My Cardinals 2014 Wish List

As most everyone else does between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I’ve been thinking much about what I want to see in 2014. As the snow falls and the temps waver from low to high single digits, it’s only natural to think about spring … and baseball … and what I want to see from the Cardinals as the weather warms (both the temperature and my spirits!).

2014Taking a look back at last year’s New Year Wish List makes me wonder how much will change between now and October, but it’s fun to look ahead and wish, nonetheless.

So, as I watch the end of the college football season and look ahead to 365 days of new opportunities, here are 14 things I’m hoping to see from the 2014 Cardinals.

14. Visits to Busch, complete with a tour of Ballpark Village

We’ve been hearing about BPV for so long. This winter, watching the progress as it becomes a reality, has me yearning for the first opportunity to see it in person. (Like I need another excuse to visit the happiest place on earth!) The legacy that is St. Louis Cardinals baseball deserves a showplace worthy of its history, and here’s hoping the city does it up just right!

13. Chris Carpenter’s developing role

I know “front office guys” don’t usually show up in game recaps or headlines. But, I hope to hear what Carp is up to throughout the year. I mean, don’t you? Continue reading

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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Our Choices For Top Five 2013 Cardinals Stories

This year will be known as yet another great one for the St. Louis Cardinals, with so much that has happened over the past 365 days — and with so much of it good. Given there are now just today and tomorrow left in 2013, it’s time to take a look back. And as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ December project, here are our top five Cardinals stories for 2013.

1. Cardinals win the National League pennant

12733927After finishing the regular season tied for the best record in the majors at 97-65 and winning the NL Central for the first time since 2009, the Cardinals didn’t stop once October arrived. They handled the Pirates in the division series and then headed to the NLCS for the third consecutive year, this time to face the Dodgers.

The Cards were victorious and clinched the pennant in six games, thanks especially to the incredible starting pitching from NLCS MVP Michael Wacha. So for the second time in three years, third time in eight years and 19th time overall, the Cardinals were National League champions and advanced to the World Series.

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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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Good, Better, Best Of Another Cardinals Classic Game Six

Six is storied number for the St. Louis Cardinals. The retired number of the greatest Cardinal Stan Musial, of course. A serious number, as we all know from the commercials. And October Games Sixes are pretty special as well.

3914_st_louis_cardinals-champion-2013Yes, “Game Six” immediately calls to mind the 2011 World Series — rightly so, as it’s one of the best World Series games in history with the majestic ninth and 10th inning comebacks and walk-off “we will see you tomorrow night!” 11th-inning moment.

But we can’t forget Game Six of the 1985 NLCS — against the Dodgers, no less — was another classic thanks to a ninth-inning game-winning pennant-clinching home run from Jack Clark. Or Jim Edmonds and his 12th-inning walk-off homer in 2004’s NLCS Game Six against the Astros.

Now we have another classic Game Six victory to remember fondly — and no home runs were necessary.

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Cardinals Are National League Champs!

Thats a winner-LGThat’s a National League pennant winner for the St. Louis Cardinals!!!

Yes — for the second time in three seasons, third time in eight seasons, fourth time in 10 seasons and 19th time overall the Cardinals are going to the World Series!

And, after all the national media talk/hype that seemed to dominate these past couple days, it’s what happens on the field that really counts. Which was the Cardinals dominating Clayton Kershaw with a 4-run third in which Michael Wacha batted twice and then scored 5 more in the fifth. Kershaw was charged with seven of the runs in the Cardinals 9-0 victory!

Once again, Michael Wacha was outstanding — allowing just two hits to the Dodgers all night and striking out five. Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal followed Wacha yet again, allowing no hits and striking out three.

Not surprisingly, Michael Wacha was named the NLCS MVP after his two scoreless and amazing performances — yes, the kid drafted last year, just in case you’ve forgotten! (Of course you haven’t!)

And, at last, Carlos Beltran is finally going to the World Series! At the same time, Yadier Molina is going to his fourth! It will be either a rematch of the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox or the 2006 World Series against the Tigers. (Go Detroit!)

What a team! What a ride–oh, wait. That was two years ago. What a team, though, for sure! And look for more on our 2013 National League champs tomorrow!

Clinching A Pennant At Home Would Be Better Anyway

There is a bright side about yesterday’s Game Five loss. Now the Cardinals can win tomorrow night, at home, in front of the Busch Stadium fans and enjoy.

At least that’s what I’ve been trying to tell myself.

Becaus      e while regular season losses are bad and October losses are even worse, NLCS losses when a win would clinch the pennant are awful. Horrible. Dreadful. And any other similar word you can think of.

Because, as you might remember and have heard over and over (and will continue to hear over and over from the sports media until the team wins tomorrow night), we’ve been in this situation before — up a particular number of games (I don’t even want to go into it) and then, um, not winning again.

Yesterday’s 6-4 loss to the Dodgers was painful, although the Cards absolutely showed some encouraging, play-a-hard-nine, never-give-up spark in the ninth inning. Which was awesome — until Adron Chambers stepped in to pinch hit.

Why him?

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Action, Drama And The Right Ending In Game Four Blockbuster

Game Four of the NLCS was like an epic action movie — dramatic moments, heroes both predictable and less so who face rough times, villains also predictable and less so, enough tension to keep you interested up until the very end. And, thankfully, the right ending with the heroes emerging triumphant: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 2.

collage 10-15Yes, the win gives the Cardinals a 3-1 advantage in the NLCS. But all Cardinals fans¬†should know well enough nothing is guaranteed yet — didn’t we see a certain movie last year where the “heroes” ultimately wore black and orange, not red as good guys always should? So this epic tale is not finished quite yet …

But the latest installment was ultimately quite fulfilling.

And, as with any good story, it’s outcome was not predictable at the beginning.

To start with, not everyone was happy with director Mike Matheny’s choice for last night’s lead role, Lance Lynn. And those who voiced such displeasure before the game felt like they were the correct ones when Lynn ran into trouble in the second inning — a quick check of Twitter at the time more than made that perfectly clear. Then again a one-out single, walk, line out and another walk to load the bases, albeit to the catcher with pitcher Ricky Nolasco up next, can cause such reactions. But perhaps Lynn just wanted to keep everyone watching involved in the game, as Nolasco was called out on strikes.

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On-Paper Advantage Falls Through In Game 3 Loss

Ah, the best laid plans. Lion

On paper, things were lining up perfectly for the Cardinals headed into last night’s NLCS Game 3. They’d beaten the Dodgers’ two star pitchers, and had Adam Wainwright on the mound. They were up 2-0 over a Los Angeles team that had struggled offensively even more than the Cardinals had, and they had a golden opportunity to put the first nail in the coffin.

Unfortunately, it’s games where the odds are with them that the Cardinals tend to struggle. And struggle they did. Continue reading

Yadi Proving His Value Even More In NLCS

Through two games, the story of the NLCS for the St. Louis Cardinals has been pitching. A subplot to that story, however, is catching — or specifically the influence on the young Cardinal hurlers from Yadier Molina.

collage 10-13-13Which is not a surprise, obviously — Yadi is who Yadi is, and that’s arguably the best catcher in the majors — but his influence has perhaps never been more apparent than in Games One and Two.

It’s been noticed. It’s been mentioned. And not just by the Cardinals.

Lyle Spencer of MLB.com writes that Yadi’s impact “is so pervasive Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, without prompting, made several flattering mentions of him on Sunday.”

Such as when it came to the struggles at the plate thus far in the NLCS of Yasiel Puig.

Asked about Puig, 0-for-10 with six strikeouts after batting .471 in the Division Series against the Braves, Mattingly referenced how “Yadier and their pitching staff” were “kind of yo-yoing and keeping him in that rocking chair where it’s back and forth — and got him guessing a little bit. They’ve done a nice job with him. I’m sure he’s feeling pressure to do something.”

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