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.
Less than 24 hours after his passing, Stan The Man’s legacy is already the biggest discussion in Cardinal Nation. That should surprise no one.
But it should be more than just a uniform patch or a new image at the stadium. Those are fine ideas, but a person with the stature of Stan Musial—both on and off the field—deserves more. Maybe it’s impossible to come up with something truly big enough to represent what Stan The Man meant to the Cardinals, to St. Louis, to Baseball. I mean, he already has two statues erected in his honor, and one is only slightly less iconic to the city of St. Louis than the Gateway Arch. Yet somehow even all that doesn’t seem like enough, does it?
So here are two of the best ideas I’ve seen so far, with what I believe to be proper attribution…and by that I mean, where I first saw the idea:
–St. Louis media guy Larry Thornton tweeted: “On Jackie Robinson day everyone wears 42. On Opening Day every Cardinal should wear 6” Such a simple idea, yet so brilliant. Robinson’s impact on baseball and, really, the entire country is unparalleled and will never again be matched. The same could be said about Stan Musial and St. Louis/the Cardinals. Not that Musial was a civil rights pioneer fighting for equality and justice…that’s not where the comparison is. But just like Robinson to the whole of the game and the fabric of the country, Musial transcended what it meant to be a pro ballplayer. He was one of the greatest ever, and yet that doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
–Fellow bloggers Chris Mallonee and Daniel Solzman each wrote posts suggesting a name alteration at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. “Musial Field at Busch Stadium” (or some variation) has a pretty good ring to it. Naming the field after Musial would in no way impact the name Busch Stadium, yet it would give more permanence to Stan The Man’s impact as a player and a person on the organization and the community. One good spot for the name would be the backstop. Busch Stadium looks great there; wouldn’t Musial Field look even better?
I may add some ideas to the post, so look for updates. I’m sure the Cardinals are already on top of a number of tributes set for this season; these are just some suggestions with both class and precedence. Commemorative giveaways and video tributes are nice, too, but Stan’s passing is not just the death of an icon…it’s the death of THE icon. Feel free to leave more ideas and suggestions below.
Today was a tough day for St. Louis Cardinals fans, as Stan “The Man” Musial died at the age of 92.
What does Stan The Man mean to me?
Stan The Man is the Cardinals. He is St. Louis. He is Busch Stadium, he is Opening Day, he is the All Star Game, he is the World Series. He is MVP, Hall of Fame, and Medal of Freedom. He is the Birds on the Bat and the red blazer. He is a veteran. He is a record holder. He is comfortably in the Top 5 of the best players ever—period. Perfect warrior, perfect knight.
I use the present tense rather than the past because even though he has passed, Stan The Man will never be a “was” to St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Surely some of his records will fall—some already have. But the numbers only tell part of the story of Stan The Man. The word most often associated with him off the field was “decent”…How many times do you hear that nowadays? I never had the privilege of meeting Stan Musial, but so many in St. Louis had—and described it exactly the same way every single time—he felt like an old friend. It’s hard to imagine Cardinals baseball without Stan The Man’s physical presence, but his spirit, his memory will never leave the Cards.
Regardless, the sports gods did not let the opportunity to illuminate the legacy of Stan Musial just a little more pass them by.
Today I looked forward to listening to the broadcast of the belated first St. Louis Blues game of the season, and the news of Stan The Man’s passing hit me just before I fired up my computer looking for the stream. So it turned the evening bittersweet, to say the least. I basically thumbed through my Twitter feed, read articles, and looked at pictures of Stan The Man while listening to the hockey game. When the Blues scored their fourth goal of the night, I thought “wouldn’t it be something if they ended up scoring six tonight…” Stan The Man wore number six. And sure enough, the Blues ended up beating the Detroit Red Wings 6-0. As if for an extra tip of the cap to Stan The Man’s unparalleled consistency, they scored two goals in each period. Simply incredible. For a guy who recently relocated 800+ miles from the only home he’s ever known, that put a smile on my face.
Goodnight, St. Louis. And rest in peace, Stan Musial. Thank you for being Cardinals Baseball.
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.
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!