Yesterday afternoon, as the rain that turned to sleet came pouring down outside my home, I laid on the couch in front of my television watching a scene that might as well have been on another planet. Warm sunshine, fans tanning in the bleachers or on the grass, and glorious Cardinal baseball. It seemed so incongruous compared to my current surroundings, but I didn’t care. It might be winter here (which is crazy talk for Arkansas in March) but spring has a foothold in these United States and, like most great armies, it’ll take that foothold and start expanding its territory soon.
So what have we seen so far out of three games in Florida? We’ve seen the Cardinals lose to the Marlins twice, which would normally be a cause for concern (and, apparently, actually was to a certain high-strung portion of the fan base) if it wasn’t the fact that, for the most part, these games were played with folks that won’t see St. Louis this season, if at all. We saw them put a nice number up on the Mets Sunday, getting their first win.
We’ve not seen Yadier Molina catch, which is also a good thing. Yadi’s doing a fair share of DHing, but he’s saving his knees and squats for the season, mainly, which is when they actually matter.
We’ve seen Randal Grichuk make some waves early, including another powerful double yesterday. Even though Peter Bourjos was the focal point of that David Freese trade, Grichuk doesn’t appear to be chopped liver. It’s interesting to see the idea in that article that Grichuk, given his power, might force his way into a discussion as a bench bat. It seems like a pretty good stretch for that to happen, especially given the makeup of the outfield as it looks now and as it will look when Oscar Taveras gets the call, but I guess stranger things have happened.
The only thing that we’ve seen, or rather not seen, that might cause any consternation are the at-bats by Kolten Wong. It’s interesting to hear from a number of sources (Fox Sports Midwest, the Post-Dispatch, quotes from Mike Matheny) that Wong is a guy that might put a lot of pressure on himself. It’s not something that we’ve heard before about Wong or, honestly, much about any player. Wong’s at-bats this spring, which admittedly amount to about four or five, haven’t necessarily looked as promising as you’d like for a guy that could start stressing. He’s struck out at least three times and not necessarily on borderline pitches. His strikeout Saturday had him halfway waving at an outside pitch, a completely ugly looking hack at a ball that didn’t seem to be that deceptive.
With Mark Ellis out there, the Cards aren’t necessarily going to worry terribly much about Wong just yet. However, for his peace of mind, getting a few hits–even a few hard-hit balls, perhaps–might let him rest a little easier and things might begin to flow. It’s hard to know from the little we’ve seen of him, but so far he’s not shown the form that we’ve been expecting given his minor league credentials. I expect it will come and there’s no reason to hit the panic button yet, but it’s the only minor flaw in the ointment that is this first weekend of baseball.
It looks like the team leadership is fully backing new shortstop Jhonny Peralta. When you have Molina and Adam Wainwright on your side, you are going to win over any detractors very quickly, whether they are in the clubhouse or sitting in the easy chair in front of their big screen. I’m interested to see what Peralta will bring to the lineup and the field, but it sounds like whatever his production may be, he’s not going to upset the apple cart in the clubhouse, which is a big deal with this organization.
Again, it’s been just three games. Let’s see where we are next Monday before we make any snap judgments. Though I will say it’s a bit strange to see the Cards playing in the red jerseys. Matheny says he wants folks to earn their uniform and I can respect that, though it’d be quite interesting if they’d let folks mix and match. Say seeing Wainwright and Molina out there in the home whites while Shane Robinson and Pete Kozma have the reds. Forget the red tag in the locker, you’d know you’d made it when the full uniform was hanging there.
Let’s look at our Cardinal Approval Ratings for today as we enter the home stretch on these things. Our player today is Michael Wacha, who pitched Sunday and admitted that he was too excited for the task, but he’s just trying to make the team. That’s a fair contrast to some others we could name, but we’ll not get into that right now. Wacha has had a wild ride in the majors so far, something that’s reflected here in his first ever mark of 86.7%. Seven perfect scores and the lowest mark he saw was a 65%. Being the NLCS MVP gets you a lot of leeway, I expect.
Last year, I goofed and put only eight media members on the ballot. This year, I forgot I goofed last year and didn’t correct that oversight. So we finish up the middle portion of the ratings with the man most everyone loves to hate, Joe Strauss. Strauss, whose snarky attitude and condescension on Twitter tend to overshadow the fact that he usually gets some good scoops and information, always brings up the rear when it comes to these things. This is his fourth year on the ballot and in the first three, he cracked 60% just once. This year was no different, as he basically held steady this year at 54.4%. He got six zeros, one 0.1% and a number of votes that were in the single digits. Who knows what kind of barb he’d toss at this post if he actually read it.
Jose Oquendo is our miscellaneous subject for Monday. Oquendo, who looked like the manager in waiting until Matheny came along, now looks like the person that may most embody The Cardinal Way, unless you count the old Redhead. Oquendo has a lot of goodwill from being part of those legendary teams of the ’80s, which is why he’s usually in the B/B+ range on these scores. He’s right there again this year, with his personal high of 88.0%. Ten 100s and a low of 65. Probably helps there’s not been any high-profile outs at home after he’s waved a runner recently.
We’ll talk about those former rivals from Texas this afternoon in Playing Pepper, so be sure to come back for that discussion!