Giving a Hoot About Today’s Game

It’s been a while since the Cardinals opened their spring training slate of games against a college team.  It’s not an unheard of phenomenon, of course, as there are a handful of such games around baseball every year.  (You may remember last year the Phillies actually lost to their college opponent.)  Most of the starters don’t play and those that do may only see a couple of innings and one at-bat.  If it came at any other time in the schedule, it’d be discarded, ignored as something that wasn’t worth our time.

Instead, today’s game against the Florida Atlantic Owls is the first time the 2016 Cardinals, in whatever form, take the field against another team and, as such, gets us all fired up about the return of baseball.  With the expanded coverage of spring training provided by the official site, we’ll actually get a chance to listen to this one, albeit with a different cast of characters than we are used to filling our ears with baseball goodness.  We don’t get John Rooney and Mike Shannon, but it’s the first time to see how this team of Chris Hrabe, Mike Claiborne, Tom Ackerman, and Kyle McClellan work as game coverage.  It’s going to be a different experience, I’d imagine, but it’s going to bring us an extra 10 games this year so it has that going for it.  I expect that it’ll be a work in progress, but it’ll be something folks will be glad to have this afternoon.

We also get to see–well, hear–Austin Gomber go against his old teammates.  A graduate of FAU, Gomber was drafted in 2014 (and his selection is part of the draft chapter of The Cardinals Way) and was co-pitcher of the year for the system last season.  The left-handed pitcher has obviously impressed, as shown by his invite to the big league camp instead of the STEP program, and while he probably won’t go more than a couple of innings, I’m interested to hear how he does.  The Cardinals continue to develop pitchers, which is vitally important to the health of any organization, and Gomber is just the latest intriguing prospect.

Adam Wainwright throwing to Yadier Molina.  Sounds natural, doesn’t it?  These guys are going to be linked forever in Cardinal lore, in a similar way that Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver were for the Phillies (which allows for some oh-what-could-have-beens, doesn’t it?).  While they’ve had plenty of time together in the past, Monday was the first time they got together in the present, which gave some insight on Molina’s future.  Eventually Yadi’s going to have to prove he can swing the bat without reinjuring things, but it seems like he’s progressing nicely behind the plate.  It sounds like, from the stories, Waino didn’t have to hold back or throw at less than 100%, which is encouraging.  We’ll see how Yadi does against, shall we say, less controlled pitchers soon, but having him behind the plate at all is huge.  I gotta think his chances of being on the Opening Day roster are around 80% and they’ll spike up sharply if he gets clearance to swing a bat.

If we did Heroes and Goats for intrasquad scrimmages, Randal Grichuk would have gotten the award on Monday.  He blasted two home runs and led his team to not having to do the menial cleaning of equipment and facilities that ballplayers usually aren’t forced to deal with.  This, of course, tells us nothing about Grichuk’s season or if he’s going to be able to continue to develop the power that he showed last year.  It was glorified batting practice, really, but in a competitive environment.  It’s nice to see and Grichuk’s team appreciated not having to scrub cleats, but we’ll wait until later in March before we even think about drawing conclusions from spring results.

The Cardinal pitchers have often been a tight-knit group that have learned much from each other.  Unfortunately, that also includes learning how to deal with being out for an entire season.  Lance Lynn is using his time off due to Tommy John surgery to help teach and mentor some of the younger pitchers in the organization.  I imagine it’s going to be a tough thing to not contribute this year on-the-field for Lynn.  As he says in the article, he’s never missed a season before.  There are plenty of Cardinals, both past and present, who have gone through what he’s going through and hopefully their advice will help him throughout this season as he recovers and rehabs in preparation for 2017.  I have a feeling we won’t see him dressing up in a cheerleader outfit on Opening Day like Mr. Wainwright did, however.

Let’s take our spin around the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today’s player subject is Matt Holliday.  Obviously Holliday had a rough year last year, missing so much time with his quad injuries.  However, he’s been a consistent player for the Cardinals and normally ranks in the mid to high 80s in this accounting.  This year, though, there seems to be a “what have you done for me lately” aspect to the voting (and, again, remember a remarkably small sample size means that just a couple of low scores can skew things) and that has led to Holliday tumbling over 15 points to 66.6%.  He’s going to have a devil of a time bringing that up if he can’t rebound to his former levels.

Our media focus is on Ricky Horton.  The former Cardinal pitcher will be a bigger presence this season, as he’ll take over most of Shannon’s road games and still find some time to be on FOX Sports Midwest.  Horton is relentlessly optimistic, but I’m somewhat surprised that he’s the guy that is expanding his coverage.  The voters may agree with that, as Ricky gets a 65.3% score, which is remarkably in line with his history.  He never moves much out of that mid-60s range.

Finally, we talk about the owner, Bill DeWitt Jr.  Given the situation with the ownership of the formerly St. Louis Rams, I expected BDW to get an overwhelming response in appreciation for his loyalty and commitment to the St. Louis area.  Even without that, the 20 years that he has been the primary owner have been the greatest extended run of the franchise’s history.  However, some seemed to take issue with not spending enough to get Jason Heyward and/or David Price to commit to the club and, as such, he actually dropped a couple of notches to 82.2%.  While I respect the thought process of those that voted, I really feel this should be much higher.  In my opinion, Cardinal ownership is one of the best in MLB.

As if you don’t have enough options to hear or read my opinions, I was on with the guys doing BBA Live! last night talking about the Cardinals, the NL Central, and other baseball topics.  I always enjoy talking with AC and Ricky and look forward to doing it again later in the season.  Speaking of shows, remember UCB Radio is on tonight with Dan Buffa and our Conclave mate Doug Vollet.  I think they usually back it up from the regular 10 PM slot to 10:30 PM, but just check your local listings.

We get real baseball in our ears this afternoon.  Can’t wait!

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