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

2015 United Cardinals Bloggers blogger event report

UCB_11On Sunday evening, the Cardinals hosted the United Cardinals Bloggers for their annual blogger event.  This event is usually on a Sunday afternoon, but this year, we were treated to an evening game.

My friend Kim was my guest for this year’s blogger event.  It was my husband’s turn to attend, but since it was a night game and he gets up at 4:30 AM for work, it wouldn’t have worked out. Kim was very happy to be invited. Hopefully, next year the blogger event will be back to the afternoon schedule and my hubby will be able to attend.

The event was supposed to start at 5 PM, so I decided to get there early and get a front row seat.  My son and I arrived at the event right before starting time last year, so we had to sit in the back and I couldn’t see or hear very well.  Kim and I got to the administrative offices so early, the packets and the name tags hadn’t been put out yet.  I had to go back later and get a packet, plus write out name tags.  The packet was a nice folder with the party room menu on one side and handouts listing various events on the other.  The packet also contained an envelope with our game tickets.

Since we were there before everyone else, Kim and I had a nice discussion with Ron Watermon, the Cardinals’ Vice President of Communications, about the security problems on Opening Day.  He admitted that the gates should have been opened sooner that day.

The other bloggers began to show up and it was nice to catch up with folks I only talk to on Twitter. There was a nice crowd, considering it was a Sunday evening game. Finally, Mr. Watermon came to the podium.  He welcomed us all to the blogger event. Mr. Watermon mentioned that Daniel Shoptaw, the head of the UCB, was unable to be at the event because of the death of Daniel’s father-in-law, and that their thoughts and prayers were with Daniel’s family.  Mr. Watermon then spoke about the fan video contests and how they engage Cardinals Nation.  Mr. Watermon talked about the minister who won the Ultimate Fan contest.  Mr. Watermon asked the bloggers to help Red feel the love by posting videos telling Red that we love him.

It was then time for Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak to speak.  Rather than stepping up to the podium, Mr. DeWitt and Mr. Mozeliak stayed seated in their chairs, like a “fireside chat,” Mr. DeWitt stated.  DeWitt and Mozeliak have strong voices that carry well and we were all seated fairly close, so neither one of them really needed a microphone in order to be heard.

Mr. DeWitt was the first speaker. He talked about the business side of the organization. Mr. DeWitt spoke about some of the modifications that have been made to Ballpark Village, such as the extra video screens that will allow fans to watch both the Blues and the Cards at the same time.  Mr. DeWitt said that they were proud of Ballpark Village and that the BPV concept didn’t exist anywhere else in Major League Baseball.  There are now giveaway days at BPV during 25 of the Cardinals’ away games.  He said that there is an empty retail location that should be filled soon. He spoke briefly about the second phase of Ballpark Village, which may include an office complex, retail and a hotel.

Mr. DeWitt then spoke about improvements at Busch Stadium.  The Champions Club (an all-inclusive area) has been expanded.  Gate 5 has been renovated for the installation of metal detectors and for a better view for the fans in the rooftop seats at Ballpark Village.

Mr. DeWitt also spoke about the metal detectors that had been installed at the stadium.  He said that all the stadiums in Major League Baseball had installed metal detectors.  He admitted that the team hadn’t opened the gates early enough on Opening Day, and long lines ensued.  Mr. DeWitt said that Opening Day was different than other games, closer to playoff games, and they should have opened the gates earlier than they did, and they learned from their mistake.  There are also more cameras in the stadium.  Mr. DeWitt also mentioned that stadium security now has a bomb sniffing dog that can follow the trail of someone who might have an explosive device in a moving crowd. To my mind, that was reassuring.  I have watched The Sum of All Fears and The Dark Knight Rises a few too many times. I can see that kind of scenario happening at Busch Stadium, especially during a playoff game.

Mo spoke next. The team has gotten off to a very good start.  Mo is bullish about what is going on at the minor league level. Mo said that the team is competitive at the major league team level and that there are enough players coming through the pipeline at the minor league level. He talked about the $5 million Academy that the team is opening in the Dominican Republic to train the young prospects. The complex will help attract players.  Mo said that the people that have run the drafts the last few years have done a good job.  Mo said that there is a hard working group in the minor league level that helps develop the players.  Mo is looking at the future and he is very excited.

Then it was time for the Q & A session.  A question was asked about Sam Freeman.  Mo said that we could have gotten 3 lefties but they wanted someone that was an innings eater and that was the spot for Villanueva.  Freeman didn’t have control or command.  Freeman couldn’t throw strikes.  Freeman was traded instead of being put on waivers so the Cards could get something for him.

Dennis Lawson asked if some of the bloggers could take over the club’s social media accounts for a game.  He wondered what it would take to unlock that door.  Nervous laughter ensued from the room. Mo asked, “What do you mean?”  More laughter.  Dennis thought we could take over the Twitter and Instagram accounts, under the watchful eye of a supervising adult, of course.

Mo was asked how much the team used sabermetrics for strategy. Mo said that the Cards are a very data driven team and that they utilize sabermetrics to make decisions.  There is a balance between the analytical world and the scouting world. Sabermetrics power the entire team as to the decision making process.

There was a question about a timetable for Jason Heyward’s contract extension.  Mo said he knew there would be a Heyward question.There is no timetable to discuss an extension. Deadlines irritate on one side or the other.  They want Jason to experience St. Louis and see what the city’s all about.  He doesn’t envision a timetable, although he projected mid-season as a time to look at where they’re heading.

The next person said he was at the game on Saturday and he wanted to thank Mr. DeWitt for keeping the Blues information on the screen during the game. He wanted to know how who spearheads efforts between the teams.  DeWitt explained who in the Blues’ organization works with the Cards for cross-promotions.  There is an overlapped fan base between the teams.

The next question was about when Oscar died – was there a specific type of player that they had in mind to replace him?  How long do you mourn? There wasn’t going to be a lot of opportunity out there.  There was a couple player options they could pursue.  The team had heard good things about Jason Heyward.  The timing was good.  They do a lot of due diligence on players before they’re signed.  Heyward is a positive addition to the club.

Mo was asked what if he was encouraged about the early pitching of Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.  Mo said that during spring training, they talked about having a competitive camp and that the media all laughed about it, Mo was shocked to see how well Garcia was pitching. Marco Gonzales was the next guy that threw well in camp.  The 5 who ended up in the rotation was interesting because it showed how deep the pitching could be.  The only concern is volume, how that is managed as the season goes.  Neither Wacha or Martinez has pitched over 100 innings in a season and Mike and Lilliquist are conscious of that.

The last question was that once upon a time, when teams had 4 man rotations, and they pitched 200 innings, you never heard about the sore arms that you hear about now.  Are the pitchers so finely tuned today that every little thing can throw them off balance and cause injuries?  Mo said that it would take hours to discuss.  Injuries are a concern to everybody because of all of the money invested in players.  Mo blamed it on all the hours that kids are pitching in Little League, and high school and college ball, and that by the time they get to the majors, they’re worn out.  Back in the 40’s 50’s, and 60’s, 250 innings were the norm.  The team looks at “stress” innings, like innings with lots of pitches.  That’s when injuries happen.

After the Q& A session was over, Mo and Mr. DeWitt left.  Larry Johnson, the team chef, spoke to us about all the good food waiting for us in the party rooms.  Stomachs could be heard rumbling all over the room, including my own.

Finally, it was time to go to the party rooms. Our party rooms were closer to home plate this year than last year. I tried the chicken and waffle sandwich. There was maple bacon gravy to put on the sandwich. I thought it was going to be overpowering, but it was actually very subtle and added a nice little zing of flavor to the sandwich.  Kim tried the spinach and artichoke pizza and said it was delicious.She also liked the cowboy mac n’ cheese, with baked beans in it.  I tried the walking taco, which was a large bag of either Doritos or Fritos Scoops (I picked the Fritos) that you zipped open the side of the bag and added shredded lettuce, taco meat, pulled pork, chicken carnitas and/or shredded cheese.  I tried the tater tots tacos, which I had last year.  I also tried the deep fried Oreo cookie, which came in a shot glass sized cup with whipped cream and chocolate syrup on the bottom for dipping.  I thought there could have been some more breading on the Oreo – it was thin and the cookie was soft.  Other desserts included an Oreo churro and strawberry shortcake. There was lots of other food, but there was just too much to try it all.

Kim and I sat at a table with Matt Whitener of Cheap Seats Please and Matt’s father, and we all had a delightful conversation with Ron Watermon about some of the other major league baseball stadiums.  They mostly talked; I listened, since Busch is the only stadium I’ve ever been too.

And oh yes, there was a game between the Cards and the Reds Sunday evening. It was a thrill to see Matt Carpenter hit a home run out on the outfield berm during his first at bat.  It was a classic pitcher’s duel between Adam Wainwright and Mat Latos.  Adam only gave up one run  Adam jammed the bases during the Reds’ half of the 8th, but he got out of it.  Trevor Rosenthal was not available to close, so Jordan Walden came in and got his first save for the Cards.  It was a really quick game – it started at 7:05 and ended at 9:09.  The talking heads at Baseball Tonight on ESPN probably had to scramble to fill up the extra time they had allotted for the game. We didn’t get a group shot of all the bloggers because the game ended so soon.  Sorry, Daniel – I did talk to Dathan about the group shot, but it didn’t work out.

I really enjoy the blogger events and I can’t wait until next year’s event.  I hope you have enjoyed reading about this year’s event.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane

Pomp but no circumstance

Opening Day 2015Yesterday was the Cardinals’ home opener, and as always, expectations ran high.  It poured down rain Monday morning, but by 10 AM, the rain had stopped.  The sun did its best to break through the clouds, but it unfortunately didn’t succeed.  The overcast weather, however, didn’t keep the citizens of Cardinals Nation from flooding into downtown St. Louis to all the pep rally locations, even if they didn’t have tickets to the game (like me).  Opening Day is an unofficial St. Louis civic holiday.  The boys are back in town and all is well with the world.

There were long lines to get into Busch Stadium yesterday due to the new metal detectors that were installed in the off-season. There was plenty of advance notice about the new metal detectors – maybe folks should have gotten moving to the stadium sooner. The on-field pre-game festivities began promptly at 2:30, whether you were in your seat or not. Various civic personalities were introduced.  The beloved Clydesdales made their annual trip around the warning track.  Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Tony LaRussa, Lou Brock, Whitey Herzog, and Red Schoendiest were introduced.  Then the St. Louis Cardinals Museum and Hall of Famers Willie McGee, Mike Shannon, and Jim Edmonds that were there were introduced.  Why do I always tear up during the introduction of the Hall of Famers?  Is it just me? Or am I just a sentimental female?  I tear up as well during the Cooperstown Hall of Fame ceremonies when they introduce the players. I can’t blame it on the hormones anymore – I’m too old.  😦

All the current players then made their way around the warning track to home plate.  They all greeted the Hall of Famers (except for Jason Heyward, who forgot) and took their place along the first base line.  Lance Lynn showed a lot of class and respect for the Hall of Famers by removing his cap when he shook their hands.  That man’s mama raised him right.

An American bald eagle was released and he flew around the stadium for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t think he would ever go back to his handler.  The poor bird probably enjoyed his temporary freedom.  I understand he got a mouse for a treat.  He was probably hungry after all that flying around.

Then came the beautiful video tribute for Oscar Tavares, and a moment of silence for Oscar, his girlfriend Edila and Post-Dispatch sports writer Bryan Burwell, who passed away last winter.  The Cardinals did a classy thing and left a spot and a press pass in the press box for Bryan.  Lynn was seen putting his arm around Carlos Martinez’ shoulders during the Oscar tribute, a gesture of support and empathy.

The National Anthem was performed awesomely by Retired U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Generald Wilson.  What a voice! It gave me goosebumps.

The Opening Day ceremonies went off without a hitch (with the exception of Heyward’s faux pas), but the game itself was not without its problems.  The Brewers scored a run in the first inning without the benefit of a hit.  Wainwright’s pitching was inconsistent, and it could be that there was too long of a time between starts for him, due to the days off on Tuesday and Thursday last week.  Wainwright had to pitch a longer game yesterday, because Matheny used 5 bullpen pitchers in Sunday’s game.  Kolten Wong’s defense was sloppy – he made two errors, and brave Kolten tried to take the brunt of the loss upon himself but there were other factors that led to yesterday’s loss.

The Cardinals got within one run, but they lost the game, 5-4. Tradition met today, but today was sadly lacking. I know we’re only 6 games into the season, but the lack of offense, continuing over from last season, is concerning.  Lance Lynn pitches tomorrow evening and I will be attending my first game of the season.  I hope to bring home a win.

My next post will be after the annual blogger event next Sunday evening. See you then! Thanks for reading!

Diane

RIP Oscar Tavares

Another tragic loss was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday with the death of young Oscar Tavares. What can I say about Oscar that everyone else hasn’t already said? So much talent, so much potential, gone in a flash. His star burned out and his light of his smile was extinguished much too soon. Every action has consequences, and Oscar driving too fast for wet conditions caused his and his girlfriend’s untimely deaths.

The Cardinals may have had division winners and playoff winners, but they’ve also had their share of tragedy since 2002, when both Jack Buck and Darryl Kile died within a few days of each other. Then in 2007, Josh Hancock died in an automobile accident not far from Busch Stadium. Now the Cardinals have lost Oscar, a talented young outfielder, to the claws of Death.

These tragedies bind Cardinal Nation together. These players are like family to us. We invite them into our homes by watching them play ball on our TV screens and listen to the games on the radio. We follow them on Twitter. We miss our guys when winter comes and there is no baseball for a few months. We spend our hard earned money on tickets to Winter Warm-Up, hoping that seeing our boys of summer in person will chase our winter blues away. Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to go to spring training.

The Cards players are like our personal extended family. When something tragic happens to one of them, we grieve like we have lost an immediate family member. When we meet a fellow member of Cardinal Nation for the first time and we start to talk about the Cardinals’ tragedies, we ask, “Do you remember where you were when you heard about Oscar? About Josh? About Darryl?” It reminds me of the question that my generation asks other members, “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?” As for when I was when I heard that Oscar had died, we were watching the movie (ironically) God’s Not Dead. My sister-in-law called and told us that Oscar had died in an automobile accident. I hurried up and got on Facebook and Twitter to discover the horrible news was true. Everyone was in shock and was extremely sad.

When Opening Day comes next season and we look at right field without Oscar there, we will miss him all over again. We will think about his talent and his untimely death. Like the sad words from the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these, it might have been.” What might have been? We’ll never know now.

As Oscar’s untimely death shows, your life can end at any time. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell your family and friends you love them. And think about where you will spend eternity, should your life end. There are only two choices. I pray you make the right one.

Diane