Does Father Know Best? The Colby Rasmus Edition

We went for a nice family hike on Father’s Day. On the drive south toward the Santa Cruz mountains, we were listening to Marty Lurie’s show on KNBR before the Giants game against the Mariners. Lurie had a nice selection of audio cuts from players and coaches talking about the role their dads played in their lives. And then Lurie played a long interview with Giants manager Bruce Bochy. My ears perked up when I heard Lurie ask Bochy if he’s ever had to deal with a player’s father calling him up, complaining about playing time or raising other issues. Bochy chuckled and said he’s never had to deal with that. “One of the nice things about being a big-league manager is that the parents aren’t involved at this level,” Bochy said, or words to that effect.

I thought about Chris Lincecum and the role he’s played as a sometimes-consultant to Tim and pitching coach Dave Righetti. And I thought about Colby Rasmus and his dad, and all that went down in St. Louis before the Cardinals traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays last July. Then I turned off the radio and went on a nice, long hike.

When I returned to the interwebs Sunday night, I found this article in Canada’s National Post. The title? Trade to Blue Jays “Saved” Colby: Tony Rasmus. It turns out the Blue Jays invited their players’ fathers to travel to Toronto and watch the team’s game on Sunday against the Phillies. While he was there, Tony Rasmus gave an extended interview to the National Post. He has a lot of interesting things to say, so when you have the time, read the whole story.

Here’s the takeaway: the trade sending Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays turned his career around. Tony Rasmus:

So whenever they called and told me [about the trade], I was dancing the jig around the house. I called him first thing and he was like, ‘That’s an answer to a prayer. Thank goodness.’ Everything since that day has been absolutely awesome here. We’ve been happy ever since the trade.

–snip–

I’ve watched every game this year, just to show you that’s the kind of difference a year’s made in his life as far as baseball goes – to watch him smile. I watched him out there do a couple of things; I’m like, ‘Wow, look at that: It looks like it’s fun again.’ And you see the last month or so he’s kind of picked it up and played a lot better. So it’s been super for us.

Is Tony Rasmus right? Has the Colby Rasmus revitalized his career in Toronto?

Rasmus broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He put up decent numbers for a rookie, but ended the season with below-average offensive stats:  a .311 wOBA and an 89 wRC+. The next year, Rasmus arrived. He showed patience at the plate, raising his walk rate from 6.9% to 11.8%, and flashed considerably more power, with a .498 slugging percentage, compared to .408 in 2009.

Last year was a different story. Rasmus had a strong start out of the gate, batting .301/.392/.476 in April. But his production dropped steadily as the season progressed. The walks vanished, the strikeouts mounted, and the power fizzled out. In July, the month before the Cardinals traded him to Toronto, Rasmus batted .169/.234/.310 in 77 plate appearances. That’s pretty close to his final line for the Blue Jays in 140 plate appearances last season. Not much of a turnaround there.

New season. Fresh start?

April wasn’t much kinder to Rasmus than August and September had been in 2011. He struggled to hit for average. He struggled to get on base. He struck out alot. As the calendar turned to May, there were signs of improvement. The walk rate rose, the strike out rate dropped, and the power nudged up ever so slightly.

And then June. This month has been very good to Colby Rasmus. In 67 plate appearances, Rasmus is hitting .313/.343/.563, which translates to a .381 wOBA and a 182 wRC+. He’s traded ground ball outs for fly ball hits, including four doubles and four home runs.

So, what gives? Is Rasmus finally reaping the rewards of his move to Toronto? Sort of. Kind of. Maybe.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell sat Rasmus for two days in May and Rasmus used the time to make some adjustments in his swing and to move closer to the plate.

Here’s a video clip of Rasmus’ first game as a Blue Jay in 2011, when he went 0-for-5. Notice his crouched stance, his unsteady bat and his high leg kick.

Here’s Ramsus in April. His stance is still crouched, but the bat wiggle is calmer and the leg kick is not as high. Better results.

And now Rasmus in June. Here’s a clip from the game on June 5 against the White Sox. Rasmus collected five hits, including one home run. He is standing closer to the plate. He’s also more upright. The bat wiggle is there, but seems more balanced. And the leg kick is the smallest it’s been in Toronto.

To the extent Blue Jays manager John Farrell and batting coach Dwayne Murphy have helped Rasmus adjust his approach at the plate, then yes, the move to Toronto has revitalized his career. At least with the improved production he’s shown in June.

