NFC Championship Game Was Great, But Not Like Game 6

Like many of you, I watched yesterday’s NFC championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

GTY 461739872 S SPO FBN USA WAUnlike most of you, I am the rare combination of St. Louis Cardinals fan for baseball and Chicago Bears fan for football. Which means I wasn’t rooting for the Packers — I know there are quite a few Cardinals/Packers fans (I am related to several) who obviously were rooting for their team, and the Cardinals/Rams fans were for the Packers also rather than see a division rival win.

So, personally, I was ecstatic over the outcome. More than ecstatic, actually, to see the Packers implode that way.

But I definitely disagree with Bob Nightengale.

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Sure, I get it — sloppy game to start with, as we remember the ball that bounced off David Freese or the one that neither Matt Holliday nor Rafael Furcal could come up with in Game 6. Yes, comparisons can be made with the four interceptions that Russell Wilson threw yesterday.

The comeback that Wilson led, with the Seahawks scoring 15 points late in the fourth quarter was definitely amazing. Incredible plays, like Seattle recovering the onside kick after Wilson scored a touchdown with just over two minutes left. Then the two-point conversion pictured above. We even had the moment similar to Josh Hamilton’s Game 6 10th inning homer — kind of — in Mason Crosby’s game-tying field goal with just 14 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

And there’s the biggest difference: time.  Or, rather, no time. Continue reading

Thank You, Anthony Rizzo, For Guaranteeing The Cubs Won’t Win The NL Central

Like many of you, I saw the oh-so-social-media friendly “promise” that Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo made on Thursday that the team would win the National League Central division in 2015 — it was an easily tweetable sound bite, for sure. I rolled my eyes after reading it and moved on.

How often have we already heard grand proclamations about their “guaranteed” success in 2015? Joe Maddon! Jon Lester! Kris Bryant! The Sporting News! Even Back to the Future 2!! Wooooooo!!!!!

Yesterday I was catching up on baseball news during lunch and read about Rizzo’s comments — he made them during a Cubs Caravan stop at an elementary school. I saw the actual quote of what he said. And laughed.

“It’s going to happen this year.”

Now, the grammar is perfect there in its written form, but I loved seeing those words coming from a Cub. And in case you’re wondering why …

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A Win For Lance Lynn With 3-Year Extension

The most consistent member of the St. Louis Cardinals starting rotation in 2014 has been rewarded for his efforts, as the team signed him to a three-year, $22 million extension and avoid salary arbitration. As the Cardinals news release also notes, Lynn is the National League’s third-winningest pitcher since 2012.

Lance+Lynn+CpfC91XpdNUmHere’s the rest of the news release.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have reached agreement with right-handed pitcher Lance Lynn on a three-year contract (2015-17), thus avoiding salary arbitration. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Lance,” stated Cardinals Senior V.P./General Manager John Mozeliak. “His performance has led to much success for both he and the Cardinals organization, and we look forward to his continued growth as both a pitcher and team leader.”

Drafted by the Cardinals in the first round (39th player overall) of the 2008 amateur draft, Lynn has compiled a 49-28 career won-loss mark with a 3.46 ERA in 119 games (97 games started). Since debuting in 2011, Lynn has been a member of a Cardinals team that has reached the postseason for a franchise-record four consecutive seasons with Lynn having appeared in a franchise-record 23 postseason games.

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Cardinals Caravan Will Cover 6 States In 4 Days

Even as Mother Nature reminds that winter really is here and spring is still a long time away, baseball season can feel a little bit closer with both the Cardinals Caravan and Winter Warm-Up coming up soon.

Cards CaravanThe Cardinals announced details of the annual Cardinals Caravan yesterday — here is the information from their news release.

In addition to annual stops in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee, the 2015 Caravan will add a sixth route with additional stops in Kentucky and Indiana. Altogether, more than 30 current and former players will embark on the journey making 22 stops in 21 cities throughout Cardinals Nation fromJanuary 16 – 19th.

A combination of current players, future stars and former Cardinals will travel on each caravan emceed by a current team broadcaster. Some of the current players include 2014 Rookie of the Year finalist Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Marco Gonzales, and Randal Grichuk. Minor-league prospects include Stephen Piscotty, Greg Garcia, Tim Cooney, Xavier Scruggs and more. Brad Thompson, Danny Cox, Kerry Robinson, Alan and Andy Benes, and Al Hrabosky, among others, will represent Cardinals alumni, while broadcasters John Rooney, Rick Horton, Mike Claiborne, Tom Ackerman, Chris Hrabe and Dan McLaughlin will serve as emcees. Team mascot Fredbird will also make an appearance at several Caravan stops. Continue reading

It’s 2015, So The Cardinals Will Make The World Series

During this interminable baseball off-season, looking ahead is common. We have to pass the time some way, right?

new-years-questionsWorld Series predictions based on every free agent signing also are common, and happen every year. Remember when the Angels were going to win in 2012 after signing That Guy Who Used to Play First Base and C.J. Wilson? Or when the Nationals would win in 2013? The Dodgers in 2014?

Now it’s 2015, and we’ve already heard plenty about the Cubs (yes, the Chicago Cubs) going to the World Series this year — that’s what “Back to The Future II” said! And now Joe Maddon’s their manager! They signed Jon Lester! And the Vegas odds say so! Woo hoo!!!!

Yeah. We’ll see how that goes once they actually start playing …

Instead, I not surprisingly have a different perspective. The Cardinals will win the 2015 National League pennant this year and return to the World Series. Continue reading

My Choices For Top 5 Cardinals Stories of 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close tonight, it’s the perfect time to look back at the year that’s ending — as well as time to close out 2014 with the United Cardinal Bloggers annually December project, the Top 5 Stories of the Year.

It was certainly an interesting Cardinals season. Definite highs, with another division title and fourth consecutive trip to the National League Championship Series, yet also a shocking and devastating low. And, though it doesn’t make my list, a lot of angst and frustration about the team mostly because of Mike Matheny — which I wrote about several times (Hey Cardinals, Are You There? Do You Even Care in early June and This Year’s Cardinals Don’t Do Much For Me after the All-Star break) that culminated in their final game of the season, The “Because Matheny” Season Ends Because of Matheny. (Honestly, I’m getting tense again just looking back at those posts. Maybe it should have been one of my top stories …)

Anyway, here’s a look at my choices, listed chronologically.

1. The debut of Oscar Taveras on May 31

532360868e088.preview-300From that day: “As you’ve no doubt heard by now, since rumors began circulating during last night’s game, the moment every Cardinals fan has been waiting all season for is finally here: Oscar Taveras is coming to the big leagues.”

Then there was the game — the first hit in the second at-bat, which you can see again here. That swing, the raindrops, those cheers, that smile, the curtain call … Such promise right then. So much was written everywhere that my own post was merely a wrap-up with links to those.

The season for Oscar didn’t go as gloriously as that first hit did, though he definitely continued to have a flare for dramatic homers in the few he did hit, and obviously Oscar unfortunately makes my list again. But on May 31, and with that beautiful home run, the anticipation for what could be ahead was tremendous. Continue reading

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