weighs Ryan Jackson’s Request For Asylum

This Wednesday, Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño held a press conference to confirm that his country had received a request for asylum from Memphis Redbirds shortstop Ryan Jackson. He then read portions of what he said was Jackson’s letter to Ecuador’s president:

“I, Ryan Jackson, member of the St. Louis Cardinals organisation, write to you to request asylum from the Republic of Ecuador because of my continued confinement to the minor leagues and/or bench despite sustained success and a clear need at the major league level.”

“Having exhausted all other possibilities, I have determined that I am being held as a political prisoner. During spring training, Mike Matheny overheard me telling Matt Adams that bunting a runner to second base actually decreases run expectancy. Since then, I believe the organization has issued a secret kangaroo court order for my indefinite detention and prominent members of the team have called me a traitor or worse: the next Tyler Greene.”

“I am not a Tyler Greene. I made a conscious decision to expose grave misconceptions about the value of sacrificing an out to get someone into so-called ‘scoring position’. As a result of my political opinions and exercising my rights of free expression through which I showed a fellow rookie that position players should never be asked to lay down a bunt, this organization has turned against me. They are the true Tyler Greenes.”

Patiño stated that Jackson compared his case to that of Colby Rasmus, another member of the Cardinals organisation who successfully sought refugue in Canada two years ago. Like Rasmus, Jackson believes that he has been given every opportunity to fail. Unlike Rasmus, Jackson notes that he hasn’t even been given a single opportunity to succeed.

Jackson’s letter made several references to current Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who is currently hitting .252/.296/.319 in 274 plate appearances. “Kozma’s OPS is the eighth worst among qualified batters in the NL,” Jackson told the Ecuadoran President in his plea for asylum. “Meanwhile I have an on-base percentage near .400 in AAA. I’m out-hitting Oscar Tavares.”

The Foreign Minister then addressed reporters himself, telling them that Ecuador would decide how to proceed based upon the values enumerated in the Ecuadoran Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1988 edition of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

“We will examine domestic law, international law, and Runs Created,” Patiño said. “But not Win Shares. Never Win Shares.”

In recent years, Ecuador itself has come under fire for suppression of free speech and government control of the media. Opponents of President Rafael Correa have suggested that his administration has no place criticizing the personnel decisions of United States baseball organizations.

Patiño, however, sees it differently. “In Ecuador, we respect the privacy and values of our citizens. Government-run media allows us to protect our people from offensive content such as American propaganda, violent protests, and Ty Wigginton at-bats.”

For the moment, the Ecuadoran government has made no decision on whether to grant Jackson’s request for asylum. “While the injustice is great, we do not really need a shortstop at this time,” Patiño explained. “We are primarily looking for outfield help, and his bat doesn’t profile well to a corner.”

Currently, Ryan Jackson’s whereabouts are unknown, but reports have surfaced that he has already fled Memphis and may be hiding out in Moscow after a hasty plane flight from the United States.

When reached for comment on Jackson’s status, Russian President Vladimir Putin was tight lipped. “I cannot state anything specifically about Mr. Jackson,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “But hiding in Russia without my permission is like baseball: you only get to go home after you have been sufficiently hit around.”