But Rasmus has always been a streaky player; one good month followed by one down month. That was true in 2009, his rookie year. That was true in 2010, his breakout year. That was true in 2011, when he started out hot and faded quickly. And it’s been true this season.

So we’ll have to wait a while longer to know if Rasmus is having a hot month or has made the necessary adjustments to sustain this level of production for the rest of the season.

I’m sure Tony Rasmus will let us know, either way.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


43 Responses to “Does Father Know Best? The Colby Rasmus Edition”

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    • And that article came out a couple weeks after this one: http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120522&content_id=31986068&notebook_id=31986074&vkey=notebook_tor&c_id=tor

      The internet is a big place. Stuff is bound to be repeated.

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      • bee says:

        I’m kind of with jbizzy on this one. Fairservice is the one who seems to have noticed the change with Rasmus’ crouch and bat movement, provided the video evidence, and was able to connect it with the timing of Rasmus’ hitting resurrgence. The fangraphs article is the same article with an intro about dads tacked on the front. I just think credit should go to the guy who was attentive enough to first point it out.

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    • Jason says:

      This is like getting upset when the Irate Gamer reviews an NES game that the Angry Videogame Nerd already did.

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    • Gringo says:

      Some similarities, sure, but that Fairservice article deliberately avoids mentioning Colby’s dad, whose opinion is a major part of this piece.

      Anyway, I love watching this guy. My favorite Blue Jay right now. Forget Lawrie, I say.

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      • Wendy Thurm says:

        There’s no mystery here. I did my own research, looked at Rasmus highlights dating to last year, and wrote a similar article to Drew’s. I didn’t see his or the one on MLB.com until they were linked to above. I work with Drew at Getting Blanked/The Score and would gladly give him credit if I relied on his work.

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    • My echo and bunnymen says:

      I love how regressing numbers to a mean is easy for most people but understanding that opinions can also regress to a mean, with or without outside help, is just inconceivable.

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      • Grant says:

        That’s because opinions are not statistics, have no mean, and don’t regress. What I like is when people say things to sound smart but it doesn’t really work…

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  1. everdiso says:

    the interesting thing about Colby this year is that despite any recent adjustments he’s made, he has been killing the ball all year long. His BABIP doesn’t look awful at the moment but compared to the kind of quality of contact he’s been making it’s likely way lower than it should be. Can’t say this about most of the Jays this year but Rasmus has been very unlucky when it comes to balls in play.

    This blog post sums it up pretty fairly, IMO: http://mopupduty.com/best-of-times-worst-of-times-rasmus-escobar-7312/

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  2. cpebbles says:

    Tony Rasmus blames unrealistic expectations for Colby’s struggles. Why? Because when he meddled too much in real life and became persona non grata, he was exiled to internet message boards where he continued trying to live vicariously through his son.

    Colby Rasmus has no idea what my or any fan’s expectations were for him. Neither does John Mozeliak, Tony LaRussa, or anyone else making decisions that guide his career. Only to Tony Rasmus are they anything but the rantings of some random guy sitting at his computer.

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      “Meddled too much in real life and became persona non grata…”

      I’m glad the Braves didn’t think Chipper’s dad was meddling too much when Chipper took his advice instead of whoever the Braves hitting coach at the time was.

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    • themiddle54 says:

      “Colby Rasmus has no idea what my or any fan’s expectations were for him.”

      Nor does he care, nor should he. He should care what the organization’s expectations of him are as voiced to him via Luhnow/TLR/McGwire/Aldrete/Mozeliak, then AA/Farrell/etc.

      “he meddled too much in real life and became persona non grata”

      Meddled is a very subjective word that you don’t have enough information to apply. Tony Rasmus built Colby Rasmus from birth to pro baseball–he was the kid’s only coach. And he entered pro ball an elite product and remained that until 2011. If anything, Tony Rasmus knows more about Colby Rasmus both on the field and between the ears than anyone else, and his opinion should not be represented entirely as meddling. If the guy who taught him and knows him best becomes ‘persona non grata’ that’s a problem. Mozeliak and TLR should have at least made Rasmus fils feel important by listening to him and then quietly blowing him off. Sure, Tony Rasmus is likely a prima donna Sports Parent. But part of Mozeliak’s job is managing those things. This rift is the fault of both sides, probably in equal measures.

      Whatever Toronto has done with Rasmus to get his current level of production, it has worked. Tribal fan loyalties might now allow some to cop to that, but it is what it is.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Funny. I’ve just spent another day being accused of driving people away from GRB with my negativity/stubbornness/whatever by insisting that the Rasmus trade still looks like a terrible deal. It was. Doesn’t change the fact that Tony Rasmus is a meddling moron whose interference is rightly unwelcome.

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      • themiddle54 says:

        “..the Rasmus trade still looks like a terrible deal. It was.”

        The Cardinals got their flag. The Jays got a talented young CF who’s blossoming. Sometimes both sides get what they want and need from a deal, and looking for ways to rationalize why one side “lost” is futile. I feel like this is one of those cases.

        “Doesn’t change the fact that Tony Rasmus is a meddling moron whose interference is rightly unwelcome.”

        None of that is fact.

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      • cpebbles says:

        The narrative that the postseason run was due to the Rasmus trade just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Look at the WPA of the players traded for. Getting rid of Ryan Franklin, Ryan Theriot, Miguel Batista, and the lousy months that Rasmus put up for the Blue Jays was a big part of the postseason run, but they could all simply have been released in favor of replacement players (Or a better trade package).

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  3. josh says:

    it should be noted that for a good portion of April, Rasmus was scorching the ball at players and had nothing to show for it. I think you could look at his babip and his LD %, it was ridiculous.

    Lately, he hasn’t been getting unlucky and is hitting the ball with authority where there is no one to catch it. He’s been stellar the entire season, not just for 1/2 months.

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  4. stan says:

    Tony Rasmus is a total gasbag. He wasn’t allowed in the Cards clubhouse after he told Colby to do the opposite of whatever the coaches said and he’s still angry about it. Its no surprise that he’d do his best to draw attention to himself the minute Colby starts doing well. Colby’s streaky even at his best though, so I wouldn’t count this as a turnaround yet.

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      And I’m sure the Cards would have done the exact same thing to Chipper’s dad when he disagreed with their hitting coaches. It’s not like the guy who taught a player how to hit and knows his swing better than anyone else might just know what he’s talking about, right?

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      • cpebbles says:

        The problem with this narrative being that the organization quite openly told him to seek out instruction from his father during his first two seasons, but as soon as Colby started struggling his father would take to the message boards or radio shows and passive-aggressively start insinuating that his relationship with LaRussa was to blame. If what is publicly reported is to be believed, it was Colby himself who finally told his father to back off.

        Even if the organization finally had enough of Tony Rasmus and blackballed him as fans commonly believe, you can hardly blame them when it came after Rasmus took to message boards explicitly agitating for a trade.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        Because people on message boards are always who they claim to be? Do we actually have proof that this guy was Rasmus? Do you have links to these message boards? Links to proof that the Cards told Rasmus to seek out help from his dad? I’m honestly curious here, because I never heard this side of the story before Colby was traded.

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      • cpebbles says:

        It was him. Verified many times over. The story he went with to the press after there was an uproar about it was that it was Colby’s younger brother playing around on his forum account.

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      • cpebbles says:

        As for the Cardinals letting him go work with his father: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_1cd583eb-3e7e-587d-8158-3650000d84fc.html

        There were several other articles like that too, including some where Mozeliak or TLR almost duplicated your phrasing about working with the guy who knows his swing better than anyone else.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        See I’d be much more willing to buy that article if it came out before the struggles and the divide with TLR started. That really reads like a PR piece to try and quiet things down and make it clear that McGwire and Aldrete can’t be blamed. I also don’t see Tony saying they told him to seek out advice from his dad. He’s more saying it’s a normal thing to do and he doesn’t have a problem with it.

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  5. phoenix2042 says:

    I love that you guys can imbed videos now, and use GIFs too. This is really interesting, and could mean that Rasmus will be back to that 20/20 potential that everyone used to rave about. It is still a bit concerning that he won’t take walks anymore…

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  6. Radivel says:

    Watching Rasmus play this year vs last, he just seems happier. More smiles, more fistbumping, more team play. Last year, you might remember, he gave that interview about his favorite things and it felt like he’d be more excited to go to the dentist. The guy just seems more into it to me, and “professionalism” aside, I know that if I don’t feel like going to work, I don’t do as well as I could. Just because you’re being paid a bajillion dollars to do a job doesn’t mean your feelings can’t affect your performance.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Adam Dunn just seems happier this year, too.

