You’d think a team that’s been around since 1892 would’ve done just about all there is to do in baseball.
You’d be wrong.
For all the NL pennants, World Championships, ROY awards, no-hitters and the like, there are still ways for the Cardinals to make baseball history. Personally, I’d like to see them check “perfect game” off the list. For example, Did You Know: Until this season, the Redbirds had never had a player on the active roster named “Seth” (Maness). There really is a “stat” for everything, isn’t there?
Well, the Cardinals are at it again, and are currently (and quietly) making team history once again. For the first time in the history of the beloved franchise, the Cards will play 8 straight road games against American League foes. And they’ll use the DH in every last one of them. That has never happened in the nearly 125-year history of the St. Louis franchise. With the high octane offense of this club, it should be a good opportunity to see just what these Cardinals’ bats are capable of. As I write this, they’re proving themselves capable of putting up a baker’s dozen in the first game of the road trip.
Discussions surrounding the DH, and possibilities of it creeping, storming, or leaking (does it really matter?) into the National League have popped up a couple of times so far this season, including again recently. Two months ago, as a part of “Blogger Day” I asked both Cardinals general manager, John Mozeliak and team President, Bill DeWitt III about this very topic.
D7: Commissioner Selig said on Friday, that he’s not going to bring the designated hitter to the National League. He says he’s not going to take it from the A.L., and he thinks that’s fine. His contract is up in December ’14, if I’m not mistaken. Whether we like it or not, I think we all believe that it’s coming. It’s everywhere else in the game, from the All-Star Game to the World Series, and now with the two 15-team leagues. How is the organization planning for what, I guess I’ll take the liberty of saying, is the inevitable?
Mo: Well, I don’t feel that it is.
Mo: No, I don’t. I think there’s been a lot of media momentum over the last, say, 8 to 10 weeks and banter about it. But, you know, I think, from the decision-makers that I’ve spoken with, I don’t see it on the horizon. In terms of a baseball strategy standpoint, I kind of think about, if we do end up having it…then we’ll put another bat in the lineup. I think there are days that a guy like Matt Adams would play a lot more. But, I’m not overly concerned if we switch to it, but I hope that we don’t.
D7: I think most of us feel that way, too.
BD3: There’s been zero discussion at owner’s meetings, which I attend, about that issue. Which would suggest to me that there’s really no momentum at all to make a change.
So, those that lean to the traditional side of things have that to hold on to. At least for now.
In the meantime, the Redbirds have a two-game mini-series in Houston before heading to Oakland for the weekend. After which, they’ll move on to spend the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of July playing the The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States, Angels. Of Anaheim. Baseball.
As the Cards blaze this trail of history (overstatement alert) employing the DH, they’ll need to stay focused. Listen to my words, Cardinals fans: DO NOT sleep on the Oakland Athletics! In the last 365 days, they’ve won 103 games. This is a very good A’s team, and for those who might’ve forgotten, they are the defending AL West Champions. Strangely enough, though, I challenge you to name 3 Oakland players. Last year the aforementioned Angels faded out of the race, and A’s swept the Rangers on the final weekend of the season to clinch the division over them by a single game. If you didn’t watch that series, you missed some outstanding baseball!
There are places to get previews of matchups, so I’m not going to get into the Cards/A’s series here. In a few days, all the “Angels/Cardinals/Pujols/4th of July/Fireworks” references and chatter will heat up, so I’m not going there either. But I think this DH thing (the fact that the Cards will be using it for a week and a half, that is), is very important in the grand scheme of the season.
For a NL team to play so many consecutive games with a DH gives the manager opportunities to rest players. Add to that the fact that the team’s days off include Monday and Thursday of this week, and Monday of next week, with the All-Star break only a week and a half after that series, and it’s obvious: This is the time to rest those who need it, get a look at some different lineups (Holliday in the 5 hole, anyone?), and prepare for the 2nd half of the season. You might even tinker with the rotation a little, if, hypothetically, you were trying to keep Shelby Miller from getting too close to that 200 IP mark.
Having the best record in baseball affords a team some luxuries. Usually. One exception is when the top of your division is so solid that the 3rd place team would be in first place in every other division in baseball. The Cards have got Pittsburgh right on their heels, and Cincinnati is right there too. But standings and records aside, I think it’s very important for the Cardinals to make the most of the opportunities that this stretch in the schedule is providing. We might look back on these two weeks as a big difference maker when the dog days roll around, or we get to mid-September. I wouldn’t be mad about a 5-3 road trip. I would obviously prefer 8-0, just to be clear. 4-4 would be disappointing, but if it meant those other things were taken care of, I could get over a .500 road trip, but just this one time. The difference between a 5-3 road trip and a 6-2 is a big one right now, but the difference in having or not having a healthy (Beltran, for example) down the stretch could be even bigger.