Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Lance Berkman

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!  =)

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

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!  ;)

Happiness Is A Home Run

No, not the Lance Berkman power shot from last night.  Not even the Nick Stavinoha blast in the 14 inning AAA Memphis game.  No, it took a Brendan Ryan long shot (in more ways than one) to start my day off with a smile.

What is it about baseball’s sleeper moments that resonate with some of us so completely?  I regularly get the chance to admire Cardinals like Berkman, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday smacking it out of the park, but seeing highlights of my former Cardinal-favorite & light-hitting Brendan get his first homerun as a Mariner tops them all.

It’s a recurring theme, probably the main reason I’m an AAA baseball fan.  I enjoy championing the underdogs.  Following minor leaguers on their quest to break into the Majors or cheering surprise clutch hits from players who are valued for their gloves, but don’t garner as much fan confidence with their bats feeds that fascination I have for the human side of the game.

Heart, personality, positive energy and a palpable, genuine love for baseball coupled with an overwhelming, single-minded drive to succeed.  THOSE are the qualities that capture my attention in the ballplayers worth watching.  Superstars often get quiet – sometimes overconfident – and don’t wear their heart on their sleeves once they make the big show.  At that point, they’ve often become part of a machine, part of a business.  Go to work, win the game, job accomplished.  Once a player gets to that point in his career, it seems I’ve usually lost interest.

Give me a reason to love you beyond your batting average or slugging percentage and I’ll cheer you through ups and downs.  For me, the human side of baseball trumps a team’s final W-L record. Don’t shoot me here … I LOVE my team, but I need to really love the players to truly celebrate wins or agonize over losses.  And honestly, it’s easy to admire a superstar who has tunnel vision focused on his job but harder to LOVE him.  The big names don’t “need” me to cheer for them.  Their names are on a gazillion tshirts and bandwagon fans are making enough noise for the rest of us.  Show me the underdog with that spark – those qualities I cherish – and I will delight in his random successes… the human side of baseball.

My baseball habit may have moderated a bit lately while I’ve had opportunities to focus on summer events and precious moments with family, but in moments like today I enjoy a sudden surge of baseball fever from watching one of my beloved ballplayers crack a huge smile in the dugout after a baseball moment that took us all by surprise.

Happiness is a Brendan Ryan homerun.

Want to smile?  Here’s the link.

Blessings and Go Cards!!

;)

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!

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.

April Observations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Eduardo…

Berkman

The Cardinals stomped all over the Diamondbacks yesterday in a 15-5 blow-out that included a Grand Slam from Lovable Lance (Berkman) and a 3-run blast by Skip “SkipperDoodle” Schumaker.  Last night was game 6 of a 10-game West coast road trip (late night games make for sleepy mornings) and the trouncing came as a welcome relief to tired Cardinal fans.  Truth be told, sleep won the fight in the 6th inning for me; but with a hefty15-5 Cardinal lead, I easily drifted off to happy dreams.  


This morning I fired up the DVR to watch the rest of the game unfold.  After 6 innings of heavy hitting, a scoreless 3 innings piqued my curiosity.  Sure enough, there was a diamond hidden in those zeros…

Augenstein
Enter baby bird, Eduardo Sanchez!  This rookie, called up from Memphis when injuries during Tuesday’s game sent Cardinal relief pitchers Bryan Augenstein and Brian Tallet to the disabled list, had a night to remember in his Major League debut!

Sanchez Debut
Sanchez took the mound at the start of the 8th and stayed through the 9th to shut it down.  Facing a mere 7 batters to get the job done, Sanchez struck out 5 with ease. Total pitches: 18,13 for strikes. Confidence, delivery and strength from a 155 pound, 5’11″ rookie in his big league debut – that was MUST SEE baseball!!  

Welcome to the club, Eduardo Sanchez!  We’ll be looking forward to seeing you again soon!

The Cardinals head to LA to face the Dodgers tonight, in the first of a 4-game series. Here’s to the theory that hitting is contagious and the Cardinal confidence continues to build… ;)

Go Cards!!

The Berkman Bandwagon

Mark your calendars:  the date was April 4th.  Lance Berkman made it into my inner circle of Cardinal love.

Lance Berkman had a clean slate with me.  I knew he was a former Houston Astro, but that was about it.  (The “new baseball fan” status still gives me an excuse for my unfamiliarity with everything not Cardinal-related.)  The Cardinals picked him up in the off-season and the first things I hear about him are 1) Big Puma 2) Fat Elvis and 3) bad knees….. not exactly a glowing report to hang your cap on, Lance.  ;)

Being a fan of our up-and-coming babybirds and pulling for those young guys to get their due chance with the big club, I am not a huge fan of Tony LaRussa’s propensity to favor new-to-me veteran additions to the roster.  Sure, those veterans have experience…. but I don’t remember any of it (new baseball fan excuse.)  So those guys have to give me a reason to love them.  They have to show me some heart, hustle like their job depends on it or at least have a personality that makes me forget that they’re blocking the babybird pipeline to the Majors.
Last night, Lance Berkman had all three.  I was shocked to see him tear around the bases in a hit and run, ending up at 3rd!  Bad knees?  They sure looked to be working well to me.  Then the Fox Sports camera (and microphone) caught Berkman as he headed to the dugout, smiling ear to ear, stop at the steps to shout a heads-up to Skip Schumaker, warning that the pitcher was throwing inside.  Big points to FSMW for showing that exchange.  Personality and teamwork on display makes me happy.
Add to that the (boring) stats from last night that Berkman drew two walks in his first two at bats and hit a rbi single to help spark hope in the almost-rally of the 8th inning and Lance has earned himself a spot in my heart.  Fellow United Cardinals Blogger Christine Coleman was quicker to the Berkman bandwagon than I was.  She pointed out to me at the game on Sunday how quirkily entertaining it is to watch Lance nervously walk in little circles in the outfield after every pitch.  (Quirky works for me…. See: Brendan Ryan.)
So, while I was warned that I would love Berkman this season because he had a “great personality,” I stubbornly held out for proof… and spunk.  Welcome to the club, Lance Berkman.  You’ve earned a new fan.  (Mr. Theriot, I am still waiting.)
The Cardinals did end up with another loss last night.  They are now 1-3 in 2011. (Note: the Cardinal win came on Sunday while the United Cardinal Bloggers were in attendance at the game – not that that matters, but I think it might?)  David Freese wasn’t feeling the love yesterday.  He went 0-4 and has a batting average of .154 which is still better than Pujols’ batting average (now at .125.)  Aren’t early season statistics fun?  They don’t mean much, but yet we all want to make something out of them.  Brendan Ryan is batting .083 for the Mariners right now if you were curious  ;)
And of course I have to mention Hunky Holliday: On March 31st, Matt had a power explosion with 3 hits, a homerun and 2 RBIs.  The very next day Holliday was in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  Then, 3 days later reports come out (yesterday) that Matt asked not to be put on the 15 day disabled list because he believes he will be able to return before then.  Superman?  Possibly.  Stud?  Definitely!  ;)

Late edit:  link to FSMW video with Hunky talking about his surgery and recovery:  click HERE.

The Cardinals take on the Pirates again tonight at 7:15 CT with Kyle McClellan on the mound.  I feel a win.  Go Cards!!  ;)
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