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 winter was long, dark and cold. The hotstove was not so hot. Some old friends moved on. Some new faces moved in.
We sat in the dark in anticipation of the dawn. The dawn that comes todoy. Finally… (cue the violin music)
At last….. my love has come along
my lonely days are over
and life is like a song
Oh yeah, at last
The skies above are blue
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine
-Mack Gordan/Harry Warren
While other girls are hoping for roses, chocolates or jewelry from their Valentines, I only want diamonds….baseball diamonds. So, this Valentine’s Day, My Love is coming through for me. Yes, my Cardinal pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training today in Jupiter, Florida. The off-season is over. Winter is over. My lonely days are over….
There were many heralds of spring this week.
The deadly tornados that ripped through my state. (See photos here.)
The crocus in my mom’s yard….
(No, you are right. That is not a crocus, and it is not in my mom’s yard. That is last year’s daffodil from my yard. Mom’s crocuses did bloom this week, but they croaked before I could shoot a picture.)
The sandals that would not stay in my closet on a 70 degree day.
(Fine. I am busted. AGAIN. I wore sandals, but I could not find these in my closet. I might have accidentally left them at Neiman Marcus since they cost more than my house payment)
And, finally the words, “Pitchers and Catchers: Report Today”. And, the “card” telling me my Valentine’s gift had arrived. It is not “Play Ball”, but it is close.
Spring is here. Baseball is here. And, life is like a song.
Here is little overview of some of the guys reporting today.
Yadier Molina (C) – Actually, he’s now Gold Glove Catcher, Yadier Molina. At only 26 years of age, he has 4 1/2 years of major league experience. He gets better every year. Last year, he had a break out year offensively, but did not throw out as many runners. The young and unfamiliar pitching staff may have contributed. What will be better this year? More pop in the bat? More runners caught stealing? I can’t wait to see.
Jason LaRue (C) – Most teams struggle to field one solid defensive catcher. The Cardinals have two. LaRue is everything a team could ask for in a backup catcher. He is a veteran who understands his role and is always ready to go. He does not hit for average, but he has a bit of power.
Adam Wainwright (RHSP) – In the absence of Chris Carpenter, Adam has been the staff ace. Oh, what 2008 might have been, if not for the “pop” in his finger that kept him out of the rotation for roughly two months. Having Waino healthy for the whole season is one of the keys to Cardinal success.
Kyle Lohse (RHSP) – Hopefully, “this year’s” Kyle Lohse will be as good as “last year’s”.
Todd Wellemeyer (RHSP) – Welly rounds out the rotation’s top three. However, he has stated that he would love to pitch in the All-Star game, so this pitcher is not satisfied to be part of the rotation. He wants to be the best.
Chris Carpenter (RHSP) – The big question mark. He proved last year in the few innings he pitched that he still has the stuff. Hopefully, his body is healed, rested and healthy enough to support that deadly arm. If he can return to his previous form and make his starts, he makes this rotation lethal.
Joel Piniero (RHSP) – Piniero had his ups and downs last year. When he pitched well, he got no run support. When he had run support, he sometimes self-destructed. The potential for greatness is there.
Brad Thompson (RHRP/RHSP) – Last year, Thompson was a valuable spot starter and long reliever. He is one of the few guys still around that was with the Championship 2006 team. (Pujols, Molina, Wainwright, Carpenter and are the others.)
Kyle McClellan (RHRP/RHSP) – The role of last year’s Cardinal Rookie of the Year is uncertain. If Carpenter is not healthy, he is likely to be in the rotation. If not, he will be in the bullpen.
Mitchell Boggs (RHSP/RHRP) – Boggs made six starts and two relief appearances for the Cardinals last year. He won three and got the crap beat out of him in two. I will probably be watching him pitch in Memphis next year. I challenge him to prove me wrong.
Ryan Franklin (RHRP) – Sometimes he closes. Sometimes he sets up. But, with Russ Springer gone, he is the veteran of the bullpen. I am thinking setup guy in 2009.
Jason Motte (RHRP) – This catcher turned pitcher came up in September 2008 throwing fire. Eleven innings, five hits, one earned run, .82 ERA. This guy has a legitimate shot at the 9th.
Chris Perez (RHRP) – Perez’s arm is another flame thrower. He got some very valuable experience last year in the closer role. He saved 7 out of 11, with a 3-3 record and a 3.46 ERA. Not bad for a rookie. He is another contender for the 9th
Josh Kinney (RHRP) – Kinney came back in September 2008 after Tommy John surgery. He pitched seven innings, walked one, struck out 8, gave up 3 hits and NO runs. People are not talking him up much as a closer, but he is in running.
Jaime Garcia (LHRP) – This young leftyspent some time in St. Louis last year. Got his first save. Got his first win. Got his first loss. Sixteen innings, 8 walks, 8 strikeouts and a final ERA of 5.63. Great potential. Tony will probably want two lefties. I am betting on Garcia and Miller.
Trever Miller (LHRP) – If the Cardinals had passed on Miller, Ryan Franklin would have no one in the bullpen that could discuss the 70s with him. Miller could sing the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve been everywhere, man.”, but his last tour of duty was with the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays. His numbers do not give Cardinals fans a warm fuzzy feeling, but he will most likely be on the opening day roster.
Blake Hawksworth (RHP), Charlie Manning (LHP), Royce Ring (LHP) and Matthew Scherer (RHP) round out the 40-man roster. It will be interesting to learn about these guys. Also, on the guy to watch on the list of non-roster invitees is Jess Todd (RHP). Last year, He won the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.