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St. Louis Cardinals renew affiliation with Memphis

St. Louis Cardinals renew affiliation with Memphis
Memphis will be Cardinals Triple-A affiliate through 2014 season

MEMPHIS, TN – The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals have extended their player development contract with the Memphis Redbirds through the completion of the 2014 season.

“We are very pleased to have extended our relationship with the Redbirds organization and the city of Memphis for an additional two years,” said John Mozeliak, Cardinals’ Senior Vice President and General Manager.  “The Redbirds ballclub and the Memphis fans have been tremendous supporters of the Cardinals organization for many years.  AutoZone Park is considered to be among the finest ballparks in the country and we feel that there is no better place to develop Cardinals players who are one level away from reaching St. Louis and the Major Leagues.”

Memphis has been the Triple-A affiliate for the Cardinals since their inception in 1998. In that time, Memphis has been Pacific Coast League Champions twice (2000, 2009). They began playing at their current home, AutoZone Park, in 2000. 32 members of the current Cardinals 40-man roster have spent significant time playing for the Memphis Redbirds in their career.

“We are excited to extend the affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Cardinals. Memphis has been and always will be Cardinals Country,” said John Pontius, Memphis Redbirds Foundation Treasurer. “We look forward to continue watching the future stars of the franchise come through AutoZone Park before their Major League careers begin.”

The Redbirds start their 2013 campaign on Thursday, April 4th at AutoZone Park.

Global Spectrum (global-spectrum.com) manages the Memphis Redbirds, as well as nearly 100 other public assembly facilities around the world. Nearly 20-million people attended more than 11,000 events in Global Spectrum venues last year. Based in Philadelphia, PA, Global Spectrum is part of Comcast-Spectacor, one of the world’s largest sports and entertainment companies. Comcast-Spectacor also owns the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League, Ovations Food Services, a food and beverage services provider, New Era Tickets, a full-service ticketing and marketing product for public assembly facilities, Paciolan, the leading provider of venue establishment ticketing, fundraising and marketing technology solutions, Front Row Marketing Services, a commercial rights sales company, and Flyers Skate Zone, a series of community ice skating rinks. In a partnership with Disson Skating, Comcast-Spectacor annually produces eight nationally televised figure skating spectaculars on NBC-TV.

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Three To Watch: Cardinals at Cincinnati

The defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals roll into Cincinnati having taken two of three from the division rival Milwaukee Brewers.

The Milwaukee series gave fans a glimpse of the 2012 team.  David Freese, Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran proved that they can hit.  Adam Wainwright showed he was healthy, even if he did not have his best stuff.  Jason Motte showed that he is ready to be the team’s closer, at least as the season starts.

As they pull into the ballpark known as Great American, what do the Cardinals hope to see out of this series?

Jake Westbrook builds on his Spring
Let’s face it, most fans were perfectly okay with the thought of Jake Westbrook being relegated to the bullpen for the remainder of his Cardinal career, which most still hope is simply the end of this year.  However, Westbrook put together a fine Spring Training.

Spring stats are hard to judge.  It’s like the line from Major League 2 -

Rube Baker: Wow, Willie’s really got some power.
Lou Brown: Off a guy who’ll be bagging groceries in a couple of weeks!

So, who is the real Jake Westbrook?  The Cardinals could use some stability in the rotation and if Westbrook can be a fraction of the pitcher we watched as the flowers were beginning to bloom, it will go a long way towards that stability.

Sending a message early
I am not bold enough to say that a three game series in April will make or break this season.  There is a whole lot of baseball to be played.  But these two teams are coming together as the favorites to win this division.  A message can be sent here in the early going to let the other team know that they mean business.

As defending World Champs, the Birds need to send these messages quickly.  They are being counted against pretty regularly by most of the “experts” and a series win, or even a sweep, could silence some of their critics very early on.

The $200 Million man
The offseason and early part of 2012 has shown the world that teams are willing to dig deep and pay big for the big men at first base that can hold their lineup together.

Albert Pujols has admitted recently that the contract was on his mind last season.  Prince Fielder has started showing Detroit fans just what they paid for.  Now the focus fall on young Joey Votto and what he can continue to bring to the Reds.  The pressure is on his shoulders and, in my opinion, he will respond just as well as they need him to.  That being said, the Cardinals are going to see this young man facing off against them for a long time to come, someone will put a big step forward in establishing dominance in this series.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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St. Louis Edges Springfield 3-2

April 2nd, 2012

Springfield, MO – The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals returned to the state of Missouri for the first time since their seven game series win against the Texas Rangers.  But it wasn’t at Busch Stadium; Hammons Field in Springfield was the spot and fans came out in full force to show their support for the champs.

The crowd of 10,079, the third largest in Hammons Field history and biggest since 2006, were starved for offense early as both starting pitchers, Tyler Lyons for Springfield and Trevor Rosenthal who are scheduled to both be in the Springfield rotation, each threw four scoreless innings.  Lyons matched Rosenthal’s four strikeouts and allowed just one hit.  Rosenthal threw four perfect innings.

After a scoreless inning from Sam Freeman out of the Springfield bullpen, St. Louis plated two runs against reliever Eric Fornataro.  Vance Albitz led off with a single and moved to third on a single by Matt Carpenter.  With runners at second and third, Tony Cruz grounded out to second scoring Albitz and Erik Komatsu followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to give the “Big Birds” a 2-0 lead.

St. Louis added another run in the 7th off of Keith Butler when Palm Beach shortstop Ronny Gil hit a long home run to right to make it 3-0.

Springfield, who had just two hits both off of Kyle McClellan in the 5th, got lead-off batter Kolten Wong on base thanks to a walk.  He would come around and score on an RBI triple by top prospect Oscar Taveras.  An RBI ground out by Xavier Scruggs put Springfield within just a run.

The 2nd best prospect in the organization, Carlos Martinez who will begin the season in Palm Beach, pitched four sharp innings for St. Louis to earn the save.

Springfield received scoreless frames from Nick Greenwood and Jorge Rondon out of the bullpen.

As for the Cardinals Superstars, David Freese and Matt Holliday each played four innings.  Holliday was 0-for-1 with a walk and Freese was 0-for-2, but reached on an error.

Springfield will open the 2012 regular season schedule Thursday, April 5th, as they take on the Frisco RoughRiders at Hammons Field.  5,000 fans will receive a Great Southern 2012 Magnet Schedule/Picture Frames. It’ll be the first of nine “Buck a Brat” $1 Johnson Bratwurst nights and everyone will enjoy a post-game Fireworks Spectacular thanks to AM Pyrotechnics.  Game time on Thursday is 7:08pm and tickets are available by visiting the Hammons Field Ticket Office, online atspringfieldcardinals.com or by calling (417) 863-2143.

Escape to Cardinals Baseball!

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Fans Throughout Cardinals Nation Urged to Go RED for Kids to Celebrate Opening Day

ST. LOUIS (April 2, 2012) – To kick off the 2012 season and help celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the founding of Cardinals Care, the St. Louis Cardinals are encouraging local businesses, schools and other organizations to rally behind the team and Cardinals Care by participating in Cardinals RED for Kids.

Piloted during the 2011 postseason, Cardinals RED for Kids is the team’s version of an office “dress down” day in which participating organizations make a donation to Cardinals Care in exchange for the opportunity to sport their Cardinal colors around the office on Opening Day.

“This is a great way to show your support for the team and help kids in our community as we commemorate the fifteen year anniversary of Cardinals Care,” said Michael Hall, Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of Cardinals Care. “We hope to rally everyone as we celebrate the return of baseball with our reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.”

To participate, local businesses and organizations can log onto cardinals.com/red and download the registration form, choosing to participate for the Cardinals’ April 4 season opener or the home opener on Friday, April 13. Individual participants within the organization are then asked to pledge a modest donation to dress down and wear red in support of the Cardinals for the day. Companies can even make matching donations to support the cause. Schools are also encouraged to participate in Cardinals RED for Kids, but are not required to make a donation to get involved.

Participating schools, businesses and organizations are also encouraged to submit a creative photo showing their RED team spirit from the Rally Day. The photos will be displayed on cardinals.com  The organization that raises the most funds will receive 100 Cardinals tickets personally delivered to their office by Fredbird. Monies must be received by April 30th. Winners will be contacted directly to select their game.

For more information, or to sign up for Cardinals RED for Kids, visit cardinals.com/red.

Since its inception in 1997, Cardinals Care has invested nearly $18 million in “Caring for Kids” both on and off the baseball field.  Over the last 15 years, Cardinals Care has provided nearly $11 million in grants to over 800 non-profit youth organizations and built 19 youth ball fields in local disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Cardinals Care also runs the innovative Redbird Rookies program, a free baseball league for kids in Missouri and Illinois 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.  In 2011, Cardinals Care established the Joplin Recovery Fund with over $200,000 in fan donations to help the thousands of Joplin area children recover from one of the most destructive tornadoes in American history.  Fans may now make a tax-deductible donation to Cardinals Care on-line at cardinals.com/community.

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2012 Key Player: David Freese

Will David Freese build off his postseason success?

Had things gone slightly differently last season, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Had the world champion St. Louis Cardinals not clawed back from 10½ games behind in the wild-card race with 31 games to play — or 8½ games back with 21 to play, or three back with five to play — to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, David Freese wouldn’t even be a topic of discussion as fantasy owners prep for draft day.

David Freese earned MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series, but is that enough for fantasy owners to make him a top option at a weak third base position?

Entering 2011, Freese barely cracked the ESPN top-20 rankings at third base, and he did little during the regular season to boost his stock, finishing outside the top 250 on the ESPN Player Rater and ranking just 22nd among third basemen by hitting .297 with 10 dingers and 55 RBIs in 333 at-bats.

Oh, what a difference a few extra weeks can make. Freese looked like a different player over the course of the Cardinals’ 18-game postseason run, batting .397 with five home runs and a playoff-record 21 RBIs and earning MVP honors in both the NLCS and World Series. Not only that, but his game-tying, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth inning (with two outs and two strikes, no less) and his game-winning, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th in Game 6 to force a Game 7 will go down as two of the biggest postseason hits of all time, which could inflate Freese’s draft day price tag by themselves.

The first problem with gleaning too much from Freese’s postseason outburst is obviously the small sample size. An 18-game hot streak in June or July, no matter how impressive, would go largely unnoticed in the grand scheme of a 162-game season, so we shouldn’t put extra stock into a hot streak that happens in October. One can argue that a hot streak late in the season is more telling than one in the middle of the year, as I suppose it’s more likely to be a sign of growth, but there isn’t precedence for players showing new skills in October and having them carry over into the following season. In 2008, for example, B.J. Upton hit just nine home runs in 531 regular-season at-bats and then went on to hit seven homers in 66 at-bats in the postseason, causing many to predict that we’d see a power surge in 2009. Upton did eventually cash in on some of his untapped power potential, but it didn’t happen in 2009, when he hit just 11 dingers in 560 at-bats.

So if we remove last year’s postseason from the equation and take a step back to get a big-picture, helicopter view, what do we see? Despite turning 29 years old in late April, Freese has just 604 big league at-bats under his belt over three seasons. And that leads us into the major concern with Freese: his ability to stay healthy. The Cardinals third baseman missed more than half of the 2010 season with an ankle injury, and a left hand injury sidelined him for 51 games last year, not to mention a concussion that forced him to miss time in August. We currently have him projected for 470 at-bats — a plateau he could very well reach — but if we’re simply going off his big league track record, expecting even that many may be optimistic.

Injuries aren’t the only problem when evaluating Freese. Despite the .794 slugging percentage in the playoffs last year, there are questions about how much power potential he really possesses. While Freese hit 26 home runs at Triple-A in 2008, he hasn’t hit more than 13 homers in a season since and has just 15 dingers in 604 big league at-bats. Yes, part of that is attributed to his inability to stay healthy, but the metrics don’t say there’s a ton of power upside here. Last year’s fly ball rate was just 23.1 percent — down from 29.1 percent in 2010 — and his 16.7 percent HR/FB rate could regress in 2012, which obviously doesn’t bode well for a future power spike.

That said, we shouldn’t completely rule out the possibility for some future power growth, either. At nearly 29 years old, Freese is in his hitting prime, and it’s fair to assume that his power numbers last year were at least somewhat negatively affected by his hand injury. He wouldn’t be the first player to have some of his power sapped by a hand or wrist injury, after all.

As mentioned, Freese hit 26 homers in 131 Triple-A games in 2008, so it’s not like he’s never shown the ability to hit for power. And while his isolated power (which measures a player’s raw power in terms of extra-base hits) last year was just .131, he posted a .238 ISO in 664 Triple-A at-bats between 2008 and 2009. That’s not to say his minor league power will ever fully translate, but let’s face it, he probably hasn’t even been in the big leagues long enough for us to make that determination considering we’ve basically seen only one full season’s worth of playing time from Freese. Heck, it took former top prospect Alex Gordon nearly 1,500 big league at-bats before he finally put things together last season, and Freese wasn’t even half the prospect Gordon was. A full season of at-bats — still far from guaranteed, obviously — could result in a level of power production we haven’t yet seen from him at the big league level.

If all else fails, there’s one thing Freese has already proved he can do, and that’s hit. Despite a less-than-ideal contact rate (77 percent) in his big league career, he boasts a .298 batting average in 604 career at-bats, he improved his strikeout rate last year, and had he qualified, his 24.6 percent line-drive rate would’ve ranked fifth in the National League. He was also a career .307 hitter with a .384 OBP in the minors. Perhaps his batting average last year was aided by his .356 batting average on balls in play, but he’s been a high BABIP guy his entire professional career, so that’s not a huge concern. Projecting Freese to settle in as a .280-.300 hitter seems like a safe bet.

However unlikely it may be, the absolute best-case scenario with Freese in 2012 is that he stays healthy all year, shows growth in the power department and continues to hit for average. Should all of that happen, the result could be something close to a .300 average with 20-25 homers and 90-100 RBIs. Those numbers would mirror the season fantasy owners just got from Aramis Ramirez, who hit .306-26-93 last year and was a top-five fantasy third baseman. The odds are that Freese will fall well short of those numbers (particularly the home run total), whether because of injury or simply failing to produce, so don’t draft him with that kind of production in mind. Still, it’s reasonable to think there could be some untapped potential in Freese’s bat, with the upside being a top-10 fantasy third baseman, and potentially more given the lack of many high-end options at the position.

Based on current ADP data at Mock Draft Central, Freese is being drafted 162nd overall and 11th at third base. That’s several spots higher than our ESPN rankings, which rank him 16th at the position. (Note: ESPN live draft data will be available in early March.) This means that, in a standard 10-team league, Freese can generally be drafted in the 17th round or later. For the injury risk involved, that’s not a bad spot. If you’re going to draft Freese, it’s best to plan for some time on the disabled list and not expect more than the 10-15 home run power he’s displayed thus far. That way you won’t be disappointed if the injury bug bites again or he fails to make strides in the power department, and you still have some potential upside built into his draft slot if everything goes right.

David Freese is the subject of the April 2012 Computer Desktop Calendar from D-Two.net.  Get yours here.

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A New Era Begins At First

When the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals begin defense of the title they won in one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory, it might be easy to focus on who isn’t around anymore. They’ve had to replace the winningest manager in franchise history, Tony La Russa, as well as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Cardinals uniform, Albert Pujols.

If you were searching for the ideal replacement for Albert Pujols, then move along, because you won’t find it. There is only one Pujols, and he’s gone.  Albert Pujols had manned this position full time for the past eight seasons. But he is now with the Los Angeles Angels, and Lance Berkman moves from the outfield to a spot where, at 36, he’s better suited for. Berkman earned NL comeback player of the year honors by hitting .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBI last season. When he needs a day off, Carlos Beltran and even Yadier Molina will be there to help.

Brian LaHair, Cubs. The long-time Minor Leaguer was last up in the bigs back in ’08 with the Mariners. In his latest go-round, the 28-year-old has made an impression on manager Mike Quade, batting a blistering .500 with a .950 slugging percentage. While too old to be considered a prospect, LaHair launched 38 homers and drove in 109 for Triple-A Iowa this season and could provide some decent power returns over the final few weeks of the season.

Joey Votto, Reds. Votto is still one of the best players in the National League, and obviously the best first baseman in the league. His 14.2 fWAR over the last two years leads all NL first basemen, and the reigning 2010 MVP isn’t just one of the best in the NL, but in all of baseball. Votto will be heading to free agency after 2013, but he’ll be 30 at that point in time, and probably won’t get as crazy of a deal as Fielder and Pujols. But he should still get a solid contract, if not from the Reds, then from another team that needs a first baseman.

Carlos Lee, Astros. Lee’s behemoth contract comes to an end after this season, but after a pair of down years, Lee had a really good campaign in 2011, though one that wasn’t worth his eight figure salary. He hit .275/.342/.446, and walked nearly as much as he struck out. He won’t be getting $18.5 million in 2013 from another team, but he’s a guy that could actually hang on for a few more years like Jim Thome has, as a DH that occasionally plays first base.

Mat Gamel, Brewers. Milwaukee still doesn’t have a replacement for Prince Fielder at first, and it’s generally believed that Gamel will be taking over there this season. He’s no longer a young, studly prospect at 26 years-old, and in his only extended tour in the majors in 2009, he OPSed .760 in 148 plate appearances. He’s spent parts of the last four seasons at AAA Nashville, and has hit well there, tallying a .310/.372/.540 line there last year with 28 homers. Milwaukee needs to find out what they’ve got with him, and 2012 would be the best opportunity for him and the Brewers to see what they have here.

Garrett Jones, Pirates. Jones’s splits last year were startling: he had a .460 OPS against lefties, and an .808 OPS against righties. If Pittsburgh plans on starting him, they’ll need a platoon partner. One option would be former top third base prospect Pedro Alvarez….who has the same deficiency against lefties that Jones has. It could be a rough year for the Pirates if they roll with Jones as their starter.

Lance Berkman, Cardinals. Berkman will be taking over at first base for the Cardinals this season following the departure of Albert Pujols after a fantastic 2011 season that saw him OPS .959, hit 31 homers (his highest total since 2007), and accrue 5.0 fWAR. His defensive inadequacies should be masked at first base, and if his health holds up, Berkman could be a great replacement for Pujols (though not nearly as good overall as the former MVP). But remember, injuries have been an issue for Berkman lately, missing 66 games in 2009 and 2010.

By the time 2012 is said and done here is how I see things shaking out amongst the NL Central second basemen

  1. Joey Votto
  2. Lance Berkman
  3. Carlos Lee
  4. Garrett Jones
  5. Bryan LaHair
  6. Mat Gamel


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Yadier Molina: He’s No Pujols

BREAKING NEWS: Yadier Molina is not Albert Pujols.  The catcher for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals is entering the final year of his current contract, and, unless extended will become a free agent once the upcoming season ends.  And that’s about where the similarities between the redbirds’ catcher, and their former first baseman end.

Molina, 29, has garnered some attention recently, over some comments he made concerning his contract, and related discussions.  “I’m open to staying here.  I love the city.  I love the fans.  I love the ballpark.  But it’s out of my hands.”, Molina said.  Sentiments all too familiar to this fan base, who, by all rights is slow to trust anything that sounds remotely close to what Albert Pujols told them for so long.

Winner of the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove Award, and general all-around bad-ass, Yadier Molina

The reigning (since 2008) Gold Glove catcher, has earned the Rawlings award, and in the most recent three years, went ahead and added “All-Star” to go along with the honor.  Known for his defense, and picking opposing runners off first base like a sniper behind the plate, the “Legend of Yadi” expands well beyond the National League Central division.  Heck, there was a time not all that long ago when you couldn’t throw a dead cat in the Majors without hitting a catching Molina or two.Yadi’s stepped up his game on the other side of the ball, too.  With career highs in OPS+ (126), OPS (.814), and a .305 batting average to boot.  He also set a career high in total bases, with 221, representing an increase of more than 20% over his previous career high of 184, set a couple years ago.  That’s big, man.  20%.  That’s a guy who hit 50 bombs a couple years ago hitting 60 this year.  It’s a pitcher throwing 210 innings the year before last, then coming out and going more than 252 innings this year, or an 85-win team becoming a 102-win team–I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a big difference!  What it’s not, however, is enough to put him in elite company when talking about the greatest who ever played the game.

Yadi has skipped out on Winter Warm-up, and jilted fans who’d bought autograph tickets, not once, but twice.  In a row.

Bad taste in the fans’ mouth – 2
Catcher, Yadier Molina – 0

Then he bailed on the team for their visit to the White House.

BTITFM – 3
Yadi Mo – 0

He showed up in Jupiter Florida a week early & “twenty pounds lighter”.  He said he’s open to negotiating throughout the season, and won’t put a deadline on negotiations.  Good for him.

Enough with the “keeping score” thing already.

Look, Yadi is a premier catcher in the league, and across baseball, people know this.  But, he’s not Albert Pujols, and whether they’ve got a true bromance or not, it’s unfair to act like this is “Albertageddon 2.0”.  Yadi, like Albert, seems open to staying in St. Louis for his next contract.  But, also like Albert (and 748 other guys out there), there’s more to their contract than that.  It’s about taking care of their family, it’s about charitable work, it’s about being respected/disrespected or feeling/not feeling wanted by an organization, or maybe just one person in that organization.  ‘course, if that one person is the general manager…

So, give Yadi a break, and be fair.  I’m not even saying you have to like him, or the process or the outcome or any of that.  I’m saying we should at least be fair to the man.  Sheesh, can we at least do that?   I’m saying if the fans take out their leftover emotions from the Albert situation, and pile on Yadi, that’s pretty crappy.  Am I saying I don’t want him back after 2012 season?  Of course not–I hope Yadi stays, and stays for a long time.

But I hoped the same about Mike Matheny when Yadi came on board, and we see how that turned out.

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White House Turns Red

White House Turns Red
(As in Cardinal Red, folks.)

Talk about a “Super Tuesday” — this week members of the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals met with President and First Lady Obama at the White House.  Notably absent were Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, perhaps following Yadier Molina’s example just a couple of days earlier, as he skipped the Winter Warm-Up for the second straight year.

President Obama congratulates (most of) the 2011 Cardinals (Photo: Glittarazzi)

Perhaps the potential (real or perceived) awkwardness of Albert being around John Mozeliak and the DeWitts was a factor for Pujols’ lack of attendance.  Personally, I wouldn’t imagine there would be any measurable difference in awkwardness between Albert and his former teammates.  Cards starter, Adam Wainwright cited avoiding a disruption in his rehab schedule as his reason for not attending the event.  Reasons for LaRussa’s absence are still unclear.

We all know someone, many of us know more than one someone, who is so politically motivated that they’d be considered “off the deep end” by the large majority of folks.  I’m not saying anything definitive here, as it’s nothing more than one point of view, but for the three I mentioned, this wouldn’t be their first visit to the White House.  Pujols, Waino, and TLR were all members of that 2006 World Champion team that went to the White House to be honored by Bush.  Bush 43 that is, no Cardinals team was getting anywhere near Bush 41’s Pennsylvania Ave home with those teams.

It’s no secret that Pujols and Wainwright are men of faith, and that their Christianity is very important to them.  You may recall that during a road trip in the dog days of the 2010 season, LaRussa and Pujols took time out of the baseball activities to participate in a Glenn Beck rally in Washington D.C..  Is it possible that TLR and Albert are so staunchly opposed to the current administration’s philosophies that they’d decline participation in such a high honor?  I suppose it isn’t unthinkable.

To me, what’s more intriguing is Yadi’s absence from this year’s Winter Warm-Up.  He cancelled at the last minute last year, citing his daughter being ill.  I’m not certain if a particular reason was given or not for missing this year.  Here’s what I do know: Attending the Winter Warm-Up is something the Cardinals organization deems “optional”.  That said, we’ve all probably had meetings at work that were cut from the same “optional” cloth.  That “we aren’t saying you NEED to come to this optional meeting on Saturday morning, but we’re sure you’ll make the right decision because if you don’t, I wouldn’t bother showing up on Monday morning if I were you”-type of “optional” cloth.

LaRussa would’ve had something to say about this, but ’m not so sure Matheny would, does, or has.  That isn’t to say it’s a good or a bad thing so much as it’s merely one difference in the way we’re seeing the team being managed today.  The friendship between Yadier Molina & Albert Pujols is a well-known one, and if the Pujols camp feels slighted, disrespected, or has other less-than-kind feelings towards the organization, Yadi has probably heard every sordid detail that Dee Dee didn’t even share in her interviews.  I tend to think that most of us would have no problem standing up for our best friend if we felt they’d been mistreated by someone, and if there was a way to send a clear message without being downright obnoxious and/or offensive about it, that’s likely a course we’d take.  Maybe that’s the case with Molina.

Maybe it isn’t.

Maybe it’s true, what we’ve heard, that the Cardinals have not approached Yadi about a contract extension.  He’s playing the 2012 under an exercised club option, but unless extended, will become a free agent at the end of this season.  Matt Morris left the Cardinals to join the San Fransisco Giants in 2005, and you know who went with him?  His good friend, Mike Matheny.  This happens sometimes, friends help recruit other friends to play for the same team.  You think Berkman didn’t talk to Beltran or hasn’t reached out to Oswalt (at least once)?  That kind of thing happens all the time.

Taking a quick peek out west, we find Hank Conger, Chris Ianetta, and Bobby Wilson listed as catchers on the 40-man roster for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Clearly, Ianetta is their guy, at over $3.5MM for 2012, but there’s a $5MM club option for him, and a $250k buyout for the 2013 season.  He’s played 100 games only twice since coming up in 2006, and with 2012 as his age 29 season, it’s reasonable to assume the organization isn’t married to the idea of keeping him around to see if he pans out.  Add to that a former great catcher who values great catching in Mike Scioscia that, by multiple accounts across baseball, “runs that team, not DiPoto”, and it’s possible that Yadi is eyeing greener pastures.

A lot can happen over the course of a season, though.  I wouldn’t even think about starting to count those chickens just yet.

For now, I’m ready to enjoy the last few weeks of this offseason, before the Cardinals head into Spring Training 2012 to defend their World Championship title.  There’s a lot to look back on from 2011 and appreciate, just as was done at the Executive Residence this week.

But, there’s an awful lot to look forward to in 2012!

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Cardinals Care And Papa John’s Team Up To Offer Cardinals Care Deal

ST. LOUIS, Mo., January 9, 2012– Cardinals Care, the charitable foundation of the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, has announced a partnership with Papa John’s Pizza to help raise money to support kids in our community.

For the entire month of January, St. Louis area Papa John’s will feature the Cardinals Care $20 Papa John’s Deal with $2 from every deal sold going directly to support Cardinals Care. The deal includes any large pizza, one chicken side and a Cinnapie for just $20.

“We are pleased to partner with Papa John’s and excited to offer fans another unique opportunity to support Cardinals Care,” said Michael Hall, Vice President of Community Relations and Cardinals Care.

As part of the agreement, Papa John’s will feature commercial spots in the St. Louis market promoting the deal. Complete information about the deal and participating locations can be found at papajohns.com.

Since its inception in 1997, Cardinals Care has maintained a direct focus on “Caring for Kids” by distributing funds to area non-profit youth organizations and establishing Redbird Rookies, their flagship program that supports youth on and off the baseball field. Most of the organizations who are recipients of Cardinals Care charitable grants are based in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. Grant funds are intended to support purchases such as school supplies and uniforms, computers, software, instruments, books and games for educational programs, as well as basic needs such as winter clothing for needy children.

The Winter Warm-Up and annual 6K Run are Cardinals Care’s two largest fundraising events each year. In 2011 Cardinals Care raised over $700,000 at the Warm-Up and nearly $160,000 at the second annual 6K Run for Kids. Cardinals Care also raises funds through memorabilia auctions online and throughout Busch Stadium during the season.

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Autograph Tickets For Winter Warm-Up On Sale Wednesday

AUTOGRAPH TICKETS FOR WINTER WARM-UP ON SALE
16th Annual Event to Celebrate 2011 World Champions

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ST. LOUIS (December 19, 2011)– Cardinals Care, the charitable foundation of the reigning World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, today announced the start of the online process for fans to purchase autograph tickets for the 16th Annual Winter Warm-Up.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, December 21st, fans can purchase autograph tickets at the team’s website (cardinals.com/winterwarmup). Fans may also purchase admission passes for the three-day Winter Warm-Up at the team’s website, in the official Cardinals Team Store at Busch Stadium, by phone at 314-345-9000 and at Cardinals Clubhouse stores around St. Louis.

Player autograph sessions are one of the most popular attractions of the Warm-Up. While some players’ autographs are free with the admission pass, others require an autograph ticket available through a specific additional donation. Every dollar donated for autograph tickets and all proceeds from the Winter Warm-Up benefit Cardinals Care, the team’s community foundation that cares for kids.

This highly anticipated annual event will take place Saturday, January 14th through Monday, January 16th (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day) at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. The event hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday.

This year fans will get the chance to meet members of the 2011 World Series Championship team, starting with pitcher Chris Carpenter on January 14th from 9 to 11 a.m., slugger Lance Berkman on January 15th from 3 to 5 p.m., and World Series MVP David Freese on January 16th from 12 to 2 p.m.

Fans can also greet the newest addition to the Cardinals coaching staff, manager Mike Matheny, as well as other former Cardinals greats and National Baseball Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, and Whitey Herzog.

“The Warm-Up is the perfect opportunity for fans to meet their favorite players and help kids in the St. Louis community,” said Michael Hall, Executive Director of Cardinals Care and Vice President of Community Relations. “We hope fans will join us in welcoming our new manager and celebrating our recent World Championship.” Hall urges fans to check the Cardinals website (cardinals.com/winterwarmup) frequently for details, including player autograph dates, times and, if required, additional donation amounts.

Since its inception in 1997, Cardinals Care has maintained a direct focus on “Caring for Kids” by distributing funds to area non-profit youth organizations and establishing Redbird Rookies, their flagship program that supports youth on and off the baseball field. Most of the organizations who are recipients of Cardinals Care charitable grants are based in Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. Grant funds are intended to support purchases such as school supplies and uniforms, computers, software, instruments, books and games for educational programs, as well as basic needs such as winter clothing for needy children.

The Winter Warm-Up and annual 6K Run are Cardinals Care’s two largest fundraising events each year. In 2011 Cardinals Care raised over $700,000 at the Warm-Up and nearly $160,000 at the second annual 6K Run for Kids. Cardinals Care also raises funds through memorabilia auctions online and throughout Busch Stadium during the season. Cardinals Care has now partnered with Papa John’s Pizza for a special promotion where proceeds of pizza purchases in January will be donated to their cause.

You can read all about the Warm-Up and get the full list of players that will be present by downloading this PDF file.

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