For all of those patiently waiting for a new entry, wait no longer. I have returned! For all of those that didn't actually realize I was gone, ignore that intro. Lots has happened since the last entry, so I'll try to hit the highlights. This could be a long one, so settle in.
First off, I want to talk a little about FanFest. I'm sad to report that, save for going in the media entrance and getting the media packet, I didn't do much with my media credentials. If I had been there for two days or hadn't already planned to be there with my family, I think I probably would have done things differently, but as it was I spent the time going around with my wife and kids seeing all there was to see.
Hopefully many of you in the reading audience got to go to the extravaganza. If not, you missed out on a really neat and interesting experience. I enjoyed looking at the recreations of all the Cardinal Hall of Famers plaques and seeing the huge timeline of Cardinal history. Being able to see a World Series trophy, MVP plaques, and other awards was incredible as well.
There were so many things to see and do. My son enjoyed the little kids area upstairs, getting to hit off a tee and drive little cars. He wouldn't wait in line for many things, but he and I did the third-to-home dash, which was a blast. (Save the fact I forgot my shorts were a little loose, so I was hitching them up halfway through the dash!)
All in all, FanFest was a great experience. Though, amazingly, not the highlight of that day....
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Many of you have already heard the story, but for those that haven't, we went to dinner at a local St. Louis establishment and were lucky enough to see the owner come through. He actually struck up a little conversation with my 4 1/2-year-old son and, at the end of his meal, graciously posed for a picture.
Enough about my trip to St. Louis, though. Let's talk about the Cardinals. That's what you are here for, right? Heroes, Goats, and Notes. Thank goodness there was the All-Star Break or we'd never get through all the games!
Hero: Joel Pineiro. Complete game, allowing only one run, and got two hits to boot. Honorable mention: Ryan Ludwick, for his three-run bomb that put the game away.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Weren't many no-hit lines in the boxscore, so Yadi's 0-4 gets the "prize".
Notes: Very good to win the rubber game of that series. The Brewers are a team that isn't likely to just fade away, so every game won against them is a crucial one.
Hero: Ryan Ludwick. Three for three with four RBI. It takes that kind of outing to overshadow an Albert Pujols home run.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Back to back rough days for the catcher, with an 0-5, five left on, and a double play all mixed in.
Notes: The Cubs keep hanging around, so getting off to a good start in this series was a big deal.
Hero: Ryan Ludwick. Drove in the only run (until the ninth). Pujols had two hits, and Blake Hawksworth pitched a very solid two innings.
Goat: Brad Thompson. Giving up three in the first is pretty close to a death sentence for this team, since they've not shown an impressive ability for a comeback.
Notes: The bullpen pitched well, always good to see, and the Cards didn't fold, with the tying run coming to the plate in the ninth.
Hero: Albert Pujols. Drove in two of the three runs, so it's hard to go against him. Ludwick and Joe Thurston also had two hits.
Goat: Kyle Lohse. First start out of rehab, but it wasn't what the Cards were expecting. Hopefully it was just some rust from not facing major league hitters.
Notes: Interesting to see that Todd Wellemeyer was used out of the pen in this game, probably since he wasn't going to pitch before the break. It's also worth noting he was pretty terrible in that role (though the runs weren't earned) which may factor into any thinking about taking him out of the rotation.
Hero: Ryan Ludwick. Two home runs, four RBI. Any questions?
Goat: Albert Pujols. 0-4 with four left on. Good thing we've got that Ludwick guy on this team.
Notes: Adam Wainwright was again close to the top of his game, though he did allow more baserunners that you'd expect to see in a perfect Wainwright start. Cards split the series with the Cubs, which kept them from gaining any ground. St. Louis entered the All-Star Break in first place.
Hero: Albert Pujols. Two home runs, the only two runs the Cards scored until late. Gotta appreciate Ludwick, Chris Carpenter, and slugger Nick Stavinoha as well. Plus Molina went 4-4 and Skip Schumaker had three hits.
Goat: Chris Duncan. Three hitless at-bats, two strikeouts, two left on.
Notes: Nice to see what AP can do after a little rest, isn't it?
Hero: Ryan Ludwick. A toss-up between his two hits and Pujols's RBI. Isn't there anyone besides these two guys on the team? Good outing by Wainwright as well.
Goat: Yadier Molina. Tough to pick on him again, but another hitless night and he left five men on.
Notes: Always tough to face Dan Haren, not only because he's very good, but because it wasn't that long ago he was in Cardinal red. Just imagine a rotation of him, Carpenter and Wainwright!
Hero: Joel Pineiro. We come full circle as Pinerio again contributes on the mound and at bat, driving in the only two runs of the game.
Goat: Chris Duncan. No hits, two strikeouts, three left on. Sound familiar?
Notes: Big game to win, keeping the division lead at 2. Nice work out of Ryan Franklin to get the extended save.
Apparently, the Cards aren't feeling the "urgency"
to make a deal. With a resurgent Ludwick, an activated Mark DeRosa and the projected return of Troy Glaus and Khalil Greene (more on that in a bit), the offense has improved. The pitching staff is solid save for Wellemeyer's slot. Why force the issue?
I'm not sure that's the right mindset to take right now. First off, while the team is looking better, they still only hold a two-game lead in the division. Fifth place is only 5 1/2 games back. This division is going to be tight all the way down to the wire.
I still think if you can add a Roy Halladay for this year and next without giving up much from the current roster, you need to do it. You boost this team, you give Pujols a reason to believe management/ownership is serious, and you become favorites for this year and next.
I do think that the hitting search can probably be put on the back burner, but getting someone in here to replace Wellemeyer would be a very good idea. Not a scrap heap guy, someone that has a legitimate shot of really upgrading the position.
Though offense can't be completely ruled out. Upgrades to Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan wouldn't hurt and if DeRosa winds up needing surgery, there's another bat lost.
Khalil Greene has gone on a rehab assignment. While it is likely he'll just be a utility guy if and when he returns to St. Louis, is this really the right thing? It seems a repeat of last time, where he returns to baseball a lot faster than anyone expected. It didn't pan out too well last time (save that series against the Royals), but maybe things will be different when he's not expected to start or change positions.
Troy Glaus is getting some outfield time in the minors. Which is surprising, since the drawback on him (from what I understand) was that he couldn't throw. I still think that, if he can get to St. Louis in the next week and show he's able to hit, he could be dealt. Though he'd slip through waivers, I figure, so it might be an August deal instead of a deadline move.
This is way past long enough, so I'll wrap it up with this note. If you didn't see this blog post
by Joe Posnanski, well, go read it.
Be back later on with an interview with James of Astros County
and a look at tonight's game.