Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Monthly Archives: December 2011

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

The United Cardinal Bloggers take part in many different activities throughout the course of the year. Many of these projects can be found on our site (search ‘ucb’ in the search tab at the top to find more). The last project of the year comes on the next to the last day of the year, and it is a time for reflection. What were the big stories of 2011? This is our list – what’s yours?

1. First and foremost has to be the #11in11 World Series win! This was a team that was left for dead, then came back and fought their way through a thrilling October run. You would be crazy not to appreciate what going out on top meant to Tony LaRussa, and now that he whose name Erika has forgotten is gone off to the West Coast like Tony did, the 2012 team is going to have a much different feel to it. But that doesn’t sour this win at all for us! The wild ride to the postseason, the extended series’ wins in the wildest of ways, the dramatic home runs and the dominant pitching performances. Yes, this was a postseason we will never forget!

2. Oh David Freese. Your glass ankles made me unsure that you would ever reach the potential Erika and I hoped you would. Your hot start to the season was derailed by your hit-by-a-pitch broken wrist on May 1. The .356 batting average cooled, but your solid play did not. Going in to the postseason we did not factor you in as a major player, but your wrote your name in the recordbooks over and over, thrilling us with clutch hits and home runs that no one expected. Your NLCS and WS MVP trophies must be getting dirty from having to lug them around on the talk show circuit. We would gladly offer to shine them up for you! :)

3. Erika’s favorite, Matt Holliday, had a strange year. What’s stunning is that despite having played in 34 fewer games than 2010, his counting numbers were still relatively in line with his career averages. Appendicitis in the first week of the season? One week out, no big deal. A moth flies in his ear and becomes lodged mid-game? Whatever, pull it out and stick it in a jar. Sore muscles, hurt fingers, Holliday was this year’s Freese in terms of strange injuries. Despite it all, he had a strong enough season to garner an All-Star selection and was even selected in the home run derby competition (I know, that feels like an incredibly long time ago!).

4. At the beginning of the year, Bill Ivie had a Diamond Diaries night on the UCB Radio Hour. Since it was the beginning of the season we were asked to make various predictions on how the season would go for various players and the team as a whole. While I was still licking my wounds about Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Erika was wondering what would become of David Freese’s glass ankles, Bill threw us a curve and asked what we thought about the Lance Berkman signing. I was trying very hard to be optimistic. It was a shot in the dark signing, hoping that he could reclaim some of his former All-Star glory, while still knowing that even if he didn’t show much, it wasn’t a break-the-bank signing either.

Did anyone see an All-Star selection and a 7th place finish in the MVP award voting? Anyone?

Lies. You didn’t. We didn’t. We tried to predict counting stats – .280 batting, 20-25 home runs, 75ish RBI were the numbers I tossed out – wording our predictions with “If he could get here, that would be awesome!” He went above and beyond all of our expectations, while also adding that ever coveted “clubhouse presence” that was missing for the past few years. Just for kicks, he also picked up two NL Player of the Week awards. Take that!

5. Why not round out our top 5 with a little bit of silly? Every playoff run needs a theme, and this one appeared to be all about the squirrel and Torty Craig and Happy Flight. It gave fans something silly to smile about, fake Twitter accounts to interact with, merchandise flew off the shelves, and despite all the silliness the Cardinals still found a way to win.

Also, we didn’t have to deal with that ridiculous “Beast Mode” theme. So there’s that.

Make sure to check out the United Cardinal Bloggers site to catch all of this year’s top 5 countdowns.

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

Happy Hollidays: Our “Favorite Things” Winner Announced

Entry #3

Congratulations to Jeff!  His “Favorite Things” Cardinals photo snagged over 185 reader votes, winning him the coveted 2011 World Series Collectors Edition 8 DVD SET from A&E Entertainment /MLB Productions.

Thanks to all who shared your wonderful stories and Cardinal treasures with us.  And a huge shoutout again to the amazing folks at A&E Entertainment/MLB Productions not only for allowing us to share the joy this holiday season, but also for producing such fabulous DVDs (both the World Series Highlights DVD as well as the Collectors Edition 8-DVD set).

Click <HERE> to see the other creative, fun & touching photo entries in our “Favorite Things” contest.

To order the Cardinals World Series products recently given away here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries,  click the shopping links below:

A&E Home Video St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Champions Collectors Edition DVD SET

A&E Home Video St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Champions Highlight Film 2 Pack

We here at Diamond Diaries would like to wish you ALL a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Merry Christmas and  thank you for reading!

Happy Hollidays!

You know, Spring Training is right around the corner… #12in12    ;)

Cast Your Vote: Our Favorite Things Photo Contest

Earlier this week, we unveiled our latest giveaway.  Click HERE to read more about the contest & the amazing Cardinals baseball goodie our “Favorite Things” participants are competing for.

Holy Moly... it's baseball heaven in a box!

The prize: an eight disc Collectors Edition World Series DVD set, from our friends at A+E Entertainment/MLB Productions. The contest: We asked for photos of you (or the Cardinal fans in your life) with your favorite Cardinals memento. We received the following wonderful photos with heart-warming stories and cool baseball treasures.

Here’s where we need YOUR help! Please cast your vote for the winner of our “Favorite Things” contest.  The winning submission goes home with baseball heaven in a box!  (DVDs of all seven games of the 2011 World Series plus a bonus DVD full of the most incredible moments from the 2011 Redbirds’ season.)  This poll will be open through Friday, Dec 23rd.  The winner will be announced on December 24th.

Entry #1 from Aron: "The first time my son saw his brick at Busch Stadium"

Entry #2 from Maridee: "This is an autograph of Chris Carpenter I got right after the won the world series at the rams game. I am a huge carp fan and this is my favorite cardinals hat. I am a huge cardinals fan and love goin to games and watching them on tv, I also went with my boy friend to at least one game of each post series game and we stood outside busch stadium to watch them play and went in the stadium after to see them presented the trophies. I would love to have this dvd series so I could relive the excitement of their post season wins. I kept the faith in them and knew they would win."

more from Entry #2 (Maridee's cap)

Entry #3 from Jeff: "Hi Diamond Diaries, These are my favorite Cardinal mementos and I love using them together. Go Cards!!!"

Entry #4 from Jason: "Photo of me with a photo I took of Wainwright, which I sent to him, he signed, and sent back. Can't beat that! Oh, and there's a signed photo of that Bob Gibson guy, too. :)"

Entry #5 from Eric: "My favorite thing that's Cardinal is my hoodie and my mom who taught me everything about Cardinals baseball and being a fan. She's also a stage 3 small cell lung cancer survivor. So I have a blessing in being able to continue to share the winning tradition of Cardinals baseball for years to come."

Entry #6 from Lindsey: "This is me in the car outside the Great American Ballpark. The Cards had a huge win over the Reds that night and when the game was over, Jason Motte (my favorite Cardinal!) looked at me and threw me a ball for being the only Cards fan in my entire section. I was a little excited after that..."

Matt Holliday: Beast or Bust?

The United Cardinal Bloggers Fall Roundtable discussions have been going on now since November 1st and are finishing up soon.  Great questions, superb insight, fun & informative reads.  You can review all the previous topics HERE.  Today was my turn to start the conversation.

“…before all this fun comes to an end, I’d like to turn our attentions back to one of my favorite subjects: Brendan Ryan.  Okay, okay…. I had to try. Come back. Let’s talk about hunky Matt Holliday.

How do you feel about Holliday’s 2011 season?  Are his contributions (to date) worthy of the biggest contract in franchise history?  Will Holliday be the producer in 2012 who helps us overcome the lack of #5?  Is he worthy of potentially becoming the new superstar face of the franchise?

Your topic:  Matt Holliday, Beast or Bust?”

I’ve heard continued grumblings about Holliday’s performance online and wondered if the UCB crew would come to his defense.  Here are their replies with everything from charisma comparisons to hunky ratings, stats and injury reports:

Bill Ivie, I-70 Baseball 

That is a big question mark, isn’t it?

I think Holliday has performed well.  He has been healthy (for the most
part) and has been one of the most consistent performers in the cleanup
spot in the last few years.

As for him becoming the star…I don’t think he has to.  I think the
pressure will be on homegrown players like Freese and Molina to step into
that role and Holliday just needs to be what he has been to date.  I’m not
sure the fans will embrace anyone completely for a while, kind of like that
jilted lover that just doesn’t want to date, it may take some time.

Daniel Solzman, Redbirds Fun
To the subject of Matt Holliday, he was not a bust.  In no way was he a bust.  How many baseball players start the season with their appendix bursting?  Get a moth trapped in their ear?  Not to mention the other injuries that I can’t recall. His 2012 numbers, I feel, will be on par with that of 2010.  This was the first season since his rookie year of 2004 that he hit under .300.  I think he’ll come back better than ever and put up an MVP caliber year and be sent to another All Star Game.
Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM

Holliday just needs to be consistent. I don’t believe “star power” is a
necessity. I think he will enjoy being a bit more free of Albert and will
be ok.

Now as far as he being hunky, methink not.

Ray DeRousse, StL Cardinal Baseball

Did hunky Matt Holliday have a bad 2011? Sure, he had a WEIRD 2011, but his season-ending numbers were all pretty typical: average around .300, homers between 20-30, and slugging around .500. His RBI’s were down a bit, but that could’ve been due to the Pujols/Berkman factor in the lineup.

Let’s be honest, though – Holliday isn’t going to “make up for the loss of Pujols.” He’s going to give you another robotic year of similar production barring injury. And that’s what he’s being paid to do.

If anything, I’d like to see Holliday be more of a leader on this team. His performance during the Series was an awful example of tail-between-the-legs surrender that we can’t afford this season. So far, Holliday has seemed aloof and distant (much like Pujols). I’m hoping Holliday steps it up emotionally with the departure of Pujols.

Jon Doble, Redbird Dugout

When I look back on Holliday’s season, I’m not disappointed by his season at all. I would have liked more games but an appendix and the tendon issue
can’t really be avoided. And only Matt knows if his back injury that nagged him a lot of the late season could have been avoided.

If you project Holliday’s numbers out to his typical playing time, he would have hit .299 with 29 home runs and 98 RBI. For me, I’m happy with .300-25-100 out of Holliday and he just about met that. He hit .316 with
RISP, better than in 2010. He hit .419 with a runner at third base, better
than in 2010. He scored 19% of his base runners, tied for the team lead
with Freese and better than 2010 (where he once again led the guys who were
on the team all season).

His lack of ability to stay healthy was disappointing, but I’m not
concerned with it yet. If he has another year of freak injuries this year,
I’m going to start questioning whether we can depend on him long-term, but
right now this is an aberration and I have no reason to believe that it is
anything else. This is the first time he’s gotten less than 620 plate
appearances since he started playing everyday back in 2006.

Going forward, it’s going to need to be a total team effort. The Cardinals
have 6 starting players who can hit .300 (Jay, Holliday, Berkman, Freese,
Craig, and Molina). They also have four guys who are capable of hitting 20+
home runs (Holliday, Berkman, Freese, and Craig). However, Holliday needs
to be the offensive leader in that 3 spot in the lineup and he needs to
step up into that role. It’s obviously one that he’s filled before in
Colorado, so I am not worried about him going overboard in his approach.

Aaron Hooks, CardsDiaspora

I’m scared about Holiday.

Frankly, I’m scared about how Cardinals team in general. Pujols was
such a staple in the lineup that not one other player on this team the
past 11 years had to worry about being THE man, they just had to be A
man. Is Holliday capable of being THE man, much like he was in
Colorado? He’s got the talent to do so, sure. But 2007 and ‘Rocktober’
was 5 years ago for a team gambling with house money.

He hasn’t had to carry a team for a while. He hasn’t had to carry a
World Series contender ever.

I think we all agree with Ray DeRousse, who called Holliday’s season
in 2011 ‘weird’. It was. But if I was to have a pejorative descriptor
for my feelings in 2012? scared.

For Erika’s sake, I hope he comes out strong.

Tara Wellman, AMF

You don’t replace Albert Pujols, no matter who you are.

That said, Matt Holliday has a chance — and the potential — to carry much of the load.

Others have already quoted his stats, so I won’t repeat them. But, his numbers are enough to conclude that his year of freak incidents isn’t the norm.

The only problem I foresee is that, as the potential “face of the franchise,” he’ll put that pressure on himself and struggle. We saw that with Pujols all the time — when he started to play like it was all up to him, he struggled (usually pretty badly). I hope none of the guys are told/feel that pressure of being the ONE to step into Albert’s role.

Just one more thing on his leadership. He’s a quiet kind of guy. You listen to him talk or give interviews, it can feel like he’s distant. However, I tend to build my thoughts of players’ personalities and their “clubhouse dynamic” by what other players say about the guy. Listen to David Freese tall about Matt, and you’ll get a pretty solid idea of their bond and the understated leadership style Holliday displays. Plus, keep in mind, he wasn’t supposed to lead this team to victory. Albert was. Now that AP isn’t there, I suspect Matt will be able to have a greater impact on the guys around him.

Kevin Reynolds, Cards ‘N Stuff

Matt Holliday’s contract looks a lot better after Werth’s absurdity in
Washington. Holliday has the ability, name, and track record to become the
face of the franchise for the next couple years…but he seems to rely a
lot on skills that could erode fairly quickly over time. Many of the hits
he gets are hits simply because he hits the ball so hard and powers it to
the wall or past a fielder. That strength and bat speed could gradually
fail him – twice as much so because skills required to make his strength
look good (coordination, etc.) will also gradually fade. And although he
catches most of what he gets to (except, apparently, in the playoffs…?),
he still isn’t an exceptional defender.

I think what I’m trying to say is that Holliday, to me, is not a “pure”
baseball player. He’s a helluva an athlete…no question…and great
hitter…but I believe guys who are athletes first and baseball players
second tend to erode more quickly than guys who seem to come out of the
womb with a bat in their hands.

Also, for whatever reason – pressure, comfort level, playing in Albert’s
shadow, quirky injuries – Holliday hasn’t been able to truly settle in as a
Cardinal. He seems to be, at times, attempting to turn his bat into paper
right there in the batter’s box. Dude just tries too hard. I love that
about him, but he has to get it under control.

Okay, all that being said…I think Matt is poised for his biggest seasons
as a Cardinal with Albert gone. Watching Holliday in Colorado, I saw a
ballplayer who would do anything it took to win…to cross the plate…etc.
He seemed to shine in the spotlight. Then, when he came to St. Louis…he
seemed less sure of himself and perhaps hesitant. I don’t know if he was so
aware that it was Albert’s team and he was just here to support the dude in
the 3 hole…or what…but I think now Holliday will have more room to
shine.

With Albert out of the way and TLR’s controlling nature giving way to
Matheny’s “go out and play” attitude, I think you will see a more
assertive, aggressive, “gimme the ball” Matt Holliday. If that’s true, and
given the player contract landscape, I don’t actually have a problem with
his contract. And for me, his 2011 season was rather remarkable considering
what the guy dealt with all season.

Bob Netherton, On the Outside Corner
I will add more later when I have the time to do this great question justice, but on the subject of “face of the franchise”, Holliday does not have the charisma for that label.  Not a problem because David Freese, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Chis Carpenter have plenty :). With a catcher as a manager, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter should replace Albert Pujols as the new face of the Cardinals.  A new era of pitching led championships, just like another rookie manager led after the Cardinals won the World Series in  …… Well you know :)
Mark, Retrosimba
Matt Holliday underperformed in 2011. Injuries played a part but he still was inconsistent and subpar. The season he had in 2010 for the Cardinals established the baseline: 28 home runs, 103 RBI, .312 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .532 slugging percentage. That’s what I expect from him each of the next 3 or 4 seasons. He’s clearly capable.

Subpar?!  Gosh, I’d hate to see what you thought of Ryan Theriot’s season…If you adjust his 2011 season into 650 plate appearances (in other words,assume health) he winds up with exactly 28 home runs.  Sure, health is not a
guarantee, but in home run rate, he was clearly even with his 2010 season.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 batting averages is 7 hits.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 on-base percentage is 1 hit.

The difference between his 2011 and 2010 slugging percentage is 1 home run,
or 2 doubles, or 4 singles.

His OPS+ was 10th highest in MLB among qualifiers, his OPS was 13th in MLB
among qualifiers – both ahead of a new Anaheim Angel.

It wasn’t Holliday’s best season, when compared to his own high standards,
but to say he underperformed and had a subpar season is just not accurate by
any measureable, IMO.

Dustin McClure, Welcome To Baseball Heaven

I had a good idea that Erika’s subject would be around hunky Matt Holliday.

To answer the given question in short he’s definitely not a bust. Last
season was just such a weird campaign for him. Ruptured appendix, moths, sprains, it was so unusual for the durable outfielder. I reference 2010 as a medium of what I consistently expect from Matt Holliday which is pretty damn good. I’m always surprised at the number of people I come across that refer to him as an underperformer. I just don’t get it.

As for being the “Face of the Franchise” I’m with Bob in the fact he’s not charismatic enough for said title. Lovable Lance Berkman is a good comp of someone who has the skill set and personality to attain such a title if he was in Matt’s position as far as contract and age.  This Albert Pujols wound will need some time to heal before Cardinals fans are ready to crown another “Face of the Franchise” I believe. Or maybe it’ll be J.C. Romero who knows.

Disappointing season because he struggled with injury?  Sure, I’ll go along
with that, because who knows how much the nagging injuries hampered him.
Subpar?  C’mon.

Holliday’s been worth every penny, and I don’t care if he is the face of the
franchise or ever has a season as good as Pujols does in Anaheim – so long
as he keeps posting numbers in line with his career averages.

Malcolm Pierce, Redbird Menace

History and the changing nature of the league have been kind to Matt
Holliday’s contract.  Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford inked larger deals
despite being inferior players.  And then they both busted like overstuffed
pinatas.  Meanwhile, Matt Holliday has continued to be Matt Holliday. The
only thing disappointing about his 2011 (in which he posted the
second-highest OPS+ of his career) was a series of bizarre accidents and
maladies.

Meanwhile, the remainder of his contract runs through the five years of the
newly-approved MLB CBA.  This agreement significantly limits the ability of
teams to spend money on talent beyond MLB payroll (and NPB posting fees,
interestingly enough).  Money can no longer be significantly allocated to
the draft or international free agents, especially by competing teams.  As
long as owners invest that money into their ML teams, this should have an
inflationary effect on contracts, which was probably what the MLBPA
intended in negotiations.  We’re already seeing it: from Anaheim’s behemoth
deal with Pujols to Boston turning Nick Punto into a multi-millionaire.
Holliday’s contract, which seemed like a bit of an overpayment the day it
was signed, just continues to become more and more of a bargain.

As far as what to expect from Holliday, he’s been a remarkably consistent
player throughout his career.  I think we can expect more of the same.  As
long as he doesn’t have any more internal organs burst or insects take up
residence, we can expect an OBP near .400 and a SLG a tick over .500.
That’s pretty fantastic.  While no one can replace Pujols, I think he’s
already the kind of producer who can help make up for the loss.  He was
second on the team in OPS last year–behind Berkman, not #5.

One last note: if you told me three years ago that someday I’d be trying to
decide whether Matt Holliday or Lance Berkman would be the face of the
Cardinals lineup, I’d have thought you were crazy.

JE Powell, STL: Fear The Red

Matt Holliday helped the Cardinals down the stretch to win the division in 2009 and was an integral part of the Championship in 2011. Early in the season im 2011, the Cardinals were much better with him on the field and his several stints on the DL hurt. I think that in 2012  we will see a Holliday that will have a .300+/25-30/90-95 line. I really feel that he is going to step it up next year and have one of the best years he has had in awhile.

In 2010 he had 28 homeruns and 103 RBI in 158 games and in 2011 he had 22 HR in only 124 games. Had he had a full season, he may have been able to get 27 HR and 95 RBI. As long as he stays healthy the next few years I think he will be a beast.

Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat ’82

Not sure the whole charisma thing matters much in regards to “face of the franchise”…Has anyone given less interviews and less intriguing interviews than Pujols?

After game 7 of the world series he looked and talked like someone had just shot his dog. Dont buy the charisma argument in regards to face of the franchise. Pujols was the face of the franchise because of his gaudy numbers, unexpected rise to greatness, and potential as the next and last Stan the Man.

I think Holliday will put up great numbers in 2011. He’s a good enough hitter not to need pujols protection to put up big numbers. Freese and berkman should be plenty of protection.

My vote is 2012 beast

Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat

There’s really not much to add here, but that’s never stopped me before.  I
do think Holliday is going to be one of those metronomes in the lineup,
that he’s going to get to his numbers but perhaps in a quiet way, in that
way when you look up at the end of the year and say, “Wow, I guess he did
it again.”

No need for him to be the face of the franchise or anything like that.  As
long as he keeps hitting, everyone will be happy.

Diane Shultz, Diamond Diaries
Poor Matt did have a crummy year.  All kinds of bad stuff happened to Matt this year.  Hopefully, he will rebound next year and have a great 2012 season.  The long shadow of Albert will be gone and Matt can shine.  He can be a big help to the younger outfielders.
Pip (Matt Philip), Fungoes

I appreciate Nick showing just how consistent Holliday’s production has
been the last couple of years and therefore how his performance shouldn’t
be seen  as anything less than beastly — unless for some reason someone
thinks that a 5-WAR season in an injury-shortened campaign connotes a
“bust.” Maybe I don’t listen to enough sports-talk radio, but I was
flabbergasted to hear someone at a recent SABR meeting propose the idea of
trading Holliday.

Are his to-date contributions worthy of the biggest contract in team
history? That question comes with some baggage — if you’re asking whether
he has been a positive value for his salary, then yes, certainly. But
that’s going to be necessary to offset the probable negative value in the
last couple of years of his contract.

I’m not sure why Holliday would actually fare better with Pujols gone, but
he’s likely not going to suddenly lose the ability to hit for both on-base
average and power. Neither is he going to magically gain out-front
leadership skills. He’s simply going to produce as he has been, which is
exactly what the Cardinals ask and need him to do.

——
Well, there you have it…
I think Hunky would be pleased.
Happy Holliday, everyone…  ;)

Favorite Things Contest

It’s cold. Cardinal Nation is still reeling from an unexpected Pujols departure.  Holiday stress is on the rise with burgeoning shopping lists, Christmas parties, pageants, concerts and family demands.  Wouldn’t we all like to rewind for a few hours to a happier time back in October when we had baseball and a magical run to the postseason with 7 incredible games of World Series battles ending in …. Well, I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.


The kind folks at A+E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions are again giving us the chance to make our readers happy and spread that warm October baseball joy with a free copy of the 2011 St.  Louis Cardinals World Series Collector’s Edition DVD Set.  Yep, the WHOLE kit and caboodle.  You will win the EIGHT DVD set.  Talk about a great escape!

Let me tell you a little about this set.  I received my copy about a week ago and felt like I won the lottery!  All seven games and a bonus DVD.  I expect most Cardinal fans would attack this box of video treasures in the following manner:

1.  Survey the back of the box to set the stage for the eye candy ahead, reading about the gem you are now holding in your hot little mitts.  “…featuring every game of this remarkable Fall Classic —- including Game 6 which instantly became one of the greatest postseason games ever played— this eight-DVD set celebrates the unforgettable, exhilarating, dramatic and uplifting comebacks and victories of the World Series Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.”

 2.  Pop in the BONUS DVD to see all the extras.  Oh and you will find a plethora of extras!  From a montage of the highlights of the 2011 regular season including walk-off wins, milestones and highlights and champagne celebrations from the NLDS and NLCS to the trophy presentations and the St. Louis victory parade.

 3.  Settle in for commercial-free viewing of each and every World Series game.  Here’s the psychology experiment:  Do you start with Game 1 or go directly for Game 6?  You know you want to.  ;)

 The cover of every DVD case is chock full of trivia tidbits from each game along with it’s complete boxscore and inning-by-inning description of the action.  A nice added touch: each DVD gives you a choice of audio broadcasts as well as English/Spanish options.

To sum it up, this is a MUST HAVE.  A+E Networks/MLB Productions hit a homerun with this Collector’s Edition.  As I write this post, I have Cardinals baseball playing on the television in the background.  It almost feels like late summer … the sights and sounds of our beloved game… You WANT this.  You KNOW you do!

So…. HOW DO YOU WIN a boxed set for yourself, you ask?

While we are almost positive this set will make it to the top of your favorite St. Louis Cardinals keepsakes list, we would love to see what already tops that list.  Send us a photo of you (or the Cardinals fan in your life) with your favorite Cardinal memento.  It might be your towering collection of Cardinal wearables, that Brendan Ryan autographed ball (you know I had to throw that one in there!) or a framed photo of you with your favorite Redbird.  Whatever brings you that warm and fuzzy feeling of ultimate Cardinal love…  we want to see you showing it off.

Email your photos to cardsdiamonddiary@gmail.com.

Everyone is invited to enter, even the winners of our World Series Highlights DVD contest.  We will post all eligible entries for reader voting starting Monday of next week, so get your entries in early!  Winners will be announced next Friday, Dec 23rd.  Poor Santa may have a hard time competing with this prize!  ;)

As always…. if you have absolutely no patience OR if you want to order a phenomenal Christmas gift for that special Cardinal fan in your life,  we’re including the shopping link HERE .

Good luck!  We can’t wait to see your photos.

Pujols’ Presser Giveaway Contest Winner

Sometimes a contest doesn’t go the way you planned it to…

When Erika and I decided on how to give away our copies of the World Series DVD, I doubt that either of us really considered how weird it would feel if the Pujols’ press conference announcing his new contract would really be for another team. That said, we do have a winner! While we didn’t hit the exact date, Dan got about as close as possible. He picked December 9, at 11:00AM. Considering the contract broke a day before and the presser was a day after, that’s about as close as you can get without hitting the bulls-eye. Congrats Dan!

For me, it was weird watching the DVD. I felt the same thing in 2006 watching that DVD, because I was seeing names like Jeff Weaver and Preston Wilson being interviewed. Those guys were names that I expected to go away. In fact, when I watched the DVD a couple years later on a cold snowy day I had actually forgotten about those names completely.

