Throwback Thursday: That Time AMF Was In Deadspin

Once upon a time, on the annual slow sports period that’s the day after MLB’s All-Star Game, a post I wrote for Aaron Miles’ Fastball was featured on Deadspin.

It was on July 17, 2013, following Mariano Rivera’s final appearance as an All-Star the night before. To refresh your memory of what that had been like, check out the video here — and perhaps you’ll have the same reaction I did: Edward Mujica was an All-Star? Totally forgot that little tidbit …

Anyway, having watched the All-Star Game, the next day I’d been thinking about the time my Yankees fan friend Kat and I went to St. Louis to see two of the three games between our teams in June 2005. And because we went to Saturday and Sunday’s games early to watch the Yankees’ batting practice, we saw a group of relievers huddled together in left field both days and, led by Mo, realized just what their discussions were about. Thus, “The Tale Of Mariano Rivera And The Ball Thrown Out Of Busch Stadium.”

And, a little while later, this.


Obviously, very cool — and resulted in a tremendous amount of traffic to AMF, though it’s only the second-most popular post in AMF history.

You can search Deadspin and still find it there, and it’s awesome that Kat’s photo lives on in the Deadspin archives. However, the link there to the post does not work since the demise of Aerys Sports, but is still available here.

Ah, memories … which might just be the same thing Tanyon Sturtze (second from the right in Kat’s photo) is thinking as well when he remembers his Yankees career.


Throwback Thursday – Chris Carpenter: A Warrior’s Final Stand

Note: As I said last week, I’m not planning on writing much here anymore. But today I’m posting an article I wrote for the United Cardinal Bloggers 2013 season in review publication, which is still available for purchase. Like last week’s from the 2012 UCB publication, it’s also on Chris Carpenter. 

Chris Carpenter: A Warrior’s Final Stand

It can’t be how he expected his career to end.

The final pitch of Chris Carpenter’s career came on Oct. 4, 2013, fittingly on the Busch Stadium pitcher’s mound. Fall sunshine bathed the ballpark with a golden glow as more than 40,000 Cardinals fans stood and cheered.


Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Unfortunately, that final pitch was of no consequence. His last was a ceremonial one delivered just before Game Two of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Touchingly, he was accompanied to the mound by his daughter, Ava, and tossed the baseball to his son, Sam, behind home plate.

Perhaps surprisingly, the emotion of the moment was visible on Carpenter’s face as he tipped his Cardinals cap to the crowd and, moments later, embraced his children as they all walked off the mound.

Then again, emotion from Chris Carpenter on a pitcher’s mound – though of a different sort – was never a surprise. It was expected. Emotion defined Chris Carpenter’s career nearly as much as his signature curveball.

And nearly as much as injuries.

Injury definitely defined the final two years of Carpenter’s career, 2012 and 2013. Yet it also defined how he became a Cardinal, when the Toronto Blue Jays – the team that chose him in the first round of the 1993 draft – removed him from their 40-man roster after the 2002 season ended, and after he’d had shoulder surgery. The Jays wanted him to sign a minor-league contract with incentives.

He instead chose to become a free agent, signing with St. Louis in December. He missed the entire 2003 season, finally making his Cardinals debut on April 9, 2004, at Arizona. His 2004 season was better than any he’d ever had as a Blue Jay, as he went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA. But he didn’t pitch after Sept. 18, as a right biceps strain kept him from the mound. Tests later revealed a nerve irritation to his upper arm, a condition we would become all too familiar with in the future.

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Throwback Thursday: Chris Carpenter’s 2012 Season

Note: It’s obvious I haven’t been posting often this year, and I don’t plan to write much here in the future either. But it’s been a great ride. My plan over the next several weeks is to share some of my favorite or most popular AMF posts. The first two, however, are new ones to the site — articles I wrote for the United Cardinal Bloggers postseason publications in 2012 and 2013 and both, unsurprisingly, on Chris Carpenter. First up, from “An Unexpected Journey,” which is still available to purchase.

Adding To The Legend of Chris Carpenter

As you flip through “The Legend of Chris Carpenter,” you’ll notice the elements that make any story a compelling read. Sure, there are chapters on his high school days excelling at both hockey and baseball in New Hampshire, as well as the start of his professional baseball career in 1994 and the six seasons as a Toronto Blue Jay. But those chapters basically serve as a prologue.

nlcs16s-1-web“The Legend of Chris Carpenter” doesn’t really begin until he arrives in St. Louis.

Those chapters provide quite the page-turner: good times and one-hitters and a Cy Young Award (and a coulda-been-second one) plus of course two World Series championships, combined with bad days and shoulder problems and elbow issues, Tommy John surgery and seasons (plural) lost to injury. Plus a role in that brawl in Cincinnati.

Then there’s the 2011 chapter, an up-and-down-and-ultimately triumphant tale all its own that includes Carpenter’s role as one of the leaders who spoke at the famous team meeting on Aug. 25 that started the Cardinals charge to the wild card, his two-hit shutout in Game 162, winning the showdown for the ages against his BFF Roy Halladay in Game Five of the National League Division Series, starting three games in the World Series including Game Seven on three days’ rest thanks to a fortuitously timed rain-out that moved Game Six back a day …

After all that, did this legendary tale really need more dramatics?

Yes, said the baseball gods. Yes, it did.

And thus we arrive at Chris Carpenter’s 2012 season.

It began in February at spring training and without drama. Given the career-high 273 1/3 regular and post-season innings he pitched in 2011, plans were for him to have a modified workload in Jupiter, Fla. He was even mentioned by manager Mike Matheny as the likely Opening Day starter.

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The Cardinals October Accomplishments Since 2003

You might still be adjusting to the fact it’s Oct. 15 and the Cardinals postseason has ended, and it’s possible you’re having to deal with fans — real or very recent — of the team that beat them to advance to the National League Championship Series. Whether you’re looking for a way to feel better or ammunition to quiet those Cubs fans, here’s what the Cardinals have done in the postseason since the last time Chicago’s North Side team made it this far in the playoffs.

2011-WORLD-SERIES(Depending on how recent and how knowledgeable any new Cubbie fans around you are, it’s possible you’ll have to explain to them that the Cubs have been to the playoffs since 1908, and they did win the NLDS in 2003 also. Oh, and they won the NL Central and made it to the playoffs in 2007 and 2008, but no one ever mentions that … likely because they were swept out of both Octobers.)

Since the Cubs last played in the NLCS 12 seasons ago, the Cardinals have:

Been to the playoffs 9 times
2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Won the NLDS 7 times
2004 over the Dodgers
2005 over the Padres
2006 over the Padres
2011 over the Phillies
2012 over the Nationals
2013 over the Pirates
2014 over the Dodgers

Won the National League pennant 4 times
2004 over the Astros
2006 over the Mets
2011 over the Brewers
2013 over the Dodgers

Won the World Series twice
2006 over the Tigers
2011 over the Rangers

Had three National League MVPs
Albert Pujols in 2005, 2008, 2009

Had one Cy Young Award winner
Chris Carpenter in 2005

None of this changes the outcome of Tuesday’s game, obviously, but at least it can provide a bit of comfort in all that we as Cardinals fans have enjoyed in recent years.

And if it doesn’t, maybe this will … all 6-plus minutes of it.


Game 3: Important To Win? Yes, But …

The setting for the National League Division Series now shifts to Chicago’s North Side, with Game 3 starting later today at 5 p.m. Central Time.

As you’re no doubt aware, it’s The Jake Arrieta Show!!! — meaning why are the Cardinals even bothering to play today, right? Shouldn’t they just forfeit and go have a nice team dinner instead — especially since, according to a stat I heard Matt Vasgersian spout off before yesterday’s Game 3 in the American League Division Series between the Royals and Astros — the team that wins Game 3 takes the entire series 80 percent of the time?

NLDS logoStatistics … they’re great.

Given that the Cardinals have a recent postseason history to look back on, we can also see just how that 80 percent stat holds up for our Redbirds — especially helpful considering the Cards won all four series.

Against the Dodgers in last year’s NLDS, they won Game 3 with Kolten Wong’s seventh inning 2-run homer putting them ahead, 3-1.

In 2013, Game 3 was in Pittsburgh, with Joe Kelly starting against Francisco Liriano … who was pretty unbeatable at home then, if you remember. Neither of the starters factored in the final outcome — a 5-3 Pittsburgh win.

Looking back to 2012 and the NLDS against the Nationals, Game 3 was a start by Chris Carpenter against Edwin Jackson — and Edwin was kind to his old teammates from the previous year. The Cards easily won 8-0.

Then there’s 2011. Game 3 was the first at Busch Stadium of the series, with the Phillies taking this one 3-2. All of the Phillies runs came on a home run by Ben Francisco, pinch-hitting for Cole Hamels in the seventh inning, off Jaime Garcia.

In summary, in their four-year run of winning the division series and advancing to the NLCS, the Cardinals have won Game 3 twice — then gone on to lose the NLCS. They’ve lost Game 3 twice, obviously still advanced to the NLCS, won the National League pennant each year, and then both won and lost the World Series.

So when all the hype kicks in about The Jake Arrieta Show!!! during the game (which I’ll definitely have the television muted for), just remember that losing this game isn’t necessarily doom and gloom for the Cardinals — despite any statistics the announcers (or Cubs fans) might spout off.



And So The Cardinals Meet The Cubs Again

So much for my hope that Sept. 20 was the final game between the Cardinals and Cubs this year.

And so much for the temporary Pirates fandom for me and many other Cardinals and non-Cubs fans, eagerly rooting for the Bucs to win Wednesday night to give us a more palatable National League Division Series.

NLDS logoNope. Not to be — just like Jake Arrieta told everyone on Twitter last Sunday.

Which means here we are, on the brink of THE MOST HISTORIC PLAYOFF MATCH-UP IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!! BASEBALL!!! Never mind, as many obviously haven’t realized, that such a meeting has only been possible since the addition of a wild card team into the playoffs in 1995. So “historic” might be a bit of a stretch, despite how often that word has been tossed around since Wednesday night.

Details! What do they matter?

Before Wednesday’s game, I purposely wouldn’t think about the Cardinals facing the Cubs in the division series. Neither would any of the Cardinals/non-Cubs fans I know. Because that outcome seemed too dreadful to contemplate.

Now I can admit that, deep down, I figured the baseball gods would find this all too tempting to avoid. Even for the hype alone.

The baseball gods obviously found it all too tempting (poor Gerrit Cole), so now we are dealing with such pre-game storylines as “Feel-good Cubs threatened by playoff staple Cardinals” a noted Cardinals fan writing that the Cubs are “the hottest, most beloved, most exciting team in baseball” and a Chicago writer beginning his NLDS preview by rehashing all the wonderful, media-hyped tough talk of Joe Maddon from the series a couple weekends ago — which, to me, seems like it means nothing now that October is here, the little dust-up between the Cubs and Pirates Wednesday night notwithstanding.

As much as I hate to admit it, this is the Cubs’ world right now.

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Hopefully That Was The Last Cardinals-Cubs Game Of 2015

Interesting weekend, wasn’t it?

And by “interesting,” I mean nauseating.

Interesting/nauseating to see the sports media giddiness revved up even higher over the Cubs.

Looking-AheadInteresting/nauseating to see the “speeches” Joe Maddon makes that get breathlessly covered by that same sports media infatuated with his “wisdom.” Like his brilliant “we don’t start stuff, we finish stuff” on Friday — the same day Dan Haren hit Matt Holliday in the batting helmet yet poor, poor Anthony Rizzo had his pant leg beaned (prompting, of course, the above tough-guy words from Maddon); the day after Chris Coghlan finished something, for sure — Pirate Jung Ho Kang’s season with a slide far to the right of second base and with his leg up to hit Kang in the leg and fracture his tibia (and a slide by Coghlan that looked all the more egregious when shown again yesterday afternoon on CSN Chicago after the Cubs broadcasters were comparing Yadier Molina’s slide into Addison Russell to that play — which was an inning after Yadi’s slide happened, and to which there was really no comparison at all other than both slides were toward second base); and the day before Kolten Wong was hit by both Fernando Rodney and Trevor Cahill and Greg Garcia was hit by Hector Rondon (and no Cubs were hit).

What’s that saying about actions speaking louder than media-friendly speeches?

Anyway, may yesterday’s game please be the last time the Cardinals have to face those Media Darling Cubs, their Style Over Substance Manager and their Breathlessly Amazing Roster of Players (Jake Arrieta! Addison Russell!! Anthony Rizzo!!! KRIS BRYANT!!!!!!!!!) in 2015.

Before the weekend even began, I knew that if any kind of postseason match-up involving these two teams were to take place, it would be torturous. Living closer to Chicago than to St. Louis, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the fan bandwagon grow and grow and grow ever since Maddon became their manager, the media attention increase more and more and more as the months go along — and I’m ready for it to stop. Especially after this weekend.

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Cubs As The Cardinals Competition: Yay or Nay?

shirtAnother Cardinals vs. Cubs series begins in about 15 minutes, and I’ve prepared myself by donning the appropriate attire — this new t-shirt I received from a coworker about a week ago.

Awesome, isn’t it? For me personally, it would be better if it had the word “anymore” at the end (and that complete story, if you don’t know and do care, is available in the About section) but my story is certainly a rarity. Cardinals fans become Cardinals fans and stay that way; Cubs fans become Cubs fans and stay that way.

It’s also rare that series between the two teams are actually of any baseball significance. Sure, the rivalry is usually important to fans — for bragging rights or trash-talking or the chance to be obnoxious to that rival fan you know or are related to (which, in my case, is a pretty large number). Yes, there was that important Three Nights in August series back in 2003 though the season ultimately ended up with the Cardinals at home in October, plus Cards fans will always fondly remember Carlos Marmol and his role in 2011’s magical September run to the wild card.

Yet this year is different. We’ve heard since Joe Maddon was hired as Cubs manager that THIS IS IT!!!! for the Cubbies, and the hype has just continued on. To be fair, their performance has been good enough to give them the fourth-best record in the majors — though just the third-best in the National League Central — and firmly into the second wild card spot. But I’m not sure the hype has matched the accomplishment thus far.

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There Is A Bright Side To The Cardinals Losing To The White Sox

Obviously, it’s never fun when the Cardinals lose a game — even when they have the best record in baseball (though, even after two losses, the next team closest to their 51 wins is the Astros at 47) . It’s even less fun when they lose two in a row to a team that is as bad as the White Sox.

Positive-AttitudeYet that’s where we are right now, after the late-and-very-rain-delayed 7-1 loss in which Seth Maness and Randy Choate created quite a mess for Marcus Hatley to wade into during the ninth inning (yes, the water-logged description was intentional) and make his major league debut. A 2-1 Sox lead grew out of hand into that final score.

Ah, well. That’s baseball.

Want to know the bright side?

Seeing the Sox sweep the two-game series from the Cards annoys Cubs fans.

Just Tuesday night’s win did the trick.

I got a message from my long-time friend and long-time Cubs fan Debbie yesterday. “So how can the Cubs get swept by the Cardinals and then the White Sox find a way to win last night?? Just doesn’t seem right!”

Sure, it’s a mild annoyance — and the fact the Cubs have won two straight over the Mets to now trail the Cards by only 9 1/2 games in the NL Central helps improve their moods, I’m sure.

Still, there is one thing that can unite Cardinals fans and White Sox fans everywhere: success that ticks off Cubbies fans. A two-game sweep by the Sox over the Cards is obviously nothing like the South Siders winning the World Series in 2005 followed by the Cardinals winning in 2006 as far as really annoying those North Siders fans.

But it’s enough to take the sting out of these two losses a bit.

From The Cardinals: Statements from DeWitt, Mozeliak Regarding Investigation

The Cardinals issued the following news release.

The St. Louis Cardinals Chairman and CEO William O. DeWitt Jr. and Cardinals Sr. Vice President and General Manager John Mozeliak this morning shared their thoughts regarding Tuesday’s news of a federal investigation of the club related to a possible security breach of the Houston Astros’ database.

Saint_Louis_Cardinals_logo“These are serious allegations that don’t reflect who we are as an organization,” DeWitt said. “We are committed to getting to the bottom of this matter as soon as possible, and if anyone within our organization is determined to be involved in anything inappropriate, they will be held accountable.”

DeWitt said that several months ago, after the team was made aware of the allegations, he and Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak engaged Jim Martin and the law firm of Dowd Bennett to assist the team in providing requested information to the federal government and to conduct an internal inquiry to attempt to identify any employee that may have engaged in the alleged conduct.

“The alleged conduct has no place in our game,” Mozeliak said.  “We hold ourselves to the highest standards in every facet of our organization.  It has been that way forever and is certainly true today.  We are committed to finding out what happened.  To the extent we can substantiate that these allegations have merit, we will take appropriate action against anyone involved.”

“The internal inquiry is not yet complete,” said Martin. “In the meantime, we wish to respect the process and avoid saying anything which would interfere with the government’s investigation.”