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!
One of three 2011 Opening Day starters expected to take the field in the same position in this year’s Opening Day game, Matt Holliday already has his name penciled onto the lineup card. The team’s new #3 hitter after the departure of Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday will have some big shoes to fill in the eyes of the fans.
They are shoes he is already filling, in my opinion. Myself and others have complained about the lack of visible leadership on the team. Holliday seems to have done just that this offseason, becoming more involved with other players on the team and even inviting a few of the Cardinals’ recent draft picks out to St. Louis on his own dime to work out with them during the winter. He does it under the radar, but it is there.
Last year was a freak year for Holliday. From injuring his back lifting weights to a moth flying into his ear, odd things were the name of the game. He played just 124 games, the fewest since his rookie season, as a result. It’s also the first time since his rookie season that he hit below .300, with his line of .296/.388/.525. He added 22 home runs and 75 RBI. Despite the abbreviated season, Holliday’s performance helped him post a career high in OPS+ at 153, better than the 150 he put up in 2007, when he finished second in the MVP voting.
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!
This afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals officially announced that their catcher, Yadier Molina, has finalized a 5-year extension with the team. The deal, which is worth $75 million from 2013-2017, includes a $15 million option for 2018 for a maximum value near $88 million according to sources. He is already under contract for 2012 on a $7 million option from his previous contract signed before the 2008 season.
Many fans questioned the team’s loyalty to the stars of their last two World Series’ runs after they failed to match the Angels’ $240 million, 10 year offer for Albert Pujols in the offseason. Since Pujols left, the team has spent money to bring in Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran and began their talks for an extension with Molina. It’s fair to say that if Pujols had stayed, none of this would have happened.
At 29, Molina enjoyed his most successful major league season to date in 2011, leading the team in batting average at .305. He also posted career highes in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. He was an All Star and picked up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove at catcher. He also enjoys the reputation of being the best defensive catcher in baseball with excellent pitching staff handling skills. His bat is just a bonus, though inconsistent.
David Freese had a spectacular postseason. He then had an amazing offseason that included a stop by Jay Leno’s show and presenting at the CMA Awards with Erin Andrews. The question will now be, can he put it all together, have the season everyone thinks he can have, and then take his place as one of the league’s premiere third basemen?
Of course, that’s what we asked last spring and unfortunately it only half happened. After starting the season hitting around .320, but missed 51 games after being hit by a pitch and breaking a bone in his left hand. It was the only derailment in 2011 for Freese who had ankle injuries force him from the lineup in both 2009 and 2010.
Thankfully for Freese and the Cardinals, Freese didn’t sustain any ankle injuries in 2011. Something that has allowed him to come into this season saying that his ankles feel better than ever. Hopefully that’s something that can continue.
In the end, Freese finished the season with a .297/.350/.441 line with 10 home runs and 55 RBI in the 97 games he did play. For the 28-year-old third baseman, that was just the beginning of the story of his 2011. As has been covered and will be covered for years to come, Freese lit up the NLCS with a line of .545/.600/1.091 and added 3 home runs and 9 RBI on his way to scoring the NLCS MVP award. He wasn’t going to stop there though.