Watching this DVD, it would be impossible to forget about Pujols playing on this team. I almost felt like a knife was being turned in my stomach. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a stunning movie, and it gave me butterflies watching it over and over. Seeing the joy of the players, hearing that crack of the bat again after going several weeks without any baseball, and listening to those familiar voices and sounds of the game I love… it was incredible. I didn’t even jump into the bonus features and see the extra goodies like game 5 of the NLDS and bonus material from This Week in Baseball, among others. It truly is a treasure, and if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, seriously, what are you waiting for?

Be on the lookout for our next big giveaway. We’ll be filling a few more Christmas stockings with some copies of the 8 disc set – yippee! :)

Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!

Erika may be over it, but I’m not (well, at least not yet).  We Cardinals fans feel like jilted lovers.  The one we adored, whose jerseys we bought, whose home runs we cheered, left us for greener (in more ways than one) pastures.

Albert, you deceived us.  You told us you “wanted to be a Cardinal forever.”  You said the Angels were “tugging on your heart,” but it was more like they were tugging on your wallet.  If it “wasn’t about the money,” then why didn’t you sign with the Cardinals?

I can understand when where a favorite player is traded to a different team.  I remember when John Tudor was traded to the Dodgers for Pedro Guerrero in 1988. (Yeah, I know I’m old.  Oh well. Age happens.)  It broke my heart – Tudor was my favorite player.  The Cards eventually got him back, though.  Sometimes, trades are for the best for both sides (i.e., Colby Rasmus). 

This, however, was not a trade.  This was an out and out rejection and it stings. The best fans in baseball are in St. Louis.  Albert, why would you want to play for a team in a place where the fans aren’t as forgiving as we are?  They will boo you if you don’t hustle to first on a ground ball.  The media will rake you over the coals if you don’t play up to their perceived standards.  You had it made in St. Louis. 

 I will always love the St. Louis Cardinals as a team.  But I will have to think long and hard about choosing a player to make my favorite again. Loyalty isn’t what it used to be; it’s a reflection of the world we live in. 

Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane

The UCB’s “Too Soon” Attempt at Pujols Nostalgia

Pujols is gone. We saw magic for 11 years, and now we will find new players to find that spark.

Oh ugh. It is way too soon to be sunshine-y about this one. Just shut it.

I know. Too soon. Who tries to spin some silver lining when every Cardinal fan everywhere feels like we were just collectively spit on by a man we once compared to “The Man,” a man who we felt could one day be as incredible as Stan… a lifer with the Cardinals. A legend.

He won’t be. Not anymore.

But dangit, I drew the crazy straw and landed on today for the annual United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion. My options were to:

1) Mope, whine, and complain. Let everyone vent.

2) Go for the “Okay, what do we do now?” tactic.

or 3) Attempt to put a bow on the career he did have here.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I tried. I am trying. Earlier in the day yesterday I was able to be more okay with it. I was able to be Erika, if you want to spin it like that. I was okay. Then I read this. Now, if I wrote like Hooks, I would have written a piece closer to the one that Hooks posted yesterday (not suitable for my family – don’t click that mom! :)).

But here it is… the UCB’s attempt at nostalgia, including my original question out to the team:

Here’s your chance to not talk about the contract, the money, the betrayal (the venom!) that we have seen all over the internets today. Here is your chance to be nostalgic.

What is your favorite Pujols memory? The Lidge bomb? The MVP awards? A specific game or meet-and-greet or whatever you choose. What specific memory will you tell your kids and grandkids about when you talk about Albert Pujols. The fact that he’s gone stings, but it doesn’t negate how we felt when he was here.

I was not let down. I absolutely understand that many could not bring themselves to answer this one. The state I’m in currently… I’m not sure I could have either. But the news broke while I was at work, and I like my job, so I wasn’t upset about it all really until later in the afternoon/evening.

For me, my favorite Pujols memory has to be the Lidge homerun. I was in college, watching the game with 1 Cards fan and approximately 200 Astros fan. Okay, maybe only 15-20 of them. Texas kids all over the place. They were shaking hands, poking fun, having a good time, making World Series plans.

Boom. Bang. Pow.

Their jaws were on the floor. I was screaming and hugging a girl I barely knew, knowing that not only did the Cardinals have life, the also had the opportunity to go back to Busch II for at least one more game. It was beautiful. But that’s my thought… what did the rest of the UCB think?

Bill Ivie: i70 Baseball

I’m going to have to go “nostalgic” a few months ago.
Three home runs in one World Series game, no matter how far out of reach, was impressive.  I seriously do not think anyone in the crowd thought that last at bat would go differently.  It was a flash back to the Pujols of old seeing him step in and do exactly what we expected him to do.  It was a moment that I will tell my kids about, the way my dad told me that he watched Reggie do it.

Daniel Solzman: @dsolzman

Like many of us, I was in the first step of denial when I started thinking about 2005 NLCS Game 5.  I’m starting to sob as I type this because of all that I associate with that memory.  I will be forever grateful for Albert bringing the series game to Busch for one final farewell.  Even though we lost, it was one final way to say goodbye.

In May 2006, I was at a rare game.  Rolen was out with the flu.  Pujols was at the hotel with back spasms or something.  Jimmy?  Well, he had the day off.  It was the first time since the MV3 started that none of them were starting.
Game 5 stands out as a special memory as does the 3 home run game during this past World Series.  I know exactly where I was when it happened.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 at the Bat

Favorite moment?  Wow, that’s tough.

Besides the obvious, the Lidge homer, the big game in Texas this year, I think one of my favorite memories is going to be a mid-season game in Colorado.  Pujols is on third and a ground ball is hit to the third baseman, I believe.  As soon as it was hit, I was sure what was going to happen and, sure enough, Pujols rounded third and came home, scoring the winning run.

It was pure Pujols.  Doing the little things, the heads-up things, to win a ball game.  Something we’ll sorely miss.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

Too soon, Angela. Too soon. I’m still ready to hammer that backstabbing, St. Louis hating, money chasing, double play machine, former Cardinal.

Jesus. Former Cardinal. That sounds so weird.

Favorite Pujols Moment? I really did think hard about this. And even though it’s pretty obvious, that HR in 2005 against the Astros was so incredible. Not only was it a go-ahead homerun to put the Cards on top of a game they had no business winning, but it was sooooo top tank.

On the road, nevertheless. And it also melted a dominant closer down for years and provided us with the classic Andy Pettite “OH MY GOD” clip from the dugout. I can still watch that specific play 20 times in a row and find something new to love every time. Just wish Gus Johnson could have somehow been on the call.

Kevin Reynolds: Cards ‘n Stuff

For me, it was a couple years ago…when Albert was on his grand slam tear…a buddy (@dmbfan81 actually) and myself had gone up like a week before my wife was due to have our daughter for two games against the Cubs in Busch. We were in the right field bleachers…Albert hit a grand slam to LF so hard we never saw the ball…just heard the crowd’s reaction and saw Soriano turn and watch it go…and we started screaming and jumping up and down in the bleachers so hard that half our beer ended up all over the other bleacher goers (who were doing the same) and my buddy fell and nearly broke his ankle (swelled up the size of a softball on the way home). Was amazing to actually be present when he hit that.

Erika Lynn: You know her!

For the glory story, I’m going with being in the stands at Arlington to see Albert hit those three homeruns in Game 3 of the World Series AND at Busch Stadium for Game 7 to witness (what we didn’t know at the time would be) his final at bat as a Cardinal.  (Future grandkids may be impressed by that in a few decades.)  I have Hubby to thank for those memories.  He had to convince me to spend the money, said it was a bucket list kinda thing.  I’m so glad he did.  It was our chance to witness history.

For the personal story:  We’ve watched Albert at Spring Training for the past few years and in 2009 I remember being surprised and struck by Albert’s camaraderie with players and staff from the OTHER teams.  It was one of the final Spring Training games, against the Mets, and both before the game and after, Pujols was greeting the Mets players, coaches and managers like long lost buddies.  I was taken aback at first, but then it hit me: Pujols wasn’t just a Cardinal, he was a Major League baseball player and these were his peers.  The meaning of baseball family got bigger for me that day.

Tom Knuppel: Cardinals GM

2001- Vonachen Stadium- Peoria Illinois- Pujols hit his first home run. The scorboard flashed Jose Pujols…. he told the local sports guys, “I prefer to be called Albert” ………..from then on, he was Albert.

Ray DeRousse: Stl Cardinal Baseball

My favorite Pujols memory was Easter Sunday of 2005. Pujols ripped three home runs that gorgeous afternoon while I got completely drunk and screamed my head off with my friends. Afterwards, driving home down highway 55, the wrecked hood of my car flipped up and smashed my windshield. I was forced to drive like Ace Ventura while hoping the police never saw me. They didn’t, which only makes the memory even sweeter.

Malcolm Pierce: The Redbirds Menace

July 20, 2004.  The Chicago Cubs put up seven runs against Matt Morris and the Cardinals in the second inning in Wrigley Field.  Cal Eldred comes into pick up the pieces.

The wind is blowing out, but even the most optimistic Cards fan doubts the team can come back from this one.  This isn’t your usual sadsack Cubs squad.  This is the team that prompted Sports Illustrated to announce “Hell Freezes Over”, handing the league championship to the Northsiders before the season even began.  They’re several games back but the national media wants us to believe they’re just biding their time.  Glendon Rusch, the Cubs starter, is having a career year and the Cardinals always seemed to struggle against his wily left-handed ways.  It’s almost enough to make you turn off the game.  Almost.

In the top of the third inning, Pujols turns on a pitch to tack on a run.  7-1 becomes 7-2.  Still need to bat around to take the lead.  Still looks like a struggle, but at least the team has life.  At least you got to see a Pujols home run.  It almost looks pointless, as Eldred immediately gives the run back in the bottom of the inning when Aramis Ramirez makes a bad pitch disappear.  8-2.

Three more innings pass.  Rusch is doing what Rusch did best, changing speeds and making you wonder if Jim Edmonds should start switch-hitting to get a better look.  But there’s Albert again.  Leads off the sixth inning with a single.  Doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it’s the start of something.  Rolen and Edmonds follow him up with singles of their own.  Rusch is out, replaced by Francis Beltran who treats the strike zone like it has the plague.  He can’t touch it.  Walk.  Bases loaded walk.  Single by So Taguchi.  Giving up a critical hit to Taguchi is unacceptable.  Beltran is out, replaced by old friend Kent Merker to face Ray Lankford.  Sacrifice fly.  8-6.  The rally Pujols started made it a game, but the good guys were still losing.

Pujols smashes another solo home run, second of the day, to lead off the seventh.  Cardinals fans everywhere bemoan what Cardinals fans have been bemoaning for eleven years now: why aren’t there hitters with better OBPs in front of Pujols?  But it’s a one run game now.  Later, So Taguchi’s second most unlikely HR of his career ties the game.  The Cardinals have battled back from oblivion.  It’s a new start.  Bullpen versus bullpen, but who will give?

In the ninth, Edgar Renteria leads off the inning with a single against Latroy Hawkins, bringing Pujols to the plate.  Do I know what’s going to happen next?  Is it that obvious?  Is Pujols that amazing?  Or do I just dare to hope so much that I convince myself of such a glorious inevitability?  the ball jumps off Albert’s bat.  It sails through the sky and it doesn’t land until the Cardinals finally have the lead. Third home run of the day.  Fifth hit.  Fifth RBI.   Comeback complete.

Even Isringhausen’s bases-loaded tightrope act to get the save in the ninth can’t kill the high.

JE Powell: Stl Fear the Red

My fondest memory of Pujols wasn’t historic, but personal in a lot of ways. In September of 2009 my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Milwaukee for a three game series against the Brewers. I had never been to a full series before and it was definitely memorable. The Cardinals swept the Brew Crew and Pujols went 7-12 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. The final game the Cardinals won 5-1 and Pujols hit two homers. We had very good seats for the series (Miller Park is a very good stadium) and it was was great to seem him hit so well and put on a power display.

Chris Reed: Bird Brained

I’m going to have to take the easy route for my memory, and then tell a little story about this year.

The Lidge Home Run in the 2005 NLCS stands out for me because I remember all the circumstances surrounding the moment so perfectly. When the game got to the 9th inning and the Cards got a couple outs, my roommate turned the channel to the Rams game (Monday Night Football, if I remember correctly) because the game was “over.” I went downstairs to our other TV and flipped the Cards back on, because I’ve learned time and again never to give up on baseball early. When Eckstein got on with his seeing-eye single, I ran back upstairs and told my roomie “Turn the baseball game back on; they’re not done yet!” He did, and we watched Edmonds also get on in front of Albert. We both scooted to the edge of our seats. And when he connected, we both yelled and jumped high enough to damn near hit our heads on the ceiling. It was such a pure baseball scene: two buddies sitting around watching the ballgame, and it turns into an iconic moment which causes them to act like kids celebrating a little league win. And I will never forget the home run or our reaction.

OK, story time. I split season tickets to Busch with three other people so my girlfriend and I go to about 20 games per year. At the beginning of each season, we “draft” our games for the year. My first pick is usually the last home game, because 1) it could have playoff ramifications; and 2) you get a voucher for a free ticket the following year. This season was no different, and in March I thought it could be an even bigger deal because who knew what would happen with La Russa, Pujols and Carpenter, let alone the team. So we were there 09/25 vs. the Cubs and did the Standing O for Pujols and everything. Then, of course, they make the playoffs. Time to draft tickets again. As luck would have it, we drew #1 for the playoff series tickets so we got the extra game (maximum possible 5 games at Busch between the NLDS and NLCS). My first pick was NLCS Game 5 on the off chance it might be a clincher/last game. The game that was left after everyone else picked was NLDS Game 4…also a possible clincher/last game. When it came time to pick for the World Series, we each got tickets to one game (maximum possible 4 games at Busch). But I drew the shortest straw this time, and we got “stuck with” Game 7. So I was present for what could have been the absolute last possible AB for Albert Pujols as a Cardinal at Busch Stadium four times this season. But each game was a winner, eventually leading to them moving on. And it turns out I did see his final AB as a Cardinal, in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. I did think about it each time, too…”Wonder if this is the last one.” My intuition turned out to be correct, but my timing isn’t as strong as my luck. That seems so long ago now…

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth

The photo in this post – that’s how I choose to remember Pujols.  For all his accomplishments and notable events – that’s what I want to see when I think of Pujols and his time with the Redbirds.

Thanks for all of your thoughts!

“You know…. I’m really okay with this”

“You know, I’m really okay with this.”

Yep, that was my shrug of a reaction upon hearing that Albert Pujols, “the greatest player in baseball,” accepted an offer from the Anaheim Angels for somewhere near $250 million for 10 years.  That’s BIG money. Huge. Ginormous.

Good for Albert, getting the $$$’s to match his reputation.  His legacy?  Well, I guess that’s not such a game changer anymore.  Pujols snagged his mega contract AND a ten-year NO TRADE CLAUSE (reportedly).   That No Trade Clause issue was rumored to be the deal breaker between Pujols and the Marlins on Tuesday.  So, there was some writing on the wall to warn us that Mr. Pujols was seriously moving beyond just testing other waters.

John Mozeliak should be commended. Sure, the “best player in baseball” left the building on his watch, but I fully expect history to look favorably on ol’ Mo here.  He didn’t sink the ship to save the aging treasure chest.

This little corner of Cardinal Nation (well, ok, maybe just me) hasn’t shed a tear.  I’m not going to riot or rant.  Heck, honestly I’m not even really disappointed in Albert.  He got a heck of an offer and he took it.

Today we were just reminded that baseball really is a business.  Lance Berkman’s words have been stuck in my head all week: “It’s always about money. No matter what people say, it’s always about the money.”

Well now, Lance…. How do you feel about scootching on up to first base for 2012? OK? Thanks!

Moving on feels great actually.  We can finally kiss all those “will he/won’t he” debates goodbye and look forward to 2012 which may just turn out to be the best flip of the apple cart that baseball has seen in a while.

Thank you, Mo!

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