All posts by jcanaday

2012 MLB Draft – Cardinals Preview

Today is one of the most exciting days for MLB prospect nerds around World…the start of the MLB Draft!  This is going to be a very interesting year to pay closer attention to the draft as their is new CBA rules in place that impacts how teams approach their draft strategy.  The key here is the hard slotting system for the combination of the first ten rounds and the penalties if teams go over that or don’t sign a player.  I won’t get into the new CBA here as there are many sites that have great detail about it.  I want to focus on our St. Louis Cardinal’s draft strategy and key individuals that we should be targeting with our early picks.  Let’s jump right in…

The Cardinals had a nice run with Jeff Luhnow running the draft over the last number of years.  Luhnow with the Astros now gets to have something he never had in his time in St. Louis:  Making the #1 overall pick.  All reports are indicating Mark Appel (RHP Stanford) are going to be the pick after a tug of war over him and Byron Buxton (OF GA HS) over the last few weeks.  So this means the Cardinals have a new face running the draft and potentially a different strategy.  Dan Krantrovitz is our new Director of Scouting.  From all interviews with him and Mo that address the draft strategy it appears the overall framework of the strategy will be very similiar to what we had grown accustom to under Luhnow.  The one difference is it appears we might be looking for more upside more often and slightly less emphasis on the “safe” college pick which happened at times.  Obviously we will find out over the next few days and the CBA will impact how much we can do this.  My take is we will see more HS players taken in the first few picks but plenty of slot or underslot college picks to compensate the hard slot system.  Continue reading

2012 Cards Spring Training First Hand Report

Walking up to Roger Dean Stadium I could just feel the vibe of baseball, brats and beers.  We arrived around 10:30am to see the team practicing on the backfields though this was our first ever time to Jupiter to experience the Cards Spring Training so we had no idea where to go and we were also in ahh over the experience.  After taking pictures of Roger Dean and asking a few employees and other Cards fans how to get to the backfields we made our way back.  It is quite a hike to get around the stadium and all the way around to the backfields but it was well worth our time.  Matheny was right in the middle of everything leading his troops.  The players were much more relaxed as you would expect at practice early in Spring Training with the exception of the youngsters that had something to prove…this was their chance to be in front of the coaches, players and front office to make an impression.  For me it was a chance to get closer to all the players, coaches and front office which was an experience of a lifetime for a hardcore baseball and Cards fan.  It was like a community back there as all the fans would talk with anyone just like you were neighbors for the last 10 years.  Talking baseball with others that love baseball is much as you is quite exciting.  Practice was winding down and many fans were heading to Roger Dean to get situated before the game…I wanted to stay as long as anyone was back there practicing.  It came down to Matheny working directly with some of the young catchers such as De La Cruz, Stanley and Hill.  Afterwards Matheny came over and chatted a little with the few fans left and signed autographs…my first autograph of Spring Training was our our new skipper!

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Spring Training – What To Be Looking For In 2012?

Your 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals are about to start their 2012 Spring Training games.  I’m not sure about you but just saying that gets me excited!  After winning the World Series you better believe every team will be looking to knock us off and put just a little more effort into doing it.  So what has happened since I was by the RF foul (or fair) pole for the last out of Game 7 of the WS?  Unless you have lived on a different planet for the past number of months you know the answer to that question is a TON!

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Who will be the next Cards Manager?

The Cardinals have had the luxury for the last 16 years of knowing exactly who was managing their ball club. After 33 years of managing Tony La Russa is hanging it up and going out a winner. Its the perfect scenario…the Cardinals have known since August of his intentions and then the remarkable comeback in September and the amazing playoff run that takes 7 games in the World Series in front of close to 50K people in your home stadium. That how you draw it up in fantasy land.

With TLR retiring the Cardinals identified 6 candidates that range all over the board of attributes and experience. Ryne Sandberg and Joe McEwing are quickly shooting up the ranks of potentially being the next great rookie manager. Jose Oquendo is a dedicated Cardinal family member that was thought to be the heir apparent to TLR the last few years. Mike Matheny is well loved and respected by Cardinal Nation and has played an instrumental role as a Special Assistant to the Cardinals in recent years though he has never managed. Terry Francona is the big name that had coached the BoSox for the last 8 years but was relieved of his duties after an epic collapse down the stretch. Then a slew of reports came out about players drinking in the clubhouse while the game was going on and how Francona had lost his players. Last but not least is current Memphis Cardinals manager Chris Maloney who has spent 18 years as a minor league manager mostly with the Cardinal Organization. These 6 candidates tell you one thing about the search: The Cardinals do not have a specific profile for their next manager.

So who gets the tough task of run the reigning World Champion Cardinals in 2012?

My preference is to go with Sandberg with Matheny coming in a close second. I give Ryno the nod mainly for his approach to becoming a big league manager. After a Hall of Fame career he didn’t expect for someone to just give him a big league job…he earned it by working his way up through the minor league ranks. He dedicated himself to learning all the way from a special assistant role for the Cubs in Spring Training to managing in A, AA and AAA for the Cubs Organization before being passed up for his first big league managing position with Sweet Lou was out as the Cubs manager in 2011. Ryno decided to take his talents to the Phils Organization to manage their AAA affiliate. Sandberg has gained respect from his peers and front office personnel across MLB. He is known as a very well prepared skipper and has an aggressive managing style. He likes to force the issue, movement on the base paths and hit-and-run. He is a great mentor, leader and seems to gain the respect from the clubhouse which is extremely important.

I personally am a fan of Matheny as a manager in the big leagues some day and feel he has a lot of the same attributes as Sandberg…but it would be extremely risky to put a manager in place that has never managed the game at any level to prove he can do it day in and day out. That’s why I tend to lean toward Sandberg. Some in Cardinal Nation want to see Ryno as the Cards Manager just to stick it to the Cubs…I’m not in that camp. I think you pick the right manager for the situation that fits into the Organization. To me that is Ryne Sandberg.

World Series Game 7 – From My Perspective at the Right Field Foul Pole

Let’s start at the end.  Our St. Louis Cardinals are the 2011 World Series Champions!!  OK…now let’s take a step back.

I passed on Game 6 tickets and instead had a few neighbors over to have snacks and drinks to cheer our Cards on.  Boy was that a mistake!  My neighbors have kids and they had to bail about the 6th inning and I am left all alone with a ton of snacks, beer and my TV.  To that moment the game was about as sloppy as it could have been both on the Rangers and Cards side and I was just praying we stayed in it to the final innings and could make one last run.  Lynn comes in for the 7th inning after we just tied it up AGAIN in the bottom of the 6th.  He promptly gives up back-to-back homers to Beltre and Cruz and then another run scores to put the Rangers up by 3.  My excitement turned to disappointment and the thought of our season ending started embedding in my mind.  But I still thought…this game is crazy and we must have a run in us that could make this game interesting.  Well we all know what happened next…FREESE HAPPENED!!

So what now…we are going to a Game 7 which is the first time the series has been 7 since 2002.  I knew I had to be there.  So I did what so many other crazy Cards fans did…got online immediate finding how bad the damage would be.  I called my sister whom was in Boston laying in bed and getting prepared for a wedding her husband was in the next day.  I convinced her and my brother-in-law (a huge…and I mean HUGE Georgia Bulldog fan) that she needed to fly to STL immediately and joining me in going to Game 7.  I them called my dad to take him to his first World Series game ever…he drove up to STL the next day.  Then my wife…also a massive Cards fan.  She was in an all-day meeting with many other Managers and Directors in Springfield, MO.  She said buy her a ticket and she may be late but wouldn’t miss this for anything.  So there it was…a commitment from the 3 people I would want to witness this historic game with me.  So I spent a small fortune to be a great host while everyone else scrambled to get to STL.  So let’s jump ahead…

My sister, dad and I head downtown to take it all in and keeping tabs on my wife’s progress.  We head into Busch Stadium, like I have many times before.  But this time it felt different…even different from Game 1 of the World Series (which I also attended).  The fans of Cardinal Nation appeared nervous but confident in our team and couldn’t wait to catch the last game of the season.  We headed to our seats which were 3 rows from the field right at the Right Field Foul Pole.  It was perfect…right up until Carp’s first inning!  It was a mess!  Carp, on short rest, was the obvious choice to pitch Game 7 for our Birds.  After 2 runs he was able to get out of it.  The crowd was electric and the rally towels were in full force.  You could actually feel the stadium swaying under your feet.  The bottom of the 1st started very blah.  A GO and a FO and it looked like a quick inning was in order.  But then back-to-back BB’s brought up Freese.  The remarkable WS continued for him as he hits a double to score both Pujols and Puma to tie it up.  The crowd went absolutely nuts…beyond anything I had ever witnessed!  Our whole section was throwing high 5′s like we had known each other for years.  Unfortunately my wife was in the process of driving downtown from West County at this point and missed it.  The 2nd was fairly uneventful which was good for Carp…he was settling in.

The bottom of the 3rd inning and my wife is walking in the stadium.  She was walking through the tunnel as another WS hero comes to the plate in Craig.  He proceeds to hit a bomb that created an eruption in Busch.  My wife then makes it down to the seats to join in the celebration.  At this point Carp was really settling in and mowing down each Ranger that came to the plate.  You could tell he was really in a zone.  I still felt we needed to provide more than a 1 run support to pull this out against a stacked Rangers lineup.

In the bottom of the 5th the Rangers decided to bring in Feldman to relieve Harrison.  After a GO Feldman proceeded to walk Craig and Pujols and then Berkman hit into a GO that moved the runners up.  They proceeded to intentionally walk Freese (can you blame them!).  After a 2 out full count to Molina he lost him to walk in a run.  To stop the bleeding the Rangers turned to Wilson to face off against Furcal.  Wilson was getting ready in a hurry.  First pitch to Furcal and he hits him…probably wasn’t ready to enter the game.  This scored another run.  This gave the Cards and Carp a 5-2 lead and a little more cushion.  At this stage I was starting to lose my voice and I was going crazy as was the other 47K+ people in the stadium and who knows how many people in their homes and bars across the World.  I was starting to get a good feeling about the game…I couldn’t sit still.

We headed to the 7th inning and Carp comes out to continue his brilliant outing.  Murphy stepped up to the plate and Sec 130 was going crazy.  Then Murphy ropes a ball down the Right Field line and the ball bounces over the fence and the guy 2 rows in front of me got the ball and we all went even more crazy insane!    He was beside himself and was generous, or crazy depending on how you look at it, as he let almost everyone around him hold the ball and get their picture taken with the ball.  You better believe I jumped at that opportunity!  Back to the game though.  A lead off double ended Carp’s outing.  Rhodes and then Dotel came in to shut down the Rangers with no damage done.  In the bottom half Molina provided more cushion with a single up the middle that scored Puma.  This gave us a 6-2 lead and all momentum was on the Cards side.

The 8th inning came and gone extremely fast as Lynn shut em down with a FO and 2 K’s.  Then the 9th inning came and Busch was actually moving.  The crowd was louder than I have ever heard in the stadium.  And I have been to approx 12-20 games a year for the last 8-10 years including multiple playoff games.  This was the moment I had dreamed about for years…World Series Game 7, watching your lifelong team in their home ballpark with the 3 people you want to be by your side.  Heading into the 9th with a 4 point lead and your crazy closer coming into the game!  Motte mowed down the first 2 and everyone in Sec 130 was jumping up and down and screaming to the top of their lungs.  My voice was hangin in there!  2 pitches later and a fly ball that lands in Craig’s glove and my dream was complete.  Players were jumping around like toddlers and headed toward the pitchers mound.  Molina charged Motte on the mound and tackled him like a LB taking out a QB.  The rest of the dog pile ensued.  The crowd hit its peak and the fireworks were getting prepared.

The rest was kind of a blur as I was beside myself.  The ceremony was getting setup and I was getting video of the events and the crowd.  We hung around for another 45 mins to take it all in.  MY St. Louis Cardinals are really World Champions for the 11th time!!!  Me and my 3 person crew then headed out to the cars to head home as my voice could barely spit out a word or 2 without failing me.  Downtown St. Louis was as electric as it has been in years.

October 28th, 2011 was the 2nd best day of my life…just behind the day I married the best gal in the World.  Check one off the bucket list…