      We were discussing why so many kids stop playing baseball after 7th grade (basically LL). Well, there’s girls and things like that … but it’s also when players transfer to “the big field” (60 foot mound, 90-foot bases), and well, you really have to be able to hit the ball to do well, and all pitchers throw multiple pitches, etc.

      In other words, baseball isn’t fun when you can’t hit.

      My experience with anything Rasmus is just enjoy it while you can. I root for the guy, but sure wouldn’t bet money on him.

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  7. Mark says:

    It’s worth pointing out that last year with the Jays he hit the D/L, missed some time, and then didn’t go to the minors for rehab. So his overall line with the Jays is a lot worse than it should be.

    And it’s not like he was terrible during his time with the Cards. I believe he had a 110 wRC+ with them.

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    • chris3173 says:

      Mark, he actually did a short rehab stint in (AA) New Hampshire.

      Colby Rasmus on playing with Fisher Cats

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      • Mark says:

        I’m on his Baseball reference page and the last time Rasmus was in the minors was in 2008 as a 21 year old. The Fangraphs site has it listed as 2008 as well. Maybe I’m wrong, I’m just trying to figure out how he played in AA if there is no record of him having an at bat there.

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      • Mark says:

        I guess he did but that’s really strange. Guess the playoff AB’s don’t show up. Oh well. Still, it’s not like you’d expect a guy to dominate right off a rehab stint. Especially a guy who tanked in the second half.

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  8. Ryan says:

    Colby, apparently is a huge fan of John Farrell. Playing for a guy that treats you fairly and respects you, is a helluva lot more fun than playing for a guy who belittles and looks down at you. Which is basically what Rasmus has said about La Russa.

    It doesn’t seem to me like Rasmus is 100% over how they treated him in St. Louis, but he does appear to be enjoying playing for the Jays. Same goes for Yunel Escobar, who seems to love being a Jay after the way he was treated in Atlanta.

    Those guys got tagged with a bad rap on their previous teams, but there hasn’t been anything like that since they’ve been in Toronto.

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  9. Disa says:

    Add Lawrie to the list of guys with a bad rap that the Blue Jays have scooped up. Brewers brass was not happy with Lawrie repeated request to change postitions, requesting September call up, and refusing to go to the AFL as a result of not receiving the callup.

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  10. sc2gg says:

    It’s been written in multiple places that the Jays have discovered the next market inefficiency – players who don’t get along with their current teams.

    AA – I hear the BoSox are not doing so well. Get us some Pedroia please! Also, dear anyone who reads this: I am not serious.

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  11. Radivel says:

    Oh man, I bet Tony is having a good night tonight. Rasmus is on fire! Thanks Tony!

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  12. Steve McEwen says:

    Love how everyone believes Tony La Russa over Tony Rasmus immediately. Why is La Russa’s word what was taken as gospel on the situation, On the recent fathers day broadcast, I encourage everyone to watch the inning when Sportsnet had Rasmus’ father on. Two very different stories, and Rasmus’ is far more believable, and it really cleared things up.

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    • cpebbles says:

      TLR has barely said a word about Rasmus. People judged Tony Rasmus by what Tony Rasmus said. Give it a few years and then tell me your feelings about the guy.

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      • Nitram Odarp says:

        Still waiting for links on articles backing up the actual claims you made above about the Cardinals openly telling him to seek instruction from his father his first 2 years or proof it was his dad and not his brother posting on message boards.

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      • cpebbles says:

        No, you’re still waiting for me to bow to your superior assessment of the situation because of the difficulty turning up news articles that are a couple of years old that give you the exact phrasing that you require.

        Luckily, I’ve got some time today:

        >“At this point, the situation we are in is that our hitting guys, which are Mark McGwire and Mike Aldrete, they pretty much just provide work for Colby,” the manager said. “When he wants to take soft toss or tee work or batting practice in the cage or outside, they are there to provide the work for him.

        >“But as far as the teaching, he is getting it someplace else. We don’t force anything on anybody. In the end though, I think it is important that if he does real well, then whoever is giving him the outside teaching should get the credit. But if he struggles, they should take that responsibility,” La Russa concluded.

        http://thecardinalnationblog.com/2011/07/10/tony-la-russa-on-colby-rasmus%E2%80%99-outside-help/

        “La Russa is not unbending. He agreed to allow Tony Rasmus to work with his son prior to last October’s Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rasmus responded with the team’s best at-bats during its muted offensive series.

        It was not unnoticed during spring training that La Russa one day climbed into the stands to see Tony Rasmus during morning workouts and discuss Colby’s added enthusiasm following a trying rookie year.”

        Rasmus again found himself slumping last month, at one point striking out 17 times in 27 at-bats. Tony Rasmus correctly theorized his son’s vision had dulled and a change was made in his contact lens prescription. The father also worked for several days with Colby at Lindbergh High’s indoor cages. (The club asked that the sessions not go on in public view.) Rasmus added to his body lean toward the plate and drew his elevated leg kick closer to his body. The tonic led him to a .500 average and recognition as NL Player of the Week.

        “I don’t have a problem with it,” La Russa said last week in Los Angeles. “I’ve talked to his father about what he teaches, what he sees. He knows Colby better than anybody. If he helps Colby, he helps us.”

        “I do know his swing,” said Tony Rasmus. “I guarantee if I was with him for the whole season he’d hit .320. Colby’s gifted. But he’s not at the point in his career where he’s able to fix himself. Hopefully, that comes with time.”

        “They ultimately want Colby to do well,” Tony Rasmus said. “I’m not starving for attention. I’m here if he needs me. I hope everybody sees it for what it is.”

        http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_6daba05f-8c82-5dba-ae16-49d25ae265f7.html

        Manager Tony La Russa said “it’s not unusual” for a player to seek familiar coaching like Rasmus has in the past from his father. But the Cardinals skipper stressed Sunday that his hitting coaches are ready and willing whenever Rasmus wants to include them in the recovery.

        “We need him to get well,” La Russa said. “When he’s going about it and getting results he adds so much to our offense because he has so much talent. So whatever it takes to get him right, I’m all for. … What he’s working on is something that he thinks will help him and it comes from someplace else.”

        http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_1cd583eb-3e7e-587d-8158-3650000d84fc.html

        And Drew never had family members getting into the middle of things. Tony Rasmus has been a bit of a lightning rod throughout Colby’s time in STL. Drew never had his father taking shots at manager Tony La Russa or the organization on Internet message boards. Drew never had a father going on Internet forums to essentially declare that his son had no future in St. Louis, or that the fans would never accept him. Let me ask you all something: if your son is struggling with his confidence, why would you take the chance of further damaging that confidence by going on Internet forums to dispense negativity and doom and gloom about your son’s existence as a Cardinal? How in the world does that help? How is it constructive? Unless, of course, your agenda is to cause so much trouble that you’ll motivate the team to trade your son.

        http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/bernie-miklasz/article_847d9b1a-abce-11e0-a1b3-001a4bcf6878.html

        As for Colby’s relationship with his father:

        “I’m trying not to talk to him a whole lot,” Rasmus said recently. “I just tell him I need more positive influence because I got enough negative influence over in St. Louis in the early going. I think all that negative energy kept me down while I was there. I really never let it go.”

        http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/03/06/colby-rasmus-trying-to-keep-his-father-out-of-his-game/

        Trade agitation:

        “I believe its fairly obvious that Colby needs to be somewhere else. I highly doubt he will be in St. Louis for the Albert Pujol’s new contract duration. I don’t think Colby will ever be good enough to play in St. Louis. But I knew this way back.”

        http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/06/11/colby-rasmus-father-is-at-it-again-says-its-fairly-obvious-his-son-needs-to-be-traded/

        There’s a lot more, and there will be even more produced the second Colby’s Toronto tenure goes south, but just maybe you’re willing to admit that you’re wrong at this point.

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  13. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Geez, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of a parent
    living vicariously through their child.

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  14. Snayke says:

    Unless you’re actively reading Cardinals blogs and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all day, someone would have had no reason to keep up with the Rasmus family drama in St. Louis.

    His father is a moron.

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  15. Mike says:

    Another reason for his turnaround in June is he has greatly benefited from hitting in the two spot ahead of Joey Bats. He is a good fastball hitter and he is getting a lot of them right now.

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  16. Pinstripe Wizard says:

    Seems to me that we are forgetting the fact that this turnaround coincides with him growing facial hair.

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