By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
07/28/2006


The Blues have started to restock their roster. The Cardinals have maintained control of the National League Central with the trade deadline nearing. The Rams are back in training camp.

So the sports scene is heating up. We’ve gotten e-mail on several topics and here is a sampling:

* * * * * *

“I'm completely with you on the emergence of Chris Duncan. Having seen him play regularly here in Memphis, I've felt he's a Jim Thome-ish bat in the lineup when and if he has an idea at the plate.

“And I think you're way off on Juan Encarnacion. What is this man's batting average with runners in scoring position this season? I can't recall one big hit he's delivered, but I can remember plenty of instances when, say, he's stepped up with the bases loaded and killed a potential rally (like yesterday's first inning). He's no Cardinal.”

Frank Murtaugh

GORDO: Duncan can certainly crush the ball like Thome . . . just not as consistently. He is an interesting case. There is some potential there. He is working hard to refine his skills. But that final step from “interesting” to “consistent producer” is huge. Just ask Jason Lane, who enjoyed a nice power surge for the Astros last season and then struggled this season. Still, Duncan has shown enough to earn his shot at regular work here. As for Encarnacion, he is what he is – a decent third outfielder that produces some runs down in the batting order. He has some maddening plays at bats, true, but he is still putting together one of his strongest statistical seasons.

* * *

“I am getting drilled up here in the land of the Seahawks. These folks have drank all the Kool Aid and are Hawk crazy as they trash my beloved Rams. Simple question. Are we gunna be any good? I'm thinking one or two games over 500. Think we can split with Seattle this year. Seems that all I have going so far is the possibility. You thoughts?”

Wally Green
Seattle

GORDO: I’m with you – a game or two over .500 is quite possible. The veterans are getting a fresh start under new coach Scott Linehan and there are plenty of interesting young players. There is still plenty of offensive firepower, assuming that Kevin Curtis can take a bigger role this season. The Rams need to add a running back, but there will be several decent ones available as the summer progresses. The defense can’t help but get much, much better under Jim Haslett. Let’s see what he does with some of those interesting second- and third-year players.

* * *

“I was excited about the additions of Bill Guerin, Doug Weight and Jay McKee, but it's clear that the Blues are, at best, a mediocre bunch up front. I understand not committing $4 million or more per year to Brendan Shanahan, but I'm curious as to what the team's issue with adding Anson Carter is. I've heard nothing of the club's interest in him.

“Although the rumored addition of Radek Dvorak would be nice, Carter, still in his early 30s, is a perennial 25-goal man who potted 33 last year in Vancouver. He has familiarity with Weight and Guerin from their days in Edmonton and would give the Blues a legitimate sniper if Guerin doesn't rebound from his disappointing campaign last year. Detroit reportedly has balked at Carter's $3 million per year asking price, but unlike the Wings, the Blues are so far under the cap that meeting his salary demands over a multi-year deal shouldn't be a problem. Or do I have Carter overrated?”

Justin Weinrich

GORDO: I’m OK with Carter, but the price IS a consideration. The Blues need another scorer, for sure, but the market is settling now that the big names are gone. If the Blues hold out, they might get a second-liner for a song. Carter is a bit rich still. As for the long-term, I’d like to see the team add a couple of skilled, versatile forwards that are still in their prime. And those moves may not come until next summer, when the Blues will once again have lots of salary cap room. The Blues are just trying to get through this season the best they can while they assess what they have (or lack) on young talent. Signing Guerin for a year and keeping Keith Tkachuk for a year were really just interim moves.

* * *

“Mr. Gordon, I had the opportunity to watch Chase Daniel's career at South Lake Carroll's state championships. Chase can and will run the football getting positive yards. He may not have Brad Smith’s flat out speed but since he has grown up in this offense he knows his reads. He is excellent riding the running back in to the line, tucking the ball and heading down field. Request some film from his high school coach!”

W.P. Lawton
Dallas

GORDO: My wife saw the kid play, too, and said he ran wild. He IS mobile. He can run the Mizzou offense quite well. But he can’t measure up to Smith in that regard, since Brad was one of the best running quarterbacks college football has ever seen. Daniel will scramble for a first down here and there, but his feet won’t be the focal point of the offense. His arm will be the focal point.