Pitchers Hit Eighth

Rather than risk burying the lede, here is one “truth” that I hope you hold to be self-evident – You don’t need a moronic blogger, loudmouth with a podcast, or a professional journalist to tell you how to fan for your favorite sports ball team.  Too many leverage their social media following into a bully pulpit to spread a particularly vile brand of nonsense as fact.  There is a not-so-fine line between presenting opinion as opinion and presenting opinion as fact.

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If you listen to enough MLB broadcasts with the sound actually on, at some point you’ll hear a talking head with a mediocre hairpiece bemoan the lack of minority representation in the sport.  In keeping with that narrative, they are obligated to mention baseball is losing many such athletes to other sports.  If the sport suffers as a result, then it’s worth investigating, but it really shouldn’t be too difficult to understand, because the premise seems reasonable enough.  If someone (minority or not) excels at another sport in addition to baseball, why on Earth would they choose to pursue a career in baseball?

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Path Of Most Resistance

Admission:  When Joe Mauer was about to step into the box for the at-bat that ended with him picking up his 2,000th career hit, I was angrily mashing portions of my iPhone screen in a fruitless attempt to make MLBtv load faster.  I didn’t make it, and my phone almost didn’t either.  Shame.  Despite recent efforts to discount the value of any and all “counting stats”, 2,000 hits is still 2,000 hits, and not many players reach that benchmark.

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After Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo triggered Yadier Molina by directing a rather distasteful obscenity at him during yesterday’s game, the rush to judgment was predictably swift and brutal.  Lovullo earned an ejection the moment he started arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire, and he earned the wrath of Yadi as well as Cardinal Nation when he called Yadi a “motherf—–” while airing a complaint about pitch framing.

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If you haven’t read Jack Dickey’s article in Sports Illustrated about Tommy Pham, then I highly recommend you click here and check it out.  To some, Pham probably comes across as refreshingly honest, bold, and confident in himself.  To others, he probably comes across as arrogant, foul-mouthed, and brazen.  Two reasonably good debate teams could pick sides and probably end up with a stalemate for half of eternity.

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It’s apropos that Citi Field is located in Flushing, because Carlos Martinez just dropped a deuce there on Opening Day.  His underwhelming performance combined with the team’s “swinging-at-air” offensive approach made game 1 of the 2018 season feel more like game 163 of the 2017 season.  Same dookie, different season.

While you may be tempted to crawl into your pillow fort for some day drinking to bide time until the next fiasco-in-waiting, please join me in stewing over this loss for the next two days instead.  So, if you enjoy long walks on heavily polluted beaches, bad poetry, and dancing in acid rain, here’s a quick summary of game 163.

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Ah, the Mets…

As I stood out just behind the right field bleachers at Busch Stadium talking to my friend Andy a few years ago, I asked him his thoughts on the Jason Heyward deal.  Andy’s quick-witted remark?  “Welcome to Baseball Purgatory, Mr. Heyward.  You’ll do fine here, but we all know you are looking at much bigger money and better things around the corner.”  He wasn’t wrong, and that’s hard for me to admit, because Andy was a Mets fan.

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Cards Acquire Ozuna

Various reports have confirmed St. Louis finally landed the weapon it needed. Marcell Ozuna will be wearing the Birds on the Bat but appears multiple pieces going back to the Marlins in the move.

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As the clock gets closer to welcoming Wednesday on the East Coast, very little movement surrounding St. Louis can lead to only two conclusions at the Winter Meetings. It would be unwise to count out the top brass for the Cardinals but at the same time, the trade market can be unforgiving once the dust clears.

It remains very likely that a shiny new offensive weapon is acquired, but possibly not in the next 48 hours as trades take much longer to complete. Rumors are still the only thing anyone can use at this point, however, and that makes for some frustrating keyboard refreshing.

Have no fear though fellow Birds on the Bat faithful, because there is always something to be thankful for while waiting for the other shoe to drop.

As interesting as the last week has been, it will be nice to not wake up and wonder which potential trade target has been flipped elsewhere or have to see the latest addition to the Baby Bears. Free agency was always going to pricey and seen as the weaker fit for the Cards due to the stockpile of prospects primed to play somewhere.

The best news for St. Louis at this point has been the lack of much movement, so that allows for the right deal on both sides. The options are plentiful but so are the risks anytime you must bring change into an organization. Baseball just happens to be the one business where not everyone has the same goal at the end of the day, and the time is right to take full advantage of those looking to sell.

We have been much too fortunate that going on nearly two decades now the team we root for has never felt the need to use the dreaded rebuild term or anything even remotely close to that. Now it is time to see how the future will look under the Arch and just what presents the front office has up their sleeves.

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Woke up from my writing hibernation to see well…not much has changed for the Birds on the Bat. It is early, however, so the time for panic can’t even be discussed until all the pieces are off the board. The Cardinals have sent the big guns down to Orlando in what quite possibly could be considered the most important week in a decade.

Before we break down the three categories to watch from now until my favorite December event, the Rule 5 Draft, it would be a mistake to not give my two cents on the moves St. Louis has already made. Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson are not the game-changing names fans want to see across the bottom of the screen, but they are winning hurlers that make the entire staff better.

Mikolas can slot into the middle of the rotation or keep a seat warm for Alex Reyes, something that truly could make the difference down the stretch. My take on this could be a six-man rotation to help keep everyone healthy, and in that case the former Japanese starter has the leg up on just about anyone else on preparing for that.

If having multiple starting options is important, don’t underestimate a veteran presence that can throw in any situation out of a relatively young bullpen. Gregerson has done it all over a successful career and is the right piece for the price before the rest of the relievers start getting goofy amounts of money. Bringing back a guy to where it all started is a nice story, but the reality has to be in the results.

Gregerson can be the missing piece to bridge to the closer-to-be-acquired or he can be the first man out to put out the fire. He has been a durable cog that makes others better around him, and those glue guys are worth the cost and roster spot any day of the week. And now for the main event, here’s where things stand heading into Day 1.

What We Know

The two additions to the pitching staff filled needs but also completed the current available spots on the 40-man roster. Any deals made going forward to the major league squad will require a corresponding move that frees up a home for a new Redbird. This shouldn’t be a huge obstacle given the two redundant parts of the roster happen to be the biggest needs across the game today.

If you need an outfielder, just look for a member of the Cardinals’ entourage. To say the roster is stacked with options is similar to knowing where Daniel will be for a certain movie coming out this weekend. Call this one a slam-dunk, but at least two outfielders currently on the 40-man will be dealt at some point in the near future.

Given that impact bat hasn’t made its way to the Arch just yet, the other area where St. Louis can hang with any other club happens to be on the prospect side from the mound. Memphis, Springfield, and Palm Beach all were well represented on the map when it comes to finding a possible game-changer. Those same options will be even more important this week in trying to make the NL Central a real race again.

Who You Got

The Stanton Sweepstakes has finally ended, letting everyone catch their breath and wonder what’s next. Depending on who you choose to follow, the names being brought up as potential options can be categorized in one word – plentiful.

There honestly are too many names to list so really it is all about opportunity and cost that will drive this train to the station. The free agent market for bats just isn’t that strong this off-season, so that hopefully is Plan B if things don’t work in the trade game. Now the decision needs to come down to basically one question and that is where to upgrade – pick an outfielder to swap or do you fill a hole somewhere in the infield?

Where There is Smoke

Try to enjoy this week as much as possible, especially if you are like me and can turn on the MLB Network for actual reporting instead of rumors. We all know Twitter dominates things now, but the misinformation truly has made it hard to get excited unless multiple sources are in agreement. Even then the truth normally resides somewhere in the middle, so prepare to ride the highs and lows right up until the eventual shocking conclusion.

Unfortunately at this time, the only ‘news’ that can be thrown out there before publication really is that Monday typically doesn’t lead to much this early. 24 hours can make all the difference, though, so keep those phones charged and expect the jaw-dropping moves at any moment!

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For a few weeks now, the goal has been trying to decide when to start the postseason previews for Memphis, Springfield, and the rest of the squads gearing up for September. At the same time, however, the Cardinals have been doing their best to keep the drama and suspense alive and well just about every day since the calendar flipped to August.

And I don’t know about you, but this week just give us a good comedy instead of a cliffhanger.

San Diego and Tampa Bay should be just the cure St. Louis needs for the dog days but wouldn’t you know nothing has gone to plan this season. Beginning tonight the rotation has Luke Weaver, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha in nearly permanent marker before the real fun begins. With the bullpen already running on fumes, another move is expected today just to get to the weekend when nobody knows what to think.

Memphis and Springfield both have possible answers to the Mike Leake riddle, but every option comes with post-credit questions and a laundry list of contingencies. Instead of waving the white flag, everyone knows the front office will continue to battle but at just what cost? It would make more sense at this point to trade for an established major league starter (even a rental) just to keep the minor league rotations intact.

Since it is a safe bet that at least a pair of moves will be made by Saturday, let’s break it down a few different ways. Check out these stats in case you were wondering why the easy answer has suddenly become a huge question mark.

Short-term

Unless an injury allows Mike Mayers a return trip (unlikely he would get the call), John Gant appears to be the latest Memphis recall winner for multiple reasons. Fully stretched out now, Gant can cover any innings limit and also happens to be on the 40-man roster.

In theory Sean Gilmartin or Rowan Wick also could be in play or both may simply be DFA candidates depending on how the needs are met the next 24 hours. Josh Lucas threw two more innings last night and his cup of coffee now empty, he would figure first in any demotion plan barring news on Trevor Rosenthal.

2018

One of the many things that has always fascinated me about the game of baseball doesn’t even occur while games are being played. Teams have a very small window after the season to determine who gets protected before the Rule 5 draft in December. One of the game’s best reporters has a must-read piece here, but the Cards have some decisions to make now. Two rotation options included in Goold’s story are on my list of potential call-ups that need a hard look simply because other teams won’t pass up the chance to grab either one this winter.

Austin Gomber and Matt Pearce have more positives than negatives but they both can help St. Louis in different ways and since they were drafted out of college in 2014, the pair needs 40-man protection this offseason. Gomber has been on fire as of late and surely would be in Memphis if not for anchoring a Springfield staff primed to go deep into the postseason. The southpaw also has plenty of innings left in the tank, currently sitting at 130 for the season after hurling 160 a year ago.

Pearce will be the most under-the-radar option but also has the best major league quality given he doesn’t walk batters. In 37 innings at Memphis, the RHP has given up the same number of home runs as he has issued free passes (7). Across the three highest levels of the minors last year, Pearce gave up only 26 walks in 160 frames, something every bullpen could use. He was promoted to AAA following the Marco Gonzales trade but could be the next one in line wondering his next stop if the Cards run out of 40-man spots.

Long-term

This is where things get tricky not only for the rest of this season but also why the DFA question has to be brought up with any other move. With the 40-man roster again full and no apparent move to the 60-day DL happening yet, an option such as Jack Flaherty remains a long shot in my opinion. While Gomber and Pearce face some bit of uncertainty for the next campaign, only a trade takes Flaherty out of the St. Louis system. He was selected out of high school in the same 2014 draft and doesn’t need 40-man protection this winter.

Two completely different schools of thought will determine what actually happens, though, since the Cardinals promoted Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong earlier this season looking for a spark. They were both position players who could impact the roster daily but neither needed to be added until after next year. That isn’t the main reason to take things slow with Flaherty even though many are hoping to see him start under the arch as soon as Saturday.

He has already reached a career-high for innings thrown and hasn’t worked out of the bullpen, something that may give the advantage to Dakota Hudson in case a limit has been ordered for either important piece of the future. It is extremely easy to say just call him up and go start-by-start but all that does is put yet another hole in the rotation at Memphis, which has been breaking long-time marks all year.

With this many moving pieces, the only thing anyone knows for sure has to be make sure your seat belt is fastened and tray table is stowed in the upright position. The Memphis merry-go-round has just begun the matinee portion of the show with the encore a must-see event!

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Today’s offering has been percolating for quite awhile now, as it is time to come clean on a few matters. The lack of moves at the trade deadline caused things to take a sinister tone via social media. It was time to unplug from Twitter as well as breaking my sleep schedule in hopes of catching the turnaround. A seemingly lost series in Cincy made all the difference and now everyone hopes the tank can be refilled.

No one who follows the Birds on the Bat can argue that not losing for over a week is anything but a blessing. With the 2017 Cardinals, however, it could very well count as a miracle.

Yes, not losing has to be more fun but are we just getting our hopes up for an eventual September stumble to remember? Initially, the calendar seemed to smile on St. Louis after the grueling August schedule although that could merely be a mirage on the horizon. Any West Coast swing proves daunting, especially when you are facing a pair of teams with nothing to lose.

The Cardinals will need a San Francisco treat in order to take that series before jetting down the coast to Petco Park for a Labor Day matinee that I had previously marked as a do-or-die spot around the trade deadline. San Diego offers much more than just nice weather, but that four game stretch offers the final chance to make up any ground outside the National League Central.

Twenty-three straight divisional games fill out the remainder of the schedule, with four teams fighting for the postseason and the Reds playing the spoiler role. Any timeline allowing for wiggle room between now and September has been outdated with the standings proving just how crucial even a two-game swing can make a difference this week.

The pit-stop in Boston is fun for the fans and even more vital given how well the Red Sox have been playing. One nice break for St. Louis will be no Chris Sale and also no chance of playing short-handed. The front office has enough weapons stashed away in Memphis to field another team, so that 10-day disabled list surely will come into play if Jedd or anyone else needs a breather before the calendar flips.

Most of the attention has been on the two NL Central front runners this summer and for good reason. Chicago and Milwaukee are going to be solid competition for years to come with their youthful rosters and smart GM’s calling the shots. That’s why everyone has all but written off the Pirates, and they are the team that everyone should not discount. Including the all-important four game set this weekend, Pittsburgh only sees the Dodgers next week outside of the division for the next month.

Playing 27 of your next 31 games against divisional opponents can turn the race upside down in a hurry, something the Pirates are no stranger to in recent memory. They would love nothing more than to catch the Brewers and then the Cardinals by Sunday and build up plenty of momentum before hosting LA. With the standings as close as ever, the only team St. Louis fans can actually root for are the Reds who can become everyone’s best friend very soon.

With the playoffs right around the corner for Memphis and Springfield, time will tell how the final chapter gets written for the Birds on the Bat. Oh, there are so many literary works that could be used so choose your favorite and keep both hands and feet inside the ride at all times – this roller coaster is just beginning!

 

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