When the Cardinals lost Jason Motte to Tommy John Surgery in May last year, a fine amount of panic settled in. He was pitching in spring training last year when he suddenly felt a pop in his elbow as he fired a fastball towards the plate to exit an inning. In an instant his season was redirected towards injured reserve.
Motte’s injury set off a chain reaction that included the demise of Mitchell Boggs, the rise of Edward Mujica as a legit closer in the big leagues(2 year contract with the Red Sox to show for it) and the emergence of Trevor Rosenthal as the type of pitcher that resembled what existed inside Tom Cruise’s pool stick case in The Color of Money….doom.
The Cardinals rode that concoction of arms to the playoffs and came within two wins of a 12th World Series. All the while, Motte didn’t throw a single pitch while spending a fair amount of time inside the dugout and cheering for his teammates. He also put his public persona to use and kept his money in the right place during the past year. When Motte steps away from baseball down the road, 2013 will become known as the year he became a great man in front of the world.
Unable to throw a fastball for many months, Motte took his fight to the community and set up a cancer foundation. The slogan “K Cancer” became pasted on t-shirts, posters and draped across the St. Louis area. Motte befriended young cancer patients and connected with so many others. While other athletes spend their down time checking their bank account while laying on a yacht in the middle of an ocean, Motte stayed home and fought the medical disease known as Goliath. To a kid or adult with the horrible disease, seeing an athlete not just donate their money but their coveted time to your predicament only inspires them to push harder. It is one thing for an athlete to write a check and quite another to spend up to 10 months of the year making a lot of friends in a hospital. In short, we need more men like Motte around. More athletes that can put out the right message about using your popularity in the best way.
Back to baseball, and keeping the new found 9th inning arm of Rosenthal’s in mind, one wonders what role Motte will return to in 2014. First, he needs to get to spring training and fire a few fastballs without incident. Once he goes through that, an innings workload awaits him and the new season will present him with many options. Those possible roles are simple and fall in this order.
1.) A propane tank arm out of the bullpen available for multi-purpose usage. Motte can be what he was before he was a closer. A man who can come into a dicey situation where 1 out and a three digit heater are needed. He did this job superbly in 2010 and part of 2011. There is nothing wrong with building his arm strength back up this way.
2.)Setup man to Rosenthal. This is more likely to happen in May after Motte gets a few outings under his belt and gets a feel for where his arm is. Rosenthal was so good in the last stages of 2013 that for many it’s hard to think of him doing something different. The final week of the season and the playoffs provided Cards fans with a Rosenthal that is set up to dominate for ages. He didn’t just strike hitters out. He made them look like extras from a baseball movie. For more on his domination, check out my friend and United Cardinal Blogger colleague Joe’s blog about the greatness of Rosenthal right here.
Motte can set up Rosenthal for at least half the season before he is considered for his old position. This also won’t hurt the team at all. Carlos Martinez is in line to be a utility reliever(jack of all late inning trades) or in fact enter the rotation. He could be the flamer thrower to get one out, the man who can pitch 2 innings or a setup man himself. The Cards have options and this is good for Motte and the team in his recovery.
3.)Motte can reclaim the closer role. This is something I can see happening around the All Star Break or I can see not happening at all this season. Rosenthal still wants to start, but his value in the 9th inning is too great to consider that right now and with the Cards load of starter candidates, it’s just not smart baseball. Motte would have to pitch lights out to be considered for this or have Rosenthal encounter an injury. All things considered, Rosenthal did it for a month while Motte accumulated 59 saves(playoffs included) after taking over the role in August of 2011. Both men are playoff proven finishers. Rosenthal currently has the leg up due to health and momentum in the role.
All in all, it’s important to not forget about what Motte did and what he can still bring to the team. He started out as a catcher in the organization before entering the majors in 2008 with one decent pitch. After mastering a cutter as his secondary pitch, Motte was tied for the National League lead in saves in 2012 with 42. He is entering the final year of a 2 year, 12 million dollar contract which will pay him 8 million this season. Whatever role he finds, it will be a prominent one and if I had to bet, Jason Motte will come back with a vengeance in 2014.
Personally, I missed this guy’s tenacious ability on the mound. The mannerisms, the beard, the intensity and the quirks that he brought to a tight late inning matchup. It’s one thing for a man to throw 100 miles per hour towards your body. It’s quite another for that man to look as mean as that particular pitch while throwing.
A good part of me wants to see him close for the Cardinals again, while the majority is simply glad to see him pitching for our team in some capacity come April. 2012 marked his arrival as a closer. 2013 saw him become a wonderful ambassador of the city and a defender of a sea of victims to a horrible disease. 2014 will be another important chapter in the 31 year old’s career. I am quite excited to tell you I am not sure what this year will bring from the Motte Man but I am so ready to find out.
He reports to Jupiter, Florida in 37 days for spring training. That day cannot come soon enough for St. Louis Cardinals fans and the Jason Motte fanbase.
Thanks for reading and stay warm in this snow packed St. Louis winter season. Check out a few links below on how to connect with Motte and his foundation.
*Contribute to Motte’s Cancer Foundation by buying a “K Cancer” t-shirt right here.
*For another passionate take on Jason Motte’s efforts in 2013, read my Arch City Sports colleague Carly Schaber’s heartfelt piece.
*For general information on his foundation, head over here to his K Cancer Facebook Page.
You can also follow Motte on Twitter at his handle, @JMotte30.
Lots of links but it comes with a good reason. Jason Motte is a lot more than just a baseball player. He’s a role model for us all.
Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, film-addict.com. He also writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports and also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com. He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease. When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and son in South City. Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.