Red Birds, Yellow Bat

Big Moves

John Mozeliak is a pragmatist. For as pallid as pragmatism can be, it’s a highly coveted trait for a baseball executive. At least it should be. No team owner wants to wake up to find his GM made a franchise altering trade or signing based on a gut feeling or a moment of enlightenment found deep in the throes of an acid flashback. Rationale is always welcome.

Thankfully, Mozeliak sees the transactional side of the Major League Baseball sphere with Terminator-esque clarity, accounting for all variables and weighing all options, no matter how absurd on the surface, yet ultimately settling for moves that strike a nice balance between risk and reward. Or maybe he’s just hoarding his young pitching and desperately afraid to move a Faberge egg or two off the mantelpiece. I mean, at this point, the team is looking at a healthy competition for the 8th starter role, if such a thing existed.

Whether fear or shrewdness was the driving factor for throwing 52 million American dollars at Jhonny Peralta, in hindsight, it was an obvious move. It helps to think of Jhonny as a treasure chest. Mozeliak gathered up Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, and a first round draft pick and locked them inside a 31 year old shortstop who may or may not retain the mobility needed to see the position through for 4 years. He paid a $52 million retainer for the privilege and swallowed the key. And while the baseline for upgrading shortstop in St. Louis was incredibly low, there’s a decent chance Peralta ends up a top 5 player at the position in 2014. That’s a nice little bonus on top of keeping your young assets off the trade market, or it was the driving factor of the deal. You decide.

Then to prove even squares like to party, Mo shipped off folk hero David Freese and change for arguably the most exciting defensive center fielder on the planet and a legit, if flawed, prospect. When clubhouse chemistry and popular opinion are at stake, the Freese for Bourjos deal could be read as whimsical or down right rash decision making. In the absence of a legit fallback option at 3B or 2B, which could yet be rectified this off-season, it saddles Kolten Wong with the responsibility of being an everyday major leaguer in the absence of any proof he can be such a thing. Less frightening, it’s a bet that Matt Carpenter’s 7 win season was not a flash in the pan and a parlay on regression only sucking a win or three off his 2013 numbers, with offensive regression being slightly mitigated by a move to third.

Then again… Peter Bourjos. I mean, someone out there took time out of their lives to sync up Bourjos highlights to 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite. That’s special.

It’s fair to say these deals hug that cozy center line that drives through risk and reward. In one interpretation, Mozeliak saddled himself to an aging PED user who scouts will tell you is not a shortstop, then traded a hometown hero and bounce back candidate for an oft-injured bird in the bush who might struggle to hit. The other interpretation is that it was two more calculated moves from a GM who continues to unearth low-risk/high-reward opportunities for the club while mother-ducking his youngsters from prospects to big league contributors. And while the flame of the hot stove flickers and seduces and pleads for a blow-up move, it feels like we’re getting another sensible off-season for Christmas.

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Let’s Do This Again

For the next four to seven games, and the agonizing hours of wait between them, everything I touch will be an omen. I’ll search for clues in sleep and speech and spend every conscious moment mentally bending the spoon in favor of the Cardinals. I mean, they beat Kershaw twice to get here. How hard could this really be?

It won’t be easy. They never are. Every mental permutation comes out the same shade of blurred, indecipherable mess that runs down the walls and won’t stick. Earth has spun on it’s axis a few thousand times since, players and coaches have come and gone, other Championships were grasped, yet I still can’t keep 2004 from running its dirty nails down the center of my spine. I’ll fixate until the wound is patched.

I seethe at that four game sweep of the top Cardinal lineup of my lifetime. For as capable as my brain is of craving the majestic, it anchors in reality. And all I have to touch and feel going into this is the disaster of 2004. I remember beards. It’s deja vu all over again.

But through waves of gut-wrenching doubt, I remember that nothing is the same. There’s nothing to be gleaned from that series. Though, I could warp the minds of the despondent Cardinal faithful huddling out of Busch that night if I traveled back and explained 2006, 20011, and Matheny managing Yadier and how Carp felled a rib to birth Wacha. I’d be the most welcome prophet. I’d kick Jimmy Fallon square in the throat.

Here’s to hoping the Cardinal kiddos of 2013 are too talented and/or dumb to realize what’s at stake – most of them weren’t born in 2004 anyway. Here’s to the return Allen Craig. Here’s to the 2013 National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  Here’s to France, the moon whose magic rays move the tides of the world*.

*I was looking for a powerful toast to cap this one off and that’s what Google gave me. Go Cards. Cards in 3.

 

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On August 28th, the Cincinnati Reds torched Adam Wainwright for 9 runs spread over two gruesome innings. Despite striking out his last two batters faced, the damage was done and there was little incentive to keep him in any longer. Matheny went to the pen and called on Michael Wacha for mop up work. The Reds had a win expectancy of 98.1% at this point. The result was set in stone. Wacha proceeded to whiff 7 over 4 scoreless and give the team a minor, moral victory in an otherwise forgettable 10-0 slaughter.

On May 30th, Wacha made his major league debut in a replacement start of John Gast (remember that?), taking a hard luck loss to the Royals in a 4-2 game despite striking out 6 and allowing 2 hits over 7 innings. He was dusted by Arizona for 6 runs and 10 hits in his next start, then threw a solid, yet unspectacular 6 innings against the Mets before being optioned back to Memphis to clear a roster spot for Jake Westbrook. After some calculated rest, the flux of the rotation in St. Louis called for help, and Wacha came back up and threw a nondescript 5 innings against the Cubs before spending the better part of August coming out of the bullpen.

Then the aforementioned Cincinnati long-relief appearance, followed by 7 strong versus the Pirates, a scuffle with the Mariners, and a lambasting at Coors. It was a prototypical growing pains/flashes of brilliance dichotomy of a season for a talented rookie having his first go of it. At this point, though, it was simply good enough. He got some big league work and laid track for the future.

And then a switch flipped. In his final start of the regular season, Wacha came within one out of a no-hitter. He followed it up with a 7 inning no-hit bid in an elimination game on the road in the NLDS. Then he notched a 1-0 victory in game 2 of the NLCS opposing Clayton Kershaw. To give you real insight into how he’s pitched in the playoffs, he’s been fortunate to strand 100% of runners on base and limiting hitters to a .167 BABIP. But he’s struck out 17 in 14 innings and given up one run. Most importantly, he’s given the Cardinals 14 spectacular innings that the team was in doubt on how to fill going in. The consensus thought on the rotation heading to the playoffs was Wainwright and pray for rain. As it stands, Wacha’s been invaluable.

 

 

 

 

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Shane Robinson doesn’t look like much of a ballplayer. Listed at 5’9″ and weighing slightly more than a buck fifty, he’s not going to win any “good body” praise from scouts. If he were to walk past you on the street, he’d appear a perfectly averaged sized human male, but in professional baseball, he’s knee high in a land of giants.

Players with Shane’s stature are typically associated with one thing: speed. Find an athlete that’s 5’9″ and lean, and 9.7 times out of 10 you’ll find a speed demon capable of beating a jackrabbit in a footrace. Hyperbole and generalization aside, there are certain expectations that arise when I look at a baseball player like Shane Robinson. I expect him to cover more ground in the outfield than the Union Pacific Railroad and to steal bases by the bunch.

Given 50 opportunities this season, Shane Robinson is a perfect 5 for 5 on stolen base attempts. 5 measly stolen bases won’t light up a stat sheet, but attempting a stolen base on 10% of your opportunities and walking away with a clean slate is solid work. And while he’s never registered a season of 20 or more stolen bases in his professional career, it’s largely due to the lack of opportunities that comes with being a part-time player.

In 147 innings in center field this season, his primary position when he enters the game, Shane’s posted a mark of 3.8 runs above average according to UZR. He has a range factor of 5.2 runs above average. We’re dealing with an incredibly small sample size here, and defensive metrics can fluctuate wildly over small samples, still it remains that Shane has been a positive in the field and covers a bit a ground. It is true that there’s more to being a good defender than being quick, but it often helps outfielders track down sharply hit balls and can mask deficiencies in route running and defensive placement.

There’s little doubt that Robinson’s speed has a lot to due with him making the big leagues. But I’d be lying to myself if I thought he could be a  prolific base stealer or defensive savant, given the opportunity to play more. I think he simply puts good use to what he has on the basepaths and in the field. But in one of the nicer surprises of the 2013 season, it’s what Shane’s done at the plate that’s shattered my perception of him.

Shane had a monster spring training. I’m not going to bother looking up the stats, because spring training stats don’t matter, and that’s precisely why we didn’t make much of it at the time. In hindsight, we can now think of it as his coming out party. Maybe I’ll pay more attention next February (unlikely).

Some context is need here, though. Shane is having a monster season in no way, shape, or form. We’re talking about a player who’s hitting .282 with 2 home runs and 12 batted in. Yet, in 128 plate appearances, he’s got an OBP near .400. He’s walking at a Votto-esque rate of 17.2% and has lashed 25 laser beam singles. The walk rate will undoubtedly be coming back down to Earth at some point, but it’s fun while it’s lasting.

All this to say someone should pat Shane on the back and congratulate him the next time they see him. It’s clear he showed up to Jupiter this spring ready to make the most of any opportunities thrown his way. Things like this make the season all that more enjoyable. And the next time a national broadcaster heralds the Cardinals and their ability to unearth and extract value out of players who don’t fit the traditional mold, remember they’re talking about guys like Shane Robinson.

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The UCB Project for the month of August is for the members of the group to interview each other. I had the pleasure of talking with Kevin Reynolds from stlcardsnstuff.com. Please enjoy the Q&A, check out his site, and make sure to follow him on Twitter.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself away from the keyboard?

Well, other than the obvious (a lifelong Cardinals fan), I have a beautiful family with a four-year old little girl, a 14-year old son, and a wonderful wife. I tend to work constantly, not necessarily by choice but rather by necessity. During the day, I’m a Technical Writer for a software company, but in the evenings I see marriage and family clients as a licensed professional counselor in Missouri. And that’s where my heart truly is, in counseling. While I love to write, it took me a while to realize that my writing is a personal passion. It’s through my place as a counselor that I look to impact others around me. And, just to fill up the corners a bit, I’m a freelance writer for Yahoo! Sports (the Cardinals beat) and usually-regular-sometimes-sporadic blogger at www.stlcardsnstuff.com.
What made you decide to start blogging? What brought you to the UCB?
Already having a passion for writing, a bachelor’s degree in writing, and a job as a professional writer, it was really just a natural progression of events that my writing life would one day collide with my fan boy life. After the 2004 World Series loss to the Red Sox, I was so devastated that I needed an outlet. Blogging was that outlet. And once I started, I couldn’t stop. Having the ability to contribute to the national conversation about baseball was addictive, especially for a sport that shares such a romantic relationship and history with print media. Of course, writers love writing communities — workshops, gatherings, etc. — and the UCB was something I stumbled upon while reading Daniel Shoptaw’s blog at cardinal70.com. It was a perfect fit.
Who is your all-time favorite Cardinal?
For a long time, that was a simple, quick, and direct answer. Ozzie Smith. He was my childhood favorite and still gets me excited at the thought of meeting him some day. But over time, I’ve come to appreciate the older Cardinals much more than before. Bob Gibson fascinates me, with his attitude, athleticism, and sheer dominance on the mound. Lou Brock, for anyone who has had the chance to interact with him at Spring Training, is like everyone’s generous and kind grandfather. But still, Stan Musial tops them all with the perfect combination of all aspects of the game and humanity.
What is your most memorable Cardinal experience?
Honestly, my most memorable experiences have come rather recently. Being an adult Cardinal fan is kind of like being a kid …but with your own money and no one to tell you what you can’t do :). Number one, though, has to be getting the opportunity after the 2011 World Series to attend Winter Warm-up as a member of the media, press pass and all. Getting the chance to shake hands with players and coaches, talk with them, and essentially do the dream writing job we would all love to have — even just for a weekend — was indescribable. To make things even better, I was able to attend the baseball writer’s dinner when they were celebrating both the 2011 World Series and the anniversary of the 1982 World Series, so players from the 2011 team were on the same stage as Ozzie Smith and Whitey Herzog. Oh…and I was allowed to attend a VIP reception with greats like Lou Brock and Whitey before the dinner. All in all, one heckuva weekend in St. Louis.
Where were you when Freese hit the homerun?
I was at home…wallowing in self-pity…tweeting angrily that we had given away the series, lost in the previous game, blah blah blah…and then BAM! He nailed the triple that tied the game. Everything changed. I said to my wife, “Even if they don’t win, that moment was almost enough!” Then Hamilton hit his homer. And I said to my wife, “I hate Hamilton (then, one of her favorite players) and will always hate him for as long as I live!” Then Freese hit his homer…and we all flipped out in the living room (well, I flipped out…my kids were sleeping…and my wife was half ecstatic half exasperated with having to go through the experience of hearing me complain during fits of depression for possibly one more game). And I love that you only have to ask the question about “the homerun”…and we all know what you’re talking about.
If you were GM for a day, what changes (if any) would you make to the 2013 team?
I would promote Ryan Jackson and give him a shot. I love Pete Kozma — his story, his style of play, his approach, etc. — but he’s a hole in the lineup right now. Everyone talks about Jackson’s regression and BABIP factor, but compared to Pete Kozma right now, the dude’s Joe Dimaggio. I think Kozma could have a place on this team as a utility man, but history suggests the Cardinals are going to look for more eventually at SS. Might as well see what they have in Jackson first while also seeing if the rest Jackson can give Kozma can restore Pete’s swing a bit.
Also, I would slot Martinez and Wacha both in the rotation and remove either Lynn or Westbrook for a time. Lynn is outstanding — except for that whole big inning problem — and Jake has the ability to be that veteran, ground ball starter…but right now, both are costing us games. Let Wacha and Martinez pitch start-to-start, each time earning another game, and give Westbrook and Lynn a rest for a couple weeks. Then, throw both back in to see what they’ve got in September. I wouldn’t want either Martinez or Wacha throwing starts in the postseason if I can avoid it, so getting either Lynn or Westbrook right to man the fourth spot behind Waino, Kelly, and Miller would be ideal. Then, Wacha and/or Martinez can be the quick-hook long men to back up the starters in October.
What do you like most about blogging? Least?
I love the community of writers — the UCB and how we interact with the professional scribes — the most. Being able to connect, discuss, and collaborate is a lot of fun. I also love the opportunities blogging has created, like getting to participate in UCB days at Busch and attend WWU as a member of the press. Probably the least favorite thing about blogging is the difficulty in building momentum for the site. You have to keep at it and do as much as you can to create consistency on your site — just like the professionals — except it’s not your job. You have to do it in your “free time”. That’s hard to do with a family.
Who is your favorite blogger? Cardinal related or otherwise.
I think my favorite Cardinal blogger — from a content perspective — is Bob Netherton. I don’t get to read him as often as I would like, but there’s real value in the historical memory-keeping that Bob offers. As “a person,” I love the man that Daniel Shoptaw is for all of us. His heart and dedication comes out in his interactions with people and is the real glue that makes the UCB and what it is possible.
What one piece of Cardinal memorabilia/history would you love to own? 
Oh, wow. Hmmm…how about the bat Stan Musial used to hit his famous All-Star Game-winning homer? Or the one he used to stroke his 3,000th hit? But you know…I’ve always wanted to have a small theater room in my house to watch movies and baseball games, complete with a mini concession stand. How cool would it be to have a 5-seat row that consisted of two seats from Sportsman’s Park, two seats from old Busch, and one seat from current Busch? That would be cool…watching the Cardinals play in October while sitting in the same seats used to watch Musial, Gibson, etc. That’s magic.

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One of the great truisms of professional sports is the importance for a team to have control over it’s own destiny. In the strictest interpretation, on opening day or kickoff weekend or first puck drop, every team competing controls their own fate that season. We know this isn’t fully true – some teams simply don’t have the quality of personnel needed to will their way to anything. But, for the most part, if you play well enough, you can chart your own course and sail smoothly into the playoffs.

The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds all project to win 90+ games this season. All have played well enough to earn a month long victory lap to close out. But instead of resting achy veterans for the postseason and giving extended looks to September call-ups, the teams will fight tooth and nail for the division title and the privilege of escaping the Wild Card coin flip game. The Cardinals are currently navigating a 13 game onslaught of intra-division madness, where each contest figures to be fought for like it’s the last. The collective mood of us fans will surely rise and fall with each pitch.

It’s logical to think the balance of the season hinges on this stretch against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It very well might. When we look back, we might point to late August as the turning point, for better or worse. Or the Cardinals could come out on the other end with little more clarity of their future than they currently have. And that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world – the team closes out the season with 19 games against sub-.500 teams.

Channeling my inner Hawk Harrelson: This is what teams play for. You can only ask to have control of your own fate. As baseball fans, we can’t ask for much more. As much as we’d like the team to have a 9 game lead, the exhilaration of a honest-to-goodness pennant chase can’t be beat. And if it doesn’t shake out exactly how we want, we can hang our hats on a chance at the play-in game. This is fun.

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Too Close To Call

As Summer melts away and the end of the regular season approaches at breakneck speed, we’re all awash in anticipation of the offseason and the announcement of baseball’s major award winners. If we had it our way, we’d call it all off this very moment, raffle off the Commissioner’s Trophy, and get straight to the good stuff. Can Francisco Liriano hold off Marlon Byrd for the NL Comeback Player of the Year award? It’s worse than waiting for the Breaking Bad finale.

But, if you’re like me and can’t possibly digest the excitement a second longer, we can turn to respected baseball writers, turned discount fortune tellers:

And there you have it. Scratch the NL Cy Young off the list. Just like that Maserati I’m getting for Christmas this year, it’s all but wrapped up. Only formalities, like financing, remain. Never mind that Adam Wainwright has a nearly identical season, featuring more complete games (4) and a historically low walk rate (3.4%):

And, to make the most of this palm reading, THE GREAT HEYMAN kindly asks that you forget Matt Harvey exists:

That’ll be $45.

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We Need A Bailout

Today, in a companion piece to his 2013 Trade Value series, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs provided his take on the five least trade-able assets in baseball. It comes with little surprise that it’s a list of high-priced position players locked into sweeping contracts that pay them bookoo bucks through their decline years. The other unifying theme is that all of the players are having down seasons in 2013, except for Alex Rodriguez, who simply hasn’t played a game yet this year due to injury — he also makes 89 cents per second and figures to be excommunicated from baseball for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. Kudos to Alex for making the Ryan Howard contract attractive by comparison.

And who was number one on the list, you ask?

via Fangraphs:

Pujols 1

Oh, Albert. Say it ain’t so.

Long gone are the days when Cardinal top brass would strut around proud as punch knowing they owned the single most valuable asset in the game. Gone are the days of caviar production on a canned tuna budget. There’ll be no more Ruthian-like 9+ win seasons for a shade over $900k. Gone, gone, gone. From here on out, Pujols is a bloated corpse floating face-down in a pool of excess.

And my motive is not to poke fun or become melancholy remembering what once was. It’s simply fascinating how rapidly things turned upside down. It’s also astonishing to think that, when it’s all said and done, Albert Pujols could be the owner of the best contract ever handed out by a club and the worst. Yin and yang.

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Breaking Out

Matt Carpenter has been the most valuable second baseman in baseball this season. His batting average (.321) is good for 8th in the game, OBP (.394) 11th, and his 28 doubles lead the National League. At 4.4 fWAR, Carpenter ranks as one of the top 10 overall players in baseball this year. And while prominent defensive metrics, such as UZR, have him as a scratch fielder (-0.1), he passes the eye test in the field and has made his fair share of diving stops and difficult catches. More importantly, Carpenter has not only solidified the jumbled mess that was the second base position for the Cardinals in 2012 (cumulative .06 fWAR), he’s made it a position of strength.

Barring complete system failure, Carpenter will obliterate his pre-season projections and our wildest Opening Day fantasies of what we thought he could be. As it stands, Carpenter is projected to best his initial ZiPS projection by 4 full wins. That’s bananas. He’s most certainly in the conversation with players like Chris Davis and Carlos Gomez as the breakout star of 2013 and may very well find himself in the NL MVP debate if he keeps it up. As of press time, Matt is in the salsa capital of the world, New York City, enjoying his first All-Star Game appearance.

As with any player who exceeds expectations so furiously and pole vaults into the top tier at his position, the only real question to ask is, “How long can he keep it up?” A skeptic sees the regression cliff  right around the bend for Matt, while the eternal optimist and message board GM figures it’s high time Kolten Wong got traded for a rent-a-starter because Carpenter’s got the second base game on lock down and everyone knows you can’t trade Freese. And if we knew the answer to what the future holds for Matt Carpenter, we would huddle together and devise a plan to make money off of the information. As it stands, we can only take a stab at projecting it.

Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs already did that with his updated ZiPS projections for 2013, and the results are disconcerting. ZiPS sees a sizable drop coming for Matt Carpenter in the second half in every meaningful measure of a hitter’s salt: OBP, SLG, wOBA, wRC+. Where Matt put up 4.4 wins to this point, ZiPS see’s him adding a measly 1.6 wins the rest of the way – a massive disappointment for those of us wanting an 8 win season from a position we were praying would be league average only a few months ago. In reality, if Carpenter finishes a +6 win player in 2013, we should have our head examined if we feel even a trace of disappointment.

But digging deeper into Carpenter’s performance in the batter’s box this season, there are some glimmering bright spots in his batted ball profile and plate discipline stats that explain his success to date and suggest he’s probably just a damn good hitter. When you watch Carpenter hit, you think, “Wow. He really smacks that ball on the nose.” And that is confirmed by his 26.6 line drive percentage – good for 7th of all qualified hitters in baseball. You also feel like he makes contact at an astounding rate, which is confirmed by a 90.5% contact rate on balls he swings at – good for 11th in all of baseball. Lastly, you applaud him for having a “good eye” and not swinging at junk. And this is confirmed by an absurdly low 22.2 O-Swing% (percentage of balls outside of the traditional strike zone that a batter swings at). Add that up, and you have a hitter who often hits the ball hard and doesn’t chase.  That’s a recipe for success.

While there’s always a worry that pitcher’s will figure out a guy riding a heat wave like Carpenter and start to pick at his weak spots, a quick look at his heat map from the season to date doesn’t show a lot of weakness. From the graph, we can see that he’s vulnerable against balls up-and-in (0/20) and has had trouble laying off some pitches due south of the middle of the plate (1/17), but otherwise he shows tremendous plate coverage. And while Carpenter’s walk rate is merely good (9.6%, 54th in baseball), he often doesn’t feel the need to take a walk because he’s busy roping doubles.

Via Brooksbaseball.net:

Carpenter Heat Map

Few things are a given in life and even fewer in baseball. It’s entirely possible that the first 3 months and change of 2013 have created wildly unrealistic expectations for fans and aren’t indicative of Matt’s true talent level. Knocking squarely on wood, Carpenter could hit a rough patch coming out of the break and eventually steer out of the skid and level off somewhere well below his current production level. It’s possible. But it’s more likely the Cardinals knew exactly what they were doing when they told Carpenter to prepare to play second base this off season. It’s more likely Matt Carpenter was waiting for his chance to break out.

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Since we last spoke, things are on the up and up for the Cardinals. For as much as the six game stand in Oakland and Anaheim twisted my soul into knots, this weekend’s dusting of the Marlins and the anticipation of getting fat on the Astros and Cubs has me wide-eyed and chipper. It also helped that Pittsburgh dropped two of three to the Cubs, bringing the Cardinals back into a tie for 1st place. And while Miami has become the pinata of Major League Baseball – a team that good teams are supposed to pound – any one who has been forced to watch the 2013 Marlins undoubtedly comes away thinking the same thing: they aren’t THAT bad. It’s a young team that makes bonehead mistakes and is cutting its teeth on the fly, but there’s enough talent and 95 mph fastballs there to kill you if you don’t have your shield up. So, it was nice to see the team win all three and pull out a couple of tough games.

Pete Kozma returned to the starting lineup on Sunday and promptly went 0-2 with a walk on 7 pitches. Before you get too excited about that base on balls, I’ll point out that it was of the intentional variety and not of Kozma’s making. Basically, Kozma’s day was 2 outs made on 3 pitches. That’s efficiency. It’s also nondescript other than for the fact that Kozma’s in a funk like Bootsy Collins and was given 3 games off to clear his head and practice his swing out of sight, with the hopes that he’d return and not do things like make 2 outs on three pitches.

Lance Lynn pitched a solid game on Sunday, going 7 innings and striking out 7, while only surrendering two runs. More impressively, Lynn managed to tuck another W in his pocket despite the “he’s going to give it away” cloud that hovered over his head all day. And while that cloud was a figment of the overly paranoid imagination of this dedicated fan, a cloud that forms far too often for my liking and flat out ruins a host of otherwise enjoyable games, I still can’t help but worry a bit about Lance Lynn. Lance is a win factory, he’s 29-10 since the start of the 2012 season. He’s also enjoyed a heaping helping of run support from his teammates – Lynn led all qualified pitchers in 2012 and is third in support in 2013. He pitched his way into the 2012 All-Star Game in July, then posted an ominous 6.66 ERA in August.

And here’s the point where you rightfully call me an ingrate. You say, “Oi! Your team is 19 games above .500, tied for the best record in the game, and has a +122 run differential.” All kidding aside, look at that run differential. Ridiculous. But, my response is that I know these things, and they bring me an incalculable amount of joy, but, in my experience, part of being a fan is pointing out everything your team could be doing better all the way up until they win the Championship. Then you soak yourself in beer and happy tears for three days, then go back to saying things like, “if they don’t get a decent SS for next year, I’ll quit watching.” Being a fan is not dissimilar from being an overbearing grandmother. And is it so wrong to want it all? No. And honestly, my complaints are minimal right now. As it stands, the Cardinals have a 96.5% chance of making the playoffs, according to some computer algorithm which also has the Marlins clinging to a 0.1% playoff rope. Take it for what’s it worth. Either way, life’s good right now. Until next week…

 

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Rising Water

Around 6:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, I was slapped awake by the crackle and flash of a lightning bolt. Split seconds later, a sonic boom of thunder hit that rattled the glass of my bedroom window and set off a car alarm in the distance. When the generators blew, they gave off three quick snaps of gunfire. From the street below, I heard a man roar, “back up!” Then the sound of waves of heavy rain and wind that swayed and rustled the trees.

I peeled the blinds expecting to see a war zone. Instead, I saw a white Accord stuck in four feet of water in the middle of the intersection. I peeked my head out the window and looked down and quickly understood the building was now an island and the basement was undoubtedly filling with water. I snatched my keys off the table and ran towards the door and slammed my feet into shoes. I hurdled down the stairs two at a time and rushed out into the eerie morning gray. Thick, cold rain drops hit my shirt and stung my skin.

I pressed the unlock button on the key and mistook the beep and flash of the break lights on my car as a cry for help.  I ran and hopped in and slammed the door and stabbed the key into the ignition. Then, like a Benny Hill skit, I circled the parking lot, first trying to escape, then trying to find the driest parking spot when I realized I was trapped. I settled on the area typically reserved as a loading zone, marked by yellow stripes that scream, “No parking!” But it’s every man for himself when disaster strikes.

As I stood under the overhang and willed the water away from my car, my neighbors started to filter outside in their pajamas. They seemed less concerned. Turns out, the same thing happened five years ago. They said the only thing I should be shocked by is the city’s reluctance to fix their drainage problem. Someone pulled up a weather app and said the radar looked “clean” and the rain would stop in 10-15 minutes.  And it did. By 11:30, the water receded enough for me to get dressed and head to work.

After all of that, I still had to go to work.

And that was the second worst day I had this month. The winner of the worst day of June 2013 is Sunday, June 30th — the day the Cardinals blew a 5-2 lead in Oakland and fell two games behind the Pittsburgh motherlovin’ Pirates in the Central division. And good for them. Well deserved and nice ballpark and long time comin’… yadi yada. PUKE. And now that I’ve lived through both disasters, I can say without reservation that watching Ty Wigginton play baseball at age 35 is worse than watching flood water stalk my car. Unlike Johnny Mo, I had the comfort of knowing insurance money would pick up some of the tab of my underwater asset. Here’s hoping to something well north of .500 ball for Redbirds in July.

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UCB Project: June

The UCB project for June requires us to dream up our ideal St. Louis Cardinal Hall of Fame exhibit. So, without jest, here are five Cardinal-related attractions I’d plan a vacation around:

1) Anything to do with Stan the Man.

2) An entire wing of Albert Pujols worship.

3) Freese’s home run ball.

4) A Curt Flood jersey.

5) A room with stark, white walls and wooden benches that plays LaRussa post-game interviews on a loop. Maybe the projectionist slices in the Clockwork Orange eyeball frame every 45 seconds.

LaRussa Quote1

Clockwork

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