Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Category Archives: Allen Craig

United Cardinal Bloggers Roundtable:The Sophomore Class

Each day during the month of February, the United Cardinal Bloggers fire off an email roundtable discussion about all things baseball – from serious talk of lineups and rotations to the lighter side of the game such as wishlists for musical acts during the 2011 World Series at Busch.  If you missed some of the fun, check out the full list of roundtable questions and responses at http://www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com/.

This weekend, it was our turn to come up with a question.  And since we gals love our babybirds, we decided to focus on the youngsters.  We asked our fellow bloggers to predict how the Cardinals’ Sophomore class would fare during the 2011 season.


Angela threw the topic into the ring with this email question:


“Let’s focus on a less threatening question today and look at all of the sophomores on the Cardinals roster. Who of these players is due for a big season, and who is in for a sophomore slump? Your choices: David Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Jaime Garcia.”


Bill Ivie (I-70 baseball)

I look for Jon Jay to have a bit of a slump as he adjusts to being a part time player most of the time this year.

As for breakout years, as much as I have said the opposite, my gut and hope is that Craig is due to show that he belongs in the bigs.  My mind tells me that is not going to happen and we have a better shot of a solid year from the glass ankles of David Freese.  I would look for Mr. Freese to put up a solid .280/20HR/85RBI season and be considered a solid option at third for a few years


Daniel Shoptaw (C70 At The Bat)
I’m with Bill, I think Jay slides some, due to both lack of playing time and the fact that he kind got figured out at the end of last season.  He’ll be of value, of course, but may not be quite as impressive as he was last year.  Garcia will slip a bit as well, but as we discussed in a previous question, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t still be good.


You figure if Freese can stay healthy, he’s going to easily be more than he was last year.  I also think that if Craig can get some regular at-bats, no matter where it may be, he’ll bring something to the table as well.

Dennis Lawson (Pitchers Hit Eighth)
I think that Freese has the best opportunity for a big season, because he has the best opportunity to play and make an impact.  In theory, I look for Jay to slide based on lack of playing time, but we’ve already seen that projecting playing time is a very slippery slope.  TLR has a lot of mix-n-match options, and an injury to any of the position players could completely change the formula. With that in mind, Allen Craig could have a really good showing simply by being in the right place at the right time in 2011.

Mark Tomasik (Retrosimba)
If he stays healthy, David Freese seems poised for a productive season at the plate and in the field. Could see him generating significant run production with gap-power. I suspect Jon Jay is in for a sophomore slump, primarily because of lack of playing time. I’m worried about Jaime Garcia being able to duplicate or exceed last season’s performance, but I’m in denial about it because Cardinals cannot afford him to slump after Adam Wainwright’s setback.


Christine Coleman (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
If Freese can stay healthy, I think he will be due for a big season. He definitely showed the potential during his healthy times last year, so staying healthy throughout all of 2011 will likely be his biggest challenge. If he can meet it, he should have a big year.  I think that Jaime Garcia will have a little bit of a sophomore slump, yet still play a very significant role in the Cards rotation (all the more important now). Like others have already said, I think that Jon Jay will have a little bit of a sophomore slump just based on his presumptive decrease in playing time. Hopefully Craig will see his playing time increase this season as well.

Like most of my fellow bloggers have stated I’m going to predict a very nice season for David Freese barring injury. Unfortunately the way this season has started I’ll be more than surprised if he doesn’t land on the DL for an extended period.
Jaime Garcia set the bar so high for himself it’s going to be hard for him to repeat that success. Some regression for Jaime, but not a sophomore slump my any means.

As for Jon Jay and Allen Craig my gut feeling predicts a semi-breakout season for Craig. He’s done nothing but rake in Memphis and I’m hopeful with regular MLB at bats he can have similar production. As far as Jay goes I’m thinking Skip Schumaker type offensive numbers. To me Jay projects as a long term 4th outfielder while Craig could be the Cardinals right fielder of the future.

Matthew Philip (Fungoes)
David Freese seems the best equipped to go big this season, though his hopes are limited by the same thing that prevented a breakout rookie season in 2010: health. And that reality leads to Allen Craig potentially performing better this year, if for no other reason than he might get more playing time (filling in for Freese) and can’t do much worse than his .282 BABIP last season. Bill James even projects him for a .350 wOBA, which is more in line with his minor-league numbers. Realistically, Garcia is going to look like he’s slumping, though he’ll probably simply be performing more toward what his numbers should’ve been last year: an expected FIP an entire point above his ERA.


Bob Netherton (On The Outside Corner)
For a breakout season, you have to go with David Freese because either way it goes, you’ll be right 🙂  He’ll either hit .280, 12 homers and drive in 75 runs or some part of a stadium will fall on him in a game and break some body part.   David Freese is more than just a baseball player, he’s a walking anatomy lesson. 

The sophomore slump will have to go to Jon Jay, although that’s not altogether fair.   The lack of consistent playing time will hurt him somewhat.  Add to that some expectations from last year that are unrealistically high, he will have the perception of slumping.

I do believe that Jaime Garcia will defy all of the projections and have a terrific year.  Every once in a while a player comes along that just doesn’t fit the model, and I believe Garcia is that player.


Erika (Cardinal Diamond Diaries)
Ever the Cardinal optimist, I foresee our sophomores surging ahead this year.  Jaime Garcia had a phenomenal first year.  With his maturity and professional demeanor, I expect him to continue to grow with experience and step up again this season to make up for the absence of Adam Wainwright.

I am hopeful that both Jon Jay and Allen Craig will get enough playing time to further hone their big league skills.  Jay did burst onto the scene last season with what could only be described as offensive magic last year, but slid a little back into the realms of reality as opposing pitchers became familiar. Allen Craig, on the other hand struggled offensively from inconsistent playing time. I think both their numbers normalize to some solid contributions in 2011.

And then there’s David Freese.  Pardon me a moment while I stop and smile?  OK… all better now.  😉  Dave has worked his tail off over the winter rehabbing not one, but two ankles.  Tagged with the “injury prone” label is never a good thing.  This is the season that Freese makes us all forget about the past.  If When he stays healthy, David Freese is going to have an amazing year.  Back in 2010 we saw his power and range.  I’m looking forward to a solid year for Dave!  *fingers crossed*

Thanks to the UCB group above for joining the conversation!

The Cardinals play their first Spring Training game today!  Doesn’t that just make your Monday better?  Have a great week everyone!   =)


My Hot Stove Wishlist

Last season I was introduced to the concept of baseball’s Hot Stove. Baseball talk all winter?  Yes, please!  😉
So, I spent my first winter cozied up to that stove longing for any and every bit of news about Matt Holliday. Would he return?  Would Mr. Boras, his evil agent, force him to wear pinstripes instead?  Well, I got my Holliday wish last year and decided that offseason baseball dealings were not only very entertaining, but could make me very happy.
Happy is good.
This offseason has not started off with such warm fuzzies.  Joe Mather, gone.  Matt Pagnozzi, gone.  Personally, I’ll take a nice campfire and a warm Cardinals snuggie instead, thank you.
Maybe that’s what I get for not respecting the Stove?  Maybe I took it for granted that the Cardinals would always make decisions in my best interest?  I guess I still have a lot to learn about baseball.  (thankfully)
So, just in case, the Hot Stove is like Santa and needs a little help in knowing just the right gifts this winter…
My Hot Stove WishList
1.      Save our Shortstop. Yep, I know there is a different player’s contract topping everyone else’s wishlist. But since you all have that one covered, I am going to make sure ol’ Boog doesn’t get forgotten.
Brendan Ryan is irreplaceable.  The fans love him. Brendan’s attitude and personality bring the Cardinals to life and brighten team energy.  Brendan’s got the D.  Plus I have a serious need to be able to watch him leap and jump and dive and be the ballhog that he is in order to fully appreciate Cardinals baseball.  Brendan will be a better hitter than he was last year.  I promise.  Surgery and fiddling with his batting stance messed him up.  With another year of experience, maturity combined with the right ADD meds, we are bound to see a better batter.
Trust me on this.  Brendan stays.  Got it?  Good.
2.      Now, I am no expert on salary figures and balancing budgets, so I am going to head over to my happy place and pretend that I can wish for absolutely anything here.
Two free agents the Cardinals must snag?  Cliff Lee and Mariano Rivera.
Don’t burst my bubble here… I’m dreaming of a 2011 rotation with Wainwright, Lee, Garcia and Carpenter for a moment.  It’s glorious.
      You can see it too, right?  Yeah, I thought so.  😉
3.      As long as I am not being restrained by common sense, I’ll take Ryan Ludwick back too please.  Power outfield bat?  Restored.  Luddy back in the Birds on the Bat?  Priceless.
4.      Now this is where I need a little help because I’ve read all sorts of chatter about Orlando Hudson, Dan Uggla, Edgar Renteria and other guys who might be able to step in and give us some relief in the middle infield (hands off the shortstop position though, remember?!)
This is where I sit back, let the ol’ stove heat up and listen and learn as all you smart baseball folk tell me why one ballplayer is better than the other. Just keep in mind that I’m one of those fans who gets attached to the players we already have – and I LOVE to see the Memphis boys finally get their shot.  Sentimental?  Yes.  Loyal?  Absolutely.
I am ok with bringing in someone new IF that means we keep Skippy (probably platooning) and Daniel Descalso gets a good shot at proving himself in the big club.  Can we keep Jon Jay and Allen Craig too while we’re at it?
I haven’t done the math, but I’ve probably got about 12 players on the field already.  So, I’ll stop here.

Similar to writing a letter to Santa, it is best to keep it short.  I wouldn’t want to be too greedy.  The Hot Stove may not like that.  😉

UCB Roundtable – Day 4

Welcome to Monday’s Girl Talk… except, this week, we let the boys join in! Before you gasp in shock, let me explain. Each year the United Cardinal Bloggers does a roundtable discussion in October, with the bloggers taking turns asking a question. Today is ladies’s day, so read through our question and the boys of the UCB answers, then head over to the UCB website and check out the full calendar of questions and sites. Enjoy!


Our question won’t surprise most of you, given our love of the Baby Birds. We wanted to know which of our beloved Baby Birds that were wandering the grass of Busch Stadium throughout the year should be looked at as permanent members of the squad next year, either as regulars or bench guys. We also asked which players should get the longest looks in the spring and which of the boys the team should (*gasp*) cut ties with, whether through trades or releasing them. I included the names Daniel Descalso, Allen Craig, Mark Hamilton, Fernando Salas, Joe Mather, Tyler Greene, Matt Pagnozzi and Bryan Anderson, but the responses threw out a couple other names as well. I’ll toss it over to the boys, then chime in with my thoughts at the end…

Daniel (C70 At The Bat)

I think Salas has established himself as a strong bullpen presence and should be a front-runner for a bullpen slot next year.  Craig looks like he’s good for at least a platoon slot in the outfield and Descalso should be a capable bench guy, though I’m not completely sold on him taking over second for Schumaker.


As for the catchers, I think they should keep Bryan Anderson; it’s obvious they are going to keep Matt Pagnozzi.  Anderson needs to be traded, because he’s not going to get the shot he needs in St. Louis.

The rest, I don’t mind having them in the system, don’t mind them getting spot time in the bigs, but if the club can get something for them, so be it.

Dennis (Pitchers Hit Eighth)

The one player who I think should be penciled in as a regular next year is Salas. I believe that his 30 innings pitched represent just large enough a sampling to pass judgment on him, and his 3.52 ERA is lower than both Boggs and Miller. I’d like to see Craig make the team as well, but I have reservations about his ability to be effective as a platoon player or pinch hitter.  He seems like he’s best suited for an everyday slot that affords him 500+ plate appearances a year.  Unless a slot opens due to trade/injury, I just don’t see that opportunity there for him right now.
The situation at catcher deserves some real consideration.  At 23, Anderson should probably be the catcher of the future.  If Pagnozzi is the backup coming out of spring training, and the Cardinals force Yadi to sit more games, the trade value for Pagnozzi could rise.  Pagnozzi could be traded by the deadline, and Anderson could be bumped up.  If needed, Descalso may be a viable option at 2B, but I haven’t seen enough of him to feel comfortable writing his name in the lineup there.  As for Green (27), Hamilton (26), and Mather (28), they are starting to feel like “players to be named later”.

Pip (Fungoes)

One player who showed some promise in limited action was Daniel Descalso. He demonstrated excellent plate discipline and offers versatility at two positions where the team has the most doubts, second base and third base. Assuming he’s not traded this winter, Bryan Anderson should get some exposure not for a spot on the 25-man roster but in order to showcase his talent for a trade.

Which players should the team consider cutting ties with, whether through trades or releasing them?
Anderson, certainly, because he is blocked as both a starting catcher and a backup. Craig and Mather offer largely the same skill set, so the team needs only one. And depending on what happens with Albert Pujols, Mark Hamilton will either be superfluous or a good-buy (and goodbye) replacement.

Joseph (The McBrayer-Baseball Blog)

Joey Bombs Mather, may not get anything in return.

Dustin (Welcome To Baseball Heaven)

As far as guys who could become permanent members of the squad next year I’m leaning towards Salas, Pagnozzi and Allen Craig. Fernando established himself as a viable option out of the pen as a middle reliever this past season. I could be wrong but I’m assuming with a solid spring that Matt Pagnozzi will be Yadi’s backup next year. I’m thinking Allen Craig will get the nod over Joe Mather as an outfield bench option. I’d also like to see Descalso get a long look next spring as a utility guy in the infield.
That leaves names such as Mather and Greene on the outside looking in. I do bounce back and forth a lot on what to do with Craig and Mather, but the organization needs to make a choice and possibly move one. As far as Tyler Greene I just don’t know. He seems to have a never ending case of the yips every time he makes an appearance in St. Louis.

Mark (RetroSimba)

Salas should help the bullpen in 2011. He could be an upgrade over Hawksworth. Craig is a better hitter and run producer than he showed in the majors this year. He should have a role as a bench player with St. Louis in 2011. Descalso should compete for a utilityman role.

I agree that Anderson should be given a long look in the spring, and Cards should make a decision to keep him or trade him.

I agree that Mather and Hamilton have no futures with this club, and should be traded.

Tom (Cardinals GM)

Salas is in. He looked sharp and deserves a bullpen shot. Craig I would keep as an extra outfielder,. He show the prowess to get some hits and a spot starter.  

After that, I am not handing out spots just yet. I believe the backup to Molina will be/and needs to be a veteran (can you insert walkaway Dioner Navarro here?) Pagnozzi needs more daily reps in Memphis. Anderson needs to be somewhere else, in a package trade and Delscaso just needs to show us in Spring Training he is ready. The rest can play AAAA ball

Cole (Redbird Report)


I’d say Fernando Salas. He was solid just about every time he stepped out there this year. Also, you can’t ignore his 19 saves and 0.98 WHIP that he posted in AAA this season. He clearly has good stuff, and it wasn’t just at the minor league level. 

In 27 games with the Cardinals, Salas posted a 3.52 ERA and struck out 29 in 30.2 innings pitched. With Franklin aging (and struggling) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Salas get looks in the ninth inning next year. He’ll certainly be an eighth inning guy at the very least.

Bill (I-70 Baseball)


I am of the belief that a good portion of the Cardinals Minor League system are nothing more than career minor leaguers.  


Craig, Mather, Greene could all be traded or cut loose and I honestly would not notice or care (sorry, Erika). 


That being said, as for “long looks” next Spring, I would like to see Descalso, Anderson, and Pagnozzi be given every opportunity to play themselves out of a job.  Fernando Salas needs to be a part of this bullpen.  


Hamilton is intriguing, but projects as a first baseman.  Let’s hope he’s blocked.  

Finally, I think there are a few guys that need to get a look in Spring to determine where they belong this year.  Guys like Matt Carpenter and Darryl Jones need to be evaluated and determine where there future is and how quickly it is coming.

Goodness. Not much love for some of our favorite Baby Birds, is there? Last I checked Erika hadn’t read any of these responses… I think we should all be crossing our fingers that she hasn’t made it this far into today’s post. If she has, sorry dear, but I’m going to probably agree with all of the above.


I want Pags and Anderson given shots to make it on the roster as Yadi’s back-up, but whichever one doesn’t make it should probably just be traded ASAP, because it’s not worth keeping them both around anymore.


I think Descalso will become next year’s Tyler Greene if he doesn’t make the roster. He’ll be the first one up to be the bench guy. In all honesty I want him to have a strong spring and oust Skippy for second base, but I’m not sure he’ll get that much of a chance.


Salas is here to stay. He put it a lot of miles this year between Memphis and St. Louis, and played well everywhere he went. Keep him around.


Craig needs consistent playing time. If he can get it in St. Louis and finally put up the numbers he’s been putting up in Memphis he’ll stick. If not, sayonara.


The rest? You all know I love Joe Mather, but I don’t see him ever being anything more than a AAAA guy (*sheds a tear*). Tyler Greene has never impressed me at the big league level. Ever. His defense isn’t as good as Brendan, his bat isn’t as good as Skip, and I have to believe that there will be someone standing at third not named Tyler Greene. I like the look of Mark Hamilton, but if he is manning first for the Cardinals in the coming years, that means Albert is not. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with that idea.


Now, we just included players that were actually on the big league squad at some point this year. There are still plenty of names and faces coming up through the ranks of the Cardinal minor league system… but it might be awhile before the calvary comes riding in. Just sayin’.


Thanks to Daniel and the rest of the UCB team for letting us join in on the fun, and be sure to check in over at the official site to see some of our responses to other questions throughout the month of October! Oh hey, while I’ve got you here, yesterday my newest post went up at I-70 Baseball, checking out the Cardinals from 1900-1905. Give it a look and let me know what you think!

Girl Talk – A Frustrating Year

We’re trying something new here on CDD – a Monday morning roundtable, covering a different question to kick off the beginning of every week. You’ll see answers from us and maybe even some guests from time to time! We are hoping to spark some discussion, so feel free to jump in on the comments and add your two cents!


This week’s question: What is the one thing you would say was the most frustrating thing about this year’s team?

Allen Craig can play baseball too!

Angela: I’m not sure there is any one thing, but for me it had to be all the jettisoned players that found their way on to the roster. Randy Winn, Aaron Miles and Jeff Suppan have all been designated for assignment this year and got picked up by the team for ‘veteran presence.’ Now, I am not of the #hpgf (Hyperventilating Prospect Geek Fraternity… and seeing as how I’m not a guy I guess I never will be), and I’ve never been overly excited about any one particular player, however I do remember being so excited at the beginning of the season seeing all of the “Baby Birds” hanging out on the roster. Joe Mather, Allen Craig, Tyler Greene… they were all there!


What frustrated me was seeing all of those boys get sent back down to Memphis to make room for all the old fogeys. I won’t be naive and say that those guys would have made the difference, and I will be enlightened enough to say that Jeff Suppan was serviceable and Aaron Miles wasn’t a total waste of space… but I think the young guys could have done that as well. The overall makeup of the roster never came together. There were the superstars and the everyone elses. You could pin that kind of blame anywhere, from the front office making poor moves to Tony using poor lineups to players just not performing, but for me it had to be watching guys that were tearing the cover off the ball in Memphis get passed by in favor of those ‘veteran presences.’




Jacqueline: First of all I love this idea. Way to go Angela and Erika for coming up with another way for us me to get to give my opinion. I look at it as our own little Cawffee Tawlk. Ya know, that great Mike Myers skit on Saturday Night Live where he played Linda, based on his Jewish mother in law, who loved two things: tawlking-giving her opinion and Barbra Streisand. So from now on just think of me(although I’m a shiksa) as Linda’s sports loving sistah, Brenda. I have the big hair, shoulder padded sweaters, big glasses, the long nails, the jewelry and animal print clothing and accessories to fit right in. First let me say that Albert Pujols is my Barbra Streisand. He’s like buttah. The man can do no wrong. And does he look good in that uniform! His toucas/tuches (bumm for us Gentiles) is a sight to behold! I get verklempt.

Seriously, my biggest frustration is this: The sum is should be greater than it’s parts.That’s what is so frustrating about the 2010 Cardinals. The sum some how adds up to less than it’s parts. On paper we look like a contending post season team. We have the games best player in Albert Pujols. The man was born to play baseball and wear the Birds on the Bat. If you designed the perfect player it would be Albert. We have two Cy Young caliber shut em down pitchers in Chris Carpenter and my favorite Cardinal Adam Wainwright.Oy vey! The toucas on Waino es Bueno! Like buttah! We have All Star catcher Yadi (don’t even think of running on me) Molina. He’s the best defensive and  game calling catcher in baseball. We’ve got Matt Holliday, one of the best hitters in the league. That is our core as Tony would say. We have a good 2nd year center fielder power or at least a doubles hitter in Colby Rasmus, an above average defensive short stop in Brendan Ryan and three very good rookies or newbies in Jaime Garcia, Jon Jay and David Freese. Add these up on paper and we looked like a great team. But…that’s why we play the games.


As Adam Wainwright said yesterday, we came out of spring training with every intention  of playing in the post season and making it to the World Series. What the what happened? We had players who didn’t play up to expectations, others regressed to the mean, were slow to get up to par or were very erratic. We had injuries. Such is life in baseball.


But still something major was missing. Spark, leadership, enthusiasm, killer instinct, will to win, never give upness, chemistry. Our parts added up to a great big pile of bupkes disappointment. “Discuss amooangst yooaselves”


Erika: Since I could easily just say “ditto” to both Angela and Jacqueline on their assessments (the early birds got the worms!), I am changing it up a bit and looking at the question from merely a spectator point of view.
Biggest disappointment – on a purely aesthetic level:  Since June 27th there has been no David Freese in the lineup.  This season could have been so much better (looking) had Mr. Freese hung around at the hotcorner for more than 70 games.
Plus Felipe Lopez then could have toodled around at SS or 2B instead of being assigned to 3B where he is not, shall we say, a “natural.”  And then Angela might have been a happier member of the Less-Is-More Aaron Miles fan club.  All good reasons to support the theory that the absence of rookie stud Freese was the major disappointment of the 2010 Cardinal season.
Prince Boo Boo Feet
The Cardinals can of course make up for this disappointment pretty easily –
David Freese (a.k.a. Prince Boo Boo Feet) gets another shot at the hotcorner next season.  Maybe a pair of good ankle splints, some steel toe workout shoes and a megapack of bubble wrap could help protect those dainty hooves of his?  I’ll help wrap!  😉


Cadence: It is really hard for me to pinpoint an exact moment where the season went wrong. There are many things that have been frustrating, especially in the last 2 months, and trying to pick one might just be the reason that the season has turned so disappointing. We all know that the lack of wins by a team with a ton of potential and talent has to be the number one most frustrating thing; a team loaded with proven veterans like Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina and a group of young guys full of potential including Brendan Ryan, Jon Jay, Colby Rasmus and David Freese, it is hard to grasp why a team that came into the 2010 season with high expectations might finish just above .500 and second in the NL Central standings behind the Reds. What is even more frustrating is that when the Cardinals swept the Reds in early August and the team was defending itself, it only lead to a downward spiral. Even more frustrating than that, Jason LaRue was put on the 15-day DL, then the 60-day DL, then announced his retirement after a kick in the head by Johnny Cueto ended his season and eventually his career. We lost a great back up catcher and a great asset to our team for no good reason. Disappointing.

Brad Penny after his Grand Slam on May 21, 2010.  The last time
we saw him this season. (I was at this game)
Photo Credit: St. Louis Post Dispatch

So, I guess the conclusion I have come to is that the most frustrating thing about the 2010 season is the injuries and the (as I like to call them) leftovers used to fill the void. David Freese twisted his ankle and then hurt it again during his rehab assignment, Brad Penny strained his oblique muscle in May and we haven’t even seen him since, Ryan Ludwick strained his hamstring and spent several days on the bench before finally getting DL-ed and then eventually getting traded a couple days after coming back, Colby Rasmus was injured off and on for parts of the season, and Kyle Lohse had a surgery that no one even heard of that we thought could end his season if not his career. We all know Lohse came back (disappointingly…sorry, Kyle) and Colby was able to work his way back into the starting lineup even with the TLR drama, but we lost Penny & Freese for the season, and Ludwick forever (sad face again). So, instead of allowing the farm guys come up, for the most part, wholes have been filled with leftovers; Randy Winn, Aaron Miles, Jeff Suppan. Sure, they have done their part and I don’t hate them, but I still can not justify in my head that this was the best decision. A lot of spark was lost when the minor league guys left; in particular when Joe Mather got sent down, I think some of that energy in the clubhouse disappeared and I think a lot of Brendan Ryan’s spunk went away too (we all remember Brendo-vision & the home movies). I could definitely notice a change in him at photo day when he spent less time chatting with fans than he did the year before. And that kind of thing is what I felt made the 2010 Cardinals what they were…fun and exciting, and this was all lost when injuries took over, baby birds didn’t get much of a chance, and leftovers filled their place. The camaraderie wasn’t as strong as I thought it might have been. My hope for next season is that David Freese comes back better than ever and we figure out how to fill positions (bench and other) with legitimate players. Here’s to 2011!

Catching Baby Birds

If you are just here for the Memphis pictures today, I totally understand. Scroll down and check out our AAA baseball boys on their way to a championship!  However, in order to create a post through which to weave these pictures, I had to fill up the rest of today’s space with some words.
So… let me tell you a story.  It is about the Friday night I spent with the boys from Memphis. 
For those of you who might not already know: I absolutely REVEL in the opportunity to watch the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals’ AAA affiliate, affectionately termed the Baby Birds) when they come to my hometown of Oklahoma City. Last weekend’s Memphis game was the icing on my personal cake for two reasons.
First, Memphis was playing OKC in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Playoffs and had already grabbed a 2-game lead in the best of five series. Friday would be game 3 and their chance to sweep. 
Second, I would be returning to the ballpark with another press pass (thanks to my favorite i70baseball editor, Bill) and was crazy-thrilled because once again I would have great views, unlimited access and a spot so close to the dugout, I would be sharing the same air as the ballplayers.    *Breathe in. Breathe out.* 
Friday night’s ballgame was a definite doozy! The Baby Birds did indeed get the win and Memphis hurler Lance Lynn pitched his way to a new franchise record with 16 strikeouts. I am also happy to report: I did not hyperventilate, no restraining orders were issued and Joe Mather’s personal space was not violated. The fact that I was slightly “under the weather” may have limited my enthusiasm, but no little germ could keep me away from the ballpark that night.
Yes, some of my favorite Memphis players were absent – Jon Jay, Tyler Greene, Matt Pagnozzi, Bryan Anderson and Nick Stavinoha are all now up in St. Louis with the Cardinals while Shane Robinson remained on the DL (since May) with a shoulder injury.  Thankfully Daniel Descalso was manning shortstop for the Baby Birds (great glove, fun to watch), and Jim Rapoport continues to be another prime reason to be a Redbird fan (chick comment).  But selfishly I was most glad to see Joe Mather and Allen Craig still slumming it in the minors. (Sorry guys!)
Unlike my first media pass adventure when the photo targets were ballplayers unknown to me, this time we had history.  Names and faces from ballgames past were right next to me.  It was glorious!
The Best Laid Plans
As this was my second ballpark adventure with a Golden Ticket (media pass), my rookie fears about the how’s and where’s had vanished.  I knew the layout. My plan of attack was simple: be there when the press gates opened (2 ½ hours before the game) and get on the field to snag several glorious batting practice photos.  I had envisioned the possible scenarios so many times in my mind that when my mental script hit a snag (i.e. batting practice was OVER by the time I got there), I was momentarily stunned.  
But ballplayers were on the field, and I recovered my senses quickly.
Moving on.  No batting practice…
Adjusting the plan, I set up shop in the shady right field bleachers and watched the pitchers warming up. I even talked briefly with one of the Memphis coaches and immediately spilled the beans.  It is virtually impossible for me to keep my love of baseball under wraps.  
Me: “Are you going to win today?”
Memphis Coach: “Of course!  Are you a Memphis fan?”
Me: “YES!…… but don’t tell anyone…  
       (laughing) I am supposed to be impartial.”
The coach assured me he would keep my secret, and if you can’t trust a MiLB coach, who can you trust?  😉
No cheering when you are at the ballpark with a press pass?  Well, that rule was broken in less than 10 minutes.  But I rationalized that away as a minor violation because my lapse into baseball fandom occurred during pregame warm-ups and there was only one witness – and he isn’t talking!    
Blabber mouth
Without batting practice to keep me busy, I wandered the stadium, visited the press box to collect lineup and roster information and then met my family for dinner.  About 30 minutes before game time, I headed back down to the field and staked my claim in the photo well by the visitor dugout (of course) just in time to watch the Redbirds ascend from the clubhouse, up through the dugout and onto the field to sign autographs.  Another gal with a camera-to-die-for was in the dugout talking to Joe Mather.  When Joe pranced out onto the field, I had to know.  Who was she?  (More importantly…. How do I get a job like that?!)
Filling me in, she told me of her role as a team photographer, mentioning that she had to pay her own way to Oklahoma City – as well as to the series in Iowa where the Redbirds clinched their spot in the playoffs.  I asked where fans could see photos from the champagne celebration in Iowa, but learned that when a photographer pays their own way to a game, the pictures taken are the property of the photographer instead of the team.  

Translation: no Memphis champagne celebration photos for us. 
Talking with her was such fun that once again, I felt compelled to fess up and lay my fan cards on the table.  The Memphis boys may never know I was their biggest fan in the stadium that evening, but my intentions had now been officially registered with two appropriate Memphis personnel. 


Conflicted and Oblivious
Those are the two words that pop into my mind when asked how it was to experience the game as a photographer instead of a fan. 

Conflicted – I watched from afar as my family enjoyed the game from seats behind the Memphis dugout.  My kids got autographs before the game, but this time I would be an observer instead of a participant.  A player tossed a game ball over the dugout to my daughter when he noticed she was wearing a Memphis Redbirds jersey (not many of those in Oklahoma.)  And my clan celebrated and cheered our Baby Birds each time they stepped to the plate. There were many moments that night when my empty seat there in the stands beckoned me.  I was sorely missing those special fan experiences.


Oblivious – At the end of the evening, my amazing Hubby kindly filled me in on an incredible game fact: Memphis’ starting pitcher Lance Lynn had thrown SIXTEEN strikeouts.
During my stint behind a camera lens I was entirely isolated from game discussion.  That works great for focusing on the moments on the field, but is horrible for the ‘big picture.’  It was suddenly clear to me why I had not captured any diving defensive gems  – no baserunners tends to limit flashy gloves and defensive plays, and 16 K’s severely restricts the number of potential baserunners.  I was entirely unaware of the magnitude of the pitching feat while jockeying for good photos.  


So, if I ever get the chance again, I will find a way & listen to the game broadcast. Being oblivious to drama like that?  Unacceptable for a true baseball fan, er… uh… a photographer.  😉
Mission Accomplished:
Amazing ballgame.  Unmatchable experience. I had more fun than I deserved. I did my best professional photographer impersonation and (thanks to my tough little camera and a magical new lens) came home with some pictures I love.  I will try not to get all mushy about it, but I have to say that for a gal who lives and breathes baseball (especially Cardinal and Memphis baseball), I felt as though I had gone to heaven.  The opportunity to be on the grass for the action and close enough to the dugout to hear players and coaches discuss strategy during the game will be a memory I will cherish.  I hope for many more!

Since I have now typed enough words to fill this space with a spattering of beautiful baseball boys, I will close this out. 

But I will be crossing my fingers for another Golden Ticket and a Memphis return next Tuesday night.  



Looking Ahead:
The Cardinals may be faltering in the final moments of 2010, but our Memphis Redbirds are pushing full-steam ahead.  This week they will be taking on Tacoma in the PCL Championship Series September 14th-19th at Memphis’ Autozone Park.
When these Redbirds win their second consecutive PCL Championship title (yes, I am that confident in my Baby Birds), they will return to Oklahoma City for the AAA Championship game on September 21st.
So, if you are in need of a boost to renew your Cardinal baseball postseason fervor, keep your eyes and ears on the Memphis Redbirds. 
Their website is here:
You can see more photos of the Memphis Redbirds’ Friday night game at my Baseball Digest twitter account : @Erika4Baseball or here on twitpic.



Viva El Baby Birds!!!  =)
If you would like to read more, the story of my unbelievably fun first media pass adventure can be found here on i70baseball.com. I am thrilled to share with you photos from the Memphis playoff game in today’s Diamond Diaries post, but kindly ask that the photos not be used or redistributed without permission.  Thank you! 



There is a time…

I may be the daughter of a preacher, but have never been great at quoting scripture.  I can however point you to the scene from “Footloose” where you can hear Kevin Bacon mention
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:”
My mind is always drifting to baseball. So naturally, my translation would be: there is a time for every emotion during baseball season.  In 2010 we have had time to cheer; time to cry, and (lately) plenty of time to be frustrated.
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A time to reflect:
I was watching a game this week – well, I watched them all – but there was this one game – when it struck me how different the August Cardinals are from the starting lineup back in April.
Remember back then?
On April 5th the Cardinals won the first game of the regular season.  They beat the Reds with a final score of 11-6. (The Reds!)  The Cardinals had 12 hits that day, with four homeruns: Albert Pujols hit TWO, Yadier Molina had his first career Grand Slam and Colby Rasmus went yard as well.

That evening Matthew Leach, writing for MLB.com, compared the Cardinals’ performance to the anticlimactic crash of the 2009 postseason effort:
The last time the Cardinals were seen playing games that mattered, they were an offensively futile team. A great deal has changed — from the stage to the ballpark to the opponent — since that NLDS. But the Redbirds have changed, too. They’re an improved offensive club, one that can be dangerous at all eight everyday lineup spots.”
That was certainly our time to hope.
A time for change:
The faces on the field are different now. Some favorite players are gone for good and some we just haven’t seen for a while. (To be honest, this topic gave me a much needed chance to post some pictures of the Cardinal faces I have been missing!  Mtime to be sentimental, I guess.)
Freese, Luddy and Joe — We miss you terribly!
But looking on the bright side (yes, I have been accused me of overusing that Pollyanna trait lately, but stick with me here!) … there are some wonderful new Cardinal faces we have come to enjoy.  Okay, just another excuse to post pictures of my favorite BabyBirds.
Glad you boys are getting a shot!
The Cardinals still have time to play, time to win and time to rally.  So until that final Cardinal out of the 2010 season, we fans have time to enjoy the game.


Time To Welcome!
Like the Cardinals, we here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries have added a new face.  Thankfully we didn’t have to trade anyone to a Padres blog group or lose anyone to the Disabled List!
Welcome Jacqueline!!!
We are thrilled to welcome Jacqueline Hadley Conrad to our gals club here at CDD.  Like Angela, Chris and myself, Jacqueline is a devoted fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and we are looking forward to reading more of her unique charm and humor here on the blog.  In the days ahead, we will get her information added to our “About Us” section and she will be checking in again next week.
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Until then… If you missed the chance to read Jacqueline’s inaugural post yesterday, do not delay one minute longer. Grab a tissue and be prepared – it is a beautiful and touching tribute, steeped in family tradition and Cardinal baseball history.  “Ma mere Tootsie’s Gift”
Today the Cardinals are taking on the Washington Nationals again. Game time: 6:05pm CT.
Hopefully it will once again be a time to win!

GO CARDS!  =)

Photo Diary of a Winning Streak

7 wins in a row. Beautiful feeling, isn’t it? 


We’re switching things up here on Cardinal Diamond Dairies and moving our photo day to Wednesday. Today instead of just random pictures I’m trying something out – a photo from each day of the 7 game streak (plus a bonus shot – you’ll see)! Hope you enjoy it!


7/11/2010 – Cardinals 4, Astros 2
Matt Holliday provided almost all of the offense with this 3 run blast the day before the All-Star break began. I don’t know how to point out the packet of sunflower seeds in his pocket that made me laugh without sounding like a #chickcomment… so there you go.

David J. Phillip – AP Photo

7/13/2010 – NL 3, AL 1
I couldn’t help but put in a shot of the Cards’ All-Stars together at the game in Anaheim. Hey, our team won that night too, so it fits!

Kirby Lee – US Presswire

7/15/2010 – Cardinals 7, Dodgers 1
The Cardinals jumped right back in after the break, putting up seven runs against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, who had been very effective against the Cards… until this night. After a day in which we were treated to no baseball at all, it was nice to be back seeing scenes like this one of Chris Carpenter pitching in the fifth inning.

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

7/16/2010 – Cardinals 8, Dodgers 4
You can’t help but enjoy a game that features runs and flashy defensive plays like this one Albert Pujols made from the seat of his pants! Two games after the break we were seeing what looked like a team that was putting things together. Solid pitching, scoring runs in bunches and defense? We love it!

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/17/2010 – Cardinals 2, Dodgers 0
With Adam Wainwright on the mound, thankfully the Cards didn’t need more than two runs on this day. Close games like this mean turning solid double plays like Skip Schumaker does here. Note where his feet are. Where is second base? (I’ll spare you all from the “Who’s on First?” joke I almost made here.)

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/18/2010 – Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4
The Cards were rather rude hosts to the Dodgers, running them out of town with ninth inning heroics on Joe Torre’s 70th birthday no less! Allen Craig didn’t care about Torre. He had his own 26th birthday to worry about, and he did it in style, making the hit to tie the game in the ninth inning and set up Matt Holliday for the game winning hit in the next at-bat!

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

7/19/2010 – Cardinals 8, Phillies 4
Back to back days of come from behind wins. This is a treat we were not privy to in the first half of the season. The team started chipping away at an early 3-0 hole behind Blake Hawksworth, scoring a single run in both the first and second inning before exploding for three home runs (including Allen Craig’s first big league HR!) and five runs in the fifth to blow the game open. This photo? Yadier Molina picking Jason Werth off first in the third inning. I like Albert sticking his tongue out at Werth. ‘Nana nana boo boo. We got you!’

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

7/20/2010 – Cardinals 7, Phillies 1
After a couple less than Carp-like starts towards the end of the first half, Carpenter has been a rockstar since the break, throwing 62 strikes over 90 pitches in eight dominant innings last night against the Phillies. Randy Winn kicked off the fireworks in the third inning with his second home run in as many days, and Matt Holliday put the game away for good with his three run blast in the fifth that put the Cards up 6-0. 

Chris Lee – Post-Dispatch

Winning is fun. How about we keep it going tonight, say 7:15? Jaime Garcia will be there…

Talking about Toes..

Last night when I turned off the television and my computer for the evening, the Cardinals had just won their 6th straight game.  And what a game it was!  FOUR homeruns!  Albert Pujols kicked off the long ball party in the bottom of the 5th inning. Then Allen Craig followed suit with his first Major League homerun.  The very next batter, Skip Schumaker, stepped to the plate and hit his 3rd blast of the season.  Then in the 6th inning Randy Winn added his own dinger over the right field wall to make the score 8-4.  Throw in some spectacular defense from Brendan Ryan and I was a very happy baseball fan!

Want to watch the highlights again?    Click Here

Winning – I could get used to that!

Even  more amazing is that the Cardinals are winning with our substitute starting pitchers Jeff Suppan and Blake Hawksworth. Plus manager Tony La Russa has rested several key players in the past two games, getting creative with starting lineups that have scared many fans.  But those beloved Baby Birds up from AAA are filling in quite nicely. Jon Jay continues to tear it up with a .372 batting average.

The Cardinals have stepped up their game since the All Star break and are playing some amazing baseball.  Whatever is in the water, I hope they keep drinking it, because THIS is the team I was expecting to show up in April.

More Good News! Ryan Ludwick is returning from the DL, heading to Memphis for a quick rehab stint before rejoining the Cardinals possibly this weekend (at least that is what Luddy thinks.)

Bad News of the Morning: David Freese has apparently broken his left big toe by dropping a weight plate on it during a workout. Are you kidding me???  I am very thankful the Cardinals have figured out how to win without their complete starting roster, because Freese seems to be accident-prone.  If we were losing games, that news would have hit me a lot harder, but with the way things have been going lately it is hard to complain.  Hurry back David, before we forget why we loved you so much!

Maybe somebody should wrap him in bubble wrap for a few weeks to keep him safe!

Have you read the rumblings about the lack of clubhouse chemistry?  Apparently GM John Mozeliak even commented that a midseason trade might add more personality to bring a positive vibe to the clubhouse.

You probably can imagine how I feel about it, but just in case you want to read more of my rant, check out my post today at Baseball Digest.com.  Just click here.

And over at i70baseball.com Angela has a great look at the resurgence of our Cardinals.  Here’s a shortcut for you!

Have a great day, Cards Fans!  Tonight our boys are working on their SEVENTH STRAIGHT WIN!  Maybe they can crush those nasty Phillies again with another Cardinal HomeRun Derby?!

GO CARDS!  =)

A Case For the Baby Birds

Another unplanned Sunday post. Last time Erika couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the same could be said for me today.
I’m starting to believe that all the news I need (or is it want?) to learn can be found on Twitter before I find it anywhere else. The case was definitely solidified yesterday morning when this tweet came up in my feed:

Color me absolutely confused. 

Winn has been so abysmal this year that he’s batting .213/.300/.295 (batting/on-base/slugging). He was designated for assignment by the Yankees, and the Cardinals came knocking.

WHY?

I wrote over at Baseball Digest a couple weeks ago about how the Cardinals’ signing of Aaron Miles was unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong – I like Aaron Miles. He’s a good guy and he was a solid competitor for the Cardinals a couple of years ago. He was sent to AA, where he put up a rousing line of .279/.362/.344… let me remind you, this is in Double A. I was not the only one scratching my head and quietly (alright, maybe more like vocally) questioning the purpose of bringing Miles up at the expense of one of the CDD’s beloved Baby Birds. This time the victim was Allen Craig, who had just been called up the day before and hadn’t really seen any action since setting his locker back up in St. Louis.
What was the point? Craig got off to a rough start at the beginning of the year at both the major and then minor league level, but has recovered quite nicely to be built up to a .284/.346/.388 line. At Triple A.
So, fine, Tony can have his fun and let Miles run around on the big league team, play horrible defense with very little range, and be regaled by all for being the scrappy beast of a man he apparently is.
*Ahem* Okay. Sorry. I’ll be good. Promise.
Back to Winn. Now let me get this straight – Jon Jay, who has been batting .375 off the bench and gone .302 overall (on the big league squad) was sent down so the Cards could sign another aging player who’s seen better days. Rick Hummel tried to spell it out for us yesterday, but I finished the article feeling more frustrated than calmed.
Tony LaRussa had affectionately called the young guys running around the clubhouse his ‘Baby Bench,’ and many of us out in Cardinal Nation were having a good time seeing some of the guys we’ve been following up the ladder in the minors finally getting a consistent shot on the big league club. Granted, some of them (recent CDD favorite Joe Mather included) have had some struggles. This would be why the official word from the big guys is that the Baby Birds are being yo-yo’d around in order to get them more consistent at bats in the minors.
To that I call you-know-what. You cannot convince me in a million years that Randy Winn and Aaron Miles are doing or will do better on this team than guys like Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Joe Mather and Tyler Greene.
Viva el Baby Bench! 

Joe and Me

There are a few Cardinals ballplayers that I absolutely LOVE to watch: David Freese, Brendan Ryan and “Hunky” Matt Holliday top my favorites list. When a player makes that list, he is usually there to stay, such as dear Yadier Molina – who sparked my love for the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2006.
Other players wearing the Birds on the Bat get my support and my fan love too of course; but sometimes there are players that I just have not found a connection with. Joe Mather has been one of those guys… until this past Wednesday night.


My impression of Joe Mather has been clouded by previous, albeit limited, in-person observations. Last year Joe was recovering from injury, working his way back in AAA. He was frustrated at the plate and in the field, and his mood reflected that frustration. When the Memphis Redbirds came to Oklahoma – yes, I am an Okie – Joe would run right past the waiting fans, dashing straight into the dugout without so much as a glance.
During Spring Training in Florida this year I asked Joe for an autograph. He just shook his head and said “later,” but never returned. Of course, I understood. Players cannot always stop to sign autographs or talk with fans. They have jobs to do. But because of these less-than-encouraging impressions of Joe Mather, my interest in cheering for him has been somewhat lackluster.
My kids, on the other hand, have taken a real liking to Joe Mather, probably because I have shared with them the hilarious Brendan Ryan home videos (with sidekick Joe) from the FSMW website. So, when Joe Mather was optioned to AAA Memphis this past week my kids were thrilled. You see, the Memphis Redbirds were visiting our local Oklahoma City Redhawks for a four game series and we already had tickets.

The kiddos have learned that with just a little extra effort, they can improve their chances for an autograph.So with handmade signs reading “JOE MATHER,” they waited patiently by the 1st base side of the stands during the pre-game warm-ups.


Tyler Greene – always smiling and willing to sign a baseball – trotted right over to visit with us, but Joe Mather was nowhere to be seen.
Just when I thought Joe might disappoint us yet again, he came onto the field, ran some drills, saw the signs and headed our way. While signing baseballs, Joe perked up when I joked how nice it was for him to grow a mustache too, in support of his Cardinals teammate Brendan Ryan (who credits growing a mustache with helping him break out of a slump.) Joe laughed and talked with us a bit about Brendan. That fun interaction made up for all the past “Grumpy Joe” moments I had witnessed.


During Wednesday’s game, Joe had quite a few Cardinals fans cheering him on. By the middle of the game, Joe was smiling as he jogged to and from the dugout, past our seats. And by the end of the game, the Redbirds had won and Joe was celebrating in the outfield with teammates Allen Craig and Jim Rapoport. It was great to see a “Happy Joe” having fun playing baseball in my hometown!
But the story doesn’t end there. I was living the dream when, after the on-field celebrations had ended, Joe Mather went into the dugout, fished out a game ball and looked in my direction. (Our front row seats gave us a clear view of the covered dugout.) Joe caught my eye, pointed to me, and lobbed me that baseball, up and over the dozen or so fans between us. Thankfully I caught the baseball with some modicum of grace, and looked back at Joe. He smiled a great big grin, waved goodbye, and then headed down the dugout steps and out of sight.
Thanks, Joe! 
 Welcome to the list!    =)

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