Tag Archive | "Cardinal Baseball"

UCB Roundtable: Who’s Worthy of Cardinal Immortality?

The United Cardinal Bloggers is having its annual preseason Roundtable discussion this month, where a variety of topics surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals organization are presented, and then analyzed by the membership. Yesterday was my day to poise my question, and the direction of choice was to cover the past, present and future, all in wrapped up in one.

Busch_Stadium Retired Numbers

Since the current ownership of the team took over, the standing rule on retired numbers has been that they are only officially retired once a player is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, in this era of Cardinal baseball (which has been arguably as successful as any), there are a lack of true Hall of Fame candidates. However, when you consider the era, players like Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have all made monumental contributions to the team success….not to mention a certain former first baseman as well.

With that considered, how do you feel about the Cardinals’ policy on retired numbers, and which current-to-recently former Cardinals could/should deserve the honor? Here is a transcript of the discussion, and some varying opinions on candidates and on the policy itself:

Daniel Solzman: I was not a fan when #15 was re-issued.  Likewise, if #5 is issued again, I will not be happy about it.  If 29 gets issued to someone other than Chris Carpenter, I imagine a cluster of the fan base will be upset.  If Holliday stays healthy, he might be the other player to be joining Molina on that list.

I think Edmonds should see his jersey retired.  He might not get in on first ballot but I think, when you factor in those defensive gems, the HOF should vote him in.  His numbers are similar to Dale Murphy but his average was 20 points hire than Dale’s, which could and should make a difference.

It should be noted that while the debate to retire 51 officially rages on, the jersey has yet to be issued.

(Matt) Holliday is signed through 16 with an option for 17.  Barring a trade, he will have played most of his career as a Cardinal.  If the option for 17 gets picked up, he will have played 8.5 seasons as a Cardinal. All things considered, he should finish with some solid numbers worthy of 7 being retired.

Daniel Shoptaw: I understand the Cardinals’ position on retired numbers.  You hate to have a wide swath of numbers unavailable for use.  I mean, look at the Yanks–they are going to have start using triple digits in a decade or so.  You don’t want to be too free and easy with retirement–it’s supposed to be an honor.  Plus, who knows what the feelings of the fan base are going to be down the road.  I mean, if they’d retired 25 immediately after McGwire’s retirement, which could have been a sticky situation.

The unofficial retiring brings about some of the same problems.  Obviously 57 is retired, even though it’s not with the official group.  You start running out of numbers if you keep everyone of them that belonged to a “True Cardinal” off the backs of the next generation.

That said, I do think the Cards are going to need to make exceptions for Carpenter and Molina (if he needs it).  Those were two of the focal points of a great stretch of Cardinal baseball and should be honored in some way. While I appreciate Matt Holliday, I think one of things about the number retirement is that it has to be a player that captured the fans’ imagination as well as being a great player.  Ozzie, Lou, Gibby all have legends around them, true or not.  They were more than just good players, they were icons.

Carp has that.  Molina has that.  Holliday?  I don’t think so and I don’t know that, barring some dramatics, he’ll ever get there.  He’s a great player and I’m glad we have him, but I don’t see him as a candidate for retirement if his career–his solid, remarkable career–continues on this path.

J.D. Norton: I like the Cards policy, but I think they should step out a bit and put #15 up.  Yes, I think Jim Edmonds belongs in the HOF.  If you look at players like Dawson and Rice and then put Edmonds in the discussion, it’s a no brainer to me.  I think the Cards should lead the charge, retire his number now and hope that helps.  For those who disagree, name me 10 CF’ers who have better numbers than JE.  There’s 14 CF’ers in the HOF.  Even MLBN had Edmonds in the top 10 CF’ers of all-time.

Wes Keene: The policy is good. There’s a lot of emotion tied up with sports, and every few years we’ve got someone that’s easy to view as a hero on the team. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’ve got to have some method to keep the warm and fuzzies from running you out of numbers. I find the practice of predicting HOF inductees to be daunting so I don’t try. I’m not a writer, so I don’t get a vote, and the ones who do frequently befuddle me.

Since the retired number pool will be a subset of the HOF Cardinals, it gets even dicier. Given how rare retiring a number is, I’d suspect it’s Carp or Molina, but not both.

Dathan Brooks: I’d suggest that the organization’s policy, while perhaps not perfect, is as close as it can be.  A policy is exactly what’s necessary, too.  Case-by-case basis simply wouldn’t work, so I say good for them.  I think it speaks to the ownership of this team that they take this so seriously, too, let’s not let that go unsaid.  But I’ve said it before…let’s take a high-level view of where “we” are right now.  Off the top of my head, and without digging deep, which means I’m sure to miss/forget some, numbers that are spoken for/taken/unlikely to be issued soon/retired today, include:

1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 17, 20, 24, 25, 29, 32, 42, 45, 51, 57.

I know, Wainwright & others are left off the list while Yadi is included.  Might they reissue some of these?  Sure.  I’m just saying, there are twenty numbers here, more than half of which are below 25. You can’t just go retiring numbers for every fan favorite, or hold sacred a uniform number because a guy we really really liked once wore it–it just isn’t feasible.  I wrote about this on some blog a long time ago (too lazy to look it up), but the line, “Now batting, number 386, outfielder, Tony Gwynn IV” comes to mind from that blog post.  The Cards would simply run out of retired numbers too near into the future, and have to start coming up with creative (read: non-purist/traditionalist) ways to ID players.  (Symbols?  “The player formerly known as….”?  LOL  I kid, of course)

In any event, it’s a good problem to have.

Bob Netherton: I think the current policy on retired numbers is ridiculous.  While you don’t want to retire the number of every good player that comes through the system, a bit of easing on the current policy would go a long way to reward players like Curt Flood, Willie McGee and Chris Carpenter.

The counter-argument is the team will run out of numbers and start needing triple digits for jersey numbers.

With all due respect, pfffffffft.

We are talking about one of the most storied franchises in baseball, not the Miami Marlins or Colorado Rockies. A bit of perspective can help soft through this mess. We are only talking 3 or 4 players in a decade where the team has has monster success (40s, 60s, 80s, 00s).   There might be decades (50s, 70s, 90s) where there are at most one. Over 100 years, that’s still less than 30 numbers.  It takes about 40 numbers to field a team (25 plus DL). We are good for another century. Lets retire Flood and McGee now and get ready for Carpenter in a couple of years.

Christine Coleman: As many have already said, some kind of policy is definitely needed for retired numbers because it can get out of hand for a team like the Cardinals with such a long and rich tradition. The policy currently in place, with retiring numbers for Hall of Fame players, seems to work well since it sets the standard. I will mention, since I don’t think anyone else has yet, that Ken Boyer’s number is retired and he’s not in the Hall of Fame — other than Tony La Russa, who of course will be in the Hall of Fame, he’s the only non-Hall-of-Famer.

The practice of unofficially retiring numbers by not issuing them has its place, but it also does reach a point where numbers have to be used too. Keeping 51 and 57 out of circulation are good, and necessary, moves. It makes sense to not issue 15 as well, and not to use 5 right now anyway. But I saw someone complaining on Twitter last weekend that number 12 is being used already. If the Cards can’t issue a number because Lance Berkman wore it, that’s when triple-digit uniform numbers are going to be needed soon.

Bill Ivie: I like the current policy but I think, with current plans for Ballpark Village, it can be amended.

Since the team is building a Cardinals Hall Of Fame and museum, retired numbers should only belong to Cardinals Hall Of Famers, not necessarily Cardinals in Cooperstown.  This would allow guys like Darryl Kile, Willie McGee, Jim Edmonds to be honored in that way.

At the same time, I must say that I do not feel that all of these names need a number retired.  Wille was great for the team in the 80′s and Jimmy did his part in the 00′s.  But what about Vince Coleman who shattered records in the 80′s and was a big part of some post-season runs (minus tarp incidents).  If we look at his place in history, he probably deserves to be in this discussion.  But wait…that’s number 29…that’s Carp!  Carp had a major impact for a few years too.  Like Vince, he was hurt at times and wasn’t key in everything the team did during his tenure.  Who gets the number?

It’s a can of worms I don’t want to open up.  I think the Cards HOF alleviates some of this.  Willie McGee can be a Cardinal HOF member without his jersey retired.  It gives the opportunity to honor players for being a great Cardinal and also to honor players for being the best in the league and finding Cooperstown.

When do we retire #25?  How quickly do we retire #5, knowing that he is in a personal services contract with his current team long after he retires?

Brian Vaughn: I think there’s definitely a middle ground between necessitating a player’s Hall induction as a requirement to have his number required and letting any above average player have the honor. I say this largely because Hall of Fame voting is getting weirder and weirder; players aren’t exactly getting in based on merit thanks to some truly obnoxious voters, so I think there has to be a better way. Players like Carpenter particularly gave the Cardinals quite a large chunk of service time and excellence, and there’s something to be said for that.

John Nagel: To me, having a players number retired doesn’t make them a better player in my eyes. I agree with many that having too many waters down the award. Why can we still not honor players in other ways? Having a retired number should be set aside for HOF players.

Its to early to decide on Pujols. I say no on Edmonds and so far no on Wainwright. If Yadi continues on his path then he could be a yes. If the Cards continue with the HOF = number retired rule then Carpenter is a no as well.
Kevin Reynolds: I think the “only retire HOF numbers” policy is a necessity. Before long, finding numbers for players is going to be difficult enough. Besides, once you start amending the retired numbers rule, then you have to ask, “Where does it stop?”
I also feel the reason the question of retiring numbers has become significant is because the delay of the Cards HoF in Ballpark Village has left St. Louis with no obvious method to honor memorable Cardinal players and coaches. Carpenter deserves a sacred place in the future Cards HoF, but not on the wall of Busch Stadium.
Now, I might be in favor of a wall inside the fan tunnels of Busch that lists memorable Cardinal numbers/players like Carp and Edmonds…but leave the retired numbers wall for Baseball HOFers. That’s an exclusive group, and should be kept that way going forward.

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Cardinals And Rawlings Launch “Varsity Club”

The St. Louis Cardinals and Ralwings Sporting Goods team up to launch “Varsity Club”
Exclusive fan club for teenagers is first-of-its-kind amongst MLB teams

CardsHeader

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (February 7, 2013) – The St. Louis Cardinals today announced an expanded partnership with St. Louis‐based Rawlings Sporting Goods to benefit area youth. Through the partnership with Rawlings, the team is launching the Cardinals Varsity Club presented by Rawlings, a membership-based program exclusive to teenagers and young adults in Cardinal Nation.

“Rawlings stepped up to the plate when we launched Redbird Rookies in 2004 and they have been an outstanding partner,” said Michael Hall, Vice President of Cardinals Care and Community Relations. “We are very excited about this new venture and we look forward to sharing Cardinal baseball with more kids in our community.”

The membership-based fan club is exclusive to teens and young adults, ages 14-19, and offers a personalized fan experience for the age group. Although many teams have fan clubs, the Rawlings Varsity Club is considered to be the first-of-its-kind for the teen demographic among major domestic professional sports leagues. The $35 membership includes a ticket voucher for two tickets to a 2013 Cardinals home game, two exclusive promotional items – Varsity Club backpack and Cardinals flat bill cap – a Cardinals coupon book, two issues of Cardinals Magazine and more. The year-long Varsity Club membership culminates with Rawlings Varsity Club Day at the Ballpark on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. Members will receive two tickets to the game, early access to the ballpark for a program featuring Cardinals front office executives, Rawlings representatives and Cardinals players, and the opportunity to parade around the warning track pre-game. Fans can visit cardinals.com/varsity to obtain more information or to register for the 2013 season.

“The Rawlings Varsity Club membership program is a natural progression of our continuously-expanding partnership with the Cardinals,” said Kurt Hunzeker, senior director of brand marketing for Rawlings. “This first-of-its-kind sponsorship platform allows us to better connect and engage with our core target market, offer exclusive product discounts and tailor unique experiences as they progress in their playing careers and fan avidity for the Cardinals.”

In addition to the Varsity Club sponsorship, Rawlings renewed its presenting sponsorship of the Cardinals Kids Club (formerly the Cardinals Crew Kids Club) in an effort to grow with young Cardinals’ fans and fortify its commitment to enabling baseball in the St. Louis community. The Kids Club, for fans ages 15 and under, is in its 13th year and this season features Jon Jay as its official spokesman. This marks the third year that Rawlings will participate as the lead sponsor of the Kids Club in which 7,300 kids took part in 2012.

Membership for the Cardinals Kids Club presented by Rawlings is $25 and includes two Cardinals tickets, a Cardinals drawstring bag designed to look like Jon Jay’s new 2013 “St. Louis” home alternate jersey, a stylish pair of headphones, a Cardinal-themed lunch bag, a new 2013 Cardinals Kids Club lapel pin, membership card and lanyard, as well as an invitation to an exclusive member’s only party at Busch Stadium featuring autographs, food, fun, Fredbird and more. Fans can renew or purchase memberships and obtain more information at cardinals.com/kidsclub, or call the Cardinals Kids Club hotline at314.345.9888.

In addition, the Rawlings Replay equipment trade-in program will continue as part of these sponsorships, which has outfitted more than 8,000 Redbird Rookies players since its origin in 2011. Rawlings is the Official Batting Helmet and Ball Supplier of Major League Baseball.

Since its inception in 1997, Cardinals Care has invested nearly $18 million in helping children, including providing nearly $11 million in grants to over 800 non-profit youth organizations, and building 19 youth ball fields in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Missouri and Illinois. For nearly a decade, Cardinals Care has run the innovative Redbird Rookies program, a free baseball league for kids who otherwise might not have the opportunity to play. In addition to providing all the uniforms, gloves, bats, balls and other equipment needed for each team, Redbird Rookies also provides extensive off-field support in the areas of health, education, mentoring and the cultural arts for each of the nearly 4,500 kids who participate in the program each year. Cardinals Care has distributed more than $16 million to area children’s organizations. To learn more about all of Cardinals Care’s programs visit cardinals.com/community.

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Cardinals Coach In Super Bowl Ad

Phillip Wellman, the hitting coach of the Springfield Cardinals, once had a monumental tirade on a baseball field.

PhillipWellman

That tirade has made it’s rounds on the internet and television for many, many years.  It resurfaced around the Cardinal corner of the internet a few years ago when Wellman was named the hitting coach for the Double A franchise.

Not sure what I am talking about?  Here you go:

Fast forward a few years and, thanks to Volkswagen and a Super Bowl Ad, and Wellman has found new life for an old tirade.

The following commercial ran during the 2013 Super Bowl.  At the :20 mark, we see a brief clip of the above “highlight” and by the 1:08 mark, he’s tossing bases around the grassy hill.

Don’t worry, I will always keep a look out for a little Cardinal baseball, even during the Super Bowl.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The UCB Annual

cover

Every year, the group known as the UCB (the United Cardinal Bloggers) come together on one massive project known as the United Cardinal Bloggers Annual.

I-70 baseball has been a proud member of the UCB for almost three years and we have contributed to the Annual every year of our existence.  This year, a post dedicated to the memory of my father was chosen as the “Post Of The Year” and included in the publication.  I also contributed a brief look at the history of the Houston Astros, their rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals, and their subsequent move to the American League.

The result of all the hard work this year is a 25-chapter ebook dedicated to the memory of Stan Musial that takes a look back at the 2012 Cardinals and a look forward to 2013.

National writers Will Leitch and Drew Silva check in with their own thoughts in the book as well as 18 bloggers from around the internet.

The 2013 United Cardinal Bloggers Annual is available as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle store for $4.99. The book can be read on any of the devices in the Kindle family as well as by downloading Amazon’s free reading apps for your computer, tablet or smartphone.

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Cardinals Winter Warm Up: John Mozeliak Chat Wrap

The St. Louis baseball season got off to its unofficial start on Saturday with an annual high mark. The club began the Cardinals Winter Warm Up down the street from Busch Stadium at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a three day festival of all things Cardinal baseball. From autograph signings from players both past, present and future, to an impressive showing of team related merchandise, the Winter Warm is the absolute best way to get primed for the upcoming summer of baseball.

John Mozeliak Warm Up

During the event, both players and club management take time to stop and discuss the state of the team as well. And there is no better place to start than at the top. On Saturday morning General Manager John Mozeliak took some time to speak on the state of team for the upcoming season, including how the team is managing to come around from 2012’s ending, as well as the status on both the health (and contracts) of some of the club’s biggest contributors.

On team structure: He shares the optimism that many do on the homegrown future of the ballclub. “There should be more minor league impact expected this year on the roster”, stated Mozeliak. While not going into specifics on who or when, he was very encouraged by the group of young pitchers with Major League experience, including Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly. All will work as starters early in camp, and compete for the fifth starter slot. However, Lynn will enter with a slight edge on the group. “He shouldn’t show up and be completely comfortable” said Mo, “but based on what he did last year, he has the inside track.”

Regarding the competition at second base, he feels Daniel Descalso will enter camp as the owner of the position, but there are some conditions as well. Matt Carpenter, who has worked at the position this winter, will get a look but he cannot accurately assess his place in the competition until he sees him in action.

Concerning any further moves in the middle infield, the availability and heatlth of Rafael Furcal is the most critical factor to any further activity. “We have not ruled out any additions in the middle infield”, Mozeliak said, “but it all depends on the health of Furcal.” He went on to say that all early signs are positive for the Furcal entering into the spring.

On Mike Matheny: All signs were positive on where he stands on Matheny entering into his second season at the wheel. “He exceeded expectations in year one” he explained, going on to say that he did not meet with him over the winter in any advisory capacity, only to touch base. He expects there will be the most growth in his area of player usage. “I expect he may not ride the hot hand as much” he commented.

On team health: He admitted that breaking free of camp at full strength is a concern, especially with some of the lingering conditions that are already in place. They are taking a “wait and see” approach concerning Jaime Garcia and Chris Carpenter, but more so for Garcia. Carpenter could see a decreased training program, but it’s not unusual for him at this point in his career. “The expectation for 200 innings for Carp is probably at 50/50”, but he has high confidence in his health status.

On big name prospects: There is an expectation that top prospect Oscar Taveras will get “plenty of opportunities” in the spring, to see what he can do. Second baseman Kolten Wong will also get some opportunities in big league camp, but the goal is not for him to share time in St. Louis currently, and to be an everyday contributor in the minors again.

On contract negotiations: The Adam Wainwright contract extension matter will carry into the season, and potentially into the season, but shouldn’t be compared to past high profile dealings. He feels this matter is “more open ended than other negotiations we’ve seen before” and that “there are no lines drawn in the sand this time around.”

He also elaborated that the organization has “moved on” from Kyle Lohse, but won’t close the door on anything either.

CheapSeatsPlease

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Get it together

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen back into a bad habit they were plagued by early in 2011: giving away games.

Admittedly, it is hard to find much fault with a 16-10 start to the season. This is in no way meant to nit-pick or make up something to complain about. But when the Cardinals lose, it is often in sloppy fashion and lacking in fundamentals. That’s a big problem for a team stocked with so many veterans and in-house youngsters that cut their teeth in one of the greatest playoff runs in baseball history last year.

So let’s flash back to 2011—the bad parts, not the postseason parts we all relive over and over again on home video, DVR recordings, and YouTube. Remember the great Ryan Franklin meltdown? Yeah, that happened in 2011. Blown save after blown save led to a poor record early in the season and the eventual release of the veteran reliever and a revolving door at closer that did not stabilize until August. How about Starting Shortstop Ryan Theriot, or Colby Rasmus patrolling center field with all the enthusiasm of someone who just had a lobotomy? Sometimes watching Cardinal Baseball early in 2011 was like watching an old slapstick comedy featuring clowns instead of ballplayers.

Again, it’s far from that bad this season. But some of the same issues have cropped up again. A week and a half ago when the Cards lost their first series of the season by dropping two in a row to the Cubs, it was the bullpen coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both nights. In those two losses plus the loss to Pittsburgh the previous Saturday, the Cards were a combined 0 for 15 with runners in scoring position. They have been running into outs on the base paths. They have committed errors that led to runs, like in Friday’s game in Houston. And they have had trouble knocking guys in once they get on base. If you play your best game but lose to a team that plays just that much better, there is no shame in tipping your cap. Go get ‘em tomorrow. But these losses are borderline ugly, and definitely avoidable.

Fortunately it is still pretty early in the year and the fundamentals ship can be righted. The Cards hit better with RISP in their three losses this week, going 10-43. It isn’t a great number, but at least it isn’t an 0-fer. As regulars get healthy and back up to the speed of the game, defense will hopefully improve. And as we saw last season, any bullpen issue is fixable with the right moves.

It’s just tough to see some of these mental lapses and think, “Wow, this again?” The Cardinals are getting out of their softie, NL Central-dominated early schedule and will be playing some tougher teams real soon. They have the talent and drive to beat anybody in baseball. They just have to stay out of their own way and cut down on the dumb mistakes.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

#RIPMCA

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Are the Cardinals headed for 2000 again?

I had the opportunity to take in my first 2012 St. Louis Cardinal game at Busch Stadium this past Sunday, as they defeated the punch-less Cubs behind a very solid pitching performance from Jake Westbrook and tremendous days at the plate from Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter. That win pushed the Cardinals to 7-3 on the young season.

One of the worst mistakes any blogger/journalist can make is take a small sample size (like 10 games) and make a lot of assumptions or unreasonable projections, but soaking in the beautiful day at Busch Stadium during a blowout of the Cubbies….I just could not help myself.

I began to ask a lot of “what if” questions.

-What if this team under new leadership, starts another great era of Cardinal baseball without a reloading period following the key off-season losses?

Mike Matheny has been preaching respect. He has preached playing the Cardinal Way. He has reminded the team what it means to wear the Birds on the Bat. They are playing hard and playing with confidence. The Cardinals could not have asked for a better start to the season. If you had told me that the first two weeks would be played without Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker, and Chris Carpenter, see Lance Berkman, David Freese, Jon Jay, and Carlos Beltran miss time with aches and pains, AND yet to have the “real” Adam Wainwright make an appearance; I would have predicted 3-8 not 8-3. Many experts in the industry warned of a mediocre season for St. Louis following the loss of Pujols, Duncan, and LaRussa. There are 25 solid players in the clubhouse and a coaching staff that does not believe a “reload” is necessary. They play hard for each other and want to win now.

Could this mix of veterans and deep farm system usher in a new era of being perennial playoff contenders, just like 2000-06, when the Cardinals made the playoffs six out of seven consecutive seasons? What if…..

-What if Matheny does not listen to the doubters who say he can not manage a winning ballclub without any experience…and the team keeps on winning ?

-What if Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook continue pitching this well in their contract years?

-What if Pujols did not afford the other batters in the lineup as much protection as we thought he did? These guys can hit the baseball. It is a solid, deep, and balanced lineup.

-What if the bullpen is actually better this year than it was last year? Matheny lets relievers who are pitching well stay in the game, as opposed to playing the matchups constantly like LaRussa did. He looks more at the quality of the pitches that night, and less at the spreadsheet of past performance. This just might create an added level of confidence in the bullpen that the better they perform, the more they get to pitch.

-What if the team makes great selections with five of the first 59 draft picks?…and keeps stocking its deep farm system with future impact players. The model of surrounding four or five key veterans with young talent seems to be the Cardinals best chance for sustained excellence. They have a tremendous opportunity during this year’s draft to get a bunch of great young talent that they can keep for at least  six years at a very reasonable price.

-What if Carpenter returns to form by summer and Wainwright returns to his former dominant self? The rotation would be just plain scary.

-What if this team is tired of the talk they can’t repeat without Pujols and LaRussa? Touched on this one above, but this is a highly talented group of professionals with a very competitive edge. This was most evidence by several players showing up to camp after a short off-season in the best shape of their lives. They are motivated to win this year.

Look, I know everything seems like rainbows and lollipops after such a fast start. The trials will come. Matheny will cost them a game with a bad decision at some point. But as I sat in the bleachers Sunday afternoon, I had a realization of just how many things are going right in Cardinal Nation right now.

For years, the talk was how losing Pujols would derail the organization into mediocrity. I am simply proposing that may not be the case. In fact, this organization may be the brink of a new standard of sustained excellence. That is a very big leap to make after 11 games, I know. This could be the start of another spell of playoff runs like the team had at the start of the century.

With a solid rotation, deep lineup, a manager they love to play for, and motivation to silence the doubters, they have as good a chance as any to make quite a run for seasons to come.

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United Cardinal Bloggers 2012 Spring Roundtable

Straight from the horse’s mouth, here is what the UCB website has to say about this project:

Didn’t we just leave this party?

With a postseason that joyously ran long and a participation level that was through the roof, the United Cardinal Bloggers spent from the end of October until  just before Christmas rehashing and discussing.  Now, as the calendar turns to February, it’s time for us to take up the discussions again.

This time, however, there’s a twist.

In an effort to engage our readers and followers a bit more, we are encompassing the UCB Twitter feed (@utdcardbloggers if you aren’t following it) into the discussions.  Every day, the question that the bloggers are discussing via email will be also put on our Twitter account.  Answers that are received will be eligible to be added to the transcript when the blogger posts it.

To keep things organized, we ask that you use the proper hashtag when responding to a question.  To answer the first question, use #ucb1.  The next day, use #ucb2 and so on.  The hashtag will be listed with the schedule below.

Then, during the last week of the roundtable, we are letting you–well, turn the tables seems pretty cliche there, doesn’t it?  We’ll ask you to submit a question you want the bloggers to bat around.  The best one will be put into the system and the transcript will be posted here on this site.

So that sets us up.  I-70 Baseball drew the question that would be asked last Friday and posted on Monday, February 13.  After some thought, I crafted the following question for my fellow new media writers:

The collective group here is obviously one of the foremost knowledgeable on Cardinal baseball.  You know your in’s and out’s and all about the players.  So, I am going to ask you to look at something other than the Cardinals for a second…
Brandon Phillips, Nyjer Morgan, Johnny Cueto…the Cards have had a few “enemies” over the last few years.  At the same time that these three guys still exist in this division, there has been quite a bit of change with the other teams this year.  So peer into your crystal ball for a two part question:
The answers to these can be names that are listed above or they can be new names added to the list.  All I ask is that you stay in the Central Division with your picks…
1 – Who is the biggest “Cardinal Killer” in 2012 (ie who does his talking on the field and just seems to always do his best against the team)?
2 – Who becomes the biggest mouthpiece about the Cardinals in 2012 (ie who gets on your nerves because he hates this team and is going to end up with a Carp fastball in his ear)?

Let’s get into their answers, shall we?

Corey Noles: The Daily Statesman
 I think the biggest Cardinals killer may likely be Brandon Phillips. It sure seems that he feeds off of the boos he gets when he comes to St. Louis. The funny thing about Phillips is, now don’t stone me, that he would be a great fit for the Cardinals. Through this whole mess I haven’t been able to help thinking that about him.

As far as who is the biggest tool in the NLC, that’s a tough one. I would like to think Morgan had his comment shoved hard enough in his face that he will likely shut up, but I’m never surprised by idiots. Truth be told, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head who will likely shoot his mouth off. Frankly, at this moment in time no one is in a position for smack talk. If I have to name one though, I’m going to go with Morgan just due to his general lack of class.

Daniel Shoptaw: C70 At The Bat
I’m with Corey on the second part–I don’t figure we’ve heard the last of Nyjer Morgan.  For a man that has multiple “personalities”, I can’t imagine a little thing like reality will deter him.  He might not be as covered, especially if Milwaukee doesn’t stick around with the Cards in the divisional race, but he’s the most likely candidate.

As for the “Cardinal killer”, I’m wondering about Brett Wallace.  He’s done pretty well against the Redbirds in his time in Houston and, while the Astros won’t contend, I could see him turning around a couple of close games and sending the Cards home downcast.

Rodney Knuppel: Saint Louis Sports
Nyjer Morgan is not good enough to be a Cardinals killer. That guy is a clown. Brandon Phillips, while a good player – doesn’t put up great numbers against the Cardinals. I look for Votto or someone else to carry that load against STL.

My answer to the Cardinal Killer goes to Aramis Ramirez. Granted, he will have to try to kill the Cardinals. I just think if he is healthy, he kills STL pitching. Now, with Milwaukee, he is in a pennant race(hope not), and the hate the Brewers/Cardinals have is at a different level than the pretty boring rivalry lately of Cardinals/Cubs.

Ramirez is 33 years old. I think he still has alot of baseball left in him. I know many people think he is washed up,or simply overrated, but the guy has a career .284 batting average, over 300 homeruns and 1,100 runs batted in. Without Fielder, he will need to be an offensive force for the Brewers. Now, if Braun is out those first 50 games – ALOT of the load will land on Ramirez, and if we remember right – he is a slow starter. The Cardinals see the Brewers several times early, so it would be advantageous to keep him in check early in the year, and maybe get off to a good start against Milwaukee.

As far as the biggest mouthpiece against the Cardinals. I think the Morgan and Phillips thing will hopefully die down with Matheny at the helm. Hopefully these two clowns are not a factor for this team. I think we will see less and less “hatred” with LaRussa gone. LaRussa did alot of things to bring on the hatred, and I don’t think Matheny will. So, I don’t have a good answer for the mouthpiece. I’ll go with Albert Pujols – as the Cardinals and Angels will meet in the World Series, and El Hombre will talk bad about the Cardinals :)

Bob Netherton: On The Outside Corner
There is one player in the NL Central that makes me ill every time he steps up to the plate.   It is Casey McGehee of the the Pirates.  If he played against the rest of the National League like he does against the Cardinals, he would already have a multi-year contract in place, buying out all of his arbitration years, and still be in Milwaukee.  The Cardinals have given up the most hits, doubles, home runs and RBI’s to the former Brewers third baseman.Fortunately for the Cardinals, McGehee’s offensive numbers are going downhill faster than a box of frictionless bearings.

Nyjer Morgan is like Mikey from the Life cereal commercials.   The youngsters might have to google that one, so I’ll save you the trouble.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgB25WBeBxA   The point is that Morgan is a punk with just enough talent to stay in the big leagues, but not enough to let his playing do the talking.  But it’s not limited to the Cardinals, he is pretty much a punk to all the teams in baseball.  His own team is just as likely to put a fastball in his ear if the Brewers struggle during a possible Ryan Braun suspension.   So we can scratch Morgan off the list.

For getting on the Cardinals nerves, there is a seemingly endless supply of such players over in Cincinnati.  Even though the Dusty Baker/Tony La Russa personal vendetta is not longer in play, there is enough carryover to fuel a brawl or two.   Something tells me that we haven’t heard the end of Johnny Cueto, just yet.

So my answer is Johnny Cueto and I’ve already put all of the Cincinnati games on the calendar, so that I don’t miss a minute of any of them.

Chris Reed: Bird Brained
If he gets enough playing time, I could see Ryan Ludwick being a thorn in the Cardinals’ side. You have to figure the Cards and Reds will play every game tough as nails if they truly are the best two teams in the division, so the maneuvering will be fast and furious. Whether it be a late-inning appearance off the bench or a regular starting role, Ludwick is a guy I expect to be hitting in big-time situations. And a lot of those could be against the Cardinals.

The mouth-runner is tougher to pin down. After last year, I’m not sure what Nyjer Morgan could possibly chirp about anymore but I wouldn’t put it past him. Phillips definitely has more discretion in his trash- talk, and certainly backs it up better with his play on the field (plus he’s in a contract year…yikes). I still maintain that if you’re going to talk the talk, you have to also walk the walk. Phillips can do that. Morgan cannot. I expect to hear more from Phillips this year.

Angela Weinhold: Diamond Diaries
As far as a “Cardinal Killer,” I always say Aramis Ramirez. It doesn’t matter how much he has declined, even when he has been having a slump it seems like all it takes is a visit to Busch for him to break out of it. Even when the Cubs were terrible (isn’t that every year?) I feel like the Cardinals find ways to get beat by the lovable losers a few times a year. Seems to me like Ramirez has earned a couple of those wins singlehandedly.

Of course, I have been accused of holding grudges more than once…

For the mouthy one, it’s Nyjer. The sad thing is he has never been an overly talented player, but his mouth keeps his name in the papers. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad *he* is playing, if the Brewers are near the division lead I expect him to find new and creative ways to run his mouth. Unfortunately the crow he ate last year can’t shut him up forever. ;)

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora
The biggest Cardinal Killer? ALBERT PUJOLS.

We’ve been busy giving the Cardinals verbal fellatio over not having to pay 30M a year in 2021 to the Angels first baseman that we’re forgetting that the dude is still in his prime, pissed offed about how he thinks he’s perceived around baseball, and is still the best player alive.

Carlos Beltran? Nice addition. But if we’re thinking that he’s going to fill the shoes of Pujols, we’re mistaken. We’ve taken for granted the fact that NOBODY wants to see the Cardinals 3 spot come up in the order and they’ve played accordingly. Now? It’s game on. That’s going to hurt.

And Brandon Phillips will still be the biggest irritant. He loves the attention and with the Reds expected to contend for the NL Central, he’ll get the digital ink he thinks he deserves.

Dathan Brooks: Cards Tied For First
Morgan’s not much more than a mouthpiece.  The guy sells his face on T-shirts and stuff, and shamelessly promotes himself in ways that makes Bill look like a monk.  By comparison, and I might get some crap for saying this, but I see Phillips as more of a guy who is having fun with the game more than I see him as a true jackass, like Morgan.  And FWIW, I tend to agree that BP & Carp are similar in that they can both (accurately, I think) be described as “that guy who you’d love to have playing with you, but you hate him if you play against him”.

Cardinal Killer?  Bud Norris, who else?

Ray DeRousse: StL Cardinal Baseball
Cardinal killer? Has everyone forgotten Bud Norris? Actually, the Norris thing needs to finally end this season.
As for biggest mouth, I fully expect Nyjer Morgan to (spoiler alert) do something dumb now that his exposure is increased on that team minus Braun and Fielder. Someone that dumb simply cannot help himself.

Matt Whitener: Cheap Seats Please
1. Biggest Actual Cardinal Killer: I think it has to be somebody who can actually make a difference in a game with a direct benefit for his team vs. ours in the race for the division, so Bud “Big Train Jr.” Norris is out.

I think it has to be Phillips. He may not have the greatest overall numbers against the club, but he delivers when it counts (that walkoff last year still stings now) and that’s all you need.

A darkhorse here for me is Ryan Ludwick, I think he’s going to have some at-bats when it counts against us and will deliver. Same for Scott Rolen.

2. As for biggest mouth, Morgan talks so much that it just blends together and is like the hum of an air conditioner; it’s just always there, so it doesn’t matter as much.

For actual talk & backup, I’m going back to Phillips. Because he’ll talk everywhere from on-base to Twitter, but will still be an All-Star with our biggest competition in the division, so he’ll actually be backing it up. Big difference.

Nick: Pitchers Hit Eighth
Can I choose more than one “Cardinal Killer”? As in, any left-handed pitcher with a fastball that sits 87-89? Chris Narveson, maybe?

I think the biggest mouth in the division might wind up being Dusty Baker. With Tony La Russa riding off into the sunset, Dusty becomes the elder statesman in the NL Central, and is certainly no stranger to dust-ups with the Cardinals. I could envision Dusty trying to push some teams and managers around a bit in a division that the Reds should contend in. What will be entertaining is watching Dusty try to “school” Mike Matheny strategically (remember last season’s rain-affected start against Cincy with the Miguel Batista deke?) and still failing miserably and wasting three pitchers on accident.

Kevin Reynolds: Cards N Stuff
Hmmm…for some reason, I keep thinking of Carlos Lee as the Cardinal killer…and Joey Votto emerging as a mouth :)

But it’ll probaby still be Phillips and Morgan again.

Miranda Remaklus: Aaron Miles’ Fastball
I can’t just pick one! I think Ryan Braun, once he gets his stuff straightened out, will once again but tough against us. Probably the Panda from the Giants. And Eithier or Kemp from the Dodgers.

This one is pretty easy! I think Nyjer retains the title of being the biggest…. mouthpiece! Carp will nail him in the ear this season. I can feel it! Ha! I don’t think Brandon Phillips will be that bad. He was a jerk but he seemed to chill a little with the Reds losing ways. Almost humbled him! ALMOST! B.J. Rains lovely … bordering on homer … reporting of him has softened me to BP.

Mark Tomasik: Retro Simba
1.       Got a feeling Ryan Ludwick is going to pound Cardinals pitching this year. He likes being with Cincinnati and he’s been embarrassed by his performance of the last year or so. Got a feeling he’s going to launch some longballs against the Cardinals in that Great American Ballpark bandbox.
2.       Brewers still have a burr in their saddle about being kept out of the World Series by the Cardinals in 2011. Maybe Rickie Weeks takes the instigator role and earns the Carpenter fastball in the back.

Tom Knuppel: Cardinals GM
Nyger is a tool and will be the one that gets the fastball inserted into his ear.Aramis Ramirez is the Cardinal killer.Looks to be interested series’ with Brewers.

Christine Coleman: Aaron Miles Fastball
My opinion matches what many have already said.

1 – Even though on a different Central team, I think Aramis Ramirez will continue his Cardinal Killer ways in 2012 as a Brewer.

2 – My thought is the biggest mouthpieces of last season, Nyjer Morgan and Brandon Phillips, will continue in those roles in 2012 – mostly because the broadcast media (and particularly Fox Sports Midwest) won’t ever let those storylines drop. Look at all the games last year where we had to listen to Dan McLaughlin and Al Hrabosky going on and on (and on and on) about Phillips. And, even though his talking and tweeting amounted to nothing in the end last season, Morgan will just have to start back up in 2012 – and get attention for it as well. They’re both media whores who know how to play to the broadcasters … and those broadcasters are ever so eager to give them both what they crave the most: attention.

Daniel Solzman: Redbird Rants
I think it’s either Brandon Phillprs or Nyjer Morgan.

JE Powell: STL Fear The Red
For the first part of the question I am going with the consensus. I think Brandon Phillips is a great 2nd baseman and seems to hit well against the Cards. For the second part of the question, I am going with the consensus again.  Nyjer Morgan is a loud mouth who, in my opinion, will be fueled by the fact that he ended up watching the Cardinals on TV, not the other way around as he so incorrectly predicted. I look to see more of Morgan running his yap in 2012, loud mouths usually get louder when proved wrong.

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What A Difference A Year Makes

December is traditionally the first full month of the offseason where news of last year is over and done with and nearly all the focus of the Major League Baseball world shifts once and for all to next year. The St. Louis Cardinals may have a lot of familiar faces returning for 2012, but this franchise has, in the span of a few weeks, undergone change of epic proportions. It’s something Cards fans have not witnessed since Bill Clinton’s first term as President of the United States.

Waino

First, some accolades are in order. The Cardinals are the only team to play in three World Series in the last 10 years, and are one of two to win it all twice. Except for a couple of lean years in 2008-09, 2003, and 1997-99, the Cardinals have been in the playoffs. They dominated the National League like the Atlanta Braves did when they rattled off their 13 division titles in a row. The difference being, of course, that the Cards won one more Fall Classic.

It would be foolish over-credit Tony La Russa for this run, but it would be equally foolish to under-credit him too. The fact of the matter is La Russa instilled a brand of baseball here that his players were able to parlay into historic success. And now that brand is gone. Well, maybe not gone entirely. New manager Mike Matheny thrived under La Russa, after all, and most of the coaching staff La Russa employed is still around. But Cardinal Baseball is going to be very different for the first time in 16 seasons. That’s a really, really long time.

Next, consider the players. Colby Rasmus, who we all hung so much hope on for the five or six seasons he was property of the Cardinals, is gone forever. Last year at this time we were worried about whether or not Albert Pujols would re-sign with the team. I guess some things never change. But how much better does this team look with guys like Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Jason Motte, and David Freese all guaranteed to be on the 25-man roster in 2012? It’s not enough to make you say “Albert who?” but it sure doesn’t seem like the team would fold without Pujols anymore, does it?

This time last year, no one thought about what the rotation would look like without Adam Wainwright. Even if he isn’t 100% by Opening Day, the prospect isn’t all that scary anymore, is it? And it makes having him back seem like winning the lottery.

John Mozeliak did what it took to build the 2011 championship team, and he deserves a ton of credit. He knew what the Cards’ needs were, and he addressed them accordingly. Some may have had their doubts about him, and there’s always the chance that Rasmus develops into a star that the Cardinals mortgaged for one year of glory. But Mo’s shrewdness can no longer be doubted. The roster is in good hands. He will go into the Winter Meetings and pick up the players needed. Even if it doesn’t look like they’ll work, and maybe guys don’t pan out, he’ll make the adjustments. This front office is not populated by fools. The 2011 team is a testament to that.

We witnessed one of the greatest eras in St. Louis Cardinals history, and the page has officially turned. But even though some faces have changed and some may still change, the story ends the same way: a success. It’s Cardinal Baseball through and through. Sometimes patience is needed, but the payoff sure is sweet.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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What Strong Finish Means For 2012

Regardless of what happens over the next nine games there is a lot to be taken away from this last month of Cardinal baseball.

This is not a team filled with mercenaries. Sure there are a few guys under 1 year deals who may be gone and a few others acquired last in the year that are free agents. But out of that group only Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal should be invited back. Barring Albert Pujols leaving (and yes I know he’s a big piece) the Cardinals are not having to fill in a lot of pieces.

John Mozeliak is at his September best again with the signing of Chris Carpenter to a two-year extension. Using my fuzzy math this saves the Cardinals roughly $6 million next year. Money that can be…and hopefully will be well spent. And by giving him that second year the Birds protect themselves from going after a 1-year deal elsewhere on the free agent market. With Carp, you know what you get.

All indications are that Berkman wants to come back and that the Cardinals want the 1B/RF back. Bringing Berkman back serves two functions. It gives the Cardinals a veteran switch-hitter who is still capable of hitting 30 HR’s and driving in 100. What is really does is serve to give the team a fallback option should Pujols take his services elsewhere for the 2012 season.

Based on everything I have read and heard from Joe Strauss and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch this should be finalized before if not shortly following the end of the season. The Cardinals also appear to be moving to lock up Furcal for 2012. The situation with Furcal is trickier than Berkman’s. One, Furcal has not been here that long so how he feels about St. Louis to start 2012 is unknown. Complicating it as well is Furcal’s health. A proven defensive wizard at short-stop and he seems to have found some of his power again in his short time here he does have a history of injury.

Quick note: Both Berkman and Furcal have been willing to discuss their upcoming free agency and contracts with the club and it has not been a distraction. Since the discussion have opened up the team has closed to within 2.5 games of the Wild Card. Just saying.

If Furcal is not the answer, there are in-house options in Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso. One thing is for certain. After the teams horrendous year defensively at short one has to think the Cards don’t go the Theriot route again. His double-play partner Skip Schumaker is the other wild card out there. What does the team do with him? As I wrote in a previous post they can do a lot. For that reason I have to imagine they would like to bring him back.

That being said the Cardinals are heading into the offseason with most of their 2012 roster already present and in place. Their bullpen is set if they decide to go with Motte as Closer and Wainwright coming back fills out the rest of the rotation as Carp, Garcia, Lohse and Westbrook are all under contract for 2012.

Beyond pitching most of the position players or potential replacements are in place as well. Allen Craig has shown with at bats comes results. He is an option in both RF and 1B if need be for 2012. Getting him 500 AB’s should by a priority for LaRussa next year. Oh yeah, after this run he’s coming back, Pujols or no Pujols. Jon Jay will be, and should be, your starting CF next year. After a brief slump upon taking over full time Jay has shown he can deliver on an everyday basis. David Freese has 20 HR 85 RBI potential at 3B, assuming health which is a reach for him. But the Cardinals have new super-sub Daniel Descalso to fill in around the infield if need be. And of course your Gold Glove Catcher will be back behind the plate managing the game.

What is most impressive to me is the proactive approach the team is taking in addressing their needs. Pujols’ contract situation is not going to play itself out quickly. And the Cardinals cannot afford to wait to and see what he decides before acting on the rest their needs. Remember the bad situation the Cardinals put themselves in with Edgar Renteria’s free agency following the 2004 season.

The next eight games are going to be very exciting and hopefully a glimpse of what is to come next year

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