Four years ago today, I was going on about four hours of fitful sleep. The night before, I and the rest of the baseball world witnessed one of the greatest games in the history of the World Series. After that game, I was so wired, so geeked I couldn’t fall asleep at all. Finally, after pounding out a delirious blog post, I managed to nod off…only to sit bolt upright the instant my alarm went off a few hours later, feeling as awake and alive as I ever have in my life. I ran into the other room to look at the two most exciting pieces of paper I think I’ve ever held.
I’m sure I managed to be productive at work that Friday, but I couldn’t tell you how. All I wanted to do was go to Busch Stadium, even hours before the game was supposed to start. I wanted to sit in my bleacher seat with a beer and 45,000 or so of my closest friends to watch Game 7 of the World Series. Even just saying the phrase “Game 7 of the World Series” gives me chills as a baseball fan; as a Cardinals fan about to walk into Busch Stadium to watch it live I was almost unable to process the sights…the sounds…the feeling.
None of us knew it at the time, of course, but a fan favorite (certainly one of mine) from the Whiteyball Era made his final appearance before Cardinal Nation and passed less than a week later.
After the previous night’s heroics, Game 7 lacked much drama beyond the first inning. The Rangers took the lead in top half, and David Freese once again swatted them back. Allen Craig—robbed of a World Series MVP by the All-Universe campaign Freese had—hit a home run and took one away with his glove. Chris Carpenter gutted out another start that would essentially prove to be his professional swan song. Jason Motte blocked out his previous struggles in the series to mow through the ninth. And when Craig secured the fly ball near the track for the final out…
It all happened four years ago today—my greatest baseball day.
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.
Less than a month ago, the St. Louis Cardinals capped off one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history by defeating the Texas Rangers in an epic World Series. In this day and age, finding video and audio replays of any baseball game is as easy as pulling up an internet browser on the nearest online device. But for an expertly assembled package of storytelling, highlights, interviews and emotion, the only true option is Major League Baseball Productions’ presentation of The 2011 World Series Film, which is now available in a two-DVD set (the Blu-Ray version is available December 6).
Disc one features the official film, narrated by actor and St. Louisan John Hamm. The film starts on the St. Louis Riverfront, with the iconic Gateway Arch making an immediate appearance as the stage is set for the telling of the ups and downs of the Cardinals’ 2011 season. Obviously, early in the year, there were more downs than ups as Hamm guides the viewer through the Adam Wainwright injury and Albert Pujols contract drama that overshadowed the team from the beginning of Spring Training. Next is footage of Ryan Franklin giving up a late-game home run and Colby Rasmus bobbling a fly ball that turns out to be the game-winning hit for the opposition. Seems like eons ago, doesn’t it?
But these nasty memories are merely part of the set up. The film briefly covers the big trade with Toronto, the Rafael Furcal acquisition, and the sweep by the Dodgers—the last low point of the season. From there, the chasing down of the Atlanta Braves over the regular season’s final five weeks culminates in the Cards celebrating their NL Wild Card clincher after Chris Carpenter’s gem in Houston and the Braves’ loss in Philadelphia while the Cardinal players watched in the Minute Maid Park visitor’s clubhouse.
From there, the film summarizes the Cards’ NLDS win over the Philadelphia Phillies and NLCS win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Throughout the show, broadcasts from TV and radio are seamlessly merged with Hamm’s narration so the story feels like it’s told from multiple angles. When significant records were tied or broken throughout the year and the postseason, a graphic appears illustrating the feat. The editing and production on this film is nothing short of superb, and it adds an element of dramatic flair not found in straight highlights and replays from the games themselves.
But the real story here is the World Series, and not surprisingly, that’s where the detail in the story explodes. Each of the series’ seven games gets a long segment, and each game’s story is built up with a relevant introduction. For instance, after the segment featuring the Cards’ Game 1 win, the footage shifts to Jason Motte enjoying some pre-Game 2 BBQ at Pappy’s in St. Louis with his family and, obviously, a room full of restaurant customers who happen to be Cardinals fans. Before Game 3 and Game 6, the footage shows the perspective of rolling into the home team’s city as the series shifted to a new ballpark.
This series had so many side stories and subtexts, and each was covered brilliantly in this film. The on-paper match-ups and how similar the Cardinals and Rangers were…the Allen Craig-Alexei Ogando battles…the offensive powerhouses and their pitchers duels in the first two games…The Albert Pujols Game…The Derek Holland Game…Game 5 shenanigans, including the Pujols-Craig hit and run fiascos and “Phonegate”…it’s all here. And it’s all great.
Then there’s Game 6, perhaps one of the greatest in World Series history. From the start, with the Rangers putting up early runs, to the errors and misplays on both sides, the game unfolds as one of the sloppiest anyone has ever seen. And then the Cardinals mount their comeback. David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th, Lance Berkman’s game-tying single in the 10th, and the game-winning homer by Freese in the 11th are all highlighted in their amazing baseball glory. “We will see you tomorrow night.” Smiles, chills, and tears are included free of charge.
And the Game 7 segment puts an exclamation point on a tale that wouldn’t be believed if it wasn’t captured on film. After the teams exchanged two run frames in the 1st inning, the Cards took charge of the game. But one of the most poignant moments of the film was when Motte came out of the bullpen in the 9th–in his interview, he said he took a couple of slow steps down the ramp to look around and take in the scene at Busch Stadium. It was yet another moment of profound reality, like David Freese becoming the hero for the team he grew up rooting for or Chris Carpenter re-assuming the role of Ace after Wainwright went down. The only thing missing from the film—curiously—is Joe Buck’s “What a team…what a ride” call as Craig caught the final out. The omission is probably only noticeable by those with the St. Louis bias, and it doesn’t ruin the film. But it is somewhat conspicuous.
The film also captures some of the parade through Downtown St. Louis as well as the announcement the next day of Tony La Russa’s retirement. This comprehensive look at the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals covers all the bases and does so beautifully. It should be enough to get even the most die-hard fan through the cold winter until the next Spring Training.
2011 World Series Film DVD Bonus Features
This Week in Baseball: Lance Berkman
Prime 9: Tony La Russa
Cardinals Clinch Wild Card (team watching PHI beat ATL from visitor’s clubhouse in HOU)
NLDS Game 5: Last Out and Celebration
NLCS Game 6: Last Out and Celebration
World Series Game 3: Albert Pujols 3 Home Runs
World Series Game 6: David Freese Triple to Tie
World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman Single to Tie
World Series Game 6: David Freese Walk-Off Home Run
World Series Game 6: Lance Berkman/David Freese Presser (funny exchange between the two as Freese recalls Jim Edmonds’ 2004 NLCS walk-off)
World Series Game 7: David Freese Double to Tie
World Series Game 7: Last Out and Celebration
WS Parade (brief ride-along with Freese)
Want More? (Nick Punto mic’ed for final play of World Series; MLB Productions Social Media links)
Disc Two contains the complete Game 5 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies, with a menu to start the game from any half-inning or the pre-game show on TBS. Overall, both discs comprise about four hours of video. Order your copy here or check your local retailer.
I’m participating in my first United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable discussion this year, and today is my day to post. Here’s how it works: Yesterday, I e-mailed a Cardinal question to all the members of UCB (check the home page for the full list of blogs). The bloggers who choose to participate e-mail me their answers back, and I post them for you to read. The list of UCB members is long and distinguished, and many are participating in this event. I will be e-mailed a number of questions to answer as well. It’s a good way to drive traffic to each others’ sites, and with Spring Training just now getting into full swing it gives us something to write about.
So I’ll post the question I posed to the UCB members and all their answers, along with a link to their individual blogs. Please pay them a visit, and pass along their websites to your friends!
Question: After all the moves the Cards made this offseason, as well as some of the possible internal promotions/jobs to be won this spring, what do you perceive to be the biggest remaining need for this team as we approach the regular season? Or do they have any holes at all?
The bench would seem to be the biggest need. There are a number of options for the fifth slot in the rotation and the leftovers can fill out the bullpen adequately, but there’s a lot of youth on the bench, which can be good, but also may not pan out the way we’d like. –Dan, C70 At The Bat
I perceive the biggest need to be our bench. I think the combination of young players (David Freese, Tyler Greene, Joe Mather, etc.) should suffice at third base. We certainly have plenty of young players who can play outfield, but I’m concerned about their ability to pinch hit. I think before we address anything else, we should find a veteran (not Felipe Lopez, someone with less of a price tag) who has a history of being a productive pinch hitter/bench player. –Jack, Thoughts About Cardinals
The biggest remaining need for the Cardinals in 2010 is flexibility. The team has a lot of young options for 3rd base and the 5th spot in the rotation. They have backups at shortstop and centerfield with some intriguing candidates for the bench bats. They have a 37 year old closer who was shaky at the end of last year, but was still an All-Star who pitched well overall.
The Cardinals don’t have a specific need yet, but when looking at all of the variables, they will. Though we don’t know which position will become a problem, injuries and ineffectiveness will become apparent soon enough. Having the dry powder to address needs after the positions have been evaluated is the most important need this team has. –Michael, Whiteyball
All in all this would appear to be a well-rounded club. Tony hasn’t had this many factions accounted for this early in a long time. In theory, of course.
The most glaring deficiency is a bench lacking pop. Especially from the left side. In games that the Cardinals are down late, opposing managers may be peering across the field at an uncomfortably predictable skipper. The flip side is that his “everyday” lineup looks pretty solid from top to bottom. Winner of the third base sweepstakes could perceivably hit 8th. Which given the upside of an intriguing list of candidates, says something about 1 through 7. Besides, if your biggest issue is the depth of your bench, the guys who take the field on Opening Day are likely legitimate starters.
Our closer is what concerns me the most. There is part of me that likes Ryan Franklin a lot. Pinpoint control, bulldog mentality, unabashed flaunting of a truly terrible beard…and every time I start on his age I hear Hell’s Bells in my head and can’t finish. But he is far from overpowering. His All-Star appearance was well deserved, but pitching to contact in the bottom of the ninth of 3-2 game gives me ulcers. There’s something to be said for the demoralizing effects of 98 mph gas and a filthy curve. He’s earned respect, but I don’t think Frankie is intimidating anybody out there. Rest assured that La Russa, who recognizes the psychological challenges of the job, will stand by his man. But for how long? –Justin, Intangiball
For me, the biggest perceived need is at the back of the bullpen. I’m sure Ryan “Shooter” Franklin is a nice person, but he’s not a capital-C Closer, just a guy with middling stuff given an opportunity to compile saves.
But Izzy’s heir apparent, Chris Perez, was traded, and without a second pitch (as well as some movement on his fastball) Jason Motte isn’t really a good fit, either. I am hoping beyond hope that Eduardo Sanchez sets the Grapefruit League on fire and makes the choice a no-brainer for TLR and Duncan. -Jeff, Five O’Clock Blogger
I think we need help off the bench. Love to see them sign Lopez. -Joseph, The McBrayer-Baseball Blog
I believe that the best thing the Cardinals can do right now is wait. If McClellan wins the 5th spot in the rotation, Mozeliak might feel like a bullpen arm like Kiko Calero or Russ Springer is the way to go. If Freese/Mather don’t look like a viable option at third, Felipe Lopez could make sense. With 5-7 million left, I would like Mozeliak to save some dry powder for the season. The Cardinals aren’t in a position to trade for impact players like they did in the summer of 2009, but saving a couple million to potentially add someone like John Smoltz in midseason is a good idea. -Ryan, Cardinals GM
I hadn’t considered our closer situation one to worry about. Yes Franklin appeared to burn out after the All-Star break last season (and for conspiracy buffs, right after he signed his extension if my memory is correct), but considering it was his first year as the ‘no question’ LaRussa closer I’m not too worried about it. LaRussa learned he needed to pace how he uses Franklin for 2010. Further I’m not worried about Franklin‘s stuff. Plenty of closers (Trevor Hoffman leaps to mind) have been great without having 95+ gas in the arsenal. Franklin is the LaRussa/Duncan philosophy distilled: locate your pitches.
This team’s glaring weakness is its bench. LaRue is the backup catcher only. In 114 PA as a ‘substitute’ he’s hitting a robust 212/305/433, all right-handed. Lugo has a career slugging percentage of .391 (right-handed). He only has 115 PA as a ‘substitute’ (302/395/344). Tyler Greene has 1 year of ML experience, and also hits right handed. They need a left handed bat badly. I also am concerned about their defensive weakness, especially Lugo, which will probably limit what LaRussa can do for match-ups in the late innings. Finally, there’s no one on this team that can spell Pujols at first if he needs a day off.
If I was Mozeliak, the bench is where I’d be looking to upgrade this team before Opening Day. -Mike, Stan Musial’s Stance
That’s a rundown of the answers I received, but Jeff from Five O’Clock Blogger wanted to reply to Mike’s take above:
While I do not share your optimism regarding Franklin*, you make very valid points about the bench.
*Funny you mention conspiracy theories; mine is that he went into the can not because of his contract but because he was looking over his shoulder after Smoltz arrived. </tinfoil hat>
I don’t see where Gotay fits in with this ballclub. One 100-walk season at Triple-A aside, he’s a low-rent version of Lugo. Also, all the bench candidates have major flaws: Lugo has a little plate discipline but no power and can’t (read: shouldn’t) play short; Greene has some power but no seeming plate discipline; I’m not sold on Mather hitting at all, etc.
At this point, I’d be more than happy to have FeLo back. –Jeff, Five O’Clock Blogger
And there you have it! Obviously this is a question that can’t have a wrong answer; I think even the best clubs can be improved here or there. And with several free agents still without jobs and minor leaguers looking to catch on with the Big Club, many options remain to fill out this team. Personally, I think the team needs some bench help. At this point, the team lacks what I like to call an “impact bat” off the bench. I think having a thumper lurking in the dugout for a possible late-inning pinch hit is a valuable weapon. I also have concerns that the typical defensive replacement for either the infield or the outfield currently does not exist on this team. Not that the starting 8 are a bunch of hacks that cannot be trusted in the field in the late innings…but I often wonder if things could have turned out different had Rick Ankiel been inserted into left field in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS against the Dodgers.
Jason Isringhausen’s Cardinal career officially ended this weekend with news that he signed with the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays. A lot of fans were down on Izzy in recent years, especially (and deservedly) last season. But this guy really did some phenomenal work for the Cardinals as their closer. If you look at his career stats and think about his injury history, the parallels between his down years and his hurt years are undeniable. I believe that, all things considered, Cardinal Nation must tip its collective cap to Izzy for a job well done while he was here.
So now, who takes the reigns from Izzy? Certainly it’s going to be either Jason Motte or Chris Perez…or can the Cardinlas get away with closer by committee? I think it’s better to let someone earn the closer title and keep it until he loses it, for whatever reason. I liked what I saw from Perez in 2008, but Motte seems to have that crazy guy attitude that sometimes works so well. Both have the potential for dominance. Stay tuned…