Sometimes, The Greatest Moments Are Unscripted

Ah, the 2014 All-Star Game … also know as Derek Jeter Tribute Night.

I’m not going to join in the fray over what Adam Wainwright said or did — frankly, I’d rather dedicate this song to Adam Wainwright¬†instead — although I do want to talk about Derek Jeter’s first at-bat against him.

Ah, Derek Jeter in Cardinal red ...

Look, it’s Derek Jeter in Cardinal red!

Yes, it was all choreographed to perfection beginning with the “RE2PECT” commercial running on FOX once the top of the first inning ended. Then, at Target Field, having the introduction of Jeter by the late Bob Sheppard was a wonderful touch. The standing ovation from the fans, the tipping of his helmet to the crowd, the requisite camera shots of Jeter’s parents in the stands, the applause by the all the National League starters on the field, the silence on the FOX broadcast so we could all absorb the moment, even the chance to hear Jeter telling Jonathan Lucroy “have a good one and congratulations to you, all right?” as the crowd begins to chant “Der-ek Je-ter” — top notch, of course, because that’s the way it was all supposed to be.

The first pitch from Wainwright, still silence from Joe Buck and the crew, the crowd settles down. Another requisite shot of Jeter’s family and then, through the silence, one man’s voice rings out …

“Over-rated.”

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Mariano Rivera, Skip Schumaker and Michael Wacha — Oh My!

What do the just-retired greatest closer of all time, a Cardinal-turned-Dodger-now-turned Red and the Cardinals rookie sensation all have in common? Nothing, it would seem — yet posts we wrote about those three were what you read the most at Aaron Miles’ Fastball in 2013.

12-31 collageAfter looking at our picks for the top five stories of the year yesterday, we close out the year today with a look at the most-read posts. And, as you can already see, it’s certainly not a Cardinals only list — although of course they dominate the list. Just not at the top.

No, our No. 1 post of the year (in terms of readership numbers) is one about the man who is used to ending things instead of starting them, Mariano Rivera. Watching the All-Star Game tribute to Mo on July 16 reminded me of the time my Yankees friend Kat and I went to Busch Stadium in 2005 for the Yankees-Cardinals series. We had the opportunity to see something very few people probably even noticed before that Sunday’s game, which I wrote about in The Tale of Mariano Rivera and The Ball Thrown Out of Busch Stadium. It was a fun, entertaining post — and it ended up in Deadspin (which was a surreal moment, and one I had to capture via screenshot). So lots and lots and lots of people ended up reading about what Mo did that day, and it was by far our most read post of the year.

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And Now I’m Over Andrew McCutchen

It was never a secret I adored Andrew McCutchen. A love letter to him a year ago made that very clear (and, not to pat myself on the back, but check out the final paragraph — pretty impressive for something I basically made up to close out the letter and, really, Yadi should have finished second for MVP) as did many, many tweets over the past couple seasons.

Yes, even a photo like this won't persuade me to continue my crush. (Photo: Pittsburgh Magazine)

Really, even a photo like this won’t persuade me to continue my crush. (Photo: Pittsburgh Magazine)

But I’m done. Yep, just like that. (Don’t crushes just tend to flame out anyway?)

And, yes, it has to do with his marriage proposal this week. Not because he did it, not at all. It’s not like I harbored any secret fantasy he really likes women 20 years older than him who live 600 miles from Pittsburgh and are Cardinals fans

Good for him that he’s now engaged, sure. Best wishes and much happiness and all that. But everything else about the proposal just turned me off — that he did it on “Ellen,” and it was the sole reason for him being on the show at all. I mean, what? Why? It just didn’t make any sense.

I realize I am likely the one and only female in the entire universe who feels this way. My reaction is supposed to be like that of every other woman who saw it. I should think it was so romantic and beautiful and perfect, and there were supposed to be tears springing to my eyes as I watched it like there were for all those women who tweeted about it and for my friend Tracy when she watched the video at work. Even male Pirates bloggers were writing that “he also proved he can propose to his girlfriend better than any man ever will. The guy continues to show his superiority over the male species.”

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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

Whose Birthday Wish Will Come True?

Adron Chambers of the Cardinals was born on Oct. 8, 1986. Yesterday he turned 27.

Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates was born on Oct. 10, 1986. Tomorrow he turns 27.

collage-10-9Chances are very good that both have the same birthday wish, as the Cardinals and Pirates prepare to battle in Game Five of the NLDS tonight: to be spraying champagne in the clubhouse after his team’s victory, since he and his team will be moving on to face the Dodgers in the NLCS.

Since it’s the decisive Game Five, of course, only one’s wish will come true.

Tonight’s game is the 24th time in 2013 the two teams have played each other. No surprises left at this stage, nothing new — even though last Friday, in Game Two, the Cardinals did actually have something new in facing Gerrit Cole for the first time.

But we know how that played out, with Cole allowing only two hits (including a Carlos Beltran home run) in six innings as the Pirates cruised to a 7-1 win. Chambers had his only at-bat of the series in the sixth inning as he pinch-hit for Randy Choate and launched a long fly deep to centerfield — which McCutchen caught.

Cole will start tonight, facing Adam Wainwright.

We obviously know how Wainwright did in Game One, shutting down the Pirates for seven innings and giving up only three hits (including a Pedro Alvarez home run) while the Cardinals had an easy 9-1 victory. McCutchen had one of those hits, a fourth inning single. He singled again in the ninth inning, off Trevor Rosenthal — something he couldn’t do with two out in the bottom of the ninth in Monday’s Game Four. He popped out to Matt Carpenter to end the game and send us to tonight’s Game Five.

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To Pirates Fans After Win 82

Maybe it’s because I began my baseball fandom following the Cubs. Or perhaps it’s because the writer in me loves good stories, especially redemptive ones. Yes, my massive crush on one particular Pirate certainly plays a role, but it goes beyond him or any one guy on their team this year. Because after spending Labor Day weekend in Pittsburgh and talking with so many Pirates fans, I genuinely am happy for them after they won number 82.

PNC Park - Sept. 1, 2013

PNC Park – Sept. 1, 2013

If you think that’s wrong for me as a Cardinals fan, so it goes — I’m not going to apologize. I spent last night watching both the Pirates and the Reds and, as a fan of great pitching, found both games compelling. (Travis Wood! We love you!)

Yet it was the one on my laptop, Pirates and Rangers, Gerrit Cole against Yu Darvish, that captured my attention more (and that was way before this happened).

Yes, the end of the Pirates 20-year losing streak has gotten plenty of attention and justifiably so. Sure, Cards fans can mock and be bitter (and plenty are) but just think about it from their perspective. Where were you in 1992? What have you experienced baseball-wise since then? Even for me, as a Cards fan since 2000, it’s been beyond tremendous. Now, what if the Cardinals hadn’t even won 82 games once in a season during that time — how would you feel? It’s not like the Cubs and them not going to or winning a World Series. It’s not winning, period.

Those fans who’ve stuck by them definitely deserve a break for how they’re feeling now. And, undoubtedly, those Pirates fans were the best part of the trip to Pittsburgh.

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