Well, Here We Are Again…

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Greetings, Cardinals fans!  Though many months have passed since I last posted, all is well because the end-result of last season was less-than-pleasant.  As I sat in a Boise, Idaho bar on tour with a good friend of mine watching the final outs of what was a series of missed opportunities and poor executions, an expletive-filled tirade of alcohol-induced sadness would have been all my feeble fingers could have produced.  And that’s not in anyone’s interest.

As I sit here, we are just a few days removed from the trade deadline in which beloved Cardinals Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were dealt to the Boston Red Sox for the not-so-lovable John Lackey.  Also dealt was youngster James Ramsey – a former first-round selection who, at 24 years old, has figured out Double-A pitching fairly well with a .916 OPS at the point of the trade – to the Cleveland Indians for recovering and struggling Justin Masterson.

Masterson averaged just barely over 5 innings per start with Cleveland before being sent to the disabled list with an apparently medically baffling and exhaustively explanatory “right knee injury.”  With an H/9 and BB/9, respectively, of 9.7 and 5.1 he is far and away from his 2013 1.202 WHIP.  While his K/BB ratio suffers mightily as well in comparison to last year’s All-Star campaign where he tallied 2.57 strikeouts between walks versus this season’s 1.66.  It’s difficult to say if 2013 is a reasonable expectation of Justin Masterson or if 2014 is more representative of his abilities; in 4 seasons of 29 or more starts he vacillates between the better and the worse of the two.

In his first start since being activated from the Disabled List and his first with his new ball club, a rested knee seemed to do little for Masterson’s rubber-woes.  He allowed 7 hits and 4 walks, exiting the game after the top of the 6th having thrown 90 pitches, 61 of which for strikes.  Establishing what exactly is hampering Masterson’s knee may well be the key to success for him in a Cardinals uniform.

Both Masterson and his other new-arrival teammate John Lackey were faced with an important first start for the Cardinals against our division-leading rival in Milwaukee.  While both came away with a victory, one fared significantly better than the other.

John Lackey has been very much John Lackey-like this season.  He’s been very reliable for Boston thus far starting 21 games with a 3.57 FIP and a 3.63 K/BB ratio.  He’s also averaging nearly 6 2/3 innings-per-start and has a complete game to his credit – what should be a complete game shutout – after holding the Twins scoreless on 3 hits and a walk with 9 Ks over 9 innings on July 18th.  Unfortunately for Lackey the Twins pitchers combined to hold the Red Sox scoreless into the 10th inning when the bullpen surrendered 1 to Minnesota and Minnesota returned the favor twice-over for a 10th inning Red Sox victory.

In an important series-ending game against Milwaukee, Lackey stepped onto the St. Louis mound for the first time in this uniform.  Though surrendering a single run in each of the first two innings, Lackey located his low-90s fastball and sharp slider well and proceeded to clamp down on the Milwaukee batters in the proceeding innings.  Allowing 7 hits, he walked none and struck out four to hold the Brewers through 7 innings before turning the ball over to the very capable Pat Neshek and rolling-Trevor Rosenthal to close out the game.  It certainly didn’t hurt the Cardinals that a strained rib cage forced Brewer Matt Garza off the mound in the 6th inning with a one-hit shutout in the works.

Lackey proved strong with a Quality Start at a much needed time to bring the Cardinals within 1 game of the division lead.  With the 49-62 Red Sox pulling into St. Louis and the Brewers hosting the Wild Card leading Giants, Lackey’s win sets the Cardinals up to regain the NL Central lead this week.  Here’s hoping for some active bats against a Jon Lester-less Red Sox.

No, I’m Not Happy About the HOF Non-Vote: An Open Letter

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No more phone calls.  No more text messages.  No more emails.  No, I am not happy about this Hall of Fame non-vote.  I think it’s disingenuous and I think it’s embarrassing both as a fan of this game and someone who considers himself somewhat of a historian thereof.As I’m sure everyone is probably aware, the BBWAA voted – or didn’t – yesterday for the Hall of Fame candidates and elected no one.  As a person who thoroughly loves the history of this game and still touts the purity of baseball over all other sports, I have since been inundated with texts and emails asking how great I think it is that the electors “took a stand” against the ‘Steroid Era.’  If it is someone taking a stand then it’s a self-important blowhard who is using his lone, minute position of authority as an elector to dump on the accomplishments of someone who achieved great feats WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THEIR PROFESSION

Have we all forgotten that when these men were active in the MLB, it wasn’t against the rules?  Mark McGwire didn’t cheat at the game of baseball by taking androstenedione.  Did he use something that gave him a chemical, artificial edge at his chosen profession?  He sure did, but it wasn’t against the rules.  Say it with me baseball writers – it was not against the rules.  If any of these men did in fact use performance enhancing drugs after they were outlawed by Major League Baseball, then commence with the ostracizing.  However, to tear apart a career that you as baseball writers glorified and demonize a man that you turned into a mythical character is beyond disingenuous, it’s reprehensible.

I know it sucks that there is a black eye on our game now, but you’re hurting people who shouldn’t be punished for simply working within the legal framework of their profession.  Why don’t you place the blame upon the people whom are actually responsible for the Era?  MLB Owners and Commissioner Selig turned a blind eye for decades because of skyrocketing profits and popularity, why are we not blaming them for this period in baseball?

I see a similarity between the way MLB players of this era are treated and the way in which the NFL attacked New Orleans this year over the Bounty Gate scandal.  New Orleans was demonized in this scandal, and for good reason as it was a disgusting thing to do, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the same thing had been going on in every single NFL locker room.  The NFL got ahead of the scandal and destroyed New Orleans to make an example out of them before someone had the opportunity to blow the story up and prove that it’s a league-wide issue.  Once again, “The League” goes into self-preservation just like the MLB did when Congress got involved in the ‘Steroid Era.’  To save themselves, they have to find a scapegoat and the MLB turned the players named in The Mitchell Report into scapegoats when the names that should have been in that report are those of the ownership committees who allowed performance enhancing drugs to remain a legal part of the game for so long.

If you’re a baseball writer and you cast a no-vote for any of the men who are lumped into the ‘Steroid Era’ category based on some moral high ground in promoting the purity of the game – I think you’re misguided.  If someone cheated, let them be outcast but we can’t make a rule and then look backward and say “okay, everyone who broke this rule before it was a rule?  Yeah, you’re screwed.”  Look at the owners, look at Commissioner Selig.  These are the men responsible for the black eye on our game.

The UCB Progressive Game Blog 2012 – Top of the 4th

Hey all, this is my small contribution to the UCB’s 2012 Progressive Game Blog bringing you the top of the 4th inning.

Presently the Mets carry a three run lead as R.A. Dickey circles the mound with Dan Descalso digging in.  Dan McLaughlin is explaining the story in which it was discovered that R.A. Dickey had no ulnar collateral nerve which resulted in a greatly diminished signing bonus.  As Dickey strikes out Descalso on a high 2-2 pitch, I’d like to reminisce about my lasting memory of Dickey dating back to Opening Day here several season ago now.  Dickey was pitching for the Rangers on Opening Day after having his knuckleball highly touted coming into the season.  That knuckleball proved less than everyone expected when he proceeded to surrender 6 home runs to the Detroit Tigers.  And as I recall this story Dan and Al tell the exact same story so I’m sure everyone is aware of this story now…  Thanks, guys.

We watch Matt Holliday feebly reach across the plate at his knees and dribble an 0-1 ball to Wright at third base who makes the close play to first.  Carlos Beltran due up now with two outs and watches a 59 mph first-pitch ball well outside the zone.  Beltran watches a “fast” ball from Dickey barely scrape the outside corner of the plate for a 1-1 count followed quickly by a foul ball out of play.  And for the final pitch of the inning, Beltran pops it up behind home plate as Thole secures it for the out.

This inning is indicative of the absolute absence of Cardinals offense lately.  There is little to be happy with right now as far as the rotation and batting goes.  We can only hope things turn around in Houston and the team can get back on their feet.

Giveaway #2!

Gveaway #1 came to a close with first pitch and our computer-chosen winner is Aaron Love. Direct Message me on Twitter so we can get your email!

Question #2 is as follows and will net a lucky contestant a glorious 8-DVD box set of the 2011 World Series!

What St. Louis Cardinal holds the most TEAM records from a single season? In what season did their feat occur? Tweet me @rallybirdsblog with your answer, hashtag #RallyBirdsGiveaway!

Giveaway Trivia Question #1

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Okay Cardinals fans, welcome to Opening Day of the 2012 season… what a glorious day it is.

Let’s get this trivia program started! I will collect answers until game time tonight at 6. Then, I will randomly choose (using an online random decision generator) which will choose the winner among the correct answers. Sound good? You can submit your answer to me on Twitter @rallybirds blog with the hashtag #RallyBirdsGiveaway.

Are we ready? This first question is fairly easy and it will win a lucky individual a copy of the BluRay/DVD combo of Baseball’s Greatest Games featuring Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. (If you google that or search A&E’s online shop you will find exactly how awesome an item you’re getting.)

Here’s our question: Who is the only Major League Baseball Player to have an award named after him while still an active player? Bonus points if you know the year and the award, as well.

Answer away, Cardinals fans!

The Giveaway!

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Cardinals fans, we are a mere 23 and 1/2 hours away from the return of our reigning World Champions in regular season play. Spring, and soon Summer, is upon us as we count the hours to the season opener in Miami.

In celebration of this occasion, I will be giving away several items in remembrance of our fantastic and historic 2011 post-season. Firstly, I will be giving away a BluRay/DVD combo of Baseball’s Greatest Games: 2011 World Series Game 6 and, in conjunction, the St. Louis Cardinals 2011 World Series Collector’s Edition 8-DVD Box Set.

This is a great moment for RallyBirds.com, all of which made possible by the United Cardinal Bloggers alongside A&E Network Home Entertainment and Major League Baseball Productions. It is of the utmost pleasure to me to bring this gift to my fellow St. Louis Cardinals fans. I will be awarding 3 copies of each of the aforementioned BluRay/DVD sets so there will be some events or questions forthcoming to determine how these gifts will be disseminated. Stay tuned to RallyBirds!

From The Game

I’m here with my friend and Springfield Business Journal photographer Aaron in the Press Box at Hammons Field.  Game time is a rather warm temperature in the 80s with a southerly breeze whipping the Texas League team pennants which are tonight topped with St. Louis Cardinals banners.  Find me on Twitter @rallybirdsblog and lets talk Cardinals baseball while we watch tonight’s exhibition.

The Exhibition

St. Louis will pull into Springfield for the first time in a few years, making up the missed 2011 exhibition game.  This is a bit of a filler post for the moment letting everyone know that I will be there (making use of the newly acquired media pass) making live updates from the game.  Stay tuned to RallyBirds when gametime hits.

Media Day at Hammons Field

Here I sit in the Champion’s Club at Hammons Field, the home of St. Louis’ AA affiliate, surrounded by Cardinals Front Office personnel such as Jeff Levering, the voice of and Media Relations head of the team, as well as Springfield GM Matt Gifford.  Also around the room are well-known sports personalities from the town; Ned Reynolds and Dan Lucy, and many from surrounding news outlets.

I walked through the Front Offices to the field where I first caught a glimpse of the field itself from ground level, peering through the right field gate.  The field is perfectly green, lush from the recent rains and ensuing sunny Spring days, and in the process of a crafty and masterful grooming by the Hammons Field landscape professionals.  The Sun beaming across the near-8,000 empty seats and the lightly watered infield has the room in the throes of Spring Training discussion interspersed between their own stories dating the numerous old friendships that knit the room together.

I sit at a small bar table peering out through this window, as I have peered through so many since the close of post-season season play, waiting for professional baseball to once again grace this shrine to which it was erected.  Many ballparks deserve the title of “shrine” but few so deservedly as this particlar home to our perfect game.  The question was asked to Mr. Ned Reynolds, quite easily the most notable figure of Springfield sports, how Hammons Field ranks amongst its fellow Texas League ballparks.  Mr. Reynolds responds that Wichita boasted a fine park yet without a doubt, the best home to baseball in this Texas League is this; Hammons Field.

A perfect shrine, suited for the perfect game.

And Spring Shapes Up…

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Spring is shaping up and we’re beginning to see some formulations of a potential Major League roster.  Skip Schumaker is injured, Chris Carpenter has suffered a minor setback, the Carpenter of the Matt variety is making a bid for the big league roster, Erik Komatsu is getting a lot of attention, and Adam Wainwright has now thrown 9 scoreless innings in the Spring – adding four more this afternoon.  Matt Holliday is mashing and appearing to take the reigns as a true leader on the team with a Jupiter-inflated 1.364 OPS and our new long-term contractee Yadier Molina has caught the majority of the innings so far this Spring with a backup battle sure to ensue soon.  It seems at the moment that most things are going fairly well.

We’re nearing the point where we begin measuring the distance to Opening Day in days rather than weeks and where I begin my very enthusiastic countdown to the big club’s appearance here in Springfield to face the baby birds on April 2nd.  I am excited for the Springfield team this season, I am excited every year as it seems we are continually producing a handful of notable candidates to be future St. Louis Cardinals every season.  We have seen several former Springfield players become Major Leaguers, it was slower at first but with nearly ten years under our belt as a farm club we have witnessed our hometown players not only become Major League Cardinals, but World Series Champions.  There is no shortage of excitement for the 2012 Cardinals, and as a Springfield Cardinals supporter, that will continue into the future.

More updates will soon come as there is regular baseball in the air and we will soon see baseball taking place north of the Mason-Dixon line.  Boy, I cannot wait.

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