The Cardinals may have gone out of town, but that doesn't mean out of sight out of mind. There's been plenty to talk about out of this series in Baltimore, so let's quickly look at the last two games before getting into it all.
I think the best thing that we've seen out of both games is great starting pitching. On Tuesday, Kyle Lohse was very strong, going five scoreless innings. If it wasn't for the rain delay that forced him out of the game, I'd give him the Hero tag. As it is, I think you give it to Matt Holliday due to his two hits and his home run. A strong night for David Freese in his return from the disabled list as well, with two hits and a run scored, though he did strike out once.
On the downside, you probably give the Goat to Ryan Franklin. More about him in a bit, but he wrapped his Cardinal career by going 1/3 of an inning and giving up three hits and two runs, including a long ball. Yadier Molina had a rough night as well, going 0-4.
Wednesday night, you can't do anything but give the Hero to Chris Carpenter. A complete game, resting a bullpen that was short members due to release, recent use, or nagging injury. One run over those nine, with five strikeouts and an impressive piece of pitching in the fifth, when he had bases loaded with nobody out and was able to emerge unscathed.
132 pitches, on top of the 250 pitches he threw in his last two outings, does give some pause, though. I feel like Carpenter can handle this, that he's the workhorse, the competitor that will go as far as you need with no ill effects. However, he has had numerous arm injuries in the past. Can that arm hold up? More relevantly (because I don't believe Carpenter is going to be hurt doing this), will he still have the stamina come late August? The Cards have talked in the past about saving bullets. Does Carp just have another clip he can put in?
Just a small shoutout as well to Mark Hamilton. Even the DH has its uses, as Hamilton has gotten a chance to start the last couple of nights. Tuesday night he went 1-4 with an RBI and last night he was 1-3. Perhaps some regular play while the Cardinals are on the East Coast will help him get a bit of a groove. I still think the Cards would be well served to let him start some games at first and put Lance Berkman in the outfield (or even rest Berkman occasionally) to see what they have in Hamilton.
The Goat would go to Yadier Molina for another 0-4 night. Yadi's only hitting .224 in June after his stellar start. The team has used Tony Cruz more than I thought they would once Gerald Laird went down, but either Molina needs a rest or he's averaging out to where you'd expect him to be. Hopefully he can do what he did last year, start the second half of the season fresh and have a strong end of the campaign.
Last night's game was overshadowed somewhat by the news that came out a little before game time, when it was announced that Ryan Franklinhad been released. The waiver-wire guy that quickly became an All-Star closer just as quickly hit the wall and the team had little choice but to part ways with him. They'd done everything they could to keep him around and try to help him out, but nothing was working.
Franklin always did it with smoke and mirrors. If you look back, I was always wondering when the bubble would burst. He got three outs, but they might have been fly balls to the wall or he might do his Jason Isringhausen impression and make things interesting before he'd get the job done. When you walk that wire, eventually you are going to fall off and Franklin did with a vengeance.
I think that in years to come Franklin's reputation in St. Louis will be much better than it was in the last few months. You could even see that yesterday, as many bloggers and Twitter types focused on the good that Franklin had done in St. Louis, which was considerable, instead of the disaster that 2011 has been for him. He most likely will spend his days in Oklahoma, but I could see him being one of those ex-Cards that pops up at various events around St. Louis. Who knows, might even do some TV or radio if he wants to. Whatever the case, he's apparently relieved at the change and hopefully things will be good for him in his post-baseball life.
Interesting side note, at least for me. So far every year, the player or players that wind up as the top Goat on this site aren't back for next season. Troy Glaus was in 2008, didn't return. Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer in 2009, both were allowed to be free agents. Even last year, when it seemed the curse would be broken, Brendan Ryan then got traded to Seattle. With Franklin's Goat in Tuesday's game, he moved into a first place tie with three others. Apparently this year the jinx didn't wait until the offseason.
It appears that Brandon Dickson is about the only option for the Cardinals, at least internally, to initially fill that roster slot. Bryan Augenstein and Makiel Cleto were both optioned to Memphis and Springfield, respectively, within the last 10 days and as such can't return unless there's an injury, which there's not. Be interesting to see what Dickson can do in the bullpen and if he takes to it like Lance Lynn apparently has.
