Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Daniel Descalso

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.

Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses.  Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.

While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal:  the true start of the 2012 season.   The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove.  New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.

My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:

10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest:  this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality.  Sink or swim, boys!

9. Who’s on 2nd?  Descalso? Greene? Schumaker??  The anticipation’s killing me.  Wishlist:  quick glove, soft hands, excellent range, add in a little offense… Honestly, I’m just glad it isn’t Theriot.

8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider.  I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year.  Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.

7.  Mike Matheny management style.  What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots.  (Cute manager?  Heckya!)

6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”.  Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball.  He makes me smile.  Bring on the crazy-Motte!  I miss watching him yell at his glove.

5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill!  Can Berkman be more than “adequate”?  For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…”  Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.

4. Chris Carpenter attitude.  Yes, he scares me.  Yes, he has a mouth on him.  But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug.  He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce.  And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews?  Thank you.

3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump.  Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright??   Soooo glad he’s back.  Soooo thrilled he’s healthy.  The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off??  Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP.  And also into those dugout shots.  Ok?  Ok. Good!  ;)

2. David Freese smiles.  Is there anything lovelier?  Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win.  Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!!  (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!

…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home,  Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

Winter Warm-Up, Day 2

Who is this guy and what did he do with Mitchell Boggs?

Today, Day 2 of the Cardinals Winter Warm Up, was a lot of fun hard work!

Yesterday, I figured out the system and broke in my sparkly new media pass.  Today, I put it to full use.

In between player interview opportunities, I branched out to explore more of the Warm-Up environment.  By staking out some hallways and talking to folks waiting for autographs, I met a slew of wonderful Cardinal fans who were willing to answer all kinds of questions about their Winter Warm-Up experiences.  (Be watching for the poll results in an upcoming post!) I also made an executive decision to postpone the transcribing of over 2 hours of player interview recordings from today in order to take lots and lots of photos – which was way more fun hard work.  ;)

The media room was hopping with visits from a phenomenal sampling of Cardinal players and one Mr. Bill Dewitt, Jr.  Among those who stopped by:

  • J.C. Romero
  • Shelby Miller
  • Matt Adams
  • Brandon Dickson
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Mitchell Boggs
  • Jason Motte
  • John Jay
  • Jaime Garcia
  • Shane Robinson
  • Lance Berkman
  • and ….Matt Holliday

Some of the highlights/stand-out moments of the day (for me) included getting an introduction to our new pitcher, J.C. Romero, who made a wonderful first impression with his fun personality, making jokes about being “old” and doing a bang-up job of being a likeable character. Romero spoke honestly and openly about his desire to protect his reputation and to be a role model to kids.  He’s a long-time friend of Yadier Molina (Romero teased “He’s my boy.  I knew Yadi before all of you guys knew him.”) and made it a point to talk about his faith in God.

Stumbling upon a barely recognizable baby-faced Mitchell Boggs signing autographs for fans had me amused mid morning, as did the interviews with Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso, Jason Motte and Lance Berkman.

I was impressed by minor league pitching prospect Shelby Miller’s openly discussing how the suspension last season (alcohol related) helped him to realize his priorities and to make necessary changes in his life and “keep his head on his shoulders.”

Shane Robinson spoke to a small group of us, detailing his horrific outfield collision in a AAA ballgame last season and the recovery process involved, mentally and physically.  Shane also shared the exciting news that he and his wife are expecting their first child in May, grinning nervously as he spoke about being a new dad.

And of course there was Matt Holliday.  Matt spoke to a packed house of very determined journalists, so I knew my chances of getting in any questions were honestly hopeless.  So, I climbed up on my chair and balanced on my tiptoes to snap a dozen (or hundred) fairly gorgeous shots of the birthday boy. Yes, Matt Holliday spent the afternoon of his 32nd birthday with ME…. annnnd a small multitude of Cardinal fans. ;)

Okay, I’m keeping the post short tonight, because honestly? I’m exhausted – a good exhausted.  It’s time for bed so that I can wake up and do it all again tomorrow!  Winter Warm-Up, Day 3 – the last hurrah!

I leave you now with a slideshow of some of my favorite photos from today AND a promise to write more later!  =)

Diane’s Excellent Adventure at Social Media Night

By Diane Schultz

Roving Reporter for DiamondDiaries.net

I work in downtown St. Louis (on Market Street about 3 blocks from Busch Stadium), so instead of going all the way home and then turning around and coming right back, I decided to stay in downtown.  I had some time to kill before I met my hubby at the Musial statue (where else?) so I walked over to the Culinaria grocery store at 9th and Olive.

After perusing the groceries at Culinaria, I decided to walk over to Kiener Plaza to kill some more time.  Kiener Plaza is the home of all pre- and post-season Cardinals pep rallies.  There were no pep rallies this night, however.  Instead, there was a group of older gentlemen guarding some Segway machines.  If you were interested (and had the money), you could learn to ride a Segway.  No thanks – my two feet work just fine.

I sat on a bench for a while.  An old guy saw my Cardinals shirt and assumed I needed game tickets.  He flashed four game tickets at me.  I told him no, I didn’t need tickets. I got up from the bench and started walking around Kiener Plaza, hoping to get away from Mr. Ticket Guy.  Mr. Ticket Guy crossed my path later on and he tried to get me to buy his tickets again.  To paraphrase Reba McEntire, what part of no didn’t he understand?

It was starting to get a little creepy, so I called my hubby to see just where he was. I figured he was about 20 minutes away from Busch Stadium.  We decided I’d go to the Hardee’s at 6th and Chestnut and pick up a couple of burgers and fries for dinner.

Our tickets

I walked down to the stadium. Mr. Ticket Guy couldn’t bother me at the stadium – the City of St. Louis has a law that says you can’t scalp tickets within 50 feet of the stadium.  Hubby got off the MetroLink train and met me at the Musial statue.  We ate our burgers and fries and then went to the will call window to pick up our tickets.  When we got up to the window, we discovered we were supposed to go to the group sales ticket window.  Oops!  Once that was all straightened out and we got our tickets, I stopped by the program vendor and bought a scorecard.  I have a scorecard for almost every game I’ve been to in the last 20 years.  Scorecards used to be $1.00, but are now $2.50.  It seems that everything is going up in price.

We then went to the area where the Social Media event was being held.  The event location was across from the Champions’ Club party room on the second level of Busch Stadium.  We proceeded to a table where three smiling Cardinals employees gave us our “Tweet Me in St. Louis” T-shirts – after we showed them our tickets, that is.

Our gathering place for the evening

Where we got our t-shirts

Some nice ladies in their seventies asked me to take a couple of photos of them with their new T-shirts, so I obliged.  I asked them if they were on Twitter, but they said no, they were only on Facebook.  I gave them my name and told them to look me up on Facebook.

I met Tom Knuppel, who runs the CardinalsGM.com blog.  He gave me his card.  I asked about Bill Ivie, but Tom said he’d be along later.  We ended up sitting behind Tom during the game and had some really nice conversations about baseball with him.  Hubby and I were sitting at a table near the outside wall but I started getting cold, so we moved to another table.

My nametag for the evening

I made a name tag with my Twitter handle and avatar on it in case any of the Twitter #stlcards hash tag folks were there.

I saw a group of guys hanging around talking.  The back of one of their T-shirts said “Pitchers 8” and I realized it must be Pitchers Hit 8th from Twitter, who I follow (along with many others).  Seeing as this was “Social” Media Night, after all, I went over and introduced myself.  I also met Jason R. (@CardsFaninBigD) and his girlfriend; Chris Reed (@birdbrained); and a couple of other folks.  I also met Bill Ivie and yes, Erika, he did have some freebies for me.  Bill gave me a couple of can koozies, a Fox Sports MW hat, and a little book called “Tale of a Baseball Dream” by Jerry Pearlman.  Bill and the other guys told me where all you Diamond Diaries ladies live.  No wonder you all can’t get to Busch Stadium very often!  You all live too far away!

From L-R: Bill Ivie (@poisonwilliam), Dennis Lawson (@gr33nazn), Jason R (@CardsFaninBigD), me, Dathan Brooks (@Dathan7) and Chris Reed (@birdbrained)

I told the guys I was looking for Matt Sebek because I was supposed to touch his hair.  I even printed the Tweet that said that the recipient of the DDN SMN tickets could touch Matt’s hair, but the elusive Mr. Sebek was nowhere to be found.  Perhaps he thought I would stalk him, who knows?  I tried, Erika, I really did!  I tried looking for him in the stands, but I struck out there too.

Around 6:50 p.m., hubby wanted to find our seats, so we took our leave of my new friends.  On the way out, I showed the Cardinals employees at the entrance to the event my name tag and suggested that the next time they scheduled a SMN, they should have name tags available to write our Twitter handles and our Facebook names on.  They told me that it was a good idea and thanked me for my suggestion.  Maybe they should set up some laptops too so folks could post on Twitter and Facebook right from SMN.  Hey, not all of us have smart phones.  My cell phone bill is expensive enough without adding a data plan.

Here is a photo of me and my hubby in our seats.

Somewhere between the gathering and our seats, I lost my ticket.  But hubby had his ticket, so we knew where our seats were.  Our tickets were in section 170, row 15, seats 2 and 3.  Or so we thought – when we got there, someone was sitting in seat 3.  (Darn squatters.)  Whoever had seat 1 didn’t show up, so hubby and I sat in seats 1 and 2.  It’s nice sitting on the end of a row; you don’t have to make people get up so you can get out to go to the bathroom.

Section 170 is near the left field foul pole.  Here are some photos of the view from our seats:

Hubby thought that no one would hit a foul ball back in Section 170, but Albert Pujols hit a foul ball to Section 169, which was the section to the right of us.

May 16th was our 19th wedding anniversary, so I went to the Cards’ website on Sunday night (the deadline is 48 hours before the game you want the greeting posted at) and entered an anniversary greeting to be shown on the scoreboard at the ball game.  You only get 24 letters and spaces, so you have to be creative.  The message appeared on the scoreboard in the 4th inning.  It read, “Happy Anniv. Mike-Diane.”

And oh, yes, I guess I need to write a little bit about the game.  Dirty Danny D did a great job on defense.  Jaime Garcia looked very sharp – he gave up some hits, but they were only singles.  And we unfortunately had to watch Albert Pujols hit into yet another double play.  Albert!  Please run a little faster.  Thank you, your fans.

We had to leave after Lance Berkman’s AB in the 6th inning.  We had to get back on the MetroLink train, ride it all the way to Scott Air Force Base and pick up our son at grandma’s house.  It was 11:20 p.m. by the time I got to bed.

Thanks again for the opportunity to attend SMN on Diamond Diaries’ behalf!  Hubby and I had a great time at the game!

Girl Talk: Daniel “Dirty Dan?” Descalso

This week the gals are dishing about Cardinal newby Daniel Descalso.  What do we think of him so far?  How do we predict he will do in 2011?  And what about those nicknames?!?

Erika says:  When Daniel Descalso made the Opening Day roster with the Cardinals, I had high hopes this Baby Bird would get enough playing time to impress both Tony La Russa and fans alike.  I was not disappointed.  Daniel has split his service between 2B and 3B, f lashing the leather with enough finesse to *almost* make me forget about a certain spinning shortstop.  While not a sure thing at the plate, he has contributed some timely hitting, including extra bases.  My predictions tend toward “realistic optimism.” So, for Dan Descalso’s 2011, I am hoping for a slight improvement through the year in batting average (currently .226) with more comfort and exposure to learning big league pitchers.  Perhaps .260 isn’t too much to hope for?  Already impressive with the glove, I expect more chills and web gem opportunities while Descalso has opportunities at the hotcorner during David Freese’ absence.

As far as nicknames, let the record show that I am a definite fan of creative player handles.  The fact that Mr. Descalso has already garnered a slew of fan-approved alter-ego titles is evidence enough for me that Cardinal Nation has eagerly adopted one of my favorite Baby Birds.  Early in the season, it was mentioned on a game broadcast that Daniel’s grandmother didn’t approve of the nickname Danny.  *sigh*… I was partial to Danny Boy.  However since then, new choices have popped up all over.  DD, Dirty Dan and Disco, to name a few.  While Dirty Dan certainly captures the scrappy, it’s a guy’s guy kind of name.  Apologies to grandma, but Danny (Danny D, Danny Boy) still has a nice ring to it.  And then there’s Disco… that cracks me up! (h/t @El_Maquino)

Honestly, if Descalso keeps playing like he has, I’ll call him whatever he wants.  ;)

Emily: I don’t have a lot of knowledge or feelings regarding Daniel Descalso, but I think we are all about to learn a lot more about him. The injury to David Freese (waaaah) likely means a lot more time at third for Danny D, so I assume I will grow to know him. Currently, I only know that he’s had some clutch RBI, made a few sharp defensive plays, and looks like a young John Mabry as he steps up to bat. Offensively, I’m not sure I see him even remotely making up for the loss of Freese, but it will be interesting to see how he grows and (hopefully) improves with more regular playing time. I think that he has the potential to be a true Cardinal favorite (that’s right — scrappy. I’ll just go ahead and say it!), but it’s too soon for me to tell how much I like him or how good he could be.

Cadence: Daniel Descalso. Where do I begin? I have been obsessing over Daniel since I met him at Spring Training. Mostly, I think it is because of how much he reminds me of John Mabry. If you follow me on twitter and haven’t realized this by now, then you just don’t pay enough attention. ;) I love Triple D. Yes, that is my favorite nickname. I know everyone seems to enjoy Dirty D, but I prefer Triple D – Daniel Descalso Defense. I’m going with that after he snagged that ball at 3B on Saturday. He has made a couple plays like that, but that one in particular is when I decided I like that name. Besides, if people are gonna call Eduardo Sanchez’s pitches “dirty” can you really have 2 guys with the “dirty” nickname?  I predict a good year for Mr. Descalso if he just keeps playing his game. Now that David Freese is on the DL…again…he’ll likely get more playing time at third. Even though he only has a .226 avg so far, he has had some big timely hits and some great games and I think he can continue to do that if he knows his role is more important. Good luck Daniel, not Danny – Grandma Descalso might get upset – I am rooting for you!

Angela: Dirty. Danny. D. Oh come on, how could you not fall in love with a nickname like that? It just sounds like a ballplayer – and not one from this day and age of “first letter of first name dash last few letters of last name” type nicknames (K-Mac, A-Rod, heck I even say K-Lo stitched into Lohse’s glove last night!), but a real ballplayer nickname that you would have seen running around in the mud back in the 30’s and 40’s. Dirty Danny D would have fit in nicely with the likes of Pepper “Wild Horse of the Osage” Martin or Frankie “Fordham Flash” Frisch.

In terms of what we can expect from Dirty Danny D? Honestly, so far with the bat he hasn’t been impressive, but I don’t particularly need him to be over the moon impressive there. Heck, Holliday and Berkman are still hitting over .400 after 29 games! What I do want to see from Descalso is solid D. He’s been filling in a lot at second with Skip Schumaker on the shelf, and while he hasn’t had out of this world defense, he’s made some pretty nice plays, and he’s made all the plays he’s supposed to. This isn’t a knock on Skip, this is just saying what we all know – Skip isn’t a great second baseman. Dirty Danny D has the skills to play an adequate to above average second base. That’s what I want… for now.

I mean, eventually you gotta do something with a nickname like Dirty Danny D… right?


			

Don’t Blink

There’s something to be said about how life can change in the blink of an eye.  Yesterday was one of those days on many levels in my life.  On a personal note, my family suffered the unexpected tragic loss of a dear loved one, much too young.  Late breaking news of Osama Bin Laden’s death united the nation and brought spontaneous celebrations and outpourings of patriotism.  And sandwiched somewhere in the middle of a day that will forever be remembered for everything else, there was baseball.

Being that this is a site about baseball, and if you’re reading this now, you are probably looking for something about baseball, let’s talk.

Heading into the weekend, Cardinal Nation was riding high.  The Birds have been collecting wins at an impressive rate, winning 14 of their last 18 games going into Sunday, with a chance to get their first series’ sweep of 2011 against the Braves. A young bullpen surge from Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez has helped distract from the ongoing crash-and-burn of Cardinal closer, Ryan Franklin.  Jake Westbrook, the early weak link in our rotation, has picked up the slack and added two improved outings to his 2011 resume.  Matt Holliday, solid as ever, has defied his “notorious slow starter” label and is batting .418 and slugging .646 with a.521 OBP.  (Translated:  Matt is hitting the ball and hitting it well.)  Lance Berkman too, is absolutely killing it right now.  On April 28th, Lance had another two homerun game, his THIRD multiple homerun game in this young 2011 season.  Combine the offensive threat of Holliday, Berkman and one Albert Pujols with the scrappy play of newcomers Daniel Descalso, Nick Punto and backup catcher Gerald Laird and it was easy to see why Cardinal fans were smiling.

Which brings us to Diamond Diaries’ darling David Freese…

Even cautiously playing only 2 of every 3 games due to his having both ankles surgically repaired in the offseason, Freese has again reminded the Cardinals why they took another chance on him.  David was batting .356 with 2 homeruns and 14 RBI as of yesterday’s game.

However, disaster struck in the 6th inning when Dave was hit on the back of his left hand by a fastball pitched inside, breaking his 3rd metacarpal.  Estimates of recovery time for this injury are 6-8 weeks. Go ahead… take a moment and let it sink in.  It took me a while too….

Can the guy be any unluckier?  After months of grueling rehab on his ankles (both during the 2010 season injuries and then again after surgeries) Freese was finally back in the game only to be sidelined AGAIN.  My heart goes out to him. After all, we were just getting past those “bubble wrap” and “injury prone” comments.  Luckily we have some third base alternatives not named Albert Pujols to hold down the hotcorner until Dave heals yet another injured extremity.

Let’s not talk about how Ryan Theriot dropped that routine pop fly in the 9th inning yesterday, helping to earn down-on-his-own-bad-luck Ryan Franklin the loss after pitching a gem of an 8th inning that could have been a turning point in his string of unfortunate events.  Nah…. We won’t talk about that.

And being that utility infielder Nick Punto, fresh off the DL himself, was also pulled from the game yesterday as a precaution for hamstring tenderness, we won’t talk about our dwindling supply of infielders.  (Although watching Albert Pujols briefly patrol 3rd base yesterday was an enjoyable oddity.)

All good reminders not to take anything for granted… in baseball, or life.

Get Well Soon, David Freese!  ;)

Have a blessed Monday, Cards fans.

Spring Training, Episode 2

Daniel Descalso!!
With only hours left until Opening Day at Busch Stadium and a full season of Cardinals baseball ahead of us, here’s the final part of my Spring Training report with highlights of my time in Jupiter watching our boys.
Some tidbits of Spring Training Magic.  Enjoy!
Luck of the Late Arrivals
Kyle McClellan
After driving the 4 hours from Tampa, we arrived at Roger Dean Stadium less than 2 hours before game time on Friday.  We hit the team store briefly, then headed to the backfields as the small crowds were dispersing.  Figuring we’d missed the fun, we weren’t expecting much.  But we caught some pitchers taking batting practice, having fun competing for total distance, etc.  Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan were taking turns in the cage and after they were finished, all three signed autographs for the fans that were still hanging around.
In camp for approximately 30 minutes and getting autographs from three starting pitchers?  Why yes, I do believe in fairy tales!  ;)
Pujols Smacks TWO!!
Albert Pujols is ……. Well, he’s Albert Pujols.  What more can you say?  The Spring Training crowd that Saturday went wild when Albert led off the 4th inning with a solo blast to left center field.  Next inning, Pujols decided to do it again, with another homerun.  We felt honored to be watching.  Nothing magic about this one…. Just Pure Pujols. ;)
Morning Frivolities on the Back Fields
On Sunday morning, Lance Berkman was good-naturedly terrorizing Skip Schumaker in the batting cages.  Yadi, Ryan Theriot, Skip and Berkman were taking turns in the cage.  The sun was hot and the crowd was sparse when Berkman decided to have some fun.  He started smacking the cage with his bat when pitches came in to Schumaker.  This progressed to full-fledge cage rattling to distract him.  Pretty soon Yadi and Theriot were joining in and all four were laughing.  It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that makes me smile.  Nice to see Cardinal clubhouse chemistry alive and well.  ;)
“Look!  It’s Carp!!”
That’s what I said to Hubby on Sunday, pointing up the sidewalk.  He mumbles something like “How can you see with that guy in the way?”
Turns out that guy was Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ Ace and starting pitcher for Opening Day.  He was heading out for a run in shorts and a t-shirt.  Nobody else was around. It was eerie and exciting all at the same time.  Carp wasn’t stopping to chat though, and I didn’t bother him to ask for an autograph.  Memories of the Carp temper and flashbacks to the icy glares he shot Brendan Ryan that time last season kept me from invading his personal space.  I did grab my camera though.  Carp in shorts??  I had an obligation to document that leg art.  ;)
Blessed Are the Happy Autograph Givers
In my opinion, the best part of Spring Training is the accessibility to the players.  (For autographs as well as great photo opportunities) The environment is welcoming and the smaller venue affords a better chance to interact with these players we watch from a distance during the regular baseball season.  I adore observing Cardinals interacting with fans, especially with kids.  Some of the guys are admittedly better about it than others,  but those brief moments when a favorite ballplayer stops to take a picture or sign an autograph often will be more poignant memories for fans than the action on the field that day.
Skip Schumaker making kids happy
We certainly didn’t camp out for hours or pester players for autographs.  Several players voluntarily made themselves available to sign for fans after practice and before or after games. I know some players are jaded by the fact that autographs may end up on Ebay instead of as treasured spring training mementos.  However the players who take the time and spread some joy with a pen on a baseball make long-lasting, positive impressions on fans.  Those moments are priceless, no matter how old you are.
Well, those are a few of my highlights from Spring Training.  Game One of the 2011 Cardinals season is tomorrow!!!  We here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries look forward to sharing the season with you all!
GO CARDS!!

Starting to Mean Something

Those of you that know me a bit know that I get really excited about the beginning of the baseball season. First day of Spring Training? Check (I wore red). First spring game? I found ways to watch that silly little Gameday box from my desk at work (and I wore red). First televised game? I again snuck peaks at the game (despite being unable to listen to most of it) from work (and wore more red).


Each and every first made me smile, caused me to comment, and gave me reason to talk about baseball a little more than usual. But when the game ended and the final score was posted, I shut it down. I didn’t fuss that too many men were left on base or get irritated at why Tony used this reliever instead of that one. Because it didn’t matter. Spring records mean nothing (although I imagine being incredibly bad or blowing everyone out would turn heads). I have no idea what the standings look like for the Grapefruit League, nor will I be looking them up anytime soon.


It’s not that I don’t care. I’m trying to guess my way through those last few roster spots just like everyone else. I have been looking at various names/faces/statistics, but every time I start to get wrapped up in it I remember: Never fall in love too early in spring. Two weeks ago I was pulling for Lance Lynn for the rotation, Daniel Descalso to be the last bench player, was genuinely concerned about Lance Berkman, and still found little reason to trust Kyle Lohse. Since then I changed my mind… on all of those. But let’s look at one at a time…

Pitchers: I am a huge Kyle McClellan fan. Really. I want him to succeed in whatever role he finally lands in. However, it seems that every year he gets put into the rotation mix during Spring Training, I pull for someone else. Why is that? It’s because I constantly fall into the belief that while fifth starters can be found through any number of ways (and the Cardinals have a history of… interesting… fifth starter names over the past few years), strong and reliable workhorse bullpen arms are a little tougher to come by. I don’t doubt Boggs and Motte. I love those goobers and the flaming fastballs they shoot out of their arms like cannons. I do at the same time love that McClellan can use an assortment of pitches and be the kind of setup man that TLR loves to have and use.


I was pulling for Lance Lynn to have the kind of spring that Jaime Garcia did last year. After watching him today, I’m still unconvinced that he absolutely couldn’t do it. His outing was okay, 4 innings, 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 strikeouts is nothing to be super critical of, but not eye opening either. McClellan has done nothing but mow ‘em down. I want it to be McClellan. I suppose I’m pulling for Fernando Salas to get that last spot in the pen, but as Derrick Goold noted this afternoon, the team hasn’t decided yet. I’m not sold, but I feel better about this all now than I did a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure.


The other pitcher discussion has to be the combination of Jake Westbrook, Garcia, and Lohse. Quick, if you would have picked one of those three to have a strong spring, which would it have been? I would seriously laugh if you had said Lohse. NO ONE saw it coming. Will it last into the regular season? I certainly hope so. I don’t expect him, Westbrook or Garcia to take the place of Adam Wainwright (*sniff*… I’m okay, it’s dust or something), but feeling like we could rely on him to be more like the pitcher we saw in 2008 would be fantastic! Is it time to get concerned about Westbrook feeling like he hasn’t really been able to get his pitches under control or Garcia not feeling worried about his not great start or not working counts well? I suppose that time is getting close. The games are starting to mean something (even if the final scores still do not).


Outfield: Color me not really worried about the outfield. Holliday and Rasmus are obviously just fine, and I think Berkman will be too. He probably cannot and really should not be playing every game like he thinks he can, but I feel confident enough in Jay and Craig being the other two outfielders that it should work out nicely. Should Berkman go down, it would not be the end of the world. I just hope he doesn’t. That’s all.

AP Photo

Infield: The four starters are clear – Pujols, Skip, Theriot, and Freese. No questions there. The two bench spots are the trick. Most assume that Tyler Greene will take one of them, but then it comes down to Daniel Descalso or Matt Carpenter. At the beginning of spring I would have said Descalso, no question. I fell in love too early, then felt Carpenter sweep Cardinal Nation collectively off our feet. He’s not on the 40 man roster, but man, he could be. The fans like him. The front office likes him. Tony likes him (and his work ethic… so… he’s the anti-Brendan?).


But.


Dang. There had to be a ‘but.’


Carpenter plays third. In reality, he only plays third. We have a third baseman by the name of David Freese. Freese has obviously had his share of boo-boos and injury mishaps, and the team is taking care of those and shielding him from doing too much too soon, but really, do you want two players on your team that only play third base? Greene can play second and short, but Descalso can play second, short, and third. Versatility will get you everywhere on a Tony team, just ask Aaron Miles.


Is there a right or wrong answer as to who to take north? I’m not sure there is. The point will most likely be moot anyway whenever Nick Punto (Yeah, I forgot about him too) comes off the disabled list. Both players have played well. Carpenter has gotten more print, but both have averages over .300, both have played solid defense. If you want to argue logistics, then fine – Descalso has experience at the big league level, although very limited (11 games and 37 plate appearances), while Carpenter hasn’t played a game above AA. That is definitely a factor.


Don’t sell either short. However, just because the games are starting to mean something doesn’t mean it’s been long enough to fall for either player.


That’s why they play the games. :)

Even if it was only one game…I finally made it back to Spring Training!!

Finally back after 5 long years!
It has been 5 years (almost to the week) since I last attended a Spring Training game at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. March 2006 was also the first time I ever went to Spring Training. We also know what happened in October 2006….so if I am any kind of luck, 2011 could potentially be a Red October. :) Of course I am just being a little superstitious and silly, but it is always fun to think about.

For the last Spring Break of my college career (hopefully!), I visited a friend in Miami, Florida. I told her that I would do anything else during the week as long as we could go to a Spring Training game in Jupiter. Knowing how obsessed I am with baseball and the Cardinals, she agreed, even though she barely knows anything about baseball. I promised her that I would teach her as much as I could and we would have a great time.

Yadier Molina – you can’t tell here, but I
swear his eyes were closed!
In my usual over-zealous fashion, we got there before the gates even opened and I spent a good 20-30 minutes in the official team store buying quite a few goodies. Don’t worry, I did bring back my little sister an official Spring Training t-shirt. I knew she would have been disappointed if I didn’t. Once the gates opened and we got in, I made my way down to the first row on the 1st base side of the stands. I parked myself right in front of the bullpen pitchers mound and waited for players to begin to enter the field.

After about an hour of waiting, finally John Gast, LHP, was the first to enter the field. I think about 3 people bothered even showing interest in him before a little boy in the berm asked for his autograph. He turned around and gladly gave it to him. After a while several more players began to enter the field, with Yadier Molina being one of the first as usual. As I watched him warm up, catching soft-tossed balls from bullpen catcher Murphy, I swear he actually did close his eyes when taking those warmup tosses. (remember the commercial from 2009 when he was blindfolded catching baseballs??). More and more players entered the field, and I got that same excited feeling I do every new season…I was shaking I was so excited. I think this is probably the coolest part of spring training. Instead of the players entering the field from the dugout, where very few fans are able to see them up close, they enter from the outfield where the berm is, so many fans are able to see the players up close and personal and get autographs and chat with their favorite players.

Me & Daniel Descalso
I was lucky enough to meet Daniel Descalso & Mark Hamilton while they were signing autographs near the Cardinals’ bullpen on the first base side. If you have read Daniel’s MLB blog (http://danieldescalso.mlblogs.com/), you know that he has given us a really great inside look on what a day of spring training is like. When I saw him coming around the corner signing autographs, I was excited that I would hopefully get to meet him…and I did. Everyone else just seemed to be asking for autographs, so I asked for a picture as well. My list of pictures with Cardinal players is getting checked off quickly. :) A little while later, Mark Hamilton was doing the same thing, and I got a photo with him as well.

Me & Mark Hamilton
We continued to watch Jaime Garcia warm up before we got booted out of the seats we were using. We headed to our seats in the second level and got to watch an awesome baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. I was actually really glad I got to see this game because I don’t think I have ever seen the Red Sox live and in person. There were a lot of Red Sox fans sitting around us, but thankfully the guy next to me was a Cardinal fan, and I got to impress him with my knowledge. I remember him saying to me, “yeah, you need to work for this team, you know so much!” I hope this comes true someday. We all know it would be a dream come true for me!

Me & CJ Beatty – sorry it’s not the best,
iphone picture… :)
Prior to the game, I had contacted one of my favorite Cardinal twitter-ers, @CJBeatty44, to see if I could meet him. Fortunately, he was supposed to be attending the game before his workouts started the next day! He so politely obliged and we decided to get in contact with each other on March 8th at the game. After several emails back and forth, we realized that we were actually sitting one section away from each other! So, before he had to leave (those dang American League teams cause games to be sooooo long!), we met up. Ok, people, if you enjoy CJ on twitter, you would love to meet him in person! Such a nice, humble guy. I must admit, when I read on his stats that he was 5’10”, I wasn’t sure what to expect (honestly, I thought I might be a little taller than him because I too am 5’10”), but we were the same height. Good for you CJ, I hate it when players fudge their height on their stats page. Haha. Unfortunately we couldn’t spend much time chatting, his girlfriend only had a few more hours to spend with him before his season started, and of course I wanted to watch the rest of the game. However, I can say from what I have read on his website (www.cjbeatty.com) he is a sincerely genuine person, and any Cardinal fans that get a chance to meet him would be very lucky. I am happy to say that we are now friends and I am looking forward to watching his journey as a member of the Palm Beach Cardinal and hopefully on up through the organization and as a St. Louis Cardinal one day. CJ, thanks so much for meeting me! I wish you the best of luck in 2011 and in the future!

Me & my friend Kristin at Roger Dean Stadium
Cardinal fans, I am soooo excited for baseball season! I know we have already had some setbacks and some scares heading into the 2011 season, but I still have faith…I think that there will be several young-veterans and other younger guys (baby birds maybe) who will be able to step up and take advantage of an opportunity. Next time you hear from me will probably be right after Opening Day! I will be there with bells on and I can’t wait to cheer this team to victory in 2011. All things that have happened thus far, I am excited and I am ready to see what this team does this year. I am not extremely superstitious, but remember, I was last at Spring Training in 2006, and we know what happened then…lets hope for the same in 2011! GO REDBIRDS!!



PS…all of these are my pictures, if you wish to see more, I can post em on twitter!

Crowning the 2011 Ultimate Cardinal Crush

Wow! This seemingly harmless little poll adventure caused quite its share of drama and controversy.  Apparently some of the UCB bloggers (not naming any names….  Mr. Ivie) were hoping to see their names on the ballot. (We love you, but this was just for the Cardinals players, guys…)

Then Kevin (@deckacards) decided to call us out on twitter to Cardinals closer, Ryan Franklin (@Franky3131)….

Franky was awesome about it, and you really gotta love a Cardinal player who actually, you know…. tweets with fans.  (ahem… @MattHolliday7?  where you been???)

So in the fashion of Will Leitch (in his hilarious baseball book “Are We Winning?”…. which I  highly recommend, by the way) let’s take a look at what we have learned:

1. Even playful crush polls, much like junior high, can ruffle some feathers.
2. Write-ins and options for “other” will not cover you.
3. Men DO vote in crush polls but get more fun from stirring up trouble.
4. Ryan Franklin (and his goatee) are both very good sports. ;)

But enough about that….

Courtney presents Freese with the trophy!
Dave is speechless but beams with pride.  ;)

The results of our 2011 Ultimate Cardinal Crush:
1st place ( 34% of the votes) — DAVID FREESE (the hot hotcorner with the delicate ankles)
2nd place (14% of the votes) — Yadier Molina (it’s YADI!)
3rd place ((11% of the votes) — Skip Schumaker (aw, it’s Skipperdoodle!)
4th & 5th place (tied with 9%) — Jaime Garcia and Daniel Descalso

Honorable mentions go to Lance Berkman (7% of the votes), Chris Carpenter (5%), Matt Holliday (3%), Ryan Theriot (2%) and Jason Motte (2%).

Thank you for voting!!!
And Congratulations to David Freese.  I promise I did not stuff the ballot box. ;)

Cardinal Fans: if you haven’t chimed in on the Cardinal Approval Ratings for our friend Daniel at C70 At The Bat, get on over there!  This is his third year to take the pulse of Cardinal Nation, getting our opinions on key members of the team and organization.  It’s a quick poll, no crush questions involved.  ;)

My Hot Stove Wishlist

Last season I was introduced to the concept of baseball’s Hot Stove. Baseball talk all winter?  Yes, please!  ;)
So, I spent my first winter cozied up to that stove longing for any and every bit of news about Matt Holliday. Would he return?  Would Mr. Boras, his evil agent, force him to wear pinstripes instead?  Well, I got my Holliday wish last year and decided that offseason baseball dealings were not only very entertaining, but could make me very happy.
Happy is good.
This offseason has not started off with such warm fuzzies.  Joe Mather, gone.  Matt Pagnozzi, gone.  Personally, I’ll take a nice campfire and a warm Cardinals snuggie instead, thank you.
Maybe that’s what I get for not respecting the Stove?  Maybe I took it for granted that the Cardinals would always make decisions in my best interest?  I guess I still have a lot to learn about baseball.  (thankfully)
So, just in case, the Hot Stove is like Santa and needs a little help in knowing just the right gifts this winter…
My Hot Stove WishList
1.      Save our Shortstop. Yep, I know there is a different player’s contract topping everyone else’s wishlist. But since you all have that one covered, I am going to make sure ol’ Boog doesn’t get forgotten.
Brendan Ryan is irreplaceable.  The fans love him. Brendan’s attitude and personality bring the Cardinals to life and brighten team energy.  Brendan’s got the D.  Plus I have a serious need to be able to watch him leap and jump and dive and be the ballhog that he is in order to fully appreciate Cardinals baseball.  Brendan will be a better hitter than he was last year.  I promise.  Surgery and fiddling with his batting stance messed him up.  With another year of experience, maturity combined with the right ADD meds, we are bound to see a better batter.
Trust me on this.  Brendan stays.  Got it?  Good.
2.      Now, I am no expert on salary figures and balancing budgets, so I am going to head over to my happy place and pretend that I can wish for absolutely anything here.
Two free agents the Cardinals must snag?  Cliff Lee and Mariano Rivera.
Don’t burst my bubble here… I’m dreaming of a 2011 rotation with Wainwright, Lee, Garcia and Carpenter for a moment.  It’s glorious.
      You can see it too, right?  Yeah, I thought so.  ;)
3.      As long as I am not being restrained by common sense, I’ll take Ryan Ludwick back too please.  Power outfield bat?  Restored.  Luddy back in the Birds on the Bat?  Priceless.
4.      Now this is where I need a little help because I’ve read all sorts of chatter about Orlando Hudson, Dan Uggla, Edgar Renteria and other guys who might be able to step in and give us some relief in the middle infield (hands off the shortstop position though, remember?!)
This is where I sit back, let the ol’ stove heat up and listen and learn as all you smart baseball folk tell me why one ballplayer is better than the other. Just keep in mind that I’m one of those fans who gets attached to the players we already have – and I LOVE to see the Memphis boys finally get their shot.  Sentimental?  Yes.  Loyal?  Absolutely.
I am ok with bringing in someone new IF that means we keep Skippy (probably platooning) and Daniel Descalso gets a good shot at proving himself in the big club.  Can we keep Jon Jay and Allen Craig too while we’re at it?
I haven’t done the math, but I’ve probably got about 12 players on the field already.  So, I’ll stop here.

Similar to writing a letter to Santa, it is best to keep it short.  I wouldn’t want to be too greedy.  The Hot Stove may not like that.  ;)
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