Carnage Reigned (Rained) at Miller Park

It is still a little less than a month into the new baseball season, and things have already turned sour for the St. Louis Cardinals.  A routine series in Milwaukee this past weekend will not long be forgotten for its incredible run of very bad luck.  By the time the team left Milwaukee to return to St. Louis, many in Cardinal Nation were thinking that Miller Park was possessed by evil spirits.

Injuries, one of them severe, have left Cardinal Nation stunned and shell shocked.  First of all, Yadier Molina has been sidelined for several days by an injury to his knee as a result of a foul tip during Friday’s game.  Unable to play for the remainder of the series, it is hoped Molina won’t be sidelined for long.  Tony Cruz filled in for the injured Molina in the last two games of the series.

Right fielder Jason Heyward suffered a groin strain in Sunday’s game chasing after a ball in the right field corner at Miller Park.  He is listed as day to day, his return to the lineup unknown.  During that same game, Mark Reynolds came face to face, literally, with the left center field wall while making a catch at the warning track.  Reynolds lay on the ground for a short time, but by the time the Cardinals’ trainer, sprinting to the rescue, got to him, Reynolds was at least on his feet.  After an initial evaluation, Reynolds remained in the game (knowing who he was and where he was at the time, we hope).

However, by far the most devastating injury is the loss, probably for the remainder of the season, of staff pitching ace Adam Wainwright, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury in Saturday’s game while taking an at bat in the fifth inning.  Wainwright stumbled out of the batter’s box after hitting a pop up, and was helped off the field by the trainer and the Cardinals’ manager.  Preliminary reports during and since the game have indicated an injury to the Achilles tendon of the left foot.  An MRI is scheduled for today to confirm.  Achilles injuries are very serious, a full rupture of the tendon would require surgery and a long recovery and rehab period.  A partial tear of the tendon would require less, but significant, recovery time, but the hope for that outcome appears to be remote.

Out of all that carnage, the Cardinals managed to win the series, but took a loss in Sunday’s game 6-3.  The Cardinals have returned home to start a four game series against the Phillies, but the pall of the Wainwright disaster still hangs over the team and the fans.  John Mozeliak has expressed that a replacement for Wainwright in the rotation will be an internal one, though with the recent injury of Memphis starter Marco Gonzales, that replacement will likely be either Tyler Lyons, or Tim Cooney.  Perennially injured starter Jaime Garcia is not yet ready for prime time, though a return to the rotation at some point (however long that might last) has not been ruled out.  Gonzales should  be returning as an option at some point as well.

While Cardinal Nation waits for the confirmation of the bad news on Wainwright, the show must go on, as they say in circus parlance.  The return of Molina is imminent, and the fate of Jason Heyward is unknown, though he will likely miss some of the Phillies’ series, probably replaced by Jon Jay, with Peter Bourjos manning center.  Hopefully there will be no trip to the DL for Heyward.

It was both a good and a bad weekend, though the bad is likely to overshadow the good for the foreseeable future.  Continuing to win would be the best medicine for everyone involved, most especially Wainwright.  A return to Miller Park is thankfully not in the team’s immediate future; the next series there isn’t until August.  Maybe the evil will have dissipated by then.  If not, I suggest a truckload of bubble wrap be on hand.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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The Mettle of Kolten Wong

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want

to test a man’s character, give him power

—Abraham Lincoln

I remember back in April of 2014 when Kolten Wong was inexplicably benched and then subsequently sent down to Memphis for several weeks. It made no sense to me at the time; the offense as a whole was struggling, but Wong was doing no worse than others on the starting squad, in fact he was doing a little better than a few. The explanation that was given was a non sequitur; the offense was struggling, therefore Wong needed to “face adversity”. Many of us thought at the time that the explanation from Mike Matheny was a heaping pile of horse hockey. But then again, many of Matheny’s explanations for things fit that mold. Anyway, Wong went to Memphis and hit the snot out of the ball for three weeks. Yeah, he really needed to be there.

In the meantime, Wong’s replacement, Mark Ellis, was setting the world on fire. Yes, that is sarcasm. I had no issues with Ellis, his signing was welcomed by me because he had some seriously good defensive skills and I believed he would be an asset to the bench as a back up second baseman. He also was a league average hitter in his career, which was a long one. Unfortunately, age and injury took its toll on him and he was unable to get anything going with the bat in 2014.

However, it appeared Matheny found Ellis’ “veteraniness” appealing and couldn’t wait to allow Ellis to have sufficient rehab work in the minors after his injury before having him brought to the big leagues. Ellis had one rehab start, and then was brought up to play in Wong’s stead while Wong sat on the bench and contemplated his navel. After a while, Wong was sent to Memphis, and we were treated to all the Mark Ellis we could handle (or not, as it turned out). Eventually, Wong came back and was reinstated to the starting second base position, with recurring intervals of Mark Ellis still to be had.

I regurgitate all of this Wong history for one purpose. To show just how far Kolten Wong has come in his big league career. From the days of involuntarily “facing adversity” to the days of being the kind of second baseman we all had hoped for. The kind like we saw play last night against the Washington Nationals. We saw some dazzling, web gem worthy plays on defense, and some really big hits on offense. Kolten Wong showed us what he is made of and we like it. We like it a lot.

Now, Wong is still going to have bad days, as does every big league player. Hopefully there will be no more banishments for illusory purposes. Kolten Wong is a major league second baseman and there should be no more doubts about that, even during the inevitable periods of struggle. Adversity happens to everyone, and it shouldn’t have to be faced in shame and disgrace.

Kolten Wong is the second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Thank you for reading.

In Praise of Matt Carpenter

The joys of beating the Reds is a gift that keeps on giving. As my last post was about this subject, I don’t want to spend too much time on it. Suffice it to say that beating the Reds never gets old. But then again, beating the Cubs, the Brewers and the Pirates never gets old either. Not to mention beating every other team in the National League, but most especially the Nationals (who the Cardinals play next), and of course the Dodgers (the postseason drubbings are especially meaningful). The Giants are the one team that remains a particular nemesis. It’s an odd numbered year though, so hopefully they will not be an issue in the Cardinals’ quest for the trophy.

I want to talk about Matt Carpenter. Who doesn’t want to talk about Matt Carpenter? I suspect Mr. Clayton Kershaw would like to forget he exists, seeing as how Carpenter has been the main antagonist in his postseason melodramas, but Mr. Kershaw doesn’t have to read this post (and if he did, I would be shocked all the way down to my old toes).

So yes, Matt Carpenter. Hitter of many doubles, scorer of many runs, lead off man extraordinaire and possessor of the best five o’clock shadow in the major leagues. I can’t get enough of Matt Carpenter (with apologies to his wife, who has nothing to worry about, as I am old enough to be his mother). The Cardinals found themselves a gem in that 13th round pick in the 2009 draft (that was a very good year). He isn’t perfect, but who is? Not much of a base runner, and I worry about that arm throwing all the way from third base. He seems to have to put a little too much effort into many of his throws, which is why if there was no Kolten Wong, I would worry less if he still played second base. I hope the arm holds up and he doesn’t end up like Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals.

I love watching Matt Carpenter play baseball. When he comes to bat, you know you are not going to get cheated. Even if he strikes out, he does it with panache and an indomitable spirit. That cheeky grin is a winner too. His most recent imitation of Ozzie Smith at home plate was a sight to behold, but one has to cringe at the thought that he might have been injured. Best not to try that again, Matt. We get you, we really do, and we don’t need reminders of your tenacity that potentially come with a trip to the DL. Ease up, dude.

I could go on, but I don’t want to appear stalkerish. Suffice it to say that I enjoy Matt Carpenter as much as any old woman with a baseball fetish. Maybe more, because I have a blog to talk about it. Heh heh.

I end this post with some Cardinals news. Randal Grichuk has been put on the 15 day DL with a weight room injury. I think the Cardinals either have poor trainers (I doubt it) or way too enthusiastic weight lifters. I sincerely hope this does not become an epidemic. Seriously, if you must get injured, at least do it on the field making some spectacular baseball play or something. Geez. So now the guy who engenders comparisons to expensive foreign cars is in the shop for repairs. That’s what happens when you invest in expensive foreign cars. Of course, I think the comparison to expensive foreign cars is ridiculous and stupid, but I guess some folks just need hyperbole to make their day worth living.

Till we meet again, gentle reader.

Of Mice and Men and Beating the Reds

So I have some thoughts about the weekend series against the Reds that I want to jot down.  These are mostly random and in no particular order, but I hope they come together in some coherent, readable fashion.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Matheny be proactive with his bullpen usage.  Rather than leave pitchers in situations where they were not suited, he mixed and matched them quite well.  No unnecessary double switches, no leaving Randy Choate in to face a succession of right handed hitters.  Perhaps he has learned something, (or perhaps he was given offseason marching orders by Mozeliak?).  I hope to see this continue.  No backsliding, please.

As for the aforementioned Choate, I imagine his early season failures have gotten the fan base quite riled up.  Memories are short, though, as many are not recalling how poorly Seth Maness pitched at the beginning of last season.  He turned it around, and I suspect Choate will as well.  If he doesn’t, then Mozeliak will probably take care of it.

One area where Matheny hasn’t shown improvement is his penchant for bunting too much and in the wrong situations.  What in the world was he thinking having Yadier Molina bunt in the 8th with two men on and no outs?  Matheny’s love affair with giving up outs has got to stop.  It has become pathological.

As it is early in the season, I will refrain from making judgments about the Cardinal offense.  There are enough Chicken Little fans on this subject as it is.  Offense has been declining for some time, and that trend is likely to continue.  Fans looking for big offense are just going to be disappointed.  This is not something that is particular to the Cardinals.   Better use of what speed the Cardinals possess would help in the run scoring department.  I am going to be careful here because I don’t want this post to become another rant about Matheny’s use of Peter Bourjos. I think my opinion on this subject is quite clear.  I will only say this; making playing time decisions based on Spring Training numbers is one of the most imbecilic things a manager could do.

However, I will segue that into something else of note.  Quite a few have been making a big deal about the catch Jon Jay made in yesterday’s game.  Make no mistake, Jay is not a bad center fielder; I have never said that he was.  He is about average, which isn’t a bad thing.  On many teams he would be quite an asset.  On teams that have well above average defenders, however, he sticks out like a sore thumb.  As for the catch, it was a good catch, no doubt about it.  Kudos to him.  What is the but, you say?  It is this.  Great American Ball Park has one of the smallest outfields amongst all of the major league ball parks.   Did anyone notice that even Matt Holliday was making catches that he doesn’t normally make?  Let me just end by saying this.  If a ball to the wall had been hit in say, Coors Field, or ATT &T Park, it would have been so far over Jay’s head it would have required a separate zip code.  GABP makes a lot of outfielders look good.

Okay, I have stepped into the Centerfield Wars as far as I am going to.

Pitching.  I thought Carlos Martinez did a very good job yesterday.  He did give up a couple of long balls, but referencing my previous statement about the size of GABP, that isn’t as big of a deal as it normally would be.  I thought his stuff was very good.  He has a ways to go with efficiency and durability, but I think that will come.  His stuff is filthy nasty.

Reds manager Bryan Price was quoted as saying he thought Jason Heyward’s slide into third base was “dirty”.  I think Price needs to stop channeling Dusty Baker before it’s too late.

The Cardinals meet up with the Reds again this weekend at Busch Stadium.  The Reds don’t have a great track record at Busch.  It must be the Clydesdales.  Or maybe it’s that Arch looming over centerfield.  Whatever it is, the Cardinals need to take advantage of Busch’s voodoo magic over the Reds.  I really, really like beating the Reds.  Almost as much as beating the Cubs.

That’s all for now.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

It’s Just Getting Started

Day 4 of the MLB regular season has come and gone, and the Cardinals have played 2 games.  With an off day on Monday after the opening game on Sunday, and then a weather postponement on Tuesday (weather that didn’t materialize), the Cardinals played their second game against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon. Game #2 didn’t end so well, not as well as Game #1 did on Sunday night.

Starting pitcher Lance Lynn looked sharp up until the 7th inning.  Lynn struck out 9 and walked only one, while giving up only 2 hits, a triple to Jorge Soler and an RBI single to Starlin Castro.  Though the Soler triple was ugly, aided by a poor route to the ball by Jon Jay and a weak throw (what else is new), Soler was thankfully left stranded.  What happened in the 7th inning is another story.

Lynn started off the 7th by hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.  Rizzo is not a huge threat to steal, and he didn’t have a very large lead off the base.  So why Lynn threw over to first is a mystery to me.  Generally, throw overs to 1st base are called by the dugout and signaled by the catcher.  If Matheny called the attempted pick off, I am at a loss to understand why.  Nevertheless, Lynn threw to first, threw it wide, and the ball sailed past Matt Adams.  Rizzo advanced into scoring position easily.  Lynn then preceded to throw a hanging slider to Starlin Castro, who tattoed it over Jhonny Peralta’s head into left field, whereby Matt Holliday threw the ball into the infield to a cutoff man who was nowhere to be found. Rizzo scored easily.  Because of the Holliday throw to nowhere, Castro was able to advance into scoring position.  A sac bunt moved Castro to third, and a sac fly brought him home. putting the Cubs up 2-0.

Had the Cardinal offense been able to make any headway off of Jake Arrieta, things might have been different.  The Cardinals managed all of 3 hits, one of them coming from Lynn, and none of them scoring runs.   By the bottom of the 9th, it looked like the Cardinals hitters wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, as both Jon Jay and Yadier Molina swung at the first pitch for outs.

It was only the second game of 162, so the loss is not a big deal (at least for me).  But I do have some thoughts to share.

Lynn pitched a very good game, despite the error on the throw to first.  Anyone who says   different is just picking nits or is a chronic complainer.  Unfortunately there is a lot of that in Cardinal Nation, more so than there should be.  It seems among some fans that the entitlement is so strong that perfection is demanded.  That’s not an enjoyable way to watch baseball.  It’s also annoying as hell for those of us forced to listen to it.

Next thought is that two games is no indication of how the offense is going to perform this season.  Today looked a lot like what we have seen before, granted, but it is too early for panic.  Baseball has it’s ups and downs, and under the circumstances, with two idle days between games and not so habitable weather to play in, the results were nothing to be concerned about.  It isn’t like the Cubs looked all that great either; an error, some defensive miscues, and a little bit of luck were responsible for the Cubs only two runs.

Once the season gets well under way, and the weather cooperates, I suspect things will look much better.  Cardinal Nation needs to get it’s whining under control and let the season play out.

Let’s play ball.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

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