Diamond Diaries

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Tag Archives: Kyle Lohse

Kyle Lohse: Closure

You know that point when a good relationship has run its course?

You do still love him but in your heart you know he’s not “the one.”  You’ve given him your best offer, but you both knew you were holding back. He needed more than you could give.  You had a good run together, but you part ways amicably, telling yourself you can still be friends…

Lohse at WWU 2012

That type of breakup is tough.

Some baseball breakups are no different.

Tonight Kyle Lohse will take the mound at Busch Stadium for the first time as a Milwaukee Brewer, and for the first time in 5 years, I will be rooting against him.

My memories of Lohse are good ones:  autographed baseballs and a signed cap, photos, a fun chat after a Spring Training morning practice at Roger Dean Stadium… not to mention the years spent hanging on his every pitch, cheering his comeback from a totally weird surgery and celebrating his success.  In fact, it was three years ago that I hesitantly started blogging about baseball with my first post dedicated to defending (the then struggling) Mr. Lohse.

lohse at jsonlinedotcomWatching his return to pitch at Busch today will be bittersweet.

Seeing him in that uniform will be atrocious.

Thanks for the memories, Kyle.

Here’s to the type of closure that the end of every good relationship needs:  beating your ex at a friendly game of baseball.  ;)

Go Cards!

Winter Warm Up, Day 3

Where do I begin?

Composing this while sitting on the floor of the St. Louis airport, I am still spinning from the wonderful experience of covering Winter Warm-Up.  After getting a small taste of the behind-the-scenes media experience, I have a newfound respect for journalists and beat writers who live it, day in and day out.

When I opened my newspaper this morning to the Cardinal coverage, I savored and dissected the columns with even more enthusiasm than usual.  Besides the obvious difference of actually holding a real copy of the Post Dispatch in my hands today (a bit hard to find in Oklahoma and one of my favorite little things about visiting St. Louis), I was fascinated to see how the writers would pick and choose their details from the very same player interviews I had experienced the day before and then weave those facts into the stories we read online and in the paper.  They make it look so easy…

After 3 days of jam-packed activity, I am truly worn out. The thought of keeping up that pace through an entire baseball season combined with deadlines, hectic travel schedules, game notes, pre- and post-game interviews plus the real-life pressure of it being your JOB to rapidly condense it all into timely, informative and entertaining samplers for the hungry baseball masses… and I’m quite content sticking to this blogging thing where we do it for the love of the game.

Don’t get me wrong however… this was the weekend adventure of a lifetime and I savored every moment of it.  The honor of the invitation and the unbelievable access were something I will treasure forever.

Looking back on this amazing whirlwind adventure, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the opportunity to pass along the sights, player interview tidbits and my experiences at this tremendous event to Cardinal fans through our blog and Twitter.  The people of the Cardinals Media Relations team (Brian Bartow, Melody Yount, Chris Tunno, Ron Watermon and especially Terry Rodgers) and the Cardinals Care volunteers were welcoming and helpful.  Their hospitality helped ease many of the fears of being out of my element as part of the  “new media” contingency included in this year’s Winter WarmUp coverage.  It was great fun visiting with a variety of media folk throughout the weekend, all very kind and accommodating.

The Cardinal organization deserves a big, BIG thank you for opening the doors to us involved in blogging and social media.  The responsibility was huge, and I was really proud and (honestly) quite blown away by the volume and quality of material coming from my fellow media credential-newbies.  Kevin (posting for C70 at the Bat) was jumping in with both feet, asking players insightful questions that elicited amazing and heartfelt answers. Ann (for Aaron Miles Fastball) was a speed demon at taking notes at those player interviews and getting those words online quicker than… well, quicker than Aaron Miles’ Fastball.  Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth) cranked out summary stories on several hot topics.  And Chris Reed (writing for i70baseball.com) ramped up the technology and created his WWU Video Blog.  Check them out, if you haven’t already.

My 2nd love (behind family and baseball… so it’s more like my 3rd love, I guess?) is capturing and sharing photographs.  So I attempted to gather as many images as possible and pass them along on twitter throughout the day, as well as here on Diamond Diaries. While pursuing this goal, I learned that #1: Winter Warm-Up is a HUGE venue.  #2: Comfy shoes can only do so much.  #3: Despite my best efforts, even after hustling back and forth all day between player interviews and autograph tables, there were still many other WWU moments that I missed.  #4 Who really needs lunch (or dinner) when there are Cardinals to photograph and write about? #5:  Ditto for the “sleeping” thing.  And #6 Cardinal fans continue to be some of the friendliest people I have ever met.

Winter Warm-Up offers a little bit for everyone.  There were lectures, forums, silent auctions, presentations and oh yeah… a World Series trophy! While I only managed to catch a quick glimpse of the variety of vendors and souvenir offerings, Kevin (C70 at the Bat) convinced me the selection was amazing and the prices were spectacular after I saw the treasures he’ll be taking home.  It’s no wonder Cardinal fans keep coming back year after year.

With all proceeds from the 16th annual Winter Warm-Up going to the Cardinals Care foundation (the charity benefiting children in the community) fans can enjoy their weekend in baseball heaven, spend lots of money and know it’s for a worthy cause.  Win/win!

 Yes, the Hyatt was PACKED with people, but the crowd movement was expertly orchestrated.  The amazingly adept crew of patient and friendly volunteers directed traffic phenomenally. It was a QUALITY event with the QUANTITY of experiences to match!

 

This year’s Winter Warm-Up provided hours of voice recordings and hundreds of photo files.  It should be enough to keep us entertained for at least a month or so.  And from the looks of the Spring Training Countdown, that should just about do it!

Once again, I am excited to share with you my collection of photos from the final day of Winter Warm-Up.

Today’s featured Cardinals include:

  • Kyle Lohse
  • Tony La Russa
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Allen Craig
  • Manager Mike Matheny
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Skip Schumaker
  • and World Series MVP (with the best smile in baseball) David Freese

And another Thank You to the Cardinals with a special shout-out to Peggy (our wonderful hostess/guide/source in the media area), Patty, Kathleen, Judy and Doris and all the other fabulous Cardinals Care volunteers who made the weekend easier for us all.  It was a joy to share the weekend with you!

Although the weekend was truly a dream come true, I am happy to be back home with my family and a slower pace, packing lunch boxes, chauffeuring the kiddos, homework, housework and my real world job.  Keep an eye out for more posts and pictures about my adventures.  I’m looking forward to digging through my digital keepsakes and sharing the rest of the experience with you… right after I meet the laundry deadline and interview the pets.

Thanks for reading!

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!  ;)

Roster Hijinx

It was comical really – by the end of the game last night, I had witnessed a first baseman (Mark Hamilton) in left, a middle infielder (Tyler Greene) in right, an outfielder (Allen Craig) started at second, and everyone on Twitter could only guess what could happen should anything else strange go down.

New plan - plant this baby at second, put all the players on, and whichever direction they fall off on is the position they play. Worth a shot!

-Several abdicated for Ryan Franklin to be the first pitcher chucked into the outfield, a la Kyle Lohse and Roy Oswalt last year.

-One joked that this would be the last time Lohse ever played Tony as a joke.

-At least one person noted (apologies for forgetting who) that this would be the night for Albert Pujols to play every single position on the field.

-My plan was just to revert to beer league softball rules. Whatever glove you grab on your way out to the field is the position you play that inning. You know that would be amusing.

There is a fundamental problem behind this problem though. The 40 man roster is a mess. Keeping 10 infielders and only 6 outfielders on a 40 man roster? WHO DOES THIS?! Say this turns into more of a problem than it already was. Today’s game is already going to be a laugh riot, as rumors are already swirling that Colby Rasmus, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday could all possibly be unavailable for today’s afternoon tilt against the hapless Astros. I can only guess who will be pressed into outfield duty if that is the case. I’m guessing Greene gets shoved back out there and Pete Kozma possibly gets his first major league start…

Credit - mlb.com

Speaking of Kozma… oi. Seriously. Dude is hitting .220/.284/.284 at Memphis. Not only does that not warrant a call-up, that’s a guy begging to stay down in Memphis to figure things out. I mean, congrats to him on his first major league hit/RBI/walk yesterday, because you know Erika, Emily and I were all happy-dancing all over the place seeing a baby bird have some success with the big club, but let’s be real – he’s not ready. Thankfully he’s supposed to be a very short term solution while waiting for Skip Schumaker to get back, but the rash of injuries to infielders this year has just been nothing short of astounding.

*ahem* Sorry about the tangent. I haven’t gotten enough sleep lately. Anyway, say any one of Rasmus/Berkman/Holliday come down with something serious enough to warrant a DL trip, or even several days off to recover and get back out there. In that case, the Cardinals are SOL, because I don’t think they’re looking to pull up Adron Chambers (the one outfielder on the 40 man that is not currently on the major league roster). The short term solution, should one of our big 3 be ailing longer than a day or so?

As soon as Skip Schumaker comes off the DL? Put him in the outfield. A novel idea, I know. This could all come to nothing, of course, but this is just nuts.

Day game today, starting at 12:45, and I’ll be on the road again, so but sure to let me know what kind of hijinx go on today. Here’s hoping I get served a heaping helping of crow about something – I don’t care what. ;)

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!!

UCB Progressive Game Blog – 7th Inning

2011 marks the fourth annual progressive game blog for the United Cardinal Bloggers. We participated in the event last year, and apparently we did alright, since not only did Daniel allow us to come back for this year’s event, he even was nice enough to let us draw the seventh inning stretch again!

Welcome to those of you that are coming over from El Maquino, who posted the sixth inning. If you would like to see the rundown of the entire lineup for today’s progressive game blog, head over to the official UCB site. There are a lot of unique voices this year, and you will see a lot of different styles and opinions being tossed out. That would be one of the best things about the UCB in my opinion. Seriously, head over there and check them all out. Tell them I sent you! :)

Now, on to the seventh! Being a resident of the frozen tundra known as Wisconsin, and knowing just how bad the Brewers had been over the last seven games (Yes, 0-7), I was secretly hoping for another blowout, but in true 2010 style, the Cardinals have laid a nice game down for a struggling pitcher. Darn.

Kyle Lohse came into the seventh with 83 pitches, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks and 1 strikeout. Erika note: Great to see him going deeper into games. I agree! Thankfully Matthew Leach echoed my other thoughts with his tweet of, “Seems to me that Lohse is getting away with a lot today. Not getting his pitches down nearly as much as I suspect he’d like.”

Yovani Gallardo came into this game on a horrible stretch. He has not won in his last five starts, and came into the game with an ERA over 6. He honestly just sounded and looked down on himself during the pre-game interviews.

Jonathan Lucroy was up first for the Brew crew in the top of the seventh inning and struck out on a sinker up in the zone from Lohse.

Carlos Gomez, who made a fantastic catch in the bottom of the first inning, lined a shot just to the right of Tyler Greene, who snared it for out number two. Erika note: Would Theriot have caught that? I think that Ryan Theriot would have probably been able to make that play, but dang if I didn’t smile that Greene was there instead. The Brewer announcers really like Greene’s arm, describing many of his throws throughout the day as “frozen ropes.”

Gallardo then came up, and didn’t waste any time striking out. The interesting thing about constantly watching the away team’s TV broadcast is that you always get their little spin on it. I’ll be honest – the Brewers’ TV color analysts are actually fairly knowledgeable about the opposing teams. They caught Tony on camera, and made a few references about his tendencies to analyze everything, and ended the inning with, “Tony LaRussa, wondering how to solve this young Brewer pitcher.” A puzzle indeed…

Gallardo comes into the bottom of the seventh having already pitched 92 pitches, so despite the fact that he has a no-hitter, I don’t expect him to actually finish this game. He does only have 3 walks, which is good (for Brewer fans at least), but the Cardinals have at least gotten deep into the count on him.

Matt Holliday came up first, and despite his still being over .400 on the season, grounded out weakly to Rickie Weeks at second.

Lance Berkman is up. You just feel that every time the Cardinals need a big hit this year, Berkman is going to be the guy to get it. However, it wasn’t to be this time, as he worked the count full and drew his second walk of the day, which puts Gallardo’s pitch count at 101 with just one out in the seventh.

Yadier Molina is up next. Erika note: Last night on FSMW we saw Yadi’s neck tattoos (right side) really close up.  They are musical notes?!!  No kidding. 

The shadows have reached that awkward point in the afternoon where the line between sun and shadow is between the pitcher and the batter. Advantage, Gallardo. ……………….Yeah, Yadi hit into a double play. I think the biggest dagger in that one was hearing the Brewers announcers say, “And Molina hits into the double play to end the inning, barely running it out.”

*growls something about Yadi not running anything out. Ever.*

Bob Netherton might have said it best about that frustrating 1-4-3 double play when he tweeted, “In almost half a century of watching baseball, that is the first time I’ve seen a hit and run turned into a double play with a ground ball.”

So that ends the seventh inning. Gallardo still has his no-hitter intact, although he is also now at 104 pitches. Head on over to Cards ‘N Stuff for the 8th inning recap. Here’s hoping Kevin can break up the no-no for us!

Want To Be An On-Site Reporter?

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

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

The good news? Our loss is your gain!

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

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

All we ask of you is this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!!

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. :)

2011’s Top Five Cardinal Stories

I’ve been thinking about working on this UCB post for awhile now, but haven’t really come up with anything worthwhile. Someone (not naming names since I don’t remember) made it sound like I could write something sarcastic and completely nonsensical. Score!

So without further ado, here are our top five stories for 2011:

1. Adam Wainwright will win the 2011 NL Cy Young. Okay, this point is obviously legitimate. I really do believe Waino capable of beating out the fierce competition in the National League to take home the Cy. There are a lot of incredible pitching staffs floating around the senior circuit, from the Phillies on the east coast to the Giants on the west, not to mention the Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals in the middle of the country. There are big names like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Zack Greinke. That said, I think Wainwright can match them, pitch for pitch, out for out.


Warning: That was probably the last ‘prediction’ that I actually think could happen. The rest is for my own entertainment.

2. Yadi starts a brawl in Cincinnati when Johnny Cueto kicks him in the shins during warm-ups. Who knows why he did it. Cueto that is. Yadi beat the crap out of him, and we know why that happened. Don’t mess with Yadi… especially not his shins. Watch your back, Reds’ players…

3. The amount of scrappy and/or gritty references made about the Cardinals infielders on various blogs, highlight reels, radio shows and Twitter will quite possibly reach infinity. Good grief. Every new player that has been signed this offseason (with the exception of Berkman who is definitely not the right size or shape to be considered for either) has been labeled with one of these two monikers. Theriot? Punto? What is this? We already had both of those guys, except they were Brendan Ryan, Aaron Miles, and/or David Eckstein, respectively. Can you have too much scrap or grit on one team? The Cardinals might be pushing the limit. Quick, someone find a big slugger to hold together the infield! It would help if he has a good contract that makes him a Cardinal for life.

Wait, what’s that?

“Pay me my money.”

Yes, sir! Get on it Mo!

4. All of our scrappy/gritty infielders come down with bird flu and Tony LaRussa, in a moment of desperation, begs that Mo undoes the trade with the Mariners for Brendan Ryan. A stretch? Sure. Don’t look at me. Erika penned this one. I mean… it could happen.

5. Kyle Lohse’s arm will fall off. Again… it could happen (but Erika says I should be nice). He’s never known a normal injury for a pitcher, whether it was getting a broken wrist while batting, having an injury only known to long distance runners and motocross bikers, or coming down with that frustrating condition known as crap-itis. Oops, that wasn’t nice. My bad.

Let me be perfectly honest – I want Lohse to do well. I hope he becomes the best fifth starter in the National League. But in my mind, the odds of him doing well compared to his arm falling off have to be about even by now.

*~*~*~*

Open in Mobile AppIf you’re interested, check out the new UCB app for iPhone and Android by clicking on the little icon to your left. It’s shiny and NEW! Also make sure that you check out the archive of all the Top 5 stories for this month’s UCB project here.

Baseball season is almost here… just hold on a little longer Cardinal fans! :)

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