Tagged: Brad Thompson

A Hot, Hot Time in Kansas City

Goin’ to Kansas City. 
Kansas City, here I come.

They’ve got some crazy little
women there,

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

 

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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.

 

TheK.JPG

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.

 

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The scoreboard seemed more fabulous that ever.

 IMG_3856.JPG

 

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.

 

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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. 

 IMG_3876.JPG

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.

 

Schumakeratn2ndKC.JPG

Davies was pulled in the third and Thompson pitched a
gem.  Cardinals win!

 

ThompsonKCPitch.JPG


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.  

CarpenterStandingKC.JPG

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.

 

CarpThrowsKC.JPG

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?

ColbyRasmusKCPlate.JPG

 

 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:

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Did I mention the scoreboard is fabulous?  Especially, when it lists Ludwick’s grand slam:
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A night time view of the renovations in the outfield…
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Here are some shots of the Cardinals outfielders warming up:
Rick Ankiel:
AnkielWarmup.JPG
Colby Rasmus who seems to have staked a claim in centerfield:
RasmusWarmup.JPG
And, Ryan Ludwick.  Sometimes, I find surprises in pictures.  In this one, Ludwick is throwing the ball into the ball boy, and low and behold, I caught the ball!  In the frame that is.
LudwickBall.JPG
Here is some action with Colby Rasmus at the plate:
RasmusatPlateBall.JPG
Oquendo coaches Brendan Ryan at second:
Oquendo.JPG
Ryan makes it to third on an E-2:
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The “Greenes”, Tyler and Khalil, have a chat during a pitching change:
GreenesChat.JPG
Then, it’s back to work guarding the left side of the infield:
GreenesBacktoWork.JPG
Some call the following picture, the prettiest play in baseball:  bases loaded, 2 outs, full count, the runners going:
Prettiestplay.JPG
However, I am a little partial to the following picture.  It starts with  bases loaded, 1 out, full count and….
IMG_4217.JPG
…ends with Albert Pujols scoring on the grand slam:
PujolsGrandSlam1.JPG
On Sunday, I joked about heading to the ballpark with my broom in the trunk, ready for the sweep.  I was appalled that a couple of Cardinals fans actually brought brooms.  That might be a cool thing to do in your home park, but it was completely rude to do it in someone else’s park.  So, here he is. A representative of the so-called “smartest baseball fans”…acting like an idiot.  Come on, Cardinals fans!  Keep it classy.
Brooms.JPG

Here is Tony LaRussa before his 2500th managerial win:
IMG_4086.JPG
Nice to see Kyle Lohse with a bat in his hand to take a little BP.  Hopefully, he will be back in the rotation soon:
LohseBat.JPG
Under the category of things you do not see every day:  Yadier Molina playing first base in the late innings:
MolinaAtFirst.JPG
On Sunday, my seats were right behind the Cardinals bullpen.  Here are several images from the ‘pen:
Wainwright warming up:
WainwrightBullPen.JPG
And, Molina catching him:
MolinaBullPen.JPG
Warmup complete.  The battery heads to the dugout:
BatteryWainwrightMolinaDuncan.JPG
Here are most of the relievers walking out to the bullpen before the game.  Note that rookie Blake Hawksworth is wearing the rookie “hazing” pink backpack:
Relievers.JPG
I never understood why, but during each game, Ryan Franklin and Dennys Reyes would not go to the bullpen until the 3rd or 4th inning.  Anyone know why?  I thought maybe they were watching the Royals hitters on TV, one time through the lineup, but that is totally a guess.
FranklinReyesJPG
As Waino wears down in the heat, LaRue rushes to the bullpen to ready the relievers.
LaRuetothepen.JPG
Dennys Reyes warms up:
ReyesWarmsUp.JPG
And later, Jason Motte.  I love watching Motte throw.  He gets down to business and works fast.  
MotteWarmsup.JPG
…and you cannot believe how loud LaRue’s glove pops when he catches Motte’s heater.
LaRueWarmingUpRelivers.JPG
The rookie, Blake Hawksworth, pitched the ninth.  Here are two picks of him:
HawkWarms.JPG
HawkRunsin.JPG
Hawk got the ninth.  Franklin got the day off.  Here is a nice shot of the shrubbery that grows from his chinny-chin-chin:
Franklinchinhair.JPG
With Hawksworth leaving the bullpen via the mound, that made Chris Perez low man on the totem pole.  After the game, he got pink backpack duty:
PerezPinkBackpack.JPG
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Memphis Redbirds in Oklahoma City

From April 17th to April 20th, the Memphis Redbirds were in Oklahoma City taking on the Oklahoma City Redhawks. Even though the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark is two hours from my house, it should come as no surprise that I was there for three of the four games.  The only reason I missed the Saturday game is that I went to the wedding of friend that I obviously like.  A lot.  
The pictures here were taken over the course of three games.  The friday and sunday night games were chilly, but I took off work for the 4:00 game on monday.  That day the sun was out.  The sky was blue.  I got there in time to watch batting practice.  In the mostly empty ballpark, I settled into my row three seat near the on deck circle.  I kicked off my flip-flops, propped my legs up on the seat in front of me.  I knew my shins were getting a nice sunburn, but I did not care. Warm weather, bright sunshine and baseball players preparing to play the game I love.  I was in heaven.
One thing I often say is when the happy times come, you should enjoy them to the fullest because there is always some problem or sadness lurking just around the corner.  There in Section 113, Row D, Seat 12, I soaked up happiness with a sponge.
Enough philosophy, how about pictures?  The first is a picture of “the colors” being unveiled for the National Anthem.  I liked how the sun shown on the flag, while all else is in shadows.
TheColors.JPG
I do not know who the powers that be have listed as the top prospects in the Cardinals organization, but here are mine.  Conveniently, the bat one, two and three in the lineup and are all standing together as the lineups are called.
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Here is leadoff hitter and fine center fielder, Shane Robinson, at the plate:
ShaneRobinson.JPG
Robinson on base with his lead-off double:
ShaneRobinsonOnBase.JPG
Here Shortstop, Tyler Greene bats while left fielder, Jon Jay, waits on deck:
GreeneatBatJayonDeck.JPG
Tyler Greene actually struck out in the first inning, but hit a triple in the second inning.  Here Tyler Greene is on third base, while Jon Jay tries to bring him home.
JayAtBatGreeneonThird.JPG
Last year, Joe Mather saw a good amount of successful playing time in St. Louis.  He came into spring training hitting very well.  He seemed a lock for the replacement third base job.  Then, he got the flu, lost weight and stopped hitting.  As I pondered the mystery of Joe Mather’s slump, I noticed that he still looked really thin.  Too thin.  I wondered if he ever really gave himself a chance a recover from his illness.
JoeMatherSlumping.JPG
It’s tough to watch a good hitter slump.  Especially, away from home.  When a batter strikes out, the announcer says, “That’s another Redhawk…”  and everyone (not me) yells “strikeout”.  And, there were the boys who sat next to me that said after seeing Mather’s sub-100 batting average, “That’s the worst player on the team.”  There was the heckler that yelled to the Redhawk’s pitcher something about “his average is on the scoreboard.”  Just brutal.
Word from Memphis is that Mather broke out of his slump over the weekend and is hitting well once again.  Hopefully, he will shut up his critics when he returns to Oklahoma City.  Here Mather takes a strike.  I was excited to actually catch the ball in the frame!  JoeMatherTakesaStrike.JPG
I also caught the ball taken by Jon Jay:
JonJayTakesaBall.JPG
I saw one Springfield Cardinals game last year.  From that game, I remembered one player, third baseman, Allen Craig.  When Allen Craig was hitting over .500 in spring training, and everyone was saying, “Who is this Craig fellow?”, I was thinking I was a pretty decent scout with good instincts because I do not remember him doing anything special in the game.  I just remember thinking he was something special.  I still do.  Craig had some nice picks at third and he is still raking at the plate.
AllenCraigRBI.JPG
I like Jarrett Hoffpauir, too.  Here the second baseman is going after the throw from center fielder Shane Robinson:
Hoffpauirinthefield.JPG
Nick Stavinoha spent some time in St. Louis outfield last year.  This year, he is playing first base and so far, he is not hitting great.
NickStavinohaBats.JPG
As I sat in the sun on Monday, a strange event unfolded before my very eyes.  Brian Barton took batting practice and went out to shag flies.  A few minutes later, he was called into the dugout and did not go back to the field.  When batting practice was over, I walked up to the concourse to get refreshments because watching BP is such hard work.  
I saw Barton in the concourse talking on his cell phone.  I thought that was odd, but I just assumed the cell phone reception in the clubhouse was bad.  When I got back to my seat with my peanuts, I checked my phone, and received the news that Brian Barton had been traded to the Atlanta Braves…right before my very eyes.  
I will not miss the need to specify “Barton with a T” or “Barden with a D” in conversations, but I will
miss Brian Barton:  hitter, rocket scientist and world traveler.
Here are the last pictures of Brian Barton in a Redbirds uniform:
BrianBartonWaits.JPG
Here is very much the last picture of Barton in a Redbirds uniform.  In Sunday’s game, this check swing was called strike three.  Barton, who has been struggling at the playing, allowed his frustration to boil over.  He threw down the bat, said something to the umpire and was promptly ejected.
BrianBartonChecks.JPG
There were pitchers, too.  Brad Thompson, fresh from his demotion from the Big Club, pitched a gem.  He went five innings, giving up only an obligatory long ball to the short porch in left.  Mitchell Boggs good start against the Cubs may keep Thompson in Memphis longer than he would like.
BradThompsonDeals.JPG
Clayton Mortensen pitched seven really nice innings giving up only two runs, while getting in and out of trouble.  It was not enough as the Redhawks shut out the Redbirds on Sunday.ClaytonMortensendeals.JPG
Kat Maekawa looked great until he left with an injury to his leg at the end of the fourth.  A combination of relief pitching by Matt Scherer, Ring and Todd finished the game, which was a winner.  Jess Todd, in particular, was impressive, retiring six in a row.  Here is Maekawa:
KatMaekawadeals.JPG
Here is the battery for Monday’s game:  Matt Pagnozzi, Blaise Ilsley and Kat Maekawa
TheBatteryPagnozziMaekawa.JPG
Which brings me to this guy:
Pagnozzireadytogo.JPG
Matt Pagnozzi is a catching prospect to get excited about.  Last year, the Memphis Redbirds catcher, Brian Anderson, impressed me at the plate, but never behind it.  In contrast, Matt Pagnozzi looks great behind the plate, and while he does not swing an exciting bat, his bat was serviceable.  He takes good at bats, can lay down a bunt and did get three singles in two games.  Here Pagnozzi, nephew of Tom Pagnozzi, gets instruction from the dugout:
PagnozziChecksin.JPG
Here is a warm-up throw to second.  He has a plus arm.  In his only chance to catch a base stealer, the pitcher did not really give him a chance.  The throw was on target, but not in time.  I predict that Jason LaRue will not be re-signed and Pagnozzi will be next year’s backup catcher.
PagnozziThrows.JPG
I do not often talk about a player being hot, cute or handsome, even when I do find them attractive.  I will go on and on about a great clutch hit, a sparkling defensive play or a perfect pitch because I take the game seriously and I want to be taken seriously. I do not let a player’s good looks make me think he is a better player than he is.  I have years of practice making that separation…not just in baseball, but in life.
However, a strange think keeps happening.  Every time I see an unfamiliar baseball player and his above average attractiveness registers in my mind, he will turn out to be a catcher.  It is really unbelievable.  It is not like they are wearing gear when this happens.
This happened at a Redhawks game this weekend when I saw an Omaha Royals player walking to the dugout.  I thought, “Wow, he’s really nice looking.  Who is that?”  I look at my player list.  Of course, it was the catcher.  We all know how much I love great catching, but this is starting to get ridiculous.  It is like I have an over-active catcher radar.
So, it should come as no surprise, that I noticed Matt Pagnozzi, even before I knew I was looking at the catcher.  Rarely does male beauty actually take my breath away, but his did.  Tell me, ladies, am I off the mark?  Can you not see him in a Calvin Klein ad?
  PagnozziOnDeck.JPG
Thank you for allowing me my “girl” moment.  Seriously though, if he had been a poor catcher, he would have gotten ugly fast.
The Redbirds split the four game series with a very good Redhawks club.  Cardinal fans should rest easy.  The Triple-A club is packed with talent.  Depth is so nice to have.
Next weekend, I will get a look at the Springfield Cardinals as they travel to Oklahoma to face the Tulsa Drillers.  There’s some Wallace kid that they say is pretty good. ; )

Now, That’s More Like It

The St. Louis
Cardinals
 rebounded
from a disappointing opening day to romp the Pirates 9-3.

Pitching was everything you could ask for:

  • Kyle Lohse made a very strong start, giving up three runs, only
    two earned, while pushing through a scoreless seventh inning on fumes.
  • Dennys Reyes was perfect.
  • Brad Thompson was perfect.

Top prospect, Colby Rasmus 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
 second base.   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 starting pitcher Albert Pujols 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 Chris Duncan, 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.

 

Do
Not Underestimate Molina

In the post-game press conference, Tony LaRussa 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 

MemphisMolinasteals2nd.JPG

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
earned.
 

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
smarter.

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.

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.