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.”
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.”