Cardinal70

When the story about Kolten Wong taking yoga classes came out, my immediate reaction–as you are probably not surprised–was to recall this Dilbert cartoon.  (And by recall, I mean look over my monitor at work where it is taped.)

So what if Kolten took along some of his friends to this class led by a wizened, elderly, green teacher?  What would that leader have to say to the different players?

To (the less-than-six-foot) Dominic Leone: “Size matters not.  Judge me by my size, do you?  And well you should not.  Other pitchers, taller they may be.  Height, batters don’t care about.  For your ally is the fastball.”

To Matt Bowman: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.  Your arm, I refer to.”

To Jordan Hicks: “If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path to the majors like Rosie did, you will become an agent of the bullpen.  Pass that on to Mo, you should.”

To Alex Reyes: “Truly wonderful the strong arm of a young pitcher is.”

To Adam Wainwright: “Mind what you have learned.  Save you it can.  For a little while longer, we hope.”

To Marcell Ozuna: “Through the spring, things you will see.  The future, the past.  Old friends long gone.  Strange to be on the other side of the Jupiter clubhouse, is it not?”

To Matt Carpenter: “You must unlearn what you have learned.  Other than leadoff, you can hit.”

To Yadier Molina: “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to Instagram.  Instagram leads to suffering–for Carson Kelly’s development, I mean.”

To Sam Tuivailala: “Control.  Control.  You must learn control!  Walking batters is of the dark side.”

To Carlos Martinez: “Already know you what you need.  Concentrate and the ace you will be, no matter what the manager says.”

To Luke Gregerson: “Adventure, heh.  Excitement, heh.  A fan base from their closer craves not these things!”

To Paul DeJong: “Much to learn you still have.  Remember Aledmys Diaz!”

To Tyler Lyons: “Pass on what you have learned.  But not your number.  Always keep that.”

To the class: “If you have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind, great things are possible.  At season’s end, possible it might be to tell the Cubs, ‘At a end your rule is, and not short enough it was!’  May the Force be with you!”

If, for some reason, you liked this post and want to find more Star Wars content on this site (and believe me, there’s plenty), click here.  

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The Gang’s All Here

While spring training has been going for a week now, the position players didn’t officially start camp until Monday.  Of course, they’ve been in Jupiter a while working out, but now they have the official drills and have a schedule of events, as it were.  It also means I need to start shaking off the winter rust and get back to writing posts.  We’ll see how long it takes me to get into midseason form, though I don’t promise anything, especially until the games start on Friday.

We’re seeing a lot of pictures and video from Jupiter and plenty of stories as well.  It’s still somewhat hard to believe (a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one) that actual games are going to start the day after tomorrow.  It’s a wonderful thing that is starting to get us more excited about the coming season, at least for the most part.  I always say if you can’t be optimistic in the springtime, when can you be?  The answer, for many on Twitter, is of course never.

Mike Matheny had his annual “address the team” meeting yesterday.  While we don’t know what he said, this would in theory be when a guy vaunted for his leadership skills would shine and apparently he didn’t disappoint.  I will say it is fascinating to hear folks like Greg Garcia call Matheny a captivating speaker.  Given his monotone approach to the media, whether after games or in other interviews, he must save it up for the players.  From what I’ve seen of the manager, I don’t think I’d expect to be awake at the end of 45 minutes, much less blown away.  However, it’s a different audience and it sounds like Matheny believes the media a necessary evil, so maybe it’s not surprising he’s more lively and interesting away from the cameras.

At this point in camp, we get to hear a little about the young folks trying to make an impression and certain pitching prospects definitely did when they threw live batting practice yesterday.  I found it very interesting to hear that Marcell Ozuna, who is obviously new and has no particular preconceptions on these guys, was really raving about Jordan Hicks and his arsenal after facing him yesterday.  You probably remember that John Mozeliak, back in winter warmup, tabbed Hicks and Ryan Helsley as players that could make a difference in the bullpen this season even though they have limited minor league experience.

Helsley also threw to batters yesterday and struck out contact hitter Breyvic Valera, something that is apparently not easy to do.  Dakota Hudson is also mentioned in that story, in part because he’s the closest to the majors, in part because he’s got a similar power repertoire, in part because his last name also starts with an H.  (In other words, it doesn’t look like he necessarily threw yesterday.)  Our friends Kyle Reis (at Birds on the Black) and Colin Garner (at The Redbird Daily) have their prospect list going on and have reached #18 working up the list.  All of these guys are still yet to be talked about by them so you know they are high in the system.  I know Kyle talked about Hicks especially needing more time to develop and I don’t think any of these make the club to start the season, but I bet you see most if not all of them at some point during the year, even if it’s just for only a few games here and there as they come up to cover an injury or the like.

Kolten Wong picked up strength yoga over the offseason.  While he’s always been short, he’s not changed color and started talking in strange sentence construction.  Instead of learning to lift rocks with his mind, Wong is learning how to be more flexible with the hope of avoiding some of the injuries he’s dealt with in the past.  It’s always been the issue in baseball and why, a long time ago in a game far, far away, players were discouraged from doing much weight lifting and things like that.  The strength is good, but baseball requires a good amount of flexibility which can be robbed if you are too muscle-bound.  (We’ll see what sort of career, health-wise, Tyler O’Neill has.)  Wong had a solid season last year and if he can stay on the field for more of 2018, that’s likely to be a good thing.

Jack Flaherty is going to start the Grapefruit League opener on Friday, which is not really a big surprise.  In fact, my Meet Me at Musial co-host Allen Medlock texted me that prediction before he saw it was announced.  The Cards usually use a prospect that’s not likely to make the team to open their spring play and this will give Flaherty an extra start or two in the spring, starts he’d lose at the back end when they go to their expected five man rotation close to the end of spring.  What might be more interesting to watch is how Matheny lines up the pitchers behind Carlos Martinez.  We know he’ll set up the spring to Carlos is ready to go against the Mets on March 29, so the folks that follow Carlos likely will be following him in that order at least to start the season.  With the questions around all of the remaining arms, you could go in almost any direction after the staff ace.

Just like the players, who don’t necessarily put in an entire day’s work this time of year, I’ll wrap this post up a little short of 1000 words.  Don’t want to pull a finger muscle with so much to write about coming up!

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Around this time twenty years ago, Mark McGwire arrived in Jupiter, Florida, reporting to Roger Dean Stadium for his first spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals.  It was actually everyone’s first spring training in Roger Dean as the club moved there that spring from Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, where they’d been since 1946.

McGwire, of course, was already becoming legendary.  The Cardinals had acquired him in July of the past year, sending Blake Stein, Eric Ludwick, and T.J. Matthews (after general manager Walt Jocketty held firm and didn’t include pitching prospect Manny Aybar).  After the trade, McGwire had hit 24 home runs for a team that never could make traction in the divisional race, something that would be prevalent during McGwire’s tenure in St. Louis.  With that kind of power explosion as he came in the National League, there were strong odds that 1998 was going to see Roger Maris‘s record of 61 home runs in a season fall.

The 1998 season was a remarkable one.  Tampa Bay and Arizona began play as major league franchises, while the Brewers moved over from the American League to join the NL Central Division.  The Yankees won 114 and the World Series against Tony Gwynn and the San Diego Padres, beginning their amazing postseason run that wouldn’t come to an end until a flare off of Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 Fall Classic.  The Chicago Cubs made the playoffs for the first time since 1989, though they didn’t win a postseason game.  David Wells threw a perfect game in May and made a serious run at another in September.  And in a game in late September, Cal Ripken Jr. made history by sitting, voluntarily ending his consecutive game streak at 2,632.

All of those made for amazing stories during that season, but they were all overshadowed by the home run race.  McGwire came out of the gate slugging, Ken Griffey Jr. stayed with him for a bit, and Sammy Sosa used an explosive June to get right into the race.  (Forgotten by most, including myself when refreshing some memories for this post, is that Greg Vaughn hit 50 home runs that year as well, possibly the quietest 50 HR season ever.)

We all know the ending.  We know what happened on September 8.  We know what happened on the last day of the season.  We also know now what was happening in the clubhouse and in the locker rooms of many organizations, including St. Louis and Chicago.  While the specter of steroids will always now hang over this remarkable season, there’s still the wonder and awe that came about in that summer as sluggers duked it out and chased history.

With this season being the 20th anniversary of McGwire’s historic run, we’re going to be looking at those home runs.  We’ll be posting on the days that he cranked one (or more!), telling you the pitcher, the game situation, and some general thoughts about them as much as possible.  For a blog with 70 prominently in the title, this kind of history can’t go unremarked.

Perhaps the 2018 season will be as special as the 1998 one, though probably for different reasons if so.  Even if it is, we hope you’ll enjoy this look back as we follow the big redhead on his collision course with baseball immortality.  If nothing else, enjoy all those “man, I remember that name” moments as we look at the games and who was involved.

As a preview, if you have 15 minutes, here are all 70 of Mac’s homers that season!

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One of the most famous quotes from The Dark Knight is “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself the villain.”  Bud Norris is looking to flip that on its head.

Norris, that notorious Cardinal killer in the past, agreed to a one-year, $3 million, major-league contract with St. Louis.  It’ll probably be officially announced today after the results of his physical came back and we’ll see who lost their spot on the 40-man roster to make room for him.  While the initial expectation was that Norris would be added to the bullpen, the team has at least made noises about stretching him out for rotation depth.

Of course, one of the other famous quotes from The Dark Knight is “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”  While they didn’t necessarily have the same motivation as you’d expect from those words, there’s no doubt that there were some torches out among the faithful when this news came out.  Not everyone was overwhelmingly pleased (or pleased, or iffy, or just OK) with the deal.

Which, when you look at Norris’s recent history, you can well understand.  Just a glance at his Baseball-Reference page indicates it’s been quite a while since he’s been serviceable even.  There are a lot of ugly ERAs on that career record and the WHIPs aren’t much better.  So why, besides the “dumpster diving” or “low-hanging fruit” labels that fans like to throw on deals like this, would the Cardinals bother?  I don’t think anyone feels supremely confident in the bullpen, but it feels better than last year.  Does Norris actually help?

Most of the optimism about this deal, such that there is, hinges on the fact that last year, before the All-Star Break, Norris was quite good.  He limited hitters to a .547 OPS, had a 2.23 ERA, and walked 14 while striking out 47.  Then he wound up with a knee injury and faded, so the hope is that he’s more the first half guy and the knee problems can account for his slide.  Last year was the first year he’d mainly been a reliever and, as noted, the early returns were good.

What’s less reasonable, at least to me, is this idea that he’s going to be stretched out to a possible rotation option should something go wrong.  I get that there are questions in the rotation and perhaps you want people like Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber to season a little more in the minor leagues.  Still, even as they are learning, you have to figure they’ll give you more than Norris would in that role.  Perhaps Mike Maddux can work some magic, but it feels like it is asking a lot.  Norris did make three starts last year, but they were were at the end of the season and he never made it through the fourth in any of them, though that was more stamina than results.

Any interest or excitement about Norris is as a strong arm for the bullpen.  Norris had 19 saves last season, which as Derrick Goold points out is more than anyone else currently on the roster had in 2017.  It feels like that adds a solid weapon to the mix and, as we noted, Norris seemed to thrive on the bullpen role early last season.  After he took over the Angels’ closer role in mid-April, he only blew one save between then and early August.  I’m not saying that he should immediately supplant Luke Gregerson as the ninth inning option but he does give someone with good experience late in games.  If Norris can click, him, Gregerson, and Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons could be a very interesting 7-8-9 combo.

A large part of the problem is, of course, that the Cardinals seem to have no sense of timing when it comes to these things.  Similar to the uproar around Mike Matheny‘s extension coming the day after the Cubs won the World Series, the signing of Norris so quickly after the Cubs came to terms with Yu Darvish this weekend put those two signings under the spotlight with natural comparisons.  Just as naturally, the Cardinals didn’t fare well in that matchup.  Could it be that Norris has more of an impact on 2018 than Darvish?  It could well be.  That doesn’t mean that you are going to pick Norris if you have your choice on these two.  A Google search shows it was Hugh Keough that said, “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

If Norris had signed around Winter Warm-Up, there would still have been some of the resistance and wringing of hands, but I think it would have been lesser if it wasn’t immediately after a move by the Cubs that improved their 2018 roster dramatically from what they had a week ago.  We’ve seen often that timing is an issue for the club and this is just another example.  Norris is not supposed to be dramatic or sexy signing–St. Louis did that with Marcell Ozuna–but it’s supposed to be a fine-tuning part.  You can argue whether the team needs a fine tuning or it needs something more substantial, and that’s fair, but that’s not what the front office was doing here.

If Norris stays in the bullpen, I think this will be a fine move.  We’ll find out today who gets lost off the 40-man.  I naturally jumped to Mike Mayers, but Kyle Reis made a point last night in his Periscope that Rowan Wick makes a lot of sense and I could get behind that.  Wick is more likely to slip through waivers as well, I think.  Mayers may have some terrible MLB numbers, but he’s been there and he’s been good at AAA.  It could be that an adjustment or some more experience and he could help a second-division club.  Wick scuffled when moved to Memphis last year and doesn’t have the overwhelming strikeout numbers for a guy that (at least I think) can throw really hard.  I’d bet Kyle’s right here.

Of course, I’m an optimistic guy.  Allen and I recorded a whole show about how this team really could be a good one in 2018, after all.  I hope it’s a function of it coming out later in the weekend that the listens are down on it but there are some folks that don’t want to look at the positives about this team.  They are convinced it is doomed and this is going to be a miserable summer.  It might well be.  I just think that if you can’t be optimistic as pitchers and catchers report, if you can’t invest yourself in the possibilities of a new season, if you can’t dream a little bit while watching pitchers casually throw and the sunny Florida days brought back to you via whatever media, well, you might be a little too cynical for your own good.

Baseball’s back, folks.  Let’s do this.

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Last night, the Cardinals announced the seven players that were up for fan election into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.  If you haven’t seen it elsewhere (which would be a pretty big surprise), the press release is here.  There were some surprises in the list, though all that made it are strong candidates.  There was more turnover from last year’s ballot that I personally expected–while obviously Mark McGwire and Tim McCarver would have to be replaced, I didn’t expect people to fall off of it.  Yet that is what Steve Carlton and Edgar Renteria did.  We’ll see if they return in future years–I imagine they will, though Carlton may eventually get in via the Red Ribbon Committee rather than the fan vote.

So let’s take a brief look at these guys.  You can see the stats on the press release so I won’t rehash them much, but I’ll talk about what I see as the pros and cons of each.

Vince Coleman (1985-1990)

Pro: Obviously Coleman is one of those icons of the ’80s teams that still have such a hold on the fanbase.  Nobody had the speed that he did, stealing 100 bases his first three years in the bigs.  He led the league in that category in four of the six years he was a Redbird.  He won the Rookie of the Year award and was a two-time All-Star.  The intro to the comic book show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow usually states something like, “So don’t call us heroes, we’re legends.”  That’s Coleman.  His speed (and, of course, his tangle with a tarp) are legendary in Cardinal Nation.

Con: The problem with Coleman is that speed is pretty much all he had.  I didn’t watch him much but I’ve never heard that his defense was legendary and the metrics seems to say he was about average, maybe a tick above out there.  Offensively, his best season was his last in St. Louis, when he hit six home runs and had a .292 average.  Of course, that was 1990 when Whitey Herzog quit because he couldn’t get through to the players anymore and, looking at Coleman’s stats, I wonder if Vince looked at his coming free agency and wanted to put up more baseball card numbers to add to his payday.  Coleman never was much after he left St. Louis, though I don’t know if that should factor into Cardinal Hall of Fame voting.

Keith Hernandez (1974-1983)

Pro: He won the MVP (or at least a share of it) for the ’79 squad and was a big contributor to the 1982 World Series champions.  Unlike Coleman, Hernandez’s defense is something you hear a lot about.  He won five (and a half, since he also won the year he was traded) Gold Gloves in a row and people still rave about him playing first.  He had plenty of offensive chops as well, putting up a 130 OPS+ during his time in St. Louis.  He also had double-digit home runs in four straight years, which was hard to do in the old Busch Stadium and in the offensive environment of the day.

Con: Hernandez’s tenure with the organization didn’t end well as he was traded off due to his drug use, something that came to light in the Pittsburgh drug trials of the mid-80’s.  Also, and I’ve said this before and I completely acknowledge it is a bias due to when I came to baseball, but Hernandez is a Met to me.  He was already in New York by time I got into baseball, which of course raised his national profile.  He’s also stayed with the organization by doing broadcasting with them.  Again, that’s just my view on it–I’m sure those that watched him come up through the Cardinal ranks always picture him wearing the birds on the bat.

Jason Isringhausen (2002-2008)

Pro: He’s the all-time franchise save leader, which has to count for something, right?  He also had a share of the single-season mark until Trevor Rosenthal broke it in 2015.  Izzy was a key part of some very good teams including the 2004 squad that won 105 games.  Given some of the bullpen issues that the club has had recently, having that proven guy out there is more valuable than we sometimes think.

Con: Part of the reason Isringhausen is the save leader is because of the shift in reliever usage over the past 20-30 years.  Not to discount his durability and ability to stay in the role, but we know saves are somewhat a function of being in the right place at the right time.  What stands out to me about Izzy is that feeling like he was going to always put the tying or winning run on before wriggling out of it.  Looking at WHIP, that’s probably a function of just a couple of years, but one of those was 2006.  It’s bad luck but having Adam Wainwright become the temporary closer that season and get the final outs of the Series didn’t help.

Ray Lankford (1990-2001, 2004)

Pro: Look, I said as early as last year’s ballot that Lankford was going to be on this year’s because the fan outcry was quite notable and just.  Here’s the guy that hit more home runs in Busch Stadium II than anyone else (McGwire actually got close to him in his short time in St. Louis, but that’s more a testament to Big Mac than a knock on Ray Ray).  He was athletic and played exceptional defense.  He had five 20/20 seasons–Tommy Pham just had the first one of those any Cardinal has had since, ironically, Lankford’s last season (though it was Reggie Sanders who put it up).  He has that iconic moment of running over Darren Daulton.  He hit a home run in his last at-bat and walked in his last plate appearance.  He was the shining light on a lot of iffy ’90s teams.  He only played a season and a couple of months anywhere else.  This is Mr. Cardinal for those that came to the game between Musial and McGwire, probably.

Con: I honestly am not sure there is one.  I mean, if you were one of these that believes that if they don’t get rings, they aren’t elite, then I guess you could put that black mark on his record but it is hardly his fault.  Lankford is exactly what the Hall of Fame was intended for–to honor those players that have been such a great Cardinal but aren’t going to get recognition anywhere else nor should they really have their number retired.  This is the HOF that Willie McGee built, but Lankford is right in that mold.

Scott Rolen (2002-2007)

Pro: I’ll admit to a bias because Rolen is one of my favorite players both because of the numbers he put up and how he went about putting them up. I was so excited when the long-rumored deal with Philadelphia finally happened and I hated it when things deteriorated to the point he had to be shipped to Toronto.  All parts of that MV3 should be in the Cardinal HOF–Jim Edmonds is already there, Albert Pujols will be three years after his retirement, and Rolen should go in with all speed.  Besides the fact that he put up incredible offensive numbers when healthy, his defense was sublime.  I could watch Rolen highlight reels for days.  I also will continue to maintain he should have been the 2006 World Series MVP with his 1.213 OPS in that series.

Con: There’s that “when healthy” caveat up there that does come into play.  Both Alex Cintron and Hee-Seop Choi have a lot to answer for in my book.  Rolen still was effective, but you really wonder what might have been, especially in 2002.  Rolen also only has five and half season in St. Louis and has some claims of being remembered as a Phillie or a Red (probably not much the year and a half in Toronto) so if above I say that Hernandez is a Met to me, I can’t argue if a younger fan states Rolen’s time in Cincinnati is what he or she remembers.

Lee Smith (1990-1993)

Pro: He set the single-season save record that Isringhausen later tied and Rosenthal later broke.  He had a career that keeps him in the Cooperstown discussion.  His distinctive presence on the mound is remembered by those that saw him and he was a highlight in what was not the best time in Cardinal history.  He came to St. Louis traded for Tom Brunansky, meaning that Bruno provided us something better than StlCardsCards’s Twitter feed.  He wound up being an All-Star in three of his four seasons and finished high up in the Cy Young voting the two full years he was under the Arch.  He also may be the last time that the Cardinals were sellers during a season, trading him to the Yankees for Rich Batchelor at the end of August in 1993.

Con: Smith’s time in St. Louis was very short.  He only had two full seasons for the Cardinals, though his partial seasons were almost entire years since he arrived in May and left in August.  Smith spent eight years as a Cub and two-plus years in Boston, so his tenure doesn’t necessarily stand out when you look at his overall resume.

John Tudor (1985-1988, 1990)

Pro: Before Chris Carpenter, there was another crusty New Englander who made an impact on Cardinal Nation.  Tudor came over in a December 1984 trade and proceeded to start his Cardinal career with a 1-7 record and a 3.74 ERA at the end of May.  After that, all he did was go 20-1 with a 1.37 ERA over the last four months.  That’s one way to win over a crowd.  He won three games in the playoffs that year and won two more in 1987, though the World Series didn’t go great for him that season.  Traded for Pedro Guerrero, he came back as a free agent and spent his last year with the Redbirds.  When you think of those late ’80s teams, when you think of the pitching staff, Tudor comes immediately to mind.

Con: He lost most of 1987 after Barry Lyons–no relation to the Patron Pitcher–slid into the dugout and broke his leg, losing three months of the season.  His tenure in St. Louis is dominated by that 1985 season though the rest of his time was very solid as well.  He was not much of a strikeout pitcher, which might have had him evaluated differently in this day and age, but it seems to have worked for him.

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about how this might be the best and toughest ballot that the Cardinals have put out in their five years of doing this.  There’s not really a wrong answer when you go to cast your ballots starting March 1 and I do wonder if people will vote for two one time and a different two another time, leading to some really close voting.  (Unfortunately, the Cards never release how folks finished so we won’t know.)  If I could only vote for two–and hey guys, if you need an extra on the Red Ribbon Committee, I volunteer–I’d go with Lankford and Rolen.  My guess is, though, that while Lankford will dominate, Coleman will sneak in and get the second spot.  Should be interesting to see and hopefully more folks will discuss their ballot on line in the coming days as well!

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It’s still a slow time for Cardinal baseball.  The Winter Warm Up has come and gone and while many interesting things came out of that, it was still a lot of the players hoping for a good season.  We found out Luke Gregerson is the closer–for now–and had reemphasized that Alex Reyes probably won’t be around until May 1.  Right after the WWU, Randal Grichuk got shipped up to Toronto for Dominic Leone and Conner Greene.  It’s a good trade for both sides, most likely, and one that Allen and I talked about in this week’s Meet Me at Musial.

With the down time, I wanted to address something that a number of people have asked me about, especially recently.  It’s a question that isn’t worth taking time out of the season to get into, but if I get a post out about it I can always drop a link and not have to try to cram an explanation into 280 characters.  (Or less–it’s a point of pride that I have yet to fill up a Tweet since they expanded the canvas.)

That question is: “Hey, why in the world do you call Tyler Lyons the Patron Pitcher?”

The short answer, of course, is that I’m a very silly person who likes to continually reference things that most people likely don’t care about.  Let me elaborate a bit more, though.

The term goes back to the post after his very first start.  It was right before we set up the Conclave, so you have to read it through the Internet Archive, but you can find it here.  Never one to let something drop, I’ve been calling him that ever since.

But why did I come up with the term in the first place?  No, it has nothing to do with the tequila.  Here’s the first definition of the word patron:

“A person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, cause, or activity.”

With Lyons taking the mound wearing the #70 that I had made a part of my “brand” since 1999 or so, it was easy/silly for me to pretend that he was honoring my work, supporting my work, by wearing that number.  He was a patron of the blog, if you will.  The Patron Pitcher.  (Alliteration is always fun as well.)

I honestly didn’t think things would last as long as they have.  Lyons wasn’t someone I knew anything about before he made his debut, but he started strong and continued to have an impact on this team over the past few years.  Right about three years ago, I wrote a post about him in advance of having the chance to interview him, a conversation you can still listen to if you are so inclined.

Somewhere along the way, I started using the #PatronPitcher hashtag on Twitter and while my posts make up probably 90% of the usage, I always get a kick out of it when someone else picks up on the phrase.  One of these days Dan McLaughlin is going to accidentally use it on the broadcast and I’ll have another highlight in my blogging career.

It was wonderful to see Lyons become such an integral part of the bullpen last year.  I do think he could start for a number of teams, but having him be that reliable guy, the guy that could pitch the eighth as well as throw three innings in relief of a starter, was outstanding.  Plus that meant we got to see him more–but not so much that we worried much about his arm.  (It sounds like his knee is more the troublesome part.)  I’m excited to see what he does this year and how he follows up what was really a breakout season.  Maybe he’ll get saves or maybe he won’t, but odds are he’ll be the guy we worry about the least when he comes out of the bullpen.

Here’s to you, Patron Pitcher.  May your reign be long and glorious!

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Usually the Winter Warm Up is a time of celebration, a time to look forward to the upcoming season, to get a little baseball injected into the middle of a winter weekend.  This past weekend, while there was still some of that and it was good to see the players talk to the media (and the bloggers!), comments by both John Mozeliak and owner Bill DeWitt Jr. threw cold water on some talk and conjecture by the fans and when the temps outside are less than freezing, cold water is the last thing anyone needs.

On Saturday, Mozeliak stated that the bullpen was good enough and that Luke Gregerson would be the closer as of today.  On Monday, DeWitt reiterated that he didn’t see the Cardinals making any other big moves between now and spring training.  Neither of these things sat well with a fan base that is less than convinced that the 2018 squad is better than the 2017 version.  You know, that version that spent much of the year under .500 and was only still in contention in the last week due to a second wild card and a weak field?

While this would be frustrating at any time, I think there is much more of an outcry because the Cardinals, whether intentionally or not, have been building up expectations over the last few years and continually dashing them.  They talk about trades at the deadline, only to see nothing happen.  They were going to be active and aggressive this offseason, but save for chasing Giancarlo Stanton (and not landing him really wasn’t their fault) and acquiring Marcell Ozuna (which, let’s be fair, was a big move), there’s nothing to show for them being “in on everything”.  Michael Girsch, back in November, said something to the effect that 60% of the roster might turn over this winter.  Instead, eight of the nine starters from 2017’s first game will be out there for the first game of 2018, it appears.

Tara and I got into this Sunday night on Gateway To Baseball Heaven (before the conversation about John Gant’s luxurious mane) and it’s a topic that I’ve talked about in various forms over the last few months.  You’ve heard the analogy before, but I’m not creative enough to come up with another one.  The five years of playoff baseball (coupled with basically 20 years of good fortune, solid moves, and investing in the team) built up a large reservoir of good will.  Sure, some was sloshed out with Albert Pujols leaving or not winning a title, but the last few years have drained it dry for most folks.  Consider:

–Losing in the first round of the 2015 playoffs to the Cubs.
–Coming in second on both Jason Heyward and David Price.
–Missing the playoffs in 2016 by one game after only acquiring Zach Duke at the deadline.
–Extending Mike Matheny for three years 1) before his contract was even up and 2) the day after the Cubs won the World Series.
–Spending much of 2017 under .500 and missing the playoffs again.
–Making no moves at the July trading deadline.

Any of those things, in a vacuum, are understandable and explainable.  Put them all together, though, and the frustration continues to grow.  Meaning that something as small as not getting another reliever or someone that is more associated with the ninth inning can be a huge deal.

I completely understand the idea of not investing a lot of money in a closer.  The Cardinals have gone through late-inning guys like water over the past few years and they aren’t the only team in that situation.  When there was talk about St. Louis being major players for Greg Holland and Wade Davis, I was pretty leery because odds were those guys were going to get more money for more years than they would deliver value.  So that makes a lot of sense not to play in that market.

However, you can’t say at the beginning of the offseason that you are looking for that lock-down ninth inning guy and at the end of it say that you don’t want to spend for said guy and Gregerson is really what you had in mind the whole time.  There is a reason that article after article has been written about the Cardinal bullpen.  There’s a reason rumor after rumor had the Cards talking with closer types.  The expectations, set out by the front office this past fall, were that they wanted a middle of the order bat and to upgrade the bullpen.  While you could argue that they did both (the first is pretty clearly true), you shouldn’t have to ARGUE they did both, not with St. Louis’s resources in both money and talent.  You should KNOW that they did both.

Instead of going out and getting the depth that this bullpen needs, John Mozeliak brings up names like Dakota Hudson and Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley as possible pieces this season.  While I don’t believe that Mozeliak was saying that they’d be serious options for the Opening Day roster, to even suggest Hicks and Helsley could be contributing this season to the big leagues seems to border on malfeasance for the development of those players, as Colin Garner and Kyle Reis get into (with more knowledge and facts) in their recent Prospect To Be Named Later podcast.

John Rabe pointed this out on Twitter yesterday:

And while I’m pretty sure the 2018 number isn’t finalized yet (there’s a tweet from Brian Walton that points out some issues in comparison) nor do I believe payroll is the be-all and end-all for talking about whether a team is competing or not (Ozuna’s $9 million is probably going to be much more productive than Heyward’s $21.5, for instance), it is not a good look for the Cardinals to worry about signing Addison Reed to a deal while seeing that FSMW TV deal finally start kicking in this year.  I get that, as Derrick Goold pointed out in his chat yesterday, that there could be some issues with Reed.  After all, remember the Phillies almost signed him to a three-year deal earlier in the winter, then backed off and nobody pounced.  There may be some more there than we think.

Even so, they could pay Reed and have him do nothing at all and see no real impact to their bottom line.  You take the chance and try to improve the bullpen.  If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.  Even if a deal doesn’t pan out and it causes a bit of a budget crunch later on–and, let me be clear, you are talking about deals next offseason for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado even being in the realm of causing budget crunches with the financial resources available–fans are going to be more understanding of that than continuing to hold “dry powder” and never see it actually used.

Maybe there is a long-term plan to be huge spenders in the upcoming free agent market after the season.  Maybe they realize they’d have to go way over the top to get a Harper or a Machado and they are planning to do it.  It’s tough to actually believe that with the reservoir of good will at the levels that they are at.  It’s tough to hear national commentators go on and on about the financial and prospect strength of the Cardinals, only to see them be, on paper, maybe wild card favorites.  (Which has more to do with some of the weaker teams in the league than their relative strength, I believe.)  With all this muscle, shouldn’t they be seen as at least serious contenders not only for the division but for a deep playoff run?  As of right now, who really sees that happening?

I do think the Cardinals are probably better than they were for most of 2017 now.  The bullpen won’t have Seung-hwan Oh or Jonathan Broxton out there.  Alex Reyes should be back for much of the year, though what he’ll bring is still debatable.  I think Gregerson will be better than he was over the last few years.  Ozuna’s going to help the offense and even if they fall back some, I don’t think Tommy Pham or Paul DeJong craters.  I’m not saying that there’s no hope or that you can’t make a case for a successful 2018.  All I am saying is that the front office could have, from the outside looking in, made that case much, much easier to make.  That they didn’t makes for a lot of frustration going into the season.  And the season usually brings enough frustration with it as it is, I don’t need to start out with some in the tank!

John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt and Michael Girsch (who is still around, though I don’t believe he talked to the press over the weekend) have placed a bet that this team is good enough to be a playoff team.  It’s a large bet.  If they don’t make it this season, after this mixed winter, all the seats get that much hotter and a much bigger move will have to be made to keep fans happy.  Hopefully they are as smart as we think they are and that bet pays off.

0 comments

(For explanation, see this post.)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Cardinal love gave to me

Twelve wins a-leading,
Eleventh place for Tommy,
Ten balls a-sOHring,
Nine Cards a-scoring,
Eight extras a-hitting,
Seventh place a-sitting,
Six homers a-helping,
Five slugging Redbirds,
Four players to Miami,
Three Patron saves,
Two Cardinal stars,
And an unmovable Yadi.


  1. Yadier Molina played in 136 games and had more at-bats (501) than any other Cardinal.  He was second in games played to Matt Carpenter but had more starts at one position than Carp did.
  2. Molina and Carlos Martinez were selected to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star Game in Miami.
  3. Tyler Lyons, the Patron Pitcher of the blog, picked up three saves this season, the most of any pitcher never assigned the ninth inning.  It’s also my blog and there was going to be a Patron Pitcher reference.
  4. On December 13, the Cardinals sent Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano to the Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
  5. Five Cardinals (Paul DeJong, Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko) had 20 or more home runs in 2017.
  6. On August 28, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, Carpenter pledged $10,000 for every home run he hit from then until the end of the season, an amount quickly matched by teammate Adam Wainwright and the Cardinal organization as a whole.  Carpenter hit six home runs in that span, raising $180,000 for relief efforts.
  7. By wins, the Cardinals finished seventh overall in the National League this season, with their 83 wins trailing Los Angeles (104), Washington (97), Arizona (93), Chicago (92), Colorado (87), and Milwaukee (86).
  8. In a series against the Mets from July 7-9 in Busch Stadium, DeJong set a modern Cardinal record by slugging eight extra-base hits.  He also set the major league record for rookies in that department.
  9. While it turned out to be a fairly miserable year head-to-head against Chicago, there was a shining moment on July 21, when the Cardinals scored nine runs in the eighth inning, batting around before anyone recorded an out.
  10. After a stellar 2016 that led to him being the closer to start the 2017, Seung-hwan Oh wound up scuffling and allowed ten home runs on the season, more than any other reliever on the staff.
  11. Pham’s career year, including becoming the first 20 HR/20 SB Cardinal since Reggie Sanders in 2004, wound up placing him eleventh in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.
  12. Three hurlers–Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Wainwright–led the team in pitcher wins with twelve.

0 comments

(For explanation, see this post.)

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Cardinal love gave to me

Eleventh place for Tommy,
Ten balls a-sOHring,
Nine Cards a-scoring,
Eight extras a-hitting,
Seventh place a-sitting,
Six homers a-helping,
Five slugging Redbirds,
Four players to Miami,
Three Patron saves,
Two Cardinal stars,
And an unmovable Yadi.


  1. Yadier Molina played in 136 games and had more at-bats (501) than any other Cardinal.  He was second in games played to Matt Carpenter but had more starts at one position than Carp did.
  2. Molina and Carlos Martinez were selected to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star Game in Miami.
  3. Tyler Lyons, the Patron Pitcher of the blog, picked up three saves this season, the most of any pitcher never assigned the ninth inning.  It’s also my blog and there was going to be a Patron Pitcher reference.
  4. On December 13, the Cardinals sent Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano to the Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
  5. Five Cardinals (Paul DeJong, Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko) had 20 or more home runs in 2017.
  6. On August 28, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, Carpenter pledged $10,000 for every home run he hit from then until the end of the season, an amount quickly matched by teammate Adam Wainwright and the Cardinal organization as a whole.  Carpenter hit six home runs in that span, raising $180,000 for relief efforts.
  7. By wins, the Cardinals finished seventh overall in the National League this season, with their 83 wins trailing Los Angeles (104), Washington (97), Arizona (93), Chicago (92), Colorado (87), and Milwaukee (86).
  8. In a series against the Mets from July 7-9 in Busch Stadium, DeJong set a modern Cardinal record by slugging eight extra-base hits.  He also set the major league record for rookies in that department.
  9. While it turned out to be a fairly miserable year head-to-head against Chicago, there was a shining moment on July 21, when the Cardinals scored nine runs in the eighth inning, batting around before anyone recorded an out.
  10. After a stellar 2016 that led to him being the closer to start the 2017, Seung-hwan Oh wound up scuffling and allowed ten home runs on the season, more than any other reliever on the staff.
  11. Pham’s career year, including becoming the first 20 HR/20 SB Cardinal since Reggie Sanders in 2004, wound up placing him eleventh in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

0 comments

(For explanation, see this post.)

On the tenth day of Christmas, my Cardinal love gave to me

Ten balls a-sOHring,
Nine Cards a-scoring,
Eight extras a-hitting,
Seventh place a-sitting,
Six homers a-helping,
Five slugging Redbirds,
Four players to Miami,
Three Patron saves,
Two Cardinal stars,
And an unmovable Yadi.


  1. Yadier Molina played in 136 games and had more at-bats (501) than any other Cardinal.  He was second in games played to Matt Carpenter but had more starts at one position than Carp did.
  2. Molina and Carlos Martinez were selected to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star Game in Miami.
  3. Tyler Lyons, the Patron Pitcher of the blog, picked up three saves this season, the most of any pitcher never assigned the ninth inning.  It’s also my blog and there was going to be a Patron Pitcher reference.
  4. On December 13, the Cardinals sent Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano to the Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
  5. Five Cardinals (Paul DeJong, Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko) had 20 or more home runs in 2017.
  6. On August 28, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, Carpenter pledged $10,000 for every home run he hit from then until the end of the season, an amount quickly matched by teammate Adam Wainwright and the Cardinal organization as a whole.  Carpenter hit six home runs in that span, raising $180,000 for relief efforts.
  7. By wins, the Cardinals finished seventh overall in the National League this season, with their 83 wins trailing Los Angeles (104), Washington (97), Arizona (93), Chicago (92), Colorado (87), and Milwaukee (86).
  8. In a series against the Mets from July 7-9 in Busch Stadium, DeJong set a modern Cardinal record by slugging eight extra-base hits.  He also set the major league record for rookies in that department.
  9. While it turned out to be a fairly miserable year head-to-head against Chicago, there was a shining moment on July 21, when the Cardinals scored nine runs in the eighth inning, batting around before anyone recorded an out.
  10. After a stellar 2016 that led to him being the closer to start the 2017, Seung-hwan Oh wound up scuffling and allowed ten home runs on the season, more than any other reliever on the staff.

0 comments

(For explanation, see this post.)

On the ninth day of Christmas, my Cardinal love gave to me

Nine Cards a-scoring,
Eight extras a-hitting,
Seventh place a-sitting,
Six homers a-helping,
Five slugging Redbirds,
Four players to Miami,
Three Patron saves,
Two Cardinal stars,
And an unmovable Yadi.


  1. Yadier Molina played in 136 games and had more at-bats (501) than any other Cardinal.  He was second in games played to Matt Carpenter but had more starts at one position than Carp did.
  2. Molina and Carlos Martinez were selected to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star Game in Miami.
  3. Tyler Lyons, the Patron Pitcher of the blog, picked up three saves this season, the most of any pitcher never assigned the ninth inning.  It’s also my blog and there was going to be a Patron Pitcher reference.
  4. On December 13, the Cardinals sent Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano to the Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
  5. Five Cardinals (Paul DeJong, Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko) had 20 or more home runs in 2017.
  6. On August 28, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, Carpenter pledged $10,000 for every home run he hit from then until the end of the season, an amount quickly matched by teammate Adam Wainwright and the Cardinal organization as a whole.  Carpenter hit six home runs in that span, raising $180,000 for relief efforts.
  7. By wins, the Cardinals finished seventh overall in the National League this season, with their 83 wins trailing Los Angeles (104), Washington (97), Arizona (93), Chicago (92), Colorado (87), and Milwaukee (86).
  8. In a series against the Mets from July 7-9 in Busch Stadium, DeJong set a modern Cardinal record by slugging eight extra-base hits.  He also set the major league record for rookies in that department.
  9. While it turned out to be a fairly miserable year head-to-head against Chicago, there was a shining moment on July 21, when the Cardinals scored nine runs in the eighth inning, batting around before anyone recorded an out.

0 comments

(For explanation, see this post.)

On the eighth day of Christmas, my Cardinal love gave to me

Eight extras a-hitting,
Seventh place a-sitting,
Six homers a-helping,
Five slugging Redbirds,
Four players to Miami,
Three Patron saves,
Two Cardinal stars,
And an unmovable Yadi.


  1. Yadier Molina played in 136 games and had more at-bats (501) than any other Cardinal.  He was second in games played to Matt Carpenter but had more starts at one position than Carp did.
  2. Molina and Carlos Martinez were selected to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star Game in Miami.
  3. Tyler Lyons, the Patron Pitcher of the blog, picked up three saves this season, the most of any pitcher never assigned the ninth inning.  It’s also my blog and there was going to be a Patron Pitcher reference.
  4. On December 13, the Cardinals sent Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano to the Marlins for outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
  5. Five Cardinals (Paul DeJong, Carpenter, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Jedd Gyorko) had 20 or more home runs in 2017.
  6. On August 28, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area, Carpenter pledged $10,000 for every home run he hit from then until the end of the season, an amount quickly matched by teammate Adam Wainwright and the Cardinal organization as a whole.  Carpenter hit six home runs in that span, raising $180,000 for relief efforts.
  7. By wins, the Cardinals finished seventh overall in the National League this season, with their 83 wins trailing Los Angeles (104), Washington (97), Arizona (93), Chicago (92), Colorado (87), and Milwaukee (86).
  8. In a series against the Mets from July 7-9 in Busch Stadium, DeJong set a modern Cardinal record by slugging eight extra-base hits.  He also set the major league record for rookies in that department.

0 comments

 

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