Tag Archive | "Matchup"

Umpire Leaves Behind Instant Replay, No Hitters, and Labor Strikes

Frank Pulli, a veteran umpire for the National League before the leagues converged their umpires into one group, passed away August 28th in Florida due to complications with Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 78.

Cardinals Marlins Baseball

Pulli was on the field as an arbiter for 3,774 games.  He was there for some memorable moments, some game-changing decisions and some game-defining circumstances.  He was a mentor, according to the president of the baseball umpire’s union, Joe West, to 18 umpires over his 28-year career.  Amazingly, what he never witnessed in all of those games was a no-hitter.

Let that sink in.  I have been a fan of baseball all my life.  I’ve never witnessed a no-hitter.  Not on television.  Not in person.  I’ve barely come close.  But I have never watched a game from the very beginning and had it turn out to be a no-hitter.  At the same time, I’m not sure I’ve witnessed 3,774 games from beginning to end.

28-years of being at the ballpark every day is a long time to go without seeing a no-hitter.  But Pulli was there for history.

Pulli was the first base umpire in Atlanta on April 8, 1974.  He had a bird’s eye view of the action in the fourth inning when, with a runner on first base, Hank Aaron launched home run 715 over the left field wall and officially passed Babe Ruth to become the all time home run leader.

Very seldom is an umpire becoming part of a story a good thing, but Pulli found a way to be a trailblazer in his own right in 1999.  An early season matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins saw an play overturned in a way never seen before.

The Cardinals were leading the Marlins by a score of 4-1 when Cliff Floyd came to the plate with a runner on and Kent Bottenfield on the mound.  Floyd drove the 0-1 delivery over the wall for an apparent home run that was ruled a double by Pulli.  After the Marlins argued the call, Pulli overturned the call and ruled it a home run, drawing Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa from the dugout.  It was then that Pulli did the unthinkable.

Pulli walked over to the camera bay and watched the instant replay via one of the camera’s monitors.  He then ruled the play a double as the replay showed clearly that the ball did not clear the wall.  The Marlins immediately filed a protest on the game, which the Cardinals went on to win.

The league office heard the protest but denied it on the grounds of the call being a judgement call.  Judgement calls cannot be overturned by a protest.  That being said, the league did state that they did not condone the use of instant replay and that Pulli was incorrect in doing so.

It went down in history as the first time a major league umpire utilized instant replay to overturn a call.

Later that same season, Pulli learned a new definition for the word “strike”.  Pulli was one of 22 umpires that staged a resignation following a labor dispute in an attempt to force the hands of Major League Baseball.  The tactic did not work and Pulli left the game of baseball.

He led a historic career that spanned decades.  He was witness to, and on one occasion the author of, history in the game.  He was not above controversy.

He was a big part of the game he loved.

Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.
You can find his work on Yahoo!InsideSTL, and here on i70.
Talk baseball with him on Twitter @poisonwilliam

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Cardinals-Braves: A Birds Eye View

The Cardinals return home from a suspenseful, yet successful road trip to face the Atlanta Braves for a four game tilt starting Thursday night. A matchup between two teams basically working on their best postseason alignment at this point, as well as a showdown between the two leading hitters in the National League, Yadier Molina and Chris Johnson, both carrying .332 averages on the season into the series.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros

There are also other underlying themes as well however. The recent history between the two teams has been a checklist of baseball extremes. The Braves have won three of the last four games head up versus the Cardinals, sweeping their first encounter of 2013 in Atlanta from July 26-28th. However, the sole St. Louis victory was a huge one, where they beat the Braves, and a then undeniable Kris Medlen, in the one game Wild Card Playoff game back in October. Highlighted by the immediately infamous “infield fly” rule call, the Cardinals started their need run back to the World Series in Atlanta, and also started what’s become a mild rivalry between the two teams.

Here’s the current story of the two teams that will meet through this weekend in St. Louis:

Cardinals coming in: The Cardinals are coming with a record of 73-53, second place in the NL Central and winners of their previous three series, all against NL Central foes in the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers. They are winners of seven of their last ten contests, two games ahead for the first Wild Card spot and 7 ahead of the third place position. Their 37 road wins are the most in either league, and they lead the NL in runs scored for the season, with 606.

The team is 5-1 in games started by Molina since he returned from the disabled list last Thursday….Jon Jay leads the team in hits (24), RBI (17) and total bases (41) in August….After going hitless in his first eight at-bats, Kolten Wong has hit .500 (5 for 10) with two runs scored and three stolen bases in his last two games….Matt Carpenter has nine doubles in August, raising his NL-best total to 41. He is on pace for 53 on the season, which would be the best Cardinal season since Albert Pujols’ 51 in 2003 & 2004….Across a combined 32.1 August innings, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist and Edward Mujica have not surrendered a run.

Braves coming in: Atlanta enters with the best record in baseball, at 77-49 and is 15.5 games ahead in the NL East. The three wins they landed against St. Louis in late July propelled them to a 14-game winning streak, their second run of at least 10 consecutive wins on the year. They have had some health challenges, with Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward and Taylor Pastornicky all going to the disabled list in the past week, which brings the current total of Braves on the DL up to 10. Despite this, they are second only to the Cardinals in runs scored this season, with 559 and have earned at least a split in their last 10 series.

Heyward, who was placed on the DL with a broken jaw yesterday, was hitting .359 in August, with a team-best 23 hits….after a mid-season dry spell, Justin Upton has hit seven home runs this month, raising his total to 23….first baseman Freddie Freeman is scorching currently, entering the series with multi-hit games in last four contests, good for a .450 average (9 for 20)….as a staff, Braves pitchers have a 2.50 ERA in August

 

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:15)—Joe Kelly (4-3) vs. Paul Maholm (9-9): Maholm is making a return start after a stint on the DL battling a wrist injury. A long-time Pirate, the lefty is 4-7 with a 4.06 ERA in 18 career starts versus the Cardinals. Kelly enters as the hottest arm in the St. Louis mix, with a 3-0 record on the month and since returning to the rotation, allowing 1 or less runs in six of nine outings.

Friday (7:15)—Adam Wainwright (14-7) vs. Kris Medlen (10-11): Wainwright broke a five game winless streak on Sunday in Chicago, allowing one run in seven innings, while reaching double digits in strikeouts for the first time since June 1. Medlen will make his first start in 10 days, after being forced to throw three relief innings in 15 inning loss to the Nationals on Saturday.

Saturday (6:15)—Shelby Miller (11-8) vs. Julio Teheran (10-6): The matchup of two of the best young arms in baseball will take place on Saturday. Teheran has been Atlanta’s best arm over the last few weeks, going 3-1 and striking out 26 in his last 23 innings. Miller has been sharper in his second outing back from the line drive that ended his August 7th start vs. the Dodgers. In Milwaukee on Monday, he struck out 8 in five innings, while surrendering five hits over 5.1 innings. He has received a win since August 2nd.

Sunday (1:15)—Lance Lynn (13-7) vs. Brandon Beachy (2-1): Lynn looks to rebound from a laborious start saw him surrender six runs (four earned) in taking the loss on Wednesday night. His August ERA is 4.50, his highest of any month this year. Beachy will be making his fifth start of the year after his July return from Tommy John surgery. Lifetime, the 26-year-old righty is 1-0 vs. the Cardinals, with a 2.08 ERA in two starts.

Injury Impact—St. Louis, 60 Day DL: Jason Motte (elbow), Chris Carpenter (shoulder), Rafael Furcal (elbow), Jaime Garcia (shoulder), John Gast (Shoulder). 15 Day DL: Tony Cruz (forearm). Atlanta, 60 Day DL: Jonny Venters (elbow), Eric O’Flaherty (elbow), Tim Hudson (ankle), Cristhian Martinez (Shoulder). 15 Day DL: Jason Heyward (Jaw), Dan Uggla (eye), Tyler Pastornicky (ACL), Ramiro Pena (shoulder), Reed Johnson (Achilles).

Stadium News

–          It’s Fredbird’s Birthday Bash Weekend at Busch. Giveaways include a Cardinals Canvas Print on Friday, Fredbird kid’s cap (15 and younger) on Saturday and a stuffed Fredbird from Build-A-Bear Workshop on Sunday (15 and younger)

 

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Birds Eye View Preview: The Battle for I-70, Part 1

Once again, the battle for I-70 is about to get underway. However, this season, it’s going Hatfield’s and McCoy’s style, as the week will be literally a trek up and down the highway for one of the few back-to-back “natural rival” home-and-home interleague series. In the first half of the series, the Cardinals will go to Kansas City to see the Royals, in the final leg of an eight-game road spin.

Beltran_

The series between the Cardinals and Royals is always an interesting one. It’s a matchup of heavy fan interest, as there are the underlying points of interstate relationships, the perceived “superiority issues” of the Cardinals vs. the long-suffering Royals, and as it will be forever, the aftermath of the 1985 World Series; a storyline that’s just as sore of a subject today as it was 28 years ago.

Here are the stories of the two teams as they face off for the first half of the series. Where they have been, where they are going and what’s at stake currently.

The Cardinals coming in: The Cardinals enter with an MLB best record of 32-17, and 1.5 games ahead in the National League Central. They are coming off of a very competitive series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which capped with a second consecutive win over their ace Clayton Kershaw. Overall, the team has not lost a series, nor recorded consecutive losses, in nearly a month. Their 17 road wins are the best mark in the Majors as well.

Over the past week, the run production load has been diverse, with Daniel Descalso leading the team in runs driven in with six, most coming on his grand slam in San Diego last Tuesday. David Freese and Allen Craig are both tied for second with five RBI….Yadier Molina enters the series third in the NL in hitting with a .339 average…Pete Kozma turned in a 4 for 4 performance on Sunday with three doubles, including one with the bases loaded to pull the club ahead….Seth Maness recorded his first loss of his career on Saturday evening, but rebounded to produce a bases loaded double play on Sunday to get his fourth win of the season, all coming in relief and within the last month.

The Royals coming in: Kansas City enters with a season mark of 21-26 and in fourth place in the American League Central, a disappointing turn for a team that was largely believed to be on the brink of a breakthrough coming into the season. They also enter on the heels of four-game sweep at home from the Los Angeles Angels, and overall are on a five-game losing streak. They have not won a home series since May 3-6 vs. the Chicago White Sox

Alex Gordon is having perhaps his best season to date. The left fielder is hitting .335, with six home runs and 30 RBI. His average is fifth best in the AL….Catcher Salvador Perez is hitting .311, with four multi-hit games in his last 10….overall, the Royals are hitting .262 as club, ninth best in baseball, but have managed only 190 runs as a result, the third worse total in the AL.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1:10)—James Shields (2-5) vs. Adam Wainwright (6-3): Monday’s matchup is a showdown of both club’s aces and two of the better arms in all of baseball. Shields has pitched in perhaps the toughest luck of any starter in the AL. Despite having surrendering only six runs over his last four starts, he has taken the loss in three of four. Wainwright threw 7.1 innings in his last outing to win his sixth game and lower his ERA to 2.38, sixth best in the NL.

Tuesday (7:10)—Ervin Santana (3-4) vs. Tyler Lyons (1-0): Santana surrendered four home runs in his return start against his former club in Anaheim his last time out. For the season, he has turned in a 3.14 ERA, but is also a loser of his last three outings. Lyons won his Major League debut on Wednesday, filling in for the injured Jaime Garcia. The 25-year-old threw seven innings, allowing only four hits, one walk and a single run.

Injury Impact—St. Louis: Out for Season: Rafeal Furcal (Elbow), Jason Motte (Elbow), Jaime Garcia (Shoulder). 60 Day DL: Chris Carpenter (Shoulder); 15-Day DL: Fernando Salas (Shoulder), Jake Westbrook (Elbow), John Gast (Shoulder). Kansas City: Out for Season: Felipe Paulino (Elbow). 60 Day DL: Danny Duffy (Elbow). 15 Day DL: Jarrod Dyson (Ankle).

A look back: The Cardinals won the season series in 2012, 4-2. They outscored the Royals 45-29. On the season, the Royals finished 72-90, good for third place in the AL Central, while the Cardinals finished in second place in the NL Central with an 88-74 record. All-time, the Cardinals lead the series 48-38, and have met once outside of the regular season, in the 1985 World Series, which the Royals won 4-3.

News and Notes:

–          The series is a two-and-two spin, with two games in Kansas City, followed by two in St. Louis. This will be the first interleague games of the season for both clubs.

–          Monday is “Armed Forces Day” at Kaufmann Stadium, and miniature American flags will be given away. Tuesday is “T-Shirt Tuesday”, with a shirt giveaway for the first 10,000 fans.

 

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Cardinals/Nationals: Three Things to Walk With

After a tough end to the weekend on Sunday night in Philadelphia, the Cardinals rebounded nicely a day later and haven’t let up yet. The club pulled off its first series sweep of the season against the Washington Nationals in DC, wrapping it up against their ace Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday afternoon. It was the club’s first return back to DC since the improbable end of their Division Series matchup in the city last October. All in all, the longest road trip of the season ended with an impressive 6-3 record, with one game lost to rain. And as the club returns back home a half game ahead in the NL Central, here are three things to take from tilt with the Nationals.

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1.Fear the Koz: Clearly Nationals fans have not forgotten the last time Pete Kozma made an appearance in their city. Kozma was routinely booed through the series each time he stepped to the plate, as an after effect of the two run single he plated to complete the Cardinal comeback in the decisive game of the 2012’s Division Series. Kozma, who is rather stoic even on a regular day, was also unflappable at the plate for the series. Despite the constant outpour of boos, he had four hits in nine at-bats for the series, and played his usual hard nose style on the basepaths. On the year, he’s turned in a respectable .262/.306/.675 effort thus far, and has been one of the most consistent everyday performers on the club.

2. Missing in Action: Jon Jay, who has been knees deep in a major slump, was sat down the last two games of the series. With lefty Ross Detwiler on the mound on Tuesday, it seemed to be a matchup move, yet when he sat again versus Strasberg on Wednesday, it became clear that the intention perhaps is to let him get all the way relaxed and back in Busch Stadium (where he is a career .329 hitter, yet only .250 in 2013) before putting him back in the mix again. His prolonged slump has dropped his season total at the plate to .205, which is tough to stomach out the leadoff spot. While a drop down to seventh didn’t help him much to start the series, he did manage a crucial sliding grab in the 8th inning of Monday’s victory.

3. Mujica makes a way: For now, the Chief is in charge. Edward Mujica, who was really turned to as the last reasonable resort in the bullpen for the closer position, turned in series that has (for the time being) fanned the flames on much maligned closer role. He saved each game in the series, without surrendering a hit in the process. He pitched to contact, striking out only one batter, but has maintained the impeccable control that’s made him the exception in the late inning mix all year (one walk in nine appearances). While he doesn’t have the track record or the stuff that Boggs and Rosenthal boast, there’s nobody else that’s even gotten close the effectiveness he’s shown thus far.

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With Dominating Win In Game 2, Cardinals Path To World Series Looks Bright

Before we get going, I have a confession to make. Prior to last night’s game, I was planning on writing about the need for Albert Pujols to step it up offensively and have a big impact on this series. I was getting ready to tell you he hadn’t hit a homerun since September 22nd, how he’d only driven in 3 runs since then, and that the drought needed to end. I was even going to go as far as to suggest he could no longer work over playoff-quality pitching at the clip he once could.

The prosecution would obviously like to strike all that from the record.

Monday night in Game 2 of the NLCS, Albert put on a display for the ages. How’s this for stepping it up offensively?

First Inning: Home Run, 2 RBIs

Third Inning: Double, 2 RBIs

Fifth Inning: Double, 1 RBI (the aggressive base-running led to him scoring on a wild pitch)

Seventh Inning: Double, Run scored

Eighth Inning: Groundout to 2nd, Milwaukee crowd gives home team a mock-ovation for finally getting Albert out. Resident pest, Milwaukee centerfielder Nyjer Morgan, sure didn’t waste much time backpedaling on his “Alberta” comment, saying after last night’s game:

“He’s special. I’ve never said anything about how (Pujols) plays. It was just talking smack. He’s still that special player, one of the best and greatest hitters around. You tip your hat to a guy who does his work like that.”

It was as if Morgan just then realized that it’s probably not such a great idea to poke the sleeping bear… especially a bear who nearly has as many career home runs (445) as Morgan has hits (467). Both Pujols and Morgan are 31 years old.

But it doesn’t take Morgan’s comments to cement the fact that it was an absolutely dominant performance, and awaiting in Game 3 is a pitcher in Yovani Gallardo that Pujols tagged for 2 home runs in a game just last month.

The Pujols v Gallardo matchup is just one of the many things the Cardinals have going for them as the NLCS returns to St. Louis for the first time since 2006.

Carpenter Pitching Twice: Splitting the first two games in Milwaukee was huge for the Cardinals, especially considering how much Milwaukee has struggled on the road this season (more on that in a minute). But the big boost comes in the form of Chris Carpenter, who after putting on one of the best lock-down pitching performances last Friday, is now set to take the mound in 2 of the remaining 5 games in the series (if necessary). Even though he’s going up against Brewers ace, Yovani Gallardo, in both games, you still have to feel good about the Cardinals’ chances of winning those games. Carpenter shutout Milwaukee on 4 hits in September, and went 8 innings allowing just 2 runs in a Cardinals win in mid-August (one of just 2 losses handed to the Brewers over a 21 game stretch at the time).

Braun’s Bat Neutralized: Milwaukee outfielder, Ryan Braun, is one heck of a hitter. With all due respect to Prince Fielder, Braun is probably the most frightening postseason hitter the Cardinals have seen since Carlos Beltran’s in the 2004 NLCS. Every time he comes up, it feels like he’s going to stroke a double into the gap… at least in Miller Park, that is. For whatever reason, Braun has been a much better hitter at home this postseason, as have most of the Brewers (though admittedly, it’s a small sample size). But that has also been the case over much of the regular season, so we’ll have to see how it all plays out here during these next 3 games in St. Louis.

Road Woes: The Brewers went 39-42 on the road this season, not a terrible record considering how bad of a start they got off to, but here’s what is bad: Including the playoffs, Milwaukee is now 10-21 against teams who made the playoffs this season. Considering Carpenter’s dominance the past 2 times the Brewers came to Busch, and Jaime Garcia’s near-miss at no-hitting them at Busch earlier this year, Milwaukee might need to win Game 4 if they plan on bringing this series back home for a possible Game 6 and 7.

Starting Edge: There’s really no reason to believe that the Brewers will have the upper hand for the rest of the games in the NLCS from a starting pitching standpoint. We’ve already been over what Carpenter and Garcia have done to the Brewers (Game 3, 5, and 7 starters), we’ve already touched on Pujols’ success against Yovani Gallardo, who the Cardinals beat twice in one week early last month (he’s slated for Games 3 and 7). In game 6, you have a rematch of Game 2… and we all know how well that worked out for St. Louis. That leaves only game 4 where the matchup might be even… but Kyle Lohse has been hot the past month and a half for the Cardinals, and Randy Wolf, the Brewers’ #4 starter, just got bombed by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

With that said, I leave you this fair warning: The Cardinals and Brewers are not simply tied at one game apiece… they’re tied 10-10. In 20 games this year, the teams have split them evenly. So despite home field advantage, the Brewers’ road woes, and the Cardinals’ apparent pitching edge… don’t expect the Cardinals to wrap this series up at Busch and coast into the World Series. What you can expect, more than likely, is another heart-stopping, nerve-wracking, intense as all get-out Game 7 at Miller Park.

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Adron Chambers Arrives In St. Louis

The Cardinals announced their final September call ups to join the team now that the Memphis Redbirds have concluded their season. Tony Cruz, Tyler Greene and Adron Chambers will all arrive in St. Louis in time for the September 6th matchup with the Brewers.

Chambers
Tyler Greene will be given every chance to prove that he can be the shortstop on this team in 2012. Tony Cruz may very well be trying to prove the same thing at the backup catcher position. Adron Chambers, well, he is simply getting a chance to show what he has.

Chambers was a player that the team drafted in late rounds (38th round of the 2007 draft) and placed little pressure on to become anything more than an extra piece in the machine. Chambers, however, had other ideas and showed that he was willing to be patient and improve at every step.

One of the fastest prospects in the Cardinals organization, Chambers has proven to be able to produce a solid on base percentage, a fair amount of walks, and a good glove in the field. He does come with his share of strikeouts, though he has lowered his strikeout per plate appearance average every year, just not by much. The left handed outfielder stands in at only five foot ten inches tall and 180 pounds, but is enjoying a power surge this year, clubbing 10 home runs and 19 doubles to go with his 44 runs batted in. He shows off his speed with 22 stolen bases while only being caught 13 times this season.

The most interesting thing about Chambers may be the one thing that Tony LaRussa has been looking for: he can hit lefties and righties. In fact, his splits are almost identical this season, posting a .274/.366/.703 (Avg/On Base/OPS) slash-line against left handers, while posting a nearly identical .278/.368/.813 against righties. He does seem to hit for power better with a right handed pitcher on the mound, but he is not a hindrance just because of the hurler’s arm preference.

Here is a quick look at Chambers’ career numbers from our friends at Baseball Reference.

Year Age Tm Lev G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2007 20 Johnson City Rk 36 129 111 16 31 7 1 0 10 6 5 10 21 .279 .362 .360 .723 40
2008 21 Quad Cities A 95 384 336 56 80 13 7 3 25 13 8 33 66 .238 .322 .345 .667 116
2009 22 Palm Beach A+ 122 517 448 66 127 17 16 1 46 21 12 47 96 .283 .370 .400 .770 179
2010 23 2 Teams AA-AAA 112 375 321 63 91 9 6 6 35 14 5 40 68 .283 .379 .405 .784 130
2010 23 Springfield AA 75 292 252 52 71 9 5 5 27 8 4 31 50 .282 .376 .417 .793 105
2010 23 Memphis AAA 37 83 69 11 20 0 1 1 8 6 1 9 18 .290 .390 .362 .753 25
2011 24 Memphis AAA 127 496 421 72 117 19 4 10 44 22 13 53 88 .278 .370 .413 .783 174
5 Seasons 492 1901 1637 273 446 65 34 20 160 76 43 183 339 .272 .362 .390 .752 639
AAA (2 seasons) AAA 164 579 490 83 137 19 5 11 52 28 14 62 106 .280 .373 .406 .779 199
A (1 season) A 95 384 336 56 80 13 7 3 25 13 8 33 66 .238 .322 .345 .667 116
AA (1 season) AA 75 292 252 52 71 9 5 5 27 8 4 31 50 .282 .376 .417 .793 105
Rk (1 season) Rk 36 129 111 16 31 7 1 0 10 6 5 10 21 .279 .362 .360 .723 40
A+ (1 season) A+ 122 517 448 66 127 17 16 1 46 21 12 47 96 .283 .370 .400 .770 179
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/5/2011.

How much playing time Chambers will get in 2011 has yet to be seen, but the young man is impressing the organization every year and just might be getting the first serious look at the big stage that he so well deserves.

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Season Is Over…But Not Lost

Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with the Brewers the Cardinals had 28 games remaining. There is a menu of options for how this club can approach the rest of the schedule. Whichever approach is taken will say a lot about this club and the direction management is looking to go in 2012.

Puma

Tony LaRussa and John Mozeliak can stick with the status quo and finish out the season. Management can field the offers that are already coming and will come their way, shipping off performing veterans for young talent and draft picks. TLR can play up the idea that he is smarter than everyone mixing and matching lineups to his hearts delight. Or Mo can convince him that what’s in the best interest of the club is to put out the young talent after the September call ups and see what the future holds.

These are only a handful of I’m sure the endless number of possibilities being talked about behind closed doors. But my best guess is these are the ones most seriously being considered. At some point Mozeliak is going to have to step out from Tony’s shadow and show himself to be in charge of the future of the Cardinals roster. Mozeliak’s future with the Cardinals is directly tied to the 2011 off season so why not get an early start and make your move.

If you are Mo pick your best option or put together a combo off the menu and pull the trigger. Either way, make a decision and stick to it. The Cardinals are out of the playoff hunt but the season is not lost. To not use these last five or so weeks to its fullest would be a disservice to the team and Cardinal Nation.

The approach is to take these 28 games and set up your off season shopping list. To start…assume Albert Pujols is not going to be a Cardinal in 2012…cue gasp. I know, I know…but I think the Cardinals are set up better for the future without Pujols taking roughly 30% of the payroll. Now if he decides seven years and $23 million per is enough then I might change my tune. But neither his agent Dan Lozano nor Pujols himself has indicated a willingness to do this.

First step is not trading Lance Berkman. As Derrick Goold points out in Tuesday’s column Berkman is potentially going be a Type A free agent this winter. Keeping him around for 2012 gives the Cardinals a potential 1B and part time outfielder for 2012. Losing him to another team brings you back at least one high draft pick, potentially two. Trading him now more than likely brings much less.

Step two is inserting Jason Motte as your closer for the rest of the season. If the 2011 season taught us one thing it is that the Cardinals are not set at closer. Franklin, Boggs, Sanchez and now Salas have had their chances and well…Salas has held on admirably but it is apparent he is not the long term answer. Give Motte the chances and knowledge that it is his role and his alone until October. See you have and maybe that is one item that can be crossed off the winter wish list.

