2013 National League Central and NL West predictions

Something came up last night, so I was unable to post my NL Central predictions.  (Sorry, Dan. Hopefully this won’t ruin my chances to sing the National Anthem at UCB weekend.)  So I thought I’d pull a doubleheader and post both my NL Central and NL West predictions tonight.  So here we go:

2013 National League Central

1.         Reds – I predict the Reds will finish first in the division again this year.  If Joey Votto and and Todd Frazier have a good year, no one will be able to touch them.

2.         Cardinals – Just like last year (and perhaps forever now), the Cards are without Chris Carpenter’s mighty arm. And just like last year, the Cards were plagued with injuries to starting players during spring training – Freese’s sore back, Beltran’s broken toe, and Motte’s arm injury. The backup players will have to hold down the fort until the injured players return.  It was good that the Cards signed Wainwright to a long term contract.

3.         Brewers – The Brewers signed Kyle Lohse, and we see how that worked out with Jeff Suppan.  Ryan Braun’s steroids accusation may overshadow the Brewers.  Nyger Morgan is not with the team anymore, however – he is far, far away in Japan.

4.         Pirates –  Andrew McCutcheon is a great centerfielder, but one player does not a team make, and the Pirates will once again not make the playoffs.  The last couple of years, the Pirates have had a great first half of the season, but collapsed down the stretch.

5.         Cubs – The Cubs are the perennial last place finisher.  Even drawing Theo Epstein away from the BoSox didn’t help the Cubs last year.  Ex-Cards pitcher Edwin Jackson should boost the starting rotation and young slugger Anthony Rizzo should help the offense, but once again, it’s not the Cubs’ year this year.

 2013 National League West Predictions

1.         Giants –  They have won the 2 of the last World Series.  When the Giants are healthy, they’re a potent team.  They need Tim Lincecum to find his happy place and pitch like the Cy Young winner he is.

2.         Dodgers – Magic Johnson now owns the Dodgers and he likes to win.  Will our old friend Mark McGwire be an effective hitting coach for the Dodgers?  Will Skip Schumacher finally find a home?  We’ll find out the answers to those questions.

3.         Diamondbacks – The D’backs could not repeat as division champions last year, and they won’t be in the playoffs this year, either.  They did make some moves in the offseason, however.

4.         Padres  – The Padres play in a pitcher’s park and they have do have some good hurlers, but it won’t be enough to go to the playoffs.

5.         Rockies –  The Dodgers’ offseason acquisitions made the NL West a tough division, so there has to be a team at the bottom of the heap and that’s the Rockies.  There are no players in the farm system to provide help.

NL Playoff Projections

Wild Cards – Cardinals, Braves

NLDS  – Nationals v. Cardinals, Braves v. Giants

NLCS – Cardinals v. Giants

World Series – Angels v. Cardinals; Cardinals win World Series

I hope you have enjoyed my predictions.  Who’s to say whether they come true or not?  I’m just happy that the regular season is just a few days away and soon we’ll be able to watch baseball!  Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Diane

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2013 National League East predictions

The United Cardinals Bloggers’ March assignment is for each blogger to post their predictions for 2013.  Yesterday, I made my predictions for the American League.  Over the next three days, I will take a look at each division in the National League and make my predictions.

1.         Nationals – The Nats were the beast of the East last year, and they should finish in first place again this year.  They will learn from their mistakes in the playoffs.  Hopefully, ace Stephen Strasburg will be able to  pitch more than his “pre-determined” innings limit.

2.         Braves – The Braves made some nice moves this offseason by upgrading their outfield with B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton.  The new look outfield and the strong pitching will make them contenders, but nothing will stop the Nats.

3.         Phillies –  This year will not be kind to the Phillies. Roy Halladay needs to have a good season and with the exception of Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard, the players are getting old.

4.         Mets – The Mets are still paying Johan Santana’s salary, which will limit them in getting good players. They also lost Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey, and they are now in rebuilding mode.

5.         Marlins –  The trade of most of their good players to the Blue Jays will surely hurt the Marlins.  They are in a rebuilding mode.  A large stadium with few fans attending games will not help morale.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my predictions.  Wish I could predict the winning lottery numbers!  Thanks for reading – see you next time!

Diane

2013 American League predictions

Spring has sprung on the calendar (Mother Nature obviously can’t read, because she sent us 12” of snow yesterday), but it isn’t spring to me until Opening Day, and that’s only one week from today!  The Cards’ home opener is two weeks from today.  The United Cardinals Bloggers’ project for March is predictions of the standings for 2013.  Today’s predictions are for the American League.  Full disclosure – this post was written with the assistance of my husband.  He knows more about the American League than I do.  So here are my predictions, with comments on a few:

AL East

1.         Rays – Outstanding pitching and a smart manager.  What more do you need?

2.          Blue Jays – They were the recipients of Florida’s largesse.  A change will do these players good.

3.         Yankees – This is Mariano Rivera’s last season and he’d like to go to the playoffs one more time, but the Yanks have a bunch of old players.  Steinbrenner’s son is more economical and doesn’t spend money like his dad.

4.         Orioles

5.         Red Sox – Like the Yankees, the Red Sox have several players at the end of their careers.

AL Central

1.        Tigers – They’ve won the division the last two years and this year will be no exception, since the AL Central is a weak division.

2.         White Sox

3.         Royals – The Royals have made some improvements, but they’re not ready for the big time yet.

4.         Indians

5.         Twins

AL West

1.         Angels – With all the money that management has spent, winning the division should be a given, but this division is wide open.

2.         Rangers – The Rangers were this close to a World Series championship a couple of years ago, but the loss of Josh Hamilton will hurt.

3.         A’s

4.         Mariners

5.        Astros – It’s going to be a rough year for the ‘Stros, even with the addition of some ex-Cards players and other ex-Cards folks.  The main problem will be getting used to the AL style of play.

Wild cards – Blue Jays, Rangers

ALDS –  Rays v. Tigers, Angels v. Blue Jays

AL Champion – Angels

Thanks for reading!  Tomorrow’s post will be the 2013 National League East predictions.  See you then!

Diane

Spring Training History 101

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball.  I look out the window and wait for spring.”  – Rogers Hornsby

Like Rogers, we baseball fans too wait for spring training all winter long.  It’s a sign that the regular season will soon be here.  Spring training is well under way now.  But have you ever wondered about the history of spring training?  I did, so I decided to do a little research.

An unlikely character first came up with the idea of spring training.  Newspaper articles from 1869 report Tammany Hall head man William “Boss” Tweed first came up with the idea of spring training when he sent his team, the amateur New York Naturals, to New Orleans to shape up for the 1869 season.  The Cincinnati Reds, who became the first professional baseball team in 1869, followed suit in 1870 by opening their season in New Orleans and playing their first few games of the season across the South.  The White Stockings (n/k/a the White Sox) also went to New Orleans in the spring of 1870.

During the 1870s, many teams from the then new National League and other professional and amateur clubs headed to New Orleans to get ready for the season.  Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, North Carolina were other popular destinations for teams.  In 1885, Chicago White Stockings player-manager Cap Anson, after witnessing one of his pitchers down 8 beers in one fell swoop, decided to take his team to Hot Springs, Arkansas to sweat the winter fat off of his players.

Spring training first came to Florida in 1888, when the Washington Senators held spring training in Jacksonville.  The accommodations for the players, however, were less than desirable.  A boardinghouse finally agreed to take the players in, giving them food and 2-to-a-bed sleeping arrangements in return for the ballplayers not mingling with the rest of the guests.  Since ballplayers were a rowdy lot back then, this arrangement didn’t quite work out.

Even though the Civil War had only been over for a little over 20 years, Southerners were still smarting over their losses.  All those drunken Northern ballplayers surely didn’t make a good impression on them.  In the early 1890s, the Cubs were kicked out of Waycross, Georgia because one of the players allegedly flirted with the hotel manager’s wife.

The weather was great down South, but the facilities left a lot to be desired.  Most teams practiced wherever they could find a large patch of land, like a farmer’s field.  Spring training in the 1800s was more about getting the winter fat off of the players than practicing hitting and fielding, however.  Team owners held a tight rein on spring training expenditures.  They made some of their money back by holding exhibition games.

Spring training as we know it today started in 1894, when Baltimore Orioles manager Ned Hanlon took the team to Macon, Georgia and drilled them in fielding and hitting.  The Orioles won the pennant that year and the next 2 years after, and other teams sat up and took notice.

John McGraw became the manager of the New York Giants in 1902, and spring training changed forever thanks to his influence.  McGraw worked the players like Hanlon, his mentor, but he also treated his players like royalty, making spring training the spectacle it is today.  McGraw moved the Giants to Memphis for spring training in 1903.  He was also an astute marketer  – he had reporters cover spring training and their stories were printed in Northern newspapers, giving fans baseball fever so that the box office would be booming on opening day, much like spring training coverage does now in 2013.

Other teams took note of McGraw’s success and they began to emulate his methods.  Newspaper reporters from every paper covering major league baseball sent reporters to spring training.  Baseball players were now seen as celebrities instead of ingrates, and Southern cities began to compete to hold spring training and to make money from it.

In 1910, Al Lang moved to St. Petersburg to escape the stifling air in Pittsburgh which exacerbated a respiratory ailment that he suffered from and his doctors told Al he only had 6 months to live.  The air in St. Petersburg must have agreed with Al, for he lived for another 49 1/2 years.  Al’s friend Barney Dreyfuss owned the Pittsburgh Pirates and Al tried to persuade Barney to have the Pirates hold spring training in St. Petersburg.  Al wasn’t discouraged, however – he gathered some of the civic leaders and raised enough money to build a spring training facility. The only team that would snap at the bait was the St. Louis Browns, whose general manager was Branch Rickey, a name known to most Cardinals fans.  The citizens of St. Petersburg gave the Browns a great deal in 1914 – they paid for the team’s transportation, their food and lodging and paid for reporters to accompany the team.  The Browns must have been less than impressed, however, because they moved spring training to Houston in 1915.

Al was not deterred – he approached the Phillies and the A’s and the Phillies held spring training in St. Petersburg in 1915.  They eventually won the pennant, giving the credit to spring training in St. Petersburg.  Al was elected mayor that year and he developed Ft. Lauderdale into a modern city and Florida’s major tourist attraction at that time.  The Yankees, among other teams, held spring training in St. Petersburg.  The Cardinals started holding spring training in St. Petersburg in 1936. The Yankees left St. Petersburg in 1960, but the Mets moved in. The Cardinals held spring training in St. Petersburg from 1936-1942 and from 1946-1997, when they left for Jupiter – Florida, that is.

Teams began to hold spring training in other Florida towns in the late 1920’s such as  Bradenton, Clearwater, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Orlando, Winter Haven, and Lakeland.  Not only were Northern reporters writing stories about spring training, but they were writing about how warm and sunny it was in Florida, making them winter destination spots. By the mid-1930’s, teams stopped migrating from town and settled in one spot.

The term “Grapefruit League” for the spring training teams was first coined in 1923 when a Syracuse, NY paper reported that then Commissioner Kenesaw Landis was “touring the orange and grapefruit league.”  The term didn’t take off until after World War II, when more exhibition games began to be played.

The Cactus League began in 1947 in Arizona, started by the Cleveland Indians.  The then Brooklyn Giants also started training there that same year, and the Cubs joined them in 1952, after having trained in California on Catalina Island for thirty years. The Orioles, the Red Sox and the Angels followed.  Boston and Houston, however, went back to Florida to train by the mid-1960’s.  The A’s, the Padres, and the Seattle Pilots (now known as the Milwaukee Brewers) began to hold their spring training in Arizona.

During World War II, teams held spring training in the North due to travel restrictions.  The Cardinals held spring training in Cairo, Illinois. After World War II was over, spring training once again was held in Florida.  Segregation reared its ugly head in 1946 when Jackie Robinson and African-American teammate John Wright could not stay with the rest of the Dodgers and had to stay in a private home.  Branch Rickey eventually moved the Dodgers’ spring training to Vero Beach and built a facility called “Dodgertown.” The Dodgers trained in Vero Beach until 2008, when they moved to Arizona.

Segregation, unfortunately, got worse as more African-Americans baseball players trained with the major league teams. The African-American players were not allowed to stay in the same hotels as the white players because of racial prejudice in the South.  They were forced to stay in private homes or in other hotels.  It was hard to get players to mesh as a team when some of the players had to room somewhere else.  In the early 1960’s, due to efforts by Bill White and others, segregation finally came to an end.

There is more spring training history than can fit in this blog post and I hope I haven’t bored you too much.  You can read more about the history of spring training in the book listed in the bibliography below.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:  Under the March Sun:  The Story of Spring Training by Charles Fountain, Oxford University Press 2009

UCB Roundtable Day 8

UCB_11Once again, it’s time for the February United Cardinals Bloggers Roundtable.  Yesterday was my day to ask the question, although I didn’t actually post it until last night, thanks to the text from Daniel reminding me.  Here was the question that I asked to my fellow roundtable members:

After baseball players retire, they often become coaches or managers. I guess they can’t get baseball out of their blood.  Hmm, isn’t that why we blog about Cardinals baseball?  LOL!  Veterans Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Jim Edmonds came to spring training this year to work with the current players. However, just because someone is talented in a particular area doesn’t mean they can teach it to others.

So here’s my question.  What former or current Cardinal player would you like to see become a coach and why?  My answer is Chris Carpenter, not just for his technical skills, but because he can teach attitude and sportsmanship.  He worked with Trevor Rosenthal over the winter, so he has some experience with coaching already.

Looking forward to your answers!

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants:

The no-brainer answer is Chris Carpenter.  He said so himself that he can’t envision retiring.  The best thing to do now is to lock him up to a personal services contract.

I’m not going to lie that I was very jealous to see guys like Jake Lemmerman and Carson Kelly tweeting about being able to meet Ozzie and Willie.
Corey Rudd, StlSportsMinute.com:
I am going to go with Rick Ankiel. I have no idea if he can teach, or if he is good with the young guys or anything like that. I just have to think, with everything that Ankiel has been through both as a pitcher and as a position player, that he would have a lot to share about the mental aspect of making it to and playing in the big leagues.
He could also teach a mean, nasty hook to lefties and maybe show outfielders how to throw a pill from the wall to third base on a line.
Wes Keene, Keene on MLB:
Scott Rolen. I have no idea whether he is interested in it, or has any skill at it (like the other suggestions so far). What a talented guy, though. To have him around the clubhouse in a mentoring and training capacity would pass along a winning attitude, and he has no shortage of skills others could benefit from. He’s got Cardinal heritage, and he knows what it’s like to play with a top notch ballclub. As his career draws nears the end, I’d love to see him join our coaching ranks.
I would have to go with a current Cardinal and pick Yadier Molina.  I think that, after LaRussa and Dave Duncan left the Cardinals, Molina has became more of a coach on the field.  In addition, catchers tend to make good managers, just look at Mike Scoscia, Joe Girardi, Eric Wedge, Bob Melvin, Clint Hurdle and of course Mike Matheny.
So, it would not surprise me if Molina ends up the bench coach for the Cardinals when he retires and eventually replaces Matheny as the manager.
Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball:
Chris Carpenter for sure, and I’ve thought that for years. I remember when Shelby Miller was at Busch Stadium after he was drafted and seeing Chris standing in the bullpen watching him. He just seems to have an interest in coaching and working with other pitchers, plus he has not only the pitching knowledge to share but also the experience in handling injuries and adversity (unfortunately). And he certainly seems to have the respect of his teammates.
I definitely like the suggestion that Wes made on Scott Rolen, for the reasons that he said.
Spencer Hendricks, StanGraphs:
I’ve been on the Chris Carpenter for pitching coach bandwagon for as long as I can remember, and I’m not getting off it now.
Daniel Shoptaw, C70 at the Bat:

Lots of great answers here.  I do think we’ll see Carp as a pitching coach or some sort of instructor somewhere down the line and he’ll likely be a good one.  And anything that gets Scott Rolen back into Cardinal red gets my full-throated endorsement.

I think it’d be nice to see Matt Holliday as a guest instructor in spring after his playing days are done.  We’ve seen him take players under his wing on his own initiative, so getting some official time with new Cardinals could only benefit them.
I think I read recently that Rolen has no interest in coaching. Combining that with statements from other media-types that Rolen always had a real problem with authority and was never shy about his feelings about Tony in media sessions, etc., and I think Rolen as a coach would never really be able to settle in and be a “team player” for an organization, whether that means under a GM or a Manager. It’s sad, because stories of Rolen’s leadership role at times, and his experience, could make him a decent to great coach – and he was my favorite Cardinal when he was here :).
To me, Carp’s experience mentoring young pitchers and “teaching” players like Ryan proves he has not only the ability to coach but also the desire to guide young men. Also, hearing Carp talk about continuity regarding the teachings of Dave Duncan made me think he would be the ideal candidate for a coaching job within an organization that wants to foster Duncan’s philosophies but worries about doing so without Dunc’s everyday presence. At WWU a year ago, Carp was steadfast and resolute in his belief in what he’s learned and could pass on.
But, there’s a problem, and the problem is actually Chris Carpenter himself.
 Kevin Reynolds, StLCardsnStuff:
Carp has stated several times that he really struggles with being a leader when he can’t contribute on the field. He’s even referred to that sort of role as “not being a part of it.” That would have to change. Carp would have to force himself into a tough transition that would see his perspective shift from player to coach. It would also have to lead to a shift – not change, really, but shift – in how he leads. What Carp senses instinctively is the fact that non-players aren’t really effective when they try to lead like players – yell, lead by example, pull players aside, be the “enforcer”, etc. Instead, non-players have to lead a different way…a more subtle, “I’m available” kind of way while also mixing in just the right amount of self-initiated intervention and accountability. Consider Jim Edmonds’ recent comments about his awkwardness and hesitation when trying to learn that balance with young outfielders – when do you step in and say something and when do you wait for them to ask you a question?
Ultimately, Carp would need to realize and accept what everyone else already realizes…the greatest asset Carp can offer the team is simply himself…Carp…The Ace. His presence within the organization can have significant impact. For a guy like Carp, that can be humbling and a little hard to believe/accept…especially for a guy who will likely feel like he’s not doing enough to help his team.
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I hope you enjoyed reading my question and all the answers!  If you would like to read some of the other questions in the roundtable, just go here. Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane