Category Archives: St Louis Cardinals

CENTER STAGE TODAY – THE CUBS AND WRIGLEY FIELD

With no disrespect to the New York Mets and what promises to be an electric Citi Field,  the centerj of the baseball universe today has to be Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. Opened in 1914, this venue (along with Fenway Park and the old Yankee Stadium) stands as a Mecca for baseball fans – including myself in 2009 – across America. Even today, after the “lights came on” few years ago, a Friday afternoon game at Wrigley is reason to leave work early and bask in the bleachers Sun on Addison Street.

For Cubs fans, today is also a day to bask in the setting sun of a 96 game winning season (the third best in baseball) and to welcome home a team that carries with them a hope and a prayer that this just might be the season when all doubts spanning numerous decades are cast aside – and a long awaited Championship comes to the Southside of Chicago.

Excitement and drama of this kind draws itself from a long history that dates back to 1876 when the Cubs became an original franchise of the National League. Interestingly, they were known in those days as the Chicago White Stockings (not to be confused with the White Sox), not taking the name of the Cubs until 1902. And yes, the last World Series won by the Cubs was in 1945 – a drought long enough to span the years of the team’s oldest fans.

But today, all that changes or it at least moves to the back of everyone’s mind as Jake Arietta takes the ball  to face the St. Louis Cardinals, a team much different from the Cubs. For while the Cubs field a team stacked with very young home grown talent, the Cardinals present a team of veterans who have a storied history behind them with the second most Championships (only the Yankees have more) to face the hottest pitcher in baseball today. 

It doesn’t get better than this. The steel beams erected more than a century ago will be rocking and shaking at Wrigley today. You couldn’t tell a better baseball story than the the one being played out in Chicago this afternoon.

 

Continue reading

MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL – WHO’S THE MOST INTERESTING OF THEM ALL?

As we come down the stretch to close the 2015 regular season, let’s begin to take a closer look at the probable playoff teams entering the crapshoot ( I say crapshoot because I’m still not convinced that the best team always wins in a shortened format……but it is what it is so let’s get started……..

There are a few teams that I would dismiss from the category of “interesting ” imagesmerely because they landed where they were predicted to land……. at the top. These would include teams like the Cardinals who seem to have a endless supply of young talent within their farm system coupled with a good mix of veterans, the Dodgers ( God help Don Mattingly if he couldn’t win a Division with $300 million, and even the Blue Jays who, with the acquisitions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, were (remember) the pre season favorites. 

Then, we move into that middle category of “they should but  we see reasons images-3why maybe they won’t”.  This would include teams like the Pirates and the Royals. Both teams are going in but they haven’t been as explosive as they were predicted to be. And, both teams are sputtering to the end of the season and that alone makes them interesting. Remember, both teams came in “hot” last year. 

In a kind of limbo, I put the New York Yankees. This is a team that was notimages-13 projected to be here…..and yet they are. With a mix of veterans contributing and a splash of home grown talent like Greg Bird, plus the flexible and effective use of a excellent bullpen by Joe Girardi, they’ve survived. And that alone can be a forerunner of a team to watch.

Finally, we get to the teams who were categorized as ” not quite ready for prime time” but on the way up….. and yet here they are poised to make an impact on the Playoff Season. That would be the Mets, Cubs, and Astrosimages-16 (if they hang in there).  The Mets had a awful first half but Sandy Alderson put together some key moves that solidified a Division title thanks to the hapless Nationals. They have the “right stuff” in the clubhouse and a manager who has the respect and attention of his players. It’s a recipe for….”Watch out for these guys”.

The Chicago Cubs images-3have waited so long……and finally the day is here. Like the Astros, it could have been a “wait till next year” result with their stockpiled farm system. Instead, they are locked and loaded with power and decent pitching plus a fan base that is liable to explode if they can get beyond the one game playoff.

On paper, the Astros appear to have nothing except a brilliant starting logo4pitcher in Keutchel and  a true All Star in Jose Altuve. Yet, they led the AL West for most of the season with a zillion come from behind victories. Who would have thought in the beginning of this season……….but here they are as this year’s sort of “Wild Card” in the playoffs.

You pick ‘ em…….I’ll pick ‘ em……Vegas will pick ‘ em…..the so called experts will pick ’em……..but you know what……as Yogi Berra said….”It ain’t over till it’s over”. Only then will we know who’s got the right stuff in 2015 and who doesn’t.

How Far Will The Mets Young Staff Take Them……..

The mantra we hear so often from managers, coaches, and general managers is Pitching, Pitching, Pitching. You can never have enough of it……..and so it goes. The trouble is that pitchers seldom score runs that you need to win games. And therein lies the problem with the Mets rebuilding strategy to date. No matter how few runs their pitchers allow, it hardly matters if the team rarely scores more than that. 

So while the Mets front office  (actually all the credit should be given to Omar Minaya and not Sandy Alderson) has  done a superb job of signing talented young arms and Met fans have staggered through five years of rebuilding pain – images-1and while three of the five (Harvey, Matz, and Wheeler) have been literally in pain with arm surgeries…….we have to wonder now if their strategy of rebuilding with pitching is going to work over the long haul of a season….and even beyond as these young thoroughbreds work their way towards free agency during their prime.

So where (and when!) will Simages-2andy Alderson get the bats this team desperately needs? He signed Curtis Granderson to a $80 million contract and although he’s one of nicest men in baseball with his commitment to charity in the N.Y. area – he hasn’t hit a lick plus he’s 35 years old. Same with Michael Cuddeyer. Travis D’naurd?…….there’s a reason why Toronto traded him…..he can’t stay on the field and he’s proving it right now. And then, there’s David Wright who turned into a singles hitter overnight while Alderson keeps pretending that he’ll be back in the lineup soon. This is why Met fans have a right to be downright angry.

Meanwhile, in Chicagoimages-3 a GM has taken a different approach to rebuilding the hapless Cubs. Jed Hoyer is amassing position players like slugger Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Soler, with more bats on the way. But except for the signing of John Lester – who may take forever to adjust to the National League – he’s pretty much ignored the pitching side of things.

Which strategy will ultimately work? My thinking is neither will work. What works is a balance between hitting and pitching. To understand this, look no further than the epitome of how a organization and team should (and can!) be constructed………the St. Louis Cardinals. Their team has a balance to it and the front office works hard to keep it that way. It’s easy to stack up one way or the other like the Mets and Cubbies have done. Now, we’ll see if they can dig their way out of the hole they’ve created for themselves. I guess one way to do it would be to engage in a slew of trades between themselves……………..