Rick Ankiel was once a left handed stud pitcher for the Cardinals. He was going to be the biggest ace in the history of the franchise.
He became uncontrollably wild, throwing balls wayyy over the catchers head during postseason play. At worst, he was a laughing stock and at best, a case to be pitied. He never regained his form after that and was ready to walk away from baseball altogether. However, he decided to come back as an outfielder with amazing results.
His once valuable pitching arm became a canon from center field and his power was unmistakable. It became ridiculous to think that this guy was only going to be hitting once every five days. He worked his way back to the majors and became the Cardinal center fielder
His road eventually led him to the Nationals, but upon returning to St. Louis for the first time, he did a very classy thing. He extended a thank you to all of St. Louis for being behind him, supporting him and getting to play in front of the best fans in baseball. He did this by taking out an ad in the local paper and it was well received. Ankiel is definitely in the fold of, “Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal” and will be remembered by Cardinal Nation forever. He won’t be remembered as the young kid with the amazing left arm, but as the power hitting center fielder who left St. Louis with dignity and humbleness.
So why bring this up?
It’s no secret that recently named ex-closer Ryan Franklin has been struggling. His ERA had skyrocketed up past 11.00 and he was giving up home runs left and right. In save situations or not, he was not pitching many scoreless innings and blew 4 of 5 save opportunities. There was some murmuring of boos (certainly not a loud chorus of them) and these were Franklin’s words.
“Just because you spent your money to come here and watch us play, and
somebody happens to make one bad pitch and gives up a homer, you don’t
start booing them. I’ve been here for five years, and four years I’ve
been pretty good. You should go write stories about the fans booing.
They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”
Many many ballplayers far greater than Ryan Franklin have agreed that Cardinal fans are the best in baseball. Players have again and again commented on it after coming to St. Louis after playing for another organization. It’s an organization that players with the caliber of Lance Berkman seek out to play for. And Franklin says, “Yeah right” to all of that?
He renounced his comments later, but the damage had already been done. The boos were not that loud before and I have personally never booed Franklin. But now? If he hears the boos, it’s his own fault. How cocky to think that it’s all on the fans and he deserves none of the blame? And how arrogant to say he’s being booed over “one bad pitch.” No, you’re being booed because in 5 chances, you’ve only managed to save one game. And you’ve given up umpteen home runs. Quite a bit more than “one bad pitch.”
Franklin, you can learn something from Ankiel. Ankiel was once a cocky kid who had to let some adversity come his way to teach him a little humbleness. He learned from it and became a better man and baseball player for it. You would do well to do the same. And maybe not make those kinds of comments at the people who pay your salary.
Ankiel, always a Cardinal,
If you had told me prior to the season that the Cardinals would net a 5-0 win over the Nationals, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that 4 of those 5 runs would come from a pair of 2 run homers from our big boys, Pujols and Holliday, I would have said, ‘Sounds about right.’ If you had told me that the shutout would be a result of going the distance? That’s where I would have stopped you.
Carp? For sure. Garcia? Yup. But Loshe? I wasn’t a believer. But he is quickly changing my mind. He has been so good this year. And then here against the Nationals….wow. A 9 inning shutout, striking out 6 against two walks. He is making me a Loshe believer for sure and dreams of pennant races and world championships are dancing through my mind.
Loshes’ #1 fan,
I drove to Kansas City and watched the Royals play the Indians on a very, very chilly night of baseball. Felt like I should’ve been watching the Chiefs, as cold as it was. I rooted for the home team, but they eventually fell in extras thanks to some poor work out of the bullpen. But I got to see my first Major League game of the season. I’ll be going soon to Busch.
On to Cardinal baseball.
Today was a double header, which the Cards ended up splitting with the Nationals. You always want to win 2 obviously, but I’ll take the split and hopefully tomorrow we will take the series win as well. As the saying goes, if you can win every series, you’re doing pretty good.
It was even better combined with the Cubs splitting their double header and losses by the Reds and Brewers. These four teams are now tied for first atop the central division, all at .500.
Both games with the Nats and the Cards, the teams were two runs apart. In the first game of the doubleheader, Westbrook was far from sharp. But he also didn’t get a lot of help behind him. The problem with the Cardinal defense is that it is simply ‘adequate.’ Sometimes things that aren’t recorded as “errors” is still sub-par defense. A ball that Theriot only knocks down that a better shortstop would record an out on. Tyler Greene making a poor throw to 2nd, allowing them only to get 1 out instead of the double play. And then the obvious errors: the drop balls, the missed catches, etc. We knew from the beginning that the defense would not be the best it’s ever been. And that’s why the pitching and the hitting needs to be as sharp as possible.
Ankiel getting his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game got a nice round of appreciation applause, which was great to see. Ankiel took out a half page ad in the paper thanking them for their support. Great move, Rick.
In the second game, Jaime Garcia was again plagued by poor defense, but managed to pitch good enough to nail the win, both for himself and the team. Also in the night game was the first save opportunity since LaRussa announced that Ryan Franklin would no longer be his pitcher of choice in save situations. Mitchell Boggs got the nod and locked in the save. And all of Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
In both games, the Cardinals continue to rake. Everyone was getting hits, even guys like Punto and Descalso. And the big guys continue to do what they’ve been doing. 23 hits among the two games is certainly not too shabby.
Two for one baseball,
Every season has ’em. It might be an all-time record that will be tied
or broken. It might be reaching that next even number in hits, saves or
home runs. It might be surpassing a franchise record. Whatever it is,
it’s a milestone.
And 2011 will be no different.
So who are the candidates for these 2011 milestones and what is the likelihood they will be achieved? Glad you asked.
Player – Derek Jeter
Milestone – 3,000th hit
Current # – 2,928 hits
This is easily the most talked about milestone of 2011. Jeter is only
72 hits away from his inevitable 3,000th hit. So barring a significant
injury, he should get there and get there soon. Jeter is not only the
face of the franchise and embodies everything it means to be a Yankee,
but he will be the first Yankee to complete this feat.
As he draws closer, opponents stadiums will sell out with fans hoping to be there when he reaches that famous mark.
Predicted date – June 12th
Player: Ivan Rodriquez
Milestone – 3,000th hit
Current # – 2,817 hits
Pudge sits 183 hits away from this mark. Is 183 hits doable in a
season? Without a doubt. Is it doable by him? Probably not. It’s a
mark he’s only hit twice before in his career and both times were over a
decade ago. These days he’s at about the 100 hit mark for the season.
So if Pudge is going to his this mark, he will have to gut it out for
at least one more season after this one. I predict he does just that
and cements his legendary status in the game of baseball.
Predicted date – 2012
Player: Alex Rodriquez
Milestone – 631 home runs (5th on the all-time list)
Current # – 613 home runs
Every one knows that A-Rod will eventually be going for his 700th home
run and even is potentially capable of overtaking Bonds on the all-time
list. But first things first. You have to climb the list one player at
a time and next on the list is Ken Griffey Jr. who set his mark not too
A-Rod needs 18 home runs to get past him. Looking ahead, with 48
dingers, he could overtake Willie Mays in the #4 spot. But let’s not
get greedy; he’s not gonna be hitting 48 home runs this season. The 18
home runs should be an easy accomplishment, although I expect him to
struggle when he draws close to the number, as he did when he neared
#600 home run.
Predicted date: July 29th
Player: Jim Thome
Milestone – 600 home runs
Current # – 589 home runs
Thome will only be the 8th player in the history of the game to get to
the 600 home run mark. No doubt this is quite an accomplishment and
from everything I’ve seen and heard of Thome, it couldn’t be by a nicer
guy. The Twins saw him pass Twinkie legend Harmon Killebrew last year
and are ready to see him continue on his journey by reaching this
Predicted date; July 6th
Player: Alex Rodriguez
Milestone – 1,952 RBIs (5th on the all-time list)
Current # – 1,831 RBIs
Currently 17th on the list, Alex is 121 RBIs from being in the top 5.
The fact that he could potentially break the top 5 all-time in two major
categories this year just shows how good this guy really is. Yeah,
he’s had his moments, his off-days and the stupid personal drama, but
when it is all said and done, he will be one of the best in the game
A-Rod looks to be a shoo-in for at least 100 RBI, but after that is when
it gets tricky. Can he get the extra 21 he needs? Well, since
becoming a Yankee 7 years ago, he has reached 121 RBI in a season 4
times. So if history is an indicator, that would give him a 50 / 50
shot. I predict he does it, but by the skin of his teeth.
Predicted date: September 27th
So several hitting milestones to look forward to this year, mostly by Yankees. And even though others may not be hitting as big of a milestones there will be plenty of smaller stepping stones hit to future milestones. 300 or 400 home runs, 2000 hits, etc. Every player in hopes of bigger and better marks have to hit these smaller ones along the way.
Player: Mariano Rivera
Milestone – 602 saves (1st on all-time list)
Current # – 559 saves
It’s not a matter of whether Mariano break’s Hoffman’s save record, but when. And technically, he has two back to back milestones here. First when he hits the 600 mark, becoming only the 2nd player in the history of the game to do so and then when he break’s Hoffman’s record.
Still will he do it this year? He’s 43 shy of the all-time mark, which can be done and has been done by him before. But it’s far from a guarantee. After all, even if he converts every save chance he gets, he’s limited by the total of opportunities he has. And that’s why I do think he will break this mark, but not yet.
Predicted date: 2012
Sadly, this is it. And since I don’t think this out gets hit this year, that means, there will be no significant pitching milestones in ’11. Jamie Moyer is still claiming he’s not retired, even though he’s going to be close to 50. (50???) So who knows what 2012 may bring in terms of milestones. Though, the fact that pitchers aren’t what they used to be means that most pitching milestones and records will never be reached, such as the 300 win mark, complete games, shutouts and others like that.
Good luck to all players going after these marks. Even though baseball is a team sport and I’m sure most players would give up these marks for a ring in October, they are nice achievements to reflect back on at the end of your career. To know that you are the only player who reached a certain plateau or that others are chasing your record has to be a great feeling.
Chasing the blogging milestone,
So far I’ve looked at the Cardinals chances of bring home the MVP and the Cy Young in order to ease my pain as I watch the Cardinals lose game after game. Tonight, I will look at the final of the big 3 individual awards: Rookie of the Year.
The Cardinal contender in this category is Jaime Garcia.
Garcia, of course, is a pitcher. Therein lies the interesting thing about this award. In the MVP, we compared hitters to hitters and in the Cy Young, pitchers to pitchers. And all of the other likely candidates besides Garcia are hitters. Still, we will try and make a good analysis of this award.
The NL has a lot of great talent this year. In fact, there are many names, I won’t go into detail about, like Stanton, Colvin, Castro, Desmond, among others. I’m going to look at the top 3 hitters contending for this award, plus Garcia.
First, the hitters. They are: Jason Heyward (Braves), Gaby Sanchez (Marlins) and Buster Posey (Giants). The stats break down like this:
Sanchez 139 games .283 / .350 / .470 19 HR 81 RBI
Heyward 132 games .286 / .401 / .475 18 HR 71 RBI
Posey 97 games .324 / .373 / .522 15 HR 62 RBI
There are obviously a lot of other numbers too, but all of that will still point to the same thing. Sanchez and Heyward have played the entire year, while Boster Posey was called up at the end of May. Clearly, Posey has the better average, but is it fair to compare his 364 at-bats against the other guys who have around 500 at-bats?
Sanchez’ Marlins aren’t going anywhere, but that’s not why I wouldn’t give him this award. I think Heyward and Sanchez are pretty similar, but I give the edge to Heyward. I think he’s the overall better player, and has really delivered in the 2nd half for an Atlanta team dreaming of October.
It is a tough call between Heyward and Posey though. Both of these guys are good. And 80% of the time, I would give the award to the guy who has done the tough work of the 162 game grind that is baseball. But Posey may be that one exception to the rule. This is not just a guy with good numbers. This is a guy who has encompassed exactly what a catcher should be. He came in to replace Bengie Molina (not an easy task) and started playing like a seasoned veteran. He has led this team as a catcher, handling the pitching staff with ease. He has come through in the clutch many times. But if you want to talk numbers, let’s talk numbers. In all of those less at-bats, he is still only 3 homers and 9 RBis shy of Heyward.
So while I think you can make a case for either guy and I wouldn’t think it a travesty, if one guy got picked over the other, if it were my vote, I would cast it for Buster Posey.
So now, what about Garcia?
How do you compare his line with Posey’s? Obviously, you can’t. What you can do is look at what kind of numbers rookies need to have to get the ROY. It varies year to year, but at least we can get a ballpark. The last NL pitcher to win the award was Dontrelle Willis in 2003. But we have a couple more recent examples.
Last year JA Happ got 2nd in the vote and in 2006, Justin Verlander received the award for the AL. (Huston Street won it as a pitcher in 2005, but as a closer, which is a whole other dynamic.) Let’s look at Garcia compared with Verlander and Happ.
Jaime Garcia 28 GS 163.1 IP 13-8 2.70 132 K 64 BB
JA Happ 23 GS 166.0 IP 12-4 2.93 119 K 56 BB
Verlander 30 GS 186.0 IP 17-9 3.63 123 K 60 BB
His initial numbers are better than Happ’s, but of course Happ only got 2nd place. Verlander had an amazing 17 wins, but his ERA was astronomical. And Garcia kills them both in strikeouts.
The other question is, will Garcia pitch again this year? He has skipped two starts for “fatigue.” This is the most innings he has ever pitched and it’s catching up with him. Now that the Cardinals are out of it, management might feel it’s best to shut him down for the rest of the year. Garcia wants to pitch again, but they will be careful with the valuable southpaw.
Garcia’s number are great. But in a year, where there are many different worthwhile candidates, I don’t see the voters giving it to a rookie with his numbers. But if he pitches again (or even twice more) and adds 1-2 more wins and lowers his ERA even more, I think he forces the voters to take him seriously for the award.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. What’s your take? Who do you like for NL Rookie of the Year? Is there a guy on your team not getting enough love because he’s playing a non-contender?
The youngster has game,
This will be a lot more meaningful if it can be combined with a Cardinal victory. Right now the Cards lead 5-4 in the 6th inning. Let’s go Redbirds!
The Phillies lose thanks to some great spoiling action by the Astros. I always knew I liked them. This gives a good chance to gain some ground tonight in the wild card race. And because the Reds don’t play today, a win would pull us within 3 of them. It’s starting to look like all of these races will come down to the wire and 162 games might end up not being enough to sort it all out. But the Cardinals have to start putting together a string of wins and they need to do it soon. Winning 1 and then dropping 2 isn’t going to get us anywhere. The Reds haven’t lost often, so when they do we need to take advantage of every opportunity we can. Come on Redbirds….let’s start the winning streak tonight against the Nats!!
Confident with Carp on the mound,
But, I’m talking about the race for the MVP and Cy Young Awards.
Pujols tried to amp up support for voting him the NL MVP a 2nd year in a row the last couple of games. Before Sunday’s game Pujols’ 39 homers was good enough to be tied for 3rd in the NL and his 109 ribbies also ranked him 3rd.
Then on Sunday, he went deep 3 times and came up just short of making it four. (Mark Whitten anyone??) That brought him up to 42 as well as 2nd place and within 6 of Big Ryan Howard who has been pounding the stuffing out of the ball all year long. Then, what happens? Howard also decides to go deep 3x. Unbelievable. It’s a crazy night in the majors when A-Rod going deep twice seems like small potatoes.
So, today after Miles spoiled the (apparently elusive) no-hitter of Ortiz, Pujols also decided to spoil the shutout (and as a result, the complete game) by going deep again. But, Howard is refusing to be gained upon. He matched Pujols once again and now is sitting at 53. Wow. He leads Pujols by 10 homers and 19 RBIs.
In my opinion, if Pujols finishes within striking distance of Howard in terms of the long ball and RBI total, he’s definitely got the MVP wrapped up. I still think he’s likely to get it anyway because Howard has two things going against him. One, his team might not make the playoffs and there is a definite bias against guys whose teams don’t end up in October. And, two, he is nowhere near the well-rounded player that Pujols is. Pujols is a candidate for his first ever gold glove and has played great defense this year. Plus, he’s a great base runner and just an all around excellent baseball player.
Plus, some people casting their ballot may be of the school of though that says, "Experience is worth consideration." Some people don’t look at just 2006, but of the career of a player. And Pujols has proved to be the man year in and year out. Something I think is definitely worth pointing out is that Howard, while leading in home runs, is also 2nd in the NL in strikeouts. Well, all great sluggers strike out a lot, right? Wrong. Howard has 154 Ks. You know how many Pujols has? 40. That’s right. 40. Howard has a strikeout for nearly every game played this year. And Albert strikes out every four games or so.
Some are talking about the Carlos’ (Beltran or Delgado) as potential threats to win the MVP. While they’re putting up good numbers, I just don’t think they’re quite good enough. Pujols leads them in every category that matters. He’s first in the NL in average, on base percentage and slugging. Howard comes in 2nd in all those categories, with Beltran and Delgado bringing up the rear. Have I mentioned that Pujols has done all this with less at-bats? He missed a couple weeks early in the season and has 12 less at-bats than Delgado, 16 less than Beltran and a ******** 63 less at-bats than Howard. You have to figure with Pujols averaging a homer for every 10 at-bats, he’d have around 6 more putting him quite close to Howard’s numbers.
So I think it comes down to Pujols and Howard. If you’re voting on power alone, right now Howard’s your guy and some people will vote based on the two categories of homers and RBI total alone. So I figure he will garner some first place votes. But, I think more people will vote on the complete package, which is what the MVP represents. So, for my money, Pujols is the winner.
Of course, any one of these guys could go on a complete tear in September and shake things up a little bit.
Of course, you might think I’m a St. Louis fan and therefore, bias towards Pujols. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear your argument for who should be MVP. Howard? Beltran? Someone else? I’m totally open to a well reasoned argument. Also, any suggestions for the AL Cy Young? I don’t follow the AL as closely so I’m interested in what AL fans think.
Well, I was going to touch on the prospective NL Cy Young Winner, but it’s late and I’m tired. So I will try to get around to that tomorrow night.
P.S. As I type this, the Giants just pulled ahead 5-4 in the 10th inning. Hopefully, they’ll win and the Reds will stay back 6 games and far away from the Redbirds.
Off day today. That means I am getting major laundry done and I will also probably check in on the early games throughout the evening. Those would include:
- Tigers/Royals – The Tigers go for their 6 straight win, while KC goes for their 13th straight loss. Guess their "players only meeting," didn’t solve any problems.
- Phillies/Mets – The Mets will try to distance themselves even more from the 2nd place Philliess. They’re currently 5 games up from the Phils, who are tied with the Atlanta Braves.
- Nationals/Astros – Houston and the Nats are 6 and 11 games back, respectively, and at this point, just trying to stay afloat until the All-Star break.
Another interesting fact. 4 teams are playing .600 ball right now and the Redbirds are one of them! One team, the Detroit Tigers, are one win away from playing .700 ball. And, they will likely achieve that tonight playing the Royals. Very impressive, even if it is early in the season. I look forward to playing them next month.
.500 ball is currently good enough for first place in the AL West. Last year, 2 games over that was what it took to make an NL West champ (the Padres), but this year a team playing .506 ball would be in last place there. Arizona is tearing up the division.
Well, you gotta give it to the kid. Mike O’Connor didn’t do too badly in his major league debut. His only real crime was walking a few batters. He contained Pujols to 0-3 and let no unearned runs score. The Nationals did score 3 runs on his watch, but only because of a terrible throw by the Nationals 3rd baseman (Ryan Zimmerman) and an even worse dig by their first baseman (Nick Johnson). A good throw would have ended the inning, but instead a bad throw set the stage for a Jim Edmonds blast. I hope O’Connor has a great career because he certainly has the potential, but of course, I’m just happy his first big league win was not against my Redbirds.
Three things I do not understand about Tony La Russa.
- Why on earth does he continue to let Juan hit after Pujols? Why, why, why, why??? It was bad enough having him in the 2 spot. He had a great day a few games back. Great. I’m happy for him. Stick him in the 7 spot. I understand that Rolen is out, but there are plenty of other options. I would either put Luna there (and So in the number 2 spot), or even better, I would keep Luna at 2 and put Spiezio there. He was hitting pretty well, even before last night.
- Actually, this is more of an addendum to point number 1. In the bottom of the 8th, Tony pinch hit Miles for Luna. Are you kidding me? Let’s think logically for a second. You have a pinch hitter who is hitting around .300. You can sub him for your .400 hitting guy OR you can sub him for your .200 hitting guy. Who do you pick? Why not let Luna hit, sub Miles for Encarnacion and then in the field, put Miles at 2nd and switch Luna to right? I’m not anti-Encarnacion, but I really wish LaRussa would stop babying him.
- Why didn’t he yank Ponson once he walked a guy to put 2 on in the 6th? Yes, Ponson had been pitching well. But, he had already pitched 6 2/3 innings. This was already much further than he has shown that he’s able to go. (Previous three outings have been 5, 6 1/3 and 5 IP.) Plus, they had the number 2 spot due up, so it’s not like it would be a waste of a pitcher or a pinch hitter.
So, those are my gripes with Tony. But, of course hindsight is always 20/20.
Overall, I’m quite happy with how the game went. First and foremost, Edmonds home run was huge, because the Cards were able to capitalize on the Nat’s error. It’s important that when another team gives you an opening to pounce on it, because with better teams, you may only get that one opening.
Next, Ponson pitched a pretty good game and he did awesome at the plate. I don’t think you can ask much more from your number 5 starter than 6 2/3, and 2 ER and striking out 4 and at the plate going 1-1, with a walk and a perfectly executed sac bunt to advance a runner to 2nd.
And, I don’t know what it is about guys that fill it for Scott Rolen. But, last year with Nunez and now this year with Spiezio. Spiezio has been on fire these last few days filling in for the bronchitis-ridden Rolen. He went 2-3, with a walk last night. And, both were extra base hits (double and triple).
In games filling in for Rolen, (as a starter), Spiezio is hitting .333. Most of these games have come the last three days, where he has hitting .455 and slugging an insane 1,000. He is .000 while playing in left and he’s .222 as a pinch hitter. Maybe he knows he has big shoes to fill when he’s playing at the corner?
I say yesterday that it would be extremely important to take the momentum from the Pirates series and apply it to a struggling Nationals team. And, we did just that. In years past it seems the Redbirds will play top notch against a great team, but then get swept by some team playing .200 ball. So, it’s nice to see the Cardinals playing full steam no matter who’s on the agenda. And, hopefully that will carry right on to better teams next week, such as the ‘Stros and the Reds. Incidentally, these are also the only 2 teams who are as good or better than us right now in the standings. And, I’m sure will be a foreshadowing of what’s to come in October. (Milwaukee, where did you go??)
Well, that was a ridiculously long post on yesterday’s game. But, there you go, since I know you were all dying to have my perspective on it. 🙂
In other news, I have read that Kevin Mench (of the Rangers) has homered in 6 straight. Not too many guys that can say that. Here’s hoping that he will hit number 7 tonight and more importantly that he gets the chance to attempt it. (As opposed to being intentionally walked.)
The Cubs-Brewers game starts soon. I’m going to try to catch at least some of it. Maddux is out of control this year with his 0.99 ERA. Who has an .99 ERA after 4 starts?? Unbelievable. I actually kind of like Maddux. Too bad he’s with the Cubs.
P.S. A very big thanks to the 2 or 3 people who leave regular comments. If that’s all who are reading, fine. But, if more of you are reading, you should comment, if for no other reason to say, "Hey, I read your blog."