Diamond Diaries

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2011 Ultimate Cardinal Crush Poll

The boys of summer are warming things up in Jupiter, Florida with Spring Training now underway, and all eyes are on the ball.

Well…. maybe not all eyes…  ;)

The Cardinal Crew

 

We Diamond Diaries gals can get away with some things that the guys of the United Cardinal Bloggers cannot. And yet, who comes up with ideas such as a poll about the Ultimate Cardinal Crush?  Yep, a guy!  (calling you out, Bill Ivie!)

The New Boys on the Block

So, in honor of heating things up for the 2011 Cardinals baseball season….

*drum roll*

We present your opportunity to have a little fun with us as we crown the Cardinal Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Ultimate Cardinal Crush.

All votes will be anonymous.  So guys, feel free to cast your vote without fear.  We are well aware that man-crushes count too.  ;)

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Thanks for playing!
(If you can’t view our poll gadget on your mobile device and feel the intense need to vote before you can log onto a computer at home, feel free to leave your vote in the comments below.  We’ll make sure it counts!)

Major League Distraction

As a disclaimer, please remember that I am a rather new devotee to the glorious pastime of baseball.  So while the rest of you have had years to soak up all the extras, I am still playing catch up.  Last evening when I was fairly certain that the day’s news from baseball’s Winter Meetings had dried up for the day, I settled in to watch Major League, a movie that some of you (okay, okay… probably every last one of you) may have seen in the theaters 21 years ago, or at least by the time you turned 12.
Of course, I loved it.  But I also must say that timing is everything.  If I had been dragged to watch a (groan) baseball movie when I had little interest or appreciation for the game, Major League would have been a major disappointment.  However, right now, in the middle of December with the trade flurries, free agent frenzy and rumor mills spinning at high speed, Major League was the perfect escape for an overly loyal and passionate Cardinal fan worrying about the makeup of the 2011 lineup.
Hollywood’s version of the luckless losers who were destined to fail involved a team whose GM was crafting an evil plan to insure a last place finish.  The idea was to round up some old veteran players with bad knees, a bunch of young kids nobody else had heard of and a prima donna superstar who is more concerned with his future contract than playing a hard nine. (True, that last one has no relevance… but the word “contract” did ring in my ear a little louder than usual.) It was entertaining – in an odd but familiar way.
Yes, the spectacled bad boy hurler Rick Vaughn with his Wild Thing theme song, triangled haircut and California Penal League baseball quote were a hoot. The hilarity of Bob Ueker’s creative play-by-play broadcast ramblings to a relatively nonexistent listening audience of a last-place team was beyond funny.  The voodoo cures for the curveball made mustaches and high socks seem…. well, boring.  And as in all contrived theater for the masses, the underdog team rallied, the fair weather fans returned, the guy got the girl and everyone lived happily ever after.
I hope I didn’t ruin the ending for you?  ;)
photo from Jeff Pearlman.com
The Cardinals now have ex-Astro (and temporary Yankee) Lance Berkman penciled into the 2011 outfield.  Yesterday I received word from my dear brother-n-law, a native Houstonian and long-suffering (but loyal) Astros fan. He reassured me that Berkman’s on-base percentage in the 2-spot of the lineup (ahead of Pujols) is a very, very big plus.  I know it hurt him deeply to admit that the Cardinals offense would be dangerous, so that opinion means more to me than any statistical model or official Cardinal spin on the topic. If my Astro fan bro-in-law is correct about the predicted OBP value of our new Cardinal /old veteran with bad knees – and  our buddy Bob’s (@throatwarbler’s) most recent Cardinal history lesson is any indication of the potential, than I am ready to watch this Major League type Hollywood magic come true.
If you prefer to get a shot of positivity from history rather than Hollywood, you really should check out what our friend Bob has to say.  His ability to weave historical similarities into the frame of current events is not only amazing, but also reassuring.  Link here
And as far as the hot stove chatter this morning:
Apparently our old buddy Ryan Ludwick is generating a lot of interest from everyone except us.  Boohoo  L  Link here:
And now the Cardinals are rumored to be talking to Yadier Molina’s big brother Bengie for the back-up catcher spot.  That idea just warms my baseball heart!  ;)
Have a wonderful Wednesday, Cards fans!   =)

Oh No, Joe!

Joe Mather was claimed off waivers today.  
Joey Bombs is going to Atlanta. 
The sad news hit my Twitter feed around 1:30 pm.  

First reaction:  Claimed off waivers????  Who put Joe on waivers??  Why didn’t we know this?  Oh yeah….  

Ok, who ELSE is on waivers?????

*panic*
*deep breath*
*Call Hubby to break the news and get some sympathy*
*Check Twitter to make sure nothing else horrible happened*  
(irrational fear setting in)

 Then, after a little time to think it through and read reactions from those less emotionally attached…
Sure Joe Mather was probably never going to get the playing time in St. Louis.  And yes, while we loved him in AAA Memphis, it is probably better for him to get a shot with the Braves.  Maybe he will get a better chance over there.  Maybe they will love him and appreciate him.  Joe deserves that.

But it still sucks.  THIS is the one thing I hate about baseball!  No loyalty – players move around and the team changes.  I get attached to the players.  I don’t want to see them go.  And being claimed off waivers??  Well, that just shows we gave up.  Not even traded.  Blech.

The way this offseason is starting off…. well, I don’t like it.  I am putting the Cardinals on notice now.  Do something to make me *happy* for a change – because this giving away of ‘my boys’ is not going to cut it. 

Yes, I will feel better tomorrow. And yes, this is “for the best.”  But right now I don’t have to like it.  

Good luck Joey Bombs! 

*Adds another stepteam to the list*



Talking about Toes..

Last night when I turned off the television and my computer for the evening, the Cardinals had just won their 6th straight game.  And what a game it was!  FOUR homeruns!  Albert Pujols kicked off the long ball party in the bottom of the 5th inning. Then Allen Craig followed suit with his first Major League homerun.  The very next batter, Skip Schumaker, stepped to the plate and hit his 3rd blast of the season.  Then in the 6th inning Randy Winn added his own dinger over the right field wall to make the score 8-4.  Throw in some spectacular defense from Brendan Ryan and I was a very happy baseball fan!

Want to watch the highlights again?    Click Here

Winning – I could get used to that!

Even  more amazing is that the Cardinals are winning with our substitute starting pitchers Jeff Suppan and Blake Hawksworth. Plus manager Tony La Russa has rested several key players in the past two games, getting creative with starting lineups that have scared many fans.  But those beloved Baby Birds up from AAA are filling in quite nicely. Jon Jay continues to tear it up with a .372 batting average.

The Cardinals have stepped up their game since the All Star break and are playing some amazing baseball.  Whatever is in the water, I hope they keep drinking it, because THIS is the team I was expecting to show up in April.

More Good News! Ryan Ludwick is returning from the DL, heading to Memphis for a quick rehab stint before rejoining the Cardinals possibly this weekend (at least that is what Luddy thinks.)

Bad News of the Morning: David Freese has apparently broken his left big toe by dropping a weight plate on it during a workout. Are you kidding me???  I am very thankful the Cardinals have figured out how to win without their complete starting roster, because Freese seems to be accident-prone.  If we were losing games, that news would have hit me a lot harder, but with the way things have been going lately it is hard to complain.  Hurry back David, before we forget why we loved you so much!

Maybe somebody should wrap him in bubble wrap for a few weeks to keep him safe!

Have you read the rumblings about the lack of clubhouse chemistry?  Apparently GM John Mozeliak even commented that a midseason trade might add more personality to bring a positive vibe to the clubhouse.

You probably can imagine how I feel about it, but just in case you want to read more of my rant, check out my post today at Baseball Digest.com.  Just click here.

And over at i70baseball.com Angela has a great look at the resurgence of our Cardinals.  Here’s a shortcut for you!

Have a great day, Cards Fans!  Tonight our boys are working on their SEVENTH STRAIGHT WIN!  Maybe they can crush those nasty Phillies again with another Cardinal HomeRun Derby?!

GO CARDS!  =)

Tough Enough To Be A Cardinals Fan?

This past week I have read vicious, bitter comments from Cardinal fans ranging from total outrage to personal attacks on players.  While there may be a rising sentiment of general disgust for the way this team is playing, do not count me among the malcontents.
These players have become like family to me.  I cheer their wins and my heart breaks for their struggles.  Just as I would no sooner put my children at the curb when they frustrate me, I cannot turn on my team just because games have been lost and errors made.
This past series in Denver has challenged us all. A pair of crushing walk-off losses and being swept by the Rockies has knocked Cardinals Nation to its knees. Our boys gave up substantial leads.  We had the win in our sights twice, only to have it ripped away. Many have fittingly used the phrase “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Yes, losing is tough, but how we respond to the loss speaks volumes.
Frustration is building.  Sportswriter Bernie Miklasz has tagged this Cardinals team an ‘embarrassment.’ Cardinals fans on Twitter have been demanding trades and roster moves on par with cries for ‘abandon ship.’ Everywhere I look, scribes are posting gloom and doom.
The obvious comparison is Cubs Fans.  Those poor baseball fans have not celebrated a World Series win since 1908.  Their drought has been well-documented and understandably the fanbase displays a different attitude about the game and relationship with their team.  Cardinals fans – the “best fans in baseball”- may have been a little spoiled.  We are used to winning, used to MVPs and Gold Gloves.   When the boys are playing well, Cardinals Nation are exemplary fans  However with a team that just cannot seem to get it together, many of those same fans are angry, cursing and even booing the team.
With all the complaining and huffing about rosters and management decisions the fortitude of true fans has gone MIA.  Baseball is a game of wins and losses.  Lately the losses column has been filling faster, but the sky is not falling.
Let’s take a step back and assess this situation. The Cardinals have been carrying a short starting pitching rotation of THREE capable arms, filling in the remainder as well as can be expected.  Two HUGE contributors – outfielder Ryan Ludwick and third baseman David Freese – are both on the disabled list. Our starting shortstop is in an unbelievable funk and yet we are in 2nd place.  Not terrific, but not beyond hope.  The injured will return and there is much baseball yet to be played.
The Cardinals sit in 2nd place in the NL Central, 3 games behind the Reds but 7 1/2 games ahead of 3rd place.  The remaining season is yet unwritten and the race is far from lost.  This week’s games should be a testament to the fact that nothing is a foregone conclusion in baseball.
Teaching children to be good and gracious losers is a challenge.  Being disappointed is understandable.  Being courteous takes some practice.  Grownups may need to be reminded of those playground principles.  Nobody likes a sore loser. 
I started out this blog questioning if I were tough enough to be a Cardinals fan – implying that losing streaks or disappointing plays may be too much for me, but honestly I wonder if I am tough enough to maintain the joy I have for this team and the game when surrounded by others spouting such negativity.
Is the difference in my being a female fan or possibly a “young” fan that hasn’t experienced enough history to be justifiably angry?  I sure hope not.
 
Naturally fans will dissect decisions made in the dugout and plays made on the field.  That is part of the beauty and right of baseball fans.  I do thoroughly enjoy reading thoughtful, relevant critique of our team, but a line is crossed when comments angrily blast players and the manager. 
Let us not forget that while these players are paid exorbitant amounts of money to hit or catch a little ball and entertain the masses, they are human.  They will make mistakes and have bad days – and fate may string those events together for much too long.  True fans stay the course.  We may not be happy with an unproductive team, but we can have faith
Baseball is beautiful – and a winning baseball season would be glorious – but I will love this team through thick and thin.
Go Cards!

What’s up with Brendan?

Brendan Ryan is a fan favorite. A spectacular shortstop, he also has a fun-loving personality. He’s goofy, chatty, seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans and loves to entertain. Brendan doesn’t mind his life being an open book as was evident during Spring Training this year when he shared his home movieswith the FSMW audience – everything from his toe surgery to what he cooked for dinner. He’s not stingy with his interviews either, and seems to enjoy chatting with the reporters, joking around and giving them plenty to write about. It is no wonder we feel like we ‘know’ Brendan – and maybe that is why we are so troubled by his current ‘issue.’

We’ve been politely avoiding the elephant in the room for almost a month now. Our favorite shoulder-licker, Brendan Ryan, is really struggling at the plate. I’ve heard it described as his “Sophomore Slump.” Whatever it is, it isn’t pretty. His batting average was slowly recovering from an unspeakable low of 0.067 on April 9th to a meager 0.167 on Apr 27th, then falling again to 0.159 after striking out twice and flying out once on Apr 28th. But his presence in the box speaks volumes. Brendan is uncomfortable at the plate. His swing is awkward. He’s frustrated. Not a frustration that involves throwing bats or smashing Gatorade dispensers in the dugout, but more of a disappointment, the stuff that just eats at you on the inside. And that kind of internal dialogue is probably making it more difficult to overcome the mechanical issues. Lately every time Brendan steps up to the plate, Cardinals fans everywhere hold their breath…. will he finally break out of the slump?

What happened to the ‘new and improved’ batting stance that Mark McGwire helped him retool? Brendan was so proud of showing it off in Spring Training. Why now? Brendan had unexpected but successful wrist surgery in February (Derrick Goold wrote about it here). With the chronic pain cured, Brendan should be improving at the plate. However, as of today, we are 22 games into the season (about 14%) and our beloved shortstop is a virtual black hole of offensive production. So…when should we really start to worry?

I completely understand that 1) “It is still early” 2) “Everyone has slumps” and 3) “He will figure it out.” But, watching him battle through it is HARD. Luckily we are winning games and Brendan’s defense has been solid. So everyone is just waiting this out… and confidently repeating the mantra “Brendan will be ok.”

On Tuesday, for the first time this season, Tony LaRussa put Brendan at the 9th spot in the lineup (pitcher hitting eighth) in an effort to spark some team offense. While he was only 1 for 3 that night, Brendan did start off the 6th inning rally with a lead-off hit, and scored on Ryan Ludwick’s double. Looking back at how Brendan did in various lineup positions for 2009, there’s a slight advantage for him in the 9th spot. Could this be what spurs him out of his rut?

BJ Rains of Globe-Democrat.com has audio from his interview with Brendan about moving to the 9th spot in the order. Brendan is excited by the opportunity and the challenge of it, saying he “loves hitting in the 9 hole,” adding that “from the team standpoint it might be another opportunity to get some ducks on the pond in front of the big guys.”

Brendan needs his confidence back. It’s obviously eating at him, and it’s giving me an ulcer. Knowing Brendan’s tendency toward quirkiness, he’s probably trying just about everything he can to find his swing again. This gal’s just hoping the ‘fix’ doesn’t involve a comeback of last season’s crazy mustache.

It is no secret that Brendan is one of my favorites and I really dig watching his amazing talent for defensive acrobatics. But I am hoping soon we can all relax and celebrate his offense too. I’ve got no magic solutions to offer. I’m sure he’s heard it all: “Don’t worry. Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. Clear your head. Focus on the fundamentals….”

So, what do we do as fans while anxiously awaiting the recovery of Brendan’s bat?…… Blame? Pray? Drink?

Although this continued trouble at the plate may be haunting him, Brendan’s got a new batch of home movies to share with us from FSMW (you can find them here).

If you need a further break from the worrying, check out these links from some of Ryan’s lighter moments:

-Brendan juggling a baseball with his feet.
-Playing wiffle ball with Joe Mather
-Competing for best Batting Stance Impersonator

Hopefully this write-up will be obsolete very soon. Until then, I’ll be nervously cheering on Brendan from my couch. GO CARDS!

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