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Spring Is Springing

Posted on February 20, 2012 at 8:29 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
This weekend, those wonderful words came to fruition.  Pitchers and catchers reported and suddenly the world was a much better place.

I said before at this time of year that baseball's spring training correlates well with the Christian season of Lent.  They start about the same time, with baseball starting this weekend and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, coming this week.  They are about getting into shape, either physical or spiritual.  They both take some work and some sacrifice.  They both lead up to a great day for believers, a day of rejoicing and excitement.  You may never look at Easter (or Opening Day) quite the same way!

Of course, with players and media colliding, that means there's a bunch of news flowing out, especially at the beginning of camp.  This is what we in the blogging business call "a good thing", because it makes our content a lot easier!

First off, as it was last year, the news circles around an impending free agent.  Yadier Molina isn't setting any deadlines, but has admitted that, for now, talks have broken off.  Not only that, but his approach to the negotiations seems to echo a scene at the end of Field of Dreams:

Ray: I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what's in it for me.
Shoeless Joe: What are you saying, Ray?
Ray: I'm saying, what's in it for me?
Molina is not shy about saying there will be no hometown discount, that while he's fond of St. Louis, he's not tied down to it.  Where the money is, there will your catcher be also seems to be the philosophy of Molina.

I don't disparage Molina for saying that, especially since all of us would expect that the money would play a huge role.  We saw last winter that all the great comments about "Cardinal for life" and "love the fans" don't stand up to a large check in front of you.  It's better to be on the same page with the player, to know that this easily could be the last year of Molina behind the plate.

On the flip side, the fact that no deadlines have been set does mean that we could see an extension sometime during the year.  The Cards are in a bit more of a bind with Molina because there's not an obvious catching replacement for him.  Bob Netherton last night in the Gateway to Baseball Heaven chat room suggested that Tony Cruz might wind up playing every day in Memphis and Bryan Anderson be Molina's backup so that they can prepare Cruz for playing every day in St. Louis in 2013.  It's a very interesting theory and one that I would not at all be surprised to come to fruition.

However, it's not likely that Molina's extension talks, whether ongoing or not, will have as much impact in the fan base as Albert Pujols's did last year.  While they are important, there are so many other things to focus on as well.

For instance...............
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Chris Carpenter is likely to have a lighter spring workload this year, in response to the large number of innings that he threw last season.  Carpenter threw 237.1 innings last season, a couple more than he threw in 2010, and he then added 36 more in the playoffs.  The only other time he threw over 200 innings in back to back seasons was 2005-2006, and we know what happened in 2007.  No one wants to see that again, even if it's not likely to happen.

Carp will turn 37 at the beginning of the season and, in baseball terms, isn't as young as he used to be.  (That doesn't seem possible, really.  I think of Carpenter as this old, grizzled guy and he's only four months older than me.  I still can't adjust my head around that.)  He also knows what he needs to do to be ready and we'd rather see him with something left in the tank at the end of the season than waste it when it doesn't matter.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Carpenter leave games a little earlier in April and May than he did last year as well, especially with a revamped bullpen that looks to be able to hold leads better than last year's initial offering.

Of course, all eyes this spring are on #50 and Adam Wainwright looked very good.  He noted that he felt closer to ready now than he usually does this time of the spring, which could portend a very strong season for the Wagonmaker.  While John Mozeliak doesn't think Wainwright will get to 200 innings, I bet he gets closer than some expect.  Hopefully he'll go over that mark when you factor in what he does in October!

The profile stories will be coming regularly during the spring, as the writers get a chance to sit down with subjects in a more relaxed environment.  You can see that over at the Post-Dispatch, as they have up articles about a number of Cardinals.

First up, there's a story about third-base coach Jose Oquendo.  It was natural to have people asking him about not getting the managerial job and how that would affect his relationship with Mike Matheny.   Obviously it wasn't going to be a big deal or Oquendo wouldn't still be here, but it's good to hear him continuing to enjoy his job and looking forward to working with Matheny.  I liked reading that he feels the third-base coaching job is probably the second-most important one on the field and that he can impact a game by waving in or not waving in a player.  It was also fun to see his comments about being a bench coach and wanting to get away from Tony La Russa yelling during the game so he could relax!

John Mozeliak also gets the profile treatment after an offseason that he was able to really put his stamp on the club.  I'll admit that when Mozeliak was hired, I wrote that he was a compromise candidate, a guy that kept the Cards from really reaching out and going for the home run.

We should all know by now that doubles (and triples) win ballgames as well.

Mozeliak has brought stability to the club and minimized the organizational chaos that seemed to be going on behind the scenes.  Now, with La Russa's departure, he's been able to even more streamline the process.  While he may say that things aren't changing, that the process is the same, it has to move more smoothly without a strong experienced personality like La Russa causing some friction at times.

Mo's also proven that, more than being a "people person" if you will, that he knows a bit about the game of baseball as well.  He's made some very astute trades (Jim Edmonds for David Freese is now going to be legendary) and the club has been smart in the free agent market. Has everything worked?  Of course not.  (Pedro Feliz will disabuse you of that suspicion.)  However, there's been no catastrophes on the scale of the Mark Mulder deal.  Even when things don't work, they have been limited and contained.

Between the smart drafting and the mind in the front office, the Cards are poised for a long window of winning.  I'm not sure any other GM could have done all that as well as Mozeliak has.

Finally, Lance Lynn gets featured in the paper.  Lynn's a new daddy, as his baby girl arrived just after he did in Florida.  It's interesting to see that Lynn is apparently going to be a reliever in camp.  Don't get me wrong--I really like what Lynn did out of the bullpen and would be glad to have him in that role again.  I just expected they'd run him as that insurance starter in Memphis, marking time until someone got hurt or an opening was available.  After all, there are a lot of arms for that bullpen already.

Lynn states that he's figured out who he is as a pitcher, which (I'd think) is a great thing for a career.  Knowing what you want to do and how to do it has to make being out on that mound much more comfortable.  I'm excited to see him coming out of the pen all year long and look forward to him building on what he did last year.

More news and stuff will be coming down the pike today, I'm sure.  The position players are supposed to report Thursday, but you know they'll be trickling in throughout the next couple of days and we'll get reports on what they are doing as well.  It's a wonderful thing to be talking baseball again!

Speaking of talking baseball, be sure to come back later on today to read the first installment of the 2012 Playing Pepper series.  Today we look at the Arizona Diamondbacks and whether they can repeat their remarkable 2011.  Keep an eye out for that!

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Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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