Overreacting to the Spring Opener

Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies caught a lot of grief for losing to the college team on their spring schedule.  For seven innings, the Cardinals looked to repeat the feat this season.  I’m sure the Internet wouldn’t have played that up at all, given how they feel about the Redbirds.  Thankfully, they remembered in the eighth they were a major league team, put 12 up on the Florida Atlantic Owls, and the crisis was averted.

There are two major overreactions you could have to this one.  (And, to be fair, I don’t think anyone really is having them, so don’t think I’m subtweeting–er, subposting?–anyone.)

Oh my, if the Cardinals are going to struggle against a college team, things are going to be bad.  Greg Garcia might be on the Opening Day roster.  Aledmys Diaz could with an exceptional spring (and even then it’s iffy).  Seung Hwan Oh will be in the bullpen.  Those are the only players that were in yesterday’s game that we might see in April or May.  Maybe some of the prospects like Jacob Wilson or Charlie Tilson come up somewhere in the season if need be, but for the most part this was a mid-to-low minor league game.  I mean, Austin Gomber was pitching against a few folks that he actually went to college with.  It’s not exactly a representation of what we’ll see come April.

Look at that rally!  This team is going to be special!  While it’s always good to see a team come back, again, these weren’t the players that we’ll be seeing.  Plus eventually talent should win out.  While some of these hitters may not be that far away from college, they are more advanced than their collegiate counterparts.  It’s a little surprising that it came in a burst reminiscent of a Florida afternoon shower, but it shouldn’t be taken as some big heart, 2011-style omen.  FAU’s luck just finally ran out on them.

Oh did make his debut as a Cardinal pitcher in this one and retired the side on 12 pitches, unsurprisingly dominating kids a decade or more younger than he is.  It would have been nice if yesterday’s game had been on TV to really get a chance to see him in action, even if the results wouldn’t have told us anything.  I’m sure he was glad to get his feet wet in such a low-stress situation, though.

Wilson and Patrick Wisdom probably needed the results they got yesterday to stay on the radar of the major league staff.  Again, the 25 man roster seems pretty much set, but you want to be in the minds of those that will make decisions during the season about who comes up if there’s an injury or an open spot.  Again, this isn’t going to set anything in stone, but it’s a good data point in their favor and we’ll see if they can add some more to their side of the ledger as real spring training games get underway.

As noted yesterday in a short post, the Cardinals extended Kolten Wong for five years with an option for a sixth, meaning that Wong could be manning the keystone until 2021 if that option is exercised.  That said, let’s remember that Allen Craig also signed a long-term contract.  Just because he’ll be getting paid doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be by the Cardinals, though that’s the plan.  Overall, I like the deal.  It’s a gradually escalating contract, only getting him to the $10 million rage at the very end of it, and it locks up a young talent that could blossom at a rate that could make him underpaid over the course of it.

Some were questioning why the Cards would do this now.  After all, Wong hasn’t necessarily lived up to the expectations many had for him coming up through the ranks.  When you look at what a second baseman costs these days, though, it doesn’t seem like much of a gamble.  Wong’s been a two WAR player the last couple of years and has continued to improve, even if he’s not a superstar.  By the old $3 million per win rate (which I assume has gone up by now, but I’m not sure what the current rate is) Wong’s been worth over $6 million each of the last two seasons, but I believe he doesn’t get paid over $6 million for another three years or so.  (I saw a breakdown by year of the contract on Twitter yesterday but, of course, can’t find it now.)

Jon Doble on Twitter also made the point that we’ve seen Wong tends to play better when he’s comfortable and less worried about things like playing time.  With this contract, he knows he’ll be in St. Louis for a while (probably) which is where he wants to be.  He’s going to be involved in the community and hopefully all of that will help him blossom on the baseball diamond.  When you are a smart organization like the Cardinals, you lock up your young talent early to keep the costs down and keep them around for a while.  It always could backfire–again, see Allen Craig–but this looks like a good deal for both sides of the equation.

(By the way, just as a tangent, can I say how annoying the Post-Dispatch site is nowadays?  I like the look of the redesign, but I hate having to get rid of the ad on the bottom of every story plus dealing with those surveys they’ve had for a while now.  I get that newspapers are needing revenue, but it’s not completely reader friendly.)

Matt Carpenter wants to hit leadoff.  We’ve known that for a while and last year’s experiment with him out of that spot didn’t go so well, but it’s interesting to hear Carpenter not only reiterate that so firmly (while still allowing that he’d move if it was best for the team) but also that he considers himself the best leadoff guy in the National League.  Not saying he’s wrong and not saying that he shouldn’t say that, I’m just surprised that he’s so (to use his word) adamant about the whole thing.  I’m sure he’ll be hitting leadoff for quite some time, but seeing how the lineup winds up coalescing will be an interesting thing to keep track of this month.  Carpenter bats second today in the game against the Marlins as Mike Matheny tries to see if there’s a better option out there.

Let’s quickly run through the Cardinal Approval Ratings.  Today’s player is Lance Lynn.  Lynn, of course, is out with Tommy John surgery and struggled down the stretch with the elbow.  We know that now, of course, but last September and October we just wondered what what going on with Lynn, who doesn’t always get the benefit of the doubt.  That’s apparent in today’s rating as well, as Lynn plummets to 66.4%, which is his career low on these things by a long shot.  I’m really scratching my head over this one–I’m guessing the Lynn detractors were strong in our small sample size.

Our media person of the day is Al Hrabosky, making his Approval Ratings debut when a media slot opened up with the passing of Joe Strauss.  Strauss always wound up at the bottom of our rankings, but I think he’d have been bumped up a notch had Al been on the ballot at the same time.  The criticism of Hrabosky’s work on FSMW (and, occasionally, filling in on KMOX) is well known and it’s tough to find anyone that is a big Al fan.  So it’s not a surprise that he clocks in at 46.2% to start his CAR career.  (Edit: After checking the records, I see Al actually was on the list from 2009-2012.  Not sure how he dropped off, but this mark is in line was some of his lower ones.  The two years they overlapped, he beat Strauss in one and barely lost to him in the other.)

Finally, we talk about his employers, FOX Sports Midwest.  With them carrying around 150 games each season, this broadcast makes a daily visit into our homes.  The broadcast team, the graphics, the camera angles, all that play into the experience we have each day when we sit down to watch a game.  For the most part, that’s a positive experience as FSMW gets a 75.3% mark this year, which is their lowest in the three years they’ve been on here but not significantly out of line with the other two seasons.  (Even though I know what they are trying to do with it, they really do need to ditch the “look through the home plate netting” angle.)

The Patron Pitcher makes his 2016 debut as Tyler Lyons goes against the Marlins today.  Should see him go a couple of innings today–well, hear him go, as it’s just on KMOX and not on TV.  By the way, I didn’t get to hear much of the online-only broadcast team yesterday, but what I did hear wasn’t bad.  They aren’t going to replace John Rooney and Mike Shannon, but Kyle McClellan will probably start seeing a few more media opportunities in the coming years if I had to guess.  Major league baseball today, so enjoy!

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