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:
The pursuit of happiness (watching baseball games) has left me little time to write. So, finally, here is summary of the past week in my baseball loving life.
Friday, May 1st – Cold Night, Cold Bats
I left work at 5:00 in a rush to get Tulsa. A 2+ hour drive. A 7:05 start. The AA Springfield Cardinals against the Tulsa Drillers.
Fortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Washington Nationals on the east coast with a 6:05 central start time. So, for the second half the drive, I had Mike Shannon and John Rooney to keep me company. Before I reached Drillers Stadium, Wellemeyer was off to a good start and both Albert Pujols and Chris Duncan had homered.
If Major League ballparks are cathedrals and Triple-A parks are lovely chapels, then the Drillers Stadium is little more than a place to hold a camp meeting. The park serves the purpose but is lacking in charm and beauty. However, the Tulsa Drillers are playing their last season in Drillers Stadium. A new park is under construction closer to downtown.
But, I know the folks that live close to Drillers will miss them next year. A friend of mine grew up in the neighborhood and could watch the Friday night fireworks from her backyard.
The Drillers threw a gem. The Cardinals bats did not get going. The biggest cheer for the Cardinals came when shortstop, Peter Kozma, came to the plate. Peter Kozma is from Owasso, Oklahoma, which is a few miles north of Tulsa. This was his first game with the AA Cardinals, as he benefited from the trickle down effect of the Tyler Greene call up to St. Louis.
Sitting near third base, I got a good look at last year’s number one draft pick, Brett Wallace. He went 0-for on the night, but then again most of the Cardinals combined for only six hits against the good Driller pitching. Wallace did make some solid plays at third.
Here Wallace is playing in, defending the bunt:
I thought back to last year when I impressed by another third baseman. That player came into spring training hitting like crazy, over .500. He is doing well at Triple-A Memphis this year. I wonder where they will both be next year.
One prospect that did get a hit is outfielder Daryl Jones:
And, no minor league game is complete without a food race. In this case it is the burrito, hotdog and eggroll from QuickTrip. Burrito wins! But, the Cardinals lose 5-3
It was not a nice night for baseball. Chilly and damp. Although it never actually rained, a mist hung in the air the whole game. I began to think I would never be warm again. By the end of the game, I figure the only people left in the stands were me, another Cardinals fan, the players’ families and two drunk hecklers.
I have been single much of my adult life. I am cool with that. Probably, too much so. I am comfortable going most places by myself. Never is that more true than at the ballpark. I have a seat that is mine, so I have a place to be. The people around me also like baseball, so I belong. And, it seems like no matter where you go, there is always a Cardinals fan to chat with.
Sitting in front of me at the Drillers game was Scott, the aforementioned other Cardinal fan who stuck out the game. We talked throughout the game, sharing Cardinal experiences and thoughts on players. He was a Cardinals fan by birth, the great-nephew of Oklahoman and Cardinal, Pepper Martin.
Saturday, May 2nd – Just Call Me Ball
Today was a family day. A Kentucky Derby themed 21st birthday party. Fun times with family in friends. However, all the fun was happening in Kansas City. So, I spent the night in Tulsa and was on the road again by 7:00 am.
Four hours later, I stopped to visit the youngest of our family, my nephew, who is 20 months old. Before going in the house, I reached into my baseball game bag and dug out a baseball from an OKC AAA game, which I slipped into my pocket.
After greeting the family, I asked my nephew, “What does Auntie have in her pocket?” He walks over, digs out the ball, gives me a million dollar smile and says, “Ball!”. Then, in a memory I will treasure forever, we had our first catch.
Well, maybe, it was not actually “catch”. Basically, he fired the ball as hard as he could at me from two to three feet away, while I pulled out my best Molina catching skills. The kid has an arm, but he does not exactly have pinpoint control, yet. Check out his form. Up over his front leg, nice follow through. Wonder how much Dave Duncan charges to tutor toddlers?
For the rest of the weekend, he scoured my pockets for balls and anytime someone said, “Where’s Auntie?” He would point at me and said “Ball?” I have been called much worse. He also had a catch with his dad where I captured this shot:
While we were playing catch, the Cardinals-Nationals game got underway. I reached my car in the 5th inning to drive to my sisters. The score was 0-0. Somewhere along the short drive from the suburbs to the plaza, the score was suddenly 4-0, Nationals. A single, a force out bunt, another single, a sac fly, a potentially inning ending dropped foul popup, another single (Ryan Zimmerman, a name I am suddenly all too familiar with), all topped off with a big home run from their big guy, Adam Dunn. Brutal.
With the Royals’ hot start, the city is buzzing about them. Later at the birthday party at a local pub, the Royals game was on. People were actually watching. I lived through many baseball drought years in this city. It nice to see the citizens of Kansas City falling back in love with their team.
Sunday, May 3rd – A Wash Out from Top to Bottom
Time to come home. The plan was to listen to the Cardinals-Nationals game on the road, and to drop back by the Driller Stadium to catch another Springfield Cardinals game. Mother Nature had other plans. Both games rained out. Coincidently, the Memphis Redbirds rained out, too.
I had to console myself by listening to the San Francisco Giants game. Good to have a backup team. But, it was not the same. Bengie Molina had the day off. The Giants finally beat the Colorado Rockies in the 10th by finally scoring the only run of the game on Rich Aurilla’s walk-off RBI single.
Monday, May 4th – Play a Hard Nine
The World Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, rolled into St. Louis for a two-game series with big bat and hometown hero, Ryan Howard, in tow. Howard always plays well in St. Louis. However, hitting a grand slam in the 5th seemed a bit like over-kill.
Cardinals pitcher, Kyle Lohse’s non-throwing arm was drilled by a pitch while batting. While he refused to use that as an excuse, the fact is he was pitching well before taking the bullet. He was not sharp afterwards.
“Play a hard nine” is the Cardinals mantra. They all talk about it. They all do it. It is the Cardinals way. For the past couple years, the Cardinals marketing theme has been “Play like a Cardinal”. It might as well be “Play a Hard Nine” because it means the same thing.
As Cardinal fans we sometimes have cause to whine about a lack of execution, but we rarely, if ever, have reason to complain about players not giving 100%. For example, in today’s game, Joe Thurston ran through third base coach Jose Oquendo’s stop sign and right into an inning ending out. Again.
While we applaud Thurston’s gumption, we hope he is beginning to understand that Jose Oquendo is one the most aggressive Cardinals to ever play or coach the game. Nothing good can come of trying to be more aggressive than him.
One player that always plays a hard nine is Rick Ankiel. How many outstanding diving, running or leaping catches has he already made this year with no thought to his own safety? Tonight, he almost made one too many.
Chasing a line drive, running all out and making the catch, Rick Ankiel ran out of room, stumbled, and had no time to put on the brakes before crashing headfirst into the outfield wall. Flipped over by the force, he landed on his back. Arms above his head, the ball rolled out of his left hand. Even knowing the collision was imminent, he had transferred the ball from the glove, looking to make a throw, even though no runners were on.
If there was any air left in Busch Stadium after Ryan Howard’s Grand Slam, it was sucked out as Rick Ankiel lay motionless on the warning track. The TV cameras scanned the worried faces of the crowd. Not so much worried about losing Ankiel to the DL for a while, but worried that he could be lost forever. As he left the field on a cart, strapped to a back board, he gave the thumbs up he knew his friends, family and fans needed to see. Later, we would get the reports that although banged up, he will be fine.
He did this in the 8th inning of a 6-1 game that the Cardinals had all but lost. When asked about it later, he said basically even if the play is not going to change the game, the pitchers still have ERAs to protect. On a team where “pitch to contact” is preached, never has “I’ve got your back” meant more.
Often it seems the pitcher stands all by himself on the mound. Solitary. Alone. His only friend, perhaps the catcher 60 feet 6 inches away. Not so, the Cardinals pitchers. They can feel the safety net behind them. A safety net ready, willing and able to go the distance for as many innings as it takes. All they have to do is keep it in the park.
However, the Cardinals defense has been criticized for the league leading error total racked up thus far this year. What statistics do not easily show is that for every error, there has been a play that should not have been made, but was. Rick Ankiel’s catch is just another one of those impossible plays.
Tuesday, May 5TH – Home Run Derby
I was missing my Oklahoma City Redhawks and hoping to go see them. However, it rained all day long, and the evening forecast did not look inviting. So, I stayed home and watched the Home Run Derby.
And, by Home Run Derby, I mean the Cardinals-Phillies game. Five long balls left Busch Stadium. The Phillies hit two off Adam Wainwright. Shane Victorino took a solo shot in the first. Jason Werth hit a three-run jack in the fifth.
Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina both took solo shots off Brett Myers. Molina’s career high season home run total is eight. This was his third, which in theory would put him on pace for 18. In other news, Albert Pujols took Brad Lidge deep. Again.
The Cardinals chipped away, scoring runs in five consecutive innings, but it was not enough. Phillies win 10-7.
Wednesday, May 6th – Oh, What a Relief
After dropping two games to the Phillies, the other Pennsylvania team came to town: The Pittsburgh Pirates. Albert Pujols homered at his last at bat on Tuesday. He homered at his first at bat on Wednesday. He also went 4-4. It is hard to beat the Cardinals when #5 is hot in the three hole.
Chris Duncan was also an offensive force with a two-run triple. Khalil Greene was back in the lineup after being limited to a pinch hitting role by a sore forearm. He got a double and a RBI on a sac fly.
Rookie Mitchell Boggs got the start. He gave up five hits and five walks. With that many ducks on the pond (runners on the bases), it is amazing he only allowed two runs. He also had four strikeouts. All this in 4.1 innings of work. In the fifth, after walking the leadoff batter, who stole second and scored on a McLouth double, LaRussa took the ball from Boggs hands and handed it to the bullpen.
Trevor Miller, Kyle McClellan, Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin were nearly spotless in relief. Between them, only two walks, one hit, two strikeouts and no runs. They protected the 2 run game. McClellan go the win. Franklin got the save. His 8th out of eight opportunities, but who’s counting. Cardinals win 4-2.
Thursday, May 7th – Finally, Back to the Ballpark
The Cardinals played a matinee against the Pirates. While I sat at work, a friend was at the game. He texted me a picture of the arch from Busch Stadium.
Color me green with envy.
However, the day was not a total loss. I left work at 3:00 to head to the Oklahoma City Redhawks game and caught the end of the Cardinals game on the radio. Yes, Schumaker had already hit his lead off triple and scored on an Albert Pujols sac fly.
The Cardinals had already put up a nice fat crooked “four” in the 5th inning. Jason LaRue’s lead off homer got the party started. Schumaker singles. Rasmus bunt singled. Pujols took a first pitch, 93 mph fast ball in the ribs to load the bases. Ludwick was hit with same and a run scored. Duncan sac flied. Khalil Greene singled, and the Pirates were in a pit they would not recover from. Cardinals win 5-2
Cardinal batters have been plunked seven times in four games. Intentional or no? Impossible to say. But, the scouting report on the Cardinals seems to read “throw inside.”
Todd Wellemeyer, who has struggled a bit this spring, was super sharp, going seven innings, giving up two runs and notching the win. Maybe May is his month. Last year, Wellemeyer was the National League Pitcher of the Month in May.
Rick Ankiel was officially placed on the disabled list, and as I expected, outfielder Shane Robinson got the call from Memphis. The slight-framed Robinson is a plus defender with plus speed. He hits singles, turns them into doubles, draws walks, steals bases and will climb the outfield wall to make a catch.
He only had a failed pinch hit opportunity today, but LaRussa has said he will get some starts soon. I hate seeing players go down, but I love seeing them come up.
“Taste of the Big Leagues” is the theme at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City Redhawks. They opened with the Yankees. You can check out coverage of that here.
They continued with the Cubs and Wrigley field. So, I was not sure I was going to enjoy this promotion very much.
I was greeted with a poster of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and his quote, “It’s a beautiful day for a ball game…let’s play two.”
It was a nice day. Finally, warm. Can’t argue with that logic.
The Wrigley sign was cool:
The replica ivy wall was a nice touch. I like ivy. I think the ivy wall at Wrigley is beautiful. Yet, I can not help but think about Rick Ankiel running into the padded wall at Busch. Would the outcome have been far more serious had the wall been brick covered with a bit of ivy?
The best piece of Wrigly to make its way to Oklahoma City had to be the historic scoreboard. I took a full shot of it:
Then I zoomed in on the only score on the board and was surprised (and delighted) to find the Cardinals winning. What a strange homage to the Cubs?
Finally, I purchased a Chicago Dog at the concession stand. Chicago may be terrible in the post-season, but they know how to make a championship hot dog. Good hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with peppers, bright green relish, diced tomatoes, onions and mustard. Yum-tastic.
Back to the game, the lead singer from Korn threw out the first pitch:
But, the pitcher to talke about was Eric Milton of the Albuquerque Isotopes:
Milton had a perfect game going for five innings before giving up an infield single. The Redhawks were shut out 7-0.
It is amazing how the quickly the wheels turn. The night before Xavier Paul was playing for the Isotopes in Oklahoma City. Midday, the news broke of Manny Ramirez’s 50 game suspension for a positive drug test. By the time the rosters were printed in Oklahoma City, Xavier Paul’s was gone to Los Angeles, his name already removed from the AAA roster.
I listened to the Dodgers-Nationals game on the way home. Here in the Midwest, west coast ballgames come in handy. Dodgers were leading 6-0 when I tuned in. The Dodgers were off to a great start putting up a six in the first. Very reflective of their season so far, maybe too much so.
This season the Dodgers were setting records for their home winning streak, when suddenly their big bat is taken away for 50 games. In Thursday’s game, the Dodgers were cruising. In the six and seventh, the Nationals chipped away at the lead. In the eighth, the Nats came to bat and stayed putting up six runs and giving former Cardinal, Ron Villone, a win in his first appearance with the Nationals. The game seemed to be a synopsis of the Dodger season thus far.
While the Nationals try to hit their way of the bottom (Hello, Ryan Zimmerman), the Dodgers are going to find it hard to stay on top with the loss of Manny’s bat.
Friday, May 9th – Memorable Bombs
The St. Louis Cardinals headed to Cincinnati to face the Reds. Or, Cincyapolis, as the voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon called it the day before. Joel Pineiro who has pitched like a new man this year, gave us glimpses of last year. Pineiro struggled in the first two innings, giving up five runs and digging a hole that the Cardinals could not dig out of.
Probably, his biggest mistake was not a pitch, but overthrowing to first on a bunt by opposing pitcher Cueto. Three runs scored in the at bats that followed. Pujols put a stopper in the inning by catching a Jay Bruce liner and stepping on first to double off Hairston
In Pineiro’s defense, many balls, not well-hit, dropped in for base hits. Sometimes, that just happens. Also to his credit, innings three through six were flawless. Perez came in throwing a little wild and gave up the sixth run.
The Cardinal bats never really got going against the Reds’ Cueto, until the seventh when the eked out one run. In the eighth, they took advantage of Weathers, starting with rookie Tyler Greene.
McRae told him to look for a first pitch fast ball. Tyler Greene found one and smoked it to the bullpen in leftfield. His first Major League home run. The smile on his face could not have been bigger.
The Cardinals rallied behind him. Ludwick walked and stole second. Duncan brought him in with a double and later scored on a Molina single. But, that would be all the Cardinals would get. Oddly enough, Albert Pujols was 0-4 on the night. I would hate to be the next pitcher to face him. Good luck, Haraung.
I have been uncharacteristically quiet on all things regarding Alex Rodriguez. Mostly because the accusations keep on coming and I have know way of really knowing what’s true or not, and really there is a part of me that does not care. Maybe, if he were a Cardinal. Maybe, if I had watched him play regularly, I could work up the proper outrage or disillusionment. But, I got nothing.
However, I could not miss the announcement that he was returning to the Yankees lineup. With the rough start the Yankees have had this year, they could seriously use a lift. I hear Yankees fans say things like, “A-Rod is not really a Yankee”. I thought to myself, if Alex Rodriguez comes back, plays well and the Yankees start winning, all will be forgiven.
Inexplicably, I tuned in the Yankees game to see Alex Rodriguez’s first at bat. I do not know why, maybe I was expecting to see something special. I was rewarded. He came to the plate with the table nicely set with two runners on and promptly jacks the ball out of the park. Yankees beat the Orioles 4-0.
I am not condoning or condemning him for anything. It is just nice to be talking about a baseball player in terms of actual baseball.
Bedlam baseball comes to Oklahoma City this weekend when OU and OSU take over the Redhawks park in Bricktown. As a Cardinals fan, I normally where a lot of red, but as an OSU alum, I will be sporting my orange for the next two days.
The Redhawks will be home most of next week, so I will have opportunities there. The Cardinals continue division play with the Reds, Pirates and Brewers.
So much baseball, so little time!
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.
Pitchers 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.