Does Yadi’s Greatness Work Against Him in MVP Voting?

As you likely know by now, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates was the overwhelming winner in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, capturing 28 of the 30 first place votes. Yadier Molina received the other two first place votes — cast by Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — yet finished in third place with 219 total points. Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks was second with 242 points. Matt Carpenter finished fourth with 194 points.

95191-yadimolinagettyFrankly, I figured McCutchen would win — though I did think Yadi would finish second. Because for as great as Yadi is and as invaluable as he was to the Cardinals’ success in 2013 (and 2012, and 2011, and …) it seems to me every single thing he does is just expected from him now.

All the unquantifiable “intangibles” being touted as reasons why Yadi is without a doubt most valuable are all very true. Defensively, he is without peer. He strikes fear in opposing baserunners so that they often don’t even attempt to steal second. He is the heart and soul and leader of the team, taking charge of the pitching staff — no matter who comprises it, from veterans to rookies — and provides whatever type of counsel and calming is needed during the heat of a game. Plus he’s improved his batting average, number of hits and RBI every year since 2010 and even led the National League in hitting for a stretch this season.

He exemplifies this quote from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Excellence and Yadier Molina? Absolutely you’d use that word to describe him. It’s just Yadi being Yadi.

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MVP: Making The Case For Molina

Tonight and tomorrow, the Baseball Writers Association of America will be able to announce the winners of the two most prestigious post-season awards, and the Cardinals are well represented in both categories. Though Adam Wainwright is not expected to win the Cy Young Award (Clayton Kershaw seems to have it all but locked up), the battle for MVP is developing into quite the hot topic.

DSC_0332Most “experts” seem to believe Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, who led his team to its first winning season in over 20 years, will land at the top of the ballots. An award that generally follows the path the numbers create favors the center fielder whose .317 average in 583 at bats, complete with 97 runs, 21 homers, 84 RBI, 27 stolen bases, an 8.2 WAR (not to mention his fielding percentage, runs saved, etc.) — especially as a center fielder — make him an easy favorite.

Now, I know my perspective is dripping in bias, but I don’t think it has to be in order to make a convincing argument in favor of Yadier Molina. It does, though, require a willingness to look beyond just the numbers to what “value” really means. Continue reading

Cardinal Love Letter: Michael Wacha

Dear Michael,

How’s it going, buddy? Of course you’ve bounced back from the last time we all met, almost two weeks ago now, and seeing you that night was rough. Every Cardinals fan out there just wanted to give you a hug after watching you leave the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park — even my uncle Jim, who rarely hugs anybody.

MLB: St Louis Cardinals-Photo DayYes, the night was incredibly disappointing but the Cardinals wouldn’t even have been in the situation, Game Six of the World Series, without you. And now, with a little time and a little perspective, hopefully you can see and appreciate that.

Because, in the big picture, what a season for you! And, especially, what an October!

Seriously, how can any of us as Cardinals fans decide which game of yours from this season was our favorite? I definitely have a difficult time.

Was it your final regular season start, that oh-so-very-close-to-a-no-hitter against the Nationals on Sept. 24? It was special because of its unexpectedness at that particular moment and, of course, incredible to watch (especially for someone who loves pitching like I do).

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One Week Later – Time To Reflect

A week ago this morning, the butterflies were already building. I was nervous. The reality of winning two games in Boston with the Red Sox on the verge of a history-making win seemed slim. But hoping beyond reasonable hope is what sports fans do. Michael Wacha gave the Cardinals as good a chance as any, and the law of averages seemed to imply that the offense was “due,” as they say.

It could happen. Crazier things had.

That was then.

looking backNow, I’m finding it gradually easier to look back. Just as fans hold out hope until the bitter end, they also feel the hurt when the fairytale ends. It’s not technically our loss, but it stings like it is. Our summer is invested in the success or failure of our team; we inhale and exhale — quite literally! —  based on what our players do; attitudes and emotions can be swayed because our team is up … or down.

As I watched Game 6, as our team’s World Series hopes slipped further and further out of reach, I said aloud to my dad, “Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much.”

Admittedly, I have a tendency to care too deeply about pretty much everything. Cardinals baseball is no exception. When they’re up, I’m up. When they’re down, I’m down. When they are confident (a la Adam Wainwright’s comments before heading back to Boston), I can be confident. When they’re disappointed, I’m devastated.  Continue reading

What Grade Would You Give Mike Matheny For 2013?

As we continue to look back at the 2013 season, one area to review is the job done by Mike Matheny in leading the team. We’re all well aware this was just his second year managing anywhere, and the Cardinals improved on their 2012 NLCS performance to make it to the World Series.

MathenyWith the United Cardinal Bloggers off-season roundtable kicking off today, our question to the group focused on the manager: what letter grade would give Mike Matheny for his job managing the Cardinals throughout 2013, regular season through last Wednesday’s Game Six, and why?

Here are the responses — and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba

He gets an A-minus. Just looking at it big-picture, he managed the Cardinals to the National League pennant even though, for most of the season, he lost two starting pitchers (Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia), two closers (Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs) and a starting shortstop (Rafael Furcal). Plus, he lost his RBI leader (Allen Craig) for a month down the stretch.

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Who Is Your Choice For 2013 Cardinals MVP?

Click to vote at the bottom of the post!

Now that we’ve had  few days to deal with the disappointing end of the St. Louis Cardinals season in the World Series, it’s time to look at the big picture of 2013. A team doesn’t win 106 games from April through October without a a variety of key contributors. Some, of course, are more valuable than others.

Who was the Cardinals Most Valuable Player this year, taking into account both the regular season and postseason?

collage-2013 MVPA few obvious candidates, in alphabetical order, and a very brief look at their 2013 numbers.

Carlos Beltran: Led the team with 24 regular season home runs, hit .296/.339/.491 with 84 RBI. In October, had 15 RBI and hit .268/.388/.464.

Matt Carpenter: Had the most hits in the National League with 199, most doubles in MLB with 55 and most runs scored in MLB with 126 while overall hitting .318/.392/.481 and often being mentioned in the NL MVP conversation. In October, things changed considerably as he only hit .217/.263/.290 with three doubles and four RBI. However, he did hit .296 in the World Series.

Matt Holliday: One of four Cardinals to hit .300 or better in the regular season, he led the team in OPS with .879 and hit .300/.389/.490 with 22 homers and a team-high 94 RBI. In October he hit .246/.268/.507 overall and hit four homers with 10 RBI. He was the only Cardinal to homer during the World Series, as he hit two, and he led the team with five RBI in the Series.

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Memories Help Come To Terms With The Season’s End

The manila envelope arrived on Thursday, the familiar handwriting of my Cardinals fan uncle Jim across the front scrawling out my name and address.

Upon removing it from the mailbox, I could immediately tell it wasn’t his usual gift of a Cardinals t-shirt — that kind of package will likely arrive in the months ahead, after the postseason merchandise ends up on clearance.

WS newspapersNo, this envelope contained something sturdier yet flexible. A magazine, perhaps?

I ripped open the end of the envelope and saw newspapers. Further inspection revealed special sections from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the World Series. Given the timing, not even 24 hours after Game Six and the Cardinals season had ended, I could only take a quick glance before replacing the newspapers in the envelope and tossing it on my desk. Too painful to investigate right away.

This morning, up early, curiosity — and coming to better terms with what happened in the final three games of the World Series — got the best of me. With a cup of coffee in hand, I went back to the envelope and removed the newspapers to have a closer look. They were all from Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, last Friday and Saturday’s editions of the Post-Dispatch, and are filled with stories on the Game Two victory in Boston and previews of Game Three at home in Busch Stadium plus page after page of glorious, full-color player and game photos.

Some of the articles were ones I’d read online last week, yet seeing them again and in print and now knowing just what was to come gave me a much different perspective. Especially of Bernie Miklasz’s column from one week ago today, in the photo above at the top left: “Can Cards Win Out?”

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Cardinals Fall Just Short Of Ultimate Goal

No legendary Game Six magic this time in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals — unfortunately.

Which means thus ends the 2013 season.

baseball_fall-ballAnd in the World Series, with just two teams left playing, only one can celebrate as champions. As I said the other day, these October losses hurt more the farther we go — and this final one hurts most of all.

In the big picture of the 2013 season, what a ride for the Cardinals. Best record in the majors, National League Central champs for the first time in four years, two MVP contenders, rookie after rookie shining on the pitchers mound and so much more — plus winning the National League pennant in a tremendous month of October baseball.

Still, despite all the success, it didn’t end how any of us wanted. There should be celebrations by our team, not those terrible sad looks and tears.

And we each mourn that the Cardinals fell short of the final destination in our own individual way.

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So, This Is It.

Fenway awaits. Bring it on, Boston.

Fenway awaits. Bring it on, Boston.

“It starts with Game 6…” Adam Wainwright said, after predicting a “legendary” comeback for his Cardinals.

The team ace and Game 5 starter was certainly not satisfied with his performance in the final game at Busch Stadium. He knew that his leadership could have shifted the series in favor of the Birds. Instead, the offense that has been sputtering came nearly to a stop. (Kind of like the plane the team sat on for roughly six hours yesterday awaiting their takeoff to Boston…)

And with that, it all comes down to this.

…no pressure or anything, guys.

As a Cardinals fan, October baseball is almost expected these days. As a baseball fan, it’s never taken for granted. Continue reading

The Deeper Into October, The Harder The Losses

No one ever enjoys watching their team lose.

As Cardinals fans, we’ve had the good fortune to watch great games from our team throughout 2013, with 97 wins in the regular season and nine wins in October. Fantastic, each game in its own way. Every single victory.

BuschYet not every game was as bright and beautiful as this picture of a sun-drenched Busch Stadium. There also were the 65 regular season losses, made all the more painful when they came in bunches — three in a row from time to time, the brutal seven-game streak in late July.

And now the Cards have seven October losses following last night’s Game Five defeat to the Red Sox by the score of 3-1. It’s the second time this month they’ve lost two in a row.

But this latest loss feels so much worse, that much harder to take than losing Games Two and Three of the NLDS to the Pirates. Which makes sense — the stage is bigger in the World Series, more people are watching and paying attention as the teams still playing now stand at only two.  And the bigger the stage, the deeper into October we get, the more magnified everything is. Which makes the losses even tougher — especially losses in the World Series, and back-to-back losses at Busch Stadium where  the Cardinals have had so much success this season.

To lose the final home game of the year … ugh.

That’s not how any of us wanted it to play out, obviously.

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