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

2016 Winter Warm-Up wrap up

WWUThis was my first complete weekend excursion into the Winter Warm-Up experience. In 2004, an attorney I worked for had his uncle’s pass, so I headed over to the hotel on my lunch hour and zipped through the whole thing.

I usually do not go to Winter Warm-Up because of the cost of the pass ($40).  My friend Kim, however, contacted me and asked if I wanted to go.  I conferred with my husband and I was able to say yes.  I couldn’t afford any of the paid autograph tickets (and neither could Kim), so we thought we’d get some free autographs and attend some of the presentations. We could also see our boys of summer and get our fix until spring training. It was a win-win for both of us. My son Phillip also came with us.

As you may know, all proceeds from Winter Warm-Up go to Cardinals Care, the Cardinals’ charitable organization that supports children’s agencies, builds youth ball fields, and funds Redbird Rookies, which is a a youth baseball development program.  There were silent auctions held all three days, as well as live auctions on the main stage, the proceeds of which also went to Cardinals Care.

On Saturday, we arrived and went to the second floor.  We enjoyed looking at some of the goodies at the Cardinals Authentics booth, which unfortunately were  out of our price range. We then went into the exhibitor hall to check out the vendor booths. There were 44 vendors in the exhibitor hall, and 90% of them were sports collectible vendors.

After we got through the vendor booths, we went to the food sales area and got a soda.  We then decided to go upstairs to the fourth floor to the main stage area to hear general manager John Mozeliak speak.  Dan McLaughlin of Fox Sports Midwest conversed with Mo, and then the floor was opened to questions.  Some of the questions were very interesting.  Here’s a photo of that (it was taken with my phone from a distance, so I apologize for the quality of the photo):

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After we listened to the Q & A for a while, we decided to go to lunch. We walked down the street to Hardee’s.

When we came back, we decided to attend the 1:00 presentation in the Dugout Room.  We heard Dan Farrell speak about the Cardinals’ sales and marketing strategies for 2016.  Mr. Farrell told us about the HD video boards that were recently installed at Busch Stadium.  Mr. Farrell also talked about some of the promotions and theme nights for 2015. He also mentioned that instead of 25,000 giveaway items per game, there would be 30,000 giveaways per game.  Mr. Farrell also told us about a perk for season ticket holders – you are eligible to purchase a complete set of the promotional item giveaways for the season.

After the presentation, we went back to the fourth floor and looked at the goodies on sales at the Cardinals Team Store and the Cardinals Care Store. The items at the Team Store were at least 50% off, if not more. I purchased a little travel purse, originally $24.00, for $12.00.  I had wanted this particular item last year, but couldn’t find it this year.

After we were done looking through the stores,we went to the Clubhouse Room to a 2:00 presentation with Dan Martin, who is the artist that presently draws the Weatherbird for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Most of the presentation was about the late Amadee Wohlschlager, who drew many Cardinals and sports illustrations and who also drew the Weatherbird for many years.  Dan then drew the Weatherbird on a large paper on an easel to show us how it’s done.  He then had it auctioned off for Cardinals Care.

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After the presentation, we then went back into the main stage area to discover Jennifer Langosch (the beat writer for the Cardinals) and Derrick Goold (a sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the president of the Baseball Writers’Association of America), being interviewed by a member of Team Fredbird. This must have been a last minute thing, because it was not on the board that listed who was going to be on the stage that day.  I then saw and briefly chatted with Lindsey Weber, the Cardinals’ social media director.  After that, we went home for the day.

Via text Saturday night, Kim and I discussed what free autographs we wanted to get the next day and what time we needed to be there the next day to get tickets.  We arrived at 10 a.m. and stood in line to get tickets for Rick Horton’s autographs.  I went to a lot of games in the 1980s and remember seeing Rick pitch.  We then went to the second floor and got a soda. We then went back up to the Team Store, where I purchased the duffle bag I had looked at the day before.

We went back to the autograph ticket line to get autograph tickets for Andy and Alan Benes. I then realized we needed something for Rick and Andy and Alan Benes to sign. We popped into the vendor area and the very first vendor we stopped at had baseball cards of that day’s players for 50 cents each.  They were in great shape and the price was right. We then went back to the lobby and got our autograph tickets for the Benes brothers, then went back upstairs to get in line for Rick’s autograph.  Rick was very nice and personable.  While in line, we listened to Mike Shannon on the main stage. There was Q & A’s about his restaurant closing.

After we got Rick’s autograph, we decided it was time for lunch. We went to Hardee’s again.

We came back and got into the line for the Benes brothers’ autographs. The line moved quickly.  After we got the autographs, we went to a presentation in the Clubhouse Room given by Brian Finch, the author of  Redbird Relics. The presentation was about Billy Southworth’s modified baseball cap that his son wore in combat in World War II, and we could see and take photos of the cap:

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After the presentation, we went back to the Team Store to see if any new merchandise had come in.  I scored a leather steering wheel cover for $8.00.  We then headed home.

On Monday morning, Kim texted me and begged off for today, stating she had “people overload.”  I certainly could understand that.  There weren’t as many people there today, however, probably because it was Monday and a lot of people had to go back to work.

There wasn’t any free autographs that we wanted to get today, so Phil and I attended the presentation in the Clubhouse Room at 10:00 a.m. that looked back at the performance of Yadi and Waino in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, which was again presented by Brian Finch.  It was a toss-up between attending this presentation and listening to Bill DeWitt III on the Main Stage.  Brian told us what Mr. DeWitt was going to speak about, which were the names of  the 2016 Cardinals Hall of Fame nominees. There will be a formal post later with the names of the nominees.  So we didn’t really miss anything after all.

We also saw Yadi’s bat and cleats from the 7th game of the 2006 NLCS.  Here’s a photo (sorry about the flash, curators – I forgot to turn it off and I wanted to move the line along):

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At this presentation I also got to meet Josey Curtis, a fellow United Cardinals Bloggers blogger, who writes for STLSportsMinute.com.  She’s only 14 years old and she’s a great writer.  Go and look her up after you’re done reading this blog post.

After the presentation, we went back to the Team Store.  The wheel cover I bought yesterday didn’t fit my vehicle’s steering wheel and I wanted to see if I could get a refund. I couldn’t get a refund, but they let me have an exchange, so I got a nice Cardinals coffee mug that I will use at work.

On our way out, we stopped at the Tony LaRussa ARF Foundation booth.  Phil purchased a Memories and Dreams commemorative Hall of Fame Weekend Program from when Tony was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame which was autographed by Tony for only $5.00.  That was a great deal. We then went to St. Louis Bread Company for lunch since we were burned out on Hardee’s.  I ran into 2 attorneys there that I used to work for.  It was nice to see them.

This was the first Winter Warm-Up I attended and I really enjoyed it. I have a few practical tips, should you decide to attend next year:

Carry a little cash.  It is safer to carry plastic, but there is some things you will need cash for. You will need cash to tip the coat check attendant. The food sales area (water, soda, food items) and the beer vendor only take cash.  I didn’t buy any 50/50 tickets, but I would think they would only take cash as well.  Plus, if you have a budget for the day, you can carry that amount in cash, and once it’s gone, you’re done spending.

Dress in layers. Certain areas of the ballrooms are warm and some are chilly. I got warm in the main stage area on Saturday when there were a lot of people there.  The Clubhouse Presentation Room also got warm in the afternoon.  You can check your heavy coat with the coat check attendant on the fourth floor near the elevators.

Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing in line for autograph tickets and standing in line for autographs, and you’ll be walking around a lot.

Decide if it’s more important to you to get autographs or listen to presentations.  If there is a presentation on the Main Stage that’s going on while you’re in the autograph line, you’ll be able to hear it.  But the other presentations are in conference rooms on another floor. And if you want to get autograph tickets for free autographs, you may have to wait in line during times when presentations are being held.  The schedule is posted on the Cardinals’ website, so you can figure out in advance what you want to do. There are last minute autograph sessions and presentations, so keep your schedule open.

If you live in town and you don’t want the hassle or expense of finding a parking spot in a garage, you can take Metrolink to downtown St. Louis.  It’s a 5 block walk from the 8th & Pine Metrolink station to the Hyatt Regency.

Winter Warm-Up was a nice reminder that spring training, and then baseball, is right around the corner.  Hopefully, the time will pass quickly.  That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Diane

Q&A with Cardinals GM John Mozeliak – Part 2

UCB_11For the second year in a row, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has graciously answered questions from various United Cardinals Bloggers writers. Many thanks to Lindsey Weber of the Cardinals’ communication department for assisting in this opportunity to pick Mo’s brain.

There were 60 questions asked by the bloggers.  I had two questions, but only one got answered, probably because there were so many questions. Here is my question, with Mo’s response:

WWLCB:  As we all know, baseball has a long regular season and then, if a team has a good enough record, a long postseason as well. One reason the offense suffered in 2015 may have been the lack of scheduled days off for the non-injured starting lineup. Will there be more of an effort made to give the starting lineup scheduled days off during the 2016 season?

Mo: That’s an interesting question and I’m not exactly sure if that’s a chicken and the egg situation. I think being more proactive on creating a balanced team to where you can give Yadi an extra day, or Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Peralta; the fact that we’re naming names means it’s probably a good strategy. I think that’s something that Mike and his staff are going to be very conscious of.

If you would like to see the other questions that Mo answered, you can go to United Cardinals Bloggers to see the other posts.

The winter meetings start this week, so hopefully Mo will do some wheeling and dealing to pick up some players for the Cards.  My next post will be the annual WWLCB Holiday Gift Guide, so look for that.  Until next time, thanks for reading!

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

Q&A with John Mozeliak

MoThe bloggers who are a part of the United Cardinals Bloggers were recently given the opportunity to ask John Mozeliak, the Cards’ general manager, one or more questions.  Mo was gracious and answered everyone’s questions (except for questions that were duplicated) in a clear and concise manner. It appeared from his answers that he really enjoyed answering our questions and that he looked forward to doing it again.  Yours truly could only come up with one question.  Maybe next time, I’ll be able to think of more than one.  Here is my question, and Mo’s answer:

What will the Cardinals management do to prevent another tragedy like Oscar Tavares’ death?  Could they start their own baseball school like Carlos Beltran’s school where not only baseball is taught, but life skills as well?  It would probably be a major investment, but since most future prospects are now coming from the Caribbean islands, it would pay off in the end.

We currently try to educate our players in our Dominican Academy.  We spend a lot of time and money having players realize the risks they take on and off the field.  Alcohol and drug awareness is one of our more common and spoken about topics.  But unfortunately in this most recent tragedy, a player had just finished a long season, was spending a week at home and unfortunately made a mistake. And it cost him his life.


Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately.  There’s been a lot going on with my family these days, which I may address on one of my other blogs soon.  Things seem to be settling down, so hopefully my writing will pick up and I’ll be posting more.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane