Tag Archive | "Sacrifices"

This One’s For You: Unacknowledged Moments

As I have gotten older I appreciate the little things so much more because I now know they aren’t so little. Small, unacknowledged moments like getting in the car to head to the church of our choice on a Sunday is really a big thing. Being able to speak our minds without fear is something we don’t think about as we utter countless words each day, but it is a big thing, too.

WWAST

 

I have been blessed to travel around the world as I competed for the greatest country of all. Walking on the field wearing a USA jersey is one of my happiest and proudest moments. I have seen other countries and cultures, and feel more than ever how blessed we are to live in the USA. The many freedoms we have are not shared by everyone across the globe.  Having seen how others live, I do not take ours for granted. I know freedom is not free. It has been fought for over countless generations, and many, many lives have been sacrificed so we can live the way we do.

I have had the privilege to meet some of the most amazing young men on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. I am in awe of the sacrifices these young men chose to make, and I am inspired by their optimism and determination in the face of adversity. I am proud of them, and of my country. I know that the pride in my country is because of the many who have fought and continue to fight for the daily freedoms we have here in the USA.

To express my family’s gratitude I do fundraisers, yes, but I could never really repay these men on the WWAST for their sacrifices or the example they set any more than I can repay the rest of our brave, courageous servicemen and women for their sacrifices, but I am eternally grateful to them and their families. I feel so very blessed to be an American.

All I can offer is another little thing, and that is a thank you from our family to yours!

This post was brought to you by Jennie Finch.
You can follow Jennie on twitter @jfinch27

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This One’s For You: Cup Of Joe

Where to even start when it comes to my thoughts on the military? Well, to be honest, my thoughts can be summed up in just two words.

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Thank you.

The average age of a member of the military, whether it’s the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard, is just under twenty-nine years old. This is a prime age for a person to be focused on their own lives and family. Yet, these brave men and women are able to see the bigger picture. Many of them have families of their own, but they realize that in order for America to stay great, it needs a strong and active military. They have pledged themselves to make this sacrifice for the betterment of the country as a whole.

Thank you for dedicating your lives for the something much bigger than yourselves.

Thank you for allowing me to live a life of freedom.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to start a family of my own in one of the greatest countries in the world.

Thank you for everything that you have done and will continue to do for America after your service is complete.

In closing, as I sit on my back deck watching the St. Louis Cardinals on TV, I raise my beer to you because “This One’s for You.” You most definitely deserve it. I would not be able to enjoy the things that I am able to enjoy today without the sacrifices you have made and will continue to make for the good of the country. This is one of the main reasons why I always do my best to thank a member of our service whenever I see one. I hope that all of you will do the same.

Thank you.

This post was brought to you by Joe Schwarz of STL Cup Of Joe
You can follow Joe on twitter @stlCupOfJoe

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This One’s For You: from a Royals fan

On July 25, Fox Sports Midwest will air “This One’s For You”, showcasing the Missouri National Guard’s 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion during the Cardinals – Phillies game. The American Forces Network will televise the game to U.S. troops around the world.

Before heading out on a mission U.S. Army Spc. Timothy McClellan, from Charlie Company, 1st Cavalry Division, 12th Infantry Regiment, plays a game of rock-baseball at an Army outpost in Kahn Bani Sahd, Iraq, Feb. 6, 2007.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall) (Released)

I applaud the St. Louis Cardinals and Fox Sports Midwest for saluting the troops. As a Royals fan, it’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of a team struggling to get to .500 and wondering if they’re going to trade away Ervin Santana, trade for someone or just stand pat. But when you think about our Armed Services and their sacrifices, it makes you thankful for what they do and puts baseball and life in perspective.

For instance, it’s easy to complain when you have to fight traffic to and from work, perhaps have to work late and miss your favorite TV show or the game. Well, how would you like to be half a world away from your family for a year at a time? Or have a commute where you might encounter a roadside bomb, work all hours of the day and night in dangerous conditions, and where today might be your last day? Or miss holidays with your family, the birth of your child, their first steps or their graduation? For many service members, that’s just another day at work. And more times than not, they’re glad to do it and serve their country.

The great thing about our military is that it’s an all volunteer force. I’m grateful there’s folks willing to serve and defend the freedoms we all enjoy. Like being a fan of a baseball team that hasn’t finished .500 since 2003 and write about them for I-70 Baseball.

