Tagged: Khalil Greene

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

 

WelcometothenewK.JPG

























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.

 

IMG_3851.JPG

 

 

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.

 

IMG_3864.JPG

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:

IMG_3947.JPG

Did I mention the scoreboard is fabulous?  Especially, when it lists Ludwick’s grand slam:
IMG_3905.JPG
A night time view of the renovations in the outfield…
IMG_3952.JPG
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:
IMG_4022.JPG
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

The Giant San Francisco Blog

Over the
weekend, I made a trip to the west coast to see some Cardinals-Giants
baseball.  Being my first time in San Francisco, my weekend
was packed just trying to get it all in. 
With so much to see and so many pictures to take, that can only lead to
one thing:  A Giant San Francisco Blog.

 

The City by the Bay

I am a
meticulous travel researcher.  Someday,
when I am less constrained by time and money, I might be one of those travelers
that packs a back and just goes where the road takes me.  No real plan. 
No itinerary.  But, until then, I
plan and plot.  I look for deals and know
my options.  I know how to get where I am
going and do not waste time wondering around. 
Unless, of course, wondering around is the plan.

 

Sometimes
in the research, I see things that seem like nice tidbits, but I only learn of
their significance latter when I am actually onsite.  For example, all of the suggested walking
tours in the Fodor’s Guide to San Francisco, made a point to show the reader
where all the coffee shops were along the way. 
This seemed simply to be a nice touch. 
However, I did not understand how important coffee would be to me in San Francisco. 

 

Every San Francisco travel tip
on the planet includes the advice to dress in layers because the temperature
can change quickly.  I took this advice
to heart.  I hate to be cold.  So, layers I packed, and layers I wore.  At Saturday night’s game, I wore two long-sleeved
t-shirts, a #4 Molina jersey, a thick hooded sweatshirt, a Cardinals therma
base jacket, two pairs of gloves and another rain coat that I wrapped around my
legs.  Yet, it was not enough to ward off
the San Francisco
chill.

 

Enter
coffee, my new best friend. There were only three times I was not cold in San Francisco:  the rare moments when the sun was out, when I
was walking (which was often) and when I was drinking coffee. 

 

Forget
the beer and soda at the ballpark.  Give
me a piping hot coffee that I can cradle in my hands and try to wrap my body
around.  The highs were in the 60s and
lows in the 50s, but I will be darned if was not the coldest 50 or 60 degrees I
have ever experienced.  I have spent
warmer days skiing.

 

Still,
the city is fabulous.  The hills.  The cable cars.  The wharf. 
The bay.  The food.  The people-watching is among the best in the
world.  The city is a melting pot of
cultures and lifestyles.  In San Francisco, you can
walk down the street and see every type of person you could imagine.  And, probably a few that a Midwest
girl could not.

Here are
some scenes from San Francisco.

After getting checked in, I enjoyed lunch at Il Caffe at Union Square.  

IlCaffe.jpg

I felt very urban eating my lunch in the sunshine that I would find fleeting throughout the weekend.  

UnionSquareView.jpg

There were modern dancers performing.  

Dancers.jpg

There were pigeons pillaging.  

PigeonsFeast.jpg


There were shopping opportunities…although probably not for me. 

Tiffany.jpg

I would love a little something in the signature blue box, but once again, my disposable income was allocated to baseball.  A girl has to stick to her priorities.

I rode the iconic Cable Cars:

CableCar.jpg

And, took pictures along the way…




StreetLady.jpg

ChinaTown.jpg

IMG_2985.JPG

The Cable Car brought me to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I found sea lions lounging.  They look quiet, but actually sound like a kennel of barking dogs.  Actually, they reminded me of dogs, laying their “puppy piles” and playing with each other.

SeaLions1.jpg

SeaLions2.jpg

The birds seem to do pretty well on San Francisco Bay.  This one looks very fat:

FatBird.jpg

My first foggy glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge:

GoldenGateBird.jpg


My afternoon adventure was sailing on the Alma, a flat-bottomed schooner built in 1891 that has sailed the bay her whole life.

Alma.jpg

Here are the sails I helped hoist (one of the few times I was warm).  They said the boat could be sailed with only a crew of three.  All I can say is the three must be freakishly strong.  

AlmaSails.jpg

Here is a picture taken off the bow of the Alma of a sailboat cruising past Alcatraz:

AlcatrazBoat.jpg

I fully
meant to walk across the Golden
Gate Bridge,
but ran out of time.  The closest I came
was a view from a point near Fisherman’s Wharf. 
I saw a trail heading up a hill. 
It looked like I could get above the wharf buildings for a better view
of the bridge.  When I reached the
overlook, I was not high enough, so I trudged onward and upward.

 

When it
comes to hiking up hills I have learned it is always best to keep going.  No matter how slow the pace must, just keep
putting one foot in front of the other, because if you stop, it is too hard to
start again.  There is probably some life
lesson in that somewhere.

 

My effort
was rewarded by my body finally being warm and the following view:

GoldenGateView.jpg

  

The Ballpark on the Bay

 

Shuttling
into downtown from the airport, I got my first look at AT&T Park. 

ATTPark.jpg



Banners lined the streets promoting this
year’s theme, “Let’s Play”.  They were
fun:

 

PlayLewis.jpg

 Cy Young?  Which one?  

PlayLincecum.jpg

 The banner says Molina.  The motto is very much Sandoval. PlayMolina.jpgPlayRowand.jpg

   And, finally the closer…   

     PlayWilson.jpg 

I was
anxious to get to the ballpark on Friday. 
I wanted to walk around the outside of the park and take pictures.  I was greeted by Willie Mays:

 

Mays.jpg

 

Around
the backside, there are several bronze milestone markers imbedded in the
sidewalk near McCovey’s cove.

 

SchmidtMilestoneMarker.jpg

NenMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg
BondsMilestoneMarker.jpg

I expect
that soon they will by adding a new one for Randy Johnson’s 300th
career win. 

That
brought me to the Marina Gate: 

 

MarinaGate.jpg

Where you
could enter after arriving in this:

SailingtoATTPark.jpg

And,
parking it here:

 MarinaATTPark.jpg

How cool
would that be?

 

There
were more nods to Giants history.  A
statue of Orlando Cepada and plaques honoring Giants of the past.  AT&T Ballpark does an excellent job of
honoring the team history and making it feel like the Giants have always played
here.

Yes, the Garlic Fries Live Up to the Hype

Besides the coffee necessary to ward off hypothermia, the ballpark has lots of great food.  The first thing I searched for were the garlic fries.  I found them here.

GarlicFries.jpg


The fries were all they were cracked up to be…if you like garlic….a lot.  I do, so I enjoyed.  If do not like garlic, you may not like AT&T Park.  Even if you do not order the garlic fries, the stadium reeks of the smell of garlic.  No vampires here.

 

At the second game, I had a hot dog that was pretty basic, but good.  On Sunday, I treated myself to a Cha-Cha bowl, which includes black beans, rice and jerk chicken topped with pineapple salsa.  It was my favorite!

 

Giant Baseball Fans

I like them.  They were into the game.  Loud, at times.  They were knowledgeable and enjoyed the good close games.   I wore my Cardinals gear.  Took and gave some very good-natured ribbing, but never at any time did I feel uncomfortable. 

 

They told me stories of Candlestick Park and how much colder it was there (I cannot imagine.)  There were stories of Barry Bonds homeruns, taking the ferry to the game and how much they hate the Dodgers. 

 

Of course, I am a respectful fan when I am visitor, and I know that helps.  Once, I did cheer loudly and obnoxiously, punching my fist in a “you’re out” sign, when Yadier Molina caught Fred Lewis stealing 2nd.  He was out by a mile.  I yelled, “That’s my Molina!”  However, the Giants fans were too busy groaning and yelling at Lewis and the umpire to notice.

 

Then, there is always the non-fans at the game.  People that just go because it’s something to do.  Or, someone gave them tickets.  On Saturday, a young couple sat next to me and spent seven innings cuddled-up discussing their relationship. 

 

Seriously?  Two Cy Young pitchers are on the mound and this guy thinks this is a good time to talk about how he does not have a job, but was still looking for work here.  He may have to go back to Michigan, but he really did like her.  Maybe, they could find a way to make it work.  Her body language said that she was all into him as he put his are around her and pulled her to him.  Gag.

 

Or, maybe, it was just cold.  How could you be all into a loser without a job who (even worse) does not get baseball?  What kind of man discusses his feelings during a baseball game?  No real man, that’s for sure.  She could do better.  Anyone could.  Secretly, I think she was hoping that his moving back to Michigan could be her out pitch.  If she knew what an out pitch was, that is.  I  went to make a coffee run and thankfully they were gone when I came back. 


Warming Up

It turns
out on Friday’s they open the park an hour earlier than normal so that fans can
watch Giants batting practice.  This was
my first view of the field.

 FirstViewATTPark.jpg

The
starting pitchers were getting ready to take their BP.  Here is a shot of Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and
Johnson.  Maybe, San Franciscans are used
to it by now, but how cool is it to be able to take a picture of three Cy Young
winners…all together…in the same uniform? 

 

GiantsPitchers.jpg

Here
Randy Johnson practices laying down a bunt as Tim Lincecum looks on.

 

JohnsonBunts.jpg

 

I
wondered how many times Randy Johnson has practiced bunting in his long
career.  I wondered what Lincecum would
be doing at Johnson’s age. 

 

In
talking with a local the next day, Randy Johnson’s name came up.  The San Franciscan was complaining about the
acquisition.  Things like, “paying him a
lot of money for what?…he’s not what he once was…grumble….grumble.”

 

In
thinking about it later, I wondered who the guy thought they should have in the
rotation instead of Johnson? 
Seriously.  He is not the pitcher
he once was, but he is still better than most. 
In addition, he brings leadership and experience to a very young
talented pitching staff.  And, he sells
tickets.  This may be his last
season.  He is chasing win #300.  People will turn out to see him.  I was disappointed that I would miss
him.  Although, I did not want him to get
#300 against my Cardinals. 

 

After the
pitchers finished batting practice, the Giants did something that you do not
often witness in Major League Baseball, they took infield.

 

Watching
a major league team take infield is like watching a beautifully choreographed
ballet.  The movement.  The symmetry. The rhythm.  The dance. The fun.  

Pablo Sandoval tags out an imaginary runner trying to get back to first base:

Pic.JPG

 

 

Here
Bengie Molina prepares for infield practice. 
He wearing a very serious game face…

 

BMolinaInfield.jpg

 

 

 

…until
Pablo Sandoval comes along.  I love watching
Sandoval.  He plays like a big kid.  Always full of energy and quick with a
smile.  His joy is contagious, as you can
see here as he leans in for a fist bump, before heading to first.

 

BMolinaSandovalInfield.jpg

 

 

The
Giants program contained a great article by Jeff Fletcher on the Venezuelan
native, Sandoval.  He learned to hit with
his brother pitching a tape ball because they could not afford baseballs.  A tape ball breaks crazily, but Sandoval
learned to hit it.  This makes him a
challenge for pitchers now because he seems able to get the barrel of the bat
on most anything thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the plate.

 

In the
article two players were quoted regarding Sandoval:

 

Barry
Zito: “He just goes out there and plays the game like a kid.  He has a good time.”

 

Bengie
Molina:  “If you grew up where he grew
up, that’s pressure.  When you get a bat
in your hand and step up to the plate and try to hit a ball, it’s not as much
pressure as you think.  I think our lives
in general [in Latin America] gave us a lot of
pressure.  This is just a game you try to
play.  That’s how he sees it.  It’s just a game, and he’s having a lot of
fun.”

 

And then,
there was Sandoval on Sandoval:  “I love
this game.  I just go play for fun.  I just go on the field and help my teammates,
give 100 percent for the fans.  We play
for the fans.  I just want to be happy.”

 

Oh, if we
all could approach our jobs with that attitude! 
All this talk about having fun on the field reminds me of a Cardinal for
whom the field has become more of a mine field than a play ground.

 

That
would be the Cardinals’ shortstop, Khalil Greene, who was placed on the DL due
to what they are calling “anxiety”.  Joe Strauss’ May 31st St. Louis Post Dispatch article says the following 

Greene compares the condition to someone with a fear of heights suddenly perched
on a 10th-story ledge.

“You become dizzy or feel ill. But you can pull
yourself off the ledge and come inside,” Greene said. “When I’m in the game I
can’t get off the ledge. The feeling doesn’t go away.”

 

What a
contrast between the two infielders. 
Sandoval, perhaps feeling like a kid skipping school to go play on the
sandlot, while Greene feels like he is standing on the edge of an abyss that
will swallow him if he fails. 

 

I wish
that we could send Greene to hang out with Sandoval for a couple weeks.  Perhaps, Sandoval could pitch him some tape
balls, and Greene could find within himself the pure joy that comes from
playing this game like a big kid.

 

What a Minute, I Thought this was a Cardinals Blog?

And, it is.  Enough on the Giants. 

During
the Giants batting practice, the Cardinals started to appear, then the media:

Former
Cardinals pitcher and Fox Sports commentator, Al Hrabosky (aka The Mad Hungarian chats with Cardinals
hitting coach, Hal McRae.  Hrabosky and
McRae were teammates at Kansas City in 1978-1979. 

Hrbosky.jpg

Then,
good old Mike Shannon.  Former Cardinals
third baseman and radio voice of the Cardinals on KTRS.  It’s always fun to listen to Mike Shannon
call the game.

 

MikeShannon.jpg

Then
there were interviews and such.  So, many
distractions for players.  Fan wanting
autographs.  Reporters wanting a word.  I wonder how players learn to tune out the
sound of their own name being shouted by fans trying to get their
attention.  They have to or they would
only sign autographs and never be ready by game time.

 

Our Cy
Young is Better Than Your Cy Young pitc
her

 

At least
one of them anyway.  The Cardinals Chris
Carpenter faced off against the Giants Barry Zito in Saturdays game.  It would be the one game the Cardinals would
win.  It seemed like Carpenter might
leave the game with a loss or a no-decision, but the Cardinals rallied for some
runs in Carpenter’s last inning.

Here are pictures of Carpenter and Zito:

Pitching coach, Dave Duncan, watches with an eagle-eye as Chris Carpenter warms up:

CarpWarmsup.jpg

As does Zito under the watchful eye of his pitching coach:

ZiotWarmsup.jpg

 It was such a treat to see Carpenter deal:

CarpenterDeals.jpg


The
Return of the Cleanup Hitter

 

Ryan
Ludwick is finally off the DL.  

LudwickChecks.jpg


His bat has been sorely missed both in term of production and protection.  His return seemed to be all Albert Pujols needed
to get his bat going, homering twice in Saturday’s game. 

PujolsSwinging.jpg

 



PujolsSwinging2.jpg

Brendan
Ryan, Oh How I Underestimated You!


Brendan Ryan starts a double play:

DPRyanStarts.jpg

Ryan takes a high one…

BrendanRaynTakes.jpg

As I watched Brendan Ryan last year, I do not remember being overly impressed.  Sure, I loved his enthusiasm.  I loved his speed.  I loved how hard he played.  I just do not remember thinking, “Wow”, in the way I have this year.

Ryan has taken the opportunity to play every day by the horns.  He has made stellar defensive plays. He has taken good at bats and hit very well during this series.  I always saw him in the utility role, but perhaps his is an everyday player after all.

He has been effective and a real asset.  However, occasionally, his speed and enthusiasm do get the best of him.  A case in point is illustrated by the series of photos:

Brendan Ryan thinks about stealing second:

RyanCaughtStealing1.jpg

He goes and he is safe, just avoiding the tag…

RyanCaughtStealing2.jpg

….but his momentum takes him past the bag


RyanCaughtStealing3.jpg

…where he is tagged out, and he knows it…

RyanCaughtStealing4.jpg

He sooooo knows it…
RyanCaughtStealing5.jpg
And, he just cannot believe it….

RyanCaughtStealing6.jpg
Still, he had a great series in San Francisco.

All Things Molina

I believe
I have written this before.  I fell in
love with the St. Louis Cardinals the moment Yadier Molina hit that homerun
against the Mets scoring the runs that would bring home the 2006 National
League Pennant.  It awakened in me a
passion for this game of baseball that I did even realize I possessed.

 

Subsequently,
I have come to appreciate the Cardinal catcher’s outstanding defense, which
was recognized last year by a long over-due Gold Glove.  Guess you have to hit over .300 to get
recognized for your defense, huh?

 

I love
watching great catching, so Yadier Molina is a joy.  One night last year, the Cardinals game was
over, but I needed more baseball.  It was
late.  West coast games to choose
from.  Hmm….I wonder how Bengie Molina
compares to his brother?  Giants game, it
is.

 

Thus, a
nightly ritual began of falling asleep to the Giants game.  Not that they are boing.  They just play really late.  The Giants will be playing on the East coast
this weekend, which really screws up my world.

 

I have
come to appreciate Bengie Molina as I did his brother Yadier, and I should also
confess to sometimes catching a bit of a Yankees game when Jose Molina is
behind the plate.  Three brothers.  Three catchers.  Three major league ballplayers.  What are the odds?

 

I was
fascinated by the two brothers facing off this weekend.  Especially because of the nature of the role
they play calling the pitches to get the other out.  Surely, they have the best scouting report
ever on each other.  You might think that
they would not want to be too hard on the other, being family and all.  But, then again, they are brothers.  Is there any relationship that is more
competitive? 

 

I took
lots of pictures because it was just cool seeing one behind the plate and other
in the box.

 

Here Yadier watches Bengie take batting practice:

YMolinaWatchesBMolinaBP1.jpg

 

 

YmolinaWatchesBMolinaBP2.jpg

 

 And, hang out around the cage in between turns…

MolinasBP5.jpg

 

They are joined by fellow countryman, Jose Oquendo…


MolinasOquendoBP.jpg

 

 …and watch Sandoval in the cage.

 

MolinasOquendoBP3.jpg

 

MolinasOquendoBP4.jpg

 



MolinasOquedoBP4.jpg

Others come up later and I start to realize what a fraternity major league baseball is.  I suppose, it might bother some fans to see players so friendly with members of the opposing team.  And I suppose, it was not always that way back in the days before free agency when more players played for the same team their whole career.

Now, players are connected by country, college, winter ball, the minor league days and former teams.  Players move around, yet the friendships remain.  The brotherhood I saw on the field went beyond blood.  

Again, this might bother some who think hating the other team is critical to competing.  But, really “hating to lose” is the only hate that is required.  And, losing to your brother is the worst.


In the pre-game warmups the brothers were like mirrors.  Bengie warming up Matt Cain on his side of the field…

BengieWarmsupCain.jpg


 …and Yadier warming up Joel Pineiro on his side.

YadiWarmsupPiniero.jpg

 I like the old school bull pen mounds at AT&T Park.  It nice to really be able to watch pitchers warm up.


Later, the brothers met at the plate.

YadiBBengieC2.jpg

As Yadier stood in and Bengie laid down the fingers, I wondered if it is trickier calling a game against your brother.  Do you get in each others head?  Like, I would normally call a fast ball, but he knows that I would, so maybe I should call a slider, but what if he knows that I know that he knows….until your head hurts.  

Or, is it really just the same as everything else: work to your pitcher’s strengths, mix your pitches and hope your pitcher does not leave anything too juicy over the plate.

YadiBBengieC3.jpg

Later, Bengie stood in the batter’s box, while Yadier figured out what to call.  

YadiCBengieB1.jpg


Pineiro gets the sign and throws the ball….

PineiroThrows.jpg

….right at Bengie Molina’s leg.  

YadiCBengiB2HBP.jpg


It was the one time a batter was hit by a pitch that I was 99.9% sure it was unintentional.  And, I was 100% sure that Bengie was not going to go charge the mound.  But, I did wonder what Yadier would have done if he had.  Typically, the catcher rushes to the pitchers defense, often tackling the batter.  I wondered if Yadier would have let Bengie get in a couple of swings before going out to get him.


I am sure Bengie has a bruise to show for it.  Just one of many that a catcher gets in a days work.  Fortunately, he was able to stay in the game.



YadiCBengieB3HBP.jpg


Sometimes when you are taking hundreds of random pictures, it is funny the ones you run across that capture similar moments.  


Here are complimentary pictures of Yadier and Bengie with the umpire.  In both, they seem to be taking an aggressive posture toward the umpire, which goes to prove that sometimes pictures lie.

YadiLeansin.jpg



BengieLeansonUmp.jpg


Here Yadier looks toward second base.  I wonder if he is thinking of stealing on his brother.  Think of the ribbing for years to come.  Whatever Bengie might throw at Yadier, the come back could be, “Yeah, but I stole second on you.”  Which would like coax the response, “You stole it on the pitcher, not me.”

But, he did not go.

YadithinksaboutRunning.jpg


Sunday was a day game after a Saturday night game.  After both Molinas caught on Saturday night, I knew it likely that one or both would get the day off.  So, I was not surprised to see Bengie Molina’s name missing from the cleanup spot.


However, it is pretty much a given that Bengie never gets a whole game off.  At some point there will be a pinch hit opportunity with runners in scoring position, and it will be likely that he will come through.


YadiCBengieBPinch.jpg

As he did here, hitting a sacrifice fly, scoring Sandoval.

YadiCBengieBPinch2.jpg


Bengie stayed in the game.  Yadier came up to bat in the bottom of the 9th with two outs.  In Bengie’s at bat, he hit a pop up to the backstop.  I think they might be discussing where it went here.  Yadier did not have a play on it as he did when he put Bengie out on a P-2 the night before.

YadiBengieLookingup.jpg

Yadier stands in as the last Cardinal hope.

YadiBBengieC03.jpg


Bengie is smiling here, as if perhaps he knows something Yadier does not….

BengieYadiSmile.jpg

Like how to entice his younger brother into a very rare strikeout

YadiBBengieCGotHim.jpg


Sliding Home

 

You know
you have the baseball bug bad, when everything reminds you of baseball.  As I passed through the Denver airport on my way home, I noticed the
cities that the other planes were headed to. 
Chicago.  Surely the Cubs or the White Sox are in
town.  Kansas City. 
I wonder if I will see Grienke on the mound there in a few weeks.  Las
Vegas.  Hmmm…no
MLB, but there is a Triple-A team there. 
Seattle.  A thought…never seen Griffey play in
person. 

 

But the
hardest gate to walk past was the one that said “St. Louis”. 
The Cardinals are at Busch tonight. 
If I hopped the plane and took the link downtown, I could probably just
make it in time to see Wellemeyer take the mound.  For all that I loved AT&T Park,
there is really nothing like a home game at Busch Stadium.

 

But, I
kept walking on to my Oklahoma City
gate, and I was not too sad.  For
although I will not find the Cardinals there, the next best closest thing is
coming to town:  The Memphis
Redbirds.  

Going Greene

TGreene.JPGJust under two weeks ago, I saw shortstop Tyler Greene play in Oklahoma City for the Triple-A  Memphis Redbirds. I liked what I saw.

With Cardinals starting shortstop Khalil Greene’s ailing arm and the backup shortstop, Brendan Ryan headed to the DL with a hurt hammy, Tyler Greene got the callup.
In his Major League debut in the Cardinals game against the Nationals on Thursday, he got his first big league start. 
His first big league at bat ended in a strikeout.  He followed that with his first major league ground out, his first major league popup and his second major league ground out.  
It looked like his first start would be rather uneventful, until he came to the plate in the ninth with the bases loaded in a close game.
No, he did not hit a grand slam.  He hit a little dribbler up the third base line.  The Nationals third baseman could not get to it.  Rick Ankiel scored.  Greene reached.  The shortstop came over to get the ball as the Joe Thurston rounded third.  Thurston and the ball reached home plate at simultaneously.  The catcher drop the throw.  Thurston scored.
Tyler Greene stood on first with his first big league single, first big league RBI and a big smile on his face.  His first major league single was probably not the well-struck ball he imagined his whole life, but it was very well placed and very productive.  
Tyler Greene was not done.  He helped induce a balk that got him to second.  He stole his first major league base to get himself in position at third to score his first big league run on a Brian Barden sacrifice fly.  
I love going to watch the Cardinals minor league teams.  It gets me excited about the future.  It is fun to see a player I liked move up to the next level and have success.  I liked Tyler Greene at Triple-A and I like him at the big leagues.  Go Greene!
This weekend I will get a couple peeks at the Double-A Springfield Cardinals when they come to Tulsa to play the Rockies affilate, the Tulsa Drillers.  Last year, I spotted Allen Craig at AA.  I wonder who I will see next?

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.

Step Away from the Edge

Good
news:
  It is Opening Day.  Summer is here!

Bad news: 
  Someone forgot to put Opening Day
on Mother Nature’s calendar.  It is still
winter in
St. Louis.

Good news: 
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.

Good news: 
I got to see the home opener in real time between the St. Louis
Cardinals and the Pittsburg Pirates.

Bad news:    Pirates
won.

Good news:  We
got the first loss and blown saves out of the way.  We can concentrate on winning now.

Despite
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
winning double.

In other
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.

Before we
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.


Remember
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.

Maybe it was Memphis

Maybe it was Memphis
Maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you maybe it was me
But it sure felt right
-Michael Anderson

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.

AZPatNight.JPG 

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
sight.

AZPLookingout.JPG

 

MemphisCardinalsandRedbirdsLineup.JPG


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
City
.  AT&T
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.  


MemphisAZPCourtyard.JPG

MemphisAZPInnerEntrance.JPG


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.

MemphisPujolstakingBP.JPG


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.

MemphisRookies.JPG


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.

MemphisKhalilGreene.JPG


Yadier Molina heads to work.

MemphisMolinagoestoWork2.JPG


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.

MemphisMolinaWaltersDuncantoDugout.JPG


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.

MemphisMolinaPinieroDuncan.JPG


Another beautiful sight:  

MemphisClydesdales.JPG


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.”



MoMilesKid1.JPG


Amazingly enough, another kid walked up with a #12 T-shirt.  I imagined him asking the same question.

MoMilesKid2.JPG


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.  

MemphisShaneRobinson.JPG



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.

MemphisMatherRobinsonJay.JPG


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.

CarpentercatchesWaino.JPG

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.


MemphisSchumakerWarmsup.JPG

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.

MemphisOquendobats.JPG


The-closer-who-must-not-be-named, Jason Motte, pitched in the ninth inning Saturday.

MemphisMotte.JPG


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.

MaloneyBats.JPG


Ballpark Food Note

I give the ballpark hot dog a grade of “B”.  Good quality hot dog, toasted bun.  Good, but not fantastic.  The unique food to have are the barbecued pork nachos.  Very good, but very pricy at $8.50.  The hotdogs were $4.00


Spring Training News – Let the Competition Begin


09spring_logo250x147.gifPitchers and Catchers reported to work on Saturday, but they were not the only players 
 working out at the Cardinals camp in Jupiter,
Florida.    Since the moment Jason Isringhausen faltered in 2008, the biggest question in Cardinals Country has been, “Who’s going to close?”  The oldest question is, “Will Chris Carpenter ever return to the rotation?”

 

Now, there are other questions.  With both Miles and Kennedy gone:  “Who is going to play second?”  With Troy Glaus rehabbing from surgery until May: “Who is going to play third?  Then, the glut of able-bodied outfielders begs the question:  Who will fill those outfield spots, who will be on the bench, and who will be back in AAA Memphis?”

 

Barring injuries, the only certain positions are Albert Pujols at first, Yadier Molina behind the plate and Khalil Greene at shortstop.  Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick will most likely find themselves some spot in the outfield on opening day, and Skip Schumaker will lead off somewhere.

 

So much uncertainty means competition.  Big time competition.  The players know it, and they are there early to get any edge they can.  Everybody in the running for 2B, 3B or an outfield spot is already in camp working out.  No one is taking anything for granted.

 

Many of the 2009 Major League teams will be defined by the free agent they signed or did not sign in the off-season.  The 2009 Cardinals will be defined by the strength of their farm system, a system that has come through in the past.

 

I like it.  I like it a lot.  Most fans would be more comfortable with fewer questions and more proven veterans, but I like the kids.  The young, hungry, talented kids with something to prove.  The 25 men on the opening day roster will be young warriors.  They will have earned their spot.  They will know what it takes to win.