Preseason ponderings and burning questions for the regular season

The last game of the preseason is tonight. The reason I called it a preseason game is because last night’s and tonight’s game are not in Florida, so they can’t be spring training games. You can watch tonight’s game for free on MLB.TV – just go to mlb.com, select the Cardinals-Blue Jays game in the scoreboard section and click on the TV icon. The game starts at 6:07 PM CST, so hopefully you’re not reading this too late to watch it.

It was a little disconcerting following last night’s game on Gameday only.  The game wasn’t broadcast on KMOX or on FOX Sports or any other cable network. It felt like the 1960’s and 1970’s when very few games were televised and you could only follow the game on KMOX. But the regular season starts in only 2 days and I’ll be able to watch and/or listen to all the baseball I want! Are you excited? I am. Here’s some of my thoughts on spring training and the season to come.

Spring training notes:

Amazingly, the Cardinals escaped spring training without a major injury, such as a pitcher needing Tommy John surgery. However, Adam Wainwright and Luke Gregerson suffered hamstring strains. Both Adam and Luke injured their hamstrings in a sprint drill. Why the heck are pitchers doing sprint drills? Pitchers do not do that much running, unless they manage to get on base. A pitcher would not need to sprint to cover first base. Gregerson also suffered an oblique injury earlier in spring training. Both Adam and Luke are on the disabled list to start the season. At least those are minor injuries.

Carson Kelly, Yadi’s backup last year, was sent down to Memphis. Yadi’s stamina has improved with age to the point that he hardly ever takes a day off. Carson’s offense has suffered as a result of not getting enough playing time, and that carried over to spring training. Carson needs to be playing every day in order to improve, and not ride the bench while Yadi plays. Be patient, young padawan; your time will come. Francisco Pena, the son of former Cardinals catcher Tony Pena, will be the backup catcher.

Jack Flaherty was lights out in spring training. He is definitely one of the starters in the rotation of the future. The future is now, however, as Jack will be taking Wainwright’s place in the rotation until Waino’s hamstring heals.

Yairo Munoz, one of the prospects obtained in the Stephen Piscotty trade, was very good in spring training. His great offense helped him make the team as an infield backup. It was reported that his mother cried when he told her the news. I would have cried too if one of my kids had played baseball and I was told that he/she had been added to the major league squad.

Burning questions:

Since no closer has been chosen, will the 9th inning be closer by committee? Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons appear to be the top candidates for the closer position.

Carlos Martinez has shown flashes of greatness. Will he get it together and be the dominant pitcher we know he can be? Although some fans like Carlos’ funky hair colors, I think it’s a distraction. Save the funky colors for the off-season, Carlos.

Will Mike Matheny micromanage the team and keep Mike Maddux, Willie McGee and Jose Oquendo from doing their jobs effectively?

Will Tommy Pham have another season like he did last season? Or will his vision problems give him more trouble?

Will Jose Martinez get enough playing time? If Pham gets hurt, Fowler could be moved back to center field and Jose could play right field.

Will Michael Wacha’s shoulder stay healed? He has pitched very well in spring training. Here’s hoping he’s regained his 2013 form and will be the dominant pitcher he was then.

I have a great deal for you.  Is T-Mobile your cell phone provider? If not, you should hurry up and switch to T-Mobile – they are offering a great perk:  a free season of MLB.TV,  through their T-Mobile Tuesdays app. That means you can watch all out-of- market baseball games on your cellphone, tablet, etc. All you need is an MLB.com account. This deal is only good through April 7. I discovered this great perk in the app last Tuesday and it made me really glad that I had switched to T-Mobile from AT&T.

Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!

Diane

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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

My Cardinals Hall of Fame nominees

I work in a building that is located two blocks from Busch Stadium, and I see amazing progress on Ballpark Village every day.  The rooftop seats have been put in and the floors have been added to the building framework.  Asphalt for the parking lots has been laid.   One of the new buildings at Ballpark Village will be called Cardinals Nation, and inside the Cardinals Nation building will be the new Cardinals Hall of Fame.  The United Cardinals Bloggers project for July is to make a list of the top 5 Cardinals (players, managers, front office folks, etc.) that we believe should be included in the Cardinals Hall of Fame.  Now there was some qualifiers – the nominee(s) can’t have had their numbers retired, they can’t be still playing/managing/etc. and they can’t already be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Okay, that’s a bit of a challenge, but I think I can find 5 folks to nominate.  Here’s my list, in no particular order:

1.  Ted Simmons – Simba was one of my favorite players in the late ’70’s to mid-1980’s.  He was overshadowed by his contemporary Johnny Bench, but Ted’s batting average was actually higher than Johnny’s.  I remember his long black hair that came down to his shoulders, blowing behind him as he ran to first base.  Ted had some great stats – he was an 8 time All Star, he won the Silver Slugger, he caught 2 no hitters, and he hit over .300 for 7 years.  I was so sad when he was traded to the Brewers in 1980.  Darryl Porter had to win me over because my heart was still with Simba.  Hopefully one of these years, Ted will be voted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The honor is long overdue.

2.  Willie McGee – Willie has been a fan favorite for a long time.  There are periodic calls for his number 53 to be retired.  I loved watching Willie in the 1982 World Series (despite my then-husband ragging me about the team).  Willie was one of the best Cardinals players in the 1980’s, with excellent  defense and a bat that came through when necessary.  Willie, with Ozzie, Tommy Herr and Vince Coleman were the prime examples of Whiteyball, which was Whitey Herzog’s style of baseball.  Willie played with the Cardinals twice and now serves the Cardinals as a special assistant to GM John Mozeliak.

3.  Jim Edmonds – I know, I know, another outfielder, but Jimmy Ballgame is special.  His defense earned him 8 Gold Glove awards and his bat was just as awesome.  Jimmy won 8 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and was a 4 time All Star.  Jim, Albert Pujols, and Scott Rolen were part of the MV3 triumvirate in 2004.  He is such a big part of so many championship series and World Series memories for me.  Jimmy looks like a blue collar guy – if he hadn’t played baseball, he would be working in a factory somewhere.  Edmonds signed a minor league contract in 2011 so that he could retire as a Cardinal. Hopefully, Jim will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

4.  John Tudor – And now for my favorite pitcher from the 1980’s. Tudor was known as a junk pitcher – he threw off speed pitches, where batters didn’t expect them.  I liked John because he wasn’t a fastball pitcher.  He had to rely on his brains to get batters out.   In 1985, his first year with the Cardinals, he started with a 1-7 record.  But after May, he had a 20-1 record and ended up with a 1.93 ERA and a 21-8 record that year.  John had 10 complete game shutouts in 1985, and he was the last major league pitcher with this accomplishment.  Sadly, John never regained his 1985 form, although he had seasons with 13 victories.  I was at the Cards-Mets game in 1987 (on Easter Sunday, no less) when Mets catcher Barry Lyons crashed into the Cardinals’ bullpen and collided with Tudor, breaking his leg.   I found out that John had been traded to the Dodgers in 1988 by seeing it on the front page of the Post-Dispatch in a newspaper machine near my bus stop in downtown St. Louis.  John had been traded for Pedro Guerrero.  What?  It broke my heart, although John won a World Series ring with the Dodgers in 1988.  I rejoiced when John returned to the Cardinals in 1990, but despite a comeback season, he retired.  I got his autograph at FanFest in 2009.  He still looked the same, but his hair was a little grayer.  (Can you tell I had a crush on him?  LOL!)

5.   Helene Hathaway Robison Britton – Helene was the first woman owner of a major league baseball team.  She inherited the Cardinals from her uncle.  She wasn’t an owner in name only – she attended owners’ meetings and had major input as to what went on at the ballpark.  Her ownership of the Cardinals coincided with the women’s suffrage movement.  If a woman could run a baseball team, she sure knew enough to vote.  If you click on her name, you will be able to read my original blog post about Helene.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my list of Cardinals Hall of Fame candidates.  Who would you pick?  Leave me a comment below.  Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane