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
The late baseball games are taking their toll. I woke up this morning too tired to think let alone write. After you read this, you may think I am still too tired to think. Or, write. But, here is the latest in the World Baseball Classic.
Puerto Rico vs. USA
When Puerto Rico lost to Venezuela, my hope of both USA and Puerto Rico making it to the finals was crushed. So, I knew that no matter what happened in the Puerto Rican-USA rematch, I was not going to be completely happy.
Team USA recovered from the rout handed to them by Puerto Rico earlier in the tournament and made this game very tough, very close. In the end the normally rock-solid Puerto Rican bullpen faltered and allowed the USA to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth. The last was driven in by a walk-off single by third baseman, David Wright. USA wins 5-4.
There were a couple of nice defensive plays:
· Mark DeRosa dove to rob Carlos Beltran of a single
· Brian Roberts dove to snag a sharply hit ball. The momentum of the slide brought him up to his knees, where he made a good throw to first for the out.
There was one spectacular defensive play:
· This will be a highlight reel staple for years to come. Carlos Beltran tracked a Brian McCann would-be home run ball to the wall, made a perfectly timed leap and grabbed it.
So, a revitalized USA team moves on (which I am happy about), and a very, very good Puerto Rico team goes home (which I am sad about). I suppose I should be more excited to have Yadier Molina and Jose Oquendo back in the Cardinals camp. And, I will be. Tomorrow.
Next up, the USA, assured a spot in the finals, will play Venezuela (again) in the pool finals in what may be a wet, drawn out game.
Japan vs. Korea
This was the third meeting of these two teams. The first two games were split. One a rout by Japan. One a 1-0 victory for Korea. In this game, Korea took advantage of an error to get on the board in the first and never looked back. The Japanese offense never really got going against the excellent Korean pitching.
When Japan‘s boxscore shows the following for Ichiro Suzuki, you know they did not have a good day:
AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
4 0 0 1 0 0 3 .000
This 4-1 win guaranteed Korea a spot in the final round. Japan will face Cuba again in an elimination game. They met previously in the first game of Round Two, when Japan shutout Cuba 6-0. I will hate to see either of these great teams go home.
Sorry, I have been offline for a week or so. I hate it when work gets in the way of blogging, but unfortunately “work” is how I pay for baseball tickets, MLB Network, XM Radio, Gameday Audio, MLB.TV, high speed internet, Cardinals gear and baseball road trips. Otherwise, why would a job matter?
Due to various technical difficulties, I have been unable to either hear or watch a Cardinals Spring Training game live. I did see two in replay. Two radio broadcast have been scratched. It’s been frustrating.
I made a roadtrip to Kansas City this weekend to see family. Unfortunately, no Cardinals game was on my XM Radio during my six-hour drives. So, I actually listened to “another” team play (while I checked the Cardinals play-by-play on my phone). This led me to wonder, “Do other fans have a backup team?”
Yes, a backup team. If you do not have one, then this will sound like sacrilege. A backup team is a team you watch or casually follow when you need a baseball fix, and your actual team is not playing.
Some might see this as being unfaithful. Rather like having a regular girlfriend and a backup girl that you call when your girlfriend is out of town. That seems a little shady, but this arrangement can work as long as you are honest about it and both girls know the deal. It also helps if the girls have a backup boy. Always good to have a backup boy. Not that I would know. Have to find a main boy first.
However, I see the backup team as being more like a backup catcher. It is the only position with a true backup. Sure, you have backup infielders and backup outfielders, but they are never listed as “centerfielder” or “first base”. They typically can play in at least two positions. You have a long reliever, but he is never listed as a backup starter. But, every team has a backup catcher because there is no way your number one catcher can play 162 games.
The backup team is the same as a backup catcher. If you are truly a psycho crazy baseball freak of a fan, there is no way any one team can completely satisfy you.
What makes for a good backup team? First, they have to compliment your main team. Maybe, you live in Texas and love the Rangers. A good backup team might be the Braves. Your team is in the AL, your backup is in the NL (no conflict of interest there). They typically play in different time zones, which is very important. Your backup team should not be playing when your first team is playing. It defeats the purpose.
Or, maybe your favorite player left for another team, and you just have to check on him once in a while. For example, I cannot imagine, Kaybee not sneaking a peek at Trevor Hoffman at least a few times this season. However, I will only be seeing Aaron Miles being a Cub when they are playing the Cardinals.
Possibly, you are a displaced fan. Say, you love your hometown Royals, but you are living in L.A. and you cannot escape the Dodgers.
Or, suppose you are a Cardinals fan (as you well should be), what makes for a good backup team? Ideally, it should either be an east coast or west coast team. Any division rival should not be a backup team. Although an enemy of an enemy can be your friend, if you are in the same division, eventually an enemy is simply an enemy.
Maybe, I have said this. Maybe, I have not. But, my favorite Cardinal is catcher,Yadier Molina. I love great catching, and Yadier is a joy to watch behind the plate. His hitting is not always flashy, but it is often clutch, which is even better. He is my kind of player and much of the reason I love the Cardinals.
So, if Yadier Molina is your favorite player and you love great catching, it is only natural that you would be curious about his two brothers who are also Major League catchers. Conveniently, one plays on the east coast (Jose for the Yankees) and one plays on the west coast (Bengie for the Giants). So, rather innocently I stumbled on my backup team and my backup backup team.
In the regular season, a Yankees game often starts before the Cardinals game. Sometimes, I take a peek to see if Jose Molina is catching. If so, I watch until the Cardinals game starts. Other than maybe his family, I am probably the only person that watches the Yankees because the backup catcher is starting. Nothing against Posado, but he is not a Molina.
The Giants are even better. Typically, their game is just getting started when the Cardinals game is over. Last season, I often crawled in bed, put on the Giants game and watched until I fell asleep. The games are late, and I must get up early to go to work. Usually, the first pitching change does me in, but I get to see Bengie who is fabulous behind the plate and has the power I would love to see Yadier grow into.
It is fun to compare the brothers. Defensively, they are all solid. Great game calling. Great plate blocking. Guns for arms. Right now, Bengie is the best hitter. He has both average and some power. Jose does not have the average, but when he gets a hold of one, it goes. I love, love, love the fact that he has the last home run in Yankee Stadium. Such a great moment in the sun for a guy who has given his life to the game. At the plate, Yadier gets better each year. He hit over .300 last year. Looking at his brothers, I expect a little more power is coming.
So, my backup team is the San Francisco Giants and my backup backup team is the New York Yankees. Just in case, the “girlfriend vs. backup girlfriend” analogy applies I am coming clean and being honest to make it right. I say, “St. Louis Cardinals, you are the love of my life, but when you are not playing, I will watch the Giants and sometimes the Yankees. It does not mean I love you any less. Sometimes, it even makes me love you more.”
I posted an article a while back about choosing between team and country for the World Baseball Classic. The comments I received told me emphatically that despite the fact that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory and would possibly have more Cardinals than any other participant in the Classic, I should root for my country, Team USA.
Now, Puerto Rico has the only 40-man roster Cardinal (Yadier Molina). Not just any Cardinal, but my favorite. Plus, Cardinal coach, Jose Oquendo is managing the team.
On top of that, after watching the Caribbean Series in February, I will not lie: There is something very, very compelling about Caribbean ball. The passion with which they play is incredible and gripping.
Despite an obvious facination with Puerto Rican baseball, I will be a patriot. I will cheer for Team USA. But, just know….I will be keeping an eye on Puerto Rico. They are definitely my backup team.
Ah, spring! A time of hope and renewal, where anything is possible and the sky is the limit.
So much good news has filtered out of the St. Louis Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida! Adam Wainwright looked good in live batting practices. So, did a HEALTHY Chris Carpenter. Of course, when pitchers look too good in live BP, I worry that there’s something wrong with our hitting. It’s only the first week, so maybe, I worry too much.
The Cardinals also made it through the first week without a player logging a season ending injury. Woo-hoo! The two pitchers (Mitchell Boggs and Matthew Scherer) that experienced soreness early in the week are healing nicely.
Redbird Migratory Paths
Two former redbirds have roosted in the Tampa Bay Rays camp: Adam Kennedy and Jason Isringhausen. If the Rays repeat this year, they may both look at their last rocky days in St. Louis as a blessing in disguise. Seeing Izzy not in a Cardinals uniform is beyond weird. As the all-time Cardinals saves leader, he has earned his place in Cardinals history. It is “unfortunate” (a word Tony LaRussa used) that Izzy could not finish his career with a strong year in St. Louis.
Cooler Heads Did Not Prevail
The controversy of the week involved Jose Oquendo, Cardinals Third-Base Coach and Manager of Team Puerto Rico, not choosing Joel Pineiro for Team Puerto Rico’s starting rotation. For Team Puerto Rico, the starters will be Javier Vazquez (Braves), Ian Snell (Pirates) and Jonathan Sanchez (Giants). Looking at last year’s numbers, I could not see a clear cut reason why these pitchers, except for Vazquez, were picked over Pineiro:
Javier Vazquez 12-16, 4.67 ERA, 61 BB, 200 K’s 208.1 IP
Ian Snell 7-12, 5.42 ERA, 89 BB, 135 K’s 164.1 IP
Jonathan Sanchez, 9-12, 5.01 ERA, 75 BB, 157 K’s 158.0 IP
Joel Pineiro 7-7, 5.15 ERA, 35 BB, 81 K’s 148.2 IP
Joel Pineiro did pitch well in the 2006 WBC (2.08 ERA, 4 BB, 5 K’s, 8.2 IP). So, perhaps there is another reason. The manner in which Pineiro took the news, venting his displeasure to reporters, claiming he was “disrespected”, and giving in to his emotions made me wonder if Oquendo’s pick had more to do with temperament than performance. Pineiro is an emotional player, and when things start to go badly in a game, his emotions can get in the way.
Or, perhaps it was Pineiro’s mindset. Maybe because he and Oquendo are teammates and he started in the in the 2006 WBC, he thought he was a lock for the rotation. He already purchased tickets for his family to the WBC. He thought Oquendo was joking when he first suggested that Pineiro would be in the bullpen rather than the rotation. Did Pineiro take too much for granted?
Coaches typically do not appreciate players who assume too much. One of the few starts I got in all my years of playing basketball came when the coach overheard some of the starters use the word “indispensable” in regard to their value to the team. Of course, after about five minutes of my stinking up the court, they were in and I was back on the bench where I belonged. Still, we learned a valuable lesson. Work hard. Be ready. Assume nothing.
In the end, it is Jose Oquendo’s team and his decision. Pineiro has every right to feel “disrespected” or disappointed or upset, but it is not cool to unleash those emotions outside the clubhouse and express your displeasure with your coach to the media. If he wants to be respected, then he should know that his comments made him look like a spoiled, petulant child rather than a man worthy of respect that he insists he is due.
Crash Davis School of Clichés
You remember the scene that went something like this:
: It’s time to work on your interviews.
: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down
: (Writing) …one day at a time
Following Crash’s guidelines of “boring is good”, I tried to rework Pineiro’s statements.
Original Statement: “[Oquendo] said if I went, it was going to be in the bullpen. Everybody knows that’s not my role. I was very disappointed, very heartbroken…I felt disrespected. I mean, everybody knows there’s only been two pitchers in Puerto Rico which has 8-10 years [as a] consistent starter, which is Javier Vasquez and myself….everybody knows if I go out there as a bullpen guy, I’m going to get setback here…if I would have been there as a starter, it would have been my normal exhibition game starts…But, after I was informed that I was not going to be a starter, I was not happy about that.“
Boring Statement: “Oquendo said he had a spot for me in the bullpen, but not as a starter. If I went as a starter, I could prepare for the season the same as I would here. Unfortunately, I can’t do that pitching out of the bullpen, so I made the tough decision to stay here, work hard and be ready to go in April. I am disappointed that I will not be representing my country in the WBC, but Puerto Rico has other great pitchers to take my place. And, I’m happy to be here. I hope I can help the ballclub. I want to give this season my best shot and the good Lord willing, things will work out. Instead of playing in big games this spring, we’ll be playing in big games in October.
Of course, if he said that, there would be no controversy, and what would I write about? This may all work out for the best for Pineiro. He was both injured last year and not particularly sharp. His hold on the fifth spot in the Cardinals rotation is tenuous at best. He should be hearing the footsteps of capable young arms gaining on him, ready to take his spot.
In one of his statements he said, “I felt, I’m a veteran guy. I’ve been around long enough to know that I should be there representing my country. I deserve that respect. That’s the way I look at it.” A sense of entitlement, does not typically get one the respect they feel they deserve. Actions do. If he wins a dozen games, gets his ERA under 4.0 and learns how to control his emotions so he can pitch himself out of a jam, then he will have my respect, the respect of his teammates, and, I dare say, Oquendo’s too.