Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Monthly Archives: April 2011

Want To Be An On-Site Reporter?

Okay, here’s the deal – there are five of us running around here on Diamond Diaries. Five fanatic female Cardinal fans. We love our baseball and we love our boys. When the Cardinals come to us and say, “Hey, we’re having a social media night and you all have two free tickets,” we do a little happy dance.

Then we looked at the date. Tuesday, May 17. For the most part we’re all an out of town group, and it’s tough to sneak in to St. Louis on a weeknight (at least during the school year). None of us can use the tickets. Cue the sad trombone.

The good news? Our loss is your gain!

That’s right, we’re giving you a chance to be our representatives for social media night in St. Louis! You will receive…

  • Field Box ticket to the game
  • “Tweet Me In St. Louis” T-Shirt (at left)
  • Access to a Pre-Game Social Hour
  • Bill Ivie will be wandering around with free stuff, but you have to tell him I sent you.
  • You get to touch Matt Sebek’s hair. No really – he said so.

All we ask of you is this…

  • Take a couple pictures! We’re jealous that you can be there, and want to see what we’re missing out on.
  • Be willing to write up a few paragraphs on what you experienced. Did you seriously touch Matt Sebek’s hair (and did you take a picture – this really intrigues me)? Did John Mozeliak come out to give a little talk? Say so! Did you get to shake hands with Matthew Leach or Derrick Goold? Tells us about what you talked about with them! Did a foul ball land three rows in front of you? So close! All we ask is that you email us some thoughts and pictures that we can use here on the site.

How do you get these tickets? I thought you’d never ask…

Give me a story. Some story about someone that had an influence on you as a baseball fan. Maybe you got an autograph from a player after a game. Maybe your dad bought you a foam finger and taught you about how to bunt over a pretzel and nachos. Maybe the bullpen guys tossed you a ball during warmups. Maybe you just met a fellow Cardinals fan on vacation somewhere and stopped to chat for a minute about the team. These things interest me.

Leave your story in the comments section and check back Monday morning to find out if you won! Good luck!

As a more current thoughts of the team type thing to leave you with, I have two little gems. The first is from Emily, who dropped this on Twitter last night -

Also, if you missed it last night, Erika, Emily and I were on the UCB Radio Hour with Bill Ivie last night to talk a little baseball with him. Topics included the ever popular #chickcomments, a possible resurgence of the MV3 from 6-7 years ago, and me telling a story about a mean trick I pulled on Erika last summer. Check it out!

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One blown save does not a bad closer make.

Mitchell Boggs has a lot of awesome left in him. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

I went straight to bed after last night’s debacle of a 9th inning, so it was quite a treat to wake up to a) the 80th rainy morning in a row, and b) a barrage of angry tweets re: Mitchell Boggs, our new “closer-but-don’t-call-him-a-closer.”

Cardinal Nation, I beseech you: Please calm down.

There’s a reason that TLR is insistent on not naming Boggs as the Official Closer yet, and I suspect that reason has something to do with the immense pressure and responsibility that comes with that title, and the heightened fan expectations of anyone in that role. It is probably also related to the fact that, when Ryan Franklin first starts showing signs of having problems (also known as: Opening Day), LaRussa was explicit about neither Boggs nor Motte being fully ready for the closer role. They are too young/inexperienced/something for the do-or-die ninth-inning situations, or at least they were a month ago, and yet here Boggs is. Doing. And not dying. (Okay, maybe dying a tiny bit yesterday.)

Mitchell Boggs is only 27 years old (11 years younger than Ryan Franklin) and has been in the majors for a little over two full seasons. He converted all three of his first save opportunities–which means he already has two more saves than the man who was supposed to be our closer this season–and overall, he’s been pretty impressive. His first blown save is not something to be alarmed about or incensed over. He had a slim one-run lead and put in an ugly ninth inning, but frankly, it had already been a pretty ugly game. After last night, I am more concerned about a) Jaime Garcia again failing to pitch six full innings, b) Trever Miller again being brought in to get one guy out–and not getting him, and c) our continued defensive woes than I am about Mitchell Boggs and his potential to close out games for us.

So again, everyone: Pitchforks down. I know we are all extremely sensitive to blown saves right now, but Boggs is not the man to take our hurt feelings and lack of trust out on. Even Mariano Rivera is going to blow a save every once in awhile, and so, you can be sure, is Mitchell Boggs.

April Observations

This post was written on Monday, April 25th, so I know some things are outdated.

It has come to my attention that I have been slacking and I didn’t even write a post about Opening Day!  I want to apologize to the few readers who look forward to seeing what I have to say.  I will try to do better, promise.

There has been a lot going on in Major League Baseball since March 31st, and with so much to talk about, I figure why limit this post to only one topic.  It may not all be Cardinals-related, but all important to the sport we love.

Phenomenon.
The Chicago Cubs have started 2011 with a rare accomplishment; having hit every single .500 mark up to this point.  They are the perfect .500 team, with exception to their loss yesterday.  They have had records of 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, & 10-10.  While I never really root for the Cubs to win, I think it would be funny to see the streak continue.  This is quite the interesting phenomenon that has really intrigued me.  So far, they have set the record for even-steven marks and they are going to be able to go for 11-11 tonight.  I wonder if anyone in Chicago is rooting for this to happen.

Mabry & Matheny on FSMidwest.
As a huge John Mabry fan, I cannot explain to you how excited I was to hear that Mabry and Mike Matheny would be joining FSMidwest as pre-game and post-game analysts.  Two of my favorites to wear the Cardinal uniform are on my TV almost every night.  To me, John Mabry portrayed that “play like a Cardinal” mentality his whole time in St. Louis and I am sure glad that this is where he chooses to keep his ties.  If you follow me on twitter, I am sure you have noticed that I mention something every time I see his face on my pre-game show.  Not to mention, I think this is part of the reason I love Daniel Descalso so much – he looks just like him.  Thank you, FSMidwest, with providing commentary from two players who really do love this team.

MLB Taking over the Dodgers.
Can I say finally?!?  The melodrama of the McCourt divorce over in LA has been nothing but trouble for the organization.  The greedy back-and-forth of Frank McCourt and his wife over their assets has truly hurt this team and I think it was overdue for MLB to take over.  I don’t know all of the details, but when you hear more about their divorce than how the team is doing, something is wrong.  This makes me happy that we have such great leadership in the Cardinal organization.  The fiscal irresponsibility of the Dodger organization has led to chaos and I just think that it would be best for Frank McCourt not to fight this and count his losses before anything else bad happens to the organization.  With all the celebrities in LA who claim to be huge Dodger fans, why don’t they try to buy the team?  Actually now that I think about it…that could be an even bigger problem.  Nevermind.

Booing Brandon Phillips.
Alright, we get it…we can’t stand they guy.  Last year, it made sense to boo after he ran his mouth.  Yes, I still can’t stand him.  But honestly, haven’t we realized that he LOVES that?  He loves the attention he gets because fans boo him every time he comes to the plate or even comes near the ball.  I mean, he got an interview on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball pre-game last night just because of that.  He got what he wanted.  I sincerely like the idea of crickets, silence, or even laughter the next time he comes to the plate in St. Louis.  Stop giving him the attention he deserves or the slams on the city, organization & fans will never end.  It is obvious that he is an attention-whore and that is all he wants.  Can we please move past it?

Nick Punto’s walk-up song.
Ok, I love this.  Who else would have the ability to pull off Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”?  I was so upset when Ryan Ludwick was traded, for obvious reasons, but also because I would no longer get to hear “Brass Monkey”.  I love the original songs…they are great.  Who doesn’t like rocking out and playing the air drums to “In the Air Tonight”??  I know I do.  Thank you, Nick Punto.

Lance Berkman….the Berk-man.
I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect from the Lance Berkman signing.  I wasn’t mad or nervous, I just honestly had no idea where he would fit in on this team.  Well, my questions have been answered.  He fits in just perfectly in that number 5 spot.  Lance Berkman hit 6 home-runs last week to be the second Cardinal named as the National League Player of the Week (Jaime Garcia of course was in week one).  The guy is on fire.  He is hitting .377 in 19 games, an 8-way tie for 2nd with 6 home-runs, is tied for 3rd in runs scored, and has 15 RBI’s.  I am not huge on stats, but for not knowing what to expect, I must say I am pretty excited to see this.  I am hoping his homers can heat up at Busch Stadium, cause I would sure love to see one.  All 6 of his home-runs this season have been hit on the road.  He returns to Houston this week, and I am excited to see what kind of damage he can do in his old stomping grounds. LB, I am officially a member of your fan club.

Predictions.
Ok, so week one was pretty ugly, but the Cardinals really turned in on during the West Coast swing in week 2.  Also, claiming 4 of 6 during this past week’s home stand was good to see.  I know it won’t be easy to win the Central this year – the Reds are going to be barking up our tree all season as long as they stay healthy and we do the same.  It’s great to know that our young guys are stepping up again – Salas and Sanchez have been incredible out of the ‘pen, Descalso and Jay are fitting in nicely yet again, and Hamilton could prove to be some pop if he ever gets a chance to play.  I am happy with the team.  It was hard to watch week one, but I have been so impressed with Kyle Lohse’s start and Jaime Garcia’s bounce back from a spectacular rookie season and rough spring training.  I had no doubt that Garcia would figure it out & I saw something positive in Kyle Lohse’s last couple outings of 2010.  If Westbrook can pitch like he did last night and hometown boy Kyle McClellan can continue to fly under the radar, I think this could be a fun season to watch.  It would be sad to see a postseason without Adam Wainwright, but I think I would be happy with it even without Waino – and I know he will be cheering us along all season.  I am getting very excited about this 2011 squad.  Look out, Cincy, we won’t let what happened last year happen again!