Next is to get Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso as many innings and At Bat’s as possible. If this means putting them into a rotation with Freese, Schumaker, Furcal, Jay and Berkman then so be it. Freese and Jay are safely on the 2012 roster as is Berkman if he wants to stay. Schumaker is in limbo but the next 28 games are not going to change managements mind one way or another. And Furcal, while a nice pickup is a health risk and will not be back next season. And by not giving up much to get him you are not “wasting” him if he sits from time to time.

Craig and Descalso will be around in 2012 but their roles are not yet defined as are the expectations. Get them out there, move them around and see what you have. Try Craig at 2B and RF, move Descalso all around the left side of the infield.
Wherever you plug them in, do so, and gather the data for the off season.

This season is over, but it is not lost. Preparations for a playoff run in 2012 begin now. Your move Cardinals.

These are just my thoughts…keep on reading and you’ll get up to speed.

Derek is on Twitter @SportsbyWeeze and also writes for the Rams at RamsHerd.com

Also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SportsByWeeze

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Darryl Kile – Father, Friend, Teammate

There are few names that cause a hush to fall over a group of long-time Cardinal fans the way this one does. Eyes glaze over momentarily. Conversation comes to a pause. Thoughts turn to memories of that day. Eventually someone murmurs that they never would have seen it coming.

No one did.

June 22, 2002. The Cardinals were in Chicago to play the Cubs in a matchup of division rivals. As gametime approached, the stadium was buzzing with confusion. Warmups were not going as planned. Whispers throughout the stadium wondered what was happening.

Then, a microphone appeared. Various members of the Cubs took the field. The Cubs’ players association representative, Joe Girardi, walked solemnly to the mic with tears in his eyes.

“I thank you for your patience. We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinal family, that the commissioner has canceled the game today. Please be respectful. You will find out eventually what has happened, and I ask that you say a prayer for the St. Louis Cardinals’ family.”

Players left the field. Fans quietly filed out of the stadium. No one knew what had truly happened. No one could understand. Slowly news spread. Even slower came reasons. The answers never came for the question on everyone’s mind.

Why?

In 1987 the Houston Astros selected Darryl Kile in the 30th round. While obviously a low-end pick, Kile nevertheless fought his way up the ranks, breaking into the majors in early 1991. During his first career start he had a no-hitter through six innings before being pulled. His career in Houston was bright, making his first All-Star team in 1993 and pitching a no-hitter against the Mets in September of the same year. A few years later in 1997 Kile went 19-7, again making the All-Star team, and making the postseason with the Astros.

After that ’97 postseason appearance, Kile signed as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies. As many pitchers found out, pitches in Colorado don’t do the same things they do in other parks (pre-humidor, that is). Kile’s pitching suffered dramatically, and his two years in Colorado produced ERA’s of 5.20 and 6.61. His career was spiraling, until he was traded to the Cardinals.

As one of many that felt the apparent healing powers of pitching coach Dave Duncan, Kile’s career felt a resurgence wearing the birds on the bat. In 2000, his first year in St. Louis, Kile was the first 20 game winner for the Cardinals since John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar in 1985. Over the next few years he emerged as the team ace, shepherding several of the younger Cardinal pitchers and being a strong leader both on the field and in the clubhouse.

Darryl’s wife Flynn, twins Sierra and Kannon, and youngest Ryker, were all fixtures at the ballpark, from Family Day on the field to a little catch pregame in the clubhouse with father and son. His family was important to him, and they were held in high esteem by the Cardinals community. The Kile’s were close friends with Matt Morris and his family, among others.

On June 18, 2002, Darryl Kile strode off the mound in Busch Stadium to a standing ovation. He had pitched 8 strong innings, giving up only one run against the Anaheim Angels. The Cardinals won the game 7-2, and with that win, took over sole possession of first place in the National League Central. Sadly for the Cardinals, the joy of victory was short in lasting, as news spread that night about Hall of Fame broadcaster and longtime voice of the Cardinals Jack Buck’s passing away. The team all wore patches for the rest of the season bearing the initials JFB (as seen on Kile’s sleeve in the above picture).

It was a great victory for the team, a sad loss for Cardinal Nation, and the last victory of Darryl Kile’s career. Four days later, Kile did not show up to Wrigley Field on time for the day’s game. Teammates began to wonder. Messages were sent. Calls were made. The news finally broke – Darryl Kile had passed away in his sleep of a heart attack.

The game that Girardi had tearfully informed the Wrigley faithful about being cancelled was made up over two months later, on August 31. Jason Simontacchi was the starter, and looked visibly emotional throughout the game. Kile had been a teammate, a supporter, and a friend. The team added a second patch to their jerseys, and a matching symbol on the wall in the bullpen of Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals seemed to be a team of destiny. They overcame so much, dealt with emotional trauma, and yet responded with resiliency. After their fallen ace pitched them into first place, they never looked back, and the team finished as the winners of the Central Division. As the team ran onto the field to celebrate their division clinching win, rookie outfielder and third baseman Albert Pujols grabbed a hanger from inside the dugout to take with him into the celebration. He eventually handed it off to teammate and best friend of Kile, Matt Morris.

Kile’s jersey never left the dugout throughout the rest of 2002, and his locker remained untouched for years. The Cardinals did not want to forget their teammate and friend. His fans never will.

To find my memories of this story, head over to Diamond Diaries.

Angela Weinhold is an executive editor and covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com. She also writes writes for her own site Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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Royals Farm Report

PLAYER PROFILE

Anthony Lerew

Anthony Lerew, during a callup to the Majors earlier this season

Pitcher

AAA-Omaha Royals

27 years old

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 225 lbs.

Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round of the 2001 MLB Draft

Last week we featured a Royals pitcher with the best name in baseball (Rowdy Hardy). This week, let’s talk about the pitcher with the game’s best mutton chops.

Anthony Lerew has spent a little time in The Show this year with mixed results: a 1-4 record, mile-high 8.54 ERA, but moments of brilliance sprinkled in. However, in the Minor Leagues this year, Lerew is 7-3 with a 3.01 ERA. Of late, he’s been particularly dominant, going eight innings in each of his last two starts and allowing only one earned run during that stretch. He also posted 13 strikeouts versus just three walks, and his efforts earned him a pair of wins.

Lerew might be the most interesting pitcher in the minor league system right now. Despite his spotty success in the big leagues this season (and over four Major League seasons between Atlanta and Kansas City), Lerew deserves and probably will receive a shot at the Royals’ rotation next year. That would be a huge step forward for his career, but a slot in the big league bullpen is not beyond the realm of possibility.

The fear with Lerew, though, is that he falls into that category of “AAAA” players – the guys who dominate in the minor leagues, but just aren’t good enough to cross the wide chasm between AAA and the majors.

Royals fans have seen that happen too many times.

MiLB WEEKLY ROUNDUP

AAA – Omaha Royals

Record to date: 70-56, second place in the PCL American North

The past week: 5-2, winning three out of four at Sacramento

Transactions: Another light week. Jai Miller was promoted to Kansas City; and Brian Anderson was sent all the way from A- Burlington to Omaha.

Coming up: In an I-70 Baseball flavored matchup, the O-Royals host the Memphis Redbirds this weekend before Iowa comes to town for a rare five-game series.

AA – Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Record to date: 31-21 in the second half (first place), 73-49 overall

The past week: 2-4, dropping a pair against Midland

Transactions: Josh Fields was received on a major league rehabilitation assignment.

Coming up: The Naturals host Midland, then travel to Springfield for a four-game set before going to Tulsa next weekend.

A+ – Wilmington Blue Rocks

Record to date: 28-24 in the second half (second place), 60-62 overall

The past week: 4-2, with a rainout against Salem

Transactions: James Thompson was activated from the temporarily inactive list; and Harold Mozingo was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

Coming up: The Rocks finish up with Lynchburg at home this weekend, then travel to Potomac for three games and to Lynchburg next weekend.

POSITION PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Clint Robinson

Clint Robinson, first baseman, AA-Northwest Arkansas Naturals

.411 average the past week, 5 home runs in past 10 games

Clint Robinson has been arguably the best hitter in the Royals’ minor league system this year, and recently he’s been keeping his hot streak alive.

PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Luis Mendoza, AAA-Omaha Royals

2-0, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts

Mendoza picked up a pair of wins last week, defeating Sacramento on the road and then Fresno in an eight-inning, no-earned runs gem. Mendoza is 9-8 on the season for the O-Royals with a 4.23 ERA.

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