Results tagged ‘ Yadier Molina ’
This week I made my first pilgrimage to the festival known as Spring Training. There is no better excuse to get out of town, find some sun and get a taste of things to come.
aig first caught my eye playing for AA Springfield two years ago. I liked him immediately, and I am pulling for him to make the club.
Goin’ to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They’ve got some crazy little
And you know I’m gonna go be one.
Off to See Some Inter-league Play
On my drive to Kansas
City, I listened to MLB Homeplate on XM Radio. There were endless debates over inter-league play. It’s bad. It’s good. Love it. Hate it. Love it, but let’s tweak it. Always use the DH. Never use the DH. Switch the use of the DH to the NL parks. Make the inter-league records determine the home field advantage for the World Series. And, on and on and on.
I could not care less about all of that. I am a fan of inter-league play for one reason and one
reason alone: The Cardinals play in Kansas City. Short of an inter-league game that would take them to Arlington, it is as close as the Cardinals ever get to me. Still, it’s a six-hour drive.
I lived in Kansas
City for a number of years and have friends and family
to visit, which makes the I-70 series weekend very special for me. I got to meet my brand week week-old nephew. I love hanging out with my fam.
The home of the Kansas City Royals, Kauffman Stadium or
“The K”, is a special place for me. I saw my first major league game there. I was probably nine or ten. I did not really know baseball back then. I do not remember who we played. I do not remember who won. I did know who George Brett was, and I knew when I walked into The K, that it was the biggest place I had ever been, and I liked being there.
I went with my sister her fiancé and some of his
family. We sat near right field. We played a game where each person drew an outfield position. Each time the Royal playing your position caught a fly ball, everybody else paid you a dollar. I had right-field and the other team must have been stacked with lefties because I made a killing.
It was poetic and special that I would be back at The K
with my sister on Friday. She does not understand my attraction to this game, but she is one person in my life that does not look at me like I am crazy when I take off cross-country to go see a game. And, I love that about her.
Welcome to the New K
The outside will always look a bit like a place the Jetsons’
would have gone to watch a game. It is a throwback to the early 70s when we were in love with astronauts, men walked on the moon and I drank Tang for breakfast.
The field area at The K has always been spectacularly
beautiful, with the signature outfield fountains. It was a gem in it’s day. However, as new parks are built, the old girl had been left in the dust. Little luster remained on the hunk of forty year old concrete.
No longer. Major
renovations were completed over the winter, and the old girl has a whole new look. The fan experience in this park is excellent.
The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.
Before the renovations, there were no seats between the
foul poles. Unless a home run ball took some sort of funny hop, it could not be caught here. Now the outfield is full of seats and activity.
Although there were plenty o’ Cardinals fans in the seats,
I do believe I saw much more Royals blue than last year during the I-70 series. Good for you, Kansas City! However, the fans in blue (except for the ones in powder blue retro
Cardinals jerseys) would not have much to cheer about.
Game 1 Davies vs. Thompson
The Cardinals came out hitting the Royals well. Single, single, two-run single. But, in the
third, they broke out the cannons.
In the first, the Royals pitched to Pujols and were
punished with a 2-RBI single. This time they walked him. Enter the slumping Ryan Ludwick. Although the words “grand slam” were bouncing around in the back of my head, I quieted them and thought how nice it would be if Ludwick just got a nice simple base hit. And, he did 393 ft. into the brand new outfield seats.
The Cardinals weren’t finished handing out souvenirs to
that section. Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greeene went back to back with solo shots. All sluggers have had their issues at the plate lately. Nothing like a little long ball to get them going.
I like the move of Khalil Greene to third base. After seeing the athleticism that Brendan
Ryan and Tyler Greene can bring to the shortstop position, I think one of them should be playing that position. On a team with the pitching philosophy of “pitch to contact and let your defense do the work”, they need to play their best defenders.
Also, because of the philosophy, that puts extraordinary
pressure on the middle infielders to be practically perfect in every way. Perhaps, that is part of the pressure that was getting to Khalil Greene. Perhaps, he can relax a bit at third. It seemed to work in his rehab starts in Memphis. And, it seems to be working now.
I did not want to say this out loud too soon for fear of
jinxing it, but I think it is safe to say that Skip Schumaker has turned into a very fine second baseman. With Schumaker’s athletic ability and intense work ethic, I really believed the transition would work. I just did not know it would work so well. He looks
like he was born to it.
Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem. Cardinals win!
Game 2 Bannister vs. Carpenter
With a rain delay of
about an hour and a half, it looked like it might be a long day at the ballpark. However, Bannister and Carpenter were like to pilots grooving in the jet stream trying to make up time on a cross-country flight. Length of game: 2:37.
Many might argue that Albert Pujols is the most intimidating
Cardinal. If I were a National League pitcher, I might agree. But, the Cardinal I find most intimidating is Chris Carpenter.
He is big. He is tall. His voice
is deep. He has amazing stuff, and he is all business, all the time. You often see Pujols smile or share a laugh. Not Carpenter. I am sure he has a light-hearted side, silly, fun-loving side. I have just never seen it, and that’s fine by me. If he scares the bejesus out of me
just sitting in the bleachers, I can only imagine the fear he inspires in those
who must stand in the batter’s box.
This was really the best game of the series. Although the Cardinals let the whole game, it
was close until the ninth. The Royals threatened to get the bats going in the 8th. Carpenter was pulled after a 2-out double. The third out was four batters, one walk, one error, one run and two pitchers away.
In the ninth, a string of base hits by Ludwick, Duncan,
and Molina, was topped off by a Khalil Greene home run. The four run inning turned the formerly 3-1 game into a rout.
Game 3 Meche vs. Wainwright
I enjoyed the game with family on Friday. Saturday was spent swapping baseball stories with friends. Both were great, but Sunday was for me. I walked up to the ticket booth and purchased
one of the last seats in outfield section 105. I wanted sit in one of the new seats. I wanted to sit where the home run balls landed.
The 1:00 pm start on the first day of summer was as hot as
they come. Despite application of sunscreen, I would leave with a souvenir sunburn. But, the weather was no hotter than Albert Pujols’ bat.
I have run out of words to describe El Hombre. Special.
Amazing. The best player in baseball. The words fall short. While he is capable of anything, he still
finds a way to exceed our expectations.
When Albert Pujols came to the plate in the 4th
with bases loaded, I tucked away my pencil and scorecard. I was ready to catch the ball. The grand slam ball. I thought, “Albert, hit it to me.”
But, he missed. The
grand slam ball landed about 15 feet to my left and 10 feet back. I expected a home run, but I did not expect the 423 feet monster shot. He’s such an over-achiever.
The game had been close, but the grand slam put the
Cardinals out of reach. In a continuation of that inning, the Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate and
scored 8 runs. I began to feel sorry for the Royals. Especially, the catcher,
Olivo. I was drenched in sweat just sitting there. I could not imagine
working in the heat while wearing catcher’s gear.
In other news, Khalil Greene hit his third home run in
three days. He was rewarded by a plunking. Maybe, intentional. Maybe not. Either way, the Royals paid. The pinch runner, Thurston, was the first to score on the grand slam.
Random Images from the I-70 Series
Colby Rasmus at the plate. How much to we love our little Rookie of the Year Candidate?
On Friday, the Royals catcher, Olivo, hit a long fly ball to deep left field. I quickly tried to get a picture of Ankiel making a spectacular catch. Instead, I got a blurred image of his attempt and the very sad shot below of him looking at where the ball landed inside the Cardinals bullpen:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
some scenes from San Francisco.
After getting checked in, I enjoyed lunch at Il Caffe at Union Square.
I felt very urban eating my lunch in the sunshine that I would find fleeting throughout the weekend.
There were modern dancers performing.
There were pigeons pillaging.
There were shopping opportunities…although probably not for me.
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:
And, took pictures along the way…
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.
The birds seem to do pretty well on San Francisco Bay. This one looks very fat:
My first foggy glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:
My afternoon adventure was sailing on the Alma, a flat-bottomed schooner built in 1891 that has sailed the bay her whole life.
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.
Here is a picture taken off the bow of the Alma of a sailboat cruising past Alcatraz:
meant to walk across the Golden
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.
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.
was rewarded by my body finally being warm and the following view:
The Ballpark on the Bay
into downtown from the airport, I got my first look at AT&T Park.
Banners lined the streets promoting this
year’s theme, “Let’s Play”. They were
Cy Young? Which one?
The banner says Molina. The motto is very much Sandoval.
And, finally the closer…
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:
the backside, there are several bronze milestone markers imbedded in the
sidewalk near McCovey’s cove.
that soon they will by adding a new one for Randy Johnson’s 300th
brought me to the Marina Gate:
could enter after arriving in this:
How cool There Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype 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 The Here I In In After the Watching Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base: Here …until The In the Barry Bengie And then, Oh, if we That Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched “You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
parking it here:
would that be?
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
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.
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?
Randy Johnson practices laying down a bunt as Tim Lincecum looks on.
wondered how many times Randy Johnson has practiced bunting in his long
career. I wondered what Lincecum would
be doing at Johnson’s age.
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.”
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.
pitchers finished batting practice, the Giants did something that you do not
often witness in Major League Baseball, they took infield.
a major league team take infield is like watching a beautifully choreographed
ballet. The movement. The symmetry. The rhythm. The dance. The fun.
Bengie Molina prepares for infield practice.
He wearing a very serious game face…
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.
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.
article two players were quoted regarding Sandoval:
Zito: “He just goes out there and plays the game like a kid. He has a good time.”
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
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.”
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.
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
on a 10th-story ledge.
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.”
Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype
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.
Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base:
Oh, if we
Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched
“You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
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.
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.
the Giants batting practice, the Cardinals started to appear, then the media:
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.
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.
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.
Young is Better Than Your Cy Young pitcher
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:
It was such a treat to see Carpenter deal:
Return of the Cleanup Hitter
Ludwick is finally off the DL.
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.
Ryan, Oh How I Underestimated You!
Brendan Ryan starts a double play:
Ryan takes a high one…
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:
He goes and he is safe, just avoiding the tag…
….but his momentum takes him past the bag
…where he is tagged out, and he knows it…
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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
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:
And, hang out around the cage in between turns…
They are joined by fellow countryman, Jose Oquendo…
…and watch Sandoval in the cage.
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…
…and Yadier warming up Joel Pineiro on his side.
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.
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.
Later, Bengie stood in the batter’s box, while Yadier figured out what to call.
Pineiro gets the sign and throws the ball….
….right at Bengie Molina’s leg.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As he did here, hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Sandoval.
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.
Yadier stands in as the last Cardinal hope.
Bengie is smiling here, as if perhaps he knows something Yadier does not….
Like how to entice his younger brother into a very rare strikeout
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
MLB, but there is a Triple-A team there.
Seattle. A thought…never seen Griffey play in
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.
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
The Cardinals had a welcome off-day today. Welcome to me anyway. I’m not sure how I would have gotten packed otherwise. Packed?, you say. Yes, packed.
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.
Sitting 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.
Here Wallace is playing in, defending the bunt:
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:
And, 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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.”
It was a nice day. Finally, warm. Can’t argue with that logic.
The Wrigley sign was cool:
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?
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:
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?
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:
But, the pitcher to talke about was Eric Milton of the Albuquerque Isotopes:
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.
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!
off a triumphant sweep of the Houston Astros, the St. Louis Cardinals traveled
to Arizona to go Diamondback hunting. The Snakes put up a pretty good fight, but the
Cardinals won the series 2-1. The Cardinals are
leading the Central, a full game ahead of the Cubs. Yet, with Carpenter injured again, it feels
like we are losing.
Carpenter, if you are reading this (which, of course, you are not), I want you
to stop now. Fans, continue on:
Carpenter needs to believe that he can comeback and have a full healthy
season. I want him to believe that. However, as fans, we need to be
realistic. The fragility of Carpenter has
been proven over and over. Injuries are
not a matter of “if”, but “when”, “how severe” and “how long”.
few innings he has taken the mound, both this year and last, have been
beautiful. The thing that amazes me most
is the man can be out for months and months, but when he comes back, he throws
fellow fans, we need to thing of Carpenter as gravy. Or, dessert.
Anything he does this year will be a bonus. A treat.
Something to be savored, but not counted on. The rest of the starting rotation has to be
the meat and potatoes. Fortunately, they
are proving that they can be.
#6 – I actually called it
Chris Carpenter made it to the clubhouse at the top of the fourth on Tuesday,
speculation began about who would be called on to start in his spot. Names were tossed about: Kyle McClellan, Brad Thompson, Mitchell
Boggs. However, a different name came to
my mind, and I thought I must be wrong since no one seemed to be saying it.
email to a friend this morning, I gave the name of the Memphis Redbird who I
thought would get the call–just to go on record. When I saw the Chris Perez and Mitchell Boggs
call ups today, I knew I had missed it.
not. Later, I checked St. Louis
Post-Dispatch website, and there he was:
P. J. Walters. Walters will be
joining the Cardinals rotation on Friday against the Cubs, which will give an
extra day of rest for Lohse, Wellemeyer and Pineiro.
I saw P.
J. Walters pitch in Chris Carpenter’s spot in one of the Cardinals’ exhibition
games in Memphis. And, he pitched well,
giving up only one run, which was unearned.
Walters also had a fine start against the Oklahoma City Redhawks, going
seven shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and 1 walk.
24, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 11th round in 2006. He spent most of 2008 in Triple-A
Memphis. He had a great Spring Training.
He will make his Major League debut at Wrigley Field going against Carlos
Zambrano. It does not get much bigger
than that. Welcome to the bigs, Mr.
on the D-Backs Series
Despite the double loss in Tuesday’s game, there were many positives that came out of this series. Felipe Lopez was not one of them.
year, Felipe Lopez’s major league career was in the waste basket. The Nationals put him on waivers. How bad is your year going when possibly the
worst team in baseball kicks you out?
Cardinals picked him up, dusted him off and he became a new man. He hit like crazy in a Cardinals uniform. He seemed to earn a spot in St. Louis.
Yet, he did not get one. The
Diamondbacks picked him up.
this series, Lopez was very much the rattlesnake we turned our back on. He struck and struck and struck. Hitting the ball again and again. Making great defensive plays. He was a Cardinal killer.
me wrong, I like Lopez. I am glad he is
having success. I just wish he would go
have it against the other National League teams, and not so much mine.
start, Todd Wellemeyer looked like, well, Todd Wellemeyer. That is the Todd Wellemeyer that was named
the National League’s Pitcher of the Month in May of last year. Not, the Todd Wellemeyer that has struggled
in Spring Training. The slight change in
his delivery seemed to do the trick.
Great to have him back on track!
outing rounded out a five game winning streak by Cardinals starting pitching. It
was five beautiful days where, in the best possible way, it was impossible to
tell which pitcher is the staff ace.
Wow. Game winning home run in his first game
against the team that originally drafted him and waivered him. In addition, he made contributions both
offensively and defensively to keep the Cardinals in Tuesday’s game. While we look rather longingly at Felipe
Lopez and wonder what might have been, D-Back fans are scratching their heads
trying to remember why they let Barden go.
a day off on Monday, Molina got a workout behind the plate. In particular, catching seven different
pitchers on Tuesday when Carpenter left after the third.
On top of
that he was an offensive force, taking great at bats ending in clutch hits,
getting on base and even racking up a critical stolen base that put him in
position to score. In two games, he has
racked up two runs, four hits, four RBI’s and three walks. He was on base five out of five times in
Wednesday’s matinee with 3 hits and 2 walks.
Up So far, The
the Cardinals look like a great team, with a plethora of tools and moving
parts. As a whole, they have been sharp
and effective. Of course, the
competition has been the Pirates, Astros and Diamondbacks. Not to discount these talented clubs, but
they are not the cubs.
Cardinals go to Wrigley for a four-game series with the Chicago cubs. Their mettle will be tested. Come Monday, we will know.
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
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!
Cardinal pitcher, Joel Piñeiro, carried
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
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
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.
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:
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
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
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
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.
from a disappointing opening day to romp the Pirates 9-3.
Pitching was everything you could ask for:
- made a very strong start, giving up three runs, only
two earned, while pushing through a scoreless seventh inning on fumes.
- was perfect.
- was perfect.
Top prospect, made a very solid major league debut. Two base hits, two runs scored, and he was
perfect in the outfield. He
showed off his speed, beating out an infield hit. Speed is the exciting element that the
young players are bringing to the Cardinals this year.
Skip Schumaker may have felt like he was talking infield practice
because so many balls found him at . The balls always find the new guy! However, this allowed his one error to
be over shadowed by the six plays he did make. He is off to a much better start
defensively than the Pirates third baseman, Andy LaRoche, who already has three errors
The Cardinal hitters shelled Snell, the Pirate’s . hit his first long bomb of the
season. I think I am
finally getting better at identifying pitches, because when I saw where that
pitch was heading, even before the swing, I thought, “It’s gone.” Pujols is officially batting .714 on the
last day the “714″ stood. Do you not
just love baseball numbers?
Snell could not find a batter to pitch to. He walked Pujols to get to , who
homered. Later, he
walked Duncan to get to Khalil Greene, who doubled in two runs.
Yadier Molina threatened to hit for the cycle, when he started
off by legging out a triple and hitting a home run. I expected to see more pop in
Molina’s bat this year, since he finds something to improve every year. I was actually thinking more along the
lines of doubles.
Not Underestimate Molina
In the post-game press conference, was asked if the last thing he
expected to see this year was Yadier Molina hitting a
triple. LaRussa’s expression turned icy cold. His jaw twitched. If looks could kill, the culprit’s
colleagues would be writing an obituary today. He found the implication
disrespectful to one of the best catchers in the game. LaRussa never lets anyone get away
with disrespecting his players. He said Molina “woke everybody up” and
that Molina’s speed is “deceptive”.
When Molina was asked if he was thinking triple all the way, he
said that his legs were fresh so “why not?”
Why not, indeed.
A triple is hard to come by even for the fleetest of feet. What Molina may lack in pure physical
speed, he makes up for in mental speed. He
always gets the good jump. He
never lets up. That is
what makes his speed “deceptive”. He picked up the ball just as he was
approaching second. He knew he had a shot and it would take a perfect
throw to get him. He knows
from being a catcher on a team of really good outfield arms, that perfect
throws from that far are rare. So,
he never let up, he turned toward third, found another gear and dove head first
into third as the third baseman mishandled the throw. Safe. A triple. The second of his major league career.
Watching LaRussa’s jaw twitch when asked the question about
Molina, reminded me of my own jaw twitching on Saturday at the Cardinals exhibition game in Memphis . Yadier Molina had just stolen second
base, using his “deceptive” speed made up of the physical and the mental. A woman sitting behind me said
something about how slow Molina is, then added, “He’s such a lard a**”.
I look out at Yadier Molina standing on the base he has just
stolen. He is lean, fit and
in the best shape of his life. The
“baby” fat he carried in his younger years is gone. There is no lard to be found on his
a** or otherwise. He is no longer the baby faced boy that won us a
pennant in 2006. This is a man, a ballplayer, in his prime. He is due the great respect that he has
My jaw twitched. Fortunately,
I am the product of a proper upbringing. I was not raised in a rough trailer
park or the urban projects. Fighting
was never part of my life. My
‘hood was the kinder, gentler pastoral farmland of Americana. I am not pretentious, but I know how
to carry myself as a lady. Otherwise,
I would have told her to shut her lard face. Or, scratched out her obviously
blind eyes. Or, whatever
one does in a cat fight.
I know I could have taken her. She was saved by my “raising”. That, and the fact that when you
argue with an idiot, it is impossible to tell who the idiot is. I let the comment pass, because I
wanted there to be no doubt she was the idiot.
Maybe, it bothered me because I hate to be stereo-typed, pigeon
holed or limited in any way by other people’s perceptions. Maybe, it bothered me because even
when I was in stellar shape, I was still the slowest kid on the field or
court. True speed is a
gift. It is not learned or
acquired. If you are not
blessed with it, the best you can do is gain advantage by working
I was glad LaRussa did not allow Molina’s triple to be treated as
some sort of joke. Because,
it was not a joke or even a fluke. Molina
earned it with hard work, preparation, good instincts and talent. When will people quit
underestimating Molina? How many more “amazing”
things must he do to prove that is simply “amazing”? Which is something I have known since a
chilly October night in 2006.
Maybe it was Memphis
Maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you maybe it was me
But it sure felt right
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yadier Molina heads to work.
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.
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.
Another beautiful sight:
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.”
Amazingly enough, another kid walked up with a #12 T-shirt. I imagined him asking the same question.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The-closer-who-must-not-be-named, Jason Motte, pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.
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.
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
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.
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!