After St. Louis won Game 5 of the NLDS, the Cardinal Nation Twittersphere was obviously jubilant and busy. I happened upon a tweet by fellow Cardinal blogger Dennis Lawson that talked about the hug Adam Wainwright got from Yadier Molina at the conclusion of Wednesday night’s clincher and compared it to the hug Jason Motte got from Molina at the securing of the last out of the 2011 World Series. After a quick exchange, Dennis remarked “Seriously, I want to celebrate the end of a work day with a Yadi hug.”
It’s a funny mental picture, depending on your job. And it got me thinking: that would actually make a great “This is SportsCenter” commercial.
You’ve seen these spots advertising ESPN’s flagship news and highlights show; athletes or mascots or pop culture luminaries interact with SportsCenter anchors in the offices or on the set of the network’s headquarters and awkward hilarity ensues. Albert Pujols as “The Machine,” somewhat vanilla football commentator John Clayton as a metal head, and this misunderstanding in the lunch line are a few of my favorites. Proposing ideas for these commercials is certainly nothing new, but I’m going to give it a whirl. I’m emulating the “This is SportsCenter” model so of course the settings and cast will follow suit.
SportsCenter anchor John Anderson gets out of his car to head into work at the start of the day. He is met by Yadier Molina in full uniform and gear (but carrying his mask), who walks Anderson into the building like he would walk from the bullpen to the dugout with that day’s starting pitcher. While they’re walking Molina says “OK John, you have a tough day today: full NFL schedule, MLB playoffs, hockey highlights. Here (hands Anderson a sheet of paper) is your list of catch phrases; stick to the game plan and we should get through OK.” Anderson agrees with everything Molina says.
Cut to the lunchroom, and anchor Scott Van Pelt is looking in the fridge. He says “Hmm, I wonder what John brought me for lunch today…” Suddenly the door is slammed shut, almost smashing his hand. Van Pelt straightens and turns; Molina is standing there (full uniform and gear, but again no mask) slowly shaking his head and says, firmly, “NO STEALING.” Van Pelt mumbles an apology and sulks out of the room while Molina looks at him disapprovingly.
Cut to the SportsCenter studio, showing Anderson in the middle of anchoring but from over his shoulder so the ESPN cameras and teleprompters are visible too. Among the cameras is Molina in his crouch (full gear with mask). As Anderson is setting up a highlight, Molina puts down a two fingers sign; Anderson pauses for an instant to glance at the catch phrase sheet Molina gave him earlier and smoothly delivers catch phrase #2.
Anderson, obviously tired and a little disheveled after a long day, punches out at a time clock and, turning, raises his hands in relief and joy. The camera then pans back to show Molina doing the same thing and running toward Anderson; they hug and jump and yell as if they just won the World Series while “This is SportsCenter” appears on the screen.
I’m not sure if all of that could be squeezed into 30 seconds; maybe the lunchroom scene would have to be a short follow-up commercial. But I think it works. Because let’s face it…we’d all be a little happier at our jobs if we knew even the toughest day might end with a hug from Yadi.
Last week, Danny Knobler of CBSsports.com wrote a great article about the St. Louis Cardinals and their decision process for letting Albert Pujols sign elsewhere while eventually re-signing Yadier Molina and how that was the right move for the future of the franchise. I have no dispute with any part of the article, so there’s no need to go through it here—but I highly recommend reading it if you’re a fan of the Cardinals, interested in how to build and maintain a culture of winning, or just love the business of baseball in general.
But on a personal note, the piece struck a chord with me and somewhat related decision I had to make a few years back.
In 2009, Busch Stadium hosted the All Star Game. It was the first time the Midsummer Classic was held in St. Louis in 40+ years, and anticipation was high. The once-in-a-lifetime aspect of the festivities was the catalyst for us to get partial season tickets, knowing that was our best shot at securing tickets for the All Star festivities as well. We were correct; as soon as they were available, we purchased tickets to the game, the Home Run Derby, the Fan Fest, all of it. As All Star Weekend drew near, I was surprised with one more All Star-centric proposition: as an early birthday present, I could select an All Star batting practice jersey for my gift. The jerseys were red, of course, with the great All Star logo featuring the Gateway Arch, and just a hint of the powder blue beloved by so many Cards fans—including myself. Though they weren’t the only players selected from that ‘09 team to represent the Cardinals on the National League squad, for me there were really only two choices: Pujols or Molina.
I have written about this kind of decision before; in fact, it was earlier in 2009. But that was just off-the-cuff thinking out loud, before I was faced with actually making the decision. And it was one I had a LOT of trouble making. At that time, Pujols was still peaking as the best hitter in the game. His importance to the Cardinals’ lineup was never higher, especially since former fellow “MV3” members Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were now with other teams. Based on that and the words from his own mouth, it seemed unfathomable that Pujols would ever wear a different uniform. On the flipside, Molina was quickly coming into his own as an elite player. His defense was never in question, but his light offensive numbers and clunky base running usually relegated him to the bottom of the order. Then, in 2008, he topped a .300 batting average and 50 RBI for the first time. He was getting on base much more often and striking out very little. His importance to the franchise was high before, but if his offense kept coming around he too would be harder and harder for the Cardinals to let walk. It was a decision I put off until the very last second; even as we pulled up to the Cardinals Team Store I was still mentally flipping the coin. On the one hand, the 2009 All Star Game would be an event that could never be taken away from either player regardless of whether they left for free agency someday. On the other, I couldn’t imagine wearing any jersey or shirt of a former Cardinal while he was playing for a different team. You know…root for the name on the front, not the one on the back…
And then I made the decision.
To this day, the jersey I chose still hangs in my closet—which is probably where it will stay, at least until Pujols’ contract with the Angels expires. The Cardinals have much better foresight than I do.
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!
Trash talk is a part of sports. Sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes it’s childish, but it always grabs attention. When it’s followed up by lousy performance, however, it’s nothing more than laughable.
That’s what Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds has become: laughable. Oh, and while I’m tossing out labels, let me slap one on you, Johnny Cueto: pathetic.
After all the mouthing off Phillips did before Monday’s game, he strode up to the plate in the bottom of the first, and started the exchange with Yadier Molina that led to the bench-clearing brawl by tapping Yadi’s shin guards with his bat. Think I’m biased by saying Phillips started it? After all, sportswriters in Cincinnati claim Phillips does this all the time. But looking at the replay–which is all over the ESPN and Fox Sports Midwest shows and websites–Phillips went for a tap, Molina kicked it away, and Phillips tapped him again. After Monday’s comments, that’s instigation…plain and simple. Phillips and Molina exchanged words and chest bumps, benches emptied, more words were exchanged, and a melee ensued. Curiously, the only ejections were Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker.
One of the in-fight stories was the exchange between former teammates-turned-rivals Scott Rolen and Chris Carpenter. It’s hard to tell if one charged the other, or if they ended up in each other’s faces because of all the pushing and shoving around them. It appeared, in the beginning, that both were trying to play peacemaker. But as the brawl intensified, the group smashed up against the backstop like a mosh pit finally making its way to the stage at a heavy metal concert. Reds starter Johnny Cueto can then be seen kicking at both Carpenter and Jason LaRue. Carpenter ended up with cuts on his back and torso, and LaRue has stitches in his lip and a mild concussion.
That’s right, Cueto was kicking people in the back and face. Unbelievable.
Cueto needs to be fined and suspended immediately. Not only is this behavior unacceptable, it must be made as an example. If LaRue had been caught square in the eye, his career is over and maybe his vision is lost forever. And I don’t care if Cueto was scared and panicked because he was up against the backstop; a dozen other guys were in the same spot and none of them got their spikes up like that. It’s inexcusable.
I’m really excited for today’s game, and the possibility of a Cardinal sweep. With Adam Wainwright on the mound, I like their chances. The Reds have no problem running their mouths and acting out like the b*tches they think the Cardinals are, but when it comes to walking the walk they have yet to deliver. Phillips has one hit total so far in this series, while Molina came up after the fight and lauched a home run into the left field seats. The Cards have won the first two games of this heated series to take over first place in the NL Central. Time to finish them off with a win (and maybe a fastball into Phillips’ ribs).
Photo: Tom Uhlman/AP
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!
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…
For years now, the pride and joy of my St. Louis Cardinals attire has been my Willie McGee jersey.
I’m not, by any means, retiring old #51 (like the Cardinals should). But, as my only jersey, I’m worried about it not holding up too much longer. It’s already five or six years old, and now that I go to 40 games per year, well…you get the idea.
You may be asking yourself how it’s possible that a fan like myself only owns one Cardinal jersey. I ask myself that same question from time to time. I used to have another. After the 1998 home run chase, I got a Mark McGwire batting practice jersey. I was a big McGwire fan and wore that jersey everywhere. I even wore it on vacation to Cabo San Lucas in 2000. Five of my buddies and I went down there for Sammy Hagar’s Birthday Bash at his Cabo Wabo Cantina. In a less-than-sober moment, I decided it would be really cool to toss my beloved jersey up onto the stage because Hagar is known for wearing whatever clothes, hats, banners, etc. fans manage to fling at him. The good news is, my throw was good.
The bad news is, I never saw that jersey again.
So I need another jersey. I’d like an Albert Pujols or Yadier Molina jersey…they’re my favorite current Cardinals. But I love the retro jersey look. And there’s always that risk, when you get the jersey of a current player, that he’ll get traded or sign somewhere else or, as in the case of McGwire, not be there to talk about the past anymore. For instance, when McGee was playing for the A’s, Red Sox, or Giants during the 90’s I wouldn’t have bought his jersey. And I believe that Pujols and Molina are relatively certain to be Cardinals for a long time, but I kind of thought that about Scott Rolen a few years back, too.
There’s always the all-timers: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith. And players that maybe weren’t the greatest but had tons of character: Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, Andy Van Slyke. Or maybe I’ll just play it safe and get a nameless batting practice jersey. I have plenty of Cardinals t-shirts and hats and such, but I see this jersey decision as a big deal. Feel free to leave your suggestions below; I can’t promise I’ll follow them but I will read them. Let the debate begin.