Mid-season musings

It’s Thursday evening and we’re usually watching a Cards game.  However, since this is the All-Star break, there is no baseball tonight. There will be baseball again tomorrow night but until then, I’ll just put my thoughts down here and see if you agree with me or not.

At mid-season, the Cards are tied for second place with the Cubs in the NL Central with a 43-45 record.  It could be worse – the Cards could be in last place. The Cincinnati Reds are presently in last place.  The Brewers are in first place – who’d a thunk it? The NL Central is a weak division this year. Given the quality of the Cards’ play this year, it’s amazing the Cards are tied for second place.  Like last season, the Cards have been consistently inconsistent.

Some of the players we saw at the beginning of the season have departed or have been shuttled off to Memphis.  Jhonny Peralta and Jonathon Broxton were designated for assignment. Matt Adams was traded to Atlanta, where he has been hitting well. Aledmys Diaz was sent down to Memphis, and Randal Grichuk has been sent down to Memphis and brought back up.  Luke Voit and Paul DeJong have been brought up from Memphis and played well.  Tommy Pham was called up from Memphis when Dexter Fowler was injured and has played and hit very well.

There have been changes at the managerial level as well, as outlined here. And John Mozeliak has been bumped up to a new position created for him, that of President of Baseball Operations.   Mo’s assistant GM, Michael Girsch, was promoted to general manager.

The second half of the season starts tomorrow.  The trade deadline is fast approaching.  The Cubs made a major move today – they traded 3 prospects for White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana.  Will the Cards be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

There are traffic jams in the outfield and in the infield.  There are four outfielders but only 3 positions.  Tommy Pham came up from Memphis and made a big splash playing center field filling in for Dexter Fowler in his two stints on the disabled list.  Tommy grew so comfortable in center field that he has stated publicly he wants to play there all the time.  However, Dexter is not going away anytime soon.  Tommy, if you had played better in that position last season, the sight problems notwithstanding, perhaps the team wouldn’t have had to sign Dexter.  I felt so bad for Jose Martinez.  He toiled in the minor leagues for years to get the chance to play in the major leagues only to be sent back down.  So do any of the outfielders go away by the trade deadline? I think the best thing that could happen is that Pham gets moved to left field and Dexter stays in center.  Grichuk should ride the bench in case of injury or if a pinch hitter is needed.  Grichuk’s bat has been streaky, but we knew that.

The infield also has a traffic jam.  Aledmys Diaz was sent down to Memphis.  Paul DeJong was brought up and has played well.  Second base has been sort of a revolving door.  Matt Carpenter was assigned to first base, which left no place for Matt Adams. Kolten Wong has been on the disabled list. Greg Garcia and Matt Carpenter have tried playing second base but neither of them has done well at the position.  Kolten has been activated so he will be back at second base tomorrow night.  Kolten’s bat has been on fire in rehab.  Luke Voit is doing a great job playing first.  He is also batting quite well.  Carpenter is the odd man out.

The closer role has also been a revolving door.  Seung-Hwan Oh started the season as the closer, but he has proven to be human.  Trevor Rosenthal has had his ups and downs as well And the bullpen has been streaky.

Everyone is saying that the Cardinals need a big bat in the middle of the lineup.  I have another suggestion.  Perhaps the Cardinals need a new hitting coach. Matt Holliday has been working with Aaron Judge, the Yankees’ big home run hitter.  Matt would be a great hitting coach for the Cards.

So should the Cards be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?  There are so many variables in play that I hate to make even an educated guess.  All I know is that I’m glad that I don’t have to make that decision.

The All-Star Game was a lot of fun (even though the National League lost), but I’m missing Cardinals baseball and I can’t wait until 6:15 PM CST when the Cardinals play again.  Here’s hoping that the Cardinals are more consistent in the second half of the season and make the playoffs.  There’s still time for it to happen. Thanks as always for reading – see you next time!

Diane

The perfect lineup (with 1 subtraction)

My fellow Cardinals bloggers and I complain on Twitter night after night Scan0004about manager Mike Matheny’s constant lineup changes.  The lineup is never the same from one night to the next.  Even the casual fan can see the lack of results that this constant changing produces.  But last night, it appeared that Mike spun the wheels on the lineup machine and finally hit the right jackpot.  Here was the lineup for last night’s game:

Carpenter 1B

Gyorko 2B

Moss LF

Piscotty RF

Molina C

Peralta 3B

Grichuk CF

G. Garcia SS

Martinez P

And lo and behold, Mike is using this same lineup in tonight’s game as well, with Waino pitching.  See how easy that was?   Carpenter celebrated being back in the leadoff spot last night by hitting a home run.  Stephen Piscotty and Randall Grichuk hit home runs too, and the Cardinals beat the Mets 8-1.  It was a fun game and even though I was at Bible study, I stealthily looked at my AtBat app to see how the game was going.  Yadi getting caught trying to steal third, however – no, Yadi, don’t do that anymore, or I will have to tweet at your brother Bengie to get on you about that.

I think this lineup should be on the field every night for the rest of the season, and even into the playoffs, if these Cards should get that far.  The only subtraction that I would make is when Aledmys Diaz returns from the disabled list, he would go in Garcia’s spot, and of course, the pitcher varies every game.

Garcia, Matt Adams, and Kolten Wong could come off the bench to pinch hit or spell one of the regular infielders if they need a night off or get hurt (God forbid – the disabled list has been overcrowded this season).  Matt Holliday and Jeremy Hazelbaker could do the same for the outfielders.  Tommy Pham – the jury’s still out on him.

A couple of random thoughts: Could Jaime Garcia just be released now instead of the end of the season when his option is up?  It’s bad enough that you don’t know whether you’re going to get Good Jaime or Bad Jaime when it’s his turn in the rotation.  Lately, however, only Bad Jaime has shown up to pitch.  Alex Reyes has shown that he’s more than ready to be a starter in the show.  Maybe I’m being selfish, but since my son and I will be going to the game on Sunday (which is Jaime’s next start), it would be really great to see Alex’s debut as a starter.

And why, with the exception of Martinez, are our pitchers not ready to pitch in the first inning?  It never fails that the other team starts scoring in the first inning.  The Cards have to start playing catch up already in the bottom of the first.  Are the pitchers not getting enough throwing time before the games?  Or are they getting too much throwing time?  Could the pitchers not be mentally ready to go in the first inning? That appears to be something that Derek Lilliquist needs to work on with them. This problem needs to be solved ASAP.

On Saturday, August 27,  Chris Carpenter, Joe Torre, Sam Breadon and Terry Moore will be inducted in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.  The ceremony starts at 2 PM at Fox Sports Midwest Live in Ballpark Village.  The doors open at 11 AM, so get there early to wait in line. Last year, my son and I didn’t get there until 12 noon and we had to share a table with some other folks. I told him we needed to get there earlier.  One of these days, he’ll learn to listen to me.  However, if you can’t make it, Fox Sports Midwest will show the ceremony on Sunday, August 28 at 11:30 a.m.  If you’re at the ceremony, find me and say hi – I always love to meet folks who read my blog.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Diane

Striking out (literally and figuratively)

Backwards KWe are two days into the 2016 season and the Cardinals have yet to win a game.  The Cardinals have had too many strikeouts in these two games.  This is not acceptable.  The Cards can’t be leaving runners on base either. In Monday’s game, there were 10 runners left on base.  It’s not just that the guys can’t hit; they can’t score either.  Randall Grichuk has struck out every time he’s come up to bat. He’s riding the bench for tonight’s game; Jeremy Hazelbaker is getting his first major league start.

The guys came close to a win last night, but as we old timers know, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and making out in the back seat of a car.  The bullpen, however, was lights out, with the exception of Seth Maness.  Jedd Gyorko hit his first HR in a Cardinals uniform.  Aledmys Pena and Jeremy Hazelbaker got their first major league hits.  There was some offense, but not enough runs for a win.  But that Stephen Piscotty has a heck of an arm.

And what’s with the bunts?  Matt Carpenter is the leadoff batter and he should not be bunting. Bunts need to be executed by the 8th and 9th place hitters, not the leadoff hitter.  And if the hitter is not good at bunting, then he shouldn’t be bunting at all.  (Yes, Kolton Wong, this means you. I’m thinking about your GIDP in Game 1.)

And to make matters worse, sadly, like last year, the infirmary is getting full again.  Here is the list of current patients and their maladies:

Brayan Pena – Knee surgery to remove loose cartilage in knee – out at least 1 month.

Jhonny Peralta – Thumb ligament tear – out at least until June

Ruben Tejada – Left quad grade 1 strain – on 15 day DL

Tommy Pham – Left oblique strain – out for at least 2 weeks

Mitch Harris – Right arm compression syndrome – on 15 day DL

Jordan Walden – Grade 2 lat sprain – out until June

I’m sure that there are fans out there who are thinking, It’s only the first two games of the season. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.  While these sayings are true, there’s some fine tuning that needs to be done.  Otherwise, this season will go by very, very slowly.  Please play better, guys; I’m tired of hearing my husband whine that I’d better get used to seeing the Cards play like this because it’s going to happen all season.

There is a bit of good news: Sir Paul McCartney will be playing a concert at Busch Stadium on August 13th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ concert at Busch Stadium II.  Tickets go on sale on Friday, April 15 at 10:00 AM CST and you can purchase tickets here.  My husband and I saw Sir Paul in concert at Busch Stadium II in 1993.  It was a very good show.  I was impressed with the pyrotechnics during “Live and Let Die.” This show should be just as good, if not even better.

Let’s hope the Cards go on a winning streak starting tonight.  I’m looking forward to seeing Mike Leake pitch.  Thanks as always for reading and see you next time!

Diane

Spring training is over – hallelujah!

BalloonsThe Cards’ last spring training game today was a doozy and to make things even better, it was against the Yankees.  There were home runs a-plenty – 2 by Stephen Piscotty, 1 by Tommy Pham, 1 by Jeremy Hazelbaker and 1 by Brandon Moss.  Hopefully, the hitting slump is over and the team meetings the other day did the trick in getting the guys motivated.

Let’s hope the Birds will have some of today’s firepower in Pittsburgh on Sunday, despite the fact that the high temperature this Sunday in Pittsburgh is supposed to only be 39 degrees – and that’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius. I’ve attended games in early October in St. Louis in those kinds of temperatures and I feel sorry for those poor fans who will be shivering in the stands.  When MLB assembles the schedule for next season, they should ensure that no games are played in the Northeast, the upper Midwest and Toronto in the first part of April, since there is still the possibility of cold weather and even snow. Unless, of course, the games are scheduled in Milwaukee and Toronto, since those stadiums have roofs.  In contrast, the high temperature in St. Louis this Sunday will be 68 degrees.  That’s a perfect temperature for a ball game – not too hot and not too cold.

I was so hoping that the Cards would leave spring training without a major injury.  Unfortunately, Jhonny Peralta tore the same ligament on his thumb that Yadier Molina did during the playoffs last year. Jhonny will be out at least until June.  Peralta’s injury led to the signing of Ruben Tejada.  However, Ruben left today’s game with a left quad strain. Jeremy Hazelbaker, who has been hot during spring training, is going north with the team due to Tejada’s injury. Mitch Harris will start the season on the disabled list with compression syndrome.  And Jordan Walden, who looked like he would be good to go up until Wednesday, is now on the DL with shoulder issues.  Walden’s injury led to an opening on the roster for Rule 5 player Matt Bowman, who pitched in today’s game.

But the most devastating injury out of spring training was not to a player. Third base coach Jose “Secret Weapon” Oquendo is out for the season due to a knee replacement surgery that went awry and had to be repeated.  The Cardinals offered to let Oquendo do some coaching from the bench, but he said if he couldn’t do the job he was hired to do that he didn’t want to be there at all.  Jose’s absence will be a great loss for the team, since not only does Jose work with the Spanish-speaking players, he works with the other players on base running.   First base coach Chris Maloney has moved over to third base to replace Jose and Bill Mueller has moved to first base.  Time will tell how much Jose’s absence will affect the team.

The Cards have two days off before Opening Day on Sunday.  I’m ready for regular season baseball, aren’t you?  I’m ready to come home from work and know I’m going to be seeing my favorite team playing ball on TV.  This Sunday is going to be awesome – church in the morning and then coming home in time to watch the Cards’ opener on TV.  Are you ready for some baseball? I know I am!

As always, thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane