Results tagged ‘ Joel Pineiro ’

The Giant San Francisco Blog

Over the
weekend, I made a trip to the west coast to see some Cardinals-Giants
baseball.  Being my first time in San Francisco, my weekend
was packed just trying to get it all in. 
With so much to see and so many pictures to take, that can only lead to
one thing:  A Giant San Francisco Blog.

 

The City by the Bay

I am a
meticulous travel researcher.  Someday,
when I am less constrained by time and money, I might be one of those travelers
that packs a back and just goes where the road takes me.  No real plan. 
No itinerary.  But, until then, I
plan and plot.  I look for deals and know
my options.  I know how to get where I am
going and do not waste time wondering around. 
Unless, of course, wondering around is the plan.

 

Sometimes
in the research, I see things that seem like nice tidbits, but I only learn of
their significance latter when I am actually onsite.  For example, all of the suggested walking
tours in the Fodor’s Guide to San Francisco, made a point to show the reader
where all the coffee shops were along the way. 
This seemed simply to be a nice touch. 
However, I did not understand how important coffee would be to me in San Francisco. 

 

Every San Francisco travel tip
on the planet includes the advice to dress in layers because the temperature
can change quickly.  I took this advice
to heart.  I hate to be cold.  So, layers I packed, and layers I wore.  At Saturday night’s game, I wore two long-sleeved
t-shirts, a #4 Molina jersey, a thick hooded sweatshirt, a Cardinals therma
base jacket, two pairs of gloves and another rain coat that I wrapped around my
legs.  Yet, it was not enough to ward off
the San Francisco
chill.

 

Enter
coffee, my new best friend. There were only three times I was not cold in San Francisco:  the rare moments when the sun was out, when I
was walking (which was often) and when I was drinking coffee. 

 

Forget
the beer and soda at the ballpark.  Give
me a piping hot coffee that I can cradle in my hands and try to wrap my body
around.  The highs were in the 60s and
lows in the 50s, but I will be darned if was not the coldest 50 or 60 degrees I
have ever experienced.  I have spent
warmer days skiing.

 

Still,
the city is fabulous.  The hills.  The cable cars.  The wharf. 
The bay.  The food.  The people-watching is among the best in the
world.  The city is a melting pot of
cultures and lifestyles.  In San Francisco, you can
walk down the street and see every type of person you could imagine.  And, probably a few that a Midwest
girl could not.

Here are
some scenes from San Francisco.

After getting checked in, I enjoyed lunch at Il Caffe at Union Square.  

IlCaffe.jpg

I felt very urban eating my lunch in the sunshine that I would find fleeting throughout the weekend.  

UnionSquareView.jpg

There were modern dancers performing.  

Dancers.jpg

There were pigeons pillaging.  

PigeonsFeast.jpg


There were shopping opportunities…although probably not for me. 

Tiffany.jpg

I would love a little something in the signature blue box, but once again, my disposable income was allocated to baseball.  A girl has to stick to her priorities.

I rode the iconic Cable Cars:

CableCar.jpg

And, took pictures along the way…




StreetLady.jpg

ChinaTown.jpg

IMG_2985.JPG

The Cable Car brought me to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I found sea lions lounging.  They look quiet, but actually sound like a kennel of barking dogs.  Actually, they reminded me of dogs, laying their “puppy piles” and playing with each other.

SeaLions1.jpg

SeaLions2.jpg

The birds seem to do pretty well on San Francisco Bay.  This one looks very fat:

FatBird.jpg

My first foggy glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:

GoldenGateBird.jpg


My afternoon adventure was sailing on the Alma, a flat-bottomed schooner built in 1891 that has sailed the bay her whole life.

Alma.jpg

Here are the sails I helped hoist (one of the few times I was warm).  They said the boat could be sailed with only a crew of three.  All I can say is the three must be freakishly strong.  

AlmaSails.jpg

Here is a picture taken off the bow of the Alma of a sailboat cruising past Alcatraz:

AlcatrazBoat.jpg

I fully
meant to walk across the Golden
Gate Bridge,
but ran out of time.  The closest I came
was a view from a point near Fisherman’s Wharf. 
I saw a trail heading up a hill. 
It looked like I could get above the wharf buildings for a better view
of the bridge.  When I reached the
overlook, I was not high enough, so I trudged onward and upward.

 

When it
comes to hiking up hills I have learned it is always best to keep going.  No matter how slow the pace must, just keep
putting one foot in front of the other, because if you stop, it is too hard to
start again.  There is probably some life
lesson in that somewhere.

 

My effort
was rewarded by my body finally being warm and the following view:

GoldenGateView.jpg

  

The Ballpark on the Bay

 

Shuttling
into downtown from the airport, I got my first look at AT&T Park. 

ATTPark.jpg



Banners lined the streets promoting this
year’s theme, “Let’s Play”.  They were
fun:

 

PlayLewis.jpg

 Cy Young?  Which one?  

PlayLincecum.jpg

 The banner says Molina.  The motto is very much Sandoval. PlayMolina.jpgPlayRowand.jpg

   And, finally the closer…   

     PlayWilson.jpg 

I was
anxious to get to the ballpark on Friday. 
I wanted to walk around the outside of the park and take pictures.  I was greeted by Willie Mays:

 

Mays.jpg

 

Around
the backside, there are several bronze milestone markers imbedded in the
sidewalk near McCovey’s cove.

 

SchmidtMilestoneMarker.jpg

NenMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg

I expect
that soon they will by adding a new one for Randy Johnson’s 300th
career win. 

That
brought me to the Marina Gate: 

 

MarinaGate.jpg

Where you
could enter after arriving in this:

SailingtoATTPark.jpg

And,
parking it here:

 MarinaATTPark.jpg

How cool
would that be?

 

There
were more nods to Giants history.  A
statue of Orlando Cepada and plaques honoring Giants of the past.  AT&T Ballpark does an excellent job of
honoring the team history and making it feel like the Giants have always played
here.

Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype

Besides the coffee necessary to ward off hypothermia, the ballpark has lots of great food.  The first thing I searched for were the garlic fries.  I found them here.

GarlicFries.jpg


The fries were all they were cracked up to be…if you like garlic….a lot.  I do, so I enjoyed.  If do not like garlic, you may not like AT&T Park.  Even if you do not order the garlic fries, the stadium reeks of the smell of garlic.  No vampires here.

 

At the second game, I had a hot dog that was pretty basic, but good.  On Sunday, I treated myself to a Cha-Cha bowl, which includes black beans, rice and jerk chicken topped with pineapple salsa.  It was my favorite!

 

Giant Baseball Fans

I like them.  They were into the game.  Loud, at times.  They were knowledgeable and enjoyed the good close games.   I wore my Cardinals gear.  Took and gave some very good-natured ribbing, but never at any time did I feel uncomfortable. 

 

They told me stories of Candlestick Park and how much colder it was there (I cannot imagine.)  There were stories of Barry Bonds homeruns, taking the ferry to the game and how much they hate the Dodgers. 

 

Of course, I am a respectful fan when I am visitor, and I know that helps.  Once, I did cheer loudly and obnoxiously, punching my fist in a “you’re out” sign, when Yadier Molina caught Fred Lewis stealing 2nd.  He was out by a mile.  I yelled, “That’s my Molina!”  However, the Giants fans were too busy groaning and yelling at Lewis and the umpire to notice.

 

Then, there is always the non-fans at the game.  People that just go because it’s something to do.  Or, someone gave them tickets.  On Saturday, a young couple sat next to me and spent seven innings cuddled-up discussing their relationship. 

 

Seriously?  Two Cy Young pitchers are on the mound and this guy thinks this is a good time to talk about how he does not have a job, but was still looking for work here.  He may have to go back to Michigan, but he really did like her.  Maybe, they could find a way to make it work.  Her body language said that she was all into him as he put his are around her and pulled her to him.  Gag.

 

Or, maybe, it was just cold.  How could you be all into a loser without a job who (even worse) does not get baseball?  What kind of man discusses his feelings during a baseball game?  No real man, that’s for sure.  She could do better.  Anyone could.  Secretly, I think she was hoping that his moving back to Michigan could be her out pitch.  If she knew what an out pitch was, that is.  I  went to make a coffee run and thankfully they were gone when I came back. 


Warming Up

It turns
out on Friday’s they open the park an hour earlier than normal so that fans can
watch Giants batting practice.  This was
my first view of the field.

 FirstViewATTPark.jpg

The
starting pitchers were getting ready to take their BP.  Here is a shot of Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and
Johnson.  Maybe, San Franciscans are used
to it by now, but how cool is it to be able to take a picture of three Cy Young
winners…all together…in the same uniform? 

 

GiantsPitchers.jpg

Here
Randy Johnson practices laying down a bunt as Tim Lincecum looks on.

 

JohnsonBunts.jpg

 

I
wondered how many times Randy Johnson has practiced bunting in his long
career.  I wondered what Lincecum would
be doing at Johnson’s age. 

 

In
talking with a local the next day, Randy Johnson’s name came up.  The San Franciscan was complaining about the
acquisition.  Things like, “paying him a
lot of money for what?…he’s not what he once was…grumble….grumble.”

 

In
thinking about it later, I wondered who the guy thought they should have in the
rotation instead of Johnson? 
Seriously.  He is not the pitcher
he once was, but he is still better than most. 
In addition, he brings leadership and experience to a very young
talented pitching staff.  And, he sells
tickets.  This may be his last
season.  He is chasing win #300.  People will turn out to see him.  I was disappointed that I would miss
him.  Although, I did not want him to get
#300 against my Cardinals. 

 

After the
pitchers finished batting practice, the Giants did something that you do not
often witness in Major League Baseball, they took infield.

 

Watching
a major league team take infield is like watching a beautifully choreographed
ballet.  The movement.  The symmetry. The rhythm.  The dance. The fun.  

Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base:

Pic.JPG

 

 

Here
Bengie Molina prepares for infield practice. 
He wearing a very serious game face…

 

BMolinaInfield.jpg

 

 

 

…until
Pablo Sandoval comes along.  I love watching
Sandoval.  He plays like a big kid.  Always full of energy and quick with a
smile.  His joy is contagious, as you can
see here as he leans in for a fist bump, before heading to first.

 

BMolinaSandovalInfield.jpg

 

 

The
Giants program contained a great article by Jeff Fletcher on the Venezuelan
native, Sandoval.  He learned to hit with
his brother pitching a tape ball because they could not afford baseballs.  A tape ball breaks crazily, but Sandoval
learned to hit it.  This makes him a
challenge for pitchers now because he seems able to get the barrel of the bat
on most anything thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the plate.

 

In the
article two players were quoted regarding Sandoval:

 

Barry
Zito: “He just goes out there and plays the game like a kid.  He has a good time.”

 

Bengie
Molina:  “If you grew up where he grew
up, that’s pressure.  When you get a bat
in your hand and step up to the plate and try to hit a ball, it’s not as much
pressure as you think.  I think our lives
in general [in Latin America] gave us a lot of
pressure.  This is just a game you try to
play.  That’s how he sees it.  It’s just a game, and he’s having a lot of
fun.”

 

And then,
there was Sandoval on Sandoval:  “I love
this game.  I just go play for fun.  I just go on the field and help my teammates,
give 100 percent for the fans.  We play
for the fans.  I just want to be happy.”

 

Oh, if we
all could approach our jobs with that attitude! 
All this talk about having fun on the field reminds me of a Cardinal for
whom the field has become more of a mine field than a play ground.

 

That
would be the Cardinals’ shortstop, Khalil Greene, who was placed on the DL due
to what they are calling “anxiety”.  Joe Strauss’ May 31st St. Louis Post Dispatch article says the following 

Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched
on a 10th-story ledge.

“You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
yourself off the ledge and come inside,” Greene said. “When I’m in the game I
can’t get off the ledge. The feeling doesn’t go away.”

 

What a
contrast between the two infielders. 
Sandoval, perhaps feeling like a kid skipping school to go play on the
sandlot, while Greene feels like he is standing on the edge of an abyss that
will swallow him if he fails. 

 

I wish
that we could send Greene to hang out with Sandoval for a couple weeks.  Perhaps, Sandoval could pitch him some tape
balls, and Greene could find within himself the pure joy that comes from
playing this game like a big kid.

 

What a Minute, I Thought this was a Cardinals Blog?

And, it is.  Enough on the Giants. 

During
the Giants batting practice, the Cardinals started to appear, then the media:

Former
Cardinals pitcher and Fox Sports commentator, Al Hrabosky (aka The Mad Hungarian chats with Cardinals
hitting coach, Hal McRae.  Hrabosky and
McRae were teammates at Kansas City in 1978-1979. 

Hrbosky.jpg

Then,
good old Mike Shannon.  Former Cardinals
third baseman and radio voice of the Cardinals on KTRS.  It’s always fun to listen to Mike Shannon
call the game.

 

MikeShannon.jpg

Then
there were interviews and such.  So, many
distractions for players.  Fan wanting
autographs.  Reporters wanting a word.  I wonder how players learn to tune out the
sound of their own name being shouted by fans trying to get their
attention.  They have to or they would
only sign autographs and never be ready by game time.

 

Our Cy
Young is Better Than Your Cy Young pitc
her

 

At least
one of them anyway.  The Cardinals Chris
Carpenter faced off against the Giants Barry Zito in Saturdays game.  It would be the one game the Cardinals would
win.  It seemed like Carpenter might
leave the game with a loss or a no-decision, but the Cardinals rallied for some
runs in Carpenter’s last inning.

Here are pictures of Carpenter and Zito:

Pitching coach, Dave Duncan, watches with an eagle-eye as Chris Carpenter warms up:

CarpWarmsup.jpg

As does Zito under the watchful eye of his pitching coach:

ZiotWarmsup.jpg

 It was such a treat to see Carpenter deal:

CarpenterDeals.jpg


The
Return of the Cleanup Hitter

 

Ryan
Ludwick is finally off the DL.  

LudwickChecks.jpg


His bat has been sorely missed both in term of production and protection.  His return seemed to be all Albert Pujols needed
to get his bat going, homering twice in Saturday’s game. 

PujolsSwinging.jpg

 



PujolsSwinging2.jpg

Brendan
Ryan, Oh How I Underestimated You!


Brendan Ryan starts a double play:

DPRyanStarts.jpg

Ryan takes a high one…

BrendanRaynTakes.jpg

As I watched Brendan Ryan last year, I do not remember being overly impressed.  Sure, I loved his enthusiasm.  I loved his speed.  I loved how hard he played.  I just do not remember thinking, “Wow”, in the way I have this year.

Ryan has taken the opportunity to play every day by the horns.  He has made stellar defensive plays. He has taken good at bats and hit very well during this series.  I always saw him in the utility role, but perhaps his is an everyday player after all.

He has been effective and a real asset.  However, occasionally, his speed and enthusiasm do get the best of him.  A case in point is illustrated by the series of photos:

Brendan Ryan thinks about stealing second:

RyanCaughtStealing1.jpg

He goes and he is safe, just avoiding the tag…

RyanCaughtStealing2.jpg

….but his momentum takes him past the bag


RyanCaughtStealing3.jpg

…where he is tagged out, and he knows it…

RyanCaughtStealing4.jpg

He sooooo knows it…
RyanCaughtStealing5.jpg
And, he just cannot believe it….

RyanCaughtStealing6.jpg
Still, he had a great series in San Francisco.

All Things Molina

I believe
I have written this before.  I fell in
love with the St. Louis Cardinals the moment Yadier Molina hit that homerun
against the Mets scoring the runs that would bring home the 2006 National
League Pennant.  It awakened in me a
passion for this game of baseball that I did even realize I possessed.

 

Subsequently,
I have come to appreciate the Cardinal catcher’s outstanding defense, which
was recognized last year by a long over-due Gold Glove.  Guess you have to hit over .300 to get
recognized for your defense, huh?

 

I love
watching great catching, so Yadier Molina is a joy.  One night last year, the Cardinals game was
over, but I needed more baseball.  It was
late.  West coast games to choose
from.  Hmm….I wonder how Bengie Molina
compares to his brother?  Giants game, it
is.

 

Thus, a
nightly ritual began of falling asleep to the Giants game.  Not that they are boing.  They just play really late.  The Giants will be playing on the East coast
this weekend, which really screws up my world.

 

I have
come to appreciate Bengie Molina as I did his brother Yadier, and I should also
confess to sometimes catching a bit of a Yankees game when Jose Molina is
behind the plate.  Three brothers.  Three catchers.  Three major league ballplayers.  What are the odds?

 

I was
fascinated by the two brothers facing off this weekend.  Especially because of the nature of the role
they play calling the pitches to get the other out.  Surely, they have the best scouting report
ever on each other.  You might think that
they would not want to be too hard on the other, being family and all.  But, then again, they are brothers.  Is there any relationship that is more
competitive? 

 

I took
lots of pictures because it was just cool seeing one behind the plate and other
in the box.

