Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus lost his place in the starting lineup when he lost the confidence of manager Tony La Russa. Then Rasmus lost his spot on the club.
Ten years ago, on July 27, 2011, Rasmus was the marquee name in a multi-player trade the Cardinals made with the Blue Jays. The Cardinals dealt Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters for pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and outfielder Corey Patterson.
Rasmus underachieved with the Blue Jays. The trio of pitchers acquired for him all earned wins in the 2011 postseason, helping the Cardinals become World Series champions.
A left-handed batter, Rasmus was chosen by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, within the Cardinals’ organization, Rasmus became known as “Luhnow’s boy” because he was the first draft pick of scouting director Jeff Luhnow. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. became enamored of Luhnow, a data-driven analyst who clashed with general manager Walt Jocketty, and put him in charge of the Cardinals’ player development group.
Rasmus was 22 when he debuted in the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He hit .251 with 16 home runs as a rookie.
In July 2010, La Russa and Rasmus had a heated exchange in the dugout. Rasmus requested a trade on more than one occasion. The Cardinals kept him and he batted .276 with 23 home runs for the season, but with more strikeouts (148) than hits (128). No other player on the 2010 Cardinals struck out 100 times.
The relationship between Rasmus, La Russa and the coaches deteriorated in 2011. La Russa said coaches Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete offered to help Rasmus but were rejected. Rasmus instead took instruction from his father, Tony Rasmus, a high school coach who played three seasons in the Angels’ farm system.
“It’s just a fact,” La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. “He was listening to someone else about his hitting.”
Colby Rasmus told Toronto’s National Post, “My dad coached me all the way growing up. He has a big interest in my baseball, wants me to play good and knows my swing pretty well.”
Tony Rasmus was discovered in the Busch Stadium clubhouse video room after working with his son in an indoor batting cage, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Rasmus struggled to make consistent contact. In mid-July, his batting average dropped to .241. Fed up, La Russa benched him and started Jon Jay in center.
Time to act
Concerned Rasmus was becoming what the Post-Dispatch described as “an eroding asset,” the Cardinals made him available for trade.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak “believed he had to cash in Rasmus now or risk seeing the trade chip lose more value idling on the bench,” Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz noted.
The Blue Jays, White Sox and Rays showed the most interest.
The Cardinals talked to the White Sox about pitchers Edwin Jackson and Matt Thornton. The Rays offered pitchers Jeff Niemann, J.P. Howell and a prospect, but lost interest when Mozeliak wanted another pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson or James Shields, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The Blue Jays became front-runners for Rasmus when they acquired Edwin Jackson from the White Sox, and packaged him with Dotel, Rzepczynski and Patterson.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos “has long coveted Rasmus, and he moved heaven, earth and a passel of players to get him,” the National Post reported.
On the day of the trade, the Cardinals (55-48) were in first place, a half-game ahead of the Brewers (55-49) in the National League Central Division.
“The soap opera triangle between Tony La Russa, Colby Rasmus and Tony Rasmus is gone, along with whatever distractions it caused,” declared the Post-Dispatch.
In announcing the deal, Mozeliak said, “This is a window to win.”
Miklasz noted, “In dealing Rasmus, the Cardinals should have secured a No. 2 starter and an elite prospect. This deal has short-term value. It makes sense for 2011.”
In conclusion, Miklasz wrote, “The Cardinals clearly wanted to get Colby and his daddy as far away as possible.”
Anthopoulos told the National Post, “We think we’re getting a player who has a chance to be part of this core. They’re hard to add.”
In three seasons with St. Louis, Rasmus batted .259 and had 330 hits and 320 strikeouts. “I might not have done as well as some people wanted me to, but I played hard and, looking back on it, that’s all I can say,” Rasmus said. “I’m happy with what I did.”
Tony Rasmus went on Toronto radio programs and criticized La Russa and the Cardinals. In response, Miklasz advised that Colby Rasmus “already has a reputation for letting his father control him and fight battles for him. By going off on Toronto radio shows, Tony Rasmus is only reinforcing the opinion that Colby is immature and in need of protection by daddy.”
Return on investment
Rasmus batted .173 for the 2011 Blue Jays and had more strikeouts (39) than hits (23).
The 2011 Cardinals surged in September, posting an 18-8 record for the month and finishing at 90-72. Though they placed second in their division and fourth overall in the league, the Cardinals qualified for the playoffs.
In the National League Division Series, Edwin Jackson, who was 5-2 for the Cardinals in the regular season, started and won Game 4 against the Phillies. Boxscore
Octavio Dotel, who had three wins and a save for the Cardinals in September, had two wins in the playoffs. He beat the Phillies in Game 2 of the Division Series Boxscore and won Game 5 against the Brewers in the National League Championship Series. Boxscore
Marc Rzepczynski was the winning pitcher in the pennant-clinching Championship Series Game 6 versus the Brewers. Boxscore. He also pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in four appearances in the World Series against the Rangers.
Rasmus went on to play four seasons with the Blue Jays, batting .234 with far more strikeouts (447) than hits (342).
He also played for the Astros, Rays and Orioles. He was 31 when he played his last game in the majors.
Though he never played in a World Series or got named an all-star, Rasmus received $47.4 million in salary during his career in the majors, according to baseball-reference.com. In 10 seasons, he batted .241 with 891 hits and 1,106 strikeouts. Video of career highlights