Tag Archive | "World Series"

It can be done

I’ve not lived up to my name lately, and for that I apologize. Actually I shouldn’t have to apologize; David Glass and Dayton Moore should do that for me. Since they’re obviously not going to, I’m sorry. I’m going to try to fix that this week with five reasons to be optimistic about 2013. It’s not easy right now, what with the Tigers heading to the World Series, to think that this team can compete for a title in 2013. They can, and here’s how:

  1. While I’ll agree with anyone that David Glass is a miserly old man, he’s still a business man. He knows he has to acquire starting pitching that makes a difference this offseason or is cash cow may be slightly less profitable. I don’t think that means that Glass breaks the bank, but I do think the pressure is on Allard….er Dayton Moore to bring in a good starting pitcher. Not someone that could be good, but someone that is. Whether this happens by trade or not, the pitching will improve in 2013, you can count on it.
  2. The offense is going to take another step forward. Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar may not be able to improve on 2012, but Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas sure will, in a big way. You have to remember that these two will both be under 24 for a majority of next season. They have a lot of maturing and improving to do, and we’ll see some of it next season.
  3. Jeff Francoeur will likely improve or get cut. I’ve been saying it all winter, and I still believe it. Frenchy will be your starting right fielder on Opening Day. The difference this year is that the Royals can cut bait without having next year hanging over their head. My expectation is that Frenchy starts until the super two deadline passes and then right field is handed over to Wil Myers. Frenchy will most likely get the choice of being a role player or being cut.
  4. We will see more power from this club in 2013. I love Kevin Seitzer as a former Royal and especially as a person. I thought it was a complete joke that the Royals fired Seitzer while keeping Moore and Yost. But still, his up the middle/opposite field approach sapped a lot of power away from the like of Moose, Hosmer, Gordon and Butler. I would not be surprised in the least if three of the four set career highs for home runs.
  5. The Royals were better than their record in 2012. Even their Pythagorean record comes out to 74-88, but beyond that…imagine this team with Salvador Perez for a full season. He posted a 2.8 WAR in half a season. Imagine this team if Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino aren’t lost for the season. Imagine that bullpen with Joakim Soria. Are the Royals going to have injuries in 2013? Of course they are. But the likelihood that they have as many significant injuries at key positions is very, very low.

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St. Louis Cardinals creating a golden era with miracle comebacks

Every once in a while we reach a point in our lives when our next action will dramatically affect our lives. The string has been tightened as far as it will go without snapping. There is no in between. We either do or we don’t. It’s time for action, and that action will have long-reaching consequences.

That’s where the St. Louis Cardinals were Friday night in Washington, D.C., down 7-5 in the ninth inning to the Nationals with two strikes on catcher Yadier Molina. The next strike would’ve ended the Cardinals season. Period. But Molina worked a walk and kept the season alive.

Then the Nationals had two strikes on second baseman Daniel Descalso. The next strike would’ve ended the Cardinals season. Period.

But Descalso hit the next pitch up the middle and two runs scored to tie the game, and the Cardinals went on to win 9-7 in one of the greatest postseason comebacks in the history of Major League Baseball.

Wait, didn’t this just happen last year? The Cardinals were down to their last strike twice against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series before coming back to win on a walkoff homerun by third baseman David Freese.

Stuff like that isn’t supposed to happen. Even if a team pulled off a miracle in one instance, the chances of that same team recreating that miracle the following season are so incredibly small that people who even think it is possible would be considered crazy.

That’s part of what made Friday’s win so amazing. Winning a close playoff game is always exhilarating, but the Cardinals won these two games under historic circumstances. The string couldn’t be pulled any tighter without breaking. As the Nationals’ fan said during Descalso’s at bat, “Just one more” would’ve completely changed the rest of the playoffs.

It’s also what makes baseball such a great sport. Within the last 12 months, baseball fans have seen the greatest final night to end a season when the Cardinals won, Atlanta Braves lost, Tampa Bay Rays won and Boston Red Sox lost. Every game ended in a walkoff except for the Cardinals, who beat the Houston Astros 10-0.

Then all of the magic rested with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in Game 5 to win a series in which they were serious underdogs. And then Game 6 of the World Series turned out to be arguably the greatest World Series game ever played.

To have all of those moments wrapped up in one team within the span of a year is an incredible blessing for that team’s fans. The Cardinals might not have a dynasty the way the Yankees did in the late 1990s, but they now have a dynasty of great moments.

People will surely talk about the last two seasons long into the future. What Cardinals fans are experiencing right now is absolutely as good as it gets. Please remember that, because there will be tough times at some point in the future.

But right now soak it all in. These are days we will remember for the rest of our lives.

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“How did this happen?”

FOX Sports broadcaster Tim McCarver uttered those words after David Freese won Game 6 of the 2011 World Series with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning. Here’s another one: “One Last Strike.” It’s the name of Tony La Russa’s book, referencing the Cards being down with two outs and two strikes on the batter in the 9th and 10th innings of that game before tying it up with hits. Those events seemed impossible both before and after they happened, yet they were real and the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed.

Friday night’s NLDS Game 5 win was not quite as dramatic for the Cards, but it really couldn’t get much closer.

They were down 6-0 early, and starter Adam Wainwright was knocked out of the game. He couldn’t even get through three full innings; things looked bleaker than bleak. And then the Cardinals started chipping away. But bad at-bats killed each rally before it really got churning. A run here, a run there…but the game was getting late and the stout Washington Nationals bullpen was looming. And then…

What? Daniel Descalso hits a home run to lead off the 8th inning, and the Cards are suddenly within a run of the Nats. Then Jason Motte comes in and allows Washington to get an insurance run in the bottom of the frame. Drew Storen is coming in for the 9th and the Cardinals are almost certainly doomed. It was a valiant effort; a noble battle fought this night. And then…

What? The usually steady Storen gives up a double to Carlos Beltran, gets two outs, and suddenly falters. The Cardinals are—wait for it—down to their last strike, twice…but both runners get on base via walk. And then…

WHAT? Daniel Descalso rips a grounder to short. The play should have been made by Ian Desmond, but it wasn’t. The ball skipped off his glove and bounded towards center field, and the game was tied as Beltran and pinch runner Adron Chambers scampered home. That’s how fast it happens. Sure, it was a four hour game and the final two innings seemed to take up an hour of that time. But the 2012 Cardinals seemed to carry over some of the moxie of the 2011 Cardinals, and the never-say-die attitude produced new life late in Game 5 of the NLDS. The Nationals then allowed Descalso to take second base without a throw, and Pete Kozma’s hit to right field plated two more. Another comeback was complete. An uneventful bottom of the 9th sent the Cards to the next round, and sent the Nationals home to wonder how it all came to this.

Truth be told, the Cards may not have deserved to win Game 5 at all—especially after falling behind 6-0 after three innings. The questions were being asked before the 4th inning even started: Should the Cardinals have swept this series? Did Mike Matheny cost them Game 1 by bringing in Marc Rzepczynski? Should he have gone with Motte or Trevor Rosenthal in the 9th inning of Game 4? Where are the holes in the Cards’ lineup that keep them from scoring more than one and two runs in two of these games? Was the bullpen used correctly in Game 5? Is bringing Motte in for the 8th inning waving a white flag? What if Kozma was intentionally walked, and Motte’s spot came up with the bases loaded and the game tied in the top of the 9th inning of an elimination game?

All of those questions were rendered moot with Kozma’s hit and Motte’s slamming of the door in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Nationals and their fans were too stunned to put up much of a protest. Everyone in the stadium knew this was the St. Louis Cardinals, and everyone knew what happened in 2011. But lighting is not supposed to strike twice. And then…it did.

What took place Friday night cannot be explained with anything more profound than “well…it is the Cardinals.” Somehow, this team has found something that allows it to never say die. They simply never quit. Last year was not a fluke—not anymore; it was who these guys are. Now maybe some more magical things happen in this postseason and postseasons to come, and maybe they don’t. Maybe their remaining wins and losses are completely pedestrian. But the bar has been set, and this team can never be taken for granted again. They are always dangerous; they are always one pitch away from completely ruining other teams’ nights, series, seasons, lives.

One last strike? No problem. How did this happen? This is Cardinals baseball, and this is exactly how it happens. The Cardinals will lose more playoff games, and they will lose playoff series. But until that 27th out is secured, they will always have a chance. And apparently a chance is all they need.

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

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A way for the Royals to make the playoffs every year

With the Kansas City Royals missing another postseason, fans wonder when the team will make the playoffs, even with the expanded Wild Card. How about a playoff format where every team in the Majors is in a playoff tournament for a chance at the World Series? Think it sounds crazy? Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones doesn’t think so.

In a October 5 article in USA Today, the future Hall of Famer said, “Quite honestly, I think if we’re going to continue to let teams in year after year, we might as well just say, screw it; let’s have everybody in. Let’s play 162 games to seed yourselves and then we’ll let the Astros (55-107) have a shot at it and whoever else wants a shot at it, six or seven game winning streak and you’re the world champions.

“We’ll just have a 32-team, single-elimination March Madness tournament. That’s the way I think we ought to do it.”

Ok, Chipper isn’t being serious, but I think he’s overlooking the genius of a “October Madness” type baseball playoff. And someone needs to remind him there’s 30 teams in the Major Leagues, not 32.

With the Astros moving to the American League next year, making each league 15 teams, a 30 team playoff is possible.

Major League Baseball would eliminate the divisions and have a 15 team American and National League. The schedule would be balanced and have Interleague play. All the rounds to the World Series would be a single game elimination tournament, the brackets split between the American and National League. The bracket for each league would be seven first round games, four second round games, two third round games and one fourth round game, the winner of which would claim the league pennant. Then have a traditional seven game World Series.

The A.L. and N.L. team with the best record gets a first round bye and home field advantage through the tournament. The remaining 14 teams would be seeded in the tournament by their record, from 1-14, with the higher seed being the home team. I would seed the teams like this: 7-14, 6-13, 5-12, 4-11, 3-10, 2-9, 1-8, with the winner of the 7-14 game facing the top league bye team in the second round. This makes the teams more evenly matched and “easier” for the top league bye team to advance.

The logistics and travel would be difficult, but it’s possible. Have a day or two off between rounds and the tournament could be done in seven to ten days. Then play the World Series over nine days.

So what are the advantages of this type of playoff format? Well, every team is in the playoffs, which keeps fans and players interested through the season. If you’re Houston, your season isn’t over by Memorial Day. Heck, this even gives the Cubs a chance to make the World Series. Maybe.

What makes NCAA Basketball March Madness so exciting? It’s the Cinderella teams having a shot of knocking out the top seeded teams and playing deep into the tournament. A single game elimination tournament to get in the World Series gives the low revenue teams like the Royals a chance. Yes, a mediocre team could get hot and win four in a row, making it to the World Series. But they still have to win four out of seven games to be champions. And like most tournaments, the best teams are usually in the final rounds anyway.

Think about the story lines and drama of a single game elimination tournament with 30 teams. The pressure of teams deciding who starts their games. Where every move is scrutinized by the fans and media if the team loses, or wins. A one game playoff between the Cardinals and Cubs or Royals and Yankees to make it to the World Series. As a fan of those teams, that has to make you excited if you win and crushed if you lose.

I’m sure there’s some baseball purists out there who believe a single game elimination tournament might ruin the integrity of the game or some other nonsense. They might say, “Won’t it make the 162 game season meaningless?” Let’s be honest. If your team doesn’t win the World Series, isn’t the season technically meaningless anyway? If baseball can survive the Black Sox Scandal, Pete Rose betting on baseball, the designated hitter, interleague play and the expanded Wild Card, it will survive a tournament where every team is in the playoffs.

There is a danger some teams might aim for mediocrity and figure, “hey, we have as good a shot as anyone else to win the World Series, why invest in top players?” That sounds like something Royals owner David Glass might do. Major League Baseball could have a salary floor to force each team to spend X amount of dollars on team payroll so teams wouldn’t stock their roster with lousy, low cost players. Instead, they would have stock their roster with better quality players. Or in the case of recent Royals history, stock the team with lousy, high cost players.

Of course what I’m suggesting is unlikely to happen. No major sport or league has every team in their playoffs and it would be hard to have ownership, the players union and the Commissioner’s office to agree on a radical playoff format like this. But when your team misses the playoffs year after year and you see the team across the state in the playoffs again, the tongue in cheek thoughts of Chipper Jones start making a lot of sense.

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With Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals have chance to win in playoffs

When St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter surprisingly returned to the mound Friday to make his first meaningful pitches since Game 7 of last year’s World Series, the Cardinals chances to win playoff games jumped substantially – if they get there.

With #29 healthy, the Cardinals could throw a rotation of Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse in the playoffs. On paper, that is a better rotation than the Cardinals had even last year when they won the World Series.

Carpenter is coming off of surgery to fix thoracic outlet syndrome that people expected to prevent him from pitching at all this season. But Carpenter threw five innings and gave up two runs on five hits Friday against the Chicago Cubs before the Cardinals blew the lead and lost 5-4 in 11 innings. But if that’s how Carpenter throws the first time out, he could be back to a strong seven innings by the time the playoffs begin.

Since Carpenter is returning from injury, the Cardinals might use him third in the rotation, but that could be a bonus. The team could throw Wainwright or Lohse in any combination of the Wild Card game Oct. 5 against the Atlanta Braves and then the start of the Division Series. Those two pitchers have a combined record of 28-16 with a 3.37 ERA, and Lohse is in Cy Young award contention with his 15-3 record and 2.71 ERA.

All of a sudden the Cardinals could match-up well against teams they might face in the Division Series. The problem is games such as Friday in Chicago when the team can’t score enough runs and can’t protect leads when it has them.

The Cardinals are 20-26 in one-run games this season, and much of that record has come from the bullpen’s inability to hold a lead, as it failed to do again Friday.

That has perhaps been the most frustrating part of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. The starting pitching has been superb for the most part and has kept the team in most every game this season. There have been very few games when the Cardinals got crushed because the starting pitcher was terrible. However, the team has not been able to lock down games at the end, and while the bullpen deserves plenty of blame, the rest of the team isn’t helping.

For example, the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the second inning after scoring one run in Saturday’s 5-4 10-inning win over the Cubs. They also left men on first and third in the sixth and eighth innings without scoring a run. In total, they left 13 runners on base.

That lack of the big hit to take control of a game has been a problem all season. Even though the Cardinals ended April with a 14-8 record, they could have had a much better month.

“We could have had an epic month, and it turned out to be a decent month,” Lance Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “With the potential that this team has, this is a nice month but it’s certainly not our best.”

Unfortunately, that potential never showed up. The Cardinals are still stumbling each time they start to get on a roll. This is the point in the season when opportunities can no longer be wasted because one mistake could allow the Milwaukee Brewers to jump in and steal the second wild-card spot.

But if the Cardinals do make the playoffs, optimism and dreams of another World Series will return when people look at a starting rotation with Carpenter, Wainwright and Lohse. Hopefully the rest of the team can keep up.

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It Shouldn’t Have To Be This Difficult

For most of the last quarter of a century, the Kansas City Royals have done something more difficult than achieving success…they’ve avoided it completely.

Royals fans are very well aware of the last time their favorite team played a post-season game. It was October of 1985, and there is a large group of Royals fans that have been born and graduated college and maybe even gotten their first promotion that have never witnessed this feat. This is truly a remarkable feat, especially when you consider the following things that have taken place in major league baseball since October of 1985:

  • The Florida/Miami Marlins have managed to enter the league as an expansion team, and win 2 World Series titles
  • The Colorado Rockies emerged as an expansion team and have qualified for the playoffs 3 times and played in one World Series
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the league as an expansion team and have qualified for the playoffs 5 times and won one World Series title
  • The Tampa Bay Rays entered the league as an expansion team and have made 3 playoff appearances and one World Series appearance, and are currently on pace to make the playoffs again this year
  • The Cincinnati Reds have made 3 playoff appearances and won one World Series title, and are currently on pace to make the playoffs again this year
  • The Minnesota Twins have made 8 playoff appearances and won two World Series titles
  • The Baltimore Orioles have made 2 playoff appearances and are currently on pace to make the playoffs this year
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates have made 3 playoff appearances and are currently in contention for a playoff spot this year
  • The Toronto Blue Jays have made 4 playoff appearances and won 2 World Series titles
  • The Cleveland Indians have made 7 playoff appearances and appeared in 1 World Series
  • The Oakland Athletics have made 9 playoff appearances, 3 World Series appearances, and won 1 World Series title
  • The Seattle Mariners have made 4 playoff appearances
  • The Milwaukee Brewers have made 2 playoff appearances
  • The San Diego Padres have made 4 playoff appearances and one World Series appearance

The 14 organizations listed above are all similar in market size to the Royals.  Most of these organizations have had multiple runs of competitive/championship baseball in the time that the Royals have not even been able to put together one. The only organization that has managed to go longer than the Royals without a playoff appearance is the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.  However, they are all but assured of making the playoffs this season.  While Royals fans likely are ready to throw their computers out the window after reading this, it provides some good perspective on just how pathetic this organization has been over the last 25+ years.

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Checking the Bottom Line on the Greinke Trade

It’s not yet time to close the books on the Zack Greinke trade of a year and a half ago. That day won’t come for a long time.

But now is a great time to check the bottom line, to begin to gauge who is coming out better on the trade – the Royals or Brewers.

It will be years before we can judge just what the Royals let get away in Greinke, what they got in return in Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, and what the Brewers got in trading away Greinke on Sunday. But we can take a first look now that Greinke’s time in Milwaukee is finished.

By one standard, the Brewers came away from the trade as the decided victors. After all, they did reach the NL Championship series with Greinke, while the Royals haven’t sniffed the playoffs in a generation. After all, in the end, you play to win the World Series. The Brewers did what they could to make a run at it.

But taking a bit more of a long-term perspective, the balance tips currently in favor of the Royals.

While the Brewers have plummeted to fourth in the NL Central (nine games below .500 at the time of the trade), the Royals’ “process” sputters along. The Brewers found themselves in such need of help at a host of positions that it made sense to pack Greinke off rather than attempt to re-sign him.

Meanwhile the Royals are plugging into the process the pieces acquired a year and a half ago.

So the Greinke Adventure in Milwaukee lasted just a year and a half. But how good really was Greinke in Milwaukee?

At the time of the trade that sent him to Anaheim, his ERA of 3.44 this year was just 20th in the National League. His WHIP of 1.20 was also just 20th. His nine wins were tied for 16th. His WAR this year was 2.3, good for 15th among pitchers.

And while the Brewers made a run in the playoffs in 2011, you could argue Greinke was even worse that year than this. Last year his ERA, 3.83, was 34th in the NL. His WHIP of 1.20 was 15th. His WAR was just 1.4, 52nd in the league. His 16 wins did at least tie him for 6th in the NL.

But when the Brewers needed Greinke most, he was far from the star they traded for. His ERA in one playoff game against Arizona ? 7.20. And in two games, one a win and one a loss, in the NLCS versus St. Louis, his ERA was 6.17.

Greinke failed to make the All-Star Game in either season as a Brewer. He was not a fan favorite. He was not popular with teammates. He was not a leader.

In short, Greinke hasn’t been the Greinke of 2009 since, well, since 2009. That season stands out more and more as a statistical anomaly. A one-hit wonder who keeps cranking out tunes, but just can’t quite capture the sound of his Cy Young season.

The Brewers dealt away the shortstop of their future – Alcides Escobar – to get Greinke. So this year they were so in need of a shortstop that that’s essentially what they traded Greinke to get. They got Jean Segura, with a total of one game in the bigs to his credit. He’s currently getting his legs under him at Double A.

Meanwhile, Alcides Escobar may not be an All Star, but he should be. Just three years older than Segura, Escobar has established himself as one of the top fielders and hitters at the position in the American League.

Added recently to the Royals otherwise dismal lineup is Lorenzo Cain. The man who could soften the blow of the Melky Cabrera/Jonathan Sanchez disaster has rebounded from injury to flash some tremendous potential. So far he’s provided some pop with the bat. And when he’s fully healthy, he should be a dynamic fielder in center and a dangerous base runner too.

The Brewers also acquired from the Angels in Sunday’s trade two 23-year-old pitchers who were laboring unspectacularly in Double AA for the Angels.

In contrast, the Royals got in the 2010 Greinke trade 22-year-old Jake Odorizzi, who has asserted himself this year as one of the best pitching prospects in all the minor leagues.

And one final wild card in the equation is Jeremy Jeffress, who is still just 24 and is working to harness the talent that made him a first round draft choice in 2006.

Escobar and Cain are under team control through 2017. If “the process” is to finally succeed, they will be key components of it. Odorizzi will almost certainly be in the KC rotation next season. Jeffress might be back in KC before it’s all over too.

A year ago, the Brewers looked like they made the right move to get Greinke. But the more time passes, the more it looks like the Royals will come out the winners in that trade.

Check back in about a decade to see the final result. But right now, it looks like Dayton Moore is the winner in this trade.

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A Season of Allen Craig

This week, the St. Louis Cardinals found out exactly what a full Major League season of Allen Craig looks like. He has now played in 156 games and collected over 500 plate appearances in the big leagues. The numbers are in…and they look pretty good.

In his time with the Cardinals during the regular season, Craig sports a .297 batting average with 25 home runs, 95 RBI, and a better than .880 OPS. He does have 100 strikeouts against only 42 walks, so perhaps his pitch selection could be a bit better. But those numbers are great. Craig is just one of those players who goes out and rakes.

The problem, of course, is that it has taken Craig parts of three seasons to get one season’s worth of stats on his résumé. Injuries have definitely taken a toll on the slugger’s playing time early in his career. The good news is, the biggest injury he sustained was a result of hustling his ass off and crashing into the wall knee first and not some muscle or tendon pull as a result of poor conditioning or other weakness. The time he missed certainly still counts, but a freak accident injury is something entirely different from being injury prone. It will take more time to see if Craig is predisposed to weird injuries or not.

Craig’s true breakout may have come in the 2011 World Series. Though he only hit .263, Craig had three home runs and an otherworldly 1.154 OPS. Pretty much every other performance in that series got overshadowed by David Freese’s heroics, and he certainly deserved the MVP award. But Craig at least had a case to be in the conversation. Many of his offensive numbers were very close to Freese, and he added some flash with the catch over the wall and go-ahead home run in Game 7. In fact, most of his RBI were of either the go-ahead or game-winning variety. Craig was clutch in that World Series. Remember the hits off Alexei Ogando in the first two games? Overall, Craig had just as big a part in the Cards winning that series as Freese, Chris Carpenter, and Albert Pujols.

Not too shabby for a player who one week will play several positions and the next week seem to be a man without a position. Under Tony LaRussa, Craig played everywhere on the field except pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. New manager Mike Matheny has thus far kept Craig in the outfield or at first base, an important position for him to excel in with Lance Berkman’s return uncertain.

But that is a great question: What happens if/when Berkman does come back? Where do the Cardinals play Craig if everyone else is healthy? He was capable playing elsewhere in the infield, but he was not great. With an outfield of Matt Holliday, Jon Jan and Carlos Beltran and everyone’s healthy and producing, who sits? It would be a nice problem to have…unless your name is Allen Craig.

Craig has proven he belongs in the big leagues; now he needs to prove he can stay off the disabled list. He is forcing management on and off the field to take notice by putting up rock-solid numbers. If they continue and his time on the field stabilizes, Craig has a fine career in front of him.

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I miss Jack

“I miss Jack Buck”.

Still to this day, those words are the one’s I feel define my writing.  An article I wrote for the now closed Baseball Digest site took that theme.  It was in Spring Training and I realized the game just did not sound the same.  That article, more than any other, has shown my heart and soul towards this game on every level.

 Read my thoughts on Jack from last year here on i70 as well as my original work for Baseball Digest on Going 9 Baseball’s site.  The original work, both the I Miss Jack Buck article and an interview with Christine Buck can be read by clicking the respective links.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the day heaven gained a legendary announcer and we all lost a golden voice.  Last night, during my weekly Seamheads podcast, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, Daniel Shoptaw reminded me of the anniversary.  I reminded everyone just what that anniversary was.

For many people around the world, they lost a lot of things when Jack Buck passed away.  Most remember the war hero, the poet, the author and of course the announcer.  Fans around the nation and the world lost a storyteller that had very few parallels within his peers.

For myself and many others, there was something more.  We lost a friend.

I remember that day 10 years ago, when the news was announced that Jack had left us.  I remember, for the first time in my life, I wept over a baseball figure.

I grew up with this game.  I watched “my team” lose the 1985 and 1987 World Series.  I suffered through horrible stretches of players and games.  I watched as a new generation of legends took over the game.  I watched as players that were involved in the tales that Jack himself would spin were no longer around, having departed this world and the game and I was seemingly unphased.

I teared up when Ozzie retired.  It shook me to my roots when the Cardinals took the field days after the events of September 11, 2001.  I was emotional when I said goodbye to a man known by many as The Mayor Of The Bleachers, the first real friend that I had developed because of this game.  Never before, however, had I openly lost control of my emotions over someone that I had never personally spent any time with.

That was Jack.  Through the years of radio listening, television watching and bonding with my father over this game that grown men play, Jack was always there.  For countless months every summer, nights when I was supposed to be asleep, and days that were too hot to fathom, Jack Buck was my companion.

He was real.  You never got the impression that Jack was not genuine.  He wore his heart on his sleeve.  He was professional and forthcoming yet a fan at the same time.  He was the expert in the room and the guy sitting next to you at the bar at the same time.

Time heals all wounds.  We find new friends and we move on when there is loss.  The Cardinals will employ many different announcers in my lifetime alone.  The game will evolve and change and somewhere along the lines a new legend will assume the role behind the microphone.  I’m not sure it will ever change anything for me.

I still miss Jack Buck.

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

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Getting used to a bigger window

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you are aware the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle of a very bad stretch of baseball. Before Monday’s win at New York, the club had dropped 5 straight and if you take out the sweep against the AAA padres on a 4-17 stretch of baseball.

Bad.

For whatever reason, I do not believe the sky is falling and all is lost for either this season or the future of the organization. Perhaps it is because I like Mike Matheny, and want to believe he will get it turned around. Perhaps it is that Mozeliak has earned some trust that he makes moves for the long-term good of the club, and not just knee-jerk reactions to fix immediate needs. Perhaps it is because I believe in the talent and leadership of this team, and understand what they have been up against with all the injuries. Or perhaps, I have allowed a paradigm shift to take place this season to take the long view and not get so caught up in the “window is now” mentality that has pervaded the Cardinals organization for the last several years.

It solidified in my mind last Friday night as I was on Conversations with C70 podcast. As I was talking with host Daniel Shoptaw, he reminded me the importance of getting out of that “all-in” mentality that it’s this year or nothing. Should fans have the expectation to put a winning product on the field? Of course. Is expecting to win a World Series or deep playoff run every year realistic? No. And again, do not take this as I am throwing in the towel on the Cardinal’s chances for this season. Just trying to provide some perspective.

The messaging from the media and front office the last few seasons has created a sense of urgency to “win now”. The conversation always centered around the need to win before Albert Pujol’s free agency, or before Tony LaRussa retired, or while Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were still producing at a high level.

We are in a different era now.

Yes it would be nice to get Berkman, Carpenter, and Beltran another ring; but this team has positioned itself to be a contender for a long, long time. There is good talent at the major league level, and the deepest farm system in years. That farm system is being bolstered by another solid draft

*Quick aside: I was overall happy with the Cards draft, and think they can sign a bunch of players based on where they slotted…but my gosh wouldn’t it have been nice to see one completely risky pick on a raw high schooler with a ton of talent? Isn’t that the point of having 5 of the first 59 picks, you get to risk one of them? Dan Kantrovitz played it safe in his first draft. Time will tell if he plays it this safe in every draft. I sure hope not…he was sitting on an incredible opportunity this year to take a very high upside but risky player, and didn’t do it. *

Heading into the Mets series, the Cardinals boasted the 3rd best run differential in MLB, and best in NL. Pitching has obviously been more problematic than offense during the May/June slide. But here is the main problem as I see it. Lack of veteran presence within the bullpen.

Some would say Mozeliak went all-in with a bunch of second year arms in the bullpen and that was foolish….that the club made a huge mistake letting Dotel walk. Be careful before quickly jumping to that conclusion. Yes, Dotel is a great pitcher, but Mozeliak had an experienced left-handed reliever in Marc Rzepcynksi coming off a great 2011. He also added two veteran relievers in the off-season that should have provided the needed veteran presence: Scott Linebrink and JC Romero.

Unfortunately, Romero severely underperformed and was released. Rzepcynski has struggled, and Linebrink got hurt. What is Mozeliak supposed to do? The Memphis roster has already been depleted due to the huge number of injuries this season. Should Mo trade off top prospects for bullpen arms this early in the season? It seems the approach is to ride out the tough stretch for the time being and allow players to get healthy, and deal from a position of strength and not urgency.

My plea to Cardinal fans is to take the long view. Realize the window to win is big, and a knee-jerk move to shore up a short-term problem may not be in the best interest of the organization for this year, and certainly over the long-term. The Cardinals will figure it out. A veteran presence is needed in the bullpen, perhaps Linebrink is one piece and we trade for another in July. But all is not lost.

The window to win is bigger now than ever.

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