Replica Ring

I went to St. Louis for the April 14 game against the Cubs where the players and coaches from the 2011 team received their World Series rings. All fans in attendance received a replica of the World Series ring (shown below). I must say that this is easily the single coolest and best giveaway I have ever received at a sports event. The ring is wearable, but also comes with a nice stand and is very high quality for a free giveaway. Obviously, I am biased as a Cardinals fan, but other people who I’ve shown the ring to have commented on how cool of a giveaway it is, including one who said it’s much cooler than the coveted bobble-heads. It’s an awesome gesture from a great organization that appreciates its fans.

Commissioner for a day

With the start of the 2012 MLB season and the Wednesday night interview with Commissioner Selig talking about the state of baseball and the changes to the playoffs, I got to thinking about the top 5 things I would do if I could be commissioner for a day. Here they are in my order of importance:

1. Move the correct team to the AL in 2013.

Instead of the pending move for the Houston Astros to the AL in 2013, I would change the team moving to the Milwaukee Brewers and there is plenty of data to indicate that this is the more logical move. First, the Brewers started in the AL and it was them moving to the NL in 1998 that caused the imbalance between the leagues. The Astros have been in the NL since their inception (1962 as the Houston Colt .45’s 7 years before the Pilots/Brewers franchise) and have been more successful in the NL (9 playoff berths, 6 division titles, 1 pennant vs. 2,1,0). The Astros also have been more successful if you just compare the time they’ve co-existed in the NL Central with the Brewers (.506 Win % vs. .469).

To sum up, Astros stay in the NL Central; Brewers return to AL Central; Kansas City Royals return to AL West (where they had 6 division titles vs. 0 in the AL Central).

2. Finish implementing instant replay, but do it right.

Instant replay would be used for all calls excluding balls vs. strikes. The system would involve a 5th umpire that is in the press box/broadcasting area that reviews replays immediately after each play. If he is considering reversing a call, he pages the on-field crew chief and has at most 30 more seconds to complete review. If the call is to be changed, he sends that change to the crew chief and he makes the necessary on-field adjustments (setting runners, etc.). This won’t take a lot of time as most calls are correct in the first place and it doesn’t take more than 2-3 looks to see whether a guy was safe or not, or tagged or not, or if a ball was fair or foul, or caught or trapped. The on-field umpires will not huddle or leave the field to review video, also increasing the speed of replays. Umpires should be on-board with this because they want to get the calls right and it adds 15 new jobs to their staff and gives them a day off their feet and out of the heat every fifth day.

3. Eliminate the DH.

It’s time for both leagues to have the same rules and the DH needs to go. No longer will AL games lack the strategy involved with lineups, benches, and pitching changes the NL has always had, and no longer will players survive on Major League rosters as one-dimensional players. Everyone hits and everyone plays the field.

4. Fix the All-Star game.

I offer two options for how to fix the All-Star game:

A. The game continues to be worth home-field advantage in the World Series, but fans don’t get to vote for players and the managers are instructed to play the game to win, meaning they set the best lineup and pitching arrangement and go with it for the entire game. It may mean a starting pitchers throws several innings. It means several of the 25 players (Yes, I’m only allowing 25 players like a normal roster) may not get into the game. Also, every team does not have to be represented. The players and coaches from each league elect the best players to play for their league.

B. The more likely scenario is the game ceases to be worth home-field advantage in the World Series and once again treated as an exhibition. Managers are encouraged to try to get everyone into the game. Fans can still vote for players and all teams are represented. You set a designated number of innings that will be played at most (maybe 10 or 12) and if there happens to still be a tie after that, you do something like a swing-off similar to the hockey shootout. Teams have a list of players to compete in a single-swing home-run derby going back and forth between the leagues until someone hits one that is either unanswered in the “bottom half” of the inning or was in the bottom half of the inning and was a walk-off. One coach from each staff will be responsible for throwing the pitches to their league’s players.

5. Adjust the luxury tax threshold.

There’s still a lot of complaints about the inequities in baseball team salaries. While I wouldn’t go as far as implementing a salary cap, I would adjust the luxury tax threshold. When one team (the Yankees) has paid 95% of the luxury tax penalties and they aren’t that much further ahead of the next highest payrolls, it’s time to adjust the threshold for which penalties begin. I would make the threshold one standard deviation from the average team salary. Based on the 2012 team salary data (http://content.usatoday.com/sportsdata/baseball/mlb/salaries/team), the average team payroll is $98,021,906 which would make the luxury tax threshold $134,233,072. This means the Yankess, Phillies, Red Sox, and Angels would be paying a luxury tax for every dollar they have spent over that threshold and the more years they stay over the threshold, the higher the tax percentage on the overage becomes.

I feel pretty passionately about these things and think the game would be better with these changes implemented.

Final Roster Prediction

Well, several things have unfolded since my last roster prediction, some of them within a day of it, so I’ve decided to make one last guess as to the final opening day roster. There are only a few positions left to be decided, so this is fairly intuitive.

Starting Pitchers (5):

  • Kyle Lohse
  • Jaime Garcia
  • Adam Wainwright
  • Lance Lynn
  • Jake Westbrook

No surprises here. Chris Carpenter begins on the disabled list.

Relief Pitchers (7):

  • Jason Motte
  • Fernando Salas
  • Mark Rzepczynski
  • J.C. Romero
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Mitchell Boggs
  • Scott Linebrink

It appears that Linebrink has won both the final bullpen spot and the final spot on the 40-man roster.

Catchers (2):

  • Yