Play Ball!

My
cousin, who is a very busy woman, gets up early most days.  In the pre-dawn quiet, she drinks her coffee
and takes the time to find an inspirational quote to email to all her friends
and family.  I am always amazed at how
often the quote seems to be the exact thing I need.

She
is not a baseball fan, but her mother was. 
Through the lean years and the plenty years, Aunt Louise was a die-hard
Kansas City Royals fan.  One of my aunt’s
prized possessions was a picture taken with her hero, Frank White.  My dear aunt has been gone for several years,
but today, Opening Day, I think she was helping her daughter pick today’s
quote:

“To look out at you gives me enormous hope.  You look so competent, so strong, so young,
so committed, so ready to take on the future difficult times and all.”

-Colin Powell

I
wonder how often she looked at the Royals roster on Opening Day and felt that
hope.  The Royals may compete this
year.  I hope she is watching. 

Opening
Day is a time for hope.  I look at the
competent, strong, committed and oh-so-young 2009
St. Louis Cardinal Roster,
and I am excited.  Today is the time for
optimism, so I am stomping on the naysayers.  

I
know we can contend.  No one thought we
could last year, and despite injury after injury, we stayed in the mix for a
long time.  We only have to be 10-15%
better this year.

Our
starting rotation is experienced and dependable.  There is no doubt the impact the addition of Chris
Carpenter can make.   I am removing the
term “a healthy Chris Carpenter” from my vocabulary.  Healthy will simply be assumed, and not his
first name.  The bullpen is better.  Everybody pulls out the “blown save” number
from last year, nobody talks about how must of them were in the first half of
the season, not the last.

Everybody
talks about how we need bats to protect Albert Pujols.  Didn’t Ryan Ludwick win a 2008 Silver Slugger
award, too?  Oh yeah, people say that was
a fluke and he was playing better than he really is.  Hmmm…over 162 games, how is that
possible?  Didn’t Albert Pujols get
enough protections to win the NL MVP? 
Yes, he did.  And, it was not his
last.

And,
we made an offensive upgrade at short.  Khalil
Greene had a down year last year with the Padres (who didn’t?), but he has been
knocking the crud out of the ball in Spring Training.  Oh right, Spring Training does not count for
anything.  Still, I will take it as a
good sign.  I think
St. Louis will agree with him.  Can you say, “Career year”?

Rick
Ankiel (Or, Dick. Or, Richard. Or, Ricky. 
Or, whatever we are calling him now) pretty much played half a season
last year between trying to play through an injury and then going on the DL.  I am excited to see what numbers he can put
up with a full year.

I
am not sure why, but Chris Duncan has become the whipping boy for everyone.  Everyone, except Tony LaRussa.  LaRussa has faith in him.  I have faith in LaRussa. 
Duncan has a big bat.  Most of the digs come for his outfield
defense.  If he hits enough, most people
will not care.

Yadier
Molina finds something to improve every year. 
Catching – check.  Hitting for
average – check.  Maybe, he will find a
little more pop in his bat this year.  Despite
winning a Gold Glove last year, he was disappointed in his defense, mostly not
throwing out as many runners.  However,
he was working with many new pitchers and that makes a big difference.  The starting rotation is familiar this
year.  Expect his caught stealing numbers
to go up.

Nobody
has much to say about Jason LaRue.  This
is good.  Usually, if people are talking
about your backup catcher, it is a bad thing. 
Means you do not really have one. 
LaRue is a solid backstop.  He
does not hit for average, but his bat has some pop, often in the clutch.  LaRue understands his role and comes to the
park ready for whatever the day brings.

Skip
Schumaker is taking one for the team by making the transition to from outfield
to second base.  While others will be
allowed to make errors in the dark, his errors at second will be in the
spotlight, with a big flashing arrow pointing to him.  It is not fair.  Before you are too hard on him, remember the
guy he replaced is starting the year at Triple-A Durham.

The
Rookies.  So many of them this year.  I love them.  The energy. 
The enthusiasm.  The
athleticism.  The hope.  I am looking forward to seeing these guys make
their mark:  Brian Barden, David Freese,
Joe Thurston, Colby Rasmus, Jason Motte, Brendan Ryan (technically, I do not
know if Ryan is still a rookie or not, but he feels like one.)  Surely, with that many rookies, one of them
has a shot at NL Rookie of the Year.

So,
while I have seen very, very few predictions that put the Cardinals in the
post-season, let me go on record as saying I will be very, very surprised if
they are not.  Now, let’s “Play Ball”!

2 Comments

Kathy – I don’t believe in predictions! Fans support their teams and why should we start any season NOT believing that our teams will win!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Kathy – I don’t believe in predictions! Fans support their teams and why should we start any season NOT believing that our teams will win!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

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