 

Here Yadier watches Bengie take batting practice:

YMolinaWatchesBMolinaBP1.jpg

 

 

YmolinaWatchesBMolinaBP2.jpg

 

 And, hang out around the cage in between turns…

MolinasBP5.jpg

 

They are joined by fellow countryman, Jose Oquendo…


MolinasOquendoBP.jpg

 

 …and watch Sandoval in the cage.

 

MolinasOquendoBP3.jpg

 

MolinasOquendoBP4.jpg

 



MolinasOquedoBP4.jpg

Others come up later and I start to realize what a fraternity major league baseball is.  I suppose, it might bother some fans to see players so friendly with members of the opposing team.  And I suppose, it was not always that way back in the days before free agency when more players played for the same team their whole career.

Now, players are connected by country, college, winter ball, the minor league days and former teams.  Players move around, yet the friendships remain.  The brotherhood I saw on the field went beyond blood.  

Again, this might bother some who think hating the other team is critical to competing.  But, really “hating to lose” is the only hate that is required.  And, losing to your brother is the worst.


In the pre-game warmups the brothers were like mirrors.  Bengie warming up Matt Cain on his side of the field…

BengieWarmsupCain.jpg


 …and Yadier warming up Joel Pineiro on his side.

YadiWarmsupPiniero.jpg

 I like the old school bull pen mounds at AT&T Park.  It nice to really be able to watch pitchers warm up.


Later, the brothers met at the plate.

YadiBBengieC2.jpg

As Yadier stood in and Bengie laid down the fingers, I wondered if it is trickier calling a game against your brother.  Do you get in each others head?  Like, I would normally call a fast ball, but he knows that I would, so maybe I should call a slider, but what if he knows that I know that he knows….until your head hurts.  

Or, is it really just the same as everything else: work to your pitcher’s strengths, mix your pitches and hope your pitcher does not leave anything too juicy over the plate.

YadiBBengieC3.jpg

Later, Bengie stood in the batter’s box, while Yadier figured out what to call.  

YadiCBengieB1.jpg


Pineiro gets the sign and throws the ball….

PineiroThrows.jpg

….right at Bengie Molina’s leg.  

YadiCBengiB2HBP.jpg


It was the one time a batter was hit by a pitch that I was 99.9% sure it was unintentional.  And, I was 100% sure that Bengie was not going to go charge the mound.  But, I did wonder what Yadier would have done if he had.  Typically, the catcher rushes to the pitchers defense, often tackling the batter.  I wondered if Yadier would have let Bengie get in a couple of swings before going out to get him.


I am sure Bengie has a bruise to show for it.  Just one of many that a catcher gets in a days work.  Fortunately, he was able to stay in the game.



YadiCBengieB3HBP.jpg


Sometimes when you are taking hundreds of random pictures, it is funny the ones you run across that capture similar moments.  


Here are complimentary pictures of Yadier and Bengie with the umpire.  In both, they seem to be taking an aggressive posture toward the umpire, which goes to prove that sometimes pictures lie.

YadiLeansin.jpg



BengieLeansonUmp.jpg


Here Yadier looks toward second base.  I wonder if he is thinking of stealing on his brother.  Think of the ribbing for years to come.  Whatever Bengie might throw at Yadier, the come back could be, “Yeah, but I stole second on you.”  Which would like coax the response, “You stole it on the pitcher, not me.”

But, he did not go.

YadithinksaboutRunning.jpg

Sunday was a day game after a Saturday night game.  After both Molinas caught on Saturday night, I knew it likely that one or both would get the day off.  So, I was not surprised to see Bengie Molina’s name missing from the cleanup spot.


However, it is pretty much a given that Bengie never gets a whole game off.  At some point there will be a pinch hit opportunity with runners in scoring position, and it will be likely that he will come through.


YadiCBengieBPinch.jpg

As he did here, hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Sandoval.

YadiCBengieBPinch2.jpg


Bengie stayed in the game.  Yadier came up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with two outs.  In Bengie’s at bat, he hit a pop up to the backstop.  I think they might be discussing where it went here.  Yadier did not have a play on it as he did when he put Bengie out on a P-2 the night before.

YadiBengieLookingup.jpg

Yadier stands in as the last Cardinal hope.

YadiBBengieC03.jpg


Bengie is smiling here, as if perhaps he knows something Yadier does not….

BengieYadiSmile.jpg

Like how to entice his younger brother into a very rare strikeout

YadiBBengieCGotHim.jpg


Sliding Home

 

You know
you have the baseball bug bad, when everything reminds you of baseball.  As I passed through the Denver airport on my way home, I noticed the
cities that the other planes were headed to. 
Chicago.  Surely the Cubs or the White Sox are in
town.  Kansas City. 
I wonder if I will see Grienke on the mound there in a few weeks.  Las
Vegas.  Hmmm…no
MLB, but there is a Triple-A team there. 
Seattle.  A thought…never seen Griffey play in
person. 

 

But the
hardest gate to walk past was the one that said “St. Louis”. 
The Cardinals are at Busch tonight. 
If I hopped the plane and took the link downtown, I could probably just
make it in time to see Wellemeyer take the mound.  For all that I loved AT&T Park,
there is really nothing like a home game at Busch Stadium.

 

But, I
kept walking on to my Oklahoma City
gate, and I was not too sad.  For
although I will not find the Cardinals there, the next best closest thing is
coming to town:  The Memphis
Redbirds.  

A Week in My Baseball Loving Life

The pursuit of happiness (watching baseball games) has left me little time to write.  So, finally, here is summary of the past week in my baseball loving life.

 

 

Friday, May 1st – Cold Night, Cold Bats

 

I left work at 5:00 in a rush to get Tulsa.  A 2+ hour drive.  A 7:05 start.  The AA Springfield Cardinals against the Tulsa Drillers. 

 

Fortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Washington Nationals on the east coast with a 6:05 central start time.  So, for the second half the drive, I had Mike Shannon and John Rooney to keep me company.  Before I reached Drillers Stadium, Wellemeyer was off to a good start and both Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan had homered.

 

If Major League ballparks are cathedrals and Triple-A parks are lovely chapels, then the Drillers Stadium is little more than a place to hold a camp meeting.  The park serves the purpose but is lacking in charm and beauty.  However, the Tulsa Drillers are playing their last season in Drillers Stadium.  A new park is under construction closer to downtown.   

 

But, I know the folks that live close to Drillers will miss them next year.  A friend of mine grew up in the neighborhood and could watch the Friday night fireworks from her backyard.

 

The Drillers threw a gem.  The Cardinals bats did not get going.  The biggest cheer for the Cardinals came when shortstop, Peter Kozma, came to the plate.  Peter Kozma is from Owasso, Oklahoma, which is a few miles north of Tulsa.  This was his first game with the AA Cardinals, as he benefited from the trickle down effect of the Tyler Greene call up to St. Louis.

 

 

 


PeteKozma.JPGSitting near third base, I got a good look at last year’s number one draft pick, Brett Wallace.  He went 0-for on the night, but then again most of the Cardinals combined for only six hits against the good Driller pitching.  Wallace did make some solid plays at third.

 

 


BrettWallace.JPGHere Wallace is playing in, defending the bunt:

 


BuntDefense.JPG 

I thought back to last year when I impressed by another third baseman.  That player came into spring training hitting like crazy, over .500.  He is doing well at Triple-A Memphis this year.  I wonder where they will both be next year.

 

One prospect that did get a hit is outfielder Daryl Jones:

 

 


DarylJones.JPGAnd, no minor league game is complete without a food race.  In this case it is the burrito, hotdog and eggroll from QuickTrip.  Burrito wins!  But, the Cardinals lose 5-3

 

 


FoodRaceJPG 

It was not a nice night for baseball.  Chilly and damp.  Although it never actually rained, a mist hung in the air the whole game.  I began to think I would never be warm again.  By the end of the game, I figure the only people left in the stands were me, another Cardinals fan, the players’ families and two drunk hecklers.

 

I have been single much of my adult life.  I am cool with that.  Probably, too much so.  I am comfortable going most places by myself.  Never is that more true than at the ballpark.  I have a seat that is mine, so I have a place to be.  The people around me also like baseball, so I belong.  And, it seems like no matter where you go, there is always a Cardinals fan to chat with.

 

Sitting in front of me at the Drillers game was Scott, the aforementioned other Cardinal fan who stuck out the game.  We talked throughout the game, sharing Cardinal experiences and thoughts on players.  He was a Cardinals fan by birth, the great-nephew of Oklahoman and Cardinal, Pepper Martin. 

 

 

Saturday, May 2nd – Just Call Me Ball

 

Today was a family day.  A Kentucky Derby themed 21st birthday party.  Fun times with family in friends.  However, all the fun was happening in Kansas City.  So, I spent the night in Tulsa and was on the road again by 7:00 am.

 

Four hours later, I stopped to visit the youngest of our family, my nephew, who is 20 months old.  Before going in the house, I reached into my baseball game bag and dug out a baseball from an OKC AAA game, which I slipped into my pocket.

 


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After greeting the family, I asked my nephew, “What does Auntie have in her pocket?”  He walks over, digs out the ball, gives me a million dollar smile and says, “Ball!”.  Then, in a memory I will treasure forever, we had our first catch.

 

Well, maybe, it was not actually “catch”.  Basically, he fired the ball as hard as he could at me from two to three feet away, while I pulled out my best Molina catching skills.  The kid has an arm, but he does not exactly have pinpoint control, yet.  Check out his form.  Up over his front leg, nice follow through.  Wonder how much Dave Duncan charges to tutor toddlers?

 

 

For the rest of the weekend, he scoured my pockets for balls and anytime someone said, “Where’s Auntie?”  He would point at me and said “Ball?”  I have been called much worse.  He also had a catch with his dad where I captured this shot:

 

 


DadSonBall.JPG 

While we were playing catch, the Cardinals-Nationals game got underway.  I reached my car in the 5th inning to drive to my sisters.  The score was 0-0.  Somewhere along the short drive from the suburbs to the plaza, the score was suddenly 4-0, Nationals.  A single, a force out bunt, another single, a sac fly, a potentially inning ending dropped foul popup, another single (Ryan Zimmerman, a name I am suddenly all too familiar with), all topped off with a big home run from their big guy, Adam Dunn. Brutal.

 

With the Royals’ hot start, the city is buzzing about them.  Later at the birthday party at a local pub, the Royals game was on.  People were actually watching.  I lived through many baseball drought years in this city.  It nice to see the citizens of Kansas City falling back in love with their team.

 

 

Sunday, May 3rd – A Wash Out from Top to Bottom

 

Time to come home.  The plan was to listen to the Cardinals-Nationals game on the road, and to drop back by the Driller Stadium to catch another Springfield Cardinals game.  Mother Nature had other plans.  Both games rained out.  Coincidently, the Memphis Redbirds rained out, too.

 

I had to console myself by listening to the San Francisco Giants game. Good to have a backup team. But, it was not the same.  Bengie Molina had the day off.  The Giants finally beat the Colorado Rockies in the 10th by finally scoring the only run of the game on Rich Aurilla’s walk-off RBI single.

 

Monday, May 4th – Play a Hard Nine

 

The World Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, rolled into St. Louis for a two-game series with big bat and hometown hero, Ryan Howard, in tow.  Howard always plays well in St. Louis.  However, hitting a grand slam in the 5th seemed a bit like over-kill.

 

Cardinals pitcher, Kyle Lohse’s non-throwing arm was drilled by a pitch while batting.  While he refused to use that as an excuse, the fact is he was pitching well before taking the bullet.  He was not sharp afterwards.

 

“Play a hard nine” is the Cardinals mantra.  They all talk about it.  They all do it.  It is the Cardinals way.  For the past couple years, the Cardinals marketing theme has been “Play like a Cardinal”.  It might as well be “Play a Hard Nine” because it means the same thing.

 

As Cardinal fans we sometimes have cause to whine about a lack of execution, but we rarely, if ever, have reason to complain about players not giving 100%.  For example, in today’s game, Joe Thurston ran through third base coach Jose Oquendo’s stop sign and right into an inning ending out.  Again. 

 

While we applaud Thurston’s gumption, we hope he is beginning to understand that Jose Oquendo is one the most aggressive Cardinals to ever play or coach the game.  Nothing good can come of trying to be more aggressive than him.

 

 

 
 

Thumbnail image for AnkielinMemphis.JPG One player that always plays a hard nine is Rick Ankiel.  How many outstanding diving, running or leaping catches has he already made this year with no thought to his own safety?  Tonight, he almost made one too many. 

 

Chasing a line drive, running all out and making the catch, Rick Ankiel ran out of room, stumbled, and had no time to put on the brakes before crashing headfirst into the outfield wall.  Flipped over by the force, he landed on his back.  Arms above his head, the ball rolled out of his left hand.  Even knowing the collision was imminent, he had transferred the ball from the glove, looking to make a throw, even though no runners were on.

 

 

If there was any air left in Busch Stadium after Ryan Howard’s Grand Slam, it was sucked out as Rick Ankiel lay motionless on the warning track.  The TV cameras scanned the worried faces of the crowd.  Not so much worried about losing Ankiel to the DL for a while, but worried that he could be lost forever.  As he left the field on a cart, strapped to a back board, he gave the thumbs up he knew his friends, family and fans needed to see.  Later, we would get the reports that although banged up, he will be fine.

 

He did this in the 8th inning of a 6-1 game that the Cardinals had all but lost.  When asked about it later, he said basically even if the play is not going to change the game, the pitchers still have ERAs to protect.  On a team where “pitch to contact” is preached, never has “I’ve got your back” meant more.

 

Often it seems the pitcher stands all by himself on the mound.  Solitary.  Alone.  His only friend, perhaps the catcher 60 feet 6 inches away.  Not so, the Cardinals pitchers.  They can feel the safety net behind them.  A safety net ready, willing and able to go the distance for as many innings as it takes.  All they have to do is keep it in the park.

 

However, the Cardinals defense has been criticized for the league leading error total racked up thus far this year.  What statistics do not easily show is that for every error, there has been a play that should not have been made, but was.  Rick Ankiel’s catch is just another one of those impossible plays.

 

Tuesday, May 5TH – Home Run Derby

 

I was missing my Oklahoma City Redhawks and hoping to go see them.  However, it rained all day long, and the evening forecast did not look inviting.  So, I stayed home and watched the Home Run Derby.

 

And, by Home Run Derby, I mean the Cardinals-Phillies game.  Five long balls left Busch Stadium.  The Phillies hit two off Adam Wainwright.  Shane Victorino took a solo shot in the first.  Jason Werth hit a three-run jack in the fifth.

 

Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina both took solo shots off Brett Myers.  Molina’s career high season home run total is eight.  This was his third, which in theory would put him on pace for 18. In other news, Albert Pujols took Brad Lidge deep.  Again.

 

The Cardinals chipped away, scoring runs in five consecutive innings, but it was not enough.  Phillies win 10-7.

 

Wednesday, May 6th – Oh, What a Relief

 

After dropping two games to the Phillies, the other Pennsylvania team came to town:  The Pittsburgh Pirates.   Albert Pujols homered at his last at bat on Tuesday.  He homered at his first at bat on Wednesday.  He also went 4-4.  It is hard to beat the Cardinals when #5 is hot in the three hole.

 

Chris Duncan was also an offensive force with a two-run triple.  Khalil Greene was back in the lineup after being limited to a pinch hitting role by a sore forearm.  He got a double and a RBI on a sac fly. 

 

Rookie Mitchell Boggs got the start.  He gave up five hits and five walks.  With that many ducks on the pond (runners on the bases), it is amazing he only allowed two runs.  He also had four strikeouts.  All this in 4.1 innings of work.  In the fifth, after walking the leadoff batter, who stole second and scored on a McLouth double, LaRussa took the ball from Boggs hands and handed it to the bullpen.

 

Trevor Miller, Kyle McClellan, Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin were nearly spotless in relief.  Between them, only two walks, one hit, two strikeouts and no runs.  They protected the 2 run game.  McClellan go the win.  Franklin got the save.  His 8th out of eight opportunities,  but who’s counting.  Cardinals win 4-2.

 

 

Thursday, May 7th – Finally, Back to the Ballpark

 

The Cardinals played a matinee against the Pirates.  While I sat at work, a friend was at the game.  He texted me a picture of the arch from Busch Stadium. 

 

Color me green with envy.

 

However, the day was not a total loss.  I left work at 3:00 to head to the Oklahoma City Redhawks game and caught the end of the Cardinals game on the radio.  Yes, Schumaker had already hit his lead off triple and scored on an Albert Pujols sac fly.

 

The Cardinals had already put up a nice fat crooked “four” in the 5th inning.  Jason LaRue’s lead off homer got the party started.  Schumaker singles.  Rasmus bunt singled.  Pujols took a first pitch, 93 mph fast ball in the ribs to load the bases.  Ludwick was hit with same and a run scored.  Duncan sac flied.  Khalil Greene singled, and the Pirates were in a pit they would not recover from.  Cardinals win 5-2

 

Cardinal batters have been plunked seven times in four games.  Intentional or no?  Impossible to say.  But, the scouting report on the Cardinals seems to read “throw inside.”

 

Todd Wellemeyer, who has struggled a bit this spring, was super sharp, going seven innings, giving up two runs and notching the win.  Maybe May is his month.  Last year, Wellemeyer was the National League Pitcher of the Month in May.

 

Rick Ankiel was officially placed on the disabled list, and as I expected, outfielder Shane Robinson got the call from Memphis.  The slight-framed Robinson is a plus defender with plus speed.  He hits singles, turns them into doubles, draws walks, steals bases and will climb the outfield wall to make a catch. 

 

 


ShaneRobinson.JPG 

He only had a failed pinch hit opportunity today, but LaRussa has said he will get some starts soon.  I hate seeing players go down, but I love seeing them come up.

 

“Taste of the Big Leagues” is the theme at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks.  They opened with the Yankees. You can check out coverage of that here.

 

They continued with the Cubs and Wrigley field.  So, I was not sure I was going to enjoy this promotion very much. 

 

I was greeted with a poster of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and his quote, “It’s a beautiful day for a ball game…let’s play two.”

 

 


Ernie Banks.JPG 

It was a nice day.  Finally, warm.  Can’t argue with that logic.

 

The Wrigley sign was cool:

 

 


WrigleySign.JPG 

The replica ivy wall was a nice touch.  I like ivy.  I think the ivy wall at Wrigley is beautiful.  Yet, I can not help but think about Rick Ankiel running into the padded wall at Busch.  Would the outcome have been far more serious had the wall been brick covered with a bit of ivy?

 

 


ivy.JPG 

The best piece of Wrigly to make its way to Oklahoma City had to be the historic scoreboard.  I took a full shot of it:

 

 


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Then I zoomed in on the only score on the board and was surprised (and delighted) to find the Cardinals winning.  What a strange homage to the Cubs?

 


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Finally, I purchased a Chicago Dog at the concession stand.  Chicago may be terrible in the post-season, but they know how to make a championship hot dog.  Good hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with peppers, bright green relish, diced tomatoes, onions and mustard.  Yum-tastic.

 

Back to the game, the lead singer from Korn threw out the first pitch:

 

 


Korn.JPGBut, the pitcher to talke about was Eric Milton of the Albuquerque Isotopes:

 

 


MiltonDodger.JPG 

Milton had a perfect game going for five innings before giving up an infield single.  The Redhawks were shut out 7-0.

 

It is amazing how the quickly the wheels turn.  The night before Xavier Paul was playing for the Isotopes in Oklahoma City.  Midday, the news broke of Manny Ramirez’s 50 game suspension for a positive drug test.  By the time the rosters were printed in Oklahoma City, Xavier Paul’s was gone to Los Angeles, his name already removed from the AAA roster.

 

I listened to the Dodgers-Nationals game on the way home.  Here in the Midwest, west coast ballgames come in handy.  Dodgers were leading 6-0 when I tuned in.  The Dodgers were off to a great start putting up a six in the first.  Very reflective of their season so far, maybe too much so.

 

This season the Dodgers were setting records for their home winning streak, when suddenly their big bat is taken away for 50 games.  In Thursday’s game, the Dodgers were cruising.  In the six and seventh, the Nationals chipped away at the lead.  In the eighth, the Nats came to bat and stayed putting up six runs and giving former Cardinal, Ron Villone, a win in his first appearance with the Nationals.   The game seemed to be a synopsis of the Dodger season thus far. 

 

While the Nationals try to hit their way of the bottom (Hello, Ryan Zimmerman), the Dodgers are going to find it hard to stay on top with the loss of Manny’s bat.

 

Friday, May 9th – Memorable Bombs

 

The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Cincinnati to face the Reds.  Or, Cincyapolis, as the voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon called it the day before.  Joel Pineiro who has pitched like a new man this year, gave us glimpses of last year.  Pineiro struggled in the first two innings, giving up five runs and digging a hole that the Cardinals could not dig out of. 

 

Probably, his biggest mistake was not a pitch, but overthrowing to first on a bunt by opposing pitcher Cueto.  Three runs scored in the at bats that followed.  Pujols put a stopper in the inning by catching a Jay Bruce liner and stepping on first to double off Hairston

 

In Pineiro’s defense, many balls, not well-hit, dropped in for base hits.  Sometimes, that just happens.  Also to his credit, innings three through six were flawless.  Perez came in throwing a little wild and gave up the sixth run.

 

The Cardinal bats never really got going against the Reds’ Cueto, until the seventh when the eked out one run.  In the eighth, they took advantage of Weathers, starting with rookie Tyler Greene.

 

McRae told him to look for a first pitch fast ball.  Tyler Greene found one and smoked it to the bullpen in leftfield.  His first Major League home run.  The smile on his face could not have been bigger. 

 

The Cardinals rallied behind him.  Ludwick walked and stole second.  Duncan brought him in with a double and later scored on a Molina single.  But, that would be all the Cardinals would get.  Oddly enough, Albert Pujols was 0-4 on the night.  I would hate to be the next pitcher to face him.  Good luck, Haraung. 

 

I have been uncharacteristically quiet on all things regarding Alex Rodriguez.  Mostly because the accusations keep on coming and I have know way of really knowing what’s true or not, and really there is a part of me that does not care.  Maybe, if he were a Cardinal.  Maybe, if I had watched him play regularly, I could work up the proper outrage or disillusionment.  But, I got nothing.

 

However, I could not miss the announcement that he was returning to the Yankees lineup.  With the rough start the Yankees have had this year, they could seriously use a lift.  I hear Yankees fans say things like, “A-Rod is not really a Yankee”.  I thought to myself, if Alex Rodriguez comes back, plays well and the Yankees start winning, all will be forgiven. 

 

Inexplicably, I tuned in the Yankees game to see Alex Rodriguez’s first at bat.  I do not know why, maybe I was expecting to see something special.  I was rewarded.   He came to the plate with the table nicely set with two runners on and promptly jacks the ball out of the park.  Yankees beat the Orioles 4-0.

 

I am not condoning or condemning him for anything.  It is just nice to be talking about a baseball player in terms of actual baseball.

 

Next Week?

 

Bedlam baseball comes to Oklahoma City this weekend when OU and OSU take over the Redhawks park in Bricktown.  As a Cardinals fan, I normally where a lot of red, but as an OSU alum, I will be sporting my orange for the next two days.

 

The Redhawks will be home most of next week, so I will have opportunities there.  The Cardinals continue division play with the Reds, Pirates and Brewers. 

 

So much baseball, so little time!

 

 

Astro-ordinary

When the
Astros and Cardinals last met, it was August, 2008.  The Astros were on the rise.  The Cardinals, disabled with injuries, were
on the downhill slide.  I journeyed to
the Juice Box
in
Houston, only to see my Cardinals get
swept.

This
week, the Houston Astros journeyed to Busch stadium, and the St. Louis Cardinals
returned the favor.  We all like to talk
about hitting, but we all know that pitching wins games.  The good news is:  We have pitching!

 

Game 1

Cardinal pitcher, Joel Piñeiro, carried  

MemphisPineiro.JPG

his Spring Training success into his first start of the year, going 6 2/3, giving up two runs.  I was hard on Piñeiro
before.  He would get into jams, not
check his emotions and self-destruct. 
Both in the exhibition game in
Memphis and
his first start of the season,
Piñeiro is in perfect control–both of his
pitches and his emotions.
 

 

The bullpen combination of Josh
Kinney, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan did the rest.  Granted, Motte got into trouble again, but
was not allowed to fail as McClellan came in with two on/one out and retired
the two batters he faced.  Cardinals win
5-3.

 



Game 2

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Adam Wainwright had a rough start. 
He pitched five shutout innings and got the win.  Yep, that’s a rough start for Wainwright.  Mostly, he threw a lot of pitches, but he got
the job done.  A bullpen combo of Jason
Motte (pitching a very nice 6th this time), Dennys Reyes (three
up-three down) and Brad Thompson (pitching two innings, but giving up two runs)
finished the game.


For 4 1/2 innings, this game was a
pitching duel between Oswalt and Wainwright.
  Oddly
enough, Oswalt looked better, yet the Cardinals were up 1-0.  In the bottom of the 5th, the
Cardinals broke it open.  The kids set
the table:  Joe Thurston (1B), Brendan
Ryan (Sac bunt), David Freese (pinch hit RBI 2B), Skip Schumaker (walk), Colby
Rasmus (1B).

So, with bases loaded Roy Oswalt
faced Albert Pujols.  Thus far, Oswalt
had been successful against Pujols, who had hit into a line-out double play and
popped up.  It was a classic dual
between a great hitter and a great pitcher
, but in the end, the great
hitter found a pitch to drive into
Big Mac Land for a grand slam.  It was not a bad pitch.  It is just when you pitch to Albert
Pujols, there really are no good pitches. 

Not finished, Pujols punished
reliever Wesley Wright by hitting 3-run bomb. 
A seven RBI day for Pujols, which ties a career high for him.  The Cardinals did a great job of setting
the table.  Pujols feasted.

Quickly, a tight pitching dual
turned into a rout, as the Cardinals win 11-2.

 

Game 3

In Kyle Lohse’s second start of
the season, the Astro’s leadoff batter, Kazuo Matsui, reached on a base
hit.  No other Astro would reach until
the ninth.  Kyle Lohse retired 24 Astros
in a row.
  Two batters reached in the
ninth, but are stranded.  Kyle Lohse
pitched a 3-hitter, complete game shutout.
 
Of note, in the fourth, he retired the heart of the lineup (Pence,
Berkman and Lee) on five pitches.

Astros pitching was tough, with
starter Wandy Rodriguez only giving up three runs.  Should have been enough to win, but not
today.  Cardinals win 3-0.

 

 

The 2009 Season: 
Week 1

Just a week ago, the 2009 season
began, and we starving baseball fans have feasted.  Already, we are peeking at the standings, and
most are surprised by how week one has shook out.  It looks like many teams are channeling
their inner-Rays and trying to be the next team to go from worst to first. 
Here are the leaders:

AL East – The Toronto Blue Jays lead
with a 5-2 record, followed closely by the Orioles, just a half game back.  The three favorites, the Yankees, Rays and
Red Sox, are in the cellar.

AL Central – The Detroit Tigers lead
with a 4-3 record, with the White Sox and Royals only a half game back. The
Twins follow 3-4, and the Indians finally won today are holding the bottom
slot.

AL West - The Seattle Mariners,
energized by the return of Griffey, lead 5-2. 
The mourning Angels and Rangers trail 1 1/2 games back. 
Oakland is off to a slow start with a 2-4
record.

NL East – The Atlanta Braves and Florida
Marlins
are tied for first, two full games ahead of the Mets and World
Champion Phillies.  The poor Nationals
still have not notched a win.

NL Central – The St. Louis Cardinals
with their 5-2 record lead the Cubs by 1 game. 
The Pirates are 1 1/2 back.  Reds
and Brewers are tied with 2-3 records. 
Thanks to the aforementioned pitching,
Houston is at the bottom with a 1-5
record.

NL West – The San Diego Padres
lead the west by one game over the Dodgers. 
Rockies are 1 1/2 back.  The D-backs and Giants are tied for last with
a 2-4 record.  This could change quickly as the Giants head to L.A.

 

As for the Cardinals, week one of
the season was very much a success.  With
very few exceptions, the pitching has been solid.  The position player side of the roster has so
many moving parts, so much flexibility.
 
Tony LaRussa is known to be a man of many lineups, and this roster is
very conducive to his style. 

I have enjoyed watching how he
manages to get everyone playing time.  The
outfield rotation.  The third base
rotation.  The infield rotation.  Substitution. 
Pinch hitting.  Pinch
running.  By doing this, he also keeps
all his players fresh.  Well, everybody
except Yadier Molina, who is the only player that has played every inning. 

Watching the young players has
been exciting.  Colby Rasmus, David
Freese, Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan and Joe Thurston (who is batting .500).

Once again, we were the team that
everybody counted out.
  Once again, we
are in the mix.
  

Maybe it was Memphis

Maybe it was Memphis
Maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you maybe it was me
But it sure felt right
-Michael Anderson

Since I will see both minor and major league games this year, it
did feel right to start off my season seeing both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Memphis Redbirds play two exhibition games over the weekend.  The match-up took place at
Auto Zone Park on historic Union Avenue in Memphis Tennessee.

AZPatNight.JPG 

Walking into the ballpark, I felt I had died and gone to redbird
heaven.  The entire field was covered
with St. Louis Cardinals and future St. Louis Cardinals, such a beautiful
sight.

AZPLookingout.JPG

 

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I had heard that Auto Zone Park was even
nicer than AT&T Ballpark, the home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks.  And, the ten-year-old park is nice, but I do
not think it has anything on the ballpark in
Oklahoma
City
.  AT&T
Ballpark managed to add historic value to a new park, by making monuments to
Oklahoma born players,
such as Johnny Bench, Mickey Mantle and others. 
The park in
Memphis is missing
the historic element.

 

However, you know you are in Memphis when you are
greeted by a live band playing in the courtyard, just inside the front
gates.  In the city that gave birth to
the
Memphis sound, music is everywhere.  Also, the courtyard is graced with the lovely Memphis Redbird Red Hots.  


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I knew I took a bunch of pictures, but even I was surprised when I uploaded them to my computer that there were 600+ taken over the course of two days.  Unbelievable.  I swear, I did not have my finger on the button the whole time.  I actually kept a scorecard, too.  But, evidently I was very busy.  So, when I say here are “just a few” pictures, you will know I mean it.


Everybody stops to watch Albert Pujols take batting practice.  I think he could sell tickets to his batting practice to raise money for the Pujols Family Foundation.

MemphisPujolstakingBP.JPG


The Cardinals 25-man roster includes a number of rookies.  Here are just a few getting ready to take batting practice:  Infielders, Joe Thurston and David Freese, and outfielder, Colby Rasmus.  I believe fellow rookie, infielder, Brian Barden was in the cage.

MemphisRookies.JPG


New Shortstop, Khalil Greene, looks happy to be a Cardinal.  He had a great spring training, and hit a bomb in Memphis, so we are so happy to have him.

MemphisKhalilGreene.JPG


Yadier Molina heads to work.

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One of my favorite game sights is the catcher, starting pitcher and pitching coach walking in from the bullpen, all warmed up and ready to go.  The walk means it is almost game time.   In the first picture are Yadier Molina, P. J. Walters and Dave Duncan.   P. J. Walters, who will start in Triple-A Memphis, made a spot start for the Cardinals in Friday’s game in place of Chris Carpenter.  Walters had a very fine outing, as the Cardinals won 13-1.

MemphisMolinaWaltersDuncantoDugout.JPG


The second picture is Yadier Molina, Joel Pineiro and Dave Duncan.  Joel Pineiro had a great spring training, and he pitched well on Saturday.  He got into a couple jams, but did not loose his cool.  He pitched better the longer he went.  The Cardinals won 7-3.

MemphisMolinaPinieroDuncan.JPG


Another beautiful sight:  

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I took the following two pictures, because I wondered if the kid in the #12 Aaron Miles jersey was asking John Mozeliak, “Hey, Mo.  Why didn’t you pick up Miles?  Now, I need a new jersey.  Forget the autograph.  I want a new jersey.”



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Amazingly enough, another kid walked up with a #12 T-shirt.  I imagined him asking the same question.

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This is a nice shot of Khalil Greene , but the guy on second base got my attention over the weekend.  Memphis center fielder, Shane Robinson, has a nice bat.  He made a great diving catch in center, and literally climbed the wall to try to get to a Rick Ankiel home run that was long gone.  

MemphisShaneRobinson.JPG



But, I found the following shot of him hilarious.  From left to right (field), we have Jon Jay (5’9″), Shane Robinson (5’7″) and Joe Mather (6’4″).  Mather looks like a Giant.

MemphisMatherRobinsonJay.JPG


Chris Carpenter was scratched from the Friday start, which is fine with me.  There is always a worry that he has X number of pitches left.  No need to waste them on an exhibition game.  He was reported to have a calf injury, but if he can cop a catcher’s squat to catch Adam Wainwright, the calf must be healed.

CarpentercatchesWaino.JPG

Before Saturday’s day game, I was at the park before it was open.  So, I decided to take a little walk all the way around it.  When I got to the back of the park, the gate was open.  I resisted the urge to trespass.  However, I could see through to the field.  I was not surprised by what I saw:  Third Base/Infield Coach, Jose Oquendo was hitting early morning ground balls to Skip Schumaker.  Here is a picture of Schumaker warming up later.


MemphisSchumakerWarmsup.JPG

Speaking of Jose Oquendo, late in the game on Saturday, he was sent in to pinch hit.  The crowd went wild.  He fouled off a couple and then drew a walk.  When he took his lead at first, the crowd wanted him to steal.  He got moved around to third base.  He had an opportunity to tag and score on a fly ball, but evidently, he did not send himself.  Ironically, he was stranded at the base he will be coaching all year.

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The-closer-who-must-not-be-named, Jason Motte, pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.

MemphisMotte.JPG


Not to be outdone by the Cardinals coaching staff, Memphis Redbirds Manager, Chris Maloney, sent himself in to pinch hit.  He made nice contact, but grounded out to finish the game.

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Ballpark Food Note

I give the ballpark hot dog a grade of “B”.  Good quality hot dog, toasted bun.  Good, but not fantastic.  The unique food to have are the barbecued pork nachos.  Very good, but very pricy at $8.50.  The hotdogs were $4.00


A Positive Spring and An Almost Perfect Game

 

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SPRING TRAINING UPDATE

While taking a couple days off from the World Baseball Classic, I realized that I had been severely neglecting my Cardinals.  It is an easy thing to do when only about half the games are broadcast on the radio, even fewer are televised and most all take place while I am at work. 

Work is like a sacrifice fly.  I do not get on base, but I score the funds to live in an enclosed space, eat ballpark hot dogs and wear clothes adorned with the birds on the bat.

 

Just because the opportunity to savor Spring Training games has been sadly lacking, do not think I have not been paying attention to my beloved Redbirds.  Thanks to the fine beat writers at stlcardinals.com and stltoday.com, I get the daily scoop.   

 

Blessedly, for the most part, I like what I hear.  The starting rotation is shaping up.  The headline is a healthy and sharp Chris Carpenter that has yet to give up a run.  Kyle Lohse has pitched the most innings and has a 3-1 record.  Joel Pineiro has a low 1.29 ERA.  Adam Wainwright is has good command of his fast ball.  Todd Wellemeyer has been burned by the long ball, but I know he will work that out.  How do I know?  Well, I will tell you in a bit.

 

Jason Motte has excelled in the bullpen going 4-4 in saves vs. save opportunities, with an ERA of 1.08.  Josh Kinney is 2-2 in saves with a 1.29 ERA.  Chris Perez has struggled with shoulder soreness, but he still has time to come around.  Ryan Franklin, the bullpen veteran, is coming along nicely.  As is lefty, Trevor Miller.

 

At the start of Spring Training, positional player questions were plentiful.  (Try to say that 5 times fast).  Now, it seems we have options.  Many young players have made a strong case for themselves.  Joe Mather seemed a lock for the temp job at third base.  Now, Brian Barden, batting .419, is coming on strong.

 

The innovative idea to take one of the plenteous outfielders and turn put him in the open slot at second base is working out.  Skip Schumaker is making a go of it at second.  He had some errors, mostly on throws.  He seemed to have a little too much arm for the position.  But, he is turning double plays and getting the job done.  All the extra work in the field has not taken away from his hitting.  He is batting .345.

 

Also garnering attention as a possible utility infielder is Joe Thurston.  He has some speed with two stolen bases.  Brendan Ryan is another possibility.  One more infielder worth mentioning is Craig Allen.  Allen played at Double-A Springfield last year.  I watched one Springfield game last year and Craig stood out.  He is projected to be at Triple-A Memphis this year, which is rather sad since he is batting .444 and slugging .667.  What more could a guy do in Spring Training?

 

The final question mark is tattooed on the forehead of one young highly touted prospect.  Fine, Colby Rasmus’ forehead is tattoo free, but the question gets asked over and over and over:  When will Rasmus get the call-up?  The jury is still out.  Rasmus got off to a slow start, but after a little sit down chat with the skipper, he is hitting very well.

 

Overall the Cardinals are 14-6, which puts them in second place in the Grapefruit League.  I know, it means nothing.  But, it is positive.  Very positive. Which is the opposite of a negative like this one:  Houston‘s 3-16 record.  It makes for a happy, hopeful spring for Cardinals fans.

 

MLB 2K9

 

The hardest thing to do in baseball is hit that little round leather orb with the wooden stick.  If that is true, then MLB 2K9 is very realistic.  I had a little time to play today, and I finally figured out how to swing, but offensively, I stink.  I have mastered the groundout to third, as well as the groundout to short.  Through no fault of his own, Yadier Molina struck out more times today than he did all season last year.  I am ridiculous.   

 

My fielding is getting better.  Of course, the only way to go is up when you start with 16 errors in one game.

 

However, I can really pitch.  Todd Wellemeyer is going to be just fine this season.  I know this because Welly and I pitched an amazing game today.  Complete game, no-hitter, with 23 K’s.   Yep, it is a new Major League record.

 

Our first pitch slider was un-hittable.  Then a changeup would usually get strike two.  Finally, the payoff pitch:  a little high, inside fastball to finish the hitter off.  We were dominant.  We were efficient, finishing the game on 82 pitches.

 

But, we still lost.  Our pinpoint control vanished just long enough to allow a walk, a stolen base and two wild pitches, which scored the runner.   I think Molina could have blocked the wild pitches, but he was mad at me for making him look so ghastly at the plate.  Pirates win 1-0.  Maybe, we will get ‘em tomorrow.

 

World Baseball Classic

I enjoyed a couple days off, but I am excited for the finals.  With no baseball on TV this afternoon (well, there was a cubs game, if that counts), I am embarrassed to admit I watched a Lifetime movie.  I am a sucker for John Corbett, no matter how bad the movie.  Baseball will be back on tonight to save me from myself!

Spring Training – Week One


09spring_logo250x147.gifAh, spring!  A time of hope and renewal, where anything is possible and the sky is the limit.

 

Good News

So much good news has filtered out of the St. Louis Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida!  Adam Wainwright looked good in live batting practices.  So, did a HEALTHY Chris Carpenter.  Of course, when pitchers look too good in live BP, I worry that there’s something wrong with our hitting.   It’s only the first week, so maybe, I worry too much.

 

The Cardinals also made it through the first week without a player logging a season ending injury.  Woo-hoo!  The two pitchers (Mitchell Boggs and Matthew Scherer) that experienced soreness early in the week are healing nicely.

 

Redbird Migratory Paths


IzzyRay.jpgTwo former redbirds have roosted in the Tampa Bay Rays camp:  Adam Kennedy and
Jason Isringhausen.  If the Rays repeat this year, they may both look at their last rocky days in
St. Louis as a blessing in disguise.  Seeing Izzy not in a Cardinals uniform is beyond weird.  As the all-time Cardinals saves leader, he has earned his place in Cardinals history.  It is “unfortunate” (a word Tony LaRussa used) that Izzy could not finish his career with a strong year in St. Louis. 

 

Cooler Heads Did Not Prevail

 


prflag.jpg

The controversy of the week involved Jose Oquendo, Cardinals Third-Base Coach and Manager of Team Puerto Rico, not choosing Joel Pineiro for Team Puerto Rico’s starting rotation.  For Team Puerto Rico, the starters will be Javier Vazquez (Braves), Ian Snell (Pirates) and Jonathan Sanchez (Giants).  Looking at last year’s numbers, I could not see a clear cut reason why these pitchers, except for Vazquez, were picked over Pineiro:

 

Javier Vazquez       12-16, 4.67 ERA, 61 BB, 200 K’s  208.1 IP

Ian Snell                  7-12, 5.42 ERA, 89 BB, 135 K’s  164.1 IP

Jonathan Sanchez,   9-12, 5.01 ERA, 75 BB, 157 K’s  158.0 IP

Joel Pineiro               7-7, 5.15 ERA,  35 BB,   81 K’s  148.2 IP

 

Joel Pineiro did pitch well in the 2006 WBC (2.08 ERA, 4 BB, 5 K’s, 8.2 IP).  So, perhaps there is another reason.  The manner in which Pineiro took the news, venting his displeasure to reporters, claiming he was “disrespected”, and giving in to his emotions made me wonder if Oquendo’s pick had more to do with temperament than performance.  Pineiro is an emotional player, and when things start to go badly in a game, his emotions can get in the way.

 

Or, perhaps it was Pineiro’s mindset.  Maybe because he and Oquendo are teammates and he started in the in the 2006 WBC, he thought he was a lock for the rotation.  He already purchased tickets for his family to the WBC.  He thought Oquendo was joking when he first suggested that Pineiro would be in the bullpen rather than the rotation.  Did Pineiro take too much for granted?

 

Coaches typically do not appreciate players who assume too much.  One of the few starts I got in all my years of playing basketball came when the coach overheard some of the starters use the word “indispensable” in regard to their value to the team.  Of course, after about five minutes of my stinking up the court, they were in and I was back on the bench where I belonged.  Still, we learned a valuable lesson.  Work hard.  Be ready.  Assume nothing.

 

In the end, it is Jose Oquendo’s team and his decision.  Pineiro has every right to feel “disrespected” or disappointed or upset, but it is not cool to unleash those emotions outside the clubhouse and express your displeasure with your coach to the media.  If he wants to be respected, then he should know that his comments made him look like a spoiled, petulant child rather than a man worthy of respect that he insists he is due.

 

Crash Davis School of Clichés


 

bull_durham_1988_685x385Starz.jpgThis would not have been a controversy at all, if Pineiro had spent some time in Bull Durham’s “Crash Davis School of Clichés”. 

 

 

You remember the scene that went something like this:

 

 

 

 

Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash
Davis
: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down

Ebby Calvin LaLoosh:  (Writing) …one day at a time

Crash Davis:  I’m just happy to be here.  Hope I can help the ballclub.  I know.  Write it down.  I just want to give it my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out.

 

 

Following Crash’s guidelines of “boring is good”, I tried to rework Pineiro’s statements.

 

Original Statement:  “[Oquendo] said if I went, it was going to be in the bullpen.  Everybody knows that’s not my role. I was very disappointed, very heartbroken…I felt disrespected.  I mean, everybody knows there’s only been two pitchers in Puerto Rico which has 8-10 years [as a] consistent starter, which is Javier Vasquez and myself….everybody knows if I go out there as a bullpen guy, I’m going to get setback here…if I would have been there as a starter, it would have been my normal exhibition game starts…But, after I was informed that I was not going to be a starter, I was not happy about that.

 

Boring Statement:  “Oquendo said he had a spot for me in the bullpen, but not as a starter.  If I went as a starter, I could prepare for the season the same as I would here.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that pitching out of the bullpen, so I made the tough decision to stay here, work hard and be ready to go in April.  I am disappointed that I will not be representing my country in the WBC, but Puerto Rico has other great pitchers to take my place.  And, I’m happy to be here.  I hope I can help the ballclub.  I want to give this season my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out.  Instead of playing in big games this spring, we’ll be playing in big games in October.

 

Of course, if he said that, there would be no controversy, and what would I write about?  This may all work out for the best for Pineiro.  He was both injured last year and not particularly sharp.  His hold on the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation is tenuous at best.  He should be hearing the footsteps of capable young arms gaining on him, ready to take his spot. 

 

In one of his statements he said, “I felt, I’m a veteran guy.  I’ve been around long enough to know that I should be there representing my country.  I deserve that respect.  That’s the way I look at it.”  A sense of entitlement, does not typically get one the respect they feel they deserve.  Actions do.  If he wins a dozen games, gets his ERA under 4.0 and learns how to control his emotions so he can pitch himself out of a jam, then he will have my respect, the respect of his teammates, and, I dare say, Oquendo’s too.

At Last

The winter was long, dark and cold.  The hotstove was not so hot.  Some old friends moved on.  Some new faces moved in.

 

We sat in the dark in anticipation of the dawn.  The dawn that comes todoy. Finally… (cue the violin music)

 

At last….. my love has come along
my lonely days are over
and life is like a song

Oh yeah, at last
The skies above are blue
 
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine
At Last

-Mack Gordan/Harry Warren

 

While other girls are hoping for roses, chocolates or jewelry from their Valentines, I only want diamonds….baseball diamonds.  So, this Valentine’s Day, My Love is coming through for me.  Yes, my Cardinal pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training today in Jupiter, Florida.  The off-season is over.  Winter is over.  My lonely days are over….

 

There were many heralds of spring this week.   

 

The deadly tornados that ripped through my state.  (See photos here.)

 

 

The crocus in my mom’s yard….

 


dafodil.JPG(No, you are right.  That is not a crocus, and it is not in my mom’s yard.  That is last year’s daffodil from my yard.  Mom’s crocuses did bloom this week, but they croaked before I could shoot a picture.)

 

 

The sandals that would not stay in my closet on a 70 degree day. 

 


Sandals.jpg 

 

(Fine.  I am busted. AGAIN.  I wore sandals, but I could not find these in my closet.  I might have accidentally left them at Neiman Marcus since they cost more than my house payment)

 

And, finally the words, “Pitchers and Catchers:  Report Today”.   And, the “card” telling me my Valentine’s gift had arrived.  It is not “Play Ball”, but it is close.

 

Spring is here.  Baseball is here.  And, life is like a song. 

 

Here is little overview of some of the guys reporting today. 

 

Catchers

 

Yadier Molina (C) – Actually, he’s now Gold Glove Catcher, Yadier Molina. At only 26 years of age, he has 4 1/2 years of major league experience.  He gets better every year.  Last year, he had a break out year offensively, but did not throw out as many runners.  The young and unfamiliar pitching staff may have contributed.  What will be better this year?  More pop in the bat?  More runners caught stealing?  I can’t wait to see.

 

Jason LaRue (C) – Most teams struggle to field one solid defensive catcher.  The Cardinals have two.  LaRue is everything a team could ask for in a backup catcher.  He is a veteran who understands his role and is always ready to go.  He does not hit for average, but he has a bit of power.

 

Pitchers

 

Adam Wainwright (RHSP) – In the absence of Chris Carpenter, Adam has been the staff ace.  Oh, what 2008 might have been, if not for the “pop” in his finger that kept him out of the rotation for roughly two months.  Having Waino healthy for the whole season is one of the keys to Cardinal success.

 

Kyle Lohse (RHSP) - Hopefully, “this year’s” Kyle Lohse will be as good as “last year’s”.

 

Todd Wellemeyer (RHSP) – Welly rounds out the rotation’s top three.  However, he has stated that he would love to pitch in the All-Star game, so this pitcher is not satisfied to be part of the rotation.  He wants to be the best.

 

Chris Carpenter (RHSP) – The big question mark.  He proved last year in the few innings he pitched that he still has the stuff.  Hopefully, his body is healed, rested and healthy enough to support that deadly arm.  If he can return to his previous form and make his starts, he makes this rotation lethal.

 

Joel Piniero (RHSP) - Piniero had his ups and downs last year.  When he pitched well, he got no run support.  When he had run support, he sometimes self-destructed.  The potential for greatness is there.

 

Brad Thompson (RHRP/RHSP) – Last year, Thompson was a valuable spot starter and long reliever.  He is one of the few guys still around that was with the Championship 2006 team.  (Pujols, Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter and are the others.)

 

Kyle McClellan (RHRP/RHSP) - The role of last year’s Cardinal Rookie of the Year is uncertain.  If Carpenter is not healthy, he is likely to be in the rotation.  If not, he will be in the bullpen.

 

Mitchell Boggs (RHSP/RHRP) - Boggs made six starts and two relief appearances for the Cardinals last year.  He won three and got the crap beat out of him in two.  I will probably be watching him pitch in Memphis next year.  I challenge him to prove me wrong.

 

Ryan Franklin (RHRP) – Sometimes he closes.  Sometimes he sets up.  But, with Russ Springer gone, he is the veteran of the bullpen.  I am thinking setup guy in 2009.

 

Jason Motte (RHRP) – This catcher turned pitcher came up in September 2008 throwing fire.  Eleven innings, five hits, one earned run, .82 ERA.  This guy has a legitimate shot at the 9th.

 

Chris Perez (RHRP) – Perez’s arm is another flame thrower.  He got some very valuable experience last year in the closer role.  He saved 7 out of 11, with a 3-3 record and a 3.46 ERA.  Not bad for a rookie.  He is another contender for the 9th

 

Josh Kinney (RHRP) - Kinney came back in September 2008 after Tommy John surgery.  He pitched seven innings, walked one, struck out 8, gave up 3 hits and NO runs.  People are not talking him up much as a closer, but he is in running.

 

Jaime Garcia (LHRP) – This young leftyspent some time in St. Louis last year.  Got his first save.  Got his first win.  Got his first loss.  Sixteen innings, 8 walks, 8 strikeouts and a final ERA of 5.63.   Great potential.  Tony will probably want two lefties.  I am betting on Garcia and Miller.

 

Trever Miller (LHRP) - If the Cardinals had passed on Miller, Ryan Franklin would have no one in the bullpen that could discuss the 70s with him.  Miller could sing the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve been everywhere, man.”, but his last tour of duty was with the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays.  His numbers do not give Cardinals fans a warm fuzzy feeling, but he will most likely be on the opening day roster.

 

Blake Hawksworth (RHP), Charlie Manning (LHP), Royce Ring (LHP) and Matthew Scherer (RHP) round out the 40-man roster.  It will be interesting to learn about these guys.  Also, on the guy to watch on the list of non-roster invitees is Jess Todd (RHP).  Last year, He won the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.

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