Cardinal baseball, from the girls
Tag Archives: Mike Matheny
Everyone’s a little on edge. Professional athletes (even the seasoned ones) get jitters. Fans are barely holding onto their sanity. Winners, losers, adrenaline, infield fly primers…. all part of the drama. And from what I can tell, there are two ways to dwell in this unique era (not “error”, mind you… that’s something entirely different despite what the TBS broadcast sounds like during a Cards/Nats game.)
This 2012 Cardinals Postseason Era rallies Cardinal Nation under a set of unique circumstances that, while touched on here, run far deeper if you bleed Cardinal red:
#1 The Cardinals are the reigning 2011 World Series Champions (hard-fought, comeback Cardinals defying all odds – remember?? Of course you do.)
#2 The Cardinals are the first postseason team in history to have won entry as a 2nd wildcard team. (Of course they did.)
#3 The first-ever Wildcard playoff game was a doozy, temporarily played under a big ol’ P (for protest) and the Cardinals won (of course they did.)
And lest we forget some of the other less-than-lovely 2012 defining sidenotes: Tony La Russa and Albert La Pujols have left the building. You may have heard it mentioned that new manager Mike Matheny has zero previous managerial experience. Lance Berkman, the 2011 National League Comeback Player of the Year, spent much of 2012 injured and most likely has already taken his last career at bat, with rumors of retirement sounding increasingly likely. Defensively, at shortstop we’ve lost Rafael Furcal (strained elbow ligament) in exchange for Pete Kozma. (love him or hate him, he’s made it interesting already.) The Cards squeaked into the postseason with only 88 regular season wins, again rallying juusssst enough to beat the clock as the door slammed shut on the 2012 regular season.
So, with a lead-in like this, why would anyone expect the Cardinals to win in the postseason? I would. And let me tell you why.
#1 These are the St. Louis Cardinals.
Okay then, back to the reason that got me writing this morning-
From the sounds and smells of the internets yesterday, there are two predominant camps in Cardinal Nation and things started to get ugly (a few notches below bottle-throwing, temper tantrum, Atlanta Wildcard crowd-type ugly, but still…) when their rights to free speech bumped up against the others’ rights to look on the Brightside.
(Quick note for those of you under the rocks: Despite an other-worldly performance by Adam Wainwright in which he struck out TEN batters in under 6 innings, the Cardinals lost Game 1 of the NLDS to the Nationals even though their rockstar pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, walked – or hit – so many redbirds that we could potentially have won the game by a landslide while Gio still had a no-hitter. Plus there were pesky SHADOWS on the field, and our boys couldn’t get a hit to save Torty. In all truthfulness, Allen Craig summed it up best saying “We just didn’t get it done.”)
The flood of postgame accusations and criticisms of Matheny’s 8th inning pitching choices spread like wildfire. Yes, Cardinal Nation was bitterly disappointed in the loss, but why the landslide of gloom and doom and the crazy amount of time spent slinging blame at all the easy targets? Why would you want to spend your postseason angry? This is October baseball and it is a-maaaaaaazing. The fact that a game can turn on the smallest nuance (Kozma, for instance) means that even those pesky Cardinals have a shot.
Some of us (guilty as charged) are choosing to look at this postseason as a gift. Yes, our Cardinals snuck in the backdoor (again). Yes, we started out by losing game 1 of the NLDS (again). Yes, our offense is schizophrenic (again). But my postseason glass will be half full until we’re down to the last strike (….again). Because these are our comeback Cardinals and we’ve felt the magic before.
Sure, on the flipside, even the grumpiest, angriest and down right hostile-est (grammar be darned, it sounds better that way) of baseball fans have a right to their opinions and comments. And after a tough loss it can even be highly therapeutic (and informative) to read/hear impassioned pleas for why certain armchair management decisions would have saved the planet (hindsight and all.) Truth be told, I follow a whole slew of intelligent, but grumpy Cardinal fans on twitter because most of them throw out some valid points and after unwrapping their anger, I can, at times, discover an interesting nugget and learn a thing or two… and sometimes not, but still…
So, if I had one postseason wish, it would be for our Cardinals to repeat. (Of course it would!) Okay, but if I had TWO postseason wishes, I might consider spending the other wish that the glass-half-empty-ers would be more tolerant of us glass-half-full-ers because IMHO the postseason is a heckuva lot more fun when you think when you KNOW there’s a chance.
Little league practice schedules and reports from Jupiter’s Spring Training games: signs that the world is finally waking up from a long winter, and baseball’s back! …..almost.
Spring Training whets the appetite and refreshes the senses. Lineups, pitching reports, actual games on green grass with familiar faces (and some unfamiliar mugs) donning the birds on the bat… it’s all so surreal, especially with the backdrop of Florida palm trees.
While that’s all very well and tropically good (and I’m still crossing my fingers for the possibility of a quick pilgrimage to Florida), I find myself longing for the real deal: the true start of the 2012 season. The 2011 World Series Champions have a lot to prove. New manager and No Albert Pujols may top the list, but whether ESPN is interested or not, Cardinal Nation has a lot of curiosities about how this team will perform.
My Top 10 Highlights/Curiosities for the upcoming 2012 season:
10. Pregame interviews on Fox Sports Midwest: this is where the players get a chance to prove they have personality. Sink or swim, boys!
8. Eduardo Sanchez’ filthy slider. I fell in love with that pitch only to have it ripped away too early in the season last year. Please, oh please, let’s have a healthy Sanchez and many, many gorgeous dirty pitches out of the bullpen this year.
7. Mike Matheny management style. What attitude will this team have under Matheny’s reins? Will it be more youthful? Will the playbook be more predictable? One thing’s for certain, getting my non-baseball girlfriends to watch a game will be easier with Matheny front and center in dugout shots. (Cute manager? Heckya!)
6. Jason Motte, “The Closer”. Bearded, fidgety, always throwing himself off the mound with the force of that fastball. He makes me smile. Bring on the crazy-Motte! I miss watching him yell at his glove.
5. Lovable Lance at 1st – those are mighty big shoes to fill! Can Berkman be more than “adequate”? For his sake (and ours), I hope we never hear “Albert would’ve…” or “if Albert had been there…” Honestly, Berkman surpassed any and all expectations last year, so here’s hoping he can make us forget all about you-know-who.
4. Chris Carpenter attitude. Yes, he scares me. Yes, he has a mouth on him. But man, oh man, a game with Carp on the mound is like a baseball drug. He’s our bad boy, intense. fierce. And afterwards, please throw in a good dose of that sexy, deep, gurgly Carp-voice in post game interviews? Thank you.
3. Adam Wainwright back on the bump. Remind me again…How did we ever win the World Series without Wainwright?? Soooo glad he’s back. Soooo thrilled he’s healthy. The question now is can we expect him to pick up where he left off?? Pencil him into those pregame TV interviews ASAP. And also into those dugout shots. Ok? Ok. Good!
2. David Freese smiles. Is there anything lovelier? Especially those ginormous joyful grins of a walk-off win. Such a humble, talented, gorgeous MVP… and he tweets?!! (love!) Stay healthy, Dave, stay healthy!
…and for my #1 pick, I gotta say that I am most looking forward to seeing the return of my favorite familiar baseball sight: Matt Holliday digging in at the plate, Matt Holliday leg kicks, Matt Holliday launching ‘em into the stands, Matt Holliday digging for home, Matt Holliday… well, you get the point.
The boys are back! Almost. =)
Picking the subject of my first Winter Warm-Up Recap was easy. Hometown hero and World Series MVP, David Freese was a media darling. Here’s what he had to say during the short 10 minutes he spent with us in the media room at Winter Warm-Up:
We’ll start with my favorite quotes, the humorous and sweet side of Mr. Freese: (audio link included so you can listen for yourself)
About his squash record with Matt Holliday, who told the media he was ahead of Freese 4-2…
” Is he (Holliday) publicly announcing our record? Wow, he must be nervous because I beat him last time so he’s trying to get that record out there. Yeah, he’s taken me down a few times, but I’m coming back. I’m getting him!”
About being a role model:
“I think I’ve been considered a role model since you get into pro ball. Even in high school and college, there’s kids in this area, being a hometown guy, that are going to look up to you just because. I’ve been in this city for a while and that is something that you can’t take for granted and you have to hold onto. Each day I realize that there is more pressure involved in that. But that’s cool. I think it’s great. I think the kids are the best part about this. As hectic as it is, as crazy as everything gets, every time you see the excitement of a kid, it makes me realize it’s all worth it.”
…” yeah, I KNOW I’m me. I think that’s the easy part. I think about that all the time. Stuff (has) hit me quick, that’s for sure, but I’ve said it before, if you get the right people around you, it’s that much easier to stay you.”
—About getting mobbed by everybody wherever he goes:
“It’s hectic, but it’s flattering. It’s humbling just going in places and seeing fans. I still can’t understand why people thank me all the time, but it’s a cool feeling.
—Characterizing this offseason:
It’s been “preparation for 2012 with holding onto the excitement of 2011. But when I get down to camp, it’s all about 2012.”
“I think expectations maybe from the fan base have risen, but not in my mind or I don’t think in the Cardinals’ mind. I think all they’re worried about is me just being healthy…
I think if I’m healthy, hopefully that’s enough. I can do my part. Losing Albert, we gotta kind of turn it up a little bit. Beltran coming in is HUGE and I think we are jacked up that he’s going to be putting on our uniform, and I’m just going to be me. That’s what this is all about, just be me and do my part.
—Speaking about being considered the hero for Game 6,
Freese said hero is a “tough word.” ”It’s cool. I think everyday I soak it in a little more and really understand what we accomplished as a team. I’m pumped I did my part and glad we’re getting that ring.”
—About this team’s chances to compete again in 2012:
“Losing Albert’s tough, obviously, but 25 guys win a championship, and not one. We are all going to miss Albert and we all wish him the best…. We’re going to have a good team and I think everyone knows that. We’ve got hopefully 20 more wins coming from Waino too. So it’s exciting. I think it’s going to be different having Mike as our manager. It’s going to be different not having Albert… not having Tony, but it’s definitely going to be exciting.”
“There were times when Tony would give me rest in games and also it helped that Descalso’s a gold-glove caliber third baseman so it was a win/win. You could throw D’s in there and keep him fresh. I think 2012 is definitely going to be different in the sense that is going to be like hey Dave, just go in there and play and do what you can do because each day, each year I get more healthy. There is still room for improvement, but that’s the exciting part.
“The weirdest thing is I’ve been really good friends with Mike (Matheny) for two years. To say you have a friend become your manager, usually it’s the other way around. That’s special. That’s great. Everybody in here knows the type of guy Mike is. I think it clouds his knowledge of the game and that is an absolute compliment. I wouldn’t want any other guy taking this team and running it in 2012 than Mike Matheny.”
—About new teammate, Carlos Beltran’s addition to the team:
“(It) fills a void. You can’t fill Albert’s shoes, but Carlos Belran is an elite talent and when he’s healthy, you know, he’s scary for sure… He’s a middle of the order guy. He’s going to do his part and help us out a lot.”
“I’d like to say I could handle 162 (games). I’m not going to throw a number out there, I hope I get this or I hope I get that, but the way I feel now… I’m not nervous. That’s a good thing. That’s a feeling I don’t have and I’ve had that feeling for a long time with my legs and stuff. A year ago today there was definitely a nerve-wracking feeling going into camp. So to pull that off my shoulders is a great feeling.”
“When healthy, I think I get the job done (as a defensive player). Over the past couple of years I go out in the field and sometimes it’s tough just day in and day out getting after it, but I think this year it’s going to be a lot easier because you’re not worried about your feet, you’re not worried about your legs, you’re just being me. I think about ’08 in Memphis ….I remember just running out there and just loving playing defense because I wasn’t worried about my feet. This year it’s going to be like that, so I’m excited.”
“As far as rehabbing my feet, I’ve done less (this offseason). There’s less to worry about. It’s relaxing. The nervous feeling of “am I ready?” isn’t there anymore and I’ve been waiting for that.”
Freese is excited and ready for Spring Training, ready to get out there and play baseball.
We’re ready too, Dave. We’re ready too.
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!