Winter Warm-Up 2017 Report

img_0155-2The first day of Winter Warm-Up was canceled due to Winter Storm Jupiter (how ironic, considering the Cardinals hold spring training there) throwing down freezing rain. The Cardinals refunded autograph tickets and then, on top of that, offered a voucher for all pass holders for two free tickets for a game in the 2017 season.  They didn’t have to do that, but I thought it was a really nice gesture. My friend Kim was unable to go with us to WWU this year (I missed you, Kim 😦 ), so it was just my son and me.

1/16/17:

On Sunday morning, we decided to stop at Starbucks in the hotel because we needed some caffeine.  I looked up and there was Jenifer Langosch, the beat writer for the Cardinals. We chatted briefly and then she had to leave.

There was a line snaking through the lobby, so we joined it. We got a program and realized that the coat check was on the 4th floor, so we decided to go up the elevators to get there. Once there, we discovered that no one was allowed into the main hall from the elevator section until 9:15. To make matters worse, there were several fans in wheelchairs and with walkers for which this entrance was the only way they were going to get to the main hall since they could not use the escalators. Even with autograph tickets, they were not allowed in. I don’t know whose bright idea this was, but it had to be against ADA regulations.  I’m unsure if this was taken care of on Monday since we got there later. Hopefully, this will be fixed next year.

Phil and I rode the elevator back downstairs and by this time, the line was not as long. In fact, it didn’t appear that there were as many people at WWU than there was last year.  I wonder if the cancellation of Saturday’s events turned some people off enough that they decided not to come at all.  We stopped at the second floor and visited the vendor booths.  Rawlings had a booth and there was a real Gold Glove trophy on display.

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We then went upstairs and dropped off our coats. It was time to go to our first presentation of the day, a history of promo items and a 2017 preview of promo items with Megan Eberhart, the manager of Promotions and Events.  Megan asked about some of our favorite promo items.  She then talked about the process about how they come up with the promo items and when they start planning for the next season, which is before Labor Day.  She showed us some of the promo items that will be given away this year, which includes a 1980’s batting practice jersey, a Bruce Sutter garden gnome, and instead of a bat giveaway for the kids, they will get a Rawlings glove instead. Here are photos of some of the 2017 promo items:

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The new slogan for this year is “There’s Only One Cardinals Baseball.” Megan took questions from the attendees and then it was time to go.

Phil and I visited the Cardinals Care store.  They were offering a 2014 Cardinals Care Broadcast Auction Wacha Fan Pack for $20.00, which included a Michael Wacha bobblehead, a replica 2013 National League Championship replica ring, and a voucher for two tickets for the 2017 season.  That was a bargain I couldn’t pass up. I also bought a  Cardinals Care bag to carry it in, since it was in a heavy cardboard box.  We then visited the Cardinals Team Store.  They had lots of merchandise half price or less.  There were lots of items from the Winter Classics and closeout Matt Holliday items.  There was also some Star Wars Cardinals items.

It was time for lunch, so Phil and I left the Hyatt and walked down to Hardee’s for lunch. After lunch, we walked back to the Hyatt.  We went to the Main Stage seating area and were lucky enough to snatch two front row seats.

I left Phil at our seats and took a couple photos of Kolten Wong. They didn’t turn out well enough to post, however. I just got an iPhone and I’m still trying to learn how to take photos with it.  I will bring my digital camera again next year.

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John Rooney had Kolten come up on stage and they had a nice discussion.  Kolten admitted that the team sucked at home last year and they were hoping to do better this year.  John and  Kolten talked about how Kolten had spent the winter in St. Louis.  Rooney asked Kolten how many coats he had and Kolten said six, but he was still cold. I guess it’s hard to get used to a cold climate like St. Louis when you grow up in a tropical paradise like Hawaii.

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After Rooney and Kolten were done, it was time for the presentation I had been waiting for all day, the 1967 team retrospective with Rooney, Mike Shannon, Orlando Cepeda, Dick Hughes and Larry Jaster.  There were some wonderful stories told about the season, Bob Gibson, and the postseason.  Shannon was the best storyteller on the stage.  Rooney’s job was to MC the presentation to keep it rolling. I only wish I would have had the funds to attend the Baseball Writers’ Association dinner that evening to hear more of those stories.

There were 2 booths, sponsored by Ballpark Village and Fox Sports Midwest where you could get your photo taken in front of a green screen and your photo was merged via computer with a background.  Here are my photos:

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I wish I could be an announcer on Fox Sports Midwest.  There are a lot of female Cardinals fans and I’m sure they would enjoy hearing analysis from a female.

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At 2:00 PM, we attended a presentation by Brian Finch, the head of the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum, entitled “Ballplayers as Musicians – The Cardinals’ Mudcats Band of 1934.”  This presentation was very informative.  I knew about Pepper Martin and the Gashouse Gang, of course, but I never knew about the Mudcats.  I learned more about Pepper Martin than I probably ever wanted to know, including the fact that he went commando under his uniforms and that he wore the same 5 suits in rotation on road trips.  I am sure if the Mudcats were around today that they would be social media stars.  Brian also mentioned (and there is a display of this in the new Women in Baseball exhibit in the Hall of Fame and Museum) that the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is about a woman who wanted to go to the ballgame on a date rather than the movies.

I was really looking forward to Brian’s presentation on Stan Musial that was supposed to occur on Saturday.  Hopefully, he will save it for next year’s WWU.  Brian’s presentations are very informative and entertaining.  They are worth the price of a WWU pass alone.  Brian even sent me an email with the sources he used for his presentation, and I am passing them on to you in case you would like to read about Pepper Martin and the Mudcats:  Pepper Martin:  A Baseball Biography by Thomas Barthel and Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” by Andy Strasberg.  Click on the titles to order them from Amazon.  I am going to see if I can find them at my local library.

After the presentation, we went back to the main stage area to see Aledmys Diaz and Stephen Piscotty.   I snapped a couple of photos:

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Adam Wainwright was also signing during this time and he was very personable as always.  For those of you who love Randal Grichuk, here is a photo of him:

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We stopped by the Cardinals Magazine table and I purchased a very nice commemorative magazine about Busch Stadium II which was published in 2005, Busch Stadium II’s last year of existence.

Phil and I were getting tired, so we decided it was time to go home.

1/16/17:

Tom Lawless was the only free autograph I wanted to get in the morning on the 16th, and he was signing until 11:00 AM, so we decided to head to WWU a little later in the morning. The will call in the 100 N. Broadway building was empty, as we discovered when we went there first.  We then went to the hotel lobby to get an autograph ticket.  We stopped by the vendor with all the individual baseball cards and I found one of Tom for him to sign.  I wanted to find cards for Randy Flores and Kerry Robinson, but he didn’t have one for either player.

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Mike Leake was also signing. Mike, didn’t your mama ever teach you you’re not supposed to wear your hat inside?  LOL!

We then went to the main stage area and I got Tom’s autograph.  We then went to the Cardinals Care store and the Cardinals Team Store to see if they had any new merchandise or had marked down any items. I purchased a pennant for $3.00 to use for my afternoon free autographs. The CC store had marked down some of their items but they were still not in my price range.

At 11:00 PM, we went to a presentation given by team photographer Taka Yanagimoto titled “2016 – A Year in Photos.”  Mr. Yanagimoto presented a slide show of many excellent photos, both formally posed shots and candid shots.  He showed photos of Seung Hwan Oh when he signed with the team and when he stepped out of the dugout and onto the field for the first time. Everyone was amused by the photo of Jedd Gyorko and Brandon Moss sitting in lawn chairs on the field drinking beer next to a barbecue grill.  Mr. Yanagimoto showed us one of his favorite photos, which was taken on the roof of Busch Stadium.  He told us about how he gets up on the roof of Busch Stadium.  I’m not afraid of heights, but that’s too far up (and there are no handrails) for me.  Mr. Yanagimoto stated that the Cardinals are only one of three teams in MLB to have their own photography team.  It was an entertaining and informative presentation.

Both Phil and I were getting hungry, so we went to lunch at St. Louis Bread Company. I was pleased to discover that our order would be delivered to our table. The Bread Co. locations in Illinois don’t offer that service yet.

We went back to the hotel at 1 PM and got autograph tickets for Kerry Robinson and Randy Flores.  The sign with the ticket pick up information indicated that Yadi’s flight was delayed and he would not be at WWU to sign autographs until 3 PM.

My line ticket for Randy Flores was number 269 and they were only taking line tickets 1-50.  So we went to the food area to kill some time and we ran into Sally Rains of STL Sports Page. We had a nice conversation about some of the other Cardinals bloggers (don’t worry, I didn’t say anything bad at all about you).

Here are Randy and Kerry:

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I really wanted to stay to see Yadi, but I had to get home to put some leftover lasagna in the oven for dinner.  Maybe next year I’ll get to see Yadi.

It was great seeing all the guys.  It made me realize how much I missed baseball.  Pitchers and catchers report on Valentine’s Day. What an appropriate day!

I’m sorry it took me so long to post this.  I had to figure out how to get my phone photos downloaded where I could do something with them, and then I had to write everything up.   Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

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Trade deadline thoughts

DeadlineSorry I haven’t posted more.  It’s really discouraging watching the Cards play.  I’m a glass-half-filled kind of gal, so it’s hard to find something to write about when your team is playing badly.  One can only complain so much before it gets tiresome, and I love my loyal readers too much to subject them to too much negativity.

As you probably know, the trade deadline is August 1 (since July 31st is a Sunday), which is exciting yet scary at the same time. So are the Cards are sellers or buyers at the trade deadline?  Despite playing badly, the Cards are currently in line for the second wild card slot and are also in second place in the N.L. Central.  A Cubs collapse/Cards surge could mean another division title.  A key acquisition or two could make all the difference to get to the playoffs.

So if the Cards are buyers, what do they have to offer in a trade?  The Cards have an option on Jaime Garcia.  When Jaime starts, you never know if you’re going to get Good Jaime or Bad Jaime.  When Jaime is good, he’s very, very good, but when Jaime is bad, he’s awful.  Jaime should be some other team’s problem.

Kolten Wong is another player who may be better off with a change of venue.  There is a lot of pressure here for him to succeed, and Kolten appears to not handle pressure well.  The only negative about trading Kolten is the 5 year contract he signed earlier this year. It was meant to give Kolten a vote of confidence, but it doesn’t appear to have worked out that way. If Kolten is traded, the Cards may have to eat some of Kolten’s contract for the deal to work. Jedd Gyorko and/or Greg Garcia can take Kolten’s place at second, or there is another alternative, which I’ll discuss below.

Matt Adams’ shortcoming is that he only plays one position.  He would be a great DH for an American League team.  If the Cards could trade Adams to an AL team for a good player, I would be all over that trade.  Brandon Moss could move to left field and Matt Holliday could play first, which could possibly extend his career beyond this season.

The Cards do not need two center fielders.  If you melded Randall Grichuk and Tommy Pham into one person, you’d likely have a great center fielder.  However, since we can’t, one of these guys needs to leave, and I think it should be Tommy Pham.  Tommy is older and is injury prone.  If you need a second outfielder in case of injury, Stephen Piscotty can play center and Jeremy Hazelbaker can play right field.  There are a lot of fans who would like to see Carlos Gonzales patrol right field (and Piscotty would then become the CF), but he would probably bring a very high price tag.

One player whose name has been bandied about as trade bait is prospect Alex Reyes. I really don’t think the team should give him up.  A team should not give up an exciting prospect pitcher  The Cards should, however, call Reyes up in September when rosters expand to gear up for the playoffs, and get him some major league experience.

So what do the Cardinals need in order to get to the playoffs?  They need a good set-up pitcher.  Jerome Williams, who the Cards recently brought up from Memphis, is not the answer.

I have heard that Aledmys Diaz’ natural position is second base, so if Wong is traded, Diaz could move to second. Not all of Diaz’ errant throws can be blamed on rookie mistakes, perhaps. Peralta could then go back to shortstop, or a good shortstop could be acquired.  This could also help with the defense problems in the Cards’ infield.

The Cards could also use Mother Nature to cooperate and not force rain outs. Today’s doubleheader is the second in two weeks. Last week’s doubleheader was a day-night double, which gives the players a break between games; however, today’s doubleheader is a true doubleheader. The doubleheaders and game delays wreak havoc with a pitching rotation.  Calling Mike Mayers up from the minors as a fill-in ended up as a major humiliation in front of a national audience.  I sure hope he can recover from it.

That’s all for now! Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you next time!

Diane

Not our year

Sad baseballI have watched the Cardinals play this season, and I have come to the conclusion that this year is not our year.  I know what you’re thinking.  Diane, the 2011 Cardinals were 11 ½ games out and they managed to get into the playoffs and win the World Series.  But that was a different manager and a different team.  There are only 6 players from that 2011 team on the 2016 team – Adams, Holliday, Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Molina. Molina is playing well.  Wainwright is starting to return to form, but Adams is only now starting to hit better and Holliday is showing his age.  It’s hard to tell what Jaime Garcia you’re going to get when he starts – Good Jaime or Bad Jaime.  And Lance Lynn is on the DL for the year after Tommy John surgery.  Also, the only coaches left from that 2011 team are Derek Liliquist and Jose Oquendo.

The Cards are playing this year like teams who never make the playoffs; for example, the Phillies.  The Cubs are in first in the NL Central and they’re playing like a team who wants to win. As a Cards fan, I hate to admit it, but this could finally be the Cubs’ year.

Let’s look at an overview of the Cards’ performance this season.  Lowlights – there are many.  Ruben Tejada pitching in relief may have been when the season jumped the shark. Rosenthal is experimenting with pitches while he’s trying to save a game, like at the game I was at last Saturday.  Matt Holliday’s batting average has been sinking like a rock (although he did hit a home run today), and Mike Matheny refuses to move him from the third spot in the batting order.  Jhonny Peralta’s thumb injury put a major monkey wrench in the season, but hopefully, he will be back soon.  Jose Oquendo  has really been missed in the third base box and his absence has contributed to some terrible baserunning errors.  Michael Wacha’s mechanics are seriously messed up.  He should be sent to the minor leagues for some work. Carlos Martinez started the season strong, but he has not pitched well at all in his last few starts.  And how is it that Kolten Wong can make spectacular plays seem routine but mess up routine plays?

Highlights – there are a few.  Aledmys Diaz has impressed with his bat, but he is still making rookie mistakes with his glove.  Molina’s batting average is much better this year. Stephen Piscotty has been a shining star, making us forget Jason Heyward.   Seung Hwan Oh was John Mozeliak’s best off-season pick up.  He has been lights out in relief. Unfortunately, Oh showed he really was human in today’s game when he gave up three runs and a home run. Perhaps Oh should be the closer instead of Rosenthal?

This has not been my year either.  The presidential candidate I backed dropped out of the race, and I was passed over for a job I really wanted and was recommended for, along with some other personal things going on in my life that it’s not necessary to talk about here.  Cardinals baseball is a great distraction when things go south in my personal life, but this year, the Cards are not playing well so I don’t even have that.  Can we just turn back the calendar to January 1, 2016 and have a do-over?

Cards fans have seen their team go to the playoffs for the last few years and we are spoiled.  We’ve forgotten how to handle it when our team is bad.  So if you have the opportunity to attend a Cards game this season, go to have fun hanging out with your friends and/or family.  Just don’t expect to see winning baseball.  If the Cards do win, that’s a plus.

I realize that it’s almost the end of May and there still may be time to rescue the sinking S.S. Cardinals ship.  If the Cards can resurrect this season and make the playoffs, I’ll be happy to eat my words.  Just write them in icing on a large chocolate chip cookie, please.

That’s all for now!  Hopefully, I will have a more upbeat blog post next time.  See you then!

Diane

Read all about it! Two new books about the Cards

What do you do on the days that the Cardinals don’t play, or they get rained out? Or on cold winter days when you dream about spring? Why, read a book about the Cardinals, of course!  There are two new books about the Cardinals that are well worth your time to read:  The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time by Howard Megdal and Taking Flight : The St. Louis Cardinals and the Building of Baseball’s Best Franchise by Rob Rains. Click on the titles to find them on Amazon.  Here’s a brief review of both books.

To fans of other teams, “the Cardinals Way” is a derogatory term.  But this book explains how that term came to be.  In this book, you will get a detailed overview as to how the Cardinals’ player development system came to be.  You will learn all about George Kissell:  his playing career, his coaching career, and his personal life.  There is a detailed description of how Branch Rickey set up the minor league system.  And you will learn how George Kissell made up the binder with all of his knowledge that became known as the Cardinal Way.  In later chapters, you will read about how Bill DeWitt, Jr. came to merge the Cardinals Way with the sabermetrics system made famous in Moneyball.  The Cardinals’ current advertising tagline, “Tradition Meets Today,” will make much more sense once you read this book.  There are fascinating chapters about how the Cards’ foreign scouting process works and also about the draft.  The book is a little dry in spots, but there is a lot of interesting details in this book.  I’m usually a pretty fast reader, but it took me several days to read this book since there was so much in it.

Cardinals Way author Howard Megdal, along with Bill DeWitt, Jr. and John Mozeliak, will be interviewed by Dan McLaughlin of FOX Sports Midwest on April 29, 2016, at 2 PM.  The panel discussion will be held in Cardinals Nation in Ballpark Village. After the discussion, Mr. Megdal will sign books in the Authentics store at Ballpark Village until 5 PM. This should be a very informative session.

Rob Rains’ book shares some of the same subjects as Megdal’s book, but this book delves more into the Cards’ minor league system. Whitey Herzog wrote the forward to this book.  The prologue to the book details how Branch Rickey founded the minor leagues and provides information about George Kissell. Several players speak about George’s influence on them.  The first chapter details John Mozeliak’s career, and the next 28 chapters are about the Cardinals’ minor league players.  Each chapter focuses on one minor league player. Rains wrote minimal narration and he allowed the players to tell their own stories.  Two of the minor league players covered, Mitch Harris and Aledmys Diaz, are now on the major league squad.  Xavier Scruggs was cut by the Cardinals, but he now plays for the Marlins. There are also two sets of full-color photos in this book.  This is a lighter read than The Cardinal Way, but no less enjoyable.  While reading this book, I have discovered some new young players to root for and I’m sure you will too.

Rob will be signing his book at several locations this spring.  Here is the schedule:

Thursday, April 28, 2015, 4:30 PM – Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, Marshfield, MO – Marshfield Assembly of God
Rob is receiving the Ella Dickey Award for Literacy and doing a book signing afterward.
Saturday, April 30, 2016, 10:30 AM – Barnes & Noble Springfield, MO. Carson Kelly is also scheduled to appear.
Saturday, May 14, 2016, 1 PM – Barnes & Noble, Fairview Heights, IL
Monday, June 6, 2015, 7 PM – Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
The Cardinals thankfully won one game out of the series with the Cubs.  The boys need to beat not only the bad teams but the good ones as well.  Tomorrow night, the Cards will be playing the Padres, who signed Jon Jay over the winter.
Thanks as always for reading!  See you next time!
Diane