March 2007

Tonight and the Rest of My Life

Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference.

Anyway, interesting lineup here tonight, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a look we haven’t seen at all this spring. Two, it could well be the lineup tomorrow night against the Mets in the opener.

Eckstein SS, Wilson RF, Pujols 1B, Rolen 3B, Molina C, Edmonds, CF, Taguchi LF, Kennedy 2B, Wainwright RHP

According to TLR, Molina is likely to be back in the fifth spot against LHP Glavine tomorrow night. Wilson will be in there as well, with the only real question in LF — Taguchi (1-for-9 career against Glavine), Spiezio or Duncan. The skipper points out that with RHP starting for the Mets the next two nights, there’s a little less urgency to get Duncan and Spiezio in there — they’ll start the next two games.

BTW, while you’re here, please don’t forget to weigh in on this week’s Lucky Seven. Thanks!



UPDATE as of 3:55 p.m. CT.

The rain has stopped. The grounds crew has taken the tarp off, and really the field looks pretty good. I’ve been told that an hour is enough time to get the field ready, so we may actually get this thing started on time.

(earlier post below…)

So. It’s pouring here. Started a few minutes ago. Doesn’t promise to let up any time soon.

Here’s the forecast, so feel free to keep your eyes open.

This could be interesting.


Live from Memphis, it's Lucky Seven

Good afternoon to all. I’m feeling refreshed if not exactly rested following a flight home to St. Louis yesterday and a drive down to Memphis this morning. AutoZone Park is beautiful as ever, really a terrific venue, so it’s definitely good to be here. Already had some some Krystals and sweet tea (gotta love the South), and surely there will be barbecue before the weekend is out.

Here’s this week’s Lucky Seven, only a day late.

1. Simple question: if it’s down to one spot in the bullpen, between Josh Hancock and Ricardo Rincon, what do you do? Who do you keep, and what do you do with the other guy? Cut him outright? Trade him for anything at all, even if it means eating salary and taking a C-minus prospect?

2. Which part of the opening week are you looking forward to the most? The traditional Opening Day festivities? Raising the world champions pennant? Handing out rings? Just being able to watch baseball games that count?

3. Prediction time: Give me the playoff teams, pennant winners and World Series champ.

4. Prediction time 2: MVP and Cy Young from each league.

5. Prediction time 3: Give me a bold/random/interesting baseball prediction for the upcoming season.

6. Inspired by this weekend’s locale, which city is the best for a weekend roadtrip from St. Louis, and why? We’re talking at most 7 hrs drive or so, and if it’s that far away, you’re really going to have to convince me. To choose from: KC, Memphis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati and I’m sure plenty of others. If you love Springfield or Columbia or Tulsa or Topeka, go ahead and sing its praises!

7. What’s the last non-fiction book you read that you’d heartily recommend to someone?

As always, feel free to answer as many or as few as you like. But if you don’t have an answer, please just don’t answer it. No need to take a dig at the question or the topic.

Currently playing on the iPod: Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank.


Camp day

The Cardinals took a lineup that wasn’t exactly full of big names down to Fort Lauderdale today, so it seemed like a perfect day to stay back at camp and keep an eye on things here. That turned out to be a good decision, as it’s been a very pleasant day here in Jupiter — and the old stadium in Lauderdale is not exactly one of the Grapefruit League’s palaces.

* Jaime Garcia threw for Springfield against Memphis on another "camp day," and although he had to work hard, it was easy to see some of the things the club likes about him. He pitched at 91 and hit 94 with a curveball that was impressive at times (but inconsistent). Rick Ankiel, however, hit a monstrous homer to right off Garcia. In the three innings I saw, he allowed two runs on six hits, struck out one and walked three. He lasted five total.

Camp days are not the favorites of some of the Minor League players — the atmosphere leaves a bit to be desired when you’re facing your own guys. But they have their benefits, especially for the people who want to watch multiple teams. Besides, as one person affiliated with the Memphis team said the other day, "Is it really any worse than playing Albuquerque five times a week?"

* Jason Isringhausen tried to prank three of his fellow bullpenners in the morning, adding their names and "late additions" to the travel roster posted in the clubhouse. I’m told that at least for a moment or two, there was some angst on the part of the non-traveling crew.

I’ll be traveling tomorrow, so I’ll try to get something up here (a new Lucky Seven, perhaps) but I can’t guarantee it. Do check by just in case. Hopefully I’ll be offering stuff up to you semi-regularly from Memphis, which should be a fun weekend.

Currently playing on the iPod: Hot Hot Heat, Elevator.


Morning news

* Yadier Molina is back in the lineup, but he has instructions to play "under control." TLR points out that given how Carpenter holds runners on, not many guys are likely to try to run against him anyway.

* Edmonds is playing for a third straight day, batting fifth rather than second.

* With the possible exception of one spot, today’s lineup looks more like Opening Day than any other lineup thus far this spring. Eight of the nine spots are all but certain to be exactly like they’ll look in five days: Eckstein SS, Duncan LF, Pujols 1B, Rolen 3B, Edmonds CF, Wilson RF, Molina C, Kennedy 2B, Carpenter P. The only one of those I could see different on Sunday is RF, where Spiezio is probably a little more likely than Wilson to start but not guaranteed.

* Lou Holtz is here, adding to the parade of coaches coming through. He’ll address the club this afternoon.

* TLR said he was unsure about the decision on Isringhausen’s availability today. The guess is that he doesn’t pitch, and will instead go tomorrow.

(currently playing on the iPod: Jeff Buckley, Grace)


Jorge Who-lio?

