Looking out my window, the snow--our first one of the year--is coming down. It's hard to believe that the true start of spring happens this weekend. (It won't be in a couple of days, when it hits 60 again. Weather is weird.)
The problem with the last week of the winter is that there is this holding of breath, waiting to see what happens. There's no big moves made, there's no topic that hasn't already been discussed extensively. The Cardinals did sign a Dominican teenager named Andres Serrano to a big signing bonus, but even if he's all that and a bag of chips (which hopefully he is), it's going to be years before he's really on the radar screen of the big club.
So what to talk about just days before pitchers and catchers report? Housekeeping and flights of fancy, apparently.
Every year when spring training starts, I do a series I call Playing Pepper. I started it four seasons ago as a way to get a feel for what other teams had done over the offseason and what their fan base was thinking about their chances in 2012. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance, which I'm still a part of, came out of that project.
Usually I have a double-header, with a National League team and an American League team on the same day. This year, though, I'm going to spread it out and give every team their own day. Here's the tentative schedule. Bookmark this post, because I'll add links to the actual posts to it when they go up.
February 20--Arizona Diamondbacks February 21--Atlanta Braves February 22--Baltimore Orioles February 23--Boston Red Sox February 24--Chicago Cubs
February 27--Chicago White Sox February 28--Cincinnati Reds
February 29--Cleveland Indians
March 1--Colorado Rockies
March 2--Detroit Tigers
March 5--Houston Astros
March 6--Kansas City Royals
March 7--Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
March 8--Los Angeles Dodgers
March 9--Miami Marlins
March 12--Milwaukee Brewers
March 13--Minnesota Twins
March 14--New York Mets
March 15--New York Yankees
March 16--Oakland A's
March 19--Philadelphia Phillies
March 20--Pittsburgh Pirates
March 21--San Diego Padres
March 22--San Francisco Giants
March 23--Seattle Mariners
March 26--Tampa Bay Rays
March 27--Texas Rangers
March 28--Toronto Blue Jays
March 29--Washington Nationals
I've already gotten some of the responses from the bloggers that I contacted and I'm really excited about sharing those with you so you can get a good feel for the rest of baseball. I know my focus in the last few years has narrowed to pretty much whatever the Cardinals are doing, so it's good to know that there are other teams out there and find out what they expect out of the coming season.
Something else that I've been doing the last few years in the early part of the spring is the Cardinal Approval Ratings. You can find the results over on the bottom of the right column (underneath a lot of other stuff) but it's a way to get a general feel for the pulse of the fan base. How do you view this player? Is your opinion only because he hits home runs, or do you factor in personality and other variables? It's gone over pretty well, so much so that Jon over at Redbird Dugout took the idea and expanded it on his blog to take the temperature on a monthly basis.
This year looks much like last year's. Nine people in a section, three sections. One focuses on current players, one focuses on the media. Most of the names are the same, with some changes made due to changes on the club.
However, the management section this year is now "management and assorted". Lots of new names this year and it wasn't really fair to grade them all yet. Also, I felt like I wanted to see what people were thinking of some of our big departures now that time has passed and this was a great place to put them.
Also, I added in the United Cardinal Bloggers so I could get a sense of what people thought of our organization, if they do. If you are reading this, odds are you are going to give us a good mark. Hope so, at least!
You can find this year's form right here. Feel free to pass it along on Twitter or Facebook and get it in front of as many Cardinal fans as possible.
After the jump, something that is so much of a stretch I should have warmed up first.
I'm not a music person by any means, especially not popular music. I think there was a span of about four years where I actually listened to music on the radio and that was '93 to '97. I'm the last person who should be talking about anything musically related.
However, after hearing enough about it I did download Adele's 21 last week and have played it continually since then. With her Grammy wins last night, it seemed a great time to shamelessly attract attention by tying our current Cardinal lineup to songs on the album. (You laugh, but I still get people finding this blog by searching "Harry Potter pitchers" due to this post. It can happen. Granted, they are usually looking for Potter pictures, but a hit is a hit.)
So let's take a crack at it. Current lineup, plus one former Cardinal gets a shot as well.
Rafael Furcal--"Turning Tables". OK, I'd like this better if it was "Setting Tables", but you take what you get. Obviously Furcal is going to have to set the tables for the big guys this year. His glove should also help turn a number of double plays, so mix the two together and the title works. Key line: "I won't let you close enough to hurt me", which means Furcal's not big on being hit by pitches.
Carlos Beltran--"Don't You Remember". We all remember Beltran. We remember him from the times when he torched the Cardinals, but we remember him more for that buckling curveball from Adam Wainwright. You have to figure that'll get brought up a few times this year. Key line: "When was the last time you thought of me?" Oh, Carlos, a lot in the last five years. Or anytime we passed a statue.
Matt Holliday--"Set Fire To The Rain". Holliday had appendicitis last year. He hurt himself lifting weights. He jammed his hand so badly on a botched play he couldn't go in Game 7 of the World Series. If there's anyone who could to something completely strange and impossible like setting fire to raindrops, it'd be the 2011 version of him, who would then be out of the lineup for five days. Key line: "And the games you play, you would always win, always win", which underlines that no matter the strangeness of last year, Holliday was still darn good at baseball.
Lance Berkman--"I'll Be Waiting". Adele doesn't often do upbeat and fun songs, so when she does it really stands out. No one on this team is more upbeat and fun than Berkman, who brought an infectious personality to the clubhouse last year. Key line: "I'll be somebody different, I'll be better to you", which is obviously about trying to distance himself from his Yankee days.
David Freese--"Take It All". The Cards did take it all last year, but they wouldn't have won the World Series without Freese's major playoff contributions. Game 6 in and of itself will keep the legend of Freese alive for generations to come. Key line: If "Nothing is better than this, and this everything we need" isn't about last October, then I don't have any idea what it could be about.
Yadier Molina--"Rumour Has It". Obviously, this offseason and likely this spring will be dealing with Molina's contract situation. He's a free agent at the end of this year, which is a situation the Cards were in last year as well with someone else. There's going to be a lot of speculation and people trying to read into things that he says or does. Key line: "You and I have history, or don't you remember?" Molina's grown up in this organization and has provided some historic moments, though probably none bigger than this one.
Jon Jay--"He Won't Go". Two years ago, it was Ryan Ludwick who was in front of Jay. Last year, it was Colby Rasmus. However, Jay is the one still here (or not going). Plus, he was part of that rally last year in Game 6 which inspired Joe Buck to say, "They just won't go away." So it all fits nicely. Key line: "I'll be home so soon, I won't be late" was actually what Jay uttered after his base hit in the tenth inning last October.
Daniel Descalso--"Someone Like You". We all like Dirty Dan. Descalso is a fun ballplayer to watch and it'll be interesting to see if he actually does win the starting second base role. That said, you have to wonder if extra exposure would be an issue for him. If he does fade, the Cards will likely be able to go out and get a similar replacement without too much trouble. There may be someone like that on the bench with Tyler Greene, even. Key line: "Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead." Oh, man, tell it to Bo Hart. He feels that pain.
That's the current crop of hitters, but as most everyone knows, 21 was an album inspired by a bad breakup. Cardinal fans know about that. Which means a post like that isn't complete until:
Albert Pujols--"Rolling In The Deep". I mean, isn't that just about perfect, especially for the way Cardinal fans were feeling back in December? Sure, we've pretty much moved on now and are looking forward to the 2012 Cardinals and what they can do, but after the news first came out, lines like "reap just what you've sown" and "you had my heart in your hand" wouldn't have been out of place on Twitter. Key line: "I can't help feeling, we could have had it all." Legacy. Respect. Money. Could have had it all.
Thoughts? You know what, let's not go there. I'm not sure I want to hear what y'all are thinking after this one! Pitchers and catchers this weekend!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball