This Year’s Cardinals Don’t Do Much For Me

I know what the current National League Central standings say.

I know that with a Cardinals win over the Rays tonight and a Brewers loss to the Reds, those standings will be even better.

I don’t care very much. Honestly, I haven’t cared like I used to for most of the season.

Here’s one reason.

Matheny quotePerfect logic for a team that’s built mostly on young talent, with even more in the minors just waiting for a big-league opportunity. Right?

And here’s another reason.

matheny on oscar

Ugh. Seriously? Sitting on the bench for up to five games a week has more benefit than playing?

Actually, there is one simple reason why I feel the way I do about the Cardinals this year and it’s the common denominator between those two quotes: Mike Matheny.

All the curious lineup decisions, all the frustration with his game management — now, in Year 3 of Matheny everything is just crazy. Are we now seeing the impact of his lack of managerial experience? Is it just the change in personnel? Were others — Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter — more influential than we realized and able to spark and energize the team so Matheny’s deficiencies weren’t as obvious as they are now? Continue reading

Matt Attack! Cardinals Score Four In The First

If you were going to create a perfect Saturday afternoon for baseball, chances are good it would look a lot like St. Louis did yesterday afternoon — bright blue skies, sunshine, temperature of 83 degrees at 3 p.m. on July 19.

collageOf course you’d want a really compelling match-up to go with your perfect afternoon, like two teams battling for the top spot in their respective divisions.

All those elements came together yesterday, with the 54-44 tied-for-first-in-the-NL-West Dodgers and the 53-44 one-game-behind-the-Brewers-in-the-NL-Central Cardinals doing battle. Since it’s a Saturday home game, the Cardinals are wearing their alternate uniforms (which just add to the perfect day ambiance even more).

Plus, to make it even better for people like me who will take any available television option besides Dan McLaughlin on FOX Sports Midwest, the game is being broadcast on FOX Sports 1 with Kenny Albert and Eric Karros announcing — in addition to FOX Midwest with McLaughlin and Tim McCarver.

Oh, and this game just happens to be the United Cardinal Bloggers annual progressive game blog — and I’m leading off the coverage with the first inning.

O happy day! Hopefully, that is …

Yes, the Dodgers and Cardinals are back at it again after Friday night’s 3-2 Cards win in which Matt Holliday drove in all three runs with a double and home run, Kolten Wong scored the two runs Holliday didn’t, Lance Lynn allowed two runs and struck out nine, and the bullpen — Seth Maness, Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal — threw three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit.

In addition to the bright blue sky and sun, the green of the field looks extra vibrant on the FOX 1 telecast — much more than on FOX Midwest, as I had to change the channel and check once I noticed. Hmmmm, guess FOX 1 has some super-duper extra-green camera.

The starting pitchers, Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly, have faced each other before — last October, to be exact, in Games One and Five of the NLCS. Game Five was the last time Kelly faced the Dodgers, while Greinke started against the Cards three weeks ago today in Los Angeles. Here’s to a better performance from Kelly, as he gave up four earned runs that last game and was the losing pitcher, and a worse one from Greinke, who gave up one run, four hits and struck out 10. Continue reading

Finally, Cardinals Baseball Again Starting Tonight

dodgers_logoThe All-Star break seems like it’s been going on forever but, at last, the Cardinals are back in action tonight at Busch Stadium to begin a five-game homestand.

First up: three games against the Dodgers, who haven’t played in St. Louis since last October and the National League Championship Series. While these games don’t have exactly the same magnitude, the Dodgers currently are leading the National League West by just one game over the Giants and the Cardinals are only one game behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

To help prepare you for the series, here’s a preview courtesy of the latest issue of The Bird’s Eye View from the United Cardinal Bloggers, which I wrote. If you don’t yet receive these previews before each series, subscribe now here to stay up-to-date throughout the second half of the season.

Birds Eye View Header

Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (52-44)
July 18-20, 2014
Busch Stadium

Let the second half begin! Or, more accurately, let the final 40 percent of the season begin! (That really doesn’t have the same effect, does it?) Regardless of the schedule-related math, the All-Star break is finally over. Time to get back to real baseball that matters, where we don’t have to hear about That Guy Who Plays Shortstop In New York And Is Retiring for a while (although, hey, it’s his final start to the second half of the season tonight!) nor hear the words “pipe shot” anymore. (Hopefully. Thankfully.)

Tonight it’s back to National League baseball at Busch Stadium, where the pitcher bats and these games really do count for something: the Dodgers battle for the top spot in the NL West and the Cardinals fight for the same in the NL Central. Yes, the Dodgers return to St. Louis for the first time since last October’s National League Championship Series for these next three games. Let’s take a look at what’s ahead … Continue reading

Sometimes, The Greatest Moments Are Unscripted

Ah, the 2014 All-Star Game … also know as Derek Jeter Tribute Night.

I’m not going to join in the fray over what Adam Wainwright said or did — frankly, I’d rather dedicate this song to Adam Wainwright instead — although I do want to talk about Derek Jeter’s first at-bat against him.

Ah, Derek Jeter in Cardinal red ...

Look, it’s Derek Jeter in Cardinal red!

Yes, it was all choreographed to perfection beginning with the “RE2PECT” commercial running on FOX once the top of the first inning ended. Then, at Target Field, having the introduction of Jeter by the late Bob Sheppard was a wonderful touch. The standing ovation from the fans, the tipping of his helmet to the crowd, the requisite camera shots of Jeter’s parents in the stands, the applause by the all the National League starters on the field, the silence on the FOX broadcast so we could all absorb the moment, even the chance to hear Jeter telling Jonathan Lucroy “have a good one and congratulations to you, all right?” as the crowd begins to chant “Der-ek Je-ter” — top notch, of course, because that’s the way it was all supposed to be.

The first pitch from Wainwright, still silence from Joe Buck and the crew, the crowd settles down. Another requisite shot of Jeter’s family and then, through the silence, one man’s voice rings out …

“Over-rated.”

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From 5 Back To First Place, 7 Days Later

It’s been quite a week for the Cardinals, hasn’t it? Last Sunday, after two straight disappointing losses to the Miami Marlins, the Cards were five games back in the National League Central and in third place behind the Brewers and Pirates.

wong

Love the sign! (Photo: STLToday.com)

Now, with winning five of the past seven games including a 10-2 victory over the Brewers on Saturday, the Cardinals are tied for first place.

If it seems like it’s been a while since they were in first, it has. The last time? April 5. Not that we need a reminder of what most of the first half of the season has been like …

So it’s definitely good to see this position once again. First place!

Of course, gaining so much ground so quickly wouldn’t be possible without the Brewers having lost each of the last seven games and 11 of their past 12. And, given what they were dealing with as a team yesterday with the death of Jean Segura’s infant son, it seems wrong to gloat too much about yesterday’s Cards win in particular.

Instead, what about the five Cards wins this week – and especially Friday night’s comeback win?

Continue reading

Our Worst Nightmare Is Now True

It didn’t seem like a good sign that John Mozeliak was going to address the media at 2:45 p.m. Central Time, and then the rumors about Yadier Molina began flying around Twitter.

nurse-e1397756375763Unfortunately, Twitter rumors were correct for once.

Yadier Molina has a torn ligament in his right thumb and will have surgery tomorrow. He’ll be out eight to 12 weeks.

Some random thoughts …

Can the Cardinals PLEASE not ever have a Star Wars night again? To refresh your memory, here’s what happened last year and yesterday, of course, was this year’s special night.

Nothing at all against Tony Cruz, but my biggest fear (and that of probably every one of you also) has now happened.

To those tweeting about how the Cardinals now need to sign A.J. Pierzynski, please stop — and here’s why.

Finally, I’m blaming the Brewers for this. That video about Jonathan Lucroy being more deserving of Yadi starting the All-Star Game was a curse — since Lucroy will now, in all likelihood, be the National League starter behind the plate.

Sigh.

 

The Oh-So-Interesting National League Central

The Cardinals won their 50th game of 2014 last night, their third straight victory over the had-been-hot-coming-into-St.-Louis Pirates. Combined with the Brewers losing their 40th game yesterday, St. Louis is now just two games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central division standings — with a three-game trip up north coming up on Friday.

NL CentralYes, the Central standings are looking very interesting these days.

Ah, baseball …

The Cardinals at the moment are the closest to first place they’ve been since May 27, when they were 1 1/2 games back. They’re a season-high eight games over .500 at 50-42.

The Brewers, on the other hand, are struggling right now. Just nine days ago, they began July with a 6 1/2 game lead. They lost that day and have lost six of seven since then, plus are 2-8 in their last 10 games.

Then there are the Reds, who are a half-game behind the Cardinals at the moment and thus 2 1/2 behind the Brewers. They spent the first two months of the season below .500, falling as low as six games under at the end of May. On June 24 they were 38-38 and 7 1/2 games behind the Brewers, but have since gone 11-4 (including winning two of three over Milwaukee last weekend) and currently have their second five-game winning streak of that stretch. This afternoon, they’ll look to sweep the Cubs in a five-game series before the Pirates come to town.

Continue reading

Ever Been To A Ballgame In The Middle Of A Flood?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Quad Cities River Bandits, since they unfortunately (for those of us here, anyway) are no longer a Cardinals minor league affiliate as they were through 2012. Yet the now-Astros Midwest League team still plays at Modern Woodmen Park, the beautiful riverfront ballpark along the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa.

Although, at the moment, the Mississippi surrounds Modern Woodmen Park.

It’s an island, as the river reached more than 20 1/2 feet on July 4 (which is more than five feet above flood stage) — the sixth-highest flood in Davenport history. Yet the ballpark remains high and dry thanks to the tremendous engineering that went into remodeling the ballpark about 10 years ago to build in flood protection, as well as an only-when-needed flood wall that can be installed. Which means we have the opportunity to watch the Bandits play even as the water flows around the ballpark instead of beyond right and center fields as usual … once we cross the walkway over the water, that is.

Yesterday the River Bandits hosted the Brewers-affiliated Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in a doubleheader, thanks to a rainout on Saturday. So a friend and I went to the game and I, like so many others there, had to get photographic evidence of this unique occurrence. Because it’s obviously not often you go to a ballgame in the middle of a flood.

Now you can see what the experience was like as well, and it sure beats thinking about the now-third place Cardinals, doesn’t it?

flood2

Here’s what you see as you approach the ballpark, as the parking lot had enough dry land in the last row for about five cars.

Flood - 2

The walkway, which takes you above and over the flooded parking lots.

Flood -1

The parking lot from the walkway. Yes, that’s a ferris wheel in the background — the newest addition to the ballpark this season.

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The 2014 Cardinals In A Nutshell

Presenting the top of the fourth inning, Cardinals vs. Giants, July 1:

Top4th

Yes, the Cardinals loaded the bases with two hits and a hit-by-pitch off Tim Lincecum. No outs. Great opportunity! Then one out. Two outs. Three outs. No runs. Three left on base.

There it is, your 2014 Cardinals in a nutshell.

Even Timmy sounded a little surprised:

“I was hoping I could make them hit a double-play ball,” Lincecum added, “But they struck out, so it worked out.”

Yep, the 2014 Cardinals. Helping out opposing pitchers everywhere, as they lost again last night 5-0.

Speaking of opposing pitchers, the Cardinals finished their “Games Against The Guys Who Threw No-Hitters This Season” tour last night against Lincecum.

And the total offense against Josh Beckett last Thursday, Clayton Kershaw on Sunday and Timmy last night?

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Frustrating, Yes, But The Cardinals Could Be Worse

Yes, it’s been a frustrating season so far for the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals. I’ve found myself less enthusiastic about them for sure and, if we’re ranking our favorite Cardinals teams, at the moment they’d be near the bottom of those I’ve watched in my now-15th season as a fan.

keep-calm-it-could-be-worseSure, I could just be affected by the Cardinals tremendous success they’ve achieved since I became a fan in 2000. We all are spoiled, and really do need to realize that if we don’t already.

But it could be worse.

Looked at the standings lately?

The World Series Champion Boston Red Sox are currently 38-45 and last night were no-hit by Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs for 7 2/3 innings before losing to the Cubs 2-0 and finishing with just two hits. They’re in fourth place in the American League East, 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Blue Jays and 7 games back in the AL wild card standings.

Then there are the Cardinals’ opponent for the next three games, the San Francisco Giants.

After going 19-9 in May, they had the best record in MLB at 37-20 on June 1 and a 7 1/2 game lead in the National League West, which grew to 9 1/2 games on June 8 … and has been falling ever since. Their record in June was 10-16, which included sweeps by the Nationals. Rockies, White Sox and Reds. The Dodgers win over the Cards on Sunday and the Reds completing a four-game sweep of the Giants put the two teams into a tie in the West, plus the Dodgers’ win last night while the Giants were off means the Cards will be facing the second-place Giants. Now, the Giants still are 10 games over .500 at 46-36, but they were 21 games over at one point.

Continue reading