Monthly Archives: February 2009

30 Clubs in 30 Days, but first…

I want to write a quick word of thanks to everyone making the decisions at MLBlogs for having Bird Brained as the Featured Blog today. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw my face on the MLBlogs home page. I shared my excitement with a lot of my friends and family and they all thought it was great too. The jump in my page views and comments was an awesome feeling, so thanks to all of you readers, too! Come back often, because I will write often!

I just finished watching MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30 Days” featuring the St. Louis Cardinals. This show covered all the bases, so to speak. Featuring an expert panel of former Major Leaguers Joe Magrane and Sean Casey, Special Advisor to the Texas Rangers John Hart, and hosted by St. Louisan Greg Amsinger, “30 in 30″ provided a ton of analysis and interviews. I really have yet to be disappointed by MLB Network and this show keeps that streak alive.

Most of what was said has been said or written before. The panel discussed what the Cards’ recipe for success in 2009 must have: player health, a strong rotation, and better bullpen pitching. Of course, this is true of every team. But the interviews were relevant and not necessarily biased. Featured in sit-down conversations are Tony LaRussa, Chris Carpenter, John Mozeliak, Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel. Video highlights included a lot of Spring Training footage and some 2008 footage.

The show concluded with a “Best Moments in Cardinal History” video compilation, followed by the panel’s predictions on where the Cardinals will finish this season. Casey, Magrane, and Hart each thought the Cards were a lock for 2nd in the National League Central. Let’s hope that, if these experts are right, it comes with a Wild Card berth.

Christmas in February

What a week! Spring Training games have begun! But more on that later. Tuesday was the greatest day of 2009 so far, because the season tickets arrived!

 

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After telling my girlfriend Sarah, I had to e-mail my buddy Scott The Cub Fan. Scott gets as giddy about baseball as I do. He asked me to describe my feelings of this glorious day, and here was my reply:

I actually didn’t get to open the box. I let Sarah do that since she pays for them. But she told me a few days ago that she got the shipping notification, so I knew it was coming. I was working from home and heard the UPS truck pull up. It was a lot like hearing the ice cream truck approach…you know it’s in the vicinity, but is it on your street or the next one over? I ran down the stairs like a kid who still wonders if Santa came last night, and found the box on the front porch. I actually did a pretty good job of not thinking too much about them all day; it was enough to know that they were here and all was well. But then I started wondering what games we had: How many day games? How many Saturday games? Do we have the Thursday day game on my birthday?

  

Then Sarah came home and all questions were answered. I sat twitching while she opened the box and flipped through the little book. And then she handed it to me. I hugged it like Robert DeNiro hugged the fake Mr. Jinx that Ben Stiller found at the animal shelter in Meet The Parents. Hopefully my expectations for the team this year don’t turn out to be as unrealistic as a cat with a spray painted tail.

Now, on to the game!

The St. Louis Cardinals opened Grapefruit League play yesterday with a 5-5 tie after 10 innings against the Florida Marlins in Jupiter, Florida. Blake Hawksworth started the game for the Cards, going 2 2/3 innings and allowing no runs on three hits. Rick Ankiel was 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, and Colby Rasmus was 2 for 5 with a walk and a run scored. Skip Schumaker went 2 for 4, scored twice, and played an errorless 2B. For more, see the full box score here. Today the Cardinals square off against the Baltimore Orioles in Ft. Lauderdale. Game time is 1:05 EST.

Chris

The Nooner #5: We have a lineup!

Well, sort of. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch just posted Tony LaRussa’s lineup for the first Grapefruit League game tomorrow when the Cardinals play the Florida Marlins. Looks like the Cards are starting Blake Hawkesworth and the Marlins will go with Anibal Sanchez. Here’s my projection for the batting order (positions based on Goold’s projections):

  1. Skip Schumaker 2B
  2. Chris Duncan DH
  3. Albert Pujols 1B
  4. Ryan Ludwick RF
  5. Rick Ankiel CF
  6. Joe Mather 3B
  7. Khalil Greene SS
  8. Jason LaRue C
  9. Colby Rasmus LF

And how freakin’ great is it that games start tomorrow! The first Cardinals radio broadcast is this Saturday, 02/28, and Chris Carpenter is scheduled to start. BASEBALL IS BACK!

Chris

http://bird-brained.mlblogs.com

The Great Jersey Debate

For years now, the pride and joy of my St. Louis Cardinals attire has been my Willie McGee jersey.

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I’m not, by any means, retiring old #51 (like the Cardinals should). But, as my only jersey, I’m worried about it not holding up too much longer. It’s already five or six years old, and now that I go to 40 games per year, well…you get the idea.

You may be asking yourself how it’s possible that a fan like myself only owns one Cardinal jersey. I ask myself that same question from time to time. I used to have another. After the 1998 home run chase, I got a Mark McGwire batting practice jersey. I was a big McGwire fan and wore that jersey everywhere. I even wore it on vacation to Cabo San Lucas in 2000. Five of my buddies and I went down there for Sammy Hagar’s Birthday Bash at his Cabo Wabo Cantina. In a less-than-sober moment, I decided it would be really cool to toss my beloved jersey up onto the stage because Hagar is known for wearing whatever clothes, hats, banners, etc. fans manage to fling at him. The good news is, my throw was good.

 

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The bad news is, I never saw that jersey again.

So I need another jersey. I’d like an Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina jersey…they’re my favorite current Cardinals. But I love the retro jersey look. And there’s always that risk, when you get the jersey of a current player, that he’ll get traded or sign somewhere else or, as in the case of McGwire, not be there to talk about the past anymore. For instance, when McGee was playing for the A’s, Red Sox, or Giants during the 90′s I wouldn’t have bought his jersey. And I believe that Pujols and Molina are relatively certain to be Cardinals for a long time, but I kind of thought that about Scott Rolen a few years back, too. 

There’s always the all-timers: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith. And players that maybe weren’t the greatest but had tons of character: Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, Andy Van Slyke. Or maybe I’ll just play it safe and get a nameless batting practice jersey. I have plenty of Cardinals t-shirts and hats and such, but I see this jersey decision as a big deal. Feel free to leave your suggestions below; I can’t promise I’ll follow them but I will read them. Let the debate begin. 

The Nooner #4: End of an era – Jason Isringhausen

Jason Isringhausen’s Cardinal career officially ended this weekend with news that he signed with the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays. A lot of fans were down on Izzy in recent years, especially (and deservedly) last season. But this guy really did some phenomenal work for the Cardinals as their closer. If you look at his career stats and think about his injury history, the parallels between his down years and his hurt years are undeniable. I believe that, all things considered, Cardinal Nation must tip its collective cap to Izzy for a job well done while he was here.

So now, who takes the reigns from Izzy? Certainly it’s going to be either Jason Motte or Chris Perez…or can the Cardinlas get away with closer by committee? I think it’s better to let someone earn the closer title and keep it until he loses it, for whatever reason. I liked what I saw from Perez in 2008, but Motte seems to have that crazy guy attitude that sometimes works so well. Both have the potential for dominance. Stay tuned…

The Nooner #3: The questions are slowly being answered…

So far, so good. The Cardinals have announced that the starting rotation is set: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, and Joel Piniero have been anointed, barring any unforeseen events. And some not-so-surprising hints about the everyday lineup have started to trickle out as well. It looks like Tony LaRussa is planning on batting the pitcher 8th again this season, and the most obvious choices for batting 9th are Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker, or Colby Rasmus (depending on the make up of the rest of the lineup on any given day). In Ryan, the Cards have a guy that is quite capable defensively but hasn’t quite put it together at the plate. He can play anywhere in the infield. Schumaker was the leadoff hitter almost all of 2008, and is currently working on a switch from the outfield to second base. Rasmus, of course, is the golden boy prospect who has been described as a five tool guy and the Cards’ centerfielder of the future…possibly the very near future. If LaRussa can find a way to not only keep these guys on the roster but also find them adequate playing time, this team may have the most balanced combination of power and speed they’ve had in the past decade…and it’s been a pretty successful decade for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now I suppose the biggest question mark is who will close…

The Nooner #2: I turn my back for one second…

Man, did baseball pick the wrong week to be controversial! I go to Cancun for 5 days and all hell breaks loose. Anyway, it’s great to hear that Chris Carpenter is progressing and everyone came to Spring Training early, and it’s pretty sad to hear A-Rod’s name associated with steroids. But the release of Adam Kennedy blew me away. I’d like to think that someone in-house can emerge to take over 2B, but can the Cardinals really count on that? Wouldn’t it be better to have that true second baseman to solidify the middle infield when your coaches preach pitching to contact? I said it before in a different context, but now more than ever the Cards need to talk to the Orioles about Brian Roberts. This team has the ability (and, at this point, almost the need) to trade from its surplus of outfielders. Why not make the move this spring once everyone proves healthy? I mean, it could be argued that starting pitching is just as pressing a need, but the Cards have in-house options there. They really don’t have much depth in the middle infield.

The Nooner #1: Good Enough For You?

NOTE: This is the first installment in what will probably become a fairly regular feature. I get 30-60 minutes for my lunchbreak and usually spend that time eating at my desk while I read news and sports websites. I know I’m not the only one that does this. So why not indulge a quickie on my blog instead of surfing aimlessly? Welcome to The Nooner!

I posted the following on Cards Talk, a high-traffic forum on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website. The original poster asked if a 2nd place finish without a Wild Card berth would be good enough for Cardinals fans. My reply didn’t get much of a response so I decided to lift it and bring it here:

<I don’t think anyone really believes 2nd place is “good enough,” but that term in and of itself is relative. Within the past 5 seasons, we’ve seen a 100-win team win the pennant, a 105-win team lose the NLCS, an 83-win team win the World Series, and an 86-win team finish in 4th place. Now…just take those regular season win totals and forget the end of year results, then rank them from most successful to least successful.

The bottom line is, every team has to play 162. The best team doesn’t always come out on top. Personally I’d much rather see an above average team win the World Series than an excellent team get swept in the first round. And I think a young team that puts forth 100% every day but comes up a little short would be much more entertaining than a team full of high-priced prima donna free agents who fall flat on their faces (read: 2008 Detroit Tigers). It is always better to earn second place than to buy last place.>

Agree? Disagree? Thoughts?

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