Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Nooner #15: A Quick Rant on Alphonso Soriano

Setting aside for a moment the fact that the Cards got a big win against the Dodgers last night and needed the Cubs to lose, I have to say that Alphonso Soriano might be the worst teammate in professional baseball, and I question Cubs fans’ sanity for putting up with him. That ridiculous display as he rounded the bases represents everything a
Thumbnail image for soriano.jpgselfish hot dog player like Soriano shouldn’t be allowed to get away with.
He disrespects his team, the other team, and the game as a whole. After his slacker play got him booed…BOOED…by the hometown fans in the previous at-bat, wouldn’t the classy thing to do just be to run around the bases, maybe with a few fist pumps, and jump into the pile at home? No, of course not…he’s earned the right to clown around the whole time he’s circling. Supposedly the pointing in the general direction of the Astros’ dugout was actually directed towards his family. Fine. What was the rest of that garbage over by third? If I was a Cubs fan, I’d be embarrassed today. And if I’m pitching for the Astros, he gets one in the ribs every time he comes to bat in today’s game (situation permitting).

Just had to get that off my chest. Carry on. No, wait…I have a better idea. Read my InsideSTL column from this past Sunday. Then carry on.

Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / July 27, 2009

The Nooner #14: Wheelin’ and Dealin’

The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired Matt Holliday from the Oakland A’s for Clayton Mortenson, Shane Peterson, and Brett Wallace.

Wallace is the centerpiece of the package sent to the A’s. He’s a third baseman now, but may project better as a first baseman or DH as his bat is solid but his defense is slightly suspect according to those in the know.

Holliday, of course, is the “big bat” Cards manager Tony LaRussa has coveted for a couple years. Holliday played well in Colorado to start his career, and after a slow start in Oakland this season (his first with the A’s) he has turned things up recently.

This deal has been rumored for some time…the Cards were discussing their desire to acquire Holliday even last season when he was still with the Colorado Rockies. One of the big problems that concerned many in Cardinal Nation was Holliday’s split stats away from Colorado. We all know that Coors Field is a launching pad because of the thin air, and while Holliday raked in Denver, everywhere else his stats were a little more pedestrian. Holliday is also a free agent after this season, and is a Scott Boras client. So there are no guarantees beyond 2009, and Wallace hasn’t yet played in the Big Leagues. That’s a big gamble.

Another issue at hand is the fifth spot in the rotation. Todd Wellemeyer has been terrible. He was good last year, even though he rarely pitched more than six innings. This year, he’s having trouble getting through five innings and has the second-worst starter ERA in the league.

So is this a good deal? I offer these points:

  1. Matt Holliday is a legit upgrade to this lineup. Show me an easy out: Skip Schumaker, Colby Rasmus, Albert Pujols, Holliday, Ryan Ludwick, Mark DeRosa, Yadier Molina, Brendan Ryan. You have on-base guys, you have line drive/clutch hit guys, you have power hitters, you have home run hitters. Speed and power? Balanced.
  2. Split Stats do not make or break a hitter. Holliday may have starkly better numbers at Coors Field than he did anywhere else, but think about this: he never hit behind Pujols. That advantage may be bigger than the thin air at Coors Field. Plus, don’t forget those “bad” away splits of Holliday’s include about 12-15 games each season in caverns like San Diego and Arizona.
  3. This acquisition shows a willingness to win. Sure, the Cards have brought up about 328 players for their first ever look at the big leagues this season. But not all have panned out, and most need much more seasoning in the minors. The front office took heed and acted, knowing full well that LaRussa and Pujols are approaching crossroads as to whether they want to continue as St. Louis Cardinals.
  4. This acquisition does not bankrupt the farm system or the budget. Oakland is sending cash with Holliday, so the monetary cost is offset. But more importantly, the Cards’ minor league system was not totally plundered for this deal. While Wallace was the top prospect in the system, and Mortenson could become a pretty decent pitcher, plenty of high-upside players remain in the system: David Freese, Jaime Garcia, Daryl Jones, Daniel Descalso, Jess Todd, Mitchell Boggs, etc. etc. Will any of these guys pan out? Well…will Wallace or Mortenson?
  5. This acquisition doesn’t help the rotation, but it doesn’t hurt it either. I don’t know if Wellemeyer will remain in the rotation, but obviously someone has to pitch in that slot. Now, however, the need for a top-end guy is lessened. Why? Because this is now a lethal offense…if your pitcher gives up four runs, the team still wins if they are now able to score five. I know good pitching beats good hitting, but it’s a different mindset if a starter isn’t afraid that allowing three or four runs automatically dooms the team. Plus the postion players will be less likely to think they’re out of it if a starter or reliever does have the occasional hiccup.

That’s all I have now…more later! Go Cards!

The 2009 Home Run Derby

Good morning! My Home Run Derby experience was certainly one I will never forget. We got downtown early, and the atmosphere in St. Louis was one I’ve rarely experienced in my 31+ years on this earth. We tailgated about a block south of Busch Stadium with some of our left field bleacher friends, and at the other side of the lot was one of the greatest vehicles I’ve ever seen: a hot rod with beer kegs on the back! Now THAT’S how you show up to a party!

 

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Once in the stadium, the anticipation immediately cranked up a notch or two. I go to 40 or so ballgames at Busch Stadium every year, but I’ve never seen a crowd like this. I would say it was about 70% Cardinals fans (or, at least, Cardinals gear) and 30% other teams’ fans. Which I thought was a pretty decent ratio. I was glad to see so many Cards fans were able to attend the event; it’s been a long time coming for the city and the franchise. But seeing so many “other” fans was really a treat. When the Chicago Cubs are in town the crowd can be as much as 40% Cubs fans, and that’s a great thing for the rivalry and the game. But having groups of Blue Jays fans, Rays fans, Angels fans…it truly was the North American Nation of Baseball last night.

We walked into the stadium near third base, but when we made our way around to the outfield area the mood cranked up to a near frenzy. I’ve never seen so many people in the outfield concourse at Busch, and the crowd gathered outside the fence in left field (which is only about 30 yards away from the last row of seats) absolutely blew me away.07_14_3.JPEG

Our seats were in the right field bleachers, but we used our influence with the wonderful staff at Busch to go into the left field seats where our season tickets are and visit with our friends. The great part is, one friend (Thanks, Carrie!) sits in the front row along the wall in left-center. So we had a front row seat for batting practice before the Derby. It was really cool to get to see the AL All Stars hanging out with their kids and joking around with each other. And there’s something really special about 07_14_7.JPEGseeing guys that are supposed to be enemies on the field being able to unite for an event like this. It’s a good reminder that, at the end of the day, you can take all the money and fame and controversy away and they’re all just Big Kids playing the game that they love.

The first big highlight was actually for my girlfriend Sarah, who is originally from the South Side of Chicago and is a White Sox fan. While we were in the front row in left-center, the White Sox lone All Star representative (and St. Louis-area native) Mark Buehrle was within earshot so Sarah was cheering him and yelling his name. He turned around and, seeing her Sox gear, gave her a tip of the cap. A few minutes later, a ball landed near us on the field. Buehrle was the closest player, so he walked back to retrieve the ball as it came to rest right next to the bullpen. Buehrle picked up the ball, pointed to Sarah, and tossed it to her. As you can imagine, this made her night. If we’re not able to catch him today, I told her I’d take her to SoxFest this winter so she can get him to autograph the ball. 

Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers put on an absolute show in the Derby. Home runs at Busch have NOT been hit to the places he was hitting them last night. They just haven’t. And this guy just turned 29? Rangers fans should have something really special to watch for a few years. Prince Fielder of the Brewers hit similar bombs in the second and final rounds. He 07_14_17.JPEGdidn’t hit any to me, but a couple were long enough. The 503-footer would have fallen in my lap had it been one section closer to the foul pole. And I really feel bad for Brandon Inge. That poor guy does not have good luck in big situations at Busch Stadium. In 2006, he struck out for the final out of the Cardinals’ World Series victory. Last night, he put up a zero in the Home Run Derby. Inge is a fine player and has had a good career, but I have a feeling St. Louis won’t make his list of great memories.

And what can be said about Albert Pujols that hasn’t already been said? He didn’t win the Home Run Derby, but he provided the some of the drama and excitement that we in St. Louis have come to expect–and love–from El Hombre. He launched a bomb to force a “swing-off” with Carlos Pena and Joe Mauer, and then another in the “swing-off” clinched his spot in the second round. Both dingers elicited responses from the crowd that made it sound like he’d just hit a walk-off homer to clinch the division title. It was awesome.

07_14_36.JPEGHonestly, some parts of the evening were a little slow. I suppose that’s a testament to the folks that broadcast the event, because every Home Run Derby I’ve watched on TV has seemed like almost non-stop excitement. And there’s no way we could have expected another clinic like the one Josh Hamilton put on last year at Yankee Stadium. But I think something more profound took place in those slow periods, too, at least in my mind. I was reminded that the “Steroid Era” may be coming to a close. Sure, some boneheads will continue to use PED’s, and hopefully they will be caught. But think about it…only one homer went 500 feet. Not long ago, that might have been one of the shorter distances in the competition. Maybe the “long” homers we saw from Fielder, Cruz, and Pujols will help us (and maybe the players thinking of using PED’s, too) remember that it’s OK to use only your talent and hard work to become a great hitter, and even a Home Run Derby hero.

The Nooner #13: All Star Weekend update

Well, after a full weekend of All Star build-up events, it’s time for fanfest.JPEGthe real deal. But more on that in a minute. First, a quick recap of All Star Fanfest, which I attended Saturday.

FanFest is a great way to kick off your All Star experience, but it can also be a good daytime activity if you’re planning on going to the Home Run Derby tonight or the All Star Game tomorrow. Even though we’ve all been urged to get to the park early, FanFest starts at 9:00. You’ll have plenty of time to get in, see a bunch of great exhibits and baseball activities, and still be able to make the evening events with time to spare. Official details on FanFest can be found at the All Star Game website or you can read about my personal experience from Saturday in my InsideSTL column from yesterday.

I did make it down to the Futures Game and Celebrity/Legends Softball Game on Sunday…but after four hours of rain and milling through the crowd of thousands gathered in the Busch Stadium concourses, I’d had enough. So I went to a little Irish Pub/Sports Bar called Flannery’s on Washington Ave. and had a couple Smithwick’s drafts and a fish sandwich (and corn nuggets…which where incredible). Kudos to those of you that not only waited out the storm but stuck around for the events after the clouds lifted.

In a few hours I’ll be heading to downtown St. Louis for a little tailgating, the official Workout Day, and the Home Run Derby. And, actually, if you’re watching at home, you just might see me on TV. My tickets are in the right field bleachers straight up from the home bullpen at the right field bleachers.JPEGtop row and in the middle of the center aisle. I’ll be wearing the coveted powder blue #51 Willie McGee jersey you see in my profile, so I shouldn’t be too hard to miss. With all the lefties competing in the Derby this year, I feel like I have a pretty good chance to get a ball, and I’m taking my glove to the game for the first time since I was 10 years old. If you do see me tonight, stop by here and leave a comment about it! I’ll have a full report on the evening later tonight (or maybe first thing in the morning).

The Nooner #12: DeRosa Update and latest article link

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch just posted to his forum that new Cardinal Mark DeRosa will be placed on the DL. I’ll post updates as I can find them, but needless to say this is less than good news for a team trying to hold on to first place in the NL Central.

EDIT: The P-D has an update; DeRosa is on the 15-day DL with a wrist strain. The move is retroactive to July 1. Read the entire brief here.

So it looks like the Cards will be without the services of DeRosa until after the All Star Break. And the timing couldn’t be worse with the team’s next seven games being against the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Let’s hope the Redbirds can get to the Break still in first place. 

Also, as you may or may not know I’ve been writing a weekly Cardinals column (with some music entries as well) over at www.insidestl.com. My column posts on Sundays, and I’ll link to it (or maybe just copy and paste it) on this page shortly after. Take a look at my latest post here.

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