Go Crazy, Big Boy

This weekend, in downtown St. Louis at the Hyatt Regency hotel, the 20th annual Cardinals Winter Warmup is taking place.  The premier charity event for the organization, the Warmup has invested more than $21M in the local community, helping children and non-profit organizations, and building almost two dozen baseball fields in the area, including Missouri and Illinois in the process.

Fans file in as the doors open on day 2 (Sunday) of the warmup.

Fans file in as the doors open on day 2 (Sunday) of the warmup.

From autograph sessions to vendor tables selling almost every imaginable bit of memorabilia, food & drink to silent auctions, from kids games to audience participation Q & A sessions with Mo, the Winter Warmup is a great time for any Cardinals fan.  I haven’t attended all of them, but I did attend the first several, and have made more than I’ve missed–it seems to get better each year.  Young or old, there’s something for every fan at the #CardsWarmup.

Fans stand in line on Sunday for autographs at the Winter Warmup

Fans stand in line on Sunday for autographs at the Winter Warmup

I encountered one young fan today, and spent just a moment chatting with him.  Jonah, age 5, was taking in the atmosphere from the perspective of a kindergartner.  Though, when I asked him if this was his first time at the event, I was met with a proud and emphatic “nope!”.  In one hand, Jonah held a Cardinals pennant, and on his head (and covering both ears) was a child-sized Sunday cap, with the navy bill and the bird on the bat.  He said he loves the Cardinals, and especially Yadi Molina.  The highlight of the day for Jonah (or at least the thing he was most excited about), was having gotten to meet Stephen Piscotty, and get his autograph.

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On a snowy January Sunday morning in St. Louis, Cardinals second baseman, Kolten Wong met with members of the media for a few moments to talk baseball.   And if we’re being honest with each other, isn’t a snowy January day a pretty darn good time to talk some baseball?

One of the first questions the Cards middle-infielder, um, fielded was what he thought about the people who consider the cubs the favorite to win the division.  His response was simply, “Time to show them what’s up.”.  Pressed further on his thoughts, specifically about the Redbirds being underdogs, he simply said, “Funny.”

 

Kolten Wong finds humor in the idea that the Cardinals can't win the division

Kolten Wong finds humor in the idea that the Cardinals can’t win the division

Wong described a few things that he intends to focus his efforts on in the upcoming season.  Chief among them, perhaps, being increasing his physical and mental consistency in the game.  Playing in 150 games in 2015 took its toll on his mind and his body.  He only played 113 games in 2014, and in only 32 major league games in ’13, and quite frankly, he admitted, he probably wasn’t conditioned to handle the grind of a season.  Citing changes in his diet, namely eliminating fried foods, significantly cutting carbs, and introducing more vegetables, Kolten expects to be better equipped to handle the 2016 season.

“Getting stolen bases back up” is another goal that he told us he has for himself this year.  “I was taking stupid risks”, Wong said of his base-stealing choices in the 2015 campaign.  He also talked about being more patient at the plate–not so much in terms of the count, but rather in the sense of waiting for the ball to get deeper in the zone before attacking.  Last year, Wong had an extremely early leg kick, shifting his weight forward early in the swing, and would almost have to “Ichiro” at the pitch, if it were off-speed or outside.  Wong said, “I didn’t let the ball come to me”, and aims to correct that this spring.

If there was one thing that was made very clear during the interview, it’s the Kolten has a burning desire to bat leadoff for this team.  I didn’t record the interview, as many others did, or I could give you an exact count on how many times “leadoff” was said.  But, it was a lot.  Like, a whole lot.  Seriously.   It’s an idea that Wong said he hasn’t discussed with Mike Matheny as of yet, but explained that the move makes a lot of sense.  He supposed that by moving Carpenter to bat second, there would be a lot of opportunities for him to score runs, sometimes from first.  “A lot of times”, he reasoned, we could score a run after only two batters into the game, and “…with our pitching” [not giving up many runs], it could be the difference in the game, and help us get the “W”.

I asked Kolten for his thoughts on the possibility of MLB implementing a rule to address take-out slides at 2B, in a way similar to the “Buster Posey” rule in efforts to avoid injuries via collisions at home plate.  “I’m not a fan.”, he said.  Playing the game hard is the way it’s supposed to be, and even though the result of the incident with Chase Utley and Ruben Tejada was a bad one, Wong reasoned that it shouldn’t warrant a change of rules.  Talking about having been taken out pretty hard a couple of times, and taken guys out, “It’s just a part of the game, especially in the playoffs, everybody is going to be going in hard, whether it’s the first inning or the ninth.”

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On Saturday afternoon, the interview room at the Hyatt downtown was a busy place.  Mo’s time at the podium ran just under 50 minutes.  Understandably, there’s more to ask of & discuss with the General Manager than most individual players.   For a lot of the players that came through, it was a relatively quick interview session.  But they came through one right after another, right after another, right after another.  Here are some notes from a couple of those.

 

Lance Lynn:

Lance Lynn and Seth Maness walked into the media area at the same time, and when asked if they’d mind giving a few minutes of their time for interviews, Lynn was the first to respond.   Of course, his response was an immediate, “Seth wants to go first!”.  (LOL)

When Lance did finally step to the podium, there were obviously plenty of questions about his Tommy John surgery, and subsequent recovery.  He expressed his “silver lining” position about the timing of the injury/surgery.  Let’s face it, if you’ve got to have TJS as a pitcher, early November is about as optimal a time as you could hope for.  Having no shortage of teammates who’ve been down this road, Lynn anticipates plenty of ears to bounce ideas off of and ask for advice.   Then, with a wry grin, he implied that he might have a little fun with Adam Wainwright, with all the “time off” this 2016 season of rehab will bring.

RapidFire

Matt Adams:

Big City, Mayo, Tow Truck, Patch, Giant Pepsi, and bearer of far too many nicknames (in my house, he’s known as Fridge) stopped by for a brief chat with the media.  A slimmer Adams entered the room, and was promptly asked about his fitness.  The Monster on the Mississippi said that he’d been working through a program to help him build muscle during this offseason.  When asked about his weight, the Lumberjack Lefty indicated there’d been little change.  “It’s the same.  Maybe two or three pounds (difference).”, adding that the jacket he was wearing was one he found in the back of his closet, that he’d not worn in a couple of years.

It was pointed out that more often than not, teams employ the defensive shift when the Philipsburg Phirstbaseman digs into the batter’s box.  “I’m not going to try to bunt, I’ll tell you that.”  Relying on his memory, Adams estimated that he’d been 1-for-6 when trying to bunt as a method of beating the shift.  Putting a lot of work into keeping his hands back, trying to drive the ball into left-center has been a focus for him.  If successful, Matt could really up his RBI total in 2016, and might even put up more doubles than you’d expect from a guy whose nickname is(n’t actually) the bomb machine.

Tim Cooney:

Cooney was rocking a pair of socks that few could pull off.   And he did so like a boss.   After having last season cut short by a bout with appendicitis, he shut it down and rested for a while.  While there might have been an outside chance he could return if he really pushed it, he and the medical staff decided it wasn’t worth pushing, and running the risk.

Tim said he’s been working on a two-seamer, and is looking forward to continuing to hone the pitch as this spring and summer progress.  When asked about his feelings towards pitching out of the bullpen in 2016, he told us,  “I’m happy to pitch anywhere, just happy to get innings.”.  Citing the rotation’s depth, he said he doesn’t expect to start, but would welcome the opportunity, if it presented itself.

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For the first time in forever, I’ve dusted off the ol’ password, logged in, and have a little blogging to do about the Cards’ Winter Warmup.  I’m always so excited to participate in this event, in whatever capcaity I’m able.  The organization continues to be generous when it comes to access & participation for blogger.

 

Brandon Moss stepped to the podium to take some questions, and give a little insight.  The ink might still be a little wet on his one-year deal from about 24 hours ago, which will keep him in St. Louis for at least another year.  When asked about the uncertainty of returning this offseason, Moss said that it all started with being tendered.   “When you’re not tendered”, he told the room, ‘there is a variety of possible outcomes’.

Moss

There were obviously questions about how his lower half feels, following the hip surgery that had him sidelined, and limited his play recently.   Moss injured his hip in January of 2014 during a weightlifting session, doing explosive squats.  He said he lost his balance just enough that he went “up on his tippy toes”, started to slip a little sideways, then twisted down to the floor.  He said he knew right away that he’d done some damage.  After playing through the remainder of the season, with the help of a cortisone shot, he had the hip surgery.  Last season, was largely rehabbing and building up strength in his legs.  As he explained, his legs grew weak during the time he was recovering from his hip, and he was relegated to activities underwater to help the flexibility of the hip.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t help strengthen his legs.

Without a strong base, you’re simply not able to drive the ball with power, and that’s what Moss is: a power hitter.   Don’t look for that to approach to change anytime soon, either.  “I can’t say I’m going to hit .260, or even .240, but I know I’ve got power.”  And when healthy, he’s not short on power at all.  Having good at-bats built his confidence last year, though he admitted that didn’t make for much substance he could bring to a post-game interview.  He pondered aloud what he’d say to the media after a game, “I know I suck, the at-bats are good!”?

Much of the warning track fly outs last season, Moss attributes to the lack of strength in his legs, and the inability to prepare as he otherwise does for an upcoming season.  This offseason, Brandon said he’s been able to do about his normal offseason training activities, and feels 100%.

I asked Moss if he had a preference for where he’d like to play defensively.  He said that he doesn’t, saying “I’ve got a decent arm, but I’m no Jason Heyward out there–I don’t have a lot of range.  At first (base), I’m no Votto.  I mean, I can pick it, but again, I don’t have a lot of range.”  He said he just tries his best when he goes out there, no matter where he plays, and just wants to be a contributor to this team.

Brandon was asked to give his impression of the Cards/cubs rivalry.  “I’ve never been a part of anything like that.  It was fun!”   He pointed out that he watched the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, hearkening back to his days in Boston, “…but I didn’t play in those games, I just watched.”  Moss credited the fans bringing extra energy to the already competitive games between St. Louis and the north-siders, they “make the environment what it is.”, he told us.

Expecting his power to return this season, Brandon Moss seems poised and ready to be an integral part of the Cardinals offense this year.  He pointed out that “It takes longer to build confidence back up after a bad year”, when asked about the difference between riding high confidence following “good” years, versus letting the “bad” years mess with your mind.  “It felt like I only hit 3 HRs last season, even though I hit 4 here (St. Louis), and 19 overall.”  Moss hit 15 bombs while with Cleveland last season, and though he “didn’t hit many IN Cleveland, I hit them while I played for Cleveland”, as he pointed emphatically with his index finger, “…and THAT COUNTS!”

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5 ways to improve the game

I am of the belief that Allen H. “Bud” Selig is one of, if not the undisputed greatest commissioner our beloved game has ever had.   Is that disputable and up for debate?  Sure, it is.

What, pray tell, about this game, isn’t?

Those who have read my musings here, and at blog sites past, know I’m a TLR fan.  I’m also big on Bud.  (The recently retired commissioner of baseball, not the frosty cold beverage, big boy.  Heh heh heh)  I don’t think Selig’s reign was without blemish, or that he’s some infallible god of the game.  I support a lot of his bold decisions that helped grow the game to move it forward, even if I didn’t like them at the time.  Interleague play, wild card, the other wild card, anyone?  I will also be among the first in line to admit that when he missed his spots, they were “juuuust a bit outside”.

The end of that ’02 ASG was bad.  Bad enough that the Barry/Torii catch “moment” is about the only other thing most folks remember.

What followed, perhaps, was even worse:  The ASG determining HFA for the WS.  I’ve written about this before, but am frankly too lazy to search for that piece, and link back to it.  (Editor’s note: Not only is he too lazy, but he tasked me with the job, which of course I succeeded at.–C70)

My intent today is not to provide a list of bullet points of accomplishments, lauding Commissioner Selig’s greatness.  Nor is it to gush about how Commissioner Manfred has such huge shoes to fill.  Rather, I have decided to take a proactive approach, and try to assist Mr. Manfred in his approach to helping our poor, broken, nearly defunct league that is barely being propped up by the over 30,000 fans that come out night after night to watch 30 teams play a 162-game schedule.

For Pete’s sake (#RoseHOFReference), the game has only seen a paltry 70,000,000 or more fans pay for tickets to watch live games (not including zillions of dollars from TV & MLBAM-related media money) for 15 of the last 17 years.  This includes 2007, when those of us who know how to perform non-common-core arithmetic might round up to a cool 80,000,000 (actual 2007 MLB tickets sold: 79,503,175, according to Forbes’ Maury Brown).

 

Billions of dollars for teams in LOCAL TV deals?

Owners making more money than ever?

Players making more money than ever?

More fans than ever paying to see a game, whether in person, via subscription, or on their mobile device?

Popularity the game has never seen?

Truckloads of money for local economies all over this country and others, for when the season starts in Japan, Australia, or elsewhere?

 

O.  M.  G.   —   Somebody had better fix this. . . and fast!

 

 

Commission Selig supposes the result of the 2002 All-Star Game must be a 7-7 tie.

 

Not to worry, Robbie.   Ol’ Dathan has your back with a couple more ideas to help fix what is apparently oh-so-broken, in addition to that nifty little pitch clock thing you’ve got.

 

  • Suggestion #1:  Eliminate balls and fouls.

Everything is either a strike or a BIP.  No more of those time-sucking walks that we all hate so much.  Sorry, Matt Carpenter, I don’t know what to tell ya about going deep into counts.  That was then, this is now.  In fact, to help offset the imbalance this might bring, I have an additional, and related suggestion…

 

  • Suggestion #2:  Replace intentional walks with intentional strikeouts.  “IK” is the new “IBB”, folks.  It’s simple.  Just ring ’em up.  Manger of the team in the field puts up three fingers, and that’s that.  Let me give you some solid examples of when this might come into play:

Are the bases loaded with only one out?  IK.

Is your starter running out of gas, bullpen tired, and a guy in scoring position, with 3-4-5  due up?  IK.

Is your name Dave Stieb?  IK.

Are you the 2011 Texas Rangers?  IK.

 

  • Suggestion #3:  Reconfigure the diamond by eliminating 1st and 3rd bases.

The foul lines would experimentally remain where they currently are unless it was determined that one of two conditions was not satisfactorily being met:  Either the offense wasn’t producing enough runs or the pace of game was still unacceptably slow.  Eliminating 1st and 3rd also ties nicely into my next suggestion.

 

  • Suggestion #4:  Allow a run to be scored when a runner reaches home from second base.  (May also require changing the name of “second base” to simply, “base”.)

Seemingly intuitive, this rule would require implementation to ensure that a batter could hit an inside-the-park-homerun by driving a ball into the gap, and basically running a suicide sprint to second base and back.

…And finally, perhaps the biggest no-brainer in the history of the game, and one that I AM CERTAIN is already in the process of being implemented behind the scenes:

 

  • Suggestion #5:  Bring the DH to the National League.

 

 

Clearly, the tail has begun to wag the dog.

 

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Super Bowl Sunday is nearly here, and I couldn’t possibly be any more excited!

Not because of the game, or the halftime show, or even the commercials.  Even though, last time I checked, Katy Perry looked pretty good, and an ice cold Bud Light was rather refreshing.  I feel like I can recognize a Patriot when I see or talk to one, but what’s a Seahawk, anyway?

No, I’m excited about the big game being over, and subsequently, the NFL season.  It’s the second checkpoint in my baseball offseason calendar benchmark system, falling right after “Holiday season” (one “L”), and right before March Madness.  Once those three hurdles are cleared, it’s time to play ball!

The 2015 season is one that I expect to be one of transitions for the Cardinals, but on a larger scale, for the NL Central, and for all of baseball, really.  The Cardinals will be transitioning towards the end of the Holliday contract (most underrated Cardinal of the past 5 years?), and presumably transitioning into the beginning of a Heyward extension.  They’ll transition away from what many thought would be “the norm” by 2015–seeing the name Shelby Miller on the lineup card every fifth day (and Garcia a few times a year?), and continue transitioning towards a youth movement with guys like Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.

The central division will undergo a transition or two of its own in 2015, as the Reds will have to decide what they’re going to do about a Cueto offer, which could largely determine the course that franchise heads over the next couple of seasons.  The friendly confines have been getting a major face lift, with a lot of construction over the past few months (uninterrupted by any of that “October baseball” nonsense, I might add), particularly in the outfield.  The 2015 Brewers continue to transition towards becoming the 2010 Pirates, and vice versa, for that matter.

Perhaps the biggest transition, however, is all across baseball, as 2015 introduces us to Major League Baseball’s 10th commissioner.  Rob Manfred has taken the helm from Allan H., and his first week has been as quiet and mundane as that guy who’s “just here so he doesn’t get fined”.  In other words, not at all.

Open to the idea of putting a ban on defensive shifts?  Interested in “helping offense”?  I don’t know about you, but those words sound like what I imagine the Anti-Christ would say, once in a position to curtail such strategic, thinking aspects of the game.  More in-depth thoughts and opinions are for another post, but I don’t like either idea.  At all.

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I took a stroll around the hotel, to see the sights, and sounds of what was to going on outside the media area.   (As a result, I missed the Randal Grichuk interview.  #RookieMistake)   I spotted Tony LaRussa walking around, though, not aimlessly–he was obviously headed to some destination, escorted by a member of security.

As I walked around the place, I caught a few scenes that I took note of.

There’s a significant area dedicated to kids.  There’s a bounce house, play area, an area where kids (or, I guess adults too) can make little craft projects, and performers too.  While I was down there, I saw “Jeff the Juggler”.  Dude was juggling swords while balancing on a big red ball or something.  Pretty wild stuff.  I like the idea behind it, though–get those kids interested at a young age.

As you may expect, there was booth after booth after booth of companies selling memorabilia, calendars, bats, balls…etc.  There was no shortage of Cardinals Heyward jerseys and shirseys for sale throughout the place, as well.  Everywhere you turned, there are fans carrying bags of merchandise, souvenirs, and items they’d brought from home to have autographed.  I saw bats, baseball cards, helmets, I saw one kid carrying a base, and one man walking around with a home plate.

A pretty wide variety of fans, if I do say so.  #BFIB, baby!  (I considered a post, complete with pics, of all the, ahem, different fashion statements, of the fan base, but decided to leave that to the guys at JSF.)

 

 

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Winter Warm-up 1.0

Prior to this year’s Cardinals winter warmup, I was made aware of the opportunity to cover the event from a media/blogger standpoint.  Given the exceptionally busy schedule I’ve found myself having over the past year or so (which you might’ve noticed by the collection of dust on my blog here at the Conclave), I didn’t anticipate being able to participate.  In short, I didn’t bother replying to the email that went out to the group about covering the event.

Long story short: Another email came in about a week ago, there’d been some changes to my schedule, and it worked out that I was able to attend…at least a portion of the event.

So, late Saturday morning, I left the house, and headed downtown to the Hyatt to the event.  Not so much nervous, as just anxious and interested to see how everything works behind the curtain.  (literally)  Obviously, there’d been other colleagues who’d had the experience, two of which, Matt Whitener and Kevin Reynolds, would be there this year…and helpful for keeping me from embarrassing myself.

I’d been to this event numerous times as a fan (one particular pass is among my more favorite pieces of my collection of “stuff”).  This will be my first time covering it at all.  So, I’ll try to do some stuff, post a few things, and not take any of it too seriously along the way.

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2014 Annual UCB Awards

Well, it’s that time of the year again–time for the annual UCB Awards.  If you aren’t familiar by now, each blogger casts his/her vote for a number of Cardinals-related categories, and the votes are counted at the end of November.  We’ve recently added a feature allowing fans/readers to vote for the awards too (which you can do here before November 30th).  My votes are below, though I did abstain from a few categories.  Stay tuned to see who takes home the hardware*.

 

*There’s no actual hardware.

 

1) Player of the Year – Matt Carpenter
Nominees: Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta

2) Pitcher of the Year – Adam Wainwright
Nominees: Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek, Adam Wainwright

3) Game of the Year – Game 4 NLDS
Nominees: May 20 (Wainwright one-hitter), May 31 (Taveras debut), Game 1 NLDS, Game 4 NLDS, Game 2 NLCS

4) Surprising Player of the Year – Pat Neshek
Nominees: Jon Jay, Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek

5) Disappointing Player of the Year – Peter Bourjos
Nominees: Peter Bourjos, Justin Masterson, Kevin Siegrist

6) Cardinal Rookie of the Year – Kolten Wong
Nominees: Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong

7) Acquisition of the Year – John Lackey
Nominees: John Lackey, Pat Neshek, Jhonny Peralta

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal – Stephen Piscotty
Nominees: Rob Kaminsky, Stephen Piscotty, Luke Weaver

9) Cardinal Moment of the Year – “Big City Leap”
Nominees: Taveras’s first home run as the rains came, “The Big City Leap” in Game 4 of the NLDS, Wong’s walkoff in Game 2 of the NLCS

10) Best Individual Cardinal Blog – Abstained

11) Best Team Cardinal Blog* – Abstained

*–All members of The Cardinal Conclave are considered individual blogs.  No votes for “The Cardinal Conclave” as a whole should be done here.

12) Best Media Coverage – Derrick Goold
Nominees: Derrick Goold, Jenifer Langosch, Stan McNeal, Bernie Miklasz

13) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog – Abstained
Nominees: Baseball Geek In Galveston, Bird Tales, Cajun Cardinal, Gateway Sports Connection, High Sock Sunday, Red Cleat Diaries

14) Post of the Year – Abstained
Nominees: The Dawn of the Stephen Piscotty Era in Right Field (Daniel Solzman),Doctor’s Prescription: A Daily Dose of Baseball (Doug Vollet), The End of a Love and a Season (Marilyn Green), The Lynning: Fact or Fiction? (Daniel Shoptaw), The Outfield Chronicles: A Conversation (Christine Coleman), Thinking of Playoff Baseball (Dan Buffa)

15) Best UCB Project – Cardinals HOF
Nominees: Bloggers As Players, Cardinal Hall of Fame Voting, Mailbag, Roundtables

16) Best UCB Podcast – UCB Radio Hour
Nominees: Conversations With C70, Gateway To Baseball Heaven, UCB Radio Hour

17) Best Non-UCB Podcast – BPIB
Nominees: Best Podcast In Baseball, St. Louis Cardinals Extras (MLB.com), Viva El Birdos Podcast

18) Best Twitterer – @dgoold

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Recently, several of us were given another opportunity to pose questions to John Mozeliak.  Some of us had multiple questions for him, others not as many.  The timing was a couple of weeks ago, just as the GM meetings in Arizona were concluding.  I had just one question for the Cardinals Senior Vice President and General Manager, and thought I’d share that with you here.

 

D7:   Are you aware of any consensus among the various organizations concerning further rule modifications?  The “experimental” pitch clock, requiring a batter to stay in/close to the batter’s box and other tweaks have been widely discussed and speculated about.  What’s the sentiment on such things from those, like you, closer to the situation?

 

Mo:   Pace of game: the idea of pace of game is to broaden the fan base.  We understand that the die-hard baseball fan isn’t overly concerned with how long a game takes.  But if we can have more people interested because it’s easy to watch and more enjoyable, then the game of baseball will enhance their experience.

I am in favor of looking at ways to speed up the game.  I think initiatives like pitch clocks are going to be very difficult to see happen at the Major League level.  But from a more organic approach you could see initiatives happen at the minor league level.  

 

Nothing earth-shattering or terribly surprising about his response, that’s for sure.  But, and maybe it’s just me, if you read between the lines, it almost sounds like that whole experimental pitch clock thing (which I vacillate back-and-forth as to whether I hate it more or less than the DH) may just be an attempt to “Pavlov” kids who take the mound to step up the pace of the game.  Perhaps the minor league systems across baseball will implement this “experiment”, and it achieves MLB’s goal of quickening the pace of the game.   I just hope it doesn’t last as long as the “experimental” designated hitter, at forty-some years and counting.

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UCB Roundtable 11.05.14

As you’re probably aware by now, our UCB November project is the roundtable.  It’s always good for sparking discussion, and provoking some thoughts among the group.   November 5th was my day to pose the question, and here’s how that all shook out:

DATHAN – 

Although, on the surface, you may think it kind of cheap, and like somewhat of a cop out to simply ask, “If it were up to you, how would you memorialize Oscar, as the Cardinals organization?”.

But, give it some serious thought, and suddenly it isn’t so “cheap” of a question.

He wasn’t the veteran presence and leader that Kile was, he was “more than” Hancock in terms of expectations, and fan recognition, but at the end of the day, he lost his life too soon.  How would you honor his memory?
  • I think I would start with the black “OT18″ patch over the heart, (as was done w/ Adenhart), but on the left sleeve at the very least, if for some reason MLB wouldn’t allow the patch over the heart.
  • I would definitely mow “18” into the outfield for the opening series.
  • This is a little different than the previous two, because he wasn’t a pitcher, but I suppose a black circle with “OT18″ should permanently go up on the wall at the end of the dugout.  Undecided about whether something should go up on the OF wall or not.

BILL IVIE:

Good thought, good question, worth waiting for…

I have a hard time with this because he wasn’t with the team too long. His impact was felt, but it’s hard to make a lasting tribute, in my opinion.
I like your first two options. A patch on the jersey and a tribute day/weekend at the park is a good one.
I don’t think you do anything “permanent” to remember him by. A spot on the wall, a plaque, a statue…it’s all a bit too much to me.
Here’s where I would be willing to go a step further:
Build a park in the Dominican Republic and name it “Taveras Memorial Field”. He was such a popular figure there, utilize that to memorialize him. Agree to pay for upkeep for the park. Let his memory possibly cultivate the next great Dominican prospect.

A.J. BLANKENSHIP:

I think a patch on the jersey is all but a given. I’m all for that patch being put on the bullpen wall as well, even if temporary. My only other thought would be to start opening day against the Cubs with no right fielder. I think it is pretty safe to say that Oscar would have been out there if not for this tragedy, so just for one batter, just one. Leave RF empty, let Oscar claim his spot out there on opening day.

DANIEL SHOPTAW:

Extremely tough question.  The patch is pretty much a given, I think.  (AJ said exactly the same thing while I was trying to get this written!)  Mowing 18 in the right field grass would be pretty appropriate as well.
I think, like with Hancock, you want to keep any permanent marker (if you have one) a little less obvious.  Because eventually someone is going to wear 18, maybe sooner rather than later, and it’s going to be a bit awkward (in the short term, maybe a teaching moment 20+ years from now) if you have that 18 out there while it’s being worn.
I liked Matt Sebek’s idea (I believe it was him) that they leave the lights on after home games in right field all season long.

 

DOUG VOLLET:

Good question.

I agree on the patch.
Work with the topps or donruss people, whoever is the big baseball card company these days, and produce a limited edition Oscar Card to be handed out on an “Oscar Day” early in the season.
Also on that “Oscar Day”, invite his family, and tell them that the Cards are starting a charity in Oscar’s name. The Cards know Oscar better than I do, so I’ll leave the charity specifics to them, but the important thing is it would create a legacy, something associated with his name, without having to erect a statue or anything like that.
DAN BUFFA:
Excellent question.

I like the patch because it’s the right thing to do. Teammates can remember him every day when they put the jersey on.
The bullpen sign is also a given. These two ways he won’t be forgotten but it isn’t over the top.
I extremely approve of Bill’s ballpark in the DR idea. That is perfect. A baseball fanatic country where the Cards are heavily invested in would be a great gesture to his family and friends and also keep him alive in a way. Young kids could hope to be like Oscar and always keep smiling.
I thought we would be crafting a different status 10-15 years down the road. One outside next to Bob, Lou and Enos. That isn’t possible with the tragic loss of Taveras but I like the ideas suggested here this morning.
This is going to be a tough transition and the hardest thing is when we finally do “begin” to get over his death, the band aide will be ripped off in March when spring training starts and in April at the home opener. It’s going to be a lot of sad days that hopefully lead to triumphant memories.
One more thing. If they really wanted to carve a piece of their park out for Oscar, they could name a section in right field(bleachers or terrace) Taveras Corner or Alley. Or they could make a small statue of that beautiful legendary swing. I don’t know. Maybe I am reaching.

MARILYN GREEN:

I loved Oscar, but he wasn’t with us long enough to honor him in more memorable ways.  I think the patch is a good idea.  Also perhaps the Cardinals could set up a fund or scholarship in his name to help kids in the Dominican.  Some kind of remembrance ceremony on opening day would be good too.

DANIEL SOLZMAN:

An OT18 patch, as others have commented is a no-brainer to start off the 2015 season.
Mowing 18 into the outfield grass or placing up a OT18 sign sounds fine to me but I really think that Bill’s suggestion was perfect.  Building a Taveras Memorial Field in the Dominican Republic in the perfect tribute to Oscar.
TOM KNUPPEL:
I agree with many others. The patch is likely and then memorialize him in the Dominican with something that has a lasting effect on the young players in that region.

I don’t think anything permanent is needed. Also, a remembrance on opening day at home.
MARK TOMASIK:
My suggestion is to fund a youth baseball academy through Cardinal Care in the Dominican Republic and call it the Oscar Taveras Cardinals Baseball Academy.
COLE CLAYBOURN:
I think the Cardinals have already done a nice job of memorializing Oscar despite not being in season. Leaving the light on in right field was a great touch, along with the flat page they set up on cardinals.com dedicated to him. There’s also a graphic on the right side of the page commemorating him.

I’m a little surprised there hasn’t been some sort of a memorial service, but my guess is that it’s just not feasible during the off season. I’m sure there will be something done prior to the first home game, and of course a patch on the jersey or hat and in the bullpen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have his jersey hanging in the dugout like they did with Darryl Kile.
This would never happen, but it would be incredibly touching if the Cardinals played the first batter, or inning, in the first home game without a right fielder.
Either way, the Cardinals unfortunately have experience in this department, so I’m sure we’ll see a great memorial next season

 

IN CLOSING:  (that’s my way of indicating the end of this piece, not another blogger with a strange name)

The only thing that truly remains to be seen on this topic is what the DeWitts ultimately decide to do to honor Oscar.  One thing can be assured, though, whatever they do, it will be just right.

 

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Dathan’s four thoughts

First things first:  Olbermann is an idiot.

 

In this month’s installment of “four thoughts” (forethoughts), I’m going to take a look a few of the topics that seem to be on the minds of a lot of Cardinals fans lately.  Let’s jump right in!

 

1. Adam Wainwright has a legit shot at winning the 2014 NL Cy Young Award

Yeah, I said it.  And I believe it.

Pop quiz:  Who won the NL MVP award in 2010?   If you don’t know, I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up.  It was Votto.  Joey Votto took home the NL MVP award over Albert Pujols in 2010, but compare the numbers they each put up that season:

 

 AP                       JV

115       Runs     106

183       Hits       177

39           2B          36

42           HR         37

118        RBI       113

103         BB         91

.312        BA      .324

173      OPS+     171

350        TB        328

76           Ks        125

 

I intentionally used OPS+ because of GABP, but I won’t deny that without that adjustment, Votto edged Pujols by .013 (1.024 to 1.011 in slugging and .424 to .414 in OBP) in straight OPS.   But any way you slice it, Albert had the better numbers that season.  Votto likely won because his Reds made the playoffs that year.  Remember when Halladay no-hit them, and Brandon Phillips was crying on National Television?  That was awesome.  #DustyBakerSucks

Pujols settled for the oh-so-coveted silver slugger award that year.

I don’t think I’m alone, being of the opinion that the writers essentially have Albert the Silver Slugger as a consolation prize, because even though slugging was one of the few categories Votto actually bested Pujols in that season, it would be too much of an impropriety to grant Votto both the MVP and the Silver Slugger awards.

See where I’m going with this?

Even had Giancarlo Stanton not had a premature end to his season with that nasty HBP, I believe that Kershaw would have still been, perhaps, the candidate to beat for the NL MVP.   Assuming he’s the lead candidate, which I think is a pretty safe assumption, I expect that the writers will give some serious thought to giving one player both the NL MVP and the NL Cy Young awards, and ultimately won’t do it.  That leaves Waino as the most logical (only) choice for the NL Cy Young.

…and if you’re thinking about Verlander in 2011, let me just briefly explain why I think that’s different.

In 2011, Justin Verlander was head and shoulders above almost every other pitchers in the AL, in almost every other category.  He led in ERA, Wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, IP, Win%, and H/9.  He was  3rd in K/BB, 3rd in K/9.   Kershaw’s 2014 campaign, while clearly better than Wainwright’s, isn’t as much of a runaway as Kate Upton’s boyfriend’s 2011 season was.  (Verlander had 5 more wins than Sabathia’s 19.  Incidentally, 5 is also the number of total losses JV took in ’11.)

I didn’t say it was a lock for Wainwright to get the Cy Young.  I said he’s got a legit shot.

 

2. It just depends

As usual, Cardinal Nation, sports talk radio, the blogosphere, twitterverse, and others start to debate and speculate about postseason rotations, lineups, bullpens, and roster spots.  Should they carry 13 pitchers?  Who gets bumped out of the bullpen?  What about a long man?  How many lefties? Grichuk?  Oscar?  Jay?  Kozma?  A third catcher on the roster to get Pierzynski in?

Dude.  The answer is easy:  It just depends.

See, the beauty of the rules surrounding postseason rosters are that you can change them up between each series.  So, if, for example, Shelby Miller owns the Giants and Nationals, but the Dodgers seem to have his number, then you prepare accordingly.  If Jon Jay rakes against Nationals pitching, but struggles against Pittsburgh (Dear God, please don’t let it come to that), then you prepare accordingly.   It all just depends.   We’ll know more by the end of the weekend, and it’s never too soon to start playing what-if scenarios, but until the games are set, and opponents/venues are known for sure, not much can be certain from a roster standpoint.

 

3.  Now that the first 159 games are out of the way…

They say you should dance with the girl you brought.  You should go to war with the army you have.  [insert other cliche here]  The army the Cardinals have battled with in 2014 haven’t had much heavy artillery.  Not many “fights at the bat rack”, if you will.  This team has had an incredibly difficult time scoring actual runs.  A glance at NL team rankings reveals the Redbirds are:

Last in HR

10th in SLG

13th in XBH

Not exactly full of thump.  But, consider that they’re:

1st in K%

5th in Avg

4th in OBP

4th in Sac hits

…and you’d expect that they’re finding other ways to get on base, and get runners moved along.   Except that, they’re:

14th in SB (one fewer, they’d be tied w SF for last)

10th in Runs scored

11th in RBI

12th in Sac Flies

 

Suddenly, the unfortunate picture starts to become a bit more clear.  This Cardinals team seems to be ok, but not great, at getting singles, and getting men on base.  (They’re in the middle of the pack for NL rankings for hits and BB%)  It’s just pushing runs across that seems to be elusive–not that that’s anything new.  It’s a down year for offense all across baseball, but the Cards seem to be particularly anemic in that category this year.  It’s my fear that that anemic offense is who they’ll be forced to dance with this October…and that,  if that doesn’t change, it might not be a long dance.  /c:

 

4.  Pitching, pitching, pitching

There’s been more than enough written lately on Wacha, Lackey, Miller, and others that Matheny & Mozeliak could consider for the postseason.

Here’s what I say: Ride the hot hand.

I understand the respect factor, when it comes to putting guys on the postseason roster, and I’m not completely opposed to that.  However, one of my chief complaints about the way this club handled the postseason journey last season (behind pitching to Papi—don’t get me started), was that they essentially pursued their 12th World Series championship with a 23-man roster.  Miller threw one inning, and Mujica threw two.  Both men pitched an inning in the NLDS, and Mujica threw one in the NLCS.  To me, that was a waste, and poor roster management.  I’d hate to see something similar repeated this fall.

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