Category Archives: Nooners
Every day is better with a Nooner! Posts I write on my lunch break that are put up generally between 11a – 2p weekdays.
So we’re heading to Busch Stadium tonight for the Cardinals’ tilt against the Philadelphia Phillies. The last time I saw the Phillies play in St. Louis, it was Game 4 of the 2011 Division Series. As you may remember, that’s when this happened:
It was an epic night in St. Louis Cardinals lore. That was actually the second time the squirrel had run across the field; the first was the night before in Game 3 but his route wasn’t nearly as disruptive to the flow of that game. At the time, knowing the Cards had to go back to Philly and win Game 5 just to advance, we wondered if this early appearance of what would soon be coined the “Rally Squirrel” was the most exciting thing we’d see during the 2011 postseason. Of course, we were proven naïve in the following weeks.
Fast-forward to last night, the first meeting at Busch between the clubs since. By now you probably know that this happened:
Again, it’s the Phillies. Again, it was the first night of the series at Busch. And again, I will be there for the second night. I fully expect to see a naked person charge toward the plate while Skip Schumaker stands in the batter’s box. It’s destiny. Especially since I have all these “You still need four balls to get a walk” jokes ready for tomorrow.
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!
Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals via free agency was always a possibility, however unlikely it seemed. I thought the Cards would be in on the dollars side, but would balk at the years. Turns out the opposite was true. But before 2011 I was hoping for 7 years guaranteed +2 or 3 option years. In the NL, it is really, really hard to justify paying a 40+ player $20 million or more when he has to play in the field every day. But there are so many unknown details here, starting with AAV. If the Cards said they’d signed him for 10 years, $250 million starting with $30 million next year, a declining AAV, and the last two were $15 million options, I think I’d be on board. He’d still get the same amount of money; they wouldn’t be paying him as much in his last few years. Apparently the Marlins had the highest bid, which means that no trade clause was a really big deal. I can get behind that, too. Security is important. But that’s not all it was.
I think what really stings is the smoke he blew up all our asses: “I have money; it’s not about the money”…“Why would I want to play anywhere else?”…“I want to be like Stan Musial and be a Cardinal for life.” When you invoke the name of Stan Musial and phrases like “it’s not about the money” and “Cardinal for life” you’d better mean it. Clearly he didn’t. Today does not erase the last 11 seasons, either for his individual accomplishments or the team’s success. But some of that integrity and persona has been diminished with this news. He really was about the money. That in itself isn’t terrible; just be honest about it. Maybe the Marlins offered the most zeroes in front of the decimal, but if we’re comparing apples to apples, the Angels and Cards offered the same contract terms. The Angels’ trump card was more cash. The Cardinals’ trump card was baseball legacy/immortality. He took the bread.
I’m not really sure how to describe my feelings beyond the above. Maybe it will set in once I see Pujols 5 on the back of a LA Angels jersey. Maybe it will set in during the Winter Warm up or Spring Training when, for the first time in over a decade, Albert Pujols is nowhere to be found. But I didn’t really go into convulsions when Tony LaRussa retired, either. At the time I chalked it up to World Series Hangover. But that was over a month ago. An era has truly ended in St. Louis. Let’s hope the Cardinals don’t lapse into another odd-decade Dark Age. Looking at the rest of the roster, though, I really think they’re going to be OK. We all are.
This morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a story originally penned by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sportswriter Mike Hunt that outlines how the Cardinals and their fans have to “lighten up” about the fact that 2011 may not be their year. The full story can be read here.
It doesn’t take a genius to see what Mike Hunt is trying to say. Mike Hunt thinks Cards fans are taking it way too hard that their team isn’t in the driver’s seat in the NL Central yet again. But really, what does Mike Hunt expect? The Cardinals have won the division title far and away more than any other NL Central team since the divison’s inception. That’s not gloating; it’s a fact. We are told every year “The Cards will compete for the division title.” More often than not, pundits around the country favor the Cards to win the Central. Does the rabid Cardinal fan base make these things happen? Of course not. The Cardinals are generally expected to be good year in and year out. Mike Hunt should know that.
Mike Hunt needs to look no farther than a few miles to the north to see similar passion in action. The Green Bay Packers’ fan base is easily as passionate and dedicated and expectant of success as the Cards’…maybe even more so. Mike Hunt has to realize this. Even if Mike Hunt isn’t a Packers fan, does he honestly believe the cheese heads in green and gold just sit back and say, “Well, good for them! We’ll get it next year!” when the Chicago Bears win the NFC North? Or the Minnesota Vikings? Or the Detroit Li…Minnesota Vikings? Mike Hunt needs to get with the program.
One thing I do agree with Mike Hunt on is that the Brewers have certainly earned their position in the standings. The current run they’re on is nothing short of remarkable. But Mike Hunt can’t tell me I should be OK with the Cards losing. I realize journalists aren’t supposed to be fans, but Mike Hunt should still know what it means to root for your team win or lose.
I know the Cards don’t have much of a chance this year…I’m not delusional. But I think Mike Hunt may be if he thinks I shouldn’t be upset about it. Maybe Mike Hunt would feel better if the Cardinals started untucking their shirts after every victory or pretending to fall like bowling pins when a home run hitter reaches home plate. Mike Hunt must think all teams act like that…and since the Cards are the only ones that don’t, they’re not having fun, right? Sour because they’re not winning AGAIN? How dare these Brewers take the Cards’ division title away from them? Give me a break, Mike Hunt.
Something tells me Mike Hunt wouldn’t write a story like this if the Brewers were actually more successful year in and year out. Has Mike Hunt written this same column about the Cincinnati Reds? Guess not. Maybe Mike Hunt is a little jealous of the Cardinals. Maybe all the other teams in the Central and their fans are. The Cards haven’t done much since they won the World Series in 2006; why hasn’t another team stepped up and taken over the division?
Can Mike Hunt answer me that?
I haven’t posted a Nooner in a while, so it’s about time this little feature reappears.
–Interesting tidbit from last night’s Cardinals game: We were chatting with a couple of the ushers afterward, waiting for the crowd at Busch Stadium to clear out. It was a beautiful night–about 70 degrees throughout most of the game–so we were in no hurry. We sit very close to the visitors’ bullpen, and while we talked I noticed one of the bat boys from the Milwaukee Brewers cleaning up the equipment they were taking with them. He picked up a big metal beverage dispenser and dumped it out near the floor drain…OK, nothing unusual there. Except the thing was full of hot coffee. That’s right…a bunch of professional athletes preparing to go into a game being played in comfortable weather at 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night were drinking coffee. Weird.
–It was a pretty big win for the Cards last night. Being four games out in mid-August is not ideal, but it sounds a lot better than being six games out. I believe this Cardinals team has what it takes to make a run and catch/pass the Brewers in the standings. Whether or not they will actually execute is another matter…so far, they really haven’t. Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter looked really good last night. It was kind of like old times. Here’s to hoping they have a lot more of those games in them this season.
–Tonight’s game against the Colorado Rockies is big, too. Not because it’s the Rockies; they aren’t really playing for anything right now. But with the Brewers heading home to Miller Park–where they’re damn near unbeatable–to play the floundering Pittsburgh Pirates, every win is important. And the Cards really need a good start from Kyle Lohse. I mean at least six innings and less than four runs allowed. He has pitched awful of late, and doubts about his health are starting to resurface.
–Someone pointed me to this link, and while I always hoped I would make some ink on MLB Trade Rumors, I never expected it to be for that.
And no, that’s not really me. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish it was.
Two, actually. The Cards have added pitchers Miguel Batista and Ian Snell on minor league deals with invites to Spring Training.
Curious. I figured, with the recent announcement that the Cards and Albert Pujols have opened contract extension talks, not much else would be happening until that whole deal–you know, the biggest and most important contract in the history of the franchise–is worked out (or not worked out). I wonder if this means those negotiations are finished? I think we should keep a close eye on the sports news outlets over the next couple of days.
Speaking of the next couple of days, the Winter Warm Up is this weekend. All the details can be found on the Cards’ website. I’ll be there tomorrow on assignment; if you see me feel free to say hello. It looks like Pujols will be on hand for autographs Sunday. Hopefully by then he has a lot more to smile about.
Sunday, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Cardinals may be focusing on an upgrade at shortstop this offseason. This would presumably keep Skip Schumaker at second base and a Jon Jay/Allen Craig platoon in right field, barring any other acquisitions. And I don’t think I like it.
First, let me say I do not dislike Schumaker or the potential of Jay or Craig at all. I also realize Brendan Ryan’s 2010 offense left much to be desired, and to expect him to get back to his 2009 numbers is probably unreasonable. But I do think Schumaker’s 2010 offensive numbers were an aberration, too, and it’s reasonable to expect him to be closer next season to his career slash line (.291/.349/.383) which is passable–not great–for a leadoff hitter. The biggest reason an “upgrade” as SS would hurt the Cards, however, is defense…even if Ryan’s 2011 offensive numbers are identical to his disappointing 2010.
Ryan is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and the numbers support that whether you like “counting stats” or advanced metrics. None of the available shortstops would represent an upgrade on defense…which, assuming Schumaker is still playing at second, would further weaken the middle infield of a team that pitches to contact almost exclusively. So, yes…someone like Miguel Tejada would certainly be an offensive upgrade over Ryan. But that would downgrade the defense at SS, which would consequently make Schumaker’s already shaky D even worse, and the Cards would be relying on two unproven commodities in right field.
The best move, in my opinion, would be to first listen very closely to what the Florida Marlins want for Dan Uggla. I know that’s kind of a no-brainer, but assuming the Marlins aren’t asking for the moon in return, Uggla would be perfect for the Cards: 1) his defense wouldn’t be any worse than Schumaker’s, but his offense would be a major upgrade even if Schu does snap back to form; 2) they can move Schumaker back to right field, his best defensive position, and keep Ryan’s stellar D at short; 3) Uggla would almost certainly be a Type A free agent after 2011, and though the Cards likely won’t be able to pay him beyond that they can do it this year…plus they’d get the compensation picks for him if he refuses arbitration (all but a given). If long-term stability and depth is the priority of the team, then they need to sign Juan Uribe to play second base & still move Schumaker to right. Uribe plays good defense at 2B, SS, and 3B…so if someone is injured or ineffective–like what happened this season–there’s someone capable that can slide in. He’s not the power threat Uggla is, but he will hit 15 homers with decent average & on-base numbers. That, too, is an upgrade over Schumaker. And a middle infield featuring Uribe and Ryan may be one of the best in the game.
Ryan’s offensive struggles hurt the 2010 Cardinals because they were compounded by Schumaker’s similar struggles early in the season and an overall dearth of production at third base. A healthy David Freese and an average Skip Schumaker would lessen the impact of Ryan’s numbers, as would more production from an offensive upgrade at second base. But how can the Cardinals’ front office think that a little more offense at the expense of a lot of middle infield defense would help the team at all?
I never in a million years thought I’d get sick of going to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, but this week may just be the death of me. I already had tickets to the games vs. the Padres tonight and Saturday, then I found out that my girlfriend Sarah’s company was doing their yearly office outing to a game and it was scheduled for Friday. I thought this was OK; I can do three games in a row with no problems. Yes it’s expensive to park & eat & drink but there’s ways around that: take public transportation, eat before the game, bring in a bottle of water and re-fill it at the water fountains, etc.
Then a bleacher friend (to whom I will dedicate a full post in the coming weeks) had a health issue that prevented her from going to any of the games this week. She gave–that’s right, gave–us her two tickets to each of the three games against the Chicago Cubs! So before I knew it, I was slated to go to every game Mon-Sat of this week. That’s…a lot. I honestly don’t know how full season ticket holders do it. So much for going to the gym I guess…maybe next week.
But in the spirit of the generosity shown to us, we decided we weren’t going to hold on to all of these Cubs tickets. So a very good friend who is home from his job overseas got the tickets to Monday’s game (sorry about that loss, Jim). Sarah and I went last night (crap, another loss!), and I took Scott the Cub Fan last night (ugh). Yes, he got to see his Cubbies complete the sweep of the Cards. Now he may not realize it, but that was a pretty historic win: the Cubs had not swept a three game series in St. Louis since 1988. But it may have also been the final nail in the coffin holding the rotting remains of the Cards’ 2010 playoff hopes, which he also loved…and I loathed.
In spite of the terrible outcome of the game (and the series, and pretty much the whole damn season), I had a pretty good night. So here’s Big Teaser #1: I was down on the field watching batting practice before last night’s game, and I’ve got a ton of pictures and stories to share…which you’ll get to read about VERY SOON! Ha.
Tonight is Social Media Night at Busch Stadium, and this blog plus my Monday columns over at InsideSTL have afforded me just enough notoriety to qualify for something really cool. So here’s Big Teaser #2: before tonight’s game, I will be joining some of my UCB brethren for discussion with the likes of GM John Mozeliak, Cards President Bill DeWitt III, MLB.com’s Matthew Leach, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold, plus many others…which you’ll also get to read about VERY SOON! Double Ha.
That’s all for now…this entry was purely to get you to tune back in later this week and next. I promise no more than one post per day, but keep checking back here and my Twitter account (follow me) if you want some really cool behind-the-scenes and up-close Cardinals stuff.
So Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds hates the Cardinals. Good for him.
If you haven’t had a chance to track this down, here’s the quote from Phillips, courtesy the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
I don’t mind the concept of what Phillips is trying to do there, but those are mighty strong words coming out of the mouth of someone who hasn’t won anything ever in his career. Then, of course, he “walks the walk” by going 0-5 last night and not even getting the ball out of the infield. That’s a fail, Brandon. Big time fail. Smack-talk from a guy on a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1999 (the year Phillips was drafted by the Montreal Expos) is just a little presumptive to me. The name-calling is petty and childish, too. Does he think he’s playing kickball at recess? Like I said, the context is fine; the content is pretty unprofessional though.
Here’s tonight’s starting lineups:
St. Louis Cardinals
3B Felipe Lopez
RF Jon Jay
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
CF Colby Rasmus
C Yadier Molina
2B Skip Schumaker
P Jaime Garcia
SS Brendan Ryan
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Paul Janish
1B Joey Votto
3B Scott Rolen
LF Jonny Gomes
RF Chris Helsey
CF Drew Stubbs
C Ramon Hernandez
P Johnny Cueto
I wonder how many times Phillips has to dive out of the way of a too-far-inside pitch the rest of this series?
Welcome to the first Nooner of 2010!
I have today’s Spring Training game on in the background while I work, and my lunch hour has proven to be rather eventful.
First, the good news: According to this article by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, LHP Jaime Garcia will be announced as the team’s 5th starter for 2010 later today. I’m happy about this for a couple of reasons: having a lefty starter in the rotation is a great equalizer, and the fact that it’s a guy that came up through the system only strengthens the validation for the Cards’ “draft and develop” plans. Congrats, Jaime. Do us proud.
Now, the bad news: Yadier Molina came up lame running to third base in the second inning of today’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. Early reports indicate it’s a strained right oblique. Yikes. I’d imagine a catcher would have a pretty tough time coming back from this injury. Guess we’ll see…