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:
Today is Debate Day at
United Cardinal Bloggers, when Cardinal bloggers square off against each other
to tackle some tough issues.
The subject I will be
addressing on this Debate Day is:
The Cardinals should
try to trade Chris Duncan rather than Rick Ankiel.
Let it be said that I
do not like trades. I am territorial, perhaps, almost maternal when it comes to
players with redbirds on their jerseys.
I am not comfortable bartering them like spare parts at a swap meet.
When I watched Brian
Barton traded before my very eyes in Oklahoma
City, I was bummed even though
I had watched him strike out three times in two games and get tossed for protesting
a check swing call. I did not want to
see him go, even though it was a good move for both him and the Cardinals. We got an arm. He went to a team with better opportunity in
So, when confronted
with today’s question, “Do you trade Chris Duncan or Rick Ankiel?”, the answer from
my heart is “neither”. However, trades
are an important part of baseball.
Realistically, the Cardinals have great outfield depth and can deal from
a position of strength. The only thing
that might prevent the trade of an outfielder this year is a rash of
injuries. When given the choice between
injures and a trade, I will take the trade.
So, who do the
Cardinals deal? Chris Duncan or Rick
Ankiel? I choose Chris Duncan.
Rick Ankiel roams centerfield like he was born there. He owns it and skillfully defends it against incoming fly balls.
In addition, there is his arm. Last year, base runners tested his arm and
found it lethal. This year, they are
cautious and respectful.
Ankiel can rack
up outs and keep base runners in check.
He is a force.
Although Chris Duncan
has shown some improvement in the outfield, he is still barely an average
defender. Proof of this is the fact that
Tony LaRussa pulls him in late innings and moves Skip Schumaker to replace him
and shore up the defense. Although he
has hit well so far this year, his bat does not do the Cardinals much good
sitting on the bench in the last third of the game.
While Chris Duncan is
a minus defender in the outfield, he is quite good at first base. Unfortunately for him, there is currently no
opportunity at first base with the Cardinals.
And, even if you could imagine a tragic scenario where first base opened
up, does anybody want to be the guy to try to fill Albert Pujols’ cleats? I think not.
So, I could live with
the trade of Duncan,
if we could find him a nice club where he could start at first base. There he could be a more complete player.
In the days of
free agency, the “face of the franchise” is a revolving door. Fans, the people who drive the revenues of a
club, need “faces” to get behind. These
faces are inspiring and entice people to come out to the ballpark and drop
money on a jersey with the face’s name on it.
Of course, Pujols is the main face in this franchise, but some of us
need the option to be a little more creative.
Rick Ankiel has “face”
potential. The Cardinals drafted him
right out of high school in 1997. He
is a farm raised product of our own. Jerseys adorned with #24 are scattered
through the stands, some of which go back to his pitching days.
Yes, his pitching days. Fans love the story of how the strong armed
pitcher went wild, and then went back down to the minor leagues and worked his
way back up as a outfielder and hitter.
It is inspirational. Heroic. And,
always, it is compared to the transition of Babe Ruth from pitcher to
outfielder. People come to
On the other hand,
Chris Duncan was also drafted by the Cardinals out of high school, but the fans
have never embraced him. Maybe, it was
the error in Game 5 of the 2006 World Series that nearly cost them the
game. Or, the errors that have
Perhaps, the fans are
frustrated with the injuries or the streaky bat. Maybe, it is because his dad is on the coaching
staff and they feel there is nepotism involved in decisions surrounding Duncan.
Although, Tony LaRussa does
not strike me as someone who lets the personal interfere with business.
Whatever the reason,
Chris Duncan has become the whipping boy of St. Louis Cardinals fans. Whatever is not working, be it offense or
defense or perhaps even pitching, Duncan
gets the blame. Matthew Leach tweeted it
best. When Skip Schumaker made an error
on a missed catch after replacing Duncan
in right field, Leach twittered, “Somehow, somewhere, somebody is turning that
into Chris Duncan’s fault”.
It is not right. It is not fair. It just is.
could find the fan love he deserves somewhere else, and we could find a quality
arm, because you can never have too many of those.
Truly, I like Chris
Duncan, and there is no doubt that he has gotten off to a stronger start at the
plate this year than Rick Ankiel. This,
of course, strengthens his trade value.
There are concerns
that Rick Ankiel, a Scott Boras client, may command too high a price at the end
of the season. Whether or not Ankiel is “signable”
will come down to two factors: what kind
of year he has and if it is a good one, how much does he really wants to be a
If we trade Duncan and Ankiel walks,
we still have a fine outfield consisting of Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus and Skip
Schumaker. Jon Jay, Shane Robinson and
Joe Mather are doing a good job in the outfield at Triple-A Memphis. And, from a financial perspective, the
Cardinals would end up with a less expensive outfield. If the Cardinals do not feel comfortable
increasing payroll, they are going to have to find ways to save because it will
not be long before it is time to resign Albert Pujols.
The Debate Rages On
The argument for
trading Rick Ankiel rather than Chris Duncan can be found at C70 At The Bat.
The other questions on the table
- The Cardinals’ real rival is Houston, not Chicago.
- The team should try to resign Rick Ankiel at season’s
- If Troy Glaus is out for the year, Brett Wallace
should be considered for a callup.
- Khalil Greene should be approached for an extension
before the end of the year.
Links to these debates can be
found at United Cardinals Bloggers. Click over there and check it out.
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.
news: It is Opening Day. Summer is here!
Someone forgot to put Opening Day
on Mother Nature’s calendar. It is still
winter in St. Louis.
I was home from work today.
Bad news: The
reason I was home was because I was sick.
It was a two Kleenex box day.
I got to see the home opener in real time between the St. Louis
Cardinals and the Pittsburg Pirates.
Bad news: Pirates
Good news: We
got the first loss and blown saves out of the way. We can concentrate on winning now.
pitching five scoreless innings, starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, will take
the heat for walking his last two batters.
Lefty reliever, Trevor Miller, will take the heat for letting them
score. Rookie Jason Motte will take the
heat for being one strike away from a save, but instead giving up the game
news that will make Cardinals fans shake their heads, former Cardinals middle
infielders had big opening days elsewhere.
For the Orioles, Cesar Izturis hit .500 including a home run and ended
the day with 2 runs and 2 RBI’s. Felipe
Lopez matched those numbers, hitting two homeruns for the D-Backs, one from
each side of the plate. Go figure.
all go throw ourselves from the St. Louis Arch or toss ourselves in to the Mississippi river in despair or to simply make our
nose stop running, let us take a few moments to review a few things that might
get lost in the Opening Day grumblings:
- Kyle McClellan, despite a
rough Spring Training, pitched a scoreless inning
- Khalil Greene notched both
his and the Cardinals first RBI.
Welcome to St. Louis, Mr. Greene.
- Hometown rookie, David Freese,
recorded his first big league RBI on a sacrifice fly, scoring speedy pinch
runner, Joe Thurston.
- Adam Wainwright reached base
in both of his at bats. Once on an
error, which led to a run. Once on
a double. You cannot say he did not
help himself any way he could.
- Albert Pujols batted .750
with two singles, a double and an intentional walk.
- Ryan Ludwick had a .400 day,
hitting the first bomb of the year
- Skip Schumaker, coming off
the bench, is officially batting 1.000 against lefty pitching. Schumaker also stole the first Cardinal
base of the year.
- Chris Duncan is .333 with a
double and a walk. The walk led to
a run scored by pinch runner Joe Thurston.
this is one of 162. We are not supposed
to win them all. Baseball is where the “you
can’t win ’em all” phrase comes from. So,
put the razors away. Step back from the
edge. Take a deep breath. In with the good air. Out with the bad air. Put it in a bubble and blow it away. The Cardinals are going to be just fine.
The World Baseball Classic does not disappoint, unless you were one of the teams eliminated tonight.
Italy vs. Venezuela
The Italians and Venezuelans played once again. This time facing elimination. In this tournament, the Italians were much better than anyone really expected. Fresh off their elimination of Canada, could they send favored Venezuelan team home?
For the Italians, a Redbird took the mound. Adam Ottavino played for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals last season and earned an invite to the big league camp this spring. Ottavino did the Cardinals proud, pitching three scoreless innings, giving up one hit and one walk, while striking out three. It’s a shame he could not stay in the game. But, a pitching change was made, and the ballgame was all but over by the end of the fourth inning.
In the fourth and fifth inning, the Venezuelans went on an offense attack, scoring four in the fourth and five in the fifth. Take out those two innings, and it is a 1-1 ballgame. Leave them in, and it’s a 10-1 rout.
Venezuela and the USA will meet once again in the Pool C finals tonight.
On a side note: Nice to see former Cardinal, Cesar Izturis play. Nothing against our new shortstop, but I will miss seeing Izturis pick it this year.
Dominican Republic vs. Kingdom of the Netherlands
When the Netherlands upset the Dominicans on Saturday, it was unbelievable. The Dominican lineup is stacked. Loaded. An offensive run-making machine gun. And, who were these Netherlands players? Nobody much that you would have heard of. A couple have some big league experience, but that’s all.
The upset seemed a fluke. It seemed less of a fluke, when the Netherlands nearly upset the highly favored Puerto Rican team. By the time that the Netherlands took the field for the third time at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan Puerto Rico, people were starting to take them seriously.
The rematch was tense. The pitching was fantastic. Ten scoreless innings. Rockies pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez for the DR was amazing, fanning ten batters, a WBC record. Netherlands starting pitcher, Tom Stuifbergen, was not as flashy as Jimenez, but the result was the same: Four scoreless innings. Stuifbergan, a 20-year-old pitcher in the Twin organization, who pitched 12 innings in the Gulf Coast League in 2007, faced down some of the biggest major league all-star bats and came out on the winnings side.
Finally, in the top of the 11th the Dominicans took advantage of an error to plate one run. Would it be enough? No. In the bottom of the 11th, the Netherlands took advantage of two Dominican errors to plate two runs and eliminate the Dominicans from the tournament.
It is no secret that in this bracket, I favor the Puerto Ricans. Just a few days ago, if you had said that Puerto Rico would be playing the Netherlands in the final of this game. I would have said, “Sweet”. Last night, I was rather hoping the Dominicans would win. I think I would rather take my chances with them. This Netherlands team is scary good. I can only hope that the 11 inning game wore them down, rather than warmed them up.
Cuba vs Australia
Australia gave the favored Cuba team a run for their money. It appeared that the Aussies might pull off another upset when they scored three in the sixth to go ahead 4-2. But, those were the last runs they would score. Cuba managed to get one in seventh and two in the eighth to pull ahead, winning 5-4.
Just in the category of things you do not see very often: a slick, unique play. The Cuban second baseman backhanded a grounder up the middle. The shortstop runs over and gets in position to receive the shuttle throw straight from the glove of the second baseman. The shortstop then throws to first getting the out. It was a 4-6-3 that was not a double-play.
I had to wonder if the shuttle toss was really faster than the second baseman turning and throwing. The announcers said that the Cubans practice this play all the time, so I would have to think so. The shortstop is definitely in a position to make a better throw to first, but that little shuttle throw out of the glove seems dangerous. Still, it was very cool to watch, more like a fast break drill in basketball.
Mexico will have their chance at revenge against the Aussies in the elimination round, while Cuba waits to play the winner.
Another side note: I find it hard to pull for Cuba when the score on the screen truncates Cuba and makes it Cub. Can I buy an “a”, please?
St. Louis Cardinals Notes
Kyle Lohse had another fine outing today against the Tigers, giving up 1 run in 4.1 innings of work. Chris Duncan made a case for his cause to be on the opening day roster with 3 RBI’s. Jason Motte took the ball in the 9th, showed command of two pitches other than his blazing fast ball and got the save. The best part: No Cardinal errors today. And, oh yeah, we won 5-2.