Category Archives: Baseball Dailies
The only question is for how long…but it legitimately may be forever.
On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals called a press conference to announce co-ace of the rotation Chris Carpenter will likely miss the 2013 season after a return of the shoulder and neck symptoms that kept him out of the vast majority of the 2012 season. With Carp due to be a free agent this fall and seriously questioning his ability to ever throw a ball again, the hurler maybe calling it a career once the Cards’ season is over.
Carpenter’s entire career was marred by injuries, but the years he spent with the Toronto Blue Jays were also markedly mediocre. The Cardinals took a chance on him while he was injured, signing him in 2002—but he would not pitch for the Redbirds until 2004. Then, under Dave Duncan, he flourished. Carp became the leader of the rotation, both in statistics and competitive fire. The playoff run in 2004 came to an abrupt halt partly because Carpenter got injured and didn’t throw a pitch in the postseason that year. In 2005 he rebounded to a 21-5 record with seven complete games (four of them shutouts), 241 innings pitched over 33 starts, 213 strikeouts, and a Cy Young award. In 2006 he again topped 200 innings, led the league with three shutouts, and propelled the Cardinals to their first World Series Championship since 1982. The injury bug bit Carpenter again in 2007-2008 when he only pitched in five games—combined. But his resilience would shine again for the next three years. In each season his strikeout totals increased, but so did his innings pitched. It all culminated with the 2011 championship run. For three of the four clinching games that year—Wild Card berth in Game 162, Division Series Game 5, World Series Game 7—Carpenter was the starting pitcher. And you’d better believe he was ready to go for Game 7 of the NLCS if it went that far. But the others were just works of art: a complete game shutout of the Houston Astros to put the Cards into the postseason; a 1-0 masterpiece in Game 5 of the NLDS to knock out Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies; and starting Game 7 of the World Series on short rest, keeping his team grounded after the heroics of the previous night, and pitching six solid innings to give the Cardinals the chance to win their 11th World Championship. David Freese may have been the MVP of the NLCS and World Series, but if they gave that award for the best overall postseason performance Carpenter would have a serious claim to the trophy.
That October 2011 performance could more or less prove to be his swan song. Carpenter did pitch at the end of last year and helped the Cardinals get within a victory of a return trip to the World Series. But now he faces uncertainty like never before, and so does the team.
Carp is a leader like no other on the St. Louis Cardinals. His numbers speak volumes, and may be replaceable. His presence, however, is not. And it’s another key loss from the so-called “old guard” of the Tony La Russa era in St. Louis. In less than 18 months, the Cardinals have said goodbye to Duncan, La Russa, Albert Pujols, and now Carpenter. Certainly nothing lasts forever, especially in professional sports. But that’s quite a hit in a short span of time.
There’s always the glimmer of hope that Carpenter can make it back and take the mound once again for the Cardinals. After all, it’s not like it would be the first time. But for some reason, this time it feels different…more final…more finished. Maybe it’s a combination of his contract situation and age. Maybe it’s that I was always afraid this would be the way he finally hung it up—leaving the game because his body forced him to, not because he wanted to. Hopefully Carpenter remains that invaluable presence in the clubhouse, in the dugout, and around practice. We’ll always wonder what might have been if he’d pitched in the 2004 World Series, or if the Cardinals had him in ‘07 and ‘08, or if he had been healthy all last year. But even if he has in fact thrown his final pitch as a Cardinal, Chris Carpenter can close the book knowing he was one of the best starting pitchers the franchise ever had.
Below is my question to the group for this installment of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ Roundtable. Follow the links posted here for some great writing on the St. Louis Cardinals from a fan perspective. Also, visit the UCB website for links to previous Roundtable questions, and check back often because there’s plenty more to come…the Roundtable goes all month! And if you have any thoughts about this question, by all means share them in the comments section below. Now, on with the show…
Patrolling the Grass
No, this is not about Colorado’s new hobby. We’ve already had some great roundtable questions, and a couple of them led me to start thinking about the Cardinals’ outfield. Yes, things are pretty set for 2013–but a lot figures to happen next season that influences what the squad looks like beyond that. So I’m asking you to give me the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2014 Opening Day outfield–starters and backups, if you think the bench guys are already on the roster–and any corresponding moves you think the team will make prior to 2014 to make it happen.
“I would suspect Carlos Beltran won’t be resigned for 2014. That immediately means at least one change, in right. Who replaces him might depend on whether Allen Craig stays with the team and whether he can fend off more injuries. The other prediction I think can safely be made is that Oscar Taveras is seen at the major league level in 2013, and is ready for continuous duty in 2014. Who that displaces remains a bit of a mystery. If Jon Jay can avoid being trade bait, then he’s more than likely just excellent pop off the bench at first. I wouldn’t expect him to remain in that role for long, he’s too hot with the bat. Unfortunately, that means the inevitable: At least one trade in the OF in 2014. It would seem like Jay might be the casualty.” –Wes, Keene on MLB
“I’m taking Holliday in LF, Jay in CF, and Taveras in RF for the starters. Beltran and Schumaker are likely gone to help make room, and maybe the winner in the cage match between Chambers and Robinson stay as the true 4th outfielder. It seems like Allen Craig could see more OF time than either of those guys, but someone besides Garcia has to pinch run when Matheny goes with the double switch to take a big hitter out of the lineup in the 6th inning.” –Dennis, Pitchers Hit Eighth
“Holliday, Jon Jay, and Oscar Taveras. If Oscar is as good as they say he is, Carlos Beltran will not be resigned. It’s possible that Jay gets shifted from center to RF. Skip is signed through the end of 2013. Unless he gets traded, and I doubt he will be, next season will probably be his final year in a Cardinal uniform, even though he turns 33 in February.” –Daniel S., Redbird Rants
“One scenario no one has talked about with Beltran is him sliding to first base in 2014 if he’s still a 30/90 guy in 2013. Craig could man a corner OF spot, and Taveras spot start for him and Jay to get some quality MLB playing time. If Taveras truly is a Pujols-esque talent (as Mo referred to him as) then the team can save money, let Beltran go, and slide Taveras into RF everyday in 2014.
I see a Jonny Gomes type as a reserve bench player in 2014, as well as Adron Chambers.” -Chris M., Birds on the Bat ‘82
“I’m going with the majority of a Holliday-Jay-Tavares outfield in 2014. Beltran will not be resigned, I believe Craig will not be a Cardinal by 2014 and Skippy is gone. Shane Robinson and Chambers will both find some playing time and be on the squad.
I don’t think Jay moves from center. Tavares has played center, and done so fairly well, but he is now and always has been projected as a corner outfielder. Shane and Chambers are good enough to be extra outfielders, though I could see the Cards picking up a free agent or trade.
Speaking of outfileders who could play first, Jason Bay, anyone? ” -Bill, I-70 Baseball
“I believe 2014 finds Holliday-Taveras-Ramsey.
Jay will be traded and Beltran gone. The Cardinals ETA for James Ramsey is 2014 and I believe that is where he will be and likely a lead-off hitter.” -Tom, Cardinals GM
“2014 Outfield, that’s a leap and a bounds considering the health
history of this club combined with the developmental strides the org
is taking, but I’ll play ball on this one:
Holliday is locked in, for numerous reasons. Oscar Tavares will be the
starting right fielder, by ’14 at the very, very latest (upset call at
some point in 2013 for me…but that’s a later convo).
Jay, I’m not as certain of. He became a nice defensive surprise in
2012, but there’s a lot about his approach out there that needs work.
The highlights were there, but the arm is still trash and his set in
the lineup is still is a man out of place at the top of it. This is a
team that needs to get faster, especially in the style that Matheny
employs, and that along with shortstop, are the easiest places to do
so. I don’t say any of this to rag on Jay, but I think he’s the answer
to a different question…
Fourth/Fifth outfielder. He’s perfect there by profile, and I don’t
have any beefs with having a solid defender that can play all three
outfield spots and be a singles hitter coming off the pine. I will use
this to completely rag over the entire organization if Shane Robinson
and/or Adron Chambers are long term fixtures here. They’re better than
that, and at least one of them should be replaced by a veteran
right-handed hitter THIS winter.
By 2014, I’m hoping for some speed, or at least an extra base hits
threat in center by then, along with a higher talent base, or better
youngster as OF outfield mix by then.” –Matt, Cheap Seats Please
“Most everyone has hit on it, and I agree that Holliday-Jay-Taveras seems the most likely, though I have some reservations about Jay still being here at that time. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t be or where he wouldn’t have gone, but I just wouldn’t be shocked if that’s the case.
You’ll likely have one of Robinson or Chambers as a backup then, but not both. Perhaps a one-year deal of a veteran as another backup.” -Daniel, C70 At The Bat
“Holliday for sure and unless Taveras stops being awesome he’s in as well. As far as the 3rd spot Jon Jay is definitely the front runner to complete the trio. I, like a lot of folks keep waiting for Jon Jay to slide comfortably into that 4th outfielder role that’s had his name on it for the last few seasons but he continues to resist. Some of our topics leading up to today’s question could obviously factor into this with trades, available free agents, etc. but I would still go with these 3 with Adron Chambers coming off the bench. I’m not as sold on Shane Robinson still being in the mix in 2014 but I won’t even take a stab as to who else would be in the mix.” -Dustin, Welcome to Baseball Heaven
“Awesome question, Chris. This makes us think about a number of dominoes falling
properly. I love it.
The two corner positions are easy, it is Matt Holliday and Oscar Taveras. Sure,
there are plenty of questions, but for projection purposes, Holliday is likely
to still be awesome at the plate and serviceable in the field, and Taveras will
be the 2014 Rookie of the Year and winner of the Vlad Guerrero swing like a
maniac and hit the ball a mile contest.
Center field is where things get fun. I will go out on a limb here and give
that spot to Adron Chambers. I think he is that spark that is missing from the
every day lineup. His defensive skills are improving (showed of a pretty
impressive arm) and he could be a terror on the bases, with some coaching from
Lou Brock or Ozzie Smith.
So, the outfield bench – that’s where things get tough.
Schumaker and Jay are both gone. Tommy Pham is still on the minor league
disabled list. That is a joke – the poor kid has had a rough time. Chris
Swauger will be my dark horse for the outfield bench spot. He will hit just
enough in Memphis next year to get a shot at the bench in 2014. With that much
youth, I could see the Cardinals opting for a free agent as the final spot over
Shane Robinson. Somebody like a Preston Wilson.
A good question, lots to think about.“ -Bob, On the Outside Corner
“In 2014, the starting outfield will be Matt Holliday in left, Jon jay in center and Oscar Taveras in right.
Backing up that group will be Mike O’Neill (after another top-notch season in the Cardinals’ system in 2013), Matt Carpenter and Ryan Jackson (converted from infield to outfield as Kolten Wong starts at second and Asdrubal Cabrera starts at short).” -Mark, Retro Simba
“I really wish I had some sort of bizarre diversion from the most well-traveled path, something like Ken Griffey Jr. receiving cyborg transplants and playing center, but I sure don’t. I’d assume that 18 months from now we’ll see Holliday, Jay, and Taveras; that’s a good thing, though! Holliday is one of the better players in baseball, Jay has found ways to blend defense and sneaky on-base ability, and Taveras loves making baseballs hurt.
As for the reserves, I sure hope they’re sexier than the current choices. Adron Chambers has speed and minor league OBP success on his side, and Shane Robinson has a nice enough glove, but there certainly isn’t any thump. An injury to a starting outfield member in 2014 could be deadly without change. Perhaps we should get on that cyborg Griffey thing.” -Brian, StanGraphs
“I’m with the hivemind. Holliday, Jay, Taveras. Beltran will not be re-signed to play outfield or otherwise. I am also hopeful that Mo can pick some low hanging fruit to back up the outfield, or someone breaks out. I am not comfortable with Adron Chambers or Shane Robinson as a starting outfielder in any prolonged capacity.” -Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth
“Late to the party, but it’s hard to disagree with Holliday in LF, & Tavares in RF. Jay is obviously a solid plus defender, but his home/road splits remind me of Jamie Garcia. If Jay is to remain, he’ll need to improve in some of the road numbers & spend more time getting on base in ballparks not named Busch Stadium. I’m not saying he’s out, or won’t/can’t be the everyday CF on this team for the next few/several years. But when I look at the 3 spots, I think we can all agree that the contract keeps MH in LF, the club is going to find a way to get Tavares’ bat in the lineup and RF is probably how, but Jay might not be such a solid lock. Maybe. Who knows. Maybe he will. Just a thought.” -Dathan, Cards Tied For First
Well, there you have it. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how varied the answers would be but I thought it a pertinent question based on Matt Holliday’s long contract, Carlos Beltran’s short contract, and the Cards’ significant depth when it comes to outfielders. The members of the UCB rarely disappoint, however, and today was no exception. They gave me a lot of similar answers and a lot of different ones. Can’t ask for much more out of a roundtable discussion.
My thoughts about the 2014 are somewhat incomplete. I like what Jon Jay has done with the glove in centerfield, but his arm is not that of a centerfielder. Matt Holliday also has a wet noodle attached to his shoulder. If Oscar Taveras does indeed have a cannon and can patrol center close to the way Jay does, I’m fine with the Cards moving Jay. And I don’t necessarily mean to right field—l mean, moving him to the bench or trading him, because Taveras is on the team by 2014 regardless. But you also want a strong arm in right field to gun down those fools who think they can go first-to-third. Does Allen Craig have that arm? Does Matt Carpenter? It’s hard to say. As for the fourth and fifth outfielders, I like Adron Chambers because of his speed and I like that Shane Robinson can play center. If they could morph into one guy—and that guy learned how to hit—he’d be a great weapon off the bench. But that’s not the case. I’d like to see Chambers continue to develop and I’d like another outfielder to be picked up via free agency. It doesn’t have to be a solid glove guy, either. But the Cardinals’ bench is woefully inadequate from the right side. They need a presence that will keep the other manager wondering when Mike Matheny will stick him in to pinch hit—kind of like Carpenter. They currently do not have that on the right side. That is how they need to find their fourth outfielder.
This is always a favorite of mine. The members of the United Cardinal Bloggers—which I am—get together (virtually) to have a roundtable discussion on the state of the St. Louis Cardinals and, sometimes, baseball in general. Today it was my day to ask a question, but this has been going on for over a week now. For a complete list of participating blogs and their questions and answers, hop over to the UCB website. Tomorrow I’ll be posting the question I posed to the group along with all the answers I receive. I encourage you to participate as well in the comments section after the post. Leave your own thoughts, comment on what someone else wrote—whatever you want, as long as you keep it civil. I know what you’re thinking: What’s the question? Well, you’ll have to come back here tomorrow to find out.
OK, I guess I can give you a hint so you can prep a little: Outfield.
Saturday night, members of the United Cardinal Bloggers—which includes yours truly—gathered at Patrick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar (Formerly Pujols 5…blech) at Westport for the annual UCB Dinner. Food, drinks, and good times were had by all. And the Cardinals sure know how to treat their keyboard-pounding fans, as Sunday at Busch Stadium was “Blogger Day,” which included a pre-game presentation and all-inclusive suites for the game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The UCB dinner was great. It’s always good to get to put faces with names or, in some cases, Twitter handles. Parts of the evening were sponsored by Burton History Trees and Any City Sports Fan (more on both in future posts). But as much fun as we had, I think everyone was really looking forward to Sunday’s events at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals’ social media gurus are Lindsey Weber and Ron Watermon, and they did a great job putting the day together. A pregame program featuring appearances by Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III and General Manager John Mozeliak highlighted the day. They conveyed a little bit of team news, talked Ballpark Village, told us their thoughts on what we do out here in the online ether, and took questions from the crowd. Then we hustled up to the party rooms, where we were treated to some big time food and drinks. The menu included the usual ballpark favorites, plus pulled pork mac-n-cheese with buffalo sauce, jalapeno cheese brats, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Needless to say, I did not have any ballpark favorites. Oh, and the beer was free. The Cardinals definitely know their audience.
To top it all off, the Cards on the field turned what was heading toward a crushing defeat into a walk-off winner in extra innings. It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it counts the same in the standings. All in all, it was a pretty good weekend. I’m not one of the bloggers that makes any money off of this little hobby, so perks like this are definitely appreciated. And it’s even better when the Cardinals toss a little official recognition our way.
Now, about those press credentials…
One year ago today, the St. Louis Cardinals made a trade that would have an enormous impact on the history of the franchise. General Manager John Mozeliak remade the bullpen and fortified the rotation and bench by acquiring relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, starter Edwin Jackson, and outfielder Corey Patterson from the Toronto Blue Jays. Shipped up to Canada were pitchers PJ Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trever Miller along with centerfielder and former organizational “untouchable” Colby Rasmus.
Personality and hustle issues aside, Rasmus was a young and talented cost-controlled player and three of the four players the Cards received from Toronto would be free agents at the end of 2011. This was a win-now move by Mozeliak, and win the Cardinals did. But both franchises involved in this deal felt immediate impact. In case you need reminding, this trade largely led directly to the following for the Cardinals:
And, not to be outdone, this trade led directly to the following for the Blue Jays:
Well played, Mo…well played.
Well here we are again…sitting in a garage in the heart of Belleville, IL with a smoking grill, a counter full of sides, and cold beer everywhere. Technically, it could be damn near any day of the week once the winter weather breaks. But in late March or early April, I’m definitely talking about the St. Louis Cardinals Home Opener. And this is my third installment of the Opening Day Running Blog.
The rain delay gave us all ample opportunity to eat, play some cards, and have a beer or six. We’re at my buddy Ken’s again, and we’re joined by Joe, Shane, Zac, and Scot the Cubs Fan. He’s all decked out in Cubbie Blue. We look at him with scorn. We started off with breakfast at the Hy Ho Restaurant in Belleville, and they weren’t impressed with him either. And that’s really saying something; the Hy Ho is a greasy spoon of the highest—and lowest—order.
The game was pushed back to a 3:45-ish start, with the pregame pomp and circumstance kicking off around 3. But we have word from sources at the ballpark that the Budweiser Clydesdales will not be making their traditional laps around the Busch Stadium turf. Could this be an omen of bad things to come? Wait, there’s Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan. And Dunc has a beard. All is right with the world again.
3:45 – We’re getting ready for the Star Spangled Banner but the bald eagle brought in to make an avian patriotic display has yet to land. Normally, the majestic bird leaves its cage somewhere in the outfield, makes a few passes around the stadium, and goes right to its handler in the middle of the diamond. This thing has been circling for at least five minutes, and does not even look like it’s interested in landing. We’re beginning to wonder if it might pick up National Anthem singer Shannon Magrane in its talons and carry her away.
4:01 – Darwin Barney: one of the goofiest names in Major League Baseball.
4:04 – The Cubs have taken the lead 1-0 on two seeing-eye singles through the hole at short. Heh heh…through the hole…
4:07 – Ian Stewart parks one into the seats in right field. Cubs up 4-0. Scott the Cubs Fan looks pleased.
4:08 – Scott the Cubs Fan gets a text and guesses it must be a “F-you” from someone. He checks and says, “oh, it’s from my mother.” We’re all guessing it’s still a “F-you.”
4:10 – The top of the 1st finally ends…Cubs 4, Cards coming up.
4:12 – Taking the mound for the Cubs, Jeff Samardz…samma…Jeff. Jeff is pitching.
4:18 – The first two Cardinal hitters go quietly, but Holliday and Carpenter get on in front of David Freese. Excitement is at an all-time high around the patio table.
4:19 – A likely strike is called a ball on Freese. Scott the Cubs Fan is disgusted. I believe it’s the new strike zone Freese will see, like the Atlanta Braves pitchers of the mid-90s enjoyed. I could be wrong.
4:21 – Al Hrabosky offers some broadcast gold: “David Freese has holes.”
4:22 – Freese strikes out swinging. Cubs 4, Cards 0 after one.
At this break in the action, we decide to make things a little interesting. It’s the “Cup Game;” not to be confused with “2 Girls, 1 Cup” (DO NOT GOOGLE IT…TRUST ME). Basically, everyone puts a buck in a cup and it gets passed around; each time a new batter comes up, a new person gets the cup. While you’re holding the cup, if your hitter strikes out or hits into a double play, you must pay a dollar into the cup. If your hitter gets an extra base hit of any kind, you win what’s in the cup and everyone re-antes. If your hitter does anything else, you pass the cup on as is.
4:30 – The Cubs go quietly in the top of the second. No one wins any money, but no one loses any either.
4:35 – After a Yadier Molina strikeout, the pot grows by one. I have Matt Carpenter, who gets a base hit, but that does nothing for my monetary status. Dammit.
4:38 – Scott the Cubs Fan has drawn both pitchers early in our little game. Karma is indeed a bitch.
4:44 – Rick Hummel sighting in the Press Box, chatting with Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa.
4:48 – La Hair hits a Grand Slam, putting the Cubs up 8-0. More importantly, that was Scott the Cubs Fan’s batter. This pretty much seals the deal: he will die today, because we will be forced to kill him.
4:50 – Wainwright gives up a hit to Marlon Byrd. His curveball is hanging, and everything is hittable. This is not a good return for Waino, but he should have plenty of opportunities to bounce back. Then I remembered he’s on my fantasy team and I’m even sadder.
4:52 – Samard…z…i…j…a strikes out, and I owe a dollar. FML. After TWO AND A HALF INNINGS, the Cubs lead 8-0.
4:56 – Victor Marte is warming up in the bullpen, and by warming up I mean eating an entire turkey.
5:05 – After three innings, the Cubs still lead 8-0.
5:06 – You know what never gets old? Pronouncing David DeJesus’s name as “De-Jesus,” like THAT Jesus. We’re idiots.
5:10 – The bases are loaded AGAIN for the Cubs, and there’s nobody out. This is beyond ugly.
5:11 – Fortunately Alphonso Soriano grounds into a double play, but a run still scores. Ken pays a dollar. Cubs lead 9-0.
5:14 – in probably the play of the game for the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter makes a stumbling, bumbling play and flips to Marte covering 1st for the final out of the inning. It looked so bad, it looked great. Another friend, Jeff, has popped in momentarily. He likes the Cards’ gold jerseys. Yep…he’s the one.
(Break in the action: Scott the Cubs Fan has to leave to pick up his son, and we all have to move our cars to let him out. I think he’s used that excuse to get out of a beat-down multiple times. His time will come.)
5:28 – We’re all just buzzed and distracted enough that we forgot what the order was in our little dollar game. Scott the Cubs Fan leaving the rotation didn’t help either. Time to re-draw and re-ante.
5:29 – Jon Jay drives home the first run of the game for the Cardinals with a single. Shane Robinson scores. I do not earn any money on that one.
5:30 – Carlos Beltran knocks a single up the middle and Jay takes third. Joe says, “The comeback is on!” We all shoot him a disapproving look and keep drinking.
5:33 – David Freese with an RBI single, Cards now down 9-2. Jeff claims it’s the jerseys. Ugh.
5:35 – Yadier Molina with an RBI single, Cards now trail 9-3. We may be getting close to starting to think we might believe.
5:37 – Matt Carpenter with a triple! The Cardinals are now down 9-5. Ken takes the pot; time to re-ante. And, we have a game on our hands.
5:40 – “Disco” Descalso strikes out to squelch the rally. Cubs’ lead is cut to 9-5 after five innings.
5:43 – Joe Mather makes his triumphant return to Busch Stadium as a Cub for the first time, and no one cares.
5:47 – Ladies and Gentlemen, Darwin Barney is batting. I love you, you love me, we are blah blah blah…
5:49 – The wife’s home! Everybody hide! Damn rain delays…
5:53 – Jon Jay legs out a lucky double, and I collect the pot! But the other guys are out of dollars so we’re done for now. Oh well. I think I made $2 today.
5:56 – David De-Jesus robs Matt Holliday’s bid for an RBI with a diving catch in right. Still 9-5 Cubs after six innings.
6:10 – “Ken, quit fingering the meat!” It’s getting late, folks.
6:11 – Alphonso Soriano makes a diving catch. It’s a big deal when he does something right.
6:14 – Kyle McClellan in for his second inning of work. Why do I get the feeling this isn’t a great idea? And, of course, as I’m typing this, he hits Marlon Byrd.
6:15 – Blake DeWitt bounces into a double play. You may get away with this yet, Kyle.
6:16 – Groundout, and the Cards are out of the inning. But they’re running out of chances; it’s still 9-5 and we’re headed to the bottom of the 8th inning.
6:21 – Disco with a one-out double. Time for a rally, hopefully before the rain kills this game.
6:24 – Tyler Greene with a predictable strikeout. Why are the Cardinals still giving him a chance again? Oh yeah…he can run. That would really come in handy if he ever got on base. Kerry Wood coming into the game, so the Cards still have a shot.
6:28 – Rafael Furcal bounces out to first. Cards still down 9-5.
6:32 – “Did Jeff leave?” Yeah, Shane…about 20 minutes ago.
6:34 – Fernando Salas mows down the Cubs in the top of the 9th. The Cardinals are down to their last chance, and I’ve got a lot of beer left. Maybe I’m slipping in my old age.
6:35 – Wait! I’m not old! Give me another beer!
6:42 – And after an uneventful bottom of the 9th, Carlos Beltran strikes out to end the game. The Cardinals fall to the Cubs 9-5.
Well…that kind of sucked. But, as always it was a good time with good food and good friends. We watched a little playoff hockey as the evening wound down, chatting and joking and telling stories. Really, that’s what Opening Day is all about: getting together with friends and fellow fans to watch some baseball and have fun. Whether you go to the game, enjoy it with a group, or enjoy it from the comfort of your own couch, you know everything seems a little better once baseball is back. Now I have to get ready to go to my first game of the year, Saturday—when the Cardinals are presented with their 2011 World Championship rings. Should be a great day at Busch Stadium.
One final note…At about 8:30, I received a text from Scott the Cubs Fan: “I think I just saw that eagle fly past my house.” Perfect.
Last week, I participated in the United Cardinal Bloggers’ first roundtable discussion of the year. Here’s the drill: Each day, a member of the UCB forwards a Cardinals-related question to the rest of the group and posts the answers in his/her blog. Well, true to form, I’m a little late with my post. But I also didn’t receive as many replies as I expected. I think maybe I picked a question that preempted a post that most of the bloggers out there plan for a more in-depth look later in the preseason. But the responses I did receive were good ones. Here’s my original question:
With Spring Training games under way, it’s officially prediction season. The Cardinals are in the unique position of being defending World Champs without being defending Division Champs. The Reds and Brewers underwent significant changes in the offseason. Ryan Braun–perhaps now the best overall player in the division–won’t miss 50 games after all. And the Pirates could be a dark horse for even longer in 2012. But the NL also gets an additional playoff spot this season. What are your predictions for the NL Central’s representation in the postseason in 2012? You can go so far as to give detailed write-ups on each team’s chances or simply list your 1-6 positioning with an X next to the team you think will make the playoffs. Does only one NL Central team get in? Two? Three? Who’s in, and who’s out?
Cardinals – Division winners with around 95 wins
Brewers – NL Wild Card 2 with 91 wins
Reds – 85 wins
Pirates – 76 wins
Cubs – tied with the Astros with a record of 0-162
Astros – see Cubs
–Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth
I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat this season. The addition of Wainwright, a good bullpen instead of Franklin/Batista, all of that makes me think they can finish first. I’m not sure between the Reds and Brewers who comes next.
At the bottom, I’m wondering if Pittsburgh can’t make a move into fourth, with the rebuilding Cubs and the struggling Astros bringing up the rear.
Would not be surprised to see the NL Central provide the wild card again, either.
–Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat
Either the Cardinals or Reds will win the NL Central championship. Either also could qualify as a wild-card team. Reds seem to have the pitching and lineup to give the Cardinals plenty of competition. Cubs, Pirates and Astros likely are non-factors. Something seems off about the Brewers.
–Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba
Cardinals will win the division. I could see both wild cards coming out of NL East or one from NL East and one from NL West. Reds have an outside shot, but I wouldn’t give anyone else from the division much of a chance.
Three years from now though, I think the division is going to look completely different. The Pirates spent 17 million on last year’s draft before the new CBA agreement kicked into effect. The Cubs will be a team to contend with under Epstein leadership. The Reds will stay competitive if Jocketty keeps buying veterans that produce.
We could see a power shift in the NL from East to Central, it just won’t be in 2012.
–Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat 82
Cardinals get second place with 88 wins but get a Wild Card.
–Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM
Predictions? Ah, nothing better than making predictions and being completely wrong at the end of the season. Hey – I guess we could always deny it right? Oh wait, you guys keep all this stuff Uh oh!
Here we go:
1st – St. Louis Cardinals
I just see the Cardinals pitching being the key. Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy and St. Louis wins 90 games. 90-72 wins the division.
2nd – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have a nice staff, and their offense is solid. They are coming at the Cardinals this year, but I think they will fall a bit short. Though, I think they get the wildcard, because I have no faith in Atlanta, and not sure Miami is ready quite yet. Reds finish 86-76
3rd – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finish above .500, but not enough to make the playoffs. Milwaukee gets another good year out of Braun, but Marcum falls apart and Gallardo gets hurt. Milwaukee comes away with 83 wins. 83-79.
4th – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates feel like they are going to be able to compete. They come up short again, and once again finish under .500. Of course, in August we hear about how they may get to .500 for the year. The Pirates win 77 games. 77-87.
5th – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs go young and do not win the World Series in 2012. That’s nothing new. Chicago competes early in the season and gives some teams some problems. Including the Cardinals. In the end, Chicago wins 75 games. 75-89
6th – Houston Astros
The new GM has a positive attitude, but a bad team in his first season. The Astros come away with 69 wins. Houston goes 69-93.
Let’s play BALL!
–Rodney Knuppel, Saint Louis Sports
I think the Cards will win the division and the Reds will get a wild card. The Brewers are not quite as good without Fielder and I don’t think Mr. Technicality will have another MVP season. The Pirates will be a little improved from last year and the Cubs and Houston will battle for the division championship…er, I mean the cellar championship.
–JE Powell, STL Fear the Red
Always easy to be optimistic at this time of year, but I do think the Cardinals will win the NL Central. The Reds will be much improved over last year, in my opinion, and I think they’ll make it as a wild card—hopefully losing their one-game play-in.
And, maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Cubs finishing last in the Central and the Astros fifth. (Could just be hoping that Jeff Luhnow does well in his first year as a GM too — and that all the Cub fans and their “Yeah, but we have Theo now” talk will finally just shut up.)
–Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball
The NL has even more parity this year. I’ll predict a close 1-3 finish, which won’t be as exciting as it should be, of course, given not one but two wild cards. As long as Mike Matheny doesn’t bunt or try to steal too much, the Cardinals and the Brewers will flip last-year’s places:
With the Marlins and Braves, I don’t think that the Central will be able to provide two wild-card teams.
“Pretty conventional: STL-CIN-MIL-PIT-CHC-HOU…(regarding the number of playoff teams that come from the Central) 1.5? Seriously, very hard question. I think one WC comes from East. No, honestly, I’d guess two…I think the softer underbelly of the division will help, relative to teams trying to make it from the east.” –Matthew Leach
“in order Cards-Reds-Pirates-Brewers-Cubs-Astros” –Jeff White
Not surprisingly, almost everyone picks the Cards to win the division. I can’t break away from the pack on this one; top to bottom, I believe the Cardinals are the best team in the NL Central and should win the division if everyone stays healthy and plays the way they should. Of course, all of these opinions were formed before Chris Carpenter’s neck issue surfaced, so that could throw a wrench in the works. But it appears that injury isn’t as bad as it could be. Second place in the division is up for grabs between Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The 2012 Reds should be improved over last season, and the Brewers probably lost a little steam compared to their Prince Fielder-led 2011 squad. I expect both to be in the 84-88 win range, with one of them claiming a Wild Card spot. If Carpenter’s injury develops into something that lingers or other injuries plague the Cards, it would not be surprising to see this division race turn into a 3-team battle royal. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be headed in the right direction—meaning not backwards—for the first time in years. I said it last year and they fell about 10 games short, so I don’t have a problem going out on a limb again and predicting a .500 finish for the Bucs. The Cubs and Astros will still flounder around near the 95-loss abyss, give or take a few for either team. But the Cubs are on the right track with dumping their old, bad contracts and re-stocking with young talent. This year is not their year…but they could be a team that overachieves from time to time and proves to be a tough beat.
That will do it for my contribution to this UCB Roundtable. For all the questions and answers from the project this time around, check out all the posts here.
This weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals gather team and fans in downtown St. Louis for the annual Winter Warm Up. For the second year in a row, the folks at I-70 Baseball (where you can read a column my yours truly every Saturday morning) have managed to obtain a media credential for me to attend and cover the event! Look for updates throughout the three-day event on Twitter (@birdbrained) and in various write-ups over the weekend and next week at I-70 Baseball. Additionally, I may do a phone interview or two to be broadcast at a later date.
This year, the Cards have granted a number of other bloggers access to credentials for the event. That means I won’t be the only newbie in the interview room (which is nice). So check back here and my Twitter account for some links supporting those folks as well.
And one last thing: if you see me milling around the main exhibition halls, come say hello!
Less than a month ago, the St. Louis Cardinals capped off one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history by defeating the Texas Rangers in an epic World Series. In this day and age, finding video and audio replays of any baseball game is as easy as pulling up an internet browser on the nearest online device. But for an expertly assembled package of storytelling, highlights, interviews and emotion, the only true option is Major League Baseball Productions’ presentation of The 2011 World Series Film, which is now available in a two-DVD set (the Blu-Ray version is available December 6).
Disc one features the official film, narrated by actor and St. Louisan John Hamm. The film starts on the St. Louis Riverfront, with the iconic Gateway Arch making an immediate appearance as the stage is set for the telling of the ups and downs of the Cardinals’ 2011 season. Obviously, early in the year, there were more downs than ups as Hamm guides the viewer through the Adam Wainwright injury and Albert Pujols contract drama that overshadowed the team from the beginning of Spring Training. Next is footage of Ryan Franklin giving up a late-game home run and Colby Rasmus bobbling a fly ball that turns out to be the game-winning hit for the opposition. Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?
But these nasty memories are merely part of the set up. The film briefly covers the big trade with Toronto, the Rafael Furcal acquisition, and the sweep by the Dodgers—the last low point of the season. From there, the chasing down of the Atlanta Braves over the regular season’s final five weeks culminates in the Cards celebrating their NL Wild Card clincher after Chris Carpenter’s gem in Houston and the Braves’ loss in Philadelphia while the Cardinal players watched in the Minute Maid Park visitor’s clubhouse.
From there, the film summarizes the Cards’ NLDS win over the Philadelphia Phillies and NLCS win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Throughout the show, broadcasts from TV and radio are seamlessly merged with Hamm’s narration so the story feels like it’s told from multiple angles. When significant records were tied or broken throughout the year and the postseason, a graphic appears illustrating the feat. The editing and production on this film is nothing short of superb, and it adds an element of dramatic flair not found in straight highlights and replays from the games themselves.
But the real story here is the World Series, and not surprisingly, that’s where the detail in the story explodes. Each of the series’ seven games gets a long segment, and each game’s story is built up with a relevant introduction. For instance, after the segment featuring the Cards’ Game 1 win, the footage shifts to Jason Motte enjoying some pre-Game 2 BBQ at Pappy’s in St. Louis with his family and, obviously, a room full of restaurant customers who happen to be Cardinals fans. Before Game 3 and Game 6, the footage shows the perspective of rolling into the home team’s city as the series shifted to a new ballpark.
This series had so many side stories and subtexts, and each was covered brilliantly in this film. The on-paper match-ups and how similar the Cardinals and Rangers were…the Allen Craig-Alexei Ogando battles…the offensive powerhouses and their pitchers duels in the first two games…The Albert Pujols Game…The Derek Holland Game…Game 5 shenanigans, including the Pujols-Craig hit and run fiascos and “Phonegate”…it’s all here. And it’s all great.
Then there’s Game 6, perhaps one of the greatest in World Series history. From the start, with the Rangers putting up early runs, to the errors and misplays on both sides, the game unfolds as one of the sloppiest anyone has ever seen. And then the Cardinals mount their comeback. David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th, Lance Berkman’s game-tying single in the 10th, and the game-winning homer by Freese in the 11th are all highlighted in their amazing baseball glory. “We will see you tomorrow night.” Smiles, chills, and tears are included free of charge.
And the Game 7 segment puts an exclamation point on a tale that wouldn’t be believed if it wasn’t captured on film. After the teams exchanged two run frames in the 1st inning, the Cards took charge of the game. But one of the most poignant moments of the film was when Motte came out of the bullpen in the 9th–in his interview, he said he took a couple of slow steps down the ramp to look around and take in the scene at Busch Stadium. It was yet another moment of profound reality, like David Freese becoming the hero for the team he grew up rooting for or Chris Carpenter re-assuming the role of Ace after Wainwright went down. The only thing missing from the film—curiously—is Joe Buck’s “What a team…what a ride” call as Craig caught the final out. The omission is probably only noticeable by those with the St. Louis bias, and it doesn’t ruin the film. But it is somewhat conspicuous.
The film also captures some of the parade through Downtown St. Louis as well as the announcement the next day of Tony La Russa’s retirement. This comprehensive look at the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals covers all the bases and does so beautifully. It should be enough to get even the most die-hard fan through the cold winter until the next Spring Training.
2011 World Series Film DVD Bonus Features
This Week in Baseball: Lance Berkman
Prime 9: Tony La Russa
Cardinals Clinch Wild Card (team watching PHI beat ATL from visitor’s clubhouse in HOU)
NLDS Game 5: Last Out and Celebration
NLCS Game 6: Last Out and Celebration
World Series Game 3: Albert Pujols 3 Home Runs
World Series Game 6: David Freese Triple to Tie
World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman Single to Tie
World Series Game 6: David Freese Walk-Off Home Run
World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman/David Freese Presser (funny exchange between the two as Freese recalls Jim Edmonds’ 2004 NLCS walk-off)
World Series Game 7: David Freese Double to Tie
World Series Game 7: Last Out and Celebration
WS Parade (brief ride-along with Freese)
Want More? (Nick Punto mic’ed for final play of World Series; MLB Productions Social Media links)
Disc Two contains the complete Game 5 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies, with a menu to start the game from any half-inning or the pre-game show on TBS. Overall, both discs comprise about four hours of video. Order your copy here or check your local retailer.