Five Years Ago Today: Albert’s Fractured Forearm

NOTE: While the Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals five years ago yesterday, it’s doubtful most of us remember that outcome. Instead, what we remember is this collision between Albert Pujols and Wilson Betemit that forced Albert from the game and onto the disabled list. Five years ago today, we learned the injury was a non-displaced fracture of the left radius and he was supposed to miss four to six weeks — and we soon learned timelines like that meant nothing to Albert, since he was back when his initial 15 days on the DL were up. Still, it was kind of a big deal at the time — as the post below will indicate. You also can read about some names you probably wanted to forget, like Brian Tallett and Miguel Batista. And, as a result of Batista being in the game, there also was a poem. Ah, Poems For The Poet — those were the days … 

Painful Win For Cardinals

Skip Schumaker delivered an improbable walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading the Cardinals to their second consecutive 5-4 win over the Royals. The victory moved the Cards back into a tie for first place in the NL Central.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday's finale against the Royals.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday’s finale against the Royals.

The bigger story, however, is Albert Pujols and what happened in the top of the sixth. The details, from Austin Laymance of Cardinals.com:

The inning after his homer gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base towards the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he made contact with a charging Betemit.

“He hit me in the wrist and shoulder and kind of jammed it back,” Pujols said. “As a first baseman it’s one of the toughest plays to make, it’s almost a bang-bang play and you can’t let the ball go. You risk it and, hopefully, don’t get hurt.”

But Pujols got hurt, and as the slugger went to the ground in obvious pain, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.

The initial report is that Albert has a sprained wrist, and he will be having further tests today. Given the Cardinals history with injury diagnosis — Allen Craig’s broken kneecap not being revealed via x-ray until a week after it happened being just the latest example — perhaps we have reason to worry. Or perhaps not, according to Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch: Continue reading

Five Years Ago Today: Nothing Better Than A Cubbie Sweep

NOTE: Five years ago was a much better time baseball-wise, wasn’t it? We weren’t subjected to daily gushings by the national sports media over THE CUBS!!!!! and so many of those friends and coworkers who now claim to be die-hard lifelong CUBS!!!!! fans were … well, just not paying attention to baseball, I guess. And Joe Maddon was the guy who managed the Rays. Oh, and the Cardinals were doing things like sweeping the CUBS!!!! — including two straight games, on June 4, 2011, and June 5, 2011, in Albert Pujols walk-off fashion. And Carlos Zambrano was getting mad about it. Plus Ryan Theriot — ahem, now Two-Time World Series Champion Ryan Theriot — was doing productive things as a Cardinal. Ah, those were the days … Enjoy this post from Miranda and relive the memories. To see the original post and its comments, click here

There is nothing better than a Cardinals win. But if there is anything better, it’s a Cardinals win over the Cubbies. The cherry on top is that Sunday’s Cardinals win over the Cubs meant that it was a SWEEP!

And how sweep it was!

The win Sunday came just as it did Saturday with a walk-off blast from Albert Pujols. Here is Sunday’s shot, if you haven’t seen it (or want to see it again).

It was Albert’s 13th homer of the season and his fourth in the past three days. The Mang enjoys playing the Cubbies, obviously! The blast Sunday was one of those in which you and he just knew it was gone once the ball left the bat and his grin and run in to the home plate area only to be mobbed by his teammates left you with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, the REAL Albert Pujols is back!

Another good thing about Sunday? Ryan Theriot hit an RBI-double in the bottom of the ninth, to tie the game up.

You know what this means right?

RYAN THERIOT HAS A 19-GAME HITTING STREAK!!!!! How awesome is that!? I say, so awesome!

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Continuing The Opening Night Countdown: 5

It’s the final day of March, with 5 days now until the regular season begins for the Cardinals on Sunday night.

The No. 5 brings only one person to mind, of course.

Philadelphia Phillies v St Louis Cardinals - Game 4

Yes, Albert Pujols, or That Guy Who Used to Play First Base. Although now, going into his fourth season with the Los Angeles, California, Angels of Anaheim in Orange County, USA, the bad feelings over his departure have waned (for me at least). And I’m still glad, as I was at the time, that John Mozeliak didn’t sign him to a ridiculously expensive contract.

Albert’s best years were as a Cardinal, as he was a three-time National League MVP during his 11 seasons and compiled numbers of .328/.420/.617. Plus he gave us some incredible memories in the postseason.

5-5

Such as in Game 5 of the 2005 NLCS against the Astros … Continue reading

Countdown To Opening Night: Now 24

The days are just flying by now, aren’t they?

Yeah, I know. They’re not. But we’re only 24 days until the beginning of the regular season on April 5 at Wrigley Field. And, since it’s Thursday, here are four quick Throwback Thursday looks at past 24s to get us through another day.

24-6

No. 24 was retired by the Cardinals in 2010, when Whitey Herzog was elected to the Hall of Fame. Herzog led the Cards to one official World Series championship in 1982, what should have been another championship in 1985 and to another National League pennant in 1987.

I know many long-time Cards fans speak glowingly of Herzog and “Whiteyball” and his success during the 1980s. But, hey, I was a Cubs fan in the ’80s. My favorite Herzog moment was him leaving Bruce Sutter in during a particular game on a Saturday afternoon in June 1984 …

Moving on, the final player to wear No. 24 before it was retired was Rick Ankiel, who wore the number during his return to the Cardinals as an outfielder in 2007 to 2009.

24-2

For more on Ankiel, check out this Throwback Thursday post from a year ago when he officially announced his retirement as a player. It includes video of his home run during his return to the majors as an outfielder, plus clips of those amazing throws he made to third base when the Cards played the Rockies at Coors Field on May 6, 2008.  Continue reading

An Evening With Mike Matheny

“Matheny, what are you thinking?!”

If you have asked (or yelled) this question at your television or made that somewhat rhetorical inquiry on Twitter, let me save you some time: Mike Matheny’s new book, The Matheny Manifesto, will not give you the answers you’re looking for. The book is not about Mike’s bullpen philosophy nor does it give an insight to how he develops the batting order.

Matheny bookIt does discuss Mike’s beliefs as to how youth sports (specifically baseball) should operate. So if you are a parent, teacher, coach or all of the above, it might resonate a bit more.

As a quick background, shortly after his retirement from playing, Mike Matheny was asked to coach a youth baseball team. He agreed but decided that if he was going to be the coach, it was going to be on his terms. He wrote a letter outlining the expectations he had for parents; the expectations for the young athletes who were to be on his team and what the parents could expect from the coaches. That letter, later posted on the Internet, became known as “The Matheny Manifesto” as it went viral. Hence, the title of the book.

Thanks to the heads-up from a friend, I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to attend “A Very Special Evening with Mike Matheny” at Lindenwood University last Monday, February 2. Attendees received a signed copy of The Matheny Manifesto upon arrival. The program consisted of a chat facilitated by Greg Amsinger of MLB Network, followed by a Q & A with the audience.

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Did You Know, Or Care, That Albert Is Close To Homer No. 500?

Yesterday morning I saw a headline somewhere that said Albert Pujols had hit home run No. 496 in the Angels loss to the A’s Monday night.

I’ll admit it — I had no idea he was that close to his 500th homer. I’ll further admit to not really paying attention to how he’s doing this season, except for occasionally seeing tweets from someone who still does a “Pujols Watch” regularly.

This afternoon, I saw a link to an article in USA Today with the headline “As Albert Pujols nears 500 HRs, does anyone even care?” The point made by Bob Nightengale was more that steroids have tainted what used to be a sacred milestone, despite the fact only 25 players in MLB history have reached that total.

albert-pujols

Those were the days …

And while that point is certainly valid, as I was reading I wondered if Albert approaching homer 500 would be a much bigger deal if he was still a Cardinal.

Which is pretty much what I then read Fred McGriff say in the article too:

“I think we all thought Albert had a chance to hit 700 homers after seeing what he did in St. Louis,” says McGriff, “but it’s been tough for him out in L.A. Maybe that’s why he’s not getting the attention.

“I’m sure if he was still in St. Louis, they’d be blowing it up pretty good out there.”

Albert hit 455 home runs with the Cardinals, yet — due to injury last year and his struggles during his first season in Anaheim (Los Angeles of Anaheim?) — he’s only hit 51 so far as an Angel. He’s hit four in 14 games this season, which of course is the same number as Jhonny Peralta has hit and one behind his teammate Mike Trout. Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Looking Back to the 2004 NLCS

Ah, the 2004 Cardinals. That great 105-win team with the MV3 seemingly unstoppable on offense, Larry Walker receiving a standing ovation upon striking out in his Cardinals debut, a rookie named Yadier Molina getting called up in June, Chris Carpenter having a great first season with the team, those other new starters Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan doing really well too (yes, they really did) and Rick Ankiel successfully returning to the mound in September plus winning a game. (Sadly, his last.)

2004-CardinalsAnd how could we forget a bullpen with Cal Eldred, Ray King, Steve Kline, Julian Tavarez, Kiko Calero and of course Jason Isringhausen? Ray King! Steve Kline! Kiko!

Plus, in looking at this picture to the left, we can’t avoid mentioning Mike Matheny. Or Reggie Sanders, Edgar Renteria and Tony Womack. Also, of course, Matt Morris (who you can see in the video below).

Ever since researching my post the other day on the 2004-2006 teams vs. the 2011-2013 teams, I’ve been remembering how much I loved that 2004 team. They were just so fun to watch, game after game, because they were so good in so many ways — especially Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.

The 2004 NLCS was also a classic. A seven-game battle against the Houston Astros, with the home team winning every game. It was the perfect ending to the 2004 season! (That’s what I’ve told myself for years, anyway: the season ended with the Cards crowned NL champs.) Of the seven, Game Six was probably the most epic of all — a 12-inning battle that only went to extras because of a blown save by Izzy yet ended with the spectacular walk-off homer by Jimmy with Albert on base.

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Which Three Years Were Better: 2004-2006 or 2011-2013?

The past 10 seasons are an extraordinarily rich time in St. Louis Cardinals history, as we all know. Seven trips to the postseason, six times in the National League Championship Series, five National League Central titles,  four World Series appearances resulting in two World Championships — obviously a glorious time to be a Cardinals fan.

Yet also two very distinct ways to that success, with the Tony La Russa/Walt Jocketty era reaching its pinnacle in 2004 with its reliance more on veteran acquisitions to make an impact and now the John Mozeliak/Mike Matheny way that’s blossoming with talent developed from within. Which has me wondering: of these past seasons, which three-year stretch was better: 2004-2006 or 2011-2013?

Here’s a refresher on these two championship stretches.

2004-2006

MV32004
Record: 105-57 (best in MLB), finished first in NL Central.

Postseason: Won NLDS 3 games to 1 over Dodgers; won NLCS 4 games to 3 over Astros; lost World Series in sweep by Red Sox.

Top hitters: The MV3 — Albert Pujols .331/.415/.657 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI, WAR of 8.4; Scott Rolen .314/.409/.598 with 34 homers and 124 RBI, WAR of 9.1; Jim Edmonds .301/.418/.643 with 42 homers and 111, WAR of 7.1. Also, Tony Womack hit .307 and had 26 stolen bases. Edgar Renteria hit .287 with 72 RBI and 17 stolen bases.

Team batting average: .278, first in NL.

Team OPS: .804, also first in the NL.

Top starting pitchers: Chris Carpenter, 15-5, 3.46 ERA; Jason Marquis, 15-7, 3.71 ERA; Jeff Suppan, 16-9, 4.16 ERA.

Saves leader: Jason Isringhausen, 47.

Team ERA: 3.75, second in NL (Braves first at 3.74)

Postseason moment to remember: Jim Edmonds 12th inning walk-off home run in Game Six of the NLCS.

Award recognition: The MV3 finished third (Pujols), fourth (Rolen) and fifth (Edmonds) in NL MVP voting. Tony La Russa was second in the NL Manager of the Year race.

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All Hail, Matt Carpenter!

In last night’s 12-8 Cardinals victory over the Pirates that pretty much had everything, one player just did what he’s been doing all season: Matt Carpenter.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Carpenter led off the Cardinals first with a walk, scored on a Carlos Beltran single, tripled in the third, scored on a Jon Jay double, doubled in the seventh — the third of the Cardinals nine consecutive hits for the inning — and scored when Jon Jay singled.

Last night he tied Albert Pujols for the most hits in a season at Busch Stadium III with 98. (Chances are excellent he’ll break it, don’ t you think?) With his double — his 47th of the season — he surpassed Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby for most by a Cardinals second baseman in a season.

Carpenter is hitting .423/.464/.731 in September and has hit in every game this month (plus on Aug. 31, so he has a seven-game hit streak). He had the only Cardinal hits — two — in their 1-0 loss in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

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The Dreaded “One Bad Inning” Strikes Again

“One bad inning … one bad inning … one bad inning and a 3-6-1…”

Sorry. I keep having this nightmare about the Cardinals starters losing games because of one bad inning. Last night’s dream included a bases-loaded, inning-ending, Cardinal-rally-killing 3-6-1 double play, to make matters worse.

Oh … wait, that wasn’t just a dream? Well. That’s disappointing. I guess that means we should take a closer look at reality. As the first chapter in the Pujols vs. the Cardinals saga played out, the storyline quickly shifted to the struggles and the questions about how to get them right. It wasn’t all bad … but a 5-1 loss is going to be mostly bad. Let’s play a round of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

good, bad, uglyThe Good

Yes, there was still good to be found in last night’s loss.

If you’re keeping track (be honest, who isn’t?), That One Guy Who Used To Play First Base was hitless on the night, and was part of a classic strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to end the first inning. That play never gets old!

If you can ignore the score for a minute, you’ll noticed that there was some great pitching throughout the night. Even Lance Lynn, who is in the midst of a vaguely familiar pre-All-Star-break slide himself, pitched five great innings. Outside of the “one bad inning,” he tossed a three-hit, six-strikeout shutout. He was followed by Michael Blazek who has been as impressive as any rookie we’ve seen this year. He mowed through the top of the order in the seventh, and didn’t so much as bat an eye Albert’s way when he stepped to the plate. Fly out, ground out, ground out, and he was done. It was beautiful.

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