Tagged: St. Louis Cardinals

World Series Thoughts Destined to be Wrong

This is the World Series we wanted.  For the first time in over a decade, the teams with the two best records in baseball will fight it out in the Fall Classic.  The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are so evenly matched that it can’t be a repeat of 2004, can it?  That’s when the Sox swept the Cards to become champions for the first time in 86 years.  This has the makings of a long series……or does it?  By writing my thoughts about this World Series, will my thoughts turn an epic matchup into a stink bomb?

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester.  Credit:  si.com

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester. Credit: si.com

Why I like the Red Sox:  Let’s face it, no matter what fan you are, this is a fun team to watch, beards and all.  They look as though they are having a blast but they also know how to play, play the game correctly and most of all, know how to win.  Minor issues like David Ortiz having to play first base in St. Louis doesn’t bother them.  Perhaps not having Mike Napoli‘s bat when the series shifts to St. Louis could be a problem.  Then again, Napoli didn’t hit much early in the ALCS and the Sox did ended up winning in six games.  The lineup will beat you at any game you want to play.  The signings of Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew while not adding a tremendous amount of power, made it a much more difficult group to navigate for opposing pitchers.  The starting pitching with previous champions Jon Lester and John Lackey is battle-tested and will fight with every pitch.  Nearly unhittable, ALCS MVP Koji Uehara leads a bullpen that will register outs in the blink of an eye.  When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, the first word that comes to mind is juggernaut.

Why I like the Cardinals:  They are the best organization in baseball, one of the tops in all of sports.  Albert Pujols leaves?  Plug in Allen CraigTony LaRussa retires?  Mike Matheny is ready to lead.   There are pitchers with more glamorous names but if I want someone to win me a big game, my choice is Adam Wainwright.  NLCS MVP Michael Wacha did not allow a single run against the Dodgers.  After three previous attempts, Carlos Beltran gets to take his playoff magic act to the grandest stage of them all.  Craig, who has not played since September 4th, led the team with 97 RBI’s and is set to be the designated hitter in Boston.  Catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Matt Carpenter are legitimate MVP candidates.  Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist remind me of another dominant bullpen trio:  “The Nasty Boys” from the 1990 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds.  With such young talent and a deep farm system, win or lose, the Cardinals have the makings of a dynasty.

The Prediction:  There has been a multitude of analysis leading up to Game 1.  You can make an argument for both teams, look at both rosters and still not make a decision until the next government shutdown.  These guys are that close.  I prefer to keep it simple.  I go with the team that has the best starting pitcher.  That would be Wainwright.  Cards in 7.

Matt Carpenter’s Great Season

The St. Louis Cardinals keep churning out talent.  The latest revelation is Matt Carpenter, a 28-year old second baseman who is playing in his second full Big League season.  Most of America, when hearing about St. Louis in the post-Tony LaRussa era, think about Yadier Molina or Adam Wainwright.  Yet the player who has been just as valuable as Yadi in 2013, is the lefty swinging Carpenter, a 13th round draft pick of the Cards in 2009.   Wainwright, Molina,  Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran grab the headlines but it is Carpenter who has played in 117 of the team’s 122 games who has been the steadying force for the Wild Card-leading Redbirds.

Matt Carpenter leads the NL in three offensive categories.  Image:  rotoanalysis.com

Matt Carpenter leads the NL in three offensive categories. Image: rotoanalysis.com

So how great has Carpenter been this season?  He ranks in the top ten in six National League offensive categories including first in the Senior Circuit in three of them:  91 runs scored, 149 hits and 41 doubles.  Carpenter is also sixth in batting average at .312, eighth in on-base percentage at .387 and ninth in triples with five.  He was selected to his first All Star Game after finishing sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2012.  Matty leads the Cards in at-bats with 477 as St. Louis is only a game off the lead in the National League Central and are in prime position to secure their third consecutive playoff berth.

Matt Carpenter is just the latest in a long line of St. Louis Cardinal players who come through their system and continue the team’s winning tradition.  They are the best organization in the sport, consistently in postseason contention year after year.  Helped by their newest star in Carpenter, would you bet against the Cardinals winning their second World Series title in three seasons?

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Why the Seattle Mariners and the Milwaukee Brewers are Killing Me

I stink.

No, really I do.   I think I know what I am talking about but the reality is, I know squat.

OK, so I am being just a little hard on myself.  I know Major League Baseball, and yes there are times that I get things right and sound intelligent explaining my reasoning.  However, it is much more entertaining to offer up some self-deprecation for myself and for you, the reader.  Bragging is boring.   Belittling is fun.  Sounds strange?  Well, I have my reasons.  Simply put:

Despite King Felix's best efforts, his team and the Brewers are making me look dumb.  Image:  hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

Despite King Felix’s best efforts, his team and the Brewers are making me look dumb. Image: hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

The Seattle Mariners and the Milwaukee Brewers are killing me.

You may recall that before the season I had high hopes for these two teams.  I wrote a piece that stated these would be the two most intriguing teams in 2013.  I then stated that the M’s would win the American League West and the Brew Crew would capture a Wild Card spot.  Well, it’s two months into the season and boy, do my picks look worse than a Kardashian after yet another facelift.  Seattle sits 11 games out of first place with a 26-34 record and are 6-13 over their past 19 games including a 10-0 pasting by the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. Despite moves designed to bolster the offense, the team still struggles to score and is at times anemic at the plate.  Kendrys Morales leads the club at .299, no other regular is over .280.  The Brewers are even worse, at 22-35; only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins have worse records.  The bullpen I still a mess, Yovani Gallardo (4-6, 5.25 ERA is not pitching like an ace and the bats have been quiet.  It is a shame because shortstop Jean Segura is having an MVP-type year ( 8HR’s, 25 RBI’s, 15 steals, .339) and Carlos Gomez (10 HR’s) has shown surprising pop.

While the season still has plenty of life yet, I am doubtful that either team can make a recovery in order for my preseason predictions for them come true.  At the time, I used sound logic and in the case of the Mariners, hoping for a little bit of luck.  These two errant selections do not make me an amateur when studying Major League Baseball.  It just means for the moment I only have one thing to say about myself.

I stink.

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The St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball.   They sit atop the National League Central with a 38-21 record.  I guess blowing that 3-1 lead in the 2012 NLCS did not affect the team in an adverse way.  They hit everyone and hit them hard with a potent lineup that shows no sign of missing Albert Pujols.  They are tied for the NL lead in runs scored.  They bat .269 as a team.  However, the rest of baseball should be worried:

The best is yet to come.

Their pitching is young and extremely talented.  We have already seen Shelby Miller dominate as a starter, same with Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen.  Both guys are big and throw some serious heat.  While top prospect Michael Wacha got roughed up last night, don’t expect too many outings like that.  The team leads all of baseball with a 3.00 ERA and have tossed nine shutouts also the most in baseball, tied with the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates.   With Adam Wainwright leading this staff, Cards’ pitching should dominate for at least the next five seasons, just what the other 29 teams wanted to hear.

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It is hard to fly under the radar in Philadelphia but Domonic Brown is changing that notion.  When one thinks of the Phillies, you automatically think of names like Jimmy Rollins,  Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.  However, it is Brown who has had the monster year so far.  He was just named NL Player of the month for May and at 25, is enjoying a breakout season.  His 18 home runs lead the NL and his 44 RBI’s are good for third on the Senior Circuit.  Brown and Lee are the biggest reasons why the Phillies are hovering around the .500 mark with Halladay hurt and Hamels pitching poorly, albeit with little run support.

Drafted in the 20th round in 2006, the Phillies have been waiting for this production for a couple of years.  He had been a highly regarded prospect, so much so that the team didn’t even try to match the obscene contract offer the Washington Nationals made to Jayson Werth.  After minimal output in 2011 and 2012, Brown seems to have rewarded the Phillies with their patience.  If the team has another second half like last season, don’t be surprised if they make a  bid for the playoffs.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

San Francisco Giants-St. Louis Cardinals: Battle of Champions

The National League Championship Series begins tomorrow night with the St. Louis Cardinals continuting to defend their World Series title by going out West to face the 2010 Champion San Francisco Giants.  Very rarely, if ever do we have the two most recent champions face each other the following season for the right to earn a return trip to the Fall Classic.  Throw in the Yankees who won it all in 2009 and we have the last three MLB Champions fighting for a title in 2012.  This NLCS promises to be a classic, two gritty clubs who were simply amazing in both of their prior series.  You have St. Louis, down 6-1 in the fifth inning in Washington in the fifth and deciding game coming all the way back to win 9-7.  That should be the most extraordinary story of this postseason….except that would belong to the Giants.  San Fran dropped the first two games at home to the Reds only to go on the road to win the final three games of the series.

Angel Pagan will be smiling all the way through October. Image: msn.foxsports.com

I have two guys in mind who I expect to have big series.  For the Giants, it is Angel Pagan, the former Met who was traded to San Francisco last December.  All Pagan did was lead the National League in triples with 15.  When Melky Cabrera, the best Giants player in the first half, was suspended 50 games for a PED violation, Pagan upped his game by hitting a sizzling .342 in August.   Although he batted a paltry .150 in the NLDS, Pagan got the team going in Game 4 with a leadoff home run.  Expect a big bounce back in this series.  On the Cardinals’ side, Allen Craig will look to shine just as he did in the 2011 postseason.  In this, first full season as a regular player, Craig was forced to make up for Albert Pujols’s departure and Lance Berkman’s injury.  He enjoyed a fine year as he hit 22 home runs and drove in 92 runs to go along with a .307 batting average.  Most of us will recall his two huge pinch hits during the first two games of last year’s World Series.  In that same Series, he homered in both Game 6 and Game 7 as the Cards took their second title in six seasons.  There is no reason for Craig to slow down now.

As good as the ALCS will be, I think Cards-Giants will be even better.  These are two historic franchises and the backdrop of a matchup between the previous two champions has this NLCS shaping up to be an epic battle.  The verdict?  Is it possible every game will be decided by run?  Doubtful but I think the Cardinal magic, after making an appearance or two will finally run out in 2012.  Giants in a seven game classic for the ages.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Dealing Astros Stockpiling for the Future

Jose Altuve Image: http://www.mlb.com

Well, we are right in the midst of the craziness that surrounds the July 31st MLB trading deadline.  You have your share of teams making moves to increase their chances of winning (you go Pittsburgh Pirates).  You have teams that are sellers because of an utterly disappointing season (that’s you, Miami Marlins).  There is one team that is wheeling and dealing now in the hopes of contending in two or three years.  I am fascinated by all of the moves being made by the Houston Astros.

Over the last four weeks, the ‘Stros have parted with Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brett MyersBrandon Lyon  and Wandy Rodriguez.  In return, Houston received a total of  15 players, most of them prospects.  Even if only five of them become regular players for the Astros,  2012 will be known as the Summer the team built their foundation for success.  In addition to all of the action on the big league level, Houston drafted Shortstop Carlos Correa with the first pick in this year’s draft.  Correa at age 17 already has had 95 at bats in the Gulf Coast League.   First year General Manager Jeff Luhnow has an excellent background having spent nine seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The organization seems to be in capable hands with Luhnow in charge.  Houston already has budding stars in Jose Altuve and Lucas Harrell.  The drafting of Correra and the stockpiling of prospects indicates that this team is feeling giddy about its short and long-term future. 

In 2013, the Astros move into the rugged American League West.  The well-regarded organization of the Rangers and the young superstars of the A’s and Angels will pose problems for the newcomers.  However, I expect Houston to contend very shortly and give those guys a run for the money at this time next season. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Midnight Massacre and Other June 15th Trading Deadline Stuff

My buddy Doug reminded me not too long ago that the Major League Baseball trading deadline used to be June 15th.  He figured that would make for an interesting post.  Guess what?  He is absolutely correct.   With the date only two days away, now would be a perfect time to reflect on some major happenings that took place at the old deadline. 

The biggest June 15th deal took place in 1977 and it became known as the Midnight Massacre, considered by many Met fans to be the darkest day in the history of the franchise.  Tom Seaver  had been in a feud with Met management over the issue of (what else?) money.  Seaver had been critical in the press of ownership not spending the dollars necessary to keep the Mets from sliding toward mediocrity.  Dick Young was a writer with the New York Daily News who continually took the side of the organization even calling Seaver “greedy”.   It is worth pointing out that Young’s son-in-law worked in the organization.  Things came to a head in the June 15th edition of the Daily News  in which Young stated that Seaver was jealous of the contract of  Nolan Ryan  received from the California Angels, even dragging Seaver’s wife and Ryan’s wife into fray.  That night, Tom Terrific demanded to be traded and the Mets obliged sending him to the Reds  for Steve Henderson, Pat Zachary, Doug Flynn and Dan Norman.  Not only that but slugger Dave Kingman was dealt to the Padres, also over a contract dispute. The Mets lost their two best players on the same day, June 15th, 1977.  Check out Bill Madden’s column  for even more background on this historic deal.

June 15th is also a date Cubs’ fans would like to forget as a trade was made that has gone down as one of the most lopsided deals of all time.  In 1964 the Cubbies dealt Lou Brock  to the Cardinals for pitcher Ernie Broglio.  At the time, it didn’t look so bad as Broglio was 18-8 the prior year and in 1960 led the National League in wins with 21.  Other than his .315 batting average in 1963, the speedster Brock was basically a .255 hitter.  Who knew that Brock would go on to the Hall of Fame while Broglio would post seven wins in his two and a half seasons in Chicago, retiring after the 1966 season? 

In 1976, Charlie Finley, having already lost Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, decided to sell off more players who were instrumental in the A’s three consecutive World Championships.  On June 15th, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were sent to the Red Sox while Vida Blue was sent to the Yankees all for cash.  Commissioner Bowie Kuhn rejected the deals, citing “the best interest of baseball clause”.  Finley tried suing Major League Baseball as well as Kuhn but ultimately lost.  Fingers and Rudi left after the season and Blue was traded before the 1978 season.

Since we started with a depressing story about the Mets, how about a good one for the Amazins?  It was June 15th, 1983 when the Cards traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  The two pitchers combined for a 21-22 record for St. Louis while  Hernadez trade helped restore some badly needed credibility.  His arrival set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the team’s second title three years later.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

St. Louis Cardinals: Pro Sports’ Most Underrated Franchise

Stan Musial: “The Man” Image: nytstore.com

Over the last 30 years, they have appeared in six World Series, winning three of them.  In all they have won 11 titles, second in their sport to the New York Yankees.  The only other franchises with more championships are the Green Bay Packers, Montreal Canadians, Boston Celtics and Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers.  Other organizations with less pedigree are often looked at more favorably.  Yet when it comes to success, not many teams define that term better than the St. Louis Cardinals.

Go ahead, look at the all-time history of the franchise.  I’ll make it easy for you; click on this link.  Now then, did you see how many times they lost 90 or more games in a season over the past 90 years?  Three.  Even when they do  not make a postseason appearance, they are usually competitive.  In that same 90 year stretch, they have had one last place finish.  Even the Yankees can’t make that claim.  It doesn’t matter who manages the team, who makes the personnel decisions or who takes the field for them, you know the Cardinals will be a tough team to beat year in and year out.

Yet, there are so many more teams out there that make a lot more noise but don’t have the credentials of St. Louis.  As much as it pains me to say this, the Dallas Cowboys are one of those teams.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are kind of similar to the Cardinals but A-they get a little more recognition and B-they don’t have as many championships as the Redbirds.  The Red Sox and Phillies seem to have a lot more bark and definitely more positive press but if you combine their number of World Series titles, that number won’t reach the number won by the Cardinals.   And living in New York you always have to hear about the Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers.  Yet, those five teams have combined to win their sport’s championships 17 times only six more than that little old team in St. Louis. And fans?  I guarantee you those Cardinal fans are probably the best in sports.  Remember, obnoxious fans don’t make the best fans (hear that New York, Boston and Philadelphia)?

If you need any more evidence of the greatness of the Cardinals, consider this.  They lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Tony LaRussa to retirement.  Chris Carpenter has not pitched this season and now Lance Berkman is out at least two months.  Yet, after being in first place most of the season, they have slipped to second, only a half game out.  Would it surprise you if they won the division?  Heck, it shouldn’t surprise you if they make it back to the World Series.  So forget all of the sound and fury of all the other franchises.  Take a moment to respect the consistent and committment to excellence (sorry, not you Oakland Raiders) of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com