Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
The life of a transplanted baseball fan can be interesting, especially if transplanted to a city without a Major League team. The Austin, Texas area has plenty of Rangers and Astros fans, but because so many people continue to move here from other areas it’s not uncommon to see many different teams represented while walking down a busy street. Still, looks of confusion, bewilderment, or even contempt come my way from time to time when I’m representing the Cardinals in public.
This afternoon while out running errands I stopped in a local hooch parlor to pick up a beverage for this evening’s writing adventures. The store had a half dozen or so people milling about, but my mind was made up before I opened the door. I grabbed a bottle of 8 year Haitian Rum and headed to the register. A guy paying was counting out bills, one was behind him on a cell phone, and a third guy kept walking up to the counter to set down three bottles and then walking away to grab more. The cash counter completed his transaction and left right when cell phone guy ended his conversation, so I waved cell phone guy to go ahead of me.
Cell phone guy apparently has a credit card that pays homage to his favorite team, because when he handed it over the cashier said, “Oh, wow, you a Pirates fan? That’s cool, I respect them. I’m a Cubs fan.”
They had a quick exchange about how excited they both are that their respective teams are doing so well. I said nothing…I just waited for the right moment. As Cell Phone Pirates Fan finished his transaction and turned to leave, Cubs Fan Cashier said, “Yeah, man, good luck to your team. I have no hate for the Pirates. But I’d give you a hard time if you were a fan of the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or…”
I figured this was the perfect time to interject. But I said nothing—I simply took out my own credit card, emblazoned with the Birds on the Bat of course, and set it on the counter with a shit-eating grin on my face. Cubs Fan Cashier stopped mid-sentence and said, “Whoa…you a Cardinals fan?”
Cell Phone Pirates Fan, who was halfway out the door, whipped around with eyes as big as saucers. “No way! Are you really?”
Why yes…yes I am.
“Man, this weekend is going to be some series, huh?” Cell Phone Pirates Fan continued. “Or, at least, I hope it is, if you guys manage to lose a game or two!”
I replied, “I think they definitely lose one, but probably not two.” He chuckled and left.
I turned back to Cubs Fan Cashier just in time for him to hand me my receipt. I signed it and said, “So…how about that game last night?”
His smile faded. Mine broadened.
This rum is really good.
I can’t get it out of my head: Carlos Martinez coming in for relief on Opening Night bothered me. I caught hell on Twitter for thinking so. I know, he doesn’t pitch until Saturday and needs to throw. But is putting him into the first game of the season with a completely rested bullpen really necessary? I mean, they have an awful lot riding on his success. Their belief in him—admittedly paired with other factors—basically cost Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller their jobs with the Cardinals, and sent the best pitcher on the staff this spring (Marco Gonzalez) to Triple A. C-Mart is the 5th starter. That’s his role. The rest of the guys in the ‘pen have their roles, too. Jordan Walden in the 8th and Trevor Rosenthal in the 9th, right? Nobody would question those moves. But no Seth Maness in the 7th? No Kevin Siegrist? I just can’t wrap my head around why Martinez in the 7th was even an option, let alone necessary. The only thing that would have made less sense is bringing Randy Choate in to face righties.
There’s always risk when a pitcher is on the mound, but Carlos Martinez taking a liner off the knee pitching in middle relief in Game 1 of 162 would have been infuriating. The old adage applies: sure, it worked out…but was it really the right move?
It begins today.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to still be in hockey mode, tonight is Opening Night for Major League Baseball. Oddly enough, an Austin radio station made that fact really hit home for me this morning.
I slept in a bit today, trying to shake off the effects of both the rainy, dreary morning weather and the not-as-good-as-I-thought-it-was bottle of wine from last night. I was in desperate need of coffee, breakfast, and Chillville—a local radio show that plays mellow indie and electronic music until 11 a.m. on Sundays. As the show wrapped up, I was clearing my dishes and pouring my second cup so I just left the radio on. And that’s when the most perfectly-timed song started to flow out of my little countertop radio: the first post-Chillville song to come on was “Some Nights” by fun. I perked up instantly, because whenever I hear that song now, I think about the online video made after the 2011 World Series. And that’s when it hit me…
TODAY IS OPENING DAY.
It’s one game out of 162. And there is plenty of hockey to watch still–Go Blues. But if that video doesn’t get you psyched up for Cardinals baseball, nothing will. The Redbirds renew their rivalry with the new-look Chicago Cubs in just a couple hours.
The following comes from an email exchange I had with Scott the Cubs Fan yesterday. We were discussing baseball, of course, and the NLCS. He said he’s really trying to root for the Cardinals, but it’s tough (obviously). Here was my reply to him; maybe more Cubs fans living in Cardinal country can take something from it as well:
I would expect this is a tough spot for a lot of Cubs fans. Unless you don’t share most NL fans’ general disdain for the AL, you have to choose between rooting for your oldest rival or your newest. There is the novelty of rooting for a Brewers-Rangers World Series in order to guarantee a first-time winner, I suppose. Detroit is one of those places that really needs some good news, so they’re probably the heartstrings’ favorite. Admittedly, the Cardinals are the closest thing to an “Evil Empire”-type team left in this postseason. For all these reasons, I wouldn’t at all blame you for rooting against them.
But then again, you’re completely surrounded by Cardinal Red. It’s on TV, radio, in the newspaper, on the street, and in your home. 99% of the people you love and care about the most are hoping more than anything the Cardinals will win the World Series, and if they don’t you’ll be on an island with one or two others as the only people smiling on the day they’re eliminated. And, as a lover of the game itself, you know that historically the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series is never a bad thing. Even you can’t turn away when Stan Musial appears on the field in that bright red blazer, flanked by Red Schoendienst and Lou Brock (well, maybe not him) and Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith.
I get it. Do what you feel you have to do. Go Cards.
I’m not sure what Scott the Cubs fan will choose to do. I know he’ll watch, because he loves baseball and completely geeks out on it during the playoffs regardless of who is playing. I do the same thing. No matter who you root for, that part is pretty universal. And I don’t expect him to walk around in the colors of either team. That would be a little much.
But I do know one thing: he really hates the Rally Squirrel.
It’s United Cardinal Bloggers project time again. This month, we put on our prognosticator hats and try to come up with what we believe will be the top five headlines Cardinal fans will see in 2011. I decided to play this one straight, because I think the Cards could be at a bit of a crossroads this season…Albert Pujols hasn’t been signed yet, David Freese is coming back from inury, Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman are new kids on the block, and Chris Carpenter is in the last guaranteed year of his contract. So without further ado…
1. St. Louis Cardinals Sign Albert Pujols to Record Contract – No, not a recording contract; we’re talking Guinness-type stuff here. I’m not sure if the total value of Pujols’ next deal will be the highest ever, but he will make more per season than any player ever has…and he will make it wearing the Birds on the Bat.
2. Punto Named Opening Day Starter; Freese to Report to Extended Spring Training – All this offseason, I have advocated the Cards signing a “true” third baseman to back up Freese in case he isn’t ready for Opening Day. Now that they have signed Nick Punto, I believe this is the ultimate sign that the Cards know they needed this insurance because Freese could need more time before he is 100%. I put Freese’s Cardinal debut sometime in the month of May.
3. Yankees Confirm Interest in Chris Carpenter – Carp still has an option for 2012 left on his current contract, but it is a pricey one: $15 million. If the Cards re-sign Pujols, I have no idea how they can afford that. Now if the team is in contention and Carp is pitching well, I can foresee the Cardinals declining that option and extending Carpenter for a couple more years at less per year. But if the Cards tank in the first half of 2011 for whatever reason, expect the Carpenter trade rumors to start flying. Regardless, the New York Yankees figure to be in the market for a big acquisition because they didn’t make one in the offseason and the Boston Red Sox made some serious upgrades this winter. Carpenter will almost certainly be one of their targets because of his contract situation. The Cards’ response will depend on if they are winning or not.
4. Albert Pujols Collects Hit #2000 – This one is a slam dunk, barring a catastrophic injury–Pujols currently sits on 1900. But it brings up a good point: Pujols will get his 2000th hit sometime in his 11th season in the big leagues. If his season hits totals continue to average somewhere in the mid 180s, he should get to 3000 in about six years, and he probably would still have at least three or four good seasons ahead of him. That puts Stan Musial’s 3630 within reach. And if that number really is that likely to be passed again, I want it to be done by another Cardinal.
5. Cardinals Clinch Playoff Berth – Notice I didn’t say “Division Crown.” The truth is, the NL Central will be a much better division overall this season. Everything hinges on player health, of course. But no team in the division has the 1-2 punch of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, Yadier Molina is still the best catcher in the league in terms of defense and calling a game, and there’s only one Albert Pujols. That gives the Cardinals an edge, even if it is only a slight edge. But the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago Cubs cannot be counted out. Could the Wild Card team come from the Central? With all the pitching upgrades, why not? I see the Cards making the playoffs this year but I’m not ready to go all in with a division championship prediction. It could be a knock-down, drag-out year in the NL Central this year.
What do you think…how many of these headlines do you expect to see in 2011? Do you expect to see some I haven’t listed here? Comment away!
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.
Tonight’s lineups, courtesy of Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The Cards are playing the Phillies at the right time, though both teams have been plagued by injuries this year. After dropping three of four to the Chicago Cubs, the Phillies are likely craving wins. But the Cards have momentum coming off a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend. Plus, the pitching matchups favor the Cardinals: after Blake Hawksworth’s start tonight, the Phillies will have to face the Cards’ big three of Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright. Roy Halladay started the final game in Chicago on Sunday, so the Cardinals will not have to face him at all.
I say the Cards take three of four in this series.
For more on the Cards’ sweep of the Dodgers, take a look at my column over at InsideSTL.
So I’m a fan of Bill Simmons over at ESPN.com. Even though he’s an annoying and unapologetic Boston/American League homer, his writing is great. One of the better gimmicks he uses is the Running Diary, where he watches a sporting event and keeps an ongoing tab of the event and some of the things going on around him while he watches. When my friends talked me into taking a vacation day to join them in watching the Cardinals’ first game of the year, I thought an homage was in order. I ended up throwing in some highlights from the Cubs’ game too, for good measure. Away we go…
12:01…..Getting ready for the beginning of the game at my buddy Ken’s house. Scott the Cubs fan is here too, wearing a Cubs hat and jersey and socks. That’s right, Cubs socks. We’ll call that “Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move”#1. I smoked some ribs this morning and we’re getting ready to throw brats on the grill. First pitch is only a few minutes away. Merry Christmas, baseball fans.
12:08…..First pitch of 2010 is swinging strike to Skip Schumaker. I’ll take this moment to list out today’s starting lineup for the Cards:
1. Schumaker – 2B
2. Ryan – SS
3. Pujols – 1B
4. Holliday – LF
5. Rasmus – CF
6. Ludwick – RF
7. Molina – C
8. Freese – 3B
9. Carpenter – P
12:13…..After Aaron Harang strikes out Schumaker and Ryan, Pujols jacks one over the wall in left center. Cards color analyst Al Hrabosky mentions how many home runs Pujols hit on the road last year, then asks how many he has today. That would be one, Al.
12:24…..Carpenter has little trouble with the Reds in the first, even though he had to learn what home plate umpire Mike Reilly’s strike zone was. We’ll see how consistent it is. Carpenter looked ticked after Joey Votto’s single but settled down to get Brandon Phillips. Cards lead 1-0 after one.
12:44…..Hrabosky just commented that Carpenter has a great body…for a pitcher. Read into that what you will. Carp also had a conversation with the ump over the baseballs, reminiscent of the issue John Smoltz had last year in Cincy when the balls were not properly rubbed up. Stay tuned for more on that situation. So far we have two innings in the books and I have two tequila & OJs in the belly. Cards still lead 1-0 after two; more updates on my buzz a little later.
12:48…..More wisdom from Hrabosky, talking about how often Ryan will bat second: “Tony LaRussa likes power in that second hole.” Dirty.
12:55…..Mention was made about the Reds’ history. The first game in their franchise was played in 1869. Think about that…when they first played baseball, the Civil War was still a fresh memory. Their closer that year, ironically, was Al Hrabosky. By the way, Hrabosky’s broadcast partner Dan McLaughlin just mentioned that the most important thing for a pitcher is getting a first-pitch strike. That was in response to Hrabosky saying that keeping the ball in the park and limiting walks are keys to effective pitching. These guys have done this before.
12:59…..Carpenter is dealing. He’s struck out only two, but some of the Reds’ hitters have looked completely lost when swinging at Carp’s breaking pitches. Cards still up 1-0 after three.
1:14…..Rasmus just golfed a homer about 10 rows deep into right field, and a few hits later the Cards added another run. The highlight of the inning? Yadier Molina going first to third on a single. I may call CNN to get that on their Breaking News feed.
1:24……The Reds decided to start hitting and tacked on a couple solo home runs of their own (Votto & Rolen). But Carp gets out of the inning after giving up a couple more hits. Cards still lead, 3-2.
1:30…..Dan & Al talk about Pujols facing David Weathers of the Reds a couple years back and hitting his NL record-tying 5th grand slam of the season. Scott the Cub Fan faults Reds manager Dusty Baker for the fateful move of inserting Weathers into the game. That’s not a Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move, but Baker did manage the Cubs and likely destroyed both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. No one else here cares. Oh, and another friend of ours, Jim, just showed up. I’m on my 5th tequila & OJ (don’t worry, they’re tall and heavy on the juice). Life is good with friends, liquor, and baseball.
1:42…..Ryan, Schumaker and Pujols turn a nifty double play to end the fifth. It looks like Carpenter has settled back in. And Scott the Cub Fan continues to berate Dusty Baker every time he’s shown on TV. Now it’s officially Cubs Fan Questionable Manhood Move #2. Baker’s not the only reason the Cubs suck, man.
1:46…..Baker pulled Harang after 5 innings. Scott’s hatred-filled bashing of Baker continues. CFQMM #3 for not being over something that happend seven years ago. We seriously may have to punch this guy in the stomach soon, and the Cubs game hasn’t even started yet.
1:54…..Scott the Cub Fan finally comes up with something useful after a particularly mindless exchange by the Cardinal broadcasters: “I don’t know which is worse…Dan & Al arguing or Dan & Al getting along.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m about ready to find a radio and just deal with the 5 second delay.
1:56…..Rasmus robs Rolen of his second homer of the day. Colby went way up above the centerfield fence to bring the ball back. Play of the game and maybe of the day. Cards still up 4-2 after six.
2:02…..Pujols just hit his 2nd home run of the day, a two run shot. Dusty Baker comes out to make a pitching change, and Scott the Cub Fan spits on the TV. CFQMM #4. I make another drink and plot his demise.
2:26…..After Dennys “Moons Over My Hammy” Reyes comes in and does his job, Jason Motte comes in and gives up hit after hit. Last year he earned the closer’s job in Spring Training and blew the save on opening day, clearing the way for Ryan Franklin to become the closer and be an All Star doing it. Not real sure how Motte’s status will be affected by today’s performance. He eventually gets out of the inning after allowing only one run. Cards lead 6-3 after seven innings.
2:40…..Just broke the seal.
2:53…..That was one long 8th inning. McClellan came in and did his best Jason Motte impression, giving up several hits and a run but getting out of the inning. These Reds are good, and the Cardinal bullpen is far from impressive so far. My tequila, on the other hand, has been quite impressive. I brought half a bottle over and it’s gone. Time for bottle number two, which I will be sharing with my pals. Scott the Cub Fan has backed off his Dusty Baker soapbox but is now complaining because the Cardinal game is taking a long time and the Cubs game is starting soon. What a jackass.
3:02…..Rasmus is up, and FSN just showed highlights from his big day. Right before the leaping catch where he robbed Rolen, the graphic said “Glovely.” Wow. Scott the Cub Fan is mortified, and I cannot disagree. Our friend Dan has joined us, and two other buddies made a cameo about 20 minutes ago. Jim brought over his roommate’s new puppy and it just threw up all over the garage floor. Quite a day in Belleville, IL.
3:05….Yadier Molina just hit the first Grand Slam of his career. Gotta love Opening Day. I think I need more tequila. This game is in the bag, and next I have to sit through a Cubs game.
3:18…..We’re in the 9th, and Ryan Franklin has given up two runs. Of course, Scott the Cubs Fan has him on his fantasy team, so now he’s bitching about that too. I love this guy; he’s one of my oldest friends. That’s the only reason he’s still alive.
3:20…..Franklin gets to a chopper and tosses to Pujols for the third out. Cards win, 11-6. Now we’re flipping to the Cubs game, and I’m not sure if I’ll continue this blog. I guess it will depend on our conversation and the way the game goes. But it’s great to see the Cards get the win; it’s their first Opening Day win since 2006…and we all remember how that year turned out.
4:17…..Well, the Cubs are getting shanked by the Braves but it’s still relatively early. Rookie of the Year favorite Jason Heyward hit a home run–the first of many, I’m sure–in his first major league at bat. Carlos Zambrano was pulled after 1.1 innings and eight earned runs. But the story of the day here is that Scott the Cub Fan has changed Cubs hats like twenty times. We haven’t killed him yet, but the plans have been drawn out. I’m halfway into my next fifth of tequila and feeling saucy. For a little more salt in the wound, the White Sox won their game today too (and pitcher Mark Buehrle took the “Play of the Day” honors from Rasmus with this gem). It’s a bad day to be a Cubs fan…and it can only get worse from here. Cheers.
5:01…..The Cubs are still losing, and Scott the Cubs Fan is on his fifth hat (not exaggerating this time). You ever notice that people who root for terrible teams always find the most obscure things to blame their team’s failures on? “Hey, guys…I wore the socks. But I cannot believe they’re still losing! Maybe I should change my hat…again!” In other news, I’m feeling no pain. I think it would be wise to call a cab. Otherwise it will be a long, confusing walk home.
5:06…..Samardzija. There we go.
5:16…..Seven hats. SEVEN HATS!!! Cubs fans have issues.
*5:47 Scott the Cubs Fan Here (please hold your applause). This is ugly. All’s I have to say is 162 games. We can do this. This is the year. *stifiling laughter*. It’s a long season and the best scenario I can think of is Cards vs. Cubs in October. All I hope for is a healthy, competitive season for both teams.
*5:50 I changed my mind. F the Cardinals. I hope Pujols gets hit in the nuts with a pickoff throw from Yadier Walton and is out for the season. I hate you all.
5:52……With that, I think it’s safe to say Scott the Cubs Fan is wasted. In case you’re wondering, the “Yadier Walton” thing references the TV show “The Waltons,” who had a bunch of kids, and compares it to the trio of Molinas in MLB. Good one, dude. We’ve subdued him with a wiffle ball bat and he’s in the corner chanting “Kerry Wood is the Savior…Kerry Wood is the Savior.” I’m half in the bag, but I’m still coherent enough to realize that bad baseball is bad baseball. The Cubs lost this game and the Cards won theirs. Opening Day was a success. I’m going to do another shot of tequila and look up the phone number to the closest cab company.
And there you have it. Definitely a fun afternoon. I have to add a disclaimer, just in case any kids or people with no sense of humor are reading: we did not bludgeon Scott the Cub Fan with a bat, and no one drove drunk. We like to have a good time, but we’re not stupid. You shouldn’t be either. Go Cards!
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
selfish 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
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.