Exhibit No. 2,145 in why saves are an overvalued stat:

Reliever X allowed 10 home runs in 61 2/3 innings in 2003, 11 in 69 innings in 2004, 14 in 71 2/3 innings in 2005 and 10 in 66 in 2006. That’s 45 homers in 268 1/3 innings over the past four years.

Reliever X averaged more than 4.7 walks per nine innings in three of those seasons.

Yes, Reliever X has some nice strikeout rates, but when you average a home run every 6 innings and a walk every 2 innings, you’re not an ace.

Yet Jorge Julio has 99 career saves, so he’s a Capital-C Closer. He’s making 3.6 million this year, and he made 2.5 million last year. The Cardinals were supposedly in the mix for him, and it seemed very puzzling — who, exactly, is he better than in the current STL bullpen? The Marlins just gave up a guy who still has some prospect status (Yusmeiro Petit) to get him. And they’re going to make him their Capital-C Closer. Because he’s done it.

The point is not, necessarily, that just any schlub can be a good late-inning reliever. The point is that just having saves doesn’t make you a good pitcher. Cardinals fans, be glad that your team didn’t part with anything precious, or even semi-precious to get Jorge Julio.


My lucky seven

Here are my calls for this past week’s Lucky Seven:

1. I’d have to agree with y’all, the infield is pretty stout. I’d like to see more offense from catcher, so I separate that unit, but the four infielders make a fine group.

2. The greatest concern right now seems to be the outfield, more because of Edmonds than anything. If he’s right, if he can even hit like he did in ’05 (never mind ’04), it makes a huge difference in the offense. If he’s not up to standards, it’s a problem. I think they can mix and match pretty effectively in right field.

3. IF everyone is healthy: Duncan nearly every day in LF. Edmonds nearly every day in CF. Rodriguez and Encarnacion splitting time in RF, and Wilson getting ABs against LHP in LF and CF. Taguchi as a defensive guy but not playing much offense.

4. St. Louis, Milwaukee, Houston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

5. All the starters, but especially Adam Wainwright’s thus-far seamless transition. I’m expecting a big year from him.

6. This one is fairly easy at this point, seems to be. Before the tournament, however, I did all right — Georgetown, UCLA, Florida and Texas A&M. Amazing that I’m completely out of the mix despite calling three of the four right.

7. I’ve thought about this one a lot. Came up with a couple, including a variation of the one I listed at the start: James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic and Prince… But I think a real dream bill would be: Jeff Buckley first, Pearl Jam second and The Who (in their prime) as the headliner. We should revisit this one, though.


Edmonds in, rotation set

More to come as the day goes on, but here are the morning’s two news nuggets:

1. Jim Edmonds is in the lineup, batting second and playing center field. He may only get two ABs today, and TLR sounded as though it’s still not for certain that he’ll be on the roster to start the season. But you’d have to figure he’ll make it work.

2. The rotation is set for the first week. Carpenter, Wells, Looper vs NYM; Carpenter, Wainwright, Reyes vs HOU.


Lucky Seven returns for '07

All right, time for a new Lucky Seven. It’s been too long. BTW, it’ll be all baseball and lighter stuff here. For legal matters, head next door to Thanks.

1. What is the strongest area of the 2007 Cardinals? Rotation, bullpen, catching, infield, outfield, bench?

2. Which of those units is the the greatest concern?

3. If everyone is healthy, how should outfield at-bats be apportioned among all of the various options?

4. Predict the order of finish in the NL Central.

5. What do you consider the single most important development — positive or negative, either one — of Spring Training thus far?

6. Who’s going to the Final Four?

7. Tell me your all-time dream concert bill. It has to make some sense, but they don’t have to be alive or still together. That is, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors makes sense. Parliament/Funkadelic, Prince and OutKast makes sense. Perry Como and Metallica does not make sense. Have fun with it, get creative, don’t give me 10 bands but 3 or 4 is fine. 2 is fine if that does the trick for you.


Back in the saddle

Your faithful correspondent is back after a three-day break, including a visit to Disney (yes, this from the guy who recommended Team Rodent to you) and a dinner at Margaritaville, all in the company of my beloved bride.

Anyway, a few bits and pieces to touch on.

* Please, everybody, stop fretting about Albert Pujols. There are two questions to ask. One, is he healthy? Two, is he still Albert Pujols? Yep, and yep. He’ll hit. He’s fine.

* Big thanks to one faithful reader who always comes through in Spring Training. Earl Greyhound was awesome, listening to Greg Laswell now, can’t wait to get to the rest of it.

* Speaking of music, odd sequence before the game today. Steve Cropper threw out the first pitch, but didn’t perform the anthem. Hey, it’s exciting to be in the same building with Cropper, who has a ridiculously great resume. Cripes, the dude co-wrote "Dock of the Bay" and "In the Midnight Hour," among MANY other highlights. The Beatles wanted him on Revolver. Keith Richards called his playing "perfect." But you bring him to the park, then he doesn’t perform? Alas.

* In all the talk about whether Mark Martin will run Bristol, something important is being forgotten: leading the points doesn’t mean what it used to. You could be first in points at the end of race No. 26, but if you have no wins, you could be 12th at the start of the Chase. Just because Martin leads the points right now, doesn’t necessarily mean he has a great shot at the title unless he starts winning. Seems to be left out of the discussion a lot.

* Spring practice is under way! Woohoo!

Back tomorrow with the return of Lucky Seven, thanks to some prodding from T.R. Sullivan.

Currently playing: Greg Laswell, Through Toledo.