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International Soccer At Busch Details

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ST. LOUIS – May 21, 2013 – Two of the most storied English Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City, will be in St. Louis this week for a historic exhibition match at Busch Stadium on Thursday, May 23rd.  Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST.  This will be the first international soccer match at Busch Stadium, as well as the first non-baseball sporting event at the ballpark that opened in downtown St. Louis in April 2006.  Following is a schedule of official activities and information to help fans enjoy international soccer in St. Louis this week.  Fans may also join the social media conversation on Twitter with #socceratbusch.

Ticket Availability

Thursday’s match is sold out, but fans should continue to monitor cardinals.com/soccer as tickets may be made available up until game time.  Tickets to Chelsea’s training session event on Wednesday are available for $20 at cardinals.com/soccer, the Busch Stadium box office and by phone at 314.345.9500.  The public training event includes a free concert by indie rock band Cracker, fireworks and a unique crossbar soccer challenge that will end with one fan in attendance winning a trip for two to travel to England next year to see Chelsea play at home.

From Baseball to Soccer – The Busch Stadium Transformation

On Monday, the Cardinals grounds crew began the process of reconfiguring the ballpark for soccer by removing the pitcher’s mound and installing sod in the infield and along the infield warning track.  The soccer field will be finished by Wednesday. The 100 x 65 meter soccer playing field will span from just in front of the visitor’s dugout to the edge of the outfield in front of the home bullpen.

Wednesday, May 22nd - Chelsea Training Session Event

As the designated home team, Chelsea will conduct a public training session at Busch Stadium for St. Louis fans.  The training session event promises to be an affordable and special evening for soccer fans.  Not only will fans be able to see one of the greatest international soccer teams prepare for their historic match with Manchester City, they may also enjoy a free concert by indie rock band Cracker, fireworks, and have a chance to participate in a unique crossbar soccer challenge that will end with one fan in attendance winning a trip for two to travel to England next year to see Chelsea play at home.

Gates for the training event open at 5 p.m.  Before fans enter Busch Stadium, they may want to visit one of three Chelsea fan-tents set up around the ballpark where they can pick up a complimentary Chelsea flag, sign up for information about the club and take a photo with a championship trophy.  The Chelsea fan-tents located at 8th & Clark, Gate 1 and Gate 2 will be open from 3:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Chelsea’s training session will commence at 7 p.m.  The session is expected to last just over an hour.   The Cross Bar Challenge will start around 8:30, followed by the Cracker concert.  The evening will end with fireworks around 9:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 23rd - Chelsea vs. Manchester City Match

Fans will want to plan to be downtown early to soak up all the soccer excitement.  Budweiser will kick off the formal activities at 4 p.m. with the Budweiser March to the Match Pep Rally at Kiener Plaza.  A full schedule of activities follows:

Schedule 

4 P.M. – 6 P.M.        Budweiser March to the Match Pep Rally at Kiener Plaza

The Cardinals and Budweiser will host a pre-match pep rally in Kiener Plaza, located between Broadway, 7th, Chestnut and Market.  Local rock band Griffin and the Gargoyles will perform.  Budweiser will have their Build-A-Bars and Pool Ball games as well as other soccer-themed activities.  Both teams will distribute free items for fans (Chelsea flags & Manchester City megaphones), and the team mascots and a Budweiser Clydesdale will be on hand for photo opportunities.  Team officials are scheduled to address the crowd at 5:30 p.m. and invite fans to “March to the Match,” led by the Budweiser Clydesdale and the team mascots down 7th Street to Gate 3 of Busch Stadium.

5 P.M. 

Gates open

7:00 P.M.                   

Pre-match ceremonies begin with an appearance by Chelsea’s mascot, Stamford the Lion, and Manchester City’s brother and sister mascots, Moonbeam and Moonchester.

Chelsea and Manchester City will be introduced. Each team will enter the field with 12 local children dressed in team attire.  The 24 children are between the ages of six and eight.  The referees will be introduced and will conduct a coin toss ceremony with the two teams.

The National Anthem will be performed by Brian Owens of the Missouri Air National Guard Band, Sidewinder.  

Flyover by Commemorative Air Force 

7:30 P.M.

Match Commences

Half-time

Ceremony honoring six St. Louis members of United States Soccer Hall of Fame (Frank Borghi, Bob Herman, Bob Kehoe, Denny Long, Pat McBride and Al Trost)

Watching on TV

Fans can watch the match on ESPN 2.

Radio Coverage

Fans can tune into KMOX (1120 AM) to hear coverage of the match.

Online or On the Go

Fans may also get unique content from the game via the Cardinals’ Twitter account, @Cardinals.

Getting to the Game — Roadwork & Alternative Transportation Reminders 
MoDOT will not have any scheduled additional lane closures on state highways inside the city limits for Wednesday or Thursday. There are projects under construction at I-64 and Jefferson and Tower Grove.  MoDOT will continue to have three lanes open in each direction of I-64 Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate soccer fans.

MetroLink is a convenient alternative to driving, allowing fans to avoid the cost of parking and game day traffic.  To avoid the traffic congestion and the cost of parking on game day, fans can use one of 19 free Park-Ride lots along the MetroLink line and take the train to Stadium Station, right across the street from the ballpark.  Check the Metro website www.MetroSt.Louis.org for schedules and the Park-Ride lot nearest you.

Soccer Merchandise Available in Cardinals Team Store

Fans will want to stop by the Busch Stadium Team Store to purchase a variety of soccer-related retail items connected with the historic match.  The Team Store has team specific merchandise, as well as special items commemorating the historic match such as t-shirts and scarves.  The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, and offers free, 15-minute street parking next to the store entrance at Clark and 8th Street, between Gates 3 and 4.  Merchandise will also be available at locations throughout the ballpark on both Wednesday and Thursday. 

 

About Chelsea Football Club

Chelsea is one of the most successful teams in England with four Premier League titles and seven FA Cups.  The Blues also boast two UEFA Cup Championships, one UEFA Super Cup and one UEFA Champions League title. In 2012 Chelsea, with the help of Spaniards Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, as well as English International and three-time Chelsea Player of the Year, Frank Lampard, became the first London club to win the Champions League. On May 15, 2013, Chelsea won the Eurpoa League Trophy, beating Benfica 2-1.

About Manchester City Football Club

Informally known as “The Blues” or “The Citizens”, Manchester City FC is an English Premier League side, founded in 1880 as St Mark’s West Gorton. The Club won the 2011-2012 Premier League title and has won 25 major trophies. It counts the European Cup Winners’ Cup, three League Championship titles, and five FA Cups amongst its honors. The Club plays its domestic home fixtures at the Etihad Stadium, a spectacular 47,500 seat arena, which the Blues made their home following the successful Commonwealth Games in 2003. For more information, please visit www.mcfc.co.uk. 

About Relevent Sports

Relevent Sports brings the excitement and intensity of international soccer to the United States by showcasing the best clubs in the world through premier tournaments and events. Going beyond the game, Relevent provides an innovative approach to building international soccer presence by utilizing brand development, grassroots planning, corporate sponsors, international touring and philanthropic initiatives for the soccer organizations. 

BUSCH STADIUM – POLICY REMINDERS

Bag Inspections Policy

  • ·        The standard game-day bag inspection policies for Busch Stadium will be in effect. Bags will be allowed that meet Major League Baseball’s standard size restriction (16”x16”x8”), and all bags will be inspected prior to entry. 
  • ·        Fans will be permitted to bring small personal cameras and will be subject to inspection.  No professional-sized photography equipment will be allowed except for members of the media with proper credentials.  
  • ·        Non-alcoholic beverages such as water and soda in open cups or in clear plastic bottles no larger than 2 liters are allowed.
  • ·        Alcohol, bottles, cans, thermoses, hard-sided coolers; hard plastic cups/mugs are not permitted.
  • ·        Small banners and signs are allowed.  Banners may be displayed as long as they do not hinder or interfere with play or distract or interfere with the view of another guest. Banners may not be obscene or in poor taste, attract abuse or cause a disturbance among other guests. They should be soccer-oriented and not commercial in nature.
  • ·        Please minimize items you bring into the stadium to speed up the inspection process. 
  • ·        Expect long lines upon entry. Allow plenty of time to go through the inspection process.

Exit/Re-entry Policy

Standard Exit/Re-entry Policies are in effect.  Guests wishing to leave the stadium, but planning to return during the same game must have their hand stamped at Gates 1, 2 or 4 as they exit the stadium. Guests must show ticket upon re-entry. Inspection policy will also be enforced.

No Smoking Policy

Standard Busch Stadium Smoking Policy is in effect.  Busch Stadium is a smoke-free facility. Exit/Re-Entry turnstiles will be set up at Gates 1, 2 and 4 to allow fans access in and out of the stadium if they wish to smoke. Fans will get their hand stamped as they exit the stadium. Guests must show ticket upon re-entry. Inspection policy will also be enforced.

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Video: Adron Chambers Has A Day

Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are battling hard for spots on the St. Louis Cardinals roster this Spring Training.

Adron Chambers

Up until now, Robinson is leading that charge, putting up much better offensive numbers and playing solid defense.  Chambers had been his normal self, showing great speed in the field and on the base paths.

It was his speed that allowed Chambers to show off a flashy defensive play Friday as the Cardinals played the Astros.  Chambers chased a fly ball into the left field corner, eventually sliding and producing a stellar grab on the warning track.  Courtesy of MLB.com, here’s the video:

Adron brought a part of his game Friday that most had not seen real well until now, however.  His 3-for-3 performance was capped off by a three-run home run in the sixth inning.  Again, courtesy of MLB.com:

Chambers has long been intriguing to the makeup of the roster due to his speed and athletic ability.  If he can start to find his stroke at the plate, he may just find himself in St. Louis instead of Memphis.

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

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Cardinals And Rawlings Launch “Varsity Club”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A powerful breakfast

As a guy who has lacked in home run power over the beginning of his career in Kansas City, Billy Butler, has taken the bull by the horns this season setting a new career high in home runs only 111 games into the 2012 season.  Butler is on pace to become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs in a season since Jermaine Dye did it in 2000. A 12 year drought could be broken by a player who for most of his young career has been criticized for not having enough power for not only his stature but also his position being designated hitter.

The power has changed from double to home runs this season mainly because instead of relying on his upper body to do all the work at the plate Butler has worked hard to get his legs stronger over the last 9 months and using them at the plate has equated into more lift on balls that are now carrying over the fence instead of bouncing off of the warning track.  One stat that has not been given enough credit was his ability to hit the double.  Trailing only New York Yankee second basemen in doubles since the beginning of the 2009 season, Butler has 158 two baggers, according to Baseball-Reference.  That is an astounding number that seems to have been pushed away because they are not turning into home runs. Everyone believes that if you have to power to hit that many doubles then you have the power to hit home runs. It does not work that way because it is not about the power or strength but the swing that the hitter has.  Over the first parts of his career Butler seemed to not lift the ball when it was needed and would use a more level swing that resulted in line drives in the gaps instead of towering fly balls into the stands.  But until the last two season Butler simply was not supposed to be the guy who hit the ball over the wall and gave the team the offensive lift they need. He has been asked to be a hitter and a hitter he has been.  But now he needs to continue to show the power he has shown so far in 2012.

On pace for 34 home runs this season two shy of the club record of 36 set in 1985 by the powerful Steve Balboni. The amount of home runs is not what stands out the most in the case of Butler.  The fact that he recognized that as the hitting leader of this team the best way to do that is lead by example.  In the off season he saw that he needed to work on his weakness of strength in his lower body which would help get more lift on the baseball and turn doubles in the gaps into home runs into the seats.

The philosophy that both Butler and hitting coach Kevin Seitzer have taken in the 2012 sea on seems to be working not only in the power department but a continued success to all fields for Butler. His doubles have gone down but that is what happens when the ball that were hitting the fence are now traveling over the fence.  To ask a guy to hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career and continue a pace of 47 doubles per year for the last three seasons would be outrageous.  The statistic that continues to slipped the minds of critics of Butler is the fact that the man is only 26 years old.  By comparison to other designated hitters of past that people would like to see Bulter become Edgar Martinez did not hit 30 home runs in a season until he was 37 years old.  he did flirt with 30 home runs in 1995 which still was when he was 33 years old.

Comparing the two a bit more in Martinez’s first 6 seasons in the major leagues he hit 91 home runs, 204 doubles, with 381 RBI while having a batting average of .290.  Now Butler in his first six seasons, which as of right now is 13 at bats less than Martinez had at this point in his career, has hit 97 home runs, 203 doubles, with 445 RBI and a batting average of .298, according to Baseball-Reference. If Butler continues to improve on an already good beginning to his career and progresses faster than Martinez did in Seattle than the Royals could have a once in a lifetime statistic wonder on their hands.

Everyone knew that Butler was going to be a hitter but hitters do not alway produce.  Having a guy that is going to consistently flirt with a three hundred average which never seems to dip under .290 nor exceed .315 is something that can be found anywhere but having that same guy perform with the production that Butler has shown in just six years is priceless.  He started out as two eggs over easy with a side of toast and now has turned into a full country breakfast.  But over the season to come all we can do is wait and see if Butler can become the Thanksgiving dinner to lead the Royals to success in September and beyond.

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The Embattled Hero

I can remember it like it was yesterday, August 4, 2009. The Mariners were in town and I was taking my then 8 year old son and his friend to a ballgame for his birthday. We got there early so we could get all of the Little K events out of the way, we walked the path just under the Jumbotron so we could see just how jumbo it was, we got a couple of pops, some nachos, and, after circling the stadium found our seats well down the third base side in the lower level. The Royals scored 5 in the first, including a bomb from Billy Butler and the boys could not have been much happier. Then came the 4th inning.

Although Bruce Chen had held the Mariners scoreless through 3, he wasn’t exactly lights out. He’d given up 3 singles, thrown a wild pitch and had a couple of warning track fly balls scare him. In the 4th it finally caught up with him when one Michael Sweeney hit a majestic shot over the wall in left field. Now, let me back up. I had not noticed it so much the first time Sweeney came up (maybe the drunks were still in the parking lot?) but Sweeney’s second plate appearance was tainted with a smattering of boos, most notably from directly behind us, as he walked to the plate. This infuriated me, but I said nothing. Sweeney was 36 years old and very possibly making his last trip to the K. He’d given everything he had in Kansas City and I could see no reason to boo him. So, when he hit the home run, I did something I’d never done during an opposing player’s home trot…I stood and I clapped.

There were a few more boos, and that only made me clap louder. For the 15-20 seconds he circles the bases I clapped as loud as I could and as he entered the dugout I yelled in vain “Thank you, Mike!” As I sat down, my son looked at my quizzically, but before I could explain the drunkards behind me hollered “Why would you clap for that bum? We paid him all that money and he was hurt the whole $@##ing time” I am not one for violence, especially in a family atmosphere like the K, but I was fighting mad at this point. Instead of directly addressing the drunkard, I turned to my son and in a none-too-hushed tone explained “Mike Sweeney is a great man and he was a great Royal. He’s the only great player from his generation that chose to stay with the Royals and he’s one of the best hitters to ever play for the Royals. Only a damn idiot would boo him.”

I don’t believe that most Royals fans would have booed Sweeney on that day, but I do believe far too many share the drunkard’s sentiment. If there is any justice in the process, Sweeney will be a Royals Hall of Famer some day soon and he will deserve it as much as almost anyone in there. Disagree?

-          Sweeney has the third highest career batting average (.299) in club history

-          Sweeney has the second highest career OPS (.861)

-          Sweeney is second all-time in home runs (197) and ranks in the top 6 in runs, hits, total bases, doubles, walks, and RBI

-          His 144 RBI in 2000 are still a club record

-          Per Baseball-Reference’s WAR he ranks as the 5th best hitter and 7th best position player in club history

The biggest arguments against Sweeney seem to be that he was A) overpaid and B) always injured. The fact is, he was paid just under $71 million dollars over 13 seasons. During those 13 seasons he made 5 All Star Games and did everything his body would allow. Yes, he was terribly overpaid over those last 5 seasons, just as he was terribly underpaid for the 4 before that. From 99-03 Sweeney played an average of 146 games per season, made 3 All Star teams, set a club record for RBIs, and had an OPS+ of 134. He made just under $16 million for those 4 years combined.

Barring an unfortunate comeback attempt, Sweeney will become eligible for the Royals HOF after the 2013 season, meaning his induction ceremony should be a little more than 2 ½ years away. I hope to be there, just to make sure the applause drowns out any undeserved boos. One of the greatest men to ever put on the uniform deserves nothing less.

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The Great Debate

The St. Louis Cardinals hosted a special Guest of Honor at Busch Stadium Friday night for their game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the process, they may have rekindled a debate that has been going on for the better part of a decade. And it involves arguably the best offensive player of the Whiteyball era.

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On the night he was immortalized by his very own bobblehead figurine, Willie McGee returned to St. Louis to sign some autographs (with fellow Cardinal great Vince Coleman), be paraded around the warning track in a shiny new pickup truck, and throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Coleman while their teammate Ozzie Smith served as umpire.

McGee’s endearment to the Cardinal fan base is immeasurable and unshakable. He is easily one of the most popular players in Cardinal history. Fans were lining up outside Busch as early as noon on Friday to guarantee a spot in line to get the outfielder’s autograph and make sure they got their McGee bobblehead. By 5:00—still 15 minutes before the gates even open—the stadium was completely ringed with lines of fans. McGee #51 jerseys draped the backs of hundreds, maybe thousands in attendance. And McGee, a sheepish yet genuine smile permanently plastered on his face, looked almost embarrassed by all the love sent his way. No one expected any more or less.

That’s the emotional side of the story. Cardinal fans genuinely love Willie McGee. One almost universally used descriptor of McGee is humble…that has something to do with it. McGee never once gave off a single vibe of “me first” or taking his position in life for granted. And McGee never dogged it in any aspect of his game. He’s a perfect fit here, because St. Louis sports fans cannot get enough of the two H’s: humility and hustle.

But McGee also produced on the field. Everyone knows about the batting titles, the plays in the 1982 World Series, the 1985 MVP, gold gloves, etc. What may come as a surprise is just how good statistically McGee was during his time as a Cardinal from 1982-1990.

During that period, McGee had more hits (1,362) than any other Cardinal. He had the most singles (1,030) and triples (76), and finished second to Smith in doubles. He had the third-most stolen bases (274), behind Coleman and Smith. McGee also had the most RBI of any Cardinal in that period (545) and only Ozzie scored more runs. And the biggest surprise of all is that McGee’s home run total in that era (52) is only surpassed by Jack Clark‘s (66).

In the field, McGee may not have been a defensive wizard (pun intended) like Ozzie but he more than held his own. McGee won three Gold Gloves as a Cardinal, playing mostly center field. It may not have always looked pretty, but McGee had the range and athleticism to get the job done. And for that team in that time and playing in that stadium, his defensive skills were just fine.

McGee had all the tools necessary to make him the perfect Whiteyball player: speed, solid defense, timely hitting, and a little bit of power. His defense could never hold a candle to Ozzie; whose could? But it’s possible Willie McGee is a little underrated as an offensive player. He may have been the Cardinals’ best all-around hitter during the Whiteyball era. Think of the importance that title carries.

That’s the logical side of the story. Nearly every time McGee’s name is brought up, the debate about whether his #51 should be retired or not fires up right along with it. The Cardinals, officially, only retire uniform numbers when the player gets inducted into the Hall of Fame (Ken Boyer excepted). McGee’s career numbers are not good enough to earn him that distinction. Others argue that since the Cards already have 11 numbers taken out of rotation, the team must be prudent with future retirement or they’ll run out of digits for future players to wear. But many fans believe #51 should be retired. They believe McGee deserves the same team accolades that other key members of the Cards’ most successful eras have received. McGee was on two NL Championship teams and one World Series winner for the Cardinals in the 80s. And after being traded to the Oakland A’s in 1990, McGee returned to the Cards 5+ seasons later to help them make the playoffs again in 1996. But that time in the 80s, that Whiteyball era, was so special and so remarkable. Even now, as Cardinal fans witness the unprecedented career of Albert Pujols and the success Tony LaRussa-led squads have had here since 2000, there is still a very noticeable pining for that brand of baseball played in St. Louis more than two decades ago. And Willie McGee was as important to the success of those teams as any other player…even Ozzie Smith.

Maybe a professional team can’t retire a uniform number just because everyone loves that player. That would be especially dangerous in St. Louis, where half the team is, at the very least, treated like extended family. But when coupling the pinnacle of that popularity with top offensive and defensive stats in maybe the most franchise-defining era in team history, perhaps the real question is why wouldn’t the Cardinals retire Willie McGee’s #51?

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

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Luck

Luck.

That is the official explanation from the Cardinals’ manager, pitching coach, and relief pitcher as it pertains to the struggles of Ryan Franklin. More specifically, they are citing “bad luck”.

Now, I remember playing some video games as a kid that would have a statistical category for luck, but I do not recall being able to find this on the back of a baseball card, on baseball-reference, or through any number of Sabermetric type research sites. I find myself confused as to why three professional baseball men, one who is highly regarded for his work with pitchers, cannot pinpoint anything other than luck when it comes to the struggles of a pitcher that is attempting to close down games and provide the team with some reassurance late in the game.

Perhaps, just maybe, the problem is not luck. Those who follow my many exploits on the web, writing or making radio appearances, know that I am far from impressed with Ryan Franklin as a whole. I have always struggled with the concept of a closer being a pitcher that is not dominant, pitches to contact, and is not a ground ball pitcher. It seems to me, on a basic level, that this combination threatens the ability to close ball games.

All of that aside, there is a lot of posturing going on today in defense of the closer. Some discussions about the lack of defense behind the pitcher having a major impact on his ability to close games. Thoughts like this have been coming up on Twitter:

If Rasmus doesn't drop Uribe's "2R Double" which should be an error. Franklin would have a 7.2 ERA vs 11.6 ERA; 1 less blown save. #stlcards
@NLFantasyBB
Mark Kruger

First of all, some perspective here. One less blown save and an earned run average just above seven would not have me screaming support for a pitcher. In addition, before we hang our center fielder out to dry, keep in mind this was far from a routine play. The ball was hit some 370 feet to the warning track in left-center field. This is not to say that the ball was not catchable, but to make it sound like Colby Rasmus dropped a routine fly ball and the reliever should be excused for that is a bit extreme.

In addition, it would be nice to see the Cardinals employ a closer that would see balls hit that distance in a less than routine fashion. A closer that is relying on defense, a commodity the Cardinals felt was expendable during the off-season, is a recipe for disaster. A closer that relies on pitching to contact that results in a more fly balls than ground balls is asking to surrender home runs.

Franklin said after surrendering the walk off home run to Matt Kemp on Sunday that the pitch was exactly where he wanted it and it was not a mistake. The closing pitcher for the team just admitted that he threw the best pitch he had and it was hit over 400 feet. That is not bad luck, that is out played, out performed, and dominated.

John Mozeliak was quoted as saying “Right now we need to do whatever gives us the best chance to win.” It is a shame that it took the recent results for the team to realize that a change at the back end of the bullpen needed fixed. It is equally shameful to hear an executive say now is the time to worry about a win. Should that not be the the team’s objective constantly, not just right now?

Ryan Franklin is a solid person, a great teammate, and well respected as a player in St. Louis. I do not intend to take away from that. However, in the interest of winning, this team needs to make a change. Not a temporary one.

All due respect to Dave Duncan, Tony LaRussa, and Ryan Franklin, this is not “luck”. It is ability. Sadly, Ryan Franklin is lacking in that category.

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The Best Fans In Baseball

We have all heard it. St. Louis fans are often called “The best fans in baseball”. On a very large level, I agree with this sentiment. The fans will applaud an opposing player for a grand play, reward their beloved hometown players with cheers for the smallest accomplishment, and seem to know the game better than most casual fans in various cities around the United States.

To me, however, it takes more than that. While I can appreciate a player going first to third or a diving grab at the warning track regardless of the uniform the player is wearing, it seems lately that I have discovered some of the most outspoken and, dare I say, unsportsmanlike fans where I least expected to – the Gateway City itself.

I watched this week as fans all over the internet would disrespect, disparage, and flood social media sites with negative remarks towards Lou Piniella. One of the most successful managers in history that has been colorful, boisterous and at times angry, Lou has decided to hang up the uniform and head home to take care of his mother, who has battled health issues for most of the year. A manager that may have been most known for his temper flaring, ejection inviting, tantrums from time to time, there was one word that I have never heard used in the conversation about Lou – disrespectful. He always respected the game, the players and his opponents. For fans to not recognize this simply because he donned attire that featured a baby bear and a large “C” is astonishing from a fan base that claims to be fair and appreciative of great baseball.

Perhaps the largest example of my disappointment in the fans of the Cardinals comes in the consistent desire to rehash the incidents surrounding the Reds and Cardinals recently. Now, do not take this wrong, I do not agree with the actions of Johnny Cueto or Brandon Phillips during these events. Nor do I agree with the punishment handed down. That being said, it is done. The league has decided on the punishment, the time has been served, and the players involved are in their respective places now. The focus of both teams at this point, as well as their fan bases, needs to be squarely on the field and the opponents ahead. There is a pennant race to be won and, let us all be honest with each other, Jason LaRue was not going to be a deciding factor for this ball club. I feel bad to see LaRue on the shelf, he is a great guy, but can we please move on? Complaining about the decision by major league baseball and focusing on it each time Cueto pitches or Bryan Anderson hits only serves to prove the comments of Brandon Phillips to be true.

The best fans in baseball need to remember what got them that name, they need to buckle down and support their team, and they need to leave the hate talk and poor loser mentality to the fans that do it much better. There is an over abundance of fans in many other cities that fill that quota quite well.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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