St. Louis Cardinals on Twitter

(note: please click “Twitter Guide” tab at top of page for most recent updates)

Here’s the thing:  Twitter is my baseball connection, and I am proud of my Twitter feed.  Breaking news?  Got it.  Cardinal lineups?  Got it.  Game photos?  Absolutely!  Links to MLB.com, Post-Dispatch and StL Today articles about the Cardinals?  Check!  News about all my babybirds?  yep!  Even twitpics of Jon Jay’s newest shoes!  … Plus baseball chatter from some of the best tweeps in Cardinal Nation!  I LOVE  my collection of Twitter follows.

With this week’s new Redbird Twitter arrivals, I figure it’s a good time to take stock and share the wealth.  So, here you go:  My List of the Cardinal Twitterverse

The links should be hot, so click to follow…. and if I’ve missed someone, please let me know!   Thanks!  ;)

Cardinals

Manager: TonyLaRussa Tony La Russa - People Rescuing Animals…Animals Rescuing People

Left Fielder:  mattholliday7 matt holliday - (hasn’t tweeted since February 2010)

Outfielder jonjayU Jon Jay  - Official Twitter page of Jon Jay from the St. Louis Cardinals

Pitcher ESanchez52 Eduardo sanchez - St Louis cardinals baseball player

Cardinal Legends

OrlandoCepeda30 Orlando Cepeda - Official Twitter of Orlando Cepeda — former SF Giant & Hall of Fame 99′

STLWizard Ozzie Smith - St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Shortstop

 

AAA Memphis Redbirds

memphisredbirds Memphis Redbirds - The official Twitter feed of the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals

Outfielder kingchambers_8 Adron

 

AA Springfield Cardinals

Sgf_Cardinals Springfield Cardinal - Official Twitter of the Springfield Cardinals. Double-A Affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Become a follower to get updates on Springfield Cardinal news.

Outfielder cswag8 Chris Swauger

 

Palm Beach Cardinals – A Advanced

PBCardinals Palm Beach Cardinals - The official Twitter account of the Palm Beach Cardinals, Class-A Advanced affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Game updates, player news, great deals and more

Pitcher JordanSwagerty Jordan Swagerty - Went to Arizona State now play for the St. Louis Cardinals. (edit 5/12/11 – Swagerty promoted from Quad Cities)

Pitcher ShelbyMiller19 Shelby C Miller - Texas born and raised, Brownwood, TX. Drafted by St. Louis in 2009. Born October 10, 1990. Follow my Career on here. God Bless you all!


Quad Cities River Bandits  - Class A

QCRiverBandits QC River Bandits - Single-A Affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals…Season opener April 7th @ Modern Woodmen Park! (563) 3-BANDIT

Catcher codystanley21 Cody Stanley - Being happy, main objective to life. Playing baseball makes me happy. I will continue



Front Office

CardsInsider St. Louis Cardinals - The official Twitter of the St. Louis Cardinals Front Office at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri.

stlcardinals St. Louis Cardinals  - Official Twitter of the St. Louis Cardinals

jluhnow Jeff Luhnow - Vice President of Scouting and Player Development for St Louis Cardinals

Media/Scribes Covering the Cardinals

dgoold Derrick Goold - Baseball Writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Avid reader. Proud father. Lapsed cartoonist. Former World Record-holding second baseman. Look it up.

stlhensley Roger Hensley - Deputy Sports Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MatthewHLeach Matthew Leach - Cardinals beat reporter for MLB.com. Lots of tweets about the Cardinals and baseball, but also college football, music, and plenty more

JohnMarecek John Marecek - St. Louis sports talk show host on KTRS Radio

miklasz Bernie Miklasz - St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist

BJRains B.J. Rains - Cardinals beat writer for FOXSportsMidwest.com. My thoughts and comments are my personal opinion and in no way reflect the view or opinion of Fox Sports Midwest 

JoeStrauss Joe Strauss - Cardinals beat writer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Into pitching duels, hold ‘em, cobalt Mustangs, betting the rail, O’Brycki’s and window seats

Covering the Baby Birds

Dustin_Mattison Dustin Mattison - Senior Minor League Writer-Scout.com

B_Walton Brian Walton - Operates TheCardinalNation.com on Scout.com, TheCardinalNationblog.com, writes for Mastersball.com and FOX Sports Midwest

jrocke217 Josh Jones - St. Louis Cardinals Fan, Run the Cardinals Best News Links Blogspot, Write Various Articles For The Cardinal Nation @scout.com, Follow Latin Baseball Happenings

Future_Redbirds Future Redbirds - Hyperventilating Prospect Geek Fraternity

 

For Cardinal Game Photos

scottrovak Scott Rovak - Photographing professionally over 28 years. I’m a photographer for the St. Louis Cardinals, Rams and StL Sports Magazine.

