While it was always obvious that this edition of the Winter Warm-Up would be different, the virtual event couldn’t explain why something just felt off. First it was the Infielder session yesterday followed by the Bullpen group this morning. Separate hosts handled the festivities so it wasn’t intentional but what finally hit me was how much the Cardinals need Yadier Molina involved.
Yes, that isn’t an earth-shattering declaration. Any team that has to move on from a Hall of Fame player certainly feels the gap presented by having to replace a legend. It just feels different in St. Louis, almost as if the Arch is missing. During the bullpen event, Dan McLaughlin asked Kodi Whitley what it was like as a rookie throwing to Molina. The answer was what you would expect but had a different feel to it.
The same thing felt off while Mike Claiborne was hosting the infielders where both Molina and Kolten Wong were mentioned by coaches and players alike. Much has already been written about the finances of the game and how the Cards may not have the ability to bring back any of their pillars currently available. Some players truly can be bigger than the game but at least in my household, no Yadi means my wife is finding something else to do this Summer!
The overall feel of the events this weekend have been positive with everyone looking forward to the normalcy that Spring Training affords. For many of the players and coaches, the Warm-Up was the first time they have been able to see one another since the season ended. Having a club with a different feel was always going to be the case sooner rather than later, but 2021 certainly appears to be shaping up as something no one has witnessed for more than a decade.
Paul Goldschmidt made a brief appearance and mentioned his time playing against Matt Carpenter growing up. While that didn’t immediately feel significant, those veterans may have to be the bridge to the next wave of St. Louis stars. Having Andrew Miller back in the bullpen nearly has the same impact, and maybe that’s the biggest takeaway from entering this new phase for the Birds on the Bat.
While Wong certainly will have offers, it definitely appears that Tommy Edman has positioned himself to be the new partner-in-crime with Paul DeJong. The catcher position is TBD until it isn’t so nothing against Andrew Knizner but with Jordan Hicks coming back – Molina has to be in the discussion right up until another team swoops in (just don’t tell Christi)!
There are still a number of events to cover before tomorrow and who knows, maybe the Cards have a surprise or two up their sleeves.