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UCB Weekend 3: Feels Like Home

Posted on May 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM
It's been a week since a majority of the members of the United Cardinal Bloggers met in St. Louis for the third straight year.  This trip, affectionately called UCB Weekend (with its own Twitter hashtag and, this year, Bonfyre dedicated to it), brings together many of those bloggers that you know from your daily reading.  There have been plenty of people that have already gone over the weekend (and I should be setting up a post on the official UCB site soon to link to all of those) so there's little that will be surprising to you if you've been keeping up here, but in case you haven't (and to make sure I have a record of it), I'm writing it down anyway.  Plus I can guarantee you that there is something in my pictures that you haven't seen on anyone else's posts.  (Teaser!)

As always, UCB Weekend kicks off with dinner the night before at Patrick's Restaurant.  Patrick's has been exceptionally good to us in the past couple of years, so much so that they set up a bar this year in the room we were being hosted in.  (Granted, that didn't matter to me, but some of the others seemed to approve.)  You couldn't ask for better service or more accommodating staff.  I had the tuna melt again and it's a very tasty sandwich that comes highly recommended by this non-foodie.

Thanks have to go out to the sponsors of the event.  For the second year in a row, Bill Ivie of I70 Baseball has done an incredible job lining up folks to help defray the cost of the room as well as enough to provide appetizers.  We got a packet of information from BlitzCorner and, reading through it, it looks like a great program for any blog that might be looking to monetize their blog a little bit.  Some neat stuff there that I might have to look into a little deeper.  Of course, the Bonfyre folks were there and you know how highly I recommend that app.  (Seriously, you really need to be involved in our regular conversations over there.  Go sign up!)

We also had a short presentation by Any City Sports Fan, who helped sponsor last year as well.  Really an interesting concept and I hope it continues to get off the ground.  We also had a contribution from Out Of The Park Baseball, which is a great simulation game.  I have the 2014 version on my computer and need to do a review of it, but if you are at all interested in simulations, that's the game to get.  I love all the customization you can do with it--currently I have a 40-team, 8-division league with no DH and no wild-card.

Thanks also go out to Egraphs.  Before they shut down their operation, they contributed some money toward the event and we appreciated that.  I still wish they'd been able to keep that going, because it was a great concept that seemed to be embraced by the players.  We also had giveaways from Rob Rains's STL Sports Page, Topps Baseball Cards, ISA Grading Service, and our good friends from Fox Sports Midwest brought over a couple of Hungos to give away.

Bloggers beginning to gather and socialize.  Bill and Angela Ivie in the background with Geoff Goldman of FSMW, Rodney Knuppel of Saint Louis Sports in the center with the tan cap, and Corey Rudd of STL Sports Minute in the foreground.

Sponsors are great and all and we really enjoyed hearing from them and talking to them, but the main point of dinner is to hang out and talk with other bloggers.  Because if there's one thing that bloggers are better at than writing about baseball, it's talking about baseball with other bloggers.  Patrick's had the game up on the main screen in the room (at least, until it wrapped about an hour or so into the dinner) and we talked about how ugly it was getting, what in the world Mike Matheny was doing, and so on.

One of the things that was extremely cool about this gathering was represented in the picture above.  We had our two resident historians, Mark Tomasik from RetroSimba (tan shirt on the left) and Bob Netherton of On The Outside Corner (Gibson jersey) sitting there watching the major league debut of the newest Cardinal, Jermaine Curtis.  (Surprisingly, I caught John Nagel from CardinalsFarm looking away from the screen, but I'm sure that was just temporary.)

Some great discussions were going on and I continued to bounce from group to group, just listening in and enjoying the moment.  When I started this group five and a half years ago, I never would have thought we'd have come to this moment when people from Florida and Texas and Arkansas and Iowa and Kansas and various other places would come together to talk Cardinal baseball and become like old friends, even though at most we've seen each other 4-5 times and some were making their first UCB Weekend appearance.

Saturday night ran well into the evening, but eventually everyone decamped and got off to rest up, because the big day was still to come.  Sunday promised a time with John Mozeliak and a ball game, but what we didn't know was that there was a bigger surprise yet to come.
  Continue Reading

UCB Progressive Game Blog Postgame: Winning The Battle

Posted on May 4, 2013 at 8:25 PM
Welcome into the UCB studios as we recap what happened in today's game, the details of which are thoughtfully supplied by the whole crew, from Aaron Miles' Fastball to Cards Tied For First.  There was plenty to keep people busy with!

I'm glad to report that the UCB Progressive Game Blog jinx seems to have been at least temporarily suspended, though it surely didn't look like it when Adam Wainwright looked un-Waino-like by giving up two runs in the first inning and having to work out of a bases-loaded jam to keep it at that.