Have you voted yet? If you didn't see last night's post, click over here to see what you can do for Stan the Man.
Cards finish up in Baltimore tonight. After flipping their rotation because apparently Camden Yards doesn't agree with Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia will go for the sweep against Brian Matusz. As you can imagine, there aren't many reference points for either pitcher against the opposing team. Here's Garcia vs. the Orioles:
Well, at least Punto can tell the club a little about the guy. Scouting reports aren't going to do much for either team tonight. Hopefully Garcia pitches like good Garcia and the offense can get him enough to win!
It's the summer of the sequel, isn't it? Cars 2, Harry Potter 8, The Hangover Part II, the list goes on. The Cardinals have decided to join the fun and have their own sequel, this one to hopefully repeat the success of last year's campaign to get Stan Musial his Presidential Medal of Freedom.
You may have heard that, in conjunction with the All-Star Game, MLB has up a Midsummer Classics tournament on their web site. The tournament started with 16 different All-Star moments and now has gotten into the semifinals, with just four moments remaining.
One of those is Stan Musial's extra-inning, game-winning home run that gave the National League a 6-5 win in 1955. The Cardinals sent along a clip, but it was a bit too big for this website. If I can figure out how to upload it, I'll edit the piece. Suffice it to say it's Stan and it's a winning home run. What more do you need to know?
The Cardinals are asking that Cardinal Nation come out and get Stan the recognition that he deserves. It'd be a small step toward righting the wrong of being left off the original All-Century Team selected for the 1999 game, even though he was put on there after the voting by a committee.
So vote now. Vote often. Once again, Stand for Stan.
Pretty much speaks for itself. Great work by the Cardinals' charity arm to raise money for this disaster.
CARDINALS CARE RAISES $200,000 TO HELP KIDS OF JOPLIN
Team thanks fans for generously supporting "Teams Unite for Joplin" Effort
ST. LOUIS, MO (June 28, 2011) - The St. Louis Cardinals announced that their charitable foundation Cardinals Care raised $200,000 to help the children of Joplin recover from one of the most destructive tornadoes in Missouri history.
The fundraising was part of the joint "Teams Unite for Joplin" effort with the Kansas City Royals, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association which dedicated the three-game series at Busch Stadium (Friday, June 17 - Sunday, June 19) to raise awareness and money to help Joplin.
"We appreciate our fans generously supporting this important effort," said Cardinals President William DeWitt III. "We also appreciate our players, manager, front office staff and our business partners doing their part to help Joplin."
The Cardinals broadcast partners Fox Sports Midwest and KMOX 1120AM helped raise over $100,000 through first-ever broadcast auctions of once-in-a-lifetime Cardinals experiences. In addition to Cardinals Care volunteers collecting money at the gates, the team's concessionaire Sportservice sold commemorative "Teams Unite for Joplin" patches, the team's ticketing partner Tickets.com assisted with taking phone donations and Major League Baseball Advanced Media helped with collecting on-line donations, as well as conducting an on-line auction of autographed and game used items from the weekend that wrapped up on Sunday.
"This was a team effort all the way around, with everyone joining in to help Joplin," said Michael Hall, Vice President of Community Relations & Cardinals Care. "Tony La Russa, Whitey Herzog and Lou Brock deserve co-MVPs for each agreeing to double their contribution to help the kids of Joplin."
Each agreed to double their auction experience contributions as Cardinals Care was able to convince three under bidders to match the winning bids on three VIP experiences.
"It is also important to recognize our Winter Warm-Up hotel partner the Hyatt Regency St. Louis, as well as Kyle McClellan, Mike Matheny, Mike Shannon, John Rooney, Al Hrabosky, Dan McLaughlin and Rick Horton for generously supporting this important effort," Hall said.
For the first time, Cardinals Care also collected donations via text message with thousands of fans texting to support the effort.
The May 22nd twister that hit Joplin was classified as an EF-5 tornado, the most powerful tornado possible. The storm left 153 dead, put more than 500 people into shelters at its peak and destroyed nearly 7,000 homes, businesses and schools.
While the recovery needs in Joplin are multiple and extensive in the wake of the tornado, Cardinals Care established the Joplin Recovery Fund to help the thousands of Joplin area children impacted by the disaster. Cardinals Care will work in the coming months to identify specific youth-oriented investment needs in Joplin as the community continues the process of recovering and rebuilding.
In the meantime, fans can still help by donating on-line at cardinals.com/Joplin or by texting the word JOPLIN to 32020.
Cardinals Care is dedicated to caring for kids. Since it was founded in 1997, Cardinals Care has distributed over $17 million to area non-profit youth organizations, built 19 youth ball fields in local disadvantaged neighborhoods and currently serves over 4,500 kids in the Redbird Rookies program.
The Cards are out on the East Coast, doing that whole interleague play thing and matching up with the former St. Louis Browns. Beginning tonight, there will be a couple of familiar faces in the lineup as well.
David Freese and Nick Puntowere activated yesterday, with Pete Kozma and Andrew Brown being sent back to Memphis. I believe that continues to keep the Cardinals at 13 pitchers, but extra bats probably aren't as necessary in American League games since you won't be using pinch-hitters for pitchers. Couple that with the way that the pitching has been going and you won't get an argument from me on that makeup.
No word yet on whether both players will be in the lineup or, if so, where they'll be. You'd expect Freese will be in there, but will they let him DH to continue his recovery or throw him straight into playing third? Likewise, will Punto play second base or will they keep him on the bench? Should see the lineup on Twitter this afternoon and it'll be really interesting how they go about it. I'd like to see them put Freese at third and put Lance Berkman at DH, leaving a chance for Mark Hamilton to get a start. Hamilton's never going to hit unless you let him get a lot of at bats--I'm hearing echos of the argument I heard for Tyler Greene there--and the Cards should at least find out if they have a trade chip in him.
Getting those guys back should help spark the team somewhat. I mean, it's not Adam Wainwright or Albert Pujols returning, but after taking so many hits to the team, it's good to have people coming off the DL instead of going on it. Right now, something is needed to spark this team and hopefully these guys can be it.
Speaking of Wainwright, did you see that he hopes to be on the roster in September and pitch in the postseason? Even though he says it's a "modest goal", you know that it's not going to happen. They could activate him in September, perhaps, and not use him, but there's no way that he'd be on the postseason roster. They aren't going to risk his recovery for the few innings he could give them in October. Still, it's always good to see Wainwright news. Waino comes off as a great guy and I look forward to seeing him back on the mound in 2012.
Not going to be a lot of data points with these two teams not facing each other much, but here's what Kyle Lohse has done against the Orioles:
Gotta figure Derrek Lee is giving some scouting reports during this series, especially on Lohse.
Zach Britton is a young gun that the Orioles are high on. He's not faced anyone currently wearing Cardinal red, however.
We'll see if the Cardinals can snap out of this tailspin and stay in contention in the NL Central. It's hard to believe that there's a possibility they could be tied with Pittsburgh after today's action. Hopefully they can win and avoid that!
It's Sunday afternoon and, as I write this, the Cardinals are still playing the Blue Jays, though it just got a bit out of hand and odds are we now know how it is going to end. I want to recap the last few days before talking about the state of the team.
Goat: Matt Holliday. 0-4 on a night when they really needed his bat.
Notes: I actually had written this game up on Thursday, but got the weirdest error ever when I went to use the Baseball Reference linker, replacing my post with one from Tomahawk Take. (It was easily the best post I've ever written, full of insight, deep thinking, and....no, not really. You didn't miss much.) Kyle Lohse pitched pretty well, but made a couple of mistakes and that was all the Phillies needed with Cliff Lee on the mound. I'm fairly sure Lee remembered his last time, when he walked six, and was determined not to do that again.
Hero: Chris Carpenter. Carp's had his rough times this year, but he was on this night. Seven strikeouts in seven innings with just one run allowed. The more you look at Carp's numbers outside of win/loss, the more picking up his option might be the best thing for the club. Even if you get outings like this just 60% of the time instead of 90%, it still is worth it.
Goat: Daniel Descalso. Everyone's getting hits, most people are getting two, but Descalso can't break through with a knock. Did get a walk, though, so his evening wasn't a complete waste.
Notes: Berkman goes yard, Holliday gets two hits, everyone is just hunky-dory. Even when you factor in that Roy Oswalt went on the DL after this game, you still had to be pretty positive about the game, since the Cards hit just about every pitcher Philadelphia threw at them.
Hero: Matt Holliday. His two-run homer late in the game looked like it could be the thing the Cards needed to come back in this game.
Goat: Fernando Salas. Salas has really struggled this month with the long ball. Sure, it was Jose Bautista, who is crushing everyone, but it's a tough thing to live with after the team had rallied to tie it up.
Notes: Nice to see Colby Rasmus go yard, even if it was his only hit. Some great work by Mitchell Boggs (who only went 2/3rds of an inning, but the two strikeouts he got were key) and Lance Lynn, who in a just world would have had the Cards pull out a win for him.
Hero: Jon Jay. Two for three with a run scored on a night where the offense didn't do a lot.
Goat: Jaime Garcia. Descalso's throwing error didn't help matters at all, but Garcia did walk the pitcher--an American League pitcher at that, though Carlos Villanueva has been in the NL before--and allowed the long ball that put the Jays well in command. Garcia in the past has talked about letting his focus slip and it seemed to in that inning.
Notes: 0-fers for Holliday and Berkman, so when your 3-4 guys can't get anything done, it's going to be a long night. (Holliday did drive in the first run, but it was on a double play after the first two batters had reached.)
Hero: Mitchell Boggs. 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. He's definitely looked good in his return from Memphis, though he didn't look bad before he went down.
Goat: Kyle McClellan. After giving up a second-inning homer, it looked like McClellan would settle down. After a while, though, he either ran out of gas or the Jays figured him out, as he
Notes: It's always going to be a tough assignment to go up against Ricky Romero, but it'd been nice if some of the bats had shown up. Berkman's error was an issue as well, but McClellan just couldn't get out of the inning.
So now the Cards have lost five of six since Albert Pujols went down. They've done it in a mix of ways, by being dominated by good pitching, by losing due to the bullpen, and by just not being good enough to get over the hump. They are still in the pennant race, of course, but this weekend didn't help them out much. Milwaukee is working on finishing off the sweep of the Twins, so the Cards would be three back going into their off-day tomorrow.
(Also, I must confess my hubris as, before the series, I poked some fun at our resident Blue Jays fan in these parts. Don't ask me how he got this far South, something about forgetting to return home for the winter. Anyway, I believe he enjoyed this weekend way more than he should have. Would have appreciated the Cards bailing me out!)
The Cards haven't been completely complacent, though, shuffling the bullpen around. Miguel Batista was released since last we talked (part of that post that got erased) and Raul Valdes has been called up as well as Lynn, with Makeil Cleto being sent down. Save for Salas's issue in the ninth on Friday, the bullpen has been pretty solid. Ryan Franklin gave up a run in his now-infrequent appearance on the mound and there have been runs allowed here and there, but they haven't factored into the decision, for the most part.
Speaking of Franklin, why exactly is the team carrying 13 pitchers if Franklin's only going to pitch once in a blue moon? If you can't ever use him, why is he on the roster? I think I saw where Jake Westbrook had more appearances this month than Franklin does. He's well and truly buried, so does that really help the club?
While we are on the topic of player usage, what is up with Mark Hamilton? When Pujols went down, they brought Hamilton up with the idea that, while he probably wouldn't play every day and there was the idea that first would keep Berkman healthier (though Berkman said that he though the outfield was easier, without having to run back and forth to the bag all the time), Hamilton still would see some time in the field. Since he came up, the Cards have played six straight games and, in all six (save today, where as of this moment he still hasn't appeared), he's only gotten one pinch-hit at-bat.
I don't know if Hamilton can hit in the bigs. He's had great success in the minors, though, and remember that Allen Craig didn't really start hitting the ball until he got some regular playing time. I get that Hamilton wasn't in there today because Romero is a lefty. But why not have him in there last night against Villanueva? Either rest Berkman a bit or put him back in the outfield.
I'm sure there is some reasoning to all of this, but it seems right now that Hamilton should have stayed in Memphis and someone else (don't know who, of course) promoted. I'm guessing that, with the DH in play when the club goes to Baltimore and Tampa Bay, Hamilton will get some time at first while Berkman DHs (or vice versa). Then again, with David Freese coming off the DL on Tuesday, it's possible that Freese will DH to get him up to speed and we'd have the same situation. (Also possible Hamilton goes down when Freese comes up, though it'd make more sense for it to be Andrew Brown.)
Bill Ivie and I will be on Gateway To Baseball Heaven tonight at 9:30 Central and I'm sure we'll talk some about all of this. The Cardinals are coming to the end of June at a crossroads. They can't afford to get too far back, but what can they do about it? What should they do about it? Join us in the chat room, if you want, to give your opinions.
Cardinals get to take on the old Browns on Tuesday. We'll look at the starting pitchers Monday night or Tuesday and talk about whatever roster gyrations are done to get Freese and Nick Punto into Cardinal red then as well!
As part of the continually growing Baseball Bloggers Alliance, one of my responsibilities is to do an All-Star ballot. I'm going to stick with the National League, because as little as I know about non-Cardinal teams, I know even less about those strangers who play with extra players.
I also want to clarify something. I've often said that I have no problem with the fan voting, even if they make egregious "errors". I believe that it's the fans' game. The fans give so much to baseball, between their money, their time, and their passion and it seems to me that if they want to see a guy that is well past his prime but still is a "name" play, more power to them. The managers get to make up the rest of the roster and, heck, those reserves usually play more anyway. The problem with the All-Star Game is the ridiculous idea of making it count. It's an exhibition, pure and simple.
So this philosophy will influence my voting somewhat as well. I will often take the player that his having the better year, but there are some players that I want to see there and, darn it, that's where my vote is going to go.
After the jump, my picks for the game out in Arizona in a couple of weeks.
I received this bit of information in the inbox just a while ago. I've not read the book Fifty-Nine in '84, but I've heard very good things about it. The author is going to be at the St. Louis County Library tomorrow, so if you are interested, head out there and see him. Should be a great opportunity for those of you in the area!
If you follow Bob from On The Outside Corner over on Twitter (and if you don't, go follow throatwarbler right now) you know that he, from time to time, has Twitter Tales. Stories about games gone by, descriptions of some of the past triumphs and failures of the St. Louis nine. Something tells me that last night's eighth inning won't be one he's passing along in 5-10 years.
It's too bad, because it began like a great one for fans to relay down to the next generation, one that seemed to put the Albert Pujols issue behind them and get them started on the right foot during this time without their star. Kyle McClellan was easily the Hero, limiting a very tough Philadelphia team to just one run over seven innings in his second game back from the disabled list (and following up a very rough start against Washington). McClellan seemed in command all night, though he did allow four walks. The Cardinal offense was struggling, but they were facing Roy Halladay so it wasn't surprising. They also proved he was human, taking a 1-0 lead against him before they tied it back up.
Mark Hamilton had a key hit in the bottom of the seventh off of Michael Stutes as, surprisingly, Halladay was done after six. The Cards manufactured a run and took a 2-1 lead into the eighth.
Oh, the eighth.
It's very, very difficult to figure out which reliever should get the Goat tag. My first inclination was to go with Trever Miller. After all, if he does his job, things might go a little differently that inning. Then again, he did actually get an out, which is more than come can say, and he didn't physically allow runners to score, though he was charged with two runs.
Then you have Jason Motte. Tony La Russa said that, no matter what, Motte was going to face Ryan Howard. Which seems a bit strange knowing that Howard historically struggles against lefties (and while he might be hitting them for a higher average than righties this year, it's a small gap and he slugs way less against the southpaws, with all his home runs coming off of righties) and if there's anything that Howard would be able to hit, it's a strong fastball.
Motte, though, had major command issues, plunking both Howard and Placido Polancoto blow the lead. Not often you see a box score line with 0 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 ER.
Brian Talletand he did get one out, but he also allowed the go-ahead run to score. Now, even if nothing else happens in that inning, the Cards were behind the eight ball, needing a run in the last couple of innings, but at least it was a reasonable possibility.
So the tag has to go to Miguel Batista, who saw the flames smoldering, rushed over, and grabbed a gas can to throw on it. Two bases-loaded walks, then a two-run single made the game academic, so much so that Maikel Cletocame into the game instead ofMitchell Boggs, The big question is, why wasn't Boggs brought in instead of Batista there?
Batista's last outing against Kansas City went well, but he allowed five runs against Washington and a run against Houston in his outings before that. Boggs hasn't allowed a run since his return to the big club, going 5.2 innings with four strikeouts and two walks. If you wanted to keep a game close, it would seem Boggs was a better choice there, unless he was being saved for the ninth instead of Fernando Salas.
So the no-Albert stretch starts off poorly and a game like that has a chance to overshadow the whole series. It's interesting that this morning there is some suggestion of Pujols not being out as long as feared. He already is feeling good and you know he's going to be itching to push his timetable as much as possible. It'll be interesting to see what the examination in 10 days shows, whether he's healing quickly or not.
However, some things don't change, as Pujols still didn't want to talk about how this injury might affect his contract status. He called a question "stupid" and walked off, but to be fair, Joe Strauss was the one asking the question and, as condescending as Strauss can be, turnabout is somewhat fair play. Heaven knows Strauss has frustrated enough people in his day.
John Mozeliak says they aren't going to talk contract during this time and, as much as I can understand why people would want them to, this might be the right move. Trying to push an advantage right now most likely only ticks off the Pujols camp and pushes them farther away from an agreement. The odds are they wouldn't come to an agreement anyway as the Pujols camp will want to see how he recovers from this and are not interested in selling the big guy short. Mo's respecting of the process could pay dividends down the road.
Kyle Lohse goes tonight, hoping that his 2011 magic isn't wearing off. His numbers against the Phillies:
Lee's not going to walk six like he did last time out. It's going to be a very tough battle and it's made even tougher by knowing that, if Lohse can only go seven (or less), even if he leaves with a lead, there's no telling how the game will come out.
Hopefully they can shake it off and have a good outing today. Going to be a tough one, though.
The second of the season-long partnership between FSMW and The Mission Continues. Should be another interesting one to see!
The Mission Continues & FOX Sports Midwest Mobilizing Volunteers to Rehabilitate Ball Fields at Local Elementary School
FOX Sports Midwest Broadcaster and Former Cards Pitcher Al Hrabosky to Dedicate New Athletic Facilities for Eugene Field Elementary
June 20, 2011 (St. Louis)-- Approximately 75 veteran and civilian volunteers will gather next week to rehabilitate the athletic facilities at Eugene Field Elementary School in Hannibal, MO. The school, which serves 300 area students and receives the highest percentage of free and reduced lunches in the district, will receive fully rehabilitated baseball diamonds, backstops and a playground.
This project is the second in The Mission Continues "Summer Service Slam" campaign, completed in partnership with FOX Sports Midwest. Broadcaster and former Cardinals pitcher Al Hrabosky will attend the project to visit with volunteers and dedicate the new facilities by throwing the ceremonial first pitch. FOX Sports Midwest is using Cardinals telecasts to recruit volunteers and donors, and cameras will be in Hannibal on June 25 to tape and share the story of the project with viewers.
The project is being orchestrated by The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that engages veterans to continue serving their countries by serving their communities. The organization's Service Project Program mobilizes veterans as leaders at these projects, and encourages civilians to serve alongside veterans, showing gratitude for their service and working to improve our communities.
James Casey, a U.S. Army veteran, is a part of the leadership team for this service project. From 2000-2011, Casey was deployed three times as Psychological Operations Specialist. As a result of a knee injury, he was taken off active duty and eventually began receiving treatment for the physical and psychological injuries he sustained while serving. Casey was awarded a fellowship to volunteer at The Mission Continues and the VA Medical Center in St. Louis. He is excited to provide the leadership for the project in Hannibal.
About The Mission Continues
The Mission Continues is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. The organization's mission is to build an America where every returning veteran can serve again as a citizen leader. The organization offers paid service fellowships to wounded and disabled veterans, awarding 159 fellowships in 25 states to date. In addition, The Mission Continues has engaged 16,836 civilian and veteran volunteers to complete over 300 service projects across the nation. For more information about The Mission Continues, please visit www.missioncontinues.org.
About Fox Sports Midwest
FOX Sports Midwest, a regional sports television network, is the leading provider of local sports in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa, reaching more than 6 million cable and satellite television homes. FOX Sports Midwest telecasts more than 2000 hours of live local programming each year, including St. Louis Cardinals baseball, Kansas City Royals baseball, Cincinnati Reds baseball, St. Louis Blues hockey, Indiana Pacers basketball and Indiana Fever basketball, plus Big 12, Missouri Valley Conference, Kansas State University, University of Missouri and University of Nebraska athletics, local high school sports and much more. FSN is the nation's leading provider of local sports. Through its 19 owned-and-operated regional networks, FSN serves as the TV home to more than half of all MLB, NHL and NBA teams. For more information please visitFOXSportsMidwest.com.
Not surprisingly, any sort of Cardinal talk still is squarely focused on the Albert Pujols injury. Most everyone is giving their opinion--you read mine yesterday and we'll talk more about it here. All around the UCB, you'll find reasonable and logical reactions to the news that Pujols will be out for six weeks almost at a minimum, since he'll be in a soft cast for four of those.
There are some concerns about long-term issues, of course. Bernie Miklasz notes how players like Derrek Lee and Cliff Floyddidn't seem to be the same after an injury like this. However, it was noted on Twitter yesterday that if you take out Lee's one breakout season (which is a major outlier), he averaged 28 home runs before the injury and 24 after, which was not as jarring as you might think. As for Floyd, his injury was much more severe. I think we've seen more times where sprains in that area (for example, Mark DeRosa) are more limiting than a clean break.
I was briefly listening to ESPN Radio last night and the host, who was a guest host on the Brian Kenny show and I don't know who it was, said two things--one, that this likely wouldn't affect his contract if he came back hitting home runs in August and September and two, that the Cardinals were done, that they couldn't make the playoffs.
He has a point on the former, though I do think that the combination of the early slump and now this injury will have a few teams rethinking just how much they want to give him a historic contract. The latter, though, is complete lunacy.
It's pretty obvious that this team isn't going to be completely sunk by this injury. I mean, they just lost seven in a row, with Pujols playing, and didn't fall out of the race. While the Brewers and the Reds are good teams, they aren't necessarily the Red Sox and Yankees. They have their own issues and flaws.
The Cardinals don't have to just hang their hats on "those guys aren't perfect either", though. There's still a remarkable bit of punch in this lineup. This team was winning when Pujols was hitting .230 and grounding into a ton of double plays. As I said yesterday, it's all on the pitching staff. They do their job, this team will win. If not, they won't.
So here's my guarantee: if the team ERA while Pujols is out is 4.25 or less, the team won't be more than three games out when he come back.
If that happens, I'll have a post titled "I Was Wrong" and eat as much crow as Bill Ivie has over the whole Kyle Lohse thing. However, I don't expect to have to do it. This team has battled injuries all year--they've now used the DL more times in 2011 than they did in the whole 2010 season--and they've survived. Some parts are going to get healthy and they are going to contribute. I expect the team will keep mixing and matching with the bullpen arms. We'll see what they do to stay afloat. Six weeks from today is my birthday--be nice if Albert returned for my present to a team still in first.
Mark Hamilton will be coming up before tonight's game. Interestingly, John Mozeliak said that the long-term plan might not necessarily be that Lance Berkman plays first the entire time. The way Berkman talks, the outfield has been better on his knees and the Cards may want to make sure they don't lose him as well. He'll play more first, but he probably won't be completely a first baseman.
The injury also has apparently changed some of the team's trade deadline thinking. They are more open to the possibility that they need to go get an offensive weapon, but as I've noted above, I'd much rather them get some sort of pitching help and let these bats do what they can do.
The Cards get to kick off the non-Albert portion of the schedule by facing one of the toughtest out there. Roy Halladay goes for the Phillies and here's what he's done against the Cardinal hitters:
They've not faced him a lot, since he's spent most of his career in the American League and the Phils are in a different division, but it's tough to believe that this is a case of not seeing him enough. It's a tough mountain tonight.
He's been effective against them in limited doses. We'll see if he's more rested and ready to go this time than he was in his first outing off the DL. Another one like that may cause some wheels to turn as well.
The rest of the season starts tonight. Let's see what the boys can make of it.