My Voting For The United Cardinal Blogger Awards

Each November, the United Cardinal Bloggers vote for awards on that year’s Cardinals season, as well as the best of our peers. Here’s a look at my choices for 2014.

united-cardinal-bloggers-lgCardinals Team Awards
Player of the Year

Nominees: Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta

My choice: Jhonny Peralta. He did what he was acquired to do, which was increase the offense by the shortstop, and even led the team in homers with 21 for good measure. Plus he was very good defensively, with the fifth-best defensive WAR in the National League at 2.6.

Pitcher of the Year

Nominees: Lance Lynn, Pat Neshek, Adam Wainwright

My choice: Lance Lynn. While a case could be made easily for either of the other two (and especially Adam Wainwright), my pick is for Lynn because of the complete season he put together. No post-All Star slump, as he had a 2.22 ERA after the break compared to 3.14 before, plus he had a 3-0 record and 1.99 ERA in August to lead the team when Wainwright struggled through a “dead arm” period. Lynn also had career bests in ERA at 2.74, WHIP at 1.26 and bWAR at 3.7.

Game of the Year

Nominees: May 20 (Adam Wainwright one-hitter), May 31 (Oscar Taveras debut), NLDS Game One, NLDS Game Four, NLCS Game Two

My choice: NLDS Game Four. Beating Clayton Kershaw once in October, after the tremendous regular season that would earn him both the NL Cy Young and MVP awards, was terrific. Doing it again, to clinch the division series, with Matt Adams doing all the damage with a three-run seventh inning homer? Incredible. Just take a look at that homer again, and the reactions from Kershaw as well as the Cardinals players, the crowd (go, Mrs. DeWitt!) and of course Adams himself. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

turkey-baseball-11658716Wishing you a wonderful day filled with food, family and friends — and maybe baseball via a Cardinals World Series DVD. (Better than football any day!)

Thank you for your support and readership of AMF, even though I haven’t been writing as regularly recently. (Hoping to change that soon!) And, with each passing day of this off-season, Cardinals baseball for 2015 gets closer and closer. Now only 129 more days until Opening Night on Sunday, April 5, at Wrigley Field.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cardinals Acquire Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden From Braves

Addressing the need that unfortunately now exists for a right fielder, Cardinals made a trade with the Braves today and acquired Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

More after the official press release from the Cardinals …

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have agreed with the Atlanta Braves on a four-player trade that will bring outfielder Jason Heyward and right-handed pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in exchange for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

Heyward, 25, is a two-time (2012 and 2014) National League Rawlings Gold Glove selection who has posted a .262 career batting mark with 84 home runs and 292 RBI to go along with 63 stolen bases since debuting with the Braves as an All-Star in 2010 (.277 BA, 18 HR, 72 RBI) and finishing 2nd that year to the Giants Buster Posey in the N.L. Rookie of the Year balloting. The left-handed hitting Heyward batted .271 this past season with 11 HRs and 58 RBI while stealing 20 bases and he finished as a finalist to Yadier Molina in the Rawlings Platinum Glove voting for the best defensive player in the National League.

The 6-5, 245-pound Heyward was the Braves 1st round draft selection (14th player overall) in 2007. He led N.L. right fielders in putouts and assists in both 2012 and 2014 and hit a career-high 27 home runs in 2012. The Georgia native has shown his lineup versatility by having started over 100 games each in the lead-off, number two and number three batting order positions during his career.

Walden, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, is a hard-throwing right-hander who in 2011 led the Los Angeles Angels in saves with 32 and was named an American League All-Star that same season when he finished 5th in the junior circuit in saves and complied a 2.98 ERA. The 6-5, 250-pound Texas native struck out 62 batters in 50.0 innings pitched this past season and he had a 2.88 ERA to go along with three saves. Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Bob Gibson’s 17 Strikeouts

We’ve heard Bob Gibson’s name a lot in the past couple of days, leading up to the announcement of the National League MVP yesterday. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers became the first  NL pitcher named the Most Valuable Player since Gibson in 1968, with each winning the Cy Young Award also.

bob-gibsonIt’s always amazing to look back at Gibson’s stats from that year. The most incredible, and likely most well known, is the 1.12 ERA. Looking at his game log from 1968, the highest ERA he had at any point was 2.35 — on April 20, after his third start of the season. It was 0.96 after starts on July 25 and July 30, and was 0.99 on Sept. 2 after his 10th shutout of the year.

In that 10th shutout, a 10-inning 1-0 win over the Reds, he pitched all 10 innings and allowed just four hits.

Speaking of shutouts, he had five straight complete game shutouts from June 6 to June 26, allowing 21 total hits in those games and striking out 35. He walked five, but none in two of the games.

Let that sink in for a moment. Five straight complete game shutouts.

His record, which probably also is familiar, was 22-9 — and it’s the number of losses that’s so surprising. But two were by scores of 1-0, one was 2-0 and two were 3-2. He won 15 consecutive games between June 2 and Aug. 24. There were only three games all season in which he had no decision, including his first two starts of the year. Continue reading

Say It Ain’t So, Joe! Not The Cubs

When the news first broke last Friday afternoon that Joe Maddon opted out of his contract and was no longer manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, I was hopeful.

Joe-maddonHopeful it could mean a change for the Cardinals, as I tweeted at the time. Not that I really believed John Mozeliak would make a change and remove Mike Matheny as manager, but I could dream.

Maddon was indeed who I wanted as Cards manager back when Tony La Russa retired following the 2011 World Series — he was, as Tara wrote at the time, “the overwhelming AMF favorite.” As she wrote in November 2011:

He has personality galore, but he also has an understanding of Cardinal Nation. He did, after all, grow up as a Cardinals fan. He’s done wonders with a bare-bones budget in Tampa Bay. He works well in bringing up young players. But he also has enough “old-school” in his blood to satisfy the traditionalist.

During my lunch on Friday, I was listening to sports radio station the Score in Chicago. It wasn’t a surprise they were predicting Maddon would be coming to the Cubs — not a surprise because what team wouldn’t want Maddon?

Now it appears that Friday prediction of Maddon to the Cubs will be a reality. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had the news yesterday, as did Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune.

Ugh.

Really, Joe?

I knew the Cubs would be getting their “real” manager sometime in the next year or two, meaning the manager who would be the final piece of their rebuilding process Theo Epstein began when he became Cubs president in 2011. And I figured that real manager would be a big name — but I was thinking, given his history with Theo, it would be Terry Francona. And that would have been fine. After 2004, I don’t really like either one. They’d be perfect together in Chicago. Continue reading

Remembering Oscar Taveras

I wore a Cardinals shirt yesterday.

The fact I had the day off work made that an easy choice. Given it was the three-year anniversary of Game Six of the 2011 World Series, I decided on my Lance Berkman shirt. Yet what really mattered was the emblem on the front, the Cards’ familiar birds-on-the-bat logo.

Oscar-TaverasThe Cardinals attire was to honor Oscar Taveras, of course.

He’s been on my mind so much since Sunday night, when I saw the first tweets about the car accident that claimed his life and hoped the news was some cruel social media death hoax.

When I saw a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, I knew it was true — and the World Series game I’d been watching was forgotten. I continued scanning through Twitter as more and more outlets confirmed the shocking, senseless, heartbreaking accident that killed both Oscar and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo.

Unfortunately shocking.

Clearly senseless.

Obviously heartbreaking. Any deaths of a 22-year-old and 18-year-old are. Young lives ended so much too soon. Such promise left unfulfilled.

And, regrettably, familiar emotions that follow the shock for all of us as Cardinals fans.

Continue reading

Shocking, Tragic Cardinals News On Oscar Taveras

taverasAbsolutely heartbreaking news tonight: Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

From Jenifer Langosch, Cardinals.com reporter:

The Cardinals were hit with devastating news on Sunday, when it was learned that top prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident back home in the Dominican Republic. Taveras’ agent, Brian Mejia, confirmed the news to MLB.com. Reached by phone, general manager John Mozeliak said that he, too, had heard from Mejia, but that the organization was waiting for a few more details before confirming the news with a public statement.

Mozeliak did say: “Obviously, we have deep condolences to his family. We are still waiting for more details before issuing a full statement.”

Taveras was 22.

Such a tragedy. Sincere sympathies to Oscar’s family, friends, teammates and everyone with the Cardinals.

UPDATE:

Here is the official statement from the Cardinals this evening:

The St. Louis Cardinals offer condolences to the family of Oscar Taveras the 22-year-old Cardinals outfielder, who was killed earlier today in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic.

“We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family,” Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends tonight.”

“I simply can’t believe it,” said John Mozeliak, Sr. VP & GM of the St. Louis Cardinals.  “I first met Oscar when he was sixteen years old and will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life who lived every day to the fullest.”

The team will provide additional information on funeral arrangements at a later time.

 

The “Because Matheny” Season Ends Because Of Matheny

Really, that was a fitting ending.

Painful, absolutely. Who can’t help but feel sorry for Michael Wacha, pitching for the first time in 20 days and making his 2014 postseason debut in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning with a Giants pennant on the line if they win?

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis CardinalsWacha shouldn’t even have been in that situation — yet obviously he was. Because Matheny.

And what better way to end a 2014 Cardinals season filled with so many frustrating and infuriating and confusing decisions made by Mike Matheny that had no other explanation except “Because Matheny” than with a final “Because Matheny” moment?

The bullpen management in the past two games was just inexplicable. My Giants fan pal at work with compared Matheny’s rotating through all the relievers in Game Four to a little kid after trick-or-treating on his first Halloween: “Ooooh, this one! No, this one! Now this one!”

Now Game Five and using Michael Wacha in that situation.

Ugh.

Predictable ending? Unfortunately yes in that situation, though perhaps not with Travis Ishikawa delivering the final blow of a walk-off pennant-winning home run to send the Giants to the World Series (of course! It’s an even year!) to face the Cinderella-story Kansas City Royals.

Yes, Matheny has led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series in each of his first three years as manager. Yes, the 2014 Cardinals won 90 regular season games and were NL Central champs for the second straight year. Yet I don’t believe even the most die-hard Matheny fan out there cannot say Mike Matheny regressed as a manager in 2014.

Ultimately, the season ended last night because of it.

Now I need to end this so I can leave for work. And if the Giant fan’s first words to me this morning aren’t “Thanks, Matheny!” I might have to punch him.

Because Matheny.

October Baseball’s Emotional Rollercoaster

How’s your mood this afternoon, 18 or so hours after yesterday’s NLCS Game Three loss?

Mine is still bad.

Emotional+rollercoaster+_8bb60080880a1600ffe893b9a80a9efbIt wasn’t surprising I was angry about the outcome of last night’s game when I went to bed, even though it was tempered a bit after watching the Royals win. (No, I’m not a Cards fan who hates the Royals. I was a Cubs fan in 1985. I harbor no resentment, plus love a good story — and the 2014 Royals are a fantastic one so far.)

When I woke up this morning, I was still angry and continued to feel that way on my drive to work. My thought was the mood lingered because I knew I had to face the Giants fan at work — a lifelong, die-hard Giants fan who spent Monday and yesterday being mad about Sunday’s outcome.

Yet even after our talk — which literally was a water cooler conversation since he happened to be filling his water bottle when I was going to fill mine — my mood hadn’t changed one bit. I didn’t want to hear his concerns that Posey, Panda and Pence aren’t hitting — your team won the game! Gift-wrapped by Mike Matheny! And your team has had all kinds of gifts given to them this October — just be grateful!

Those were not my exact words — well, OK, some were, like maybe that last sentence. And maybe it wasn’t really a quiet discussion, since my friend in the office next to mine was laughing when I walked back.

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Good, Bad, Ugly, Joy All In Game Two Win

We all love happy game endings — no matter what it takes to get there.

Game2

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLToday.com

Of course, we shouldn’t expect the 2014 Cardinals to do anything different in October than what they did the previous six months before they reached the NLCS, right? Why wouldn’t Game Two of the NLCS be filled with drama and a range of emotions, when it’s this team playing? The Cards had good, bad and ugly before the ultimately satisfying and joyful conclusion of a walk-off 5-4 win over the Giants.

Actually, we probably didn’t expect how they won last night. Four home runs from the team that hit the fewest in the National League during the regular season — even though they had turned on the power in the NLDS against the Dodgers.

You really can’t script October.

Although, if we could, we certainly wouldn’t want any kind of story to include an injury to Yadier Molina.

But that unfortunately happened, as a strained left oblique forced him from the game in the sixth inning. No update on his condition yet today, but we all know that kind of injury takes time to heal.

The game was tied 2-2 when Yadi left, after the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the first on (who else but) Matt Carpenter’s solo homer and a 2-0 lead with a bases-loaded Randal Grichuk single. Both obviously contributed to the “good” portion of the game. Continue reading