Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Skip Schumaker

The Boys Are Back! Almost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boys are back!  Almost.  =)

Winter Warm Up, Day 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. ;)

Hello Nick Punto!

Mastermind Tony La Russa reclaimed the reins yesterday after his 6 game hiatus for medical reasons, and promptly baffled the masses with another gem in his ever-entertaining lineup switcharoos.  Looking back on it (hindsight, and all…) the experiment was a success.  Defensive positional tweaking resulted in an impressive infield upgrade.  Solid gloves and a pair of successful double plays behind the stellar performance of starting pitcher Jake Westbrook earned the Cardinals a W against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, easing the painful memories of last weekend’s embarrassing sweep by the Reds.

Yes, the media jumped all over the sight of Albert Pujols patrolling third base for the first time since 2002.  Highlights (if you missed them) from mlb.com:  http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14866351

However, the lesser-known Cardinal covering second base earned himself a few more brownie points last night.  Nick Punto, the off-season pick-up touted as our new utility guy has worked overtime while Cardinal infielders Skip Schumaker (2nd base) and David Freese (3rd base) are nursing prolonged injuries. Last night Punto’s defense dazzled, which got me wondering…

image by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images from Zimbio

Who is Nick Punto?

  • 33 years old
  • Switch-hitter
  • Drafted in 1998 by the Phillies
  • 2001-2003  Phillies (didn’t play much)
  • 2004-2010 Twins
  • January 2011, free agent, signed 1 year, $750,000 deal with Cardinals

While skimming the internet for back stories and tidbits on Nick Punto, it became obvious I was rereading the same commentaries over and over again.  Punto has a great glove, but…..

For example, Aaron Gleeman (MinnPost.com) wrote:

“As a diminutive, punchless infielder with a great glove and far more frenetic energy than actual talent, Punto represents everything Gardenhire looks for (and tends to significantly overrate) in a non-star. No other manager would’ve given Punto an average of 434 plate appearances per season for a six-year span in which he hit .248/.323/.325 and had a sub-.650 OPS four times. Since his Twins debut in 2005, no MLB player has more plate appearances with a lower OPS.”

Great glove, can’t hit, “frenetic energy”?  Now, why does that sound vaguely familiar to me?

Suffice it to say, the season is still early and we have a lot of baseball yet to appreciate.  However, Nick Punto has earned a mention here at Diamond Diaries.  Sure, the guy may only be batting .266 (note: Pujols is currently batting .259), but with the frustrating recent parade of errors and ailing fundamentals plaguing the Cardinals’ 2011 defense, we are all looking for a hero with a glove. So, throw in some timely extra base hits -a few doubles plus two triples – and Nick gets me smiling. Dirty uniform, quick hands, head first slides… Can you say scrappy??

Hello, Nick Punto!  So nice to meet ya!

For your viewing pleasure: some Punto highlights from mlb.com.

Punto’s 2-run double (and sweet slide)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14835551

Punto starts a double play (lovely!)

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=14289541

Our red-hot lefty, Jaime Garcia, takes the mound tonight at 7:15, facing Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in the final game of this short 2-game series.

Go Cards!!  ;)

Scary Stuff

I woke up worrying about ballplayers this morning.

Baby birds Shane Robinson and Andrew Brown collided in the outfield early in the Memphis Redbirds game yesterday. Brian Walton reported on twitter that both players were taken to the hospital with concussions, and Shane Robinson left on a cart with possible head/facial injury. This morning’s update is that Robinson suffered a fractured orbital bone, and Walton shared that surgery was “likely” for Shane and he would “miss considerable time but should fully recover.”

—-Our friend, Bob Netherton,  describes the details of the game’s dreadful collision in his blog On The Outside Corner today.  <click here>>

In last night’s Cardinals game, a fan was struck by a foul drive off the bat of slugger Matt Holliday. The camera was on Matt after the swing and caught him wince as he saw the fan in the stands.

It is sometimes easy to forget baseball is a dangerous sport. In a nearby town, an 8 year-old girl was playing softball in the outfield and was struck in the head earlier this week by a line drive from another young girl. Her skull was fractured. She is home and will recover, but that story is another reminder of the serious risks involved on the field.

This string of injuries got my attention.

Best wishes for speedy recoveries to Shane, Andrew, the injured fan and the little girl (my Mom’s neighbor).

In news from the big club, La Russa said on KMOX this morning that Skip Schumaker has a hyperextended elbow and will not play again today AND Allen Craig has a groin or leg problem that will likely keep him out of the game today as well.

Bubble wrap, anybody??

Carpenter gets the ball today at 3:10 CT with a chance to sweep the four-game series against the Dodgers.

Go Cards!! (and BE CAREFUL!)

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!!

Spring Training, Episode 2

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

Crowning the 2011 Ultimate Cardinal Crush

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

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

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

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

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

But enough about that….

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

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

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

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

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

Right Down To The Very Last Pitch…

When I got up this morning, I didn’t bother reading any headlines, articles or blogs about the Cardinals because I already knew what they would say.  It is what the weary beat writers and naysayers spout every morning after a loss and I am just plain tired of  the complaining about how the Cardinals can’t hit or the managers can’t manage or how our postseason chances are slipping away.
I may be one of the few Cardinal fans who will say this today, but I actually enjoyed yesterday’s game. Sure, the final score was crummy, but right down to the very last pitch, I knew we had a chance.  And the game was full of moments that made me smile.  Albert may not have hit his 400th homerun, but he had a 3-hit night.  Matt Holliday sent one flying out of the park in the first inning. Jon Jay may have only gotten one hit, but I love that he tears out of the batters box and down the line to 1st base trying to beat the throw on an easy infield hit.  Even Yadier Molina and his catcher’s knees had some extra energy as he ran the bases.  And of course there is Adam Wainwright and the way his determined piercing eyes give him an entirely different (scary) demeanor on a night he’s pitching.
In the 9th inning when the boys came off the bench and sparked a rally, I thought “we are going to WIN this one!” Skip Schumaker, Randy Winn and Aaron Miles all made things happen.  Then Jon Jay’s RBI brought the Cardinals back within one run of tying the game. Even as Felipe Lopez stood in, switch-hitting at the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the final countdown, I was glued to the television, firmly believing I would be witnessing a come-from-behind Cardinal victory.
But the victory celebration would have to wait.  The Redbirds lost and that’s the way it goes sometimes.  The Cardinals record will show an L for the August 24th game against the Pirates, but that loss certainly does not tell the big picture for me.
If you haven’t figured out by now, I love baseball.  Warning: I am one of those fans who will occasionally cheer for the opposing team – not by mistake because I’m not paying attention, but because the hit or the play was just too good not to applaud.
So, even after a Cardinals loss like last night, I can smile because I saw some wonderful baseball.  Sure the wins and losses matter – they matter A LOT – but this is the game of baseball.  Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.  Anything can happen and that is why they play 9 innings and why teams like the Pirates and the Cubs and the Brewer even bother to take the field.  And that is why each game has the potential to provide countless individual moments of baseball magic that keep us coming back for more, that give every fan hope and that make us believe our team can still win… right down to the very last pitch.
The boys are back at it again for the last game of the series against the Pirates tonight at 6:05 PM! Albert will hit that 400th homerun and the Cardinals will win – I just know it!  ;)
FYI:  Today you can catch my article “What Is It About Aaron Miles?!” over at i70baseball.com.  Love him or hate him, Miles is certainly an interesting Cardinal issue.  Here’s the link – and thanks for reading!
GO CARDS!!  =)
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