To all who serve or have served in the Armed Forces defending our freedoms and way of life, thank you. Your sacrifice for your family, friends and country is the reason why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.

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Memorial Day Baseball: Welcome To I-70

The series that provided the name of our site begins on Memorial Day in 2013.  As we honor the men and women around the globe that have given their lives in pursuit of freedom, we do so in many ways.  The National Pastime stands tall at the center of those traditions.

MemorialDayFlags

Barbecues, friends, family reunions, swimming, camping, float trips and general outdoor activities dominate the kick-off to summer holiday.  American flags line the streets and the cemeteries in remembrance of those who lost their lives either in battle or after serving their nations.  That hits home a little harder for this writer this year.

This will be the first Memorial Day that I honor my father, who passed away in August of 2012.  A man who loved his country, baseball, and his family left this world just a short time after my wedding last year.  Memorial Day was one of his favorites as it allowed him to remember the men that fought along side of him in Vietnam and those that served next to him in Korea, Germany, and domestically in various locations in this country.  It also allowed him to “fire up the grill” and watch baseball the entire day.  Memorial Days are filled with memories of Jack Buck on the radio while Dad and I played catch and burgers cooked on the grill.

He taught me to respect the day and the people it honored.  It taught me to stand at attention and remove my hat for the National Anthem.  He was disgusted by the people that would not remove their hats, explaining to me that they had no respect for their country or what it took to defend them.  He also taught me, while that was highly disrespectful, it was a right that they had because of the sacrifices we honored.  That, ironically, fighting for their freedom was granting them the right to disrespect those that fought for them.

He also taught me to love the game.  A game that he taught me was much more exciting on the defensive side of the ball and how a 1-0 ballgame was much more interesting than a 10-1 blowout.  He taught me to appreciate a good “pitcher’s duel” and to look forward to games based on pitching matchups.

The start of the I-70 series provides just that as St. Louis Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright will take the mound in Kansas City against Royals’ front man “Big Game” James Shields.  The two have provided their teams with exactly what was expected of them, solid pitching and a chance to win every five days.

Unfortunately, only one of the teams has taken those chances seriously.

The Royals have struggled to put runs on the board behind stellar pitching performances by Shields, leaving him with an astonishing 2-5 record to this point.  Wainwright, however, has pitched well and been rewarded with a 6-3 record.  Beyond that, the starters are almost identical in form coming into the opening matchup of the series and should provide an exciting, low scoring game under the afternoon sun.

As for me, I’ll put a flag out in my yard for Dad today.  I’ll tailgate and barbecue with friends in the parking lot of Kauffman Stadium.  I’ll stand proudly in his honor during the National Anthem and God Bless America as we honor him and the rest of our country’s fallen.  I’ll think of him throughout the day as I cheer on the Cardinals while they visit Kansas City.

I’m sure he will be watching, too.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Rob Rains’ Inside Baseball: Priorities

There is no major question about how much money the Cardinals will spend this off-season. Their payroll for 2012 almost certainly will land in the $110 million range, give or take a few million, just a small increase from this year’s total.

Bullpen

The important question is, How will they spend all of those millions?

Last winter it was all about the offense. The Cardinals’ braintrust admitted they were willing to make sacrifices on defense, believing the expected extra offensive boost would make up for those shortcomings.

Through Sunday, that “extra” offense amounted to less than 1/4thof an extra run per game, an average of 4.7 runs a game instead of 4.5 runs a game scored by the Cardinals in 2010. The result is that the Cardinals most likely will fall short of the playoffs once again, now trailing the Brewers by 9 ½ games in the NL Central and the Braves by 8 ½ games in the wild card race with 22 games to play.

So as the planning begins to determine their spending priorities for 2012, here’s some unsolicited advice for Bill DeWitt, John Mozeliak and company:

Go get pitching, pitching and more pitching.

All it takes is one look at the current National League standings, and a check back at the results of the past few seasons, to realize that pitching is what wins games. Home runs are nice, and fans really like the fireworks, but if a team wants to win, pitching is paramount.

The best team in baseball, the Phillies, leads the NL with a 3.08 ERA. The Giants, the worst offensive team in the league, have stayed in contention in the NL West because of a 3.15 team ERA. The Braves follow with a 3.35 ERA.

Before one thinks this is a one-year aberration, consider that the Giants led the league in ERA in 2010 and won the World Series. The Dodgers led in ERA in 2009 and 2008 and lost in the NLCS both years.

The Cardinals came into Sunday’s game with a 3.91 ERA, 10th in the NL, up nearly half a run, from the team’s combined 3.57 ERA, which ranked fourth in the league, and nearly half a run per game below the league average. If the Cardinals hold on to their current spot among NL teams, it would be their worst ERA ranking since the 2007 staff finished 11th in the league with a 4.65 ERA.

That information kind of makes their league-leading batting average and league-leading runs total a little less important.

Another fact which shows it is even more important than ever to improve the pitching staff — if the Cardinals want to contend in 2012 — is the NL trend which has seen the league’s average ERA decline every year since 2006. The 2011 season could mark the first time the league’s composite ERA drops below 4.00 since 1992 – meaning that at a time when the Cardinals’ numbers are getting worse, the other team’s numbers are getting better.

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While no one is suggesting the Cardinals come close to matching what the Phillies spend on starting pitching – a combined $65 million this year for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton – they should be able to be competitive with the other top pitching clubs in the league – the Giants, Braves and Brewers.

The Giants’ starters this year earned a combined $44 million, the Brewers $31 million and the Braves just under .$30 million, although both of those totals will no doubt increase due to raises for their own pitchers in 2012.

After picking up Adam Wainwright’s $9 million option for 2012, the Cardinals have $33 million committed to four starting pitchers for 2012 – Wainwright, Kyle Lohse ($12.2 million), Jake Westbrook ($8.5 million) and Jaime Garcia ($3.3 million). Chris Carpenter has a $15 million option, or $1 million buyout, as well.

If the Cardinals choose to buy out Carpenter, and try to re-negotiate a new contract, they basically will have about $38 million at their disposal if they keep the total team payroll near this year’s total.

That extra money, of course, comes from Carpenter and not re-signing Albert Pujols and Ryan Theriot, which brings up the biggest question facing the Cardinals this winter – do they want to keep Pujols, or do they want to win?

From a simple economic standpoint it doesn’t seem possible to do both.

If Pujols had not hit free agency until after 2013 or so, it might have been possible because the Cardinals’ farm system is loaded with young talented pitchers, but all of them except Shelby Miller are probably at least two years away from arriving in St. Louis. That stable of good, cheap talent would allow the Cardinals to spend a higher percentage of their payroll on one player, but it just doesn’t seem possible for 2012 – if the priority is to win. Those pitchers are now in Class A ball or lower, and the fact is the Double A Springfield staff, even with Miller, had the worst ERA in the Texas League and allowed the most walks and most home runs in the league this season. Their bullpen also blew 25 saves. Almost all of the pitchers at Triple A Memphis are not prospects.

There is no question that Pujols is a Hall of Fame player and a great citizen of St. Louis. But what we have learned, once again, over the past five seasons is that baseball is not, never has been and never will be a one-man game. As great as Pujols has been the last five years – including two MVP awards – the Cardinals have won zero playoff games in that time span.

If they can re-sign Lance Berkman for a reasonable increase over the $8 million he made this year, the Cardinals have a short-term answer to replace Pujols in the lineup. Their long-term answer might be 23-year-old Matt Adams, the Texas League Player of the Year this season who hit 32 homers and drove in 101 runs to go along with a .304 average at Springfield. Allen Craig can take over Berkman’s place in right field.

The Cardinals need to make the tough choice that it will be much wiser to make those moves and take the money it would cost to re-sign Pujols and re-sign Carpenter to a lesser contract, go sign another starting pitcher and a closer. A new shortstop would be nice too, but let’s try not to be greedy.

There will be four above-average left-handers on the market this winter, C.C. Sabathia, C.J. Wilson, Cole Hamels and Mark Buehrle. Because of his St. Louis connections, and the fact he likely would take a shorter contract, Buehrle has to be the focus of the Cardinals’ attention, and sooner rather than later.

Getting Carpenter to come back for less money would also be a plus, allowing the team to explore what the market could possibly bring by trading either Westbrook or Lohse. A starting rotation for 2012 of Wainwright, Buehrle, Carpenter, Garcia and either Westbrook or Lohse would definitely be an upgrade over the 2011 rotation.

How good is Buehrle, who will be 33 next March? Before having his worst start of the year Sunday night against the Tigers, he had gone 10-3 in his previous 20 starts for the White Sox and had the second best ERA in the American League since May 1. Justin Verlander was at 2.04 since that date, Buehrle was at 2.47 before the Tigers erupted for seven earned runs against him in just 3 1/3 innings.

As for the bullpen, Sunday’s 10th inning loss to the Reds marked the 22nd time this season the Cardinals have lost a game in the opponent’s final at-bat. The Cardinals’ total of 23 blown saves is tied for the second highest total in the NL, behind Washington’s 25. The Phillies have six blown saves all season.

The best closer on the market this winter will be Heath Bell, but others to consider would include Jonathan Papelbon and Matt Capps. Bell and Papelbon have had the most success and experience in their careers, but also will cost the most. Capps has not had a great year this season with the Twins, saving 15 of 23 opportunities while splitting the job with Joe Nathan, but he is 31 of 41 the last two years and is only 29 years old.

It will not be easy for the Cardinals to say goodbye to Pujols. Many fans no doubt will protest and be upset. Winning, however, will calm them down and bring them back to Busch Stadium.

And as history shows, the road to the pennant starts on the pitching mound.

Head over to RobRains.com to read Rob’s notes on the rest of Major and Minor League Baseball.

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Mid-season Checkup

Going into this season, Cardinals General Manager, John Mozeliak discussed some of the off-season moves the club had made. He said at the time, and has since reiterated, that the team was aware of the defensive sacrifices they’d made (see: Ryan, Brendan, UZR), but felt that in order to better compete in the 2011 National League Central division, a more potent offense was critical.

Despite starting the season off slowly at the plate, and, according to at least one account, carrying a batting average lower than the weight of Mozeliak’s 12 year-old daughter, Ryan Theriot is the Cardinals’ shortstop. This is one area where the “we chose offense over defense” decision has been clear, as Theriot has committed 15 errors so far this season. He’s also batting .290 with 32 RBI, and has 17 doubles, tying him with Molina, 2nd to Holliday’s 18.

But this isn’t about Ryan Theriot. This is about the St. Louis Cardinals, and their run at the franchise’s 24th playoff appearance. I’ve said before that, when it comes to making a run at the postseason, what matters most is how a team stacks up against their division. Being that we’re halfway through the season, I’d like to take a look at four offensive categories in the National League. More specifically, I want to see the team for which these leaders in these offensive categories play, and which division that team is in. From there, I’ll let you decide whether or not pursuing offense over defense in the offseason was a factor in the Cardinals being at the top of the division (55 days in 1st place).

NL Batting Average Leaders: 3 of the top 5 are National League Central players (HOU, MIL, CIN)
NL Runs Scored Leaders: 4 of the top 5 are NL Central players (MIL, HOU, MIL, CIN)
NL Home Runs Leaders: 4 of the top 5 are NL Central players (STL, MIL, CIN, CHC)
NL Runs Batted In Leaders: 3 of the top 5 are NL Central players (MIL, STL, MIL)

You may be wondering about pitching categories, well, let me say this: Looking at Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA, & WHIP, the aforementioned NLC teams are represented in the following manner:

NL leaders in Wins: 2 of the top 5 (PIT, MIL)
NL leaders in Saves: 1 of the top 5 (PIT)
NL leaders in Strikeouts: 0 of the top 5
NL leaders in ERA: 1 of the top 5 (PIT)
NL leaders in WHIP: 1 of the top 5 (STL, Lohse)

A marked difference! Pittsburgh is represented nowhere offensively, yet are also still contending in the division. Gallardo (MIL) and Lohse (STL) are the only two non-Pirates in the NLC that appear on the pitching leaderboard at all.

So, I ask you: Where would this Cardinals team be right now if not for the offensive production in the lineup? Don’t tell me that with the McClellan we’ve seen lately, the Carpenter we saw until recently, and the Westbrook we’ve seen all year that we’d be anywhere near the top of the division. And spare me any arguments that contain “if” and “Wainwright”–he’s a stud, we all know it, but he’s not around, period. I have to believe the reason the Cardinals are enjoying the success they’re having in the division is a direct result of the conscious decision to go after offense, even if it meant sacrificing defense. The biggest problem I see with that? Offense wins games, it may be true, but pitching & defense win championships.

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