As you know, the game went back and forth, with the Cards taking a lead, then giving it up to the Brewers before finally making the ninth the last time the lead changed.  The Hero of the day has to be Jon Jay for his outstanding contributions, most notably a three-run home run to immediately get Wainwright back into good standing and then a run-scoring single in the ninth that put the Cards on top for good.  It seems like Mike Matheny's policy of sitting slumping hitters down for a couple of days is working--Jay has raised his average around 50 points since his benching and David Freese is on fire right now, having multi-hit games in every one of the games held in Miller Park.

There's a reason that sabermetricians have tried to emphasize that decision stats aren't nearly as important as they used to be.  For instance, look at the bullpen for the Cardinals today.  Fernando Salas comes in and gets the last out of the seventh, then starts the eighth with two of his three batters getting hits, putting them at the corners.  Randy Choate comes in and gives up a squeeze bunt that barely gets past Yadier Molina and ties the game.  Then Seth Maness comes in and gets the double play ball.  Yet Salas gets the hold and Choate gets the blown save.  Fascinating how that works.  (And, of course, congrats to Maness for getting his first major league win!)

As much as Wainwright struggled and as dicey as the bullpen made things, I'm going to give the Goat to Matt Carpenter.  An 0-5 day is just so tough to overlook from your leadoff hitter.  Sadly, Carlos Beltran in the two hole had the same line, but he only had one strikeout to Carpenter's two.  Tiebreakers don't have to be large.

The biggest discussion point, of course, was Matheny's predilection for double switches.  Swapping in Daniel Descalso to play second and removing David Freese looked really strange on the face of it.  It worked out since Descalso hit the two-run homer that put the Cards on top for a bit, but as pointed out if Jon Jay hadn't gotten thrown out at third (what is with all the baserunning in this series?) Dirty Dan would have been bunting.  And anyway, why not just pinch-hit Desclaso there if you want to?  Freese was actually hitting over the last few days and losing a bat like that is normally going to cost you.

Matheny doubled down on the double switches later, taking out Matt Holliday (which, granted, was 0-4 but still is one of the biggest bats on the team, as evidenced by his home run last night) to put Maness in his spot so that Shane Robinson would be in the original Freese spot.  Yes, Robinson doubled, stole third and scored the winning run, but is that the way you'd expect things to go?  If the game had stayed tied, Ty Wigginton might have had to bat in a crucial spot and that's really not likely to go well.  At least, we say that.  Everything Matheny did today turned to gold, so maybe it would have.  Wigginton might have hit his first homer today the rate things were working out.  Expecting that to happen every day, though, is a recipe for disaster.

All's well that ends well and the Cards not only have a nice two-game lead on the Pirates, they have the best record in the National League.  Doesn't seem possible, does it?  Jaime Garcia versus Wily Peralta tomorrow as St. Louis tries to work a broom.  Thanks for joining us on the Progressive Game Blog!  Hope you enjoyed and we'll see you back here next year at this time!

UCB/Bonfyre Mashup

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 4:23 PM
If you one of my Twitter followers, 1) I'm sorry and 2) you've probably seen me reference Bonfyre a few times in the last week or so.  Perhaps you missed last winter when I (and the Pitchers Hit Eighth guys) talked about what Bonfyre is and why you should download the free app for your phone.  Let's quickly correct that issue.

If you are on Twitter, you know that it's a lot of fun watching the game with your Twitter peeps, going back and forth and discussing what's going on.  It's like sitting in the seats at Busch, just without the extravagantly priced refreshments and the blazing heat/unseasonable cold.  It's a lot of fun talking ball on Twitter.

Except that you only have 140 characters.  And if you want to follow a line of discussion, you really need a hashtag, which then eats into those 140 characters.  Plus, if you are following a lot of other people, your feed gets mixed in with other baseball talk, other sports issues, perhaps even spoilers for a show you were going to watch after the game instead.  Also, you may follow some people because they are Cards fans or are your friends, but they get a little too worked up about small sample sizes or run too optimistic/pessimistic sometimes for your taste.

That's where Bonfyre comes in.  A bonfyre is like a dedicated chat room, to some degree.  There's no character limits.  You can drop in pictures without a thought or a link.  Plus bonfyres can be invite-only, which means you can determine who gets in and who stays out, which is great for having some like-minded folks talking with you as the game goes along.

Plus, with a bonfyre, the conversation is always there.  For instance, some of us have been using a bonfyre for each Cardinal series.  For the Pittsburgh series, it was created on Sunday night and we started chatting then.  Now, Wednesday afternoon, I can scroll back and watch the whole series unfold via our discussions without having to search or hunt things up.  It's all right there, conveniently at my fingertips.  Which is great, save for when Dennis gives you a mental image you may not want to repeat view......

To help you get a feel for what's going on, I invite you to join our UCB Weekend bonfyre.  You can find the landing page here, which gives you some information and lets you log into Bonfyre or create an account to do so.  UCB Weekend will kick off next Saturday, but we've got discussion about various topics going on in there now.  It's a great way to get your feet wet and see exactly what's going on with the app.  Drop me a friend request when you sign up as well, so you can be invited to bonfyres in the future.

Already a Bonfyre member and want to join in the UCB Weekend fun?  Use this QR code and get straight into the action!

There's no doubt that these bonfyres have added to the enjoyment of watching the Cardinals this season.  I can't recommend enough you downloading the app and trying it out.  Hope to see you in the UCB bonfyre shortly!

UCB Project: 2013 Postseason And Awards

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM
As bad as I am at picking the divisions, this set of picks really takes the cake.  How do you predict who is going to have the breakout season and be MVP or who will surprise and be Rookie of the Year?  In my case, with coin flips and random pointing at rosters.  Let's take a look at what I have and then check out the other UCB members as well.  Continue Reading

UCB Project: 2013 National League West Predictions

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM
After hitting the AL and the other two NL divisions, we finally go out west, where the living is easy, but it surely isn't free.  At least, not if you want to keep up with the Joneses in LA.  Remember, if these don't float your boat, we've got others that will!  Continue Reading

UCB Project: 2013 National League Central Predictions

Posted on March 27, 2013 at 11:15 AM
After sorting through the American League and the National League East, the middle of the week brings us to the best division in baseball.  It's not perhaps the best as in the strongest or best as in the most star-laden, but it has the Cardinals in it.  Therefore, best.  We're all in agreement here, right?

Remember that if you don't agree with these picks, well, there are a bunch of others that you can look through and see if someone else is more to your liking!
  Continue Reading

UCB Project: 2013 National League East Predictions

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 11:00 AM
OK, we took care of the American League yesterday.  Now it's time to move on to real baseball and tackle the National League East.  Remember, the United Cardinal Bloggers are doing this all week long and you can keep up with everyone's posts right over here.

The NL East promises to be an interesting division this year, with a lot of young talent and some changing of the guard.  Oh, and the Marlins are there as well.
  Continue Reading

UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
  Continue Reading

The Bird's Eye View Returns!

Posted on March 23, 2013 at 9:18 AM
For the second half of last season, the United Cardinal Bloggers started up The Bird's Eye View.  It was an email newsletter sent out to subscribers from a rotating group of UCB members, outlining the upcoming series in various ways.  Pitching matchups, players to watch, history between the two teams, every Bird's Eye View was different because the writer behind it changed.

We enjoyed it so much (and it was received so well) that we are bringing it back for the 2013 season.  Now, if you signed up last year, there's nothing that you need to do.  We've got everyone in our contacts and aren't resetting the list.  However, if you didn't get in on the fun this year (and haven't joined up from a link at another location), this is a perfect time to do it.  We are just over a week away from Opening Day, which means that the Arizona Bird's Eye View will be out likely next Sunday.  Don't you want to be informed before you sit down to that first pitch?

Of course you do!  So you can find the short signup form below.  We'll get you on the list and you'll enjoy this update all year long!

UCB Project: Playing Pepper

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper. 

St. Louis Cardinals 
88-74, second in the NL Central and second NL Wild Card, lost in NLCS 

Wait a second, what's going on here?  Playing Pepper isn't about the Cardinals.  Besides, Milwaukee is up next anyway.  We're not anywhere close to the S teams!

Very good, astute and loyal reader.  Give yourself a gold star.  In fact, I never have done a Cardinals version of the Playing Pepper series, but when it came to my turn to end the annual United Cardinal Blogger roundtable, I thought I'd shake things up and ask some Pepper-ish questions to the UCB faithful.

So who jumped into this?  Only.....

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants, @dsolzman
Kevin Reynolds, Cards 'N Stuff, @deckacards
Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba, @RetroSimba
Tom Knuppel, CardinalsGM, @cardinalsgm
Wes Keene, Keene On MLB, @KeeneMLB
Spencer Hendricks, StanGraphs, @shendricks221
"Pip" Philip, Fungoes, @fungoes
Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles' Fastball, @CColeman802
and, in a late entry, Dathan Brooks, Cards Tied For First, @dathan7

Yeah, pretty awesome, right?  So hang on through the break and find out when Waino signs and what people are the most interested in watching this coming season.
  Continue Reading





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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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