Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Jaime Garcia

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!  =)

Daydream Believer

Pinch me.

It’s the postseason and my St. Louis Cardinals have conquered the unconquerable, done the unthinkable.

This team, who was 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central during the last week in August put on the turbo-boosters and raced into October, beating the odds-favorite pitching monsters of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and then moving on to snuff the mighty Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

Pinch me.

This is the team who lost their “Ace” Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, whose veteran closer fought a prolonged and painful struggle to “get it right” through a good part of the season before finally hanging up his cleats, whose bullpen woes and injury bugs peaked early and haunted faithful fans.  This is the team who failed to reach a contract extension agreement with their legendary (pending free agent) first baseman before the start of the season, leaving a cloud of doubt over the future of the club. This is the team whose manager battled SHINGLES for what seemed like an eternity.  This was the team nobody expected to be here.

And yet, here we are.

The Cardinals are heading back to the World Series, five years after another of their unexpected (and victorious) runs through the postseason.

The Texas Rangers are the bulldogs waiting for us in the final showdown.  The Cardinals are (again) the underdogs, facing a powerhouse lineup that should strike fear in the hearts of any opposing pitching staff.

Except this team is the 2011 Cardinals, something unexpected, something… special.  This is the team with the power trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.  This is the team with Golden (glove) Boy, Yadier Molina anchoring the battery.  This is the team of David Freese, whose superhero powers apparently magnify in the postseason.  This is the team of churlish veteran Ace Chris Carpenter, the wise-beyond-his-years lefty, Jaime Garcia, and the resurgence of Kyle Lohse. This is the team with an MVP bullpen (Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn…), a work in progress throughout the entire season, rich in talent and tuned to perfection under the mad genius of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

This team exemplifies the saying:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The midseason trade for shortstop Rafael Furcal added a potent combo of game-changing glove and switch-hitting hot bat.  The Colby Rasmus trade, initially flunking all seemingly rational baseball criteria, now shines with the luster of La Russa brilliance (isn’t hindsight incredible?) as pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have all contributed handily to the magic of these rally Cardinals with Jon Jay in centerfield, making Rasmus’ absence (dare I say?) forgettable.

As I sit here composing this ode to what looks more and more like a team of destiny, I am finding it difficult to know where to stop.  So many players up and down the bench, the bullpen and the rotation have contributed to get this hot surging team to the magical summit: Allen “Do It For Torty” Craig, Nick Punto, Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot… the list goes on and on.  When you stop to think, it is beyond belief:  the timely talent really does run that deep, this team has surpassed every expectation.  But don’t tell them that.  They have momentum and their eyes on the ultimate prize.  They are aiming for the top.

This is not a team of superstars, this is a TEAM.  The light-hearted frivolities: Puma suits, rookie hazing costumes, the “shredder”, tortoises, rally squirrels, “Happy Flights” and sprinkles have combined with an underlying burst of what can only be described as a perfect storm of “Do It or Go Home” mentality.

Game 1 of the World Series starts tomorrow…. and it starts at Busch Stadium.

Pinch me.

Go Cards!  ;)

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!

Is Defense Overrated?

Sometimes it takes the right baseball question to jumpstart a conversation.  Yesterday on twitter, just such a question popped up.

A very good question, indeed.

First, the glorious numbers:

Matt Holliday is leading (numero UNO) all of baseball in batting average (.398) and Lance Berkman is #2 (.374).  Berkman also sits atop the Major Leagues stats board in runs batted in (32) and is one of the top five players for homeruns so far this season (10).  As a team, the Cardinals lead the Majors in team batting average (.285).

(psssssst….. by the way, those big numbers are primarily from two Cardinals not named Pujols.)

Two Cardinal starting pitchers are in the top five National League pitchers in wins: Kyle McClellan (5) and Kyle Lohse (4). And our lefty with the red-hot glove, Jaime Garcia, is 3rd in the National League in Earned Run Average at 1.99.  Hooya!              (*stats from 5/9 espn.go.com/mlb/statistics)

(psssssst…. those are three of our pitchers not named Wainwright or Carpenter, by the way.)

The flip side -because there’s always a flip side, especially with baseball stats- is that our darling Redbirds also happen to have the 2nd most team errors in all of baseball this year.  (The Texas Rangers have that dubious lead at 32 to our 29.)  Ryan Theriot is tied for the most errors (8) at shortstop, and Albert Pujols currently has more errors (4) than any first baseman.

So, back to that good question:  With our boys smacking away and hurling the ball off the mound as they have in the first 5 or 6 weeks of 2011, do we worry about the nose-dive in defense?  Does this season’s early power surge make all that whining and complaining about the front office trading away superior defense for a little better bang in the bats look, well, kinda silly?

I don’t think so.

Here are my meager sticking points.

  1.  I’m a gal who loves flashy gloves, dirty uniforms, diving catches and gritty double plays (the defense kind, not the kind our Cardinals have been hitting into with reckless abandon this season.)  Sloppy errors aren’t sexy, they’re embarrassing.
  2.  Ask the losing pitcher in a close game what they think about defense/errors.  I’m fairly certain they’d have strong opinions. During the last month, the Cardinals have lost 9 games.  In 6 of those games, we scored 5 or more runs. And in 4 of those games, we lost by only one.)
  3. A few early losses may make a big difference down the road. 
  4. Even if our boys are hitting, it still takes three outs (sometimes four) every inning to shut down the opponent. 
  5. And of course, cue the chorus:  Ground ball pitchers need good infield defense.

Which brings me to another thought-provoking tweet, this time from Aaron Hooks back on May 6th :

Aaron, with his tell-it-like-it-is-no-matter-how-much-it-hurts counterbalance to my optimistic cheerleader-type Cardinal fan personality, may have the perfect response to the question that started this off.  Only time will tell if those errors will continue to haunt the Cardinals.  However, errors alone don’t tell the whole story.  Making the routine (and not-so-routine) plays, being in the right place at the right time and turning efficient outs are all crucial to good baseball.

A truly great team, one built to win a World Series run, should have it all: solid defense to complement strong offense.  Without dependable, steady gloves, a team is left susceptible to unpredictable hitting droughts or arms breaking down through a long season.

If the Cards keep playing as they have in the past month (winning 2 games of every series,) life is good.

If the power dries up over the long season or injuries take a further toll, defense could take center stage.

If Albert powers up and joins Berkman and Holliday in the offense leader boards, 2011 may be a very special year.

Obviously we won’t know how it all shakes out ‘til we’ve played 162. And isn’t that part of what makes baseball so great?  The what if’s.  The numbers can’t tell us what will happen.  The boys must get out there on the field and play the game.  We fans hang on until the last out because anything can happen.  And those late-inning home runs (and errors) may tip the scale.

Hopefully it just keeps tipping in our direction!

—————————————-

The Cardinals play the first of three games against the Cubs at Wrigley today at 7:05.

Chris Carpenter gets the ball against Carlos Zambrano in what could be called a Clash of the HotHeads.  ;)

Go Cards!!

Want To Be An On-Site Reporter?

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

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

The good news? Our loss is your gain!

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

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

All we ask of you is this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to
internet radio with Ivie League Prod on Blog Talk Radio

Signs of Life

Nine games in the early 2011 season have left our Cardinals floundering.  Some fans have already thrown in the towel in disgust, heading off in search of less painful entertainment options.  But yesterday, others who donned their “true fan” label as a badge of courage were rewarded to what we can only hope will be more typical (winning) Cardinal baseball.

The record is not pretty at 3 wins and 6 losses, but the Cards have had some strikes against them.  The most obvious has been lack of run support coupled with costly fielding errors.  Leading the league in double plays (not the defensive kind) hasn’t helped much either.  And then there’s Albert…. With a string of unAlbertlike games and a batting average of  .143,  is it any wonder that Cardinal fans are wondering if we all fell down the rabbit hole?
There are, however, signs of life.  Slugger Matt Holliday returned yesterday, 9 days after his emergency appendectomy, showing he was back and ready for action.  David Freese belted his first homerun and collected his first 3 rbi of the season, helping the Cardinals score their inaugural “6 serious runs.”  Kyle Lohse, showing strength and command, went 8 full innings with no walks, 5 strikeouts and only 5 hits.  He threw 96 pitches, 65 for strikes.  Couple that with previous stellar early outings by Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter (whose records are unfortunately tarnished by lack of run support) and a strong showing from Kyle McClellan – and we have reason to hope this is just an unlucky/slow start.
Two of my favorite bloggers have taken the high road from all the grumblings and cussing about the comedy of errors we have witnessed lately from our hobbling redbirds.  If you need to be nudged away from the ledge, I highly recommend stopping by their sites for a positive reality check.

Bob at On the Outside Corner posts “There Must Be A Pony In There Somewhere”

And Mark at Retrosimba reminds us of the many, many years that our “Cards Turned Bad Starts Into Great Seasons.”

Sure, one good game does not a rally make.  But the Cardinals are not dead and buried.  So chin up, Cardinal Nation.  There are signs of life!  ;)

The boys continue their western road trip tonight against the Diamondbacks with Kyle McClellan on the mound at 8:40 CT.  You never know what baseball magic you may see.  So tune in with us and watch the rally continue!

Go Cards!!

Cardinal Hospitality

Last Sunday I was pretty hyped to be in a party suite at Busch Stadium, watching the game with 25-30 other Cardinal bloggers/writers as guests of the St. Louis Cardinals! My adventure started back in March when an email invitation to the 2011 Blogger Event arrived in my inbox, R.S.V.P. required.  Needless to say, that decision was a no-brainer.

On Sunday morning a group of us congregated outside of Busch Stadium, excited to soon be entering the stadium through the doors of the Cardinals Administrative Offices, located at 700 Clark Street.  We were greeted by Molly Radcliffe and Kathy Langenfield who gave us welcome packets full of information about ticket packages, special promotions, a “Tweet Me In St. Louis” t-shirt and our own copies of the beautiful 2011 Cardinals Media guide. Next we were escorted to a large conference room where Melody Yount (manager of media relations and new media) spoke briefly and then introduced John Mozeliak, the Cardinals General Manager.

Mr. Mozeliak gave us a quick state-of-the-team review and talked about the offseason moves and roster changes, then patiently took questions from the group for almost 30 minutes.  I must admit it was highly entertaining listening to a group of us “less experienced” new media types ask questions of the GM.  Everyone was well-behaved and respectful, but the nervous energy was palpable.  Mozeliak answered all questions.  None of it was “breaking news,” mostly statements we had heard before from him or the team.  But to give Mo some credit, he did inject some humor which lightened the mood.  For example, those in attendance now have a new frame of reference regarding our shortstop’s batting average (as it relates to the weight of Mo’s daughter).  Also, Mozeliak gave us a status report on Matt Holliday’s recovery from his appendectomy, using the word “bloated,” after which I promptly tuned out in order to clear that less-than-flattering visual from my head.  (Get well soon, Matt!)

Mo made his exit in order to attend to pressing Cardinals business, (why else wouldn’t he hang with us for lunch?) and Derek Throneburg filled us in on the new dynamic ticket pricing.  Honestly, after listening to Mr. Throneburg and perusing the glossy info sheets in our goodie bag, I am impressed by the effort of the Cardinals to provide tickets and packages at great bargains.  No more excuses….  You gotta get to a ballgame at Busch!

After all that official stuff (many thanks to Mr. Mozeliak for taking the time for the UCB Q&A!), we headed to the suites where the Cardinals provided a buffet of yummy food and drinks.  (Ask Angela about those brownies…) Jim Hayes of FoxSports Midwest stopped by to chat, but Fredbird stole the show when he flew in and posed for pictures.

Sunday’s Cardinals game was a must-see with Jaime Garcia throwing a complete game shut-out against the Padres, earning the Cardinals their first win of the season.  And even though I didn’t actually watch much of the game – my own fault: I was having too much fun chatting with other bloggers/writers that I had never actually met in person before – I will always remember that game experience.

By far, the best part of the event (for me) was the chance to finally meet all the great people of the UCB (United Cardinal Bloggers.)  Take it from me, even if you absolutely love how they write, they are even better in person!

Daniel Shoptaw (UCB founder and voice of C70 At The Bat) helped me come up with a list of the fine UCB folk who were present on Sunday.  Somehow I didn’t manage to meet them all, so I’ll be looking forward to next time!  Check out links to their great sites at the UCB Website.

Part of the UCB crew in attendance on Sunday
Photo courtsey of Daniel Shoptaw
Matt and Josh–Joe Sports Fan
Nick, Josh, Dennis–Pitchers Hit Eighth
Angela (and me)–Cardinal Diamond Diaries
Christine–Aaron Miles’ Fastball
Chris–Bird Brained
Daniel–C70 At The Bat
Bob–On The Outside Corner
Dustin–Welcome to Baseball Heaven
Kevin–Cards ‘N Stuff
John–STL: Fear The Red
Aaron–Cards Diaspora
Bill–I70 Baseball
Matt–Baseball Digest
Eugene–85% Sports
Steve–Gas House Graphs
Mike and Joe–Cards Droppings
Joe–The McBrayer-Baseball Blog
Tom and Ryan–Cardinals GM
Dathan–Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Goodnight
Justin–Intangiball/InsideSTL
Pip–Fungoes

But wait… there’s more!  (Way too much for one post.)
Tomorrow I’ll fill you in on how I ended up in the Busch Stadium press-box and what happened when Matthew Leach got stuck answering some of my questions. Plus, some of us wandered over to Paddy-O’s after the game….
No Cardinal baseball today, but the Memphis Redbirds take on the OKC Redhawks in Memphis tonight for Opening Day in the minor leagues!
Go Redbirds!!  =)

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. :)

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.  ;)

United Cardinal Bloggers Roundtable:The Sophomore Class

Each day during the month of February, the United Cardinal Bloggers fire off an email roundtable discussion about all things baseball – from serious talk of lineups and rotations to the lighter side of the game such as wishlists for musical acts during the 2011 World Series at Busch.  If you missed some of the fun, check out the full list of roundtable questions and responses at http://www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com/.

This weekend, it was our turn to come up with a question.  And since we gals love our babybirds, we decided to focus on the youngsters.  We asked our fellow bloggers to predict how the Cardinals’ Sophomore class would fare during the 2011 season.


Angela threw the topic into the ring with this email question:


“Let’s focus on a less threatening question today and look at all of the sophomores on the Cardinals roster. Who of these players is due for a big season, and who is in for a sophomore slump? Your choices: David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Jaime Garcia.”


Bill Ivie (I-70 baseball)

I look for Jon Jay to have a bit of a slump as he adjusts to being a part time player most of the time this year.

As for breakout years, as much as I have said the opposite, my gut and hope is that Craig is due to show that he belongs in the bigs.  My mind tells me that is not going to happen and we have a better shot of a solid year from the glass ankles of David Freese.  I would look for Mr. Freese to put up a solid .280/20HR/85RBI season and be considered a solid option at third for a few years


Daniel Shoptaw (C70 At The Bat)
I’m with Bill, I think Jay slides some, due to both lack of playing time and the fact that he kind got figured out at the end of last season.  He’ll be of value, of course, but may not be quite as impressive as he was last year.  Garcia will slip a bit as well, but as we discussed in a previous question, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t still be good.


You figure if Freese can stay healthy, he’s going to easily be more than he was last year.  I also think that if Craig can get some regular at-bats, no matter where it may be, he’ll bring something to the table as well.

Dennis Lawson (Pitchers Hit Eighth)
I think that Freese has the best opportunity for a big season, because he has the best opportunity to play and make an impact.  In theory, I look for Jay to slide based on lack of playing time, but we’ve already seen that projecting playing time is a very slippery slope.  TLR has a lot of mix-n-match options, and an injury to any of the position players could completely change the formula. With that in mind, Allen Craig could have a really good showing simply by being in the right place at the right time in 2011.

Mark Tomasik (Retrosimba)
If he stays healthy, David Freese seems poised for a productive season at the plate and in the field. Could see him generating significant run production with gap-power. I suspect Jon Jay is in for a sophomore slump, primarily because of lack of playing time. I’m worried about Jaime Garcia being able to duplicate or exceed last season’s performance, but I’m in denial about it because Cardinals cannot afford him to slump after Adam Wainwright’s setback.


Christine Coleman (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
If Freese can stay healthy, I think he will be due for a big season. He definitely showed the potential during his healthy times last year, so staying healthy throughout all of 2011 will likely be his biggest challenge. If he can meet it, he should have a big year.  I think that Jaime Garcia will have a little bit of a sophomore slump, yet still play a very significant role in the Cards rotation (all the more important now). Like others have already said, I think that Jon Jay will have a little bit of a sophomore slump just based on his presumptive decrease in playing time. Hopefully Craig will see his playing time increase this season as well.

Like most of my fellow bloggers have stated I’m going to predict a very nice season for David Freese barring injury. Unfortunately the way this season has started I’ll be more than surprised if he doesn’t land on the DL for an extended period.
Jaime Garcia set the bar so high for himself it’s going to be hard for him to repeat that success. Some regression for Jaime, but not a sophomore slump my any means.

As for Jon Jay and Allen Craig my gut feeling predicts a semi-breakout season for Craig. He’s done nothing but rake in Memphis and I’m hopeful with regular MLB at bats he can have similar production. As far as Jay goes I’m thinking Skip Schumaker type offensive numbers. To me Jay projects as a long term 4th outfielder while Craig could be the Cardinals right fielder of the future.

Matthew Philip (Fungoes)
David Freese seems the best equipped to go big this season, though his hopes are limited by the same thing that prevented a breakout rookie season in 2010: health. And that reality leads to Allen Craig potentially performing better this year, if for no other reason than he might get more playing time (filling in for Freese) and can’t do much worse than his .282 BABIP last season. Bill James even projects him for a .350 wOBA, which is more in line with his minor-league numbers. Realistically, Garcia is going to look like he’s slumping, though he’ll probably simply be performing more toward what his numbers should’ve been last year: an expected FIP an entire point above his ERA.


Bob Netherton (On The Outside Corner)
For a breakout season, you have to go with David Freese because either way it goes, you’ll be right :-)  He’ll either hit .280, 12 homers and drive in 75 runs or some part of a stadium will fall on him in a game and break some body part.   David Freese is more than just a baseball player, he’s a walking anatomy lesson. 

The sophomore slump will have to go to Jon Jay, although that’s not altogether fair.   The lack of consistent playing time will hurt him somewhat.  Add to that some expectations from last year that are unrealistically high, he will have the perception of slumping.

I do believe that Jaime Garcia will defy all of the projections and have a terrific year.  Every once in a while a player comes along that just doesn’t fit the model, and I believe Garcia is that player.


Erika (Cardinal Diamond Diaries)
Ever the Cardinal optimist, I foresee our sophomores surging ahead this year.  Jaime Garcia had a phenomenal first year.  With his maturity and professional demeanor, I expect him to continue to grow with experience and step up again this season to make up for the absence of Adam Wainwright.

I am hopeful that both Jon Jay and Allen Craig will get enough playing time to further hone their big league skills.  Jay did burst onto the scene last season with what could only be described as offensive magic last year, but slid a little back into the realms of reality as opposing pitchers became familiar. Allen Craig, on the other hand struggled offensively from inconsistent playing time. I think both their numbers normalize to some solid contributions in 2011.

And then there’s David Freese.  Pardon me a moment while I stop and smile?  OK… all better now.  ;)  Dave has worked his tail off over the winter rehabbing not one, but two ankles.  Tagged with the “injury prone” label is never a good thing.  This is the season that Freese makes us all forget about the past.  If When he stays healthy, David Freese is going to have an amazing year.  Back in 2010 we saw his power and range.  I’m looking forward to a solid year for Dave!  *fingers crossed*

Thanks to the UCB group above for joining the conversation!

The Cardinals play their first Spring Training game today!  Doesn’t that just make your Monday better?  Have a great week everyone!   =)


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