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

Thank You, John Mozeliak

In February Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, was the keynote speaker for the convention I work on at my full-time job. It was fascinating to hear his talk, which was about 50 minutes long. One thing he elaborated on was why he does not watch the A’s games, which was a famous part of the movie “Moneyball.” He said he prefers to make his decisions based more on the big picture and what it will take to help the team win overall, rather than what happens in one particular game.

MozeliakJohnI thought of Beane and his comments after Thursday’s trade deadline — both in reading about the moves he made for his own team as well as after the moves John Mozeliak made to try to improve the Cardinals.

With a few days to absorb it all now, combined with a trip to St. Louis for Friday and Saturday’s Brewers-Cards games, I am glad that Mozeliak made the moves to acquire John Lackey and Justin Masterson. In addition, I’m glad he began the team’s transition about 10 days ago in signing A.J. Pierzynski.

It’s not a secret that I haven’t been too thrilled this season, since I wrote a post called “This Year’s Cardinals Don’t Do Much For Me” two weeks ago and, in it, I said that maybe something would change my mind about this year’s team. And something has — the work of John Mozeliak.

So thank you, Mo.

Sure, it’s sad to see Allen Craig and Joe Kelly leave — it definitely gave me pause on Friday to see a table and rack outside of the Cardinals team store at Busch Stadium filled with Kelly and Craig jerseys and shirseys under “50 percent off” signs. It’s hard to believe they aren’t Cardinals now, and it was difficult to see Craig’s 2013 World Series jersey on display at the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum when I was there Saturday plus even harder to see Kelly’s glasses on display too. But change is always difficult — for fans and players and the manager alike — when some likable and popular guys are moved. Continue reading

Goodbye, Joe Kelly – A Look Back At His 2013 Season

Change — it’s never easy, yet so often in baseball, it’s necessary. Change was definitely necessary for the 2014 Cardinals with the way this season has gone, and I found myself agreeing with Joe Strauss’s use of the words “complacency and entitlement” at the end of his column today.

So, John Mozeliak made changes. Welcome, John Lackey, and goodbye to Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Allen and Joe are great guys, obviously, who’ve done much for the Cardinals and were definite favorites — I’ve watched Joe since his days with the Quad Cities River Bandits in 2010. But, as fans, we’ll always have our many memories. Here’s a look back to some of those Joe memories in an article I wrote for the 2013 United Cardinal Bloggers publication (still available for only $2.99 at Amazon).

Joe Kelly: Team Clown, Yet Serious On The Mound

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Joe Kelly?

Is it the post-National Anthem standoff with Scott VanSlyke just before Game Six of the National League Championship Series that garnered him plenty of national attention?

Or the ever-popular gif of his dance moves in the outfield during batting practice?

joe-fox-midwestMaybe the video bomb of him doing the worm behind Shelby Miller’s interview with Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest? The photobombs in the Fox Sports Midwest girls pictures?

Perhaps the letter from his childhood that surfaced this summer, which Joe entertainingly discussed on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” during the World Series — the letter in which he predicted he’d be a pitcher when he grew up … and a handsome boy?

Possibly that time he donned an old man mask and interviewed Nelly?

Of course it actually could be his pitching that comes to mind, especially the way Kelly was such a stopper for a stretch midway through the season when he became part of the rotation in early July after losing out to Shelby Miller during a spring training battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Because, obviously, were it not for his pitching, we wouldn’t know about Joe Kelly The Entertainer at all.

Joe Kelly The Pitcher does take things seriously when he’s on the mound. At least he appears to take it seriously. No funny faces, no winks to the camera. Just throwing, and throwing hard, with a fastball that averaged 95 mph. And his final numbers for 2013 reflect the seriousness. Continue reading

Matt Attack! Cardinals Score Four In The First

If you were going to create a perfect Saturday afternoon for baseball, chances are good it would look a lot like St. Louis did yesterday afternoon — bright blue skies, sunshine, temperature of 83 degrees at 3 p.m. on July 19.

collageOf course you’d want a really compelling match-up to go with your perfect afternoon, like two teams battling for the top spot in their respective divisions.

All those elements came together yesterday, with the 54-44 tied-for-first-in-the-NL-West Dodgers and the 53-44 one-game-behind-the-Brewers-in-the-NL-Central Cardinals doing battle. Since it’s a Saturday home game, the Cardinals are wearing their alternate uniforms (which just add to the perfect day ambiance even more).

Plus, to make it even better for people like me who will take any available television option besides Dan McLaughlin on FOX Sports Midwest, the game is being broadcast on FOX Sports 1 with Kenny Albert and Eric Karros announcing — in addition to FOX Midwest with McLaughlin and Tim McCarver.

Oh, and this game just happens to be the United Cardinal Bloggers annual progressive game blog — and I’m leading off the coverage with the first inning.

O happy day! Hopefully, that is …

Yes, the Dodgers and Cardinals are back at it again after Friday night’s 3-2 Cards win in which Matt Holliday drove in all three runs with a double and home run, Kolten Wong scored the two runs Holliday didn’t, Lance Lynn allowed two runs and struck out nine, and the bullpen — Seth Maness, Pat Neshek and Trevor Rosenthal — threw three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit.

In addition to the bright blue sky and sun, the green of the field looks extra vibrant on the FOX 1 telecast — much more than on FOX Midwest, as I had to change the channel and check once I noticed. Hmmmm, guess FOX 1 has some super-duper extra-green camera.

The starting pitchers, Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly, have faced each other before — last October, to be exact, in Games One and Five of the NLCS. Game Five was the last time Kelly faced the Dodgers, while Greinke started against the Cards three weeks ago today in Los Angeles. Here’s to a better performance from Kelly, as he gave up four earned runs that last game and was the losing pitcher, and a worse one from Greinke, who gave up one run, four hits and struck out 10. Continue reading

From 5 Back To First Place, 7 Days Later

It’s been quite a week for the Cardinals, hasn’t it? Last Sunday, after two straight disappointing losses to the Miami Marlins, the Cards were five games back in the National League Central and in third place behind the Brewers and Pirates.


Love the sign! (Photo:

Now, with winning five of the past seven games including a 10-2 victory over the Brewers on Saturday, the Cardinals are tied for first place.

If it seems like it’s been a while since they were in first, it has. The last time? April 5. Not that we need a reminder of what most of the first half of the season has been like …

So it’s definitely good to see this position once again. First place!

Of course, gaining so much ground so quickly wouldn’t be possible without the Brewers having lost each of the last seven games and 11 of their past 12. And, given what they were dealing with as a team yesterday with the death of Jean Segura’s infant son, it seems wrong to gloat too much about yesterday’s Cards win in particular.

Instead, what about the five Cards wins this week — and especially Friday night’s comeback win?

Continue reading

How Will The Cardinals Respond To Losing Wacha, Garcia?

Adversity brings a team together, right? But what about when the adversity affects the season-long strength of the team — the starting rotation? That’s what we’re about to find out from the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals as they embark on a 10-game road trip to face the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants minus Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia.

collageThe Cardinals currently are tied with the Dodgers for MLB’s best starter ERA at 3.08, just ahead of the A’s 3.10. Add the relievers in also and the Cards are third overall in MLB with a 3.18 ERA, behind the A’s at 3.02 and Nationals at 3.04. Yes, the Cards’ bullpen has improved much so that its ERA right now is 3.41 (seventh best in the NL, 11th in MLB).

With Carlos Martinez able to stay in the rotation, that’s a benefit. Joe Kelly is going to begin a rehab stint on Friday at Memphis — good news, as he will hopefully be back soon. Until he is, there are options currently at Memphis such as Tyler Lyons, Zach Petrick or Tim Cooney.

But then there’s the other side of the game: the offense. And with that, who knows? Though, with as good as the pitching has been lately, the way the offense goes is the way the game goes. Get hits, score runs? Winner! Fall flat, don’t score? Yeah, we’ve seen that plenty. The team is currently hitting .250/.318/.364, which is eighth/fifth/13th in the NL. Of course they’re still last in homers with just 42 — which is what the Royals have now as well.

A spark and any sense of urgency from this team seems to occasionally appear, leading us all to think “OK, now they’re playing like they should.” Then the Cards lose back-to-back games to the Phillies and have A.J. Burnett and his 13.50 Busch Stadium ERA throw a complete game against them.

Continue reading

Joe Kelly To DL, Keith Butler To Memphis

After having an MRI today, Joe Kelly was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. In addition, Keith Butler was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

nurseTaking their places on the Cardinals roster: Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon, both rookie right-handers who are being called up from Memphis.

Kelly injured his hamstring while running to first base during yesterday’s game in Milwaukee.

Butler had made two appearances this season, allowing six earned runs in two total innings.

Here’s more on Fornataro and Rondon from

Fornataro, 26, appeared in four games for Memphis this season, going 1-0 with the team’s lone save. He had yet to allow a run and had been touched for just one hit in five innings of work. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Fornataro was the Cardinals’ sixth-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of Miami Dade Community College. He has made 180 career Minor League appearances (71 starts) and will make his Major League debut with his first appearance.

Rondon, 26, was an international free-agent signing by the Cardinals in July 2006 and is a product of the Cardinals’ former Venezuelan Summer League team. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Rondon led the Memphis squad with 51 relief appearances in 2013. He appeared in five games for Memphis this season, allowing three runs infive innings pitched. Like Fornataro, he too will be making his Major League debut with his first appearance.

Both will be in Washington, D.C., for tonight’s Cardinals-Nationals game.

Winning Makes For A Better Night All Around

From the very beginning, things were much improved for the St. Louis Cardinals compared to Friday night. For that matter, things were much improved in facing the Pittsburgh Pirates Francisco Liriano than they had been during the entire 2013 regular season when they only scored two runs off him in three games.

Last night, the Cardinals scored two runs before they even made two outs in the top of the first and finished that inning with a 3-0 lead. Matt, Matt and Matt all played a role as Carpenter led off with a single, Holliday drove him in following a Jhonny Peralta walk and Adams followed an Allen Craig sacrifice fly and Yadier Molina single with an RBI single of his own.

Allen Craig

Allen Craig driving in a run, always a good thing. (Photo:

And though Liriano settled in and began throwing like his usual self facing the Cards, retiring 13 straight from the second inning through the sixth, Yadi homered to make the final total on the night four runs allowed.

That kind of game is so much better, as the Cardinals ultimately won 6-1 since Jhonny Peralta has apparently decided the only kind of hits he’s going to get as a Cardinal are home runs — he hit a two-run shot in the ninth with Matt Carpenter on base. (Now, if only Peter Bourjos can get that bat going …)

With just a lone run scored by the Pirates, it’s obvious the pitching was much better too. Yes, Pirates Stopper Joe Kelly retains that title once again. And while it wasn’t necessarily the most efficient of outings for him — the run allowed came on a bases-loaded walk, one of four he gave up for the night along with six hits and four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings — it was good enough to get the job done. Continue reading

Let’s See, Can We Find 3 Positives About That 12-2 Loss?

Well, that was ugly.

question-markNot that the St. Louis Cardinals losing 12-2 can ever be pleasant, yet that just seemed exceedingly terrible as things went on.

Because it wasn’t awful when Matt Carpenter homered to make it 3-2 in the fifth inning and Gerrit Cole looked to be struggling as much as Shelby Miller had, plus Miller then retired the Pirates in order in the fifth.

But then came the sixth. Followed by the seventh. And, unfortunately, the eighth. A bullpen nightmare, from bad to worse.

Which made me remember something I forgot to include in yesterday’s series preview: the Cardinals weren’t very successful at PNC Park last year. I should have remembered that — I was there for the Labor Day weekend series, after all, and sat through two painful losses in person (in which Shelby Miller was the starter on a Friday night for a little deja vu to last night) plus watched all the rest on TV. The Cards only won three games out of 10 in Pittsburgh during the regular season last year, one of two (Michael Wacha!) in the NLDS. But it’s a new year — things should be different. Right?

Ah, well. Just one game …

And there’s plenty that could be said about Russell Martin interfering at third base and the relief pitching and the batting order below Matt Holliday not doing anything and 0-8 with runners in scoring position and Peter Bourjos’ struggles but the reality is that was the fourth game of the year. Too soon to panic. Continue reading

5 Cardinals I’m Most Looking Forward To Watching In 2014

Opening Day is almost here … though sadly (and not surprisingly), Ozzie Smith and Budweiser’s push to make it a holiday was denied. As a result, I had to take a vacation day for tomorrow to stay home and scout out the Cubs-Pirates and other early games before the Cardinals and Reds begin at 3 p.m.

It’s a relief to finally have the regular season arrive. All the countdowns and all the spring training games are finally over and it’s real baseball for the next six (and hopefully seven) months. And there are five 2014 St. Louis Cardinals I’m looking forward to watching a little bit more once game time arrives tomorrow (or, in the case of a couple, when they take the pitcher’s mound).

Here they are.

1. Michael Wacha

MLB: St Louis Cardinals-Photo DayNo surprise, right? Who isn’t looking forward to seeing Wacha (Wacha Wacha) pitch again when it counts, especially after how he did this spring when it didn’t matter at all?

Perhaps those spring numbers are encouraging too, despite the fact they don’t mean anything. He just went out and continued to do what he did last September and October. Expectations are obviously high for him based on those performances, both from around the rest of MLB and even the Cardinals — the kid is starting the home opener after all.

It will be fun to watch him out there again starting Wednesday night. Continue reading