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:
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.
I have good news and bad news. Let us start with the good news.
The Cardinals played an exciting game yesterday in Jupiter, FL against the Boston Red Sox. The good news is Chris Carpenter pitched four scoreless innings. He is pitching strong and healthy. After his injuries, it is great to see him back to 2006 form, because we all know how 2006 went down.
In other good news, Josh Kinney came in a pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts. He picked up the win when Joe Mather hit a 2-run walk-off homer. Cardinals win 4-2.
Bad News from the World Baseball Classic
This is not the bad news: The World Baseball Classic has taken over my life. I loved the marathon of games last weekend. Baseball from before the crack of dawn in to late in the night is pretty cool. During the week, the games overlapped and I mastered the art of watching two games at once. However, last night, I did enjoy the fact that there was only one game to focus on, and I am going to enjoy the off day today. But, I will be anxious for the games to start again on Saturday.
In the one WBC game last night, Cuba faced Mexico. Although Cuba had pulled ahead 7-4, it was a game, until the 7th. The announcer might have said: “Now pitching for Mexico, newly signed Cardinals lefty, Dennys Reyes.” It would have been in Spanish, so I do not really know.
So, Reyes takes the mound. It was like a very sad song that goes something like this:
First Verse: First two batters hit hard up the middle.
Chorus: Wild pitch, both runners advance (the pitch was a foot over the umpire’s head)
Second Verse: Double to left, two runners score
Bridge: Reyes has been hit hard. Now he hits back. If a quarterback hits a guy in the numbers, it is a good thing. If a pitcher hits a guy in the numbers, it is a bad thing. Reyes nailed Leonys Martin right between the two and the six on his back. Ouch!
Chorus: Wild pitch, both runners advance (again over everyone’s head)
Repeat Chorus: Wild pitch, both runners advance. Lead runner scores. (this one was at the batter’s feet…just to mix things up)
Tag: The next batter walks.
Finally, Reyes is yanked, but the bleeding continues for Mexico. The inning ends due to the mercy rule when Cuba is up 16-4. Only one out was recorded.
I know, I know. It is only one inning. It is early and Reyes, newly signed, has not been in camp and is not in season form. He was pitching in dismal wet conditions. But still, it was not something an optimistic Cardinal fan needed to see.
Announcer, Charlie Steiner said it best, “Boy, Dennys Reyes has nothing. Not tonight.” And, he is all ours for two years.