February 2006

not ball

Forgive me for a post that most of you won’t care about today, but I have a couple of messages I want to send out…

* Happy 36th anniversary to my parents! Y’all are the model I hope Erin and I follow for decades to come. Congratulations and thank you. And I’ll be calling tonight.

* And happy birthday to my mother-in-law! (man, that’s an odd term to write) I’m glad you were born, and I hope it is and has been a delightful day.

I hope to have a cool announcement coming soon, by the way, so keep checking back. Currently playing on the iPod: Depeche Mode, Remixes 81-04. Thanks to all of you who have sent in music suggestions — I definitely appreciate it.

-M.

Like a martian talking to a fungo

Just a couple of moments from today’s workout…

* As several of us media types were sitting in one of the dugouts before the intrasquad game, hitting coach Hal McRae approached. Feeling a little hungry and having a treasure in his hand, he looked out at the fans on the other side of the fence and made an offer: "a ball for a bag of peanuts." A fan quickly took him up on it, proudly took the ball and ran over to the concession trailer to get the coach some peanuts. Everybody was happy — definitely a veteran move on McRae’s part.

* In coaches games, the Cardinals don’t use live pitching. They have a coach throw batting practice from behind a screen. So on one play to first base, when the defenders turned a sharp 3-6 start to the double play, coach Mark Riggins remained behind the screen. Someone teasingly shouted at Riggins, "Riggy, you gotta get over there!" to finish off the twin-killing.

* The line of the day may have come from John Rodriguez, shaking his head after taking some cuts at Chris Carpenter’s sharp stuff in live BP… "Nice to meet you," he said with a befuddled smile.

-M.

*@&! we forgot to practice!

Now there’s a reference for you. Seven points for anyone who gets it.

Anyway. The Cardinals were in a big hurry to get their workout in today, because a storm hit northern Palm Beach County around 10 am ET — and they knew it was coming from early in the morning. So when I got to camp at about 8:40, they had already taken the field and were stretching. That’s about an hour earlier than usual.

The following sign hung in the clubhouse:

"DUE TO RAIN IN THE FORECAST, WE WILL START AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

ALL DEPENDS ON: MULDER SUPPAN WAINWRIGHT IZZY THOMPSON BENES HANCOCK

AND MOTHER NATURE"

Some observations from today’s workout, what of it there was…

* Jason Isringhausen and Mark Mulder both showed pretty nice stuff. Both were less than perfect with command, but it’s February. The two of them threw inside the stadium rather than out on one of the practice fields.

* Swinging off those two, Albert Pujols looked like, well, Albert Pujols. Even against All-Stars, it’s just unfair to give Pujols a 20-mph wind out to center field. He poked one over the wall to straightaway center off Mulder that it didn’t even look like he hit all that well.

* In the same group, Juan Encarnacion made pretty consistently good contact. He didn’t look like a guy who just arrived at camp. That doesn’t mean I think he’s going to go have a huge year; that’s not the point (it’s no secret what I thought of that signing). But it’s encouraging to see him looking like he’s in shape and he’s been working.

* And, yes, I did just write that the pitchers looked good — and that two guys hitting off him did, too. It can happen that way in the spring. If you miss location, hitters will hit even good stuff. It’s not like Izzy or Mulder looked like they were ready for playoff games. But for this point in the spring, they were fine.

Somehow it seems like the pre-games part of spring has just breezed by. I’m amazed that they play FAU in two days. And I’m eager for it, because I’m ready to see all these competitions play out in actual competitive situations.

Currently playing on the iPod: just finished Ferment, by The Catherine Wheel, and then started up Funeral by The Arcade Fire.

Chat at you soon. I’m off to watch the race.
-M.

"And the raaaiiiiin fell dowwwwwn"

So, it rained today. The first day I wore sandals in several days. Good times indeed. It’s the price we pay for the week-plus of incredible weather that led up to today. Anyway, it was an odd sceen back on Field 4 as the water started falling from the sky.

First of all, the dugout that we scribes were standing under offered absolutely no protection at first. The wind was blowing so much that there might as well not have been a roof. Finally, it was coming down hard enough to chase the players off the field during Brian Falkenborg’s throwing session. More than 10 players, plus coaches, crowded into the small dugout with several of us media types. Overheard during the first lengthy break: "Paradise, my (behind)!"

Finally they took to the field again, only to be interrupted again. And again. And again. At least three or four times, practice was interrupted. Sidney Ponson pitched in what was at times a downpour, and acquitted himself impressively.

After awhile, players and staff had had enough, and the group was brought in. Anthony Reyes threw his "live BP" session in a covered batting cage, and my only thought was how difficult it must have been to pick up his ball in that dark space.

Then, again, practice resumed on the field. It was scaled back, and some players scheduled to swing in live BP did not, but Jeff Nelson did get out and throw on Field 1. It’s intriguing to watch how long they’re willing to wait out a rainstorm in order to get the work in, and we’ll get to see it tomorrow as well, it appears.

Currently playing on the iPod: Elevator, by Hot Hot Heat. Man, I love this band more and more the more I hear them. Apparently if you want jangly, catchy guitar pop these days, Canada is the place to go.

fun times

The early full-squad workout days are always good for a few laughs. Someday I’ll share my very favorite Fernando Vina story, which involves me, Fernando, Joe Strauss, batting practice on a back field and 10 bucks. But that’s for another day.

For now, the moment of the day happened on field No. 3, with Albert Pujols swinging against John Webb in "live batting practice" sometime around 11:30 a.m.  Webb unleashed a breaking ball that appeared to hit the Most Valuable Posterior, though apparently it actually caught Pujols on the lower back. Either way, no fun. Pujols "took his base" and stepped out for the next batter.

Next time up, of course, Pujols took Webb deep over the left-field fence. And shortly afterward, he said what everyone was thinking. "If you hit me, I’m going to take you deep." Those may not be the exact words, as I was too busy chuckling to write it down, but it’s close enough that you get the idea. It wasn’t malicious, it wasn’t cocky — it was in good fun. And it was true. Good stuff.

For those of you who are interested, and who haven’t taken a look yet, I posted a few photos of my wedding week and our trip to California. There’s a photo album on the left side of the page. If you don’t care, that’s cool too.

Currently playing on the iPod: Digging deep into the vaults with a classic… Blood On the Tracks, by Bob Dylan.

The beautiful bride. I’m quite the lucky fellow, eh?

sunshine

I really, really love sunshine. And warm weather. And baseball. Spring Training might be the best time of the year if I had my wife, my dog, my cat and my own bed down here in Florida with me (OK, maybe not my bed, since the place where I’m staying has a king bed). As it is, I miss my little family back in Missouri, but if you have to be away from home, this isn’t a bad place to be.

I’m looking forward to a much more intriguing camp this year than last. In ’05, there were almost no storylines in Spring Training. There were a couple of competitions, on the bench and in the bullpen, but there are only so many times you can ask about things like that. This year, you have at least two starting jobs (left field and No. 5 starter) up for grabs. I’m not at all sure that second base is really open — I expect Junior Spivey to be the guy with room to spare.

Anyway, I’ve just filed my two stories for the day, and I’m about to head out and have some dinner. Big hellos to my beautiful bride, the two furry critters, my parents, her parents, and everyone else I wish could get a taste of how nice it’s been down here. I’ll check in again soon.

Now playing on the iPod: Plans, by Death Cab for Cutie. I’m still trying to come around to it, since I loved their last one so much.

So now I'm back, from outer space

Hm, interesting… the MLBlogs interface on Safari is missing some of the buttons it has on IE/Firefox. Ah well.
Thanks to the prodding of my lovely bride (yup, she’s no longer the bride-to-be!), I am returning from the ether to post here once again. As I tend to do, I’m starting with a short post and then I’ll pick up the quality/length as I get back in the swing.

First, the news, as promised in a mailbag more than a week ago. As mentioned above, I’m now happily married, and have been for 2 1/2 weeks. It’s quite exciting, and it’s really been a wonderful time. We went to California for our honeymoon — ate good food, drank good wine and spent a lot of time with the top down (major thanks to the nice fellow at Hertz at San Diego airport who set me up).

Now, something baseball-related: I just finished Jonathan Eig’s Lou Gehrig biography, Luckiest Man. And all I can do is recommend it most highly. Really a wonderful book, and not at all just a baseball book. He brings Gehrig to life beautifully, and the research is simply staggering. It’s the best baseball book I’ve read since I don’t know what. If you have any interest, pick it up.

Talk to you all soon.
-M.

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