 

For Cardinal Blogs

Get links to all new posts from member blogs of the United Cardinal Bloggers

utdcardbloggers U. Cardinal Bloggers - The United Cardinal Bloggers is a group of writers that have come together in a network to complete writing projects about the St Louis Cardinals.

stlbaseballapp StL Baseball - I love everything Cardinal baseball! Check out my Cardinals iPhone app StL Baseball!


and of course, there’s us!  DiamondDiaries Diamond Diaries - Blogging about our #stlcards from the female side of the stands.

Rating the Cardinal Rivalries

Are you sick of the Cardinals-Reds Rivalry already? Is it the epic Cubs-Cardinals history that makes a true Rivalry?  Do the Reds deserve the title just because they happen to have the hot button hotheads right now?  What do you think?  Which team is the Cardinals’ biggest nemesis?  Cast your vote in the poll below and/or in the comments section if you have more to say.

Earlier this month, my cousin in Wisconsin asked me which team we Cardinals fans considered to be the Cards’ biggest rivalry.  My immediate response was “The Cubs” but then I considered the recent scubbub with the Reds.  The Brewers didn’t make my list, but my meager 5-6 years of baseball background might  disqualify my opinion in such matters.  So, I threw it out to my Cardinal Twitter tweeps and some Facebook pals as well.

A sampling of responses:

and

Last night during the game, the same question popped up on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Sunday Night Baseball Chat.  So, I thought the question might deserve another audience.

So many valid points.  Yet many different opinions.  One thing’s for certain, the Brewers aren’t even on the rivalry radar among Cardinal Nation.  (Sorry, cuz!)  ;)

Oh, and speaking of the Reds…. What a weekend!  Our Cardinals took 2 of 3 games as Yadier Molina ushered the Reds out of town with a game-winning 3-run homerun in yesterday’s rainy finale.  Westbrook pitched a solid outing (*whew*) while Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Mitchell Boggs all had the right stuff as well.  The make-up of the Cardinal bullpen has changed considerably in just the first few weeks of the season, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the new crew picking up the slack and getting the job done right.  The pace is picking up after an unbelievably slow, injury-plagued start to the season.  In fact, the Cards have worked their way up into 1st place in the NL Central today, sitting only 0.5 games ahead of ….. the Brewers?!?

Are you sitting down for this??….  Yesterday,  Ryan Franklin the deposed closer showed up without his trademark beard/goat/chinpuff/chinzilla yesterday.  The now clean-shaven Franklin may be able to hide in plain sight, almost unrecognizable.  Franklin without his facial hair???  If it weren’t so sad, I’d be talking about how much better he looks, but now just doesn’t seem like the time for that.  (Screen capture from the televised game last night. )

Also, Albert Pujols was removed from the game last night with reported tightness in his hamstring.  That should be enough to keep us worrying on a day without Cardinals baseball!

Have a great 1st-place kind of Monday, Cardinal Nation!

Tomorrow the Redbirds take on the Astros in Houston.

Go Cards!!  =)

From Hollywood to Comeback Kid to… Blah

Ankiel newspaper ad (h/t Derrick Goold)

I was thinking the other day about a post I did last year about Colby Rasmus and JD Drew. (We randomly still get hits on the site from google using search terms such as “Colby Rasmus Tony LaRussa feud.” Those are my favorite!) With the Nationals currently in town and Rick Ankiel currently roaming the grass of Busch Stadium, I find myself pondering the centerfield position again. Now, I planned on doing this piece for today over the weekend, having absolutely no idea that the Nationals and Rick Ankiel were about to swing in to town. Now, after Ankiel took out a half-page ad in yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I feel slightly clairvoyant, and a little less original in my deciding to talk about centerfielders.

So I’ve been thinking over the past few centerfielders that the Cardinals have had. We’ve had Hollywood. We’ve had the Comeback Kid. Now we have… umm… Colby.

I have very fond memories of the man they call Hollywood in Jim Edmonds. He made ridiculous catches, flying over the wall, diving across the grass, and making jaws drop with his latest Sportscenter highlight. People were in awe of his flashy plays. His shelf is full of Gold Gloves, and his reckless abandon with how he played the game will not be forgotten for a long time throughout Cardinal Nation.

On the offensive side of the ball, Edmonds was a strong presence, hitting in a crucial part of the order, either behind Mark McGwire or behind Albert Pujols. He could hit home runs, work a walk, and strike out like nobody’s business. He was also a clubhouse guy – a cheerleader even. I will never forget the pure joy in his face back in 2004 when he hit the home run to extend NLCS on to game 7. It was a perfect baseball moment. Jimmy brought the joy.

When Edmonds left the Cardinals for the greener pastures of Wrigley Field, Miller Park and finally Great American Ballpark (still can’t believe he did all those things), he was replaced by a pitcher. Okay, a former pitcher. Okay, it was Rick the Stick.

Rick Ankiel was a pitcher, who had a historic collapse in his first postseason appearance in 2000, where he set actual records for wild pitches thrown in a postseason game. He kind of vanished from baseball, and was ready to quit altogether, when he decided to become an outfielder. He battled his way back up through the minors and made an incredible burst back into the majors in 2007, where he hit .285/.328/.535 with 11 home runs over the final third of the season. He was the Comeback Kid in every way.

Ankiel was not the defensive prowess that Edmonds was. He made the plays, yes, but by all appearances he did not have the range of an Edmonds. Fox Sports Midwest still loves showing the clips from when he threw out two Rockies baserunners in a game, and we knew he had a cannon of an arm, but there was a difference in his style from the flair that Edmonds had. He had a reckless abandon, something that became abundantly clear when he crashed headfirst into the walls of Busch about two years ago (yes, the video is included in that link, and no, I can’t watch it again).

Something Ank wasn’t, however, was a media darling. He was adored by fans, but he was a media pariah. When he left the team at the end of 2009, he deked the scribes waiting for closing statements while the players were cleaning out their stuff and snuck out without saying anything. He wasn’t a big clubhouse guy. He got along with teammates, but wasn’t a leader. The fact that he put out that half page ad in the P-D completely shocked me (and probably most of Cardinal Nation). It was a classy move from the Comeback Kid.

When Ankiel left, it was for greener pastures, and by pastures I mean dollar bills. No matter, people were ready for the next big thing. Colby Rasmus had been the heir apparent centerfielder ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft. Minor league fans were begging to see him at Busch, and major league fans weren’t always sure what all the fuss was about, but they liked having someone to fuss about.

Leave me alone... please?

Then Colby made it. He played solid. He kept his head down. He was… blah. We have a blah centerfielder. Don’t get me wrong – he’s good. He’s really good. He’s very quietly leading the team in several offensive categories. While he was at first too anxious at the plate, he is patient now, leading the team with 9 walks. He’s focused on getting on base, putting the ball in play, and getting into a good position to scamper across home plate. He has the most at-bats, hits, and total bases on the team, a welcome relief for the prospect geeks that screamed into the ethers of the internets for Tony to use Colby more consistently. Yet… he’s blah.

He’s not the face of the team. He truly doesn’t want to be. He looks scared to death with a microphone in front of his face and most of his quotes sound like a combination between a surfer and a hick. Don’t get me wrong – I’m becoming a bigger Colby fan by the minute right now, but gosh, this kid is just flat out boring!

I’m absolutely pulling for him though. He can hide from the media all he wants, and hang out in the shadows. He can be one of the most underrated players on the team. It’s what he wants. Cardinal Nation just doesn’t know what to do with him.

Franky’s Snap

When Ryan Franklin lashed out at Cardinal fans for the boos (and probably other unmentionables) launched at him following Laynce Nix’ home run in the 8th inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game, the best fans in baseball took exception..

The details can be found here on the Cardinals website (and many, many other baseball sites due to the sheer volume of feathers understandably ruffled in Cardinal Nation.)

The defensive and emotional responses to Franklin’s remarks peppered the internet.  The best fans in baseball were listening (as usual) and used every mode at their disposal to provide an overwhelming, albeit divided, response.

Simply put, there are two camps.

1)      “We pay money to come to games/choose to spend our time watching games/ support this team… therefore we have the right to speak our minds when the team or a player fails to do his job.”

2)      “Booing your own team/players is unacceptable, even when they are underperforming miserably.”

The cases for either of these two camps can be made more/less eloquently and often with more colorful language, but the underlying sentiments remain the same.

I am quite certain nobody is surprised to read that I fall into camp #2.  I don’t find hecklers at minor league games entertaining.  I feel bad for our guys when they make an error.  I may moan, cringe or grumble when a ball is misplayed or a batter strikes out, stranding multiple base runners.  However I would never…. ever… boo a Cardinal during a game. Cheer for your team, or (when things are really ugly) just sit back and take a deep breath, fingers crossed that it doesn’t get any worse.  Sighs, groans and general frustration are, of course, acceptable because we are baseball fans who actually, you know, watch the game.

But that’s just me.

Now, Ryan Franklin may be frustrated. He obviously is bothered by his poor performance and the immediate backlash from the fans.  Who wouldn’t be??!  However, he is a MAJOR LEAGUE BALLPLAYER.

Chin up, Franky.  Take the licks.  I am certain that you have blocked out your share of hecklers and naysayers throughout your entire baseball career.  Lashing out publicly at Cardinal fans was a poor choice; but hopefully those comments don’t stick around to haunt you long after you get your pitching groove back.

Cardinal fans ARE the best fans in baseball.  We are intelligent, emotional participants in the ballgames we witness.  We care what happens on that field.

Honestly, I was partly pleased to read Ryan Franklin’s comments.  It reminded me that he is human, which we sometimes forget from the façade these professional ballplayers put up in order to focus on the game. Franklin has stumbled personally in a very public setting, on a Major League mound and now in front of a microphone.  This (his pitching and relationship with the fans) could go in two different directions for Mr. Franklin.

Being squarely in camp #2, I am cheering for him to recover from both setbacks.

Double-header yesterday and a day-game today?  More baseball?  Why yes, thank you!

GO CARDS!!  ;)

The best of times.

Two days without baseball, and so much rain. Since the boys haven’t played in a while, and there (probably) isn’t much new to say about the Ryan Franklin/new closer situation (at least for a minute), this seems a good a time as any to present my inaugural solo post here at Diamond Diaries. I thought briefly about babbling on and on about myself, but then I realized–there is no better way for me to introduce myself to a bunch of Cardinals fans than to recount my top three best moments as a Cardinals fan.

So. Without further ado.

3. August 7, 2005: David Eckstein’s walk-off grand slam

This game… it’s been nearly six years, and I still have visceral memories of this game. I was watching by myself at my parents’ house in St. Louis, and for most of the first eight innings, it was beyond frustrating. It wasn’t unlike the first week of this 2011 season–people struggling to get on base, people struggling to hit when other people finally got on base. But David Eckstein, god bless his scrappiness and enormous heart, was doing everything that he could. As the lead-off man, he certainly did everything he was supposed to, which was get on base for the big bats behind him to knock him in. So he walked. Twice. He singled. He doubled. He stole a base. All of these efforts left him stranded out there on various bases, until the bottom of the ninth rolled around, and Davey found himself in a position to do a little more damage.

At the time of this game, I was only in the midst of my second full season as a Cardinals fan. I did not yet fully appreciate the Cardinals’ history of scrappy middle infielders, but on that day, I fell in love with them. There’s something so heartwarming and gratifying about seeing someone try so hard and then succeed–with Albert, it never looks like trying. So when Davey belted that walk-off grand slam to give us the 5-4 victory over Atlanta on that random August day in my parents’ living room… I’m not going to lie. I might have cried a little. And then I ran outside and danced a little. And then I called every baseball fan I knew at the time to squeal about it.

In retrospect, maybe that game didn’t mean all that much to the Cardinals season–after all, they won 100 games in 2005 and ran away with the division. But for me, watching Eckstein both play small ball and then swing the big bat was undoubtedly one of my best and most memorable moments as a fan.

2. October 18, 2005: Albert Pujols breaks Brad Lidge

I have heard a lot of argument about this moment and whether or not it is significant (mostly from the other side, who is all YOU DIDN’T EVEN END UP WINNING THE SERIES). I think it is. A lead-changing (and ultimately game-changing) home run is always at least mildly significant, and this one was just so… HUGE. Not in implication, but in… hugeness. (Huge enough that I can’t even find the right words!) I think we can all agree that Brad Lidge has not been the same since this home run, which is awesome.

For me, though, this moment was something else entirely. I didn’t even see this game. While this game was being played, a cruel fate had me somewhere in the sky between Shanghai and Tokyo, and I was a mess. So my memory of one of Albert’s greatest home runs goes more like this:

I am running through Narita airport. I am frantic. I need the Internet! A man spots my Cardinals shirt as we pass by each other on moving walkways moving in opposite directions. He says something like, “Hell of a game. Can’t believe they lost that one.” My heart drops.

“We LOST?!” I yell, turning around as he glides by. The man clarifies: “Astros. Astros lost. Hell of a home run.”

My plummeting heart shoots back up. The Astros lost! That means we won! And I have no idea what “hell of a home run” means, but I’ll be damned if I’m not about to find out. Now I run happily through the terminal. I find some Internet. I pay an inordinate amount of yen to use the Internet. I sit and read, gulping up every happy word, every joyous description.

It is the best.

1. October 19, 2006: Oh, you KNOW

Hmm. So it appears that all of my favorite baseball moments happened when I was alone, and the top two happened when I was alone in Asia. I will address this in a minute.

Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS is the best St. Louis Cardinals game I’ve ever seen. I’ve only been watching for 7+ years, of course, but I think that’s a fair statement. For this game, I got up at the crack of dawn, scootered across the city of Taipei, and let myself into my friends’ apartment–their TV got the English broadcast, and mine did not. Watching American baseball with the Taiwanese broadcast is certainly an experience worth having (the announcers, honestly, yell HASTA LA VISTA, BABY! whenever someone hits a home run), but not for the playoffs. And certainly not for Game 7.

My friends were off to work, so it was just me on their couch with my Cardinals cow. Yes, that was my company for the biggest game of my young life as a baseball fan–a stuffed cow that I made at Build-A-Bear and dressed in a Cardinals uniform. (You might say I was lonely, sometimes.)

We all know about this game. How Endy Chavez robbed Scott Rolen (and us!) of hope, and Yadier snatched that hope right back and knocked it out of the park. Given the present closer situation, we’ve all had Wainwright’s stellar rookie stint as a closer in mind.  We all remember holding our breaths and staring as Carlos Beltran, the “Cardinals Killer”, went: strike looking, strike swinging, strike looking, with the bases loaded and all our hearts on the verge of cardiac arrest. This, along with the day I got married, might have been the best moment of my life.

I guess it’s kind of weird that all of these “best moments” are kind of lonely moments, but maybe it’s significant that I don’t think of them in that way. Baseball makes me feel connected to a community, no matter where I am or what stuffed animals are keeping me company. Joining Diamond Diaries and getting more involved in that community is a really exciting step for me, and I look forward to it greatly!

The Thing About Closers…

The Cardinals’ shut down man is under the microscope.  Ryan Franklin has blown an incredible 4 saves in 6 appearances.  Fans are frustrated.  In postgame interviews, Franklin seems bewildered and emotionally exhausted.  GM John Mozeliak and manager Tony LaRussa are left with a hot potato.  What to do with a closer who can’t close?

Which got me thinking…

When I first began watching MLB games I wondered why closing pitchers (those who came in and blew batters away 1-2-3) were only in the game for brief appearances.  If they were that good why didn’t teams use them earlier or longer during games?  A few years’ worth of baseball games later, I have come to a better understanding of the tradition of the closer, one far different than the everlasting superhero opinion I had first formed.

Closers are magical creatures, the best of the bullpen relievers, sent in to pitch the last few outs of a close game when their team is leading by three runs or less (that special number that gets them the “save”.)  The hero/closer rewards the team with quick outs, saving the game.  <<all cheer>>  But from what I have learned, closers aren’t Terminators that run on Energizer batteries.  A closer’s specialty is mental focus in the highest pressure situations coupled with some variety of nasty, deadly deliveries.  They don’t have to go deep into games or throw too many pitches.  That’s just not in their job description.

The concept of using an elite pitcher in a regular closing role wasn’t born until the 1980’s.  The fact that Tony La Russa (then with the Oakland A’s) is credited with the idea tells me a lot about the rationale behind the position.  La Russa is either brilliant or crazy, depending on whether you agree with him or not.  To me, Tony is one of baseball’s fascinating characters.  I’d give anything to know how he thinks, strategizes and what his eyes see as a ballgame unfolds.  I’m curious if his lineup tinkering and late inning substitutions are just to confuse the fans who try to figure him out.  However the one thing I do know from reading about Tony La Russa is that Tony is a detail guy.  He reportedly relies heavily on split stats and miniscule odds to give him the edge in every single event on the field.  So it logically follows that a closer, much like a LOOGY (lefty one-out guy), would be the perfect tool in a TLR-managed ballgame… until Tony’s mythical hero can no longer channel that closing magic.

So, if there is no clear successor to don the title of Closing Pitcher, then what next?

Twitter exploded with opinions on that subject following Sunday’s blown save and loss to the Dodgers.  It made me wonder, do the Cardinals really need a designated closer?  If baseball got along fine without closing specialists until the 1980’s, is there a proven benefit to dedicating big dollars to collecting a closer just to have one?  How different would our team be if we fell back to a “closer by committee” strategy?  Tony could run his numbers on opposing batters for his late-inning relievers.  If a long reliever was going strong, the guy could close out his own game.  If we had a mixture of inexperienced yet promising shut-down talent that other teams hadn’t figured out yet (read: Eduardo Sanchez) to complement Mitchell Boggs (the heir apparent), why not mix and match?

I certainly respect the tradition of the closer, and in my perfect world the Cardinals would have a lights-out, stereotypical icon waiting in the bullpen, causing opposing teams and their fans to catch their collective breath when he emerged from the bullpen blowing fire and steam.  But the Cardinals just do not have that sort of magical beast on the roster.

Angela laughs when I try to play GM.  She says we’d have the cutest team in the Majors, full of young guys who “deserve a chance.”  But honestly, I ask, why not take a risk on young (albeit unproven) pitcher in the late innings, develop some talent, have a short leash and share the wealth, closing games by committee.  Maybe there are enough crowns to go around?

The Cardinals return home to face the Nationals at Busch Stadium tonight. Jake Westbrook (1-1, 7.63 ERA) will be on the mound for the Redbirds.  In his last outing, the Cardinals scored 15 runs against the Diamondbacks to get him his first win of 2011.  Game time is 7:15 CT.

Go Cards!!

Girl Talk – Would you rather….

THE QUESTION:  Would you rather deal with fair weather fans that only show up when the team is doing well and otherwise don’t really care, or  fans that live and die with every. single. pitch.  and think the season is lost in the first week when Pujols goes 0-4 or Carp gives up a handful of runs?
Erika says:  
Is there a 3rd choice?  Fair weather fans who respond to a few rough games by bailing out probably can’t name the team’s starting lineup anyway.  While that type of detachment could be a good defense mechanism for a Cubs fan, it hardly befits a true member of Cardinal Nation.  I’m not good at sharing a baseball game with someone who just doesn’t care.  On the other hand, volatile fans give me anxiety through proximity.  It’s either melt-down or mania with them – and that gets tiring faster than Franklin can blow a save.  If I had to pick (and Angela says I do…) I’d pick the live-and-die-with-every-pitch type of baseball buddy as long as they are capable of providing a reasonable, intelligent defense explaining what makes them crazed lunatics (for better or worse) on any given day of the baseball season.
Angela says:
To me, the answer is simple – if I have to choose between the crazies that were blowing up Twitter this afternoon or people that head for the hills during the bad times… I might take the good timers. I think this is a partially emotional response, since I checked out on Twitter after seeing the venom there after Franklin’s blown save today by the ones that are grabbing their pitchforks. Some of these fans just become too much for me. The Cardinals win a blowout and they say, “But so and so went 0-4 and left the bases loaded in the 6th and whatever reliever gave up 2 runs in mop-up duty in the 8th.” People – the Cardinals are winning. They just took three of four from the Dodgers in LA and have gone 5-2 in their last seven. You can smile. You can high five. Enjoy the good times.
Emily says:
I’ve lived on Chicago’s north side for nearly 10 years now, which is the natural breeding ground and safe haven for the fair weather fan, so my first instinct is to say that I can’t stand fair weather fans. This part of the country is full of people who moved to Chicago in their early 20s, purchased a Derrek Lee shirt or a pink Cubs hat, and spend each summer chugging beers in one of America’s largest bars–Wrigley Field. For a truly invested fan, it can be infuriating.
That being said, I think that part of the beauty of baseball is its versatility. There is a time for casually enjoying a game and some badly needed sun; there is a time for watching with fellow fans in a rowdy bar; there is certainly a time for watching from under your bed or behind your couch, pushed into solitude by the sheer intensity of the game. Baseball in June is different from baseball in October, and I feel that the fair weather fan, no matter how gross in October, is a necessity to June baseball and all its fun and warmth. We (the die hard, the obsessed, the truly invested) have a tendency to take things a little too seriously a little too early on (see: week one of the 2011 season), and we need those fair weather fans to remind us, sometimes, to keep things in perspective, to breathe and think, “162 games.”
I think what I’m trying to say is that die hard fans and fair weather fans are both crucial to baseball, because part of what makes baseball great is how it can be enjoyed at different levels and loved to different degrees. I believe that if you care more, the game gives more back to you. Yet as much as I can understand and marginally appreciate every level of involvement, I’ll personally  take the “live and die with every pitch” fan any day, because when it comes right down it, I want to talk to someone who can knowledgeably talk about baseball—not a “Cubs fan” who just found out that Ryan Theriot doesn’t play for them anymore.
Cadence says:
This is a very hard topic for me to approach, because I can’t say I can pick either one. Fairweather fans – at least the ones who obviously don’t care unless they get free tickets to a game – are the worst, but sometimes I consider the living and dying (the extreme version) to be very similar. Passion is a tricky thing and in my opinion, it isn’t always a good thing. I consider myself to be a passionate person…in everything I do. I hate it when we lose, when someone blows a game or when we go on a losing streak. On the other hand, I am very happy when we can score 60-plus runs on a 10 game road trip, we go on a winning streak or someone has a complete game, just to name a few things. I guess what I am trying to say is that my passion for the team (my 5 shelves of Cardinals memorabilia, my 6 shelves full of t-shirts & jerseys, and the fact that almost every one of my profile pictures on facebook is of me at a Cards game) is there…and vivid, but I have many other things going on in my life for me to really place my mood fully in the hands of Ryan Franklin or any other member of the St. Louis Cardinals. It gets me more frustrated to see the huge dynamics from people – ecstatic when we score 15 runs in a game and cursing the name of a player who made a bad play the next game – then it does for me to even have to deal with the people who leave games in the 7th inning.
Ultimately, I can’t change anyone and how they react to sports…they are free to do whatever they want. I will cheer along with my fellow fans when things are good (and I am ok if they are bandwagon fans), but when things go bad, I just have to tune out the stuff I don’t want to hear. I would rather just cheer on my team.
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Have an idea for future Girl Talk posts?  Let us know!
The Cardinals have today off, a much needed rest for players and fans alike after the brutal 10 game West Coast Road Trip.  The Cardinal offense surged on the road and the Redbirds are now sitting at .500 with 8 wins & 8 losses.  Can they keep the magic alive at home?
Next up?  Back home to Busch stadium on Tuesday, facing the Washington Nationals.  Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth…. this should be interesting!
Go Cards!!
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