Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/19/11
ST. LOUIS Edwin Jackson sits in a large cafeteria, the bustle of World Series media day carrying on around him. He takes in the sight. Almost three months later, he has no regrets. Before July 27, when he was part of a trade that sent former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays, the activity around the starting pitcher on Tuesday afternoon in Busch Stadium seemed unlikely. He had made 30 starts over two seasons for the Chicago White Sox, giving up 80 earned runs and 207 hits before he was sent to the Blue Jays hours before the Cardinals made their move. Now, on the eve of the first game of the World Series between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers, Jackson stares forward thankful for the opportunity in St. Louis. The trade that brought Jackson to the Cardinals included relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. The bold move by Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak bolstered St. Louis pitching and made a late-season surge possible. Im sure nobody would have complaints with the moves that have been made, Jackson says. Were in the World Series now. It was fun. We got the chance to come over here and be in the midst of a grind mode with the team. To be where we are now, everyone definitely had a part in it. At the time, though, the move appeared risky. The Cardinals took Rasmus in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft. The Columbus, Ga., native made his major-league debut in April 2009 and was considered to be the Cardinals top prospect. But Rasmus relationship with the organization had become strained. Earlier in the season, he chose to work with his father, Tony, instead of Cardinals batting instructor Mark McGwire. Shortly before the trade, Rasmus experienced a slump in which he had zero RBI in 13 games. Meanwhile, St. Louis was in the middle of a tight National League Central race. The Cardinals led the Milwaukee Brewers by a half game and the Pittsburgh Pirates by one before play on July 27. The additions of Dotel, Jackson and Rzepczynski prompted Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen after a short stay in the starting rotation during which he posted a 6-6 record. "I don't think there was anything sinister or anything behind the scenes that prompted this," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman told The Associated Press shortly after the trade. "I know there's a history, but I felt like this was a pure move to say, 'Hey, we've got a chance to win now. The moves gave the Cardinals a chance to win, and they did a lot of it starting in late August. They overcame a 10 -game deficit to the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card chase with a month left in the regular season. And once in the playoffs, they beat the favored Philadelphia Phillies in five games in the National League Division Series and the Brewers in six in the National League Championship Series to reach their first World Series since 2006. In the cafeteria, Jackson prepares to answer a question related to that late-season success: Why did the additions of himself, Dotel and Rzepczynski work well for the Cardinals? Jackson doesn't think long. To him, the answer is simple. Everybody, he says, brought their own personality to the team. Dotel considers his goal accomplished. He says he came to St. Louis for a reason to add a spark that was missing before. The 12-year veteran showed slight improvement from his time in Toronto. In 29 regular-season games with the Cardinals, he pitched 24 23 innings and gave up nine earned runs and 16 hits. Meanwhile, he surrendered 12 earned runs and 20 hits in 29 13 innings with the Blue Jays. Dotels path to his first World Series has included many stops. The New York Mets signed him as an amateur free agent in 1993. In addition to his time in New York, his career had included stints with the Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies before joining the Blue Jays prior to the 2011 regular season. I came here for a good reason to help and change a lot of things that werent here when I wasnt here, Dotel says. Im very excited and happy, because I helped the St. Louis Cardinals get to where they are at right now. That meant providing veteran leadership. Rzepczynski recalled a time recently when Dotel approached him about showing aggression on the mound. Dotel told Rzepczynski to be fearless and never forget a reliever always has another day to retire a batter. Dotels approach has led to success in the postseason, his first appearance in the playoffs since playing for the White Sox in 2008. He has allowed one earned run and two hits in 6 23 innings. Hes a fun-loving guy, been around a long time, was embraced right away, La Russa says. He embraced us. We embraced him. That bond has been present among the pitching additions, and it has allowed the Cardinals to play loose. Rzepczynski sits behind a table in the cafeteria Tuesday afternoon. He doesnt hesitate when asked about why he and the other pitching additions were able to succeed. To Rzepczynski, success is collective. He talks about how 19-year veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes, signed by the Cardinals on Aug. 11 after the Texas Rangers released him three days earlier, helped with the transition. He also mentions how 11-year veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal, traded to the Cardinals from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31 for prospect Alex Castellanos, loosened the clubhouse. The trade that brought Rzepczynski to St. Louis was part of a perfect storm of opportunity. Each addition played his part. As a result, the Cardinals finished 35-24 after the Rasmus deal. Anywhere from the bullpen to picking up Furcal, it really helped us solidify the areas we needed to, Rzepczynski says. We just go out there and play day-by-day. I think it solidified where we needed to get to and helped us get to where we are. Rzepczynski, taken by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2007 amateur draft, helped the Cardinals get to where they are as well. He pitched 22 23 innings and gave up 10 earned runs and 22 hits in the regular season after the trade. Meanwhile, he surrendered 13 earned runs and 28 hits in 39 13 innings this season with Toronto. He has allowed four earned runs and four hits in 5 23 innings in the postseason. Eventually, Rzepczynski saw the mix of personalities in the Cardinals clubhouse become the clubs strength. He saw the team form a winning identity. Confidence allowed St. Louis late-season run to become a reality. Were just playing relaxed, he says. Were all different personalities, but we just happen to jell." Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso thinks a moment from his seat Tuesday in the cafeteria. He is asked to consider what the result would have been if none of this had happened. Where would the Cardinals be if the move for Jackson, Dotel and Rzepczynski had not occurred? Would the Cardinals have formed a similar identity with different players? Or would they have wilted in the final weeks? Those (moves) changed the dynamic of the team a little bit, Descalso says. All those guys who came over had a huge impact over here. Mozeliak pulled the right strings, and it worked out for us. The personalities that came over fit in right away. Adds Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay: Everyone on this team is different, but they bring something unique to the clubhouse. It has been great to have all these different personalities. We have really bonded and come together. But why? It was the right mix, Jay continues. You cant put your finger on it, but here we are right now. And, right now, the Cardinals are ready to begin their third World Series with La Russa as manager in part because of the stability Jackson, Dotel and Rzepczynski provide. To La Russa, the trades impact is obvious. The Cardinals lost a promising if not frustrating young player in Rasmus, but they gained the pitching strength necessary to reach a surprise Fall Classic. Rasmus went on to hit .173 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 35 games played in Toronto. Meanwhile, the Cardinals went on to become baseball's hottest team. Without this trade, La Russa says, we had a legitimate risk to finish under .500, because we were getting so thin, and it would have been hard to finish. But the Cardinals finished the regular season strong. Then they sprung two postseason upsets. Now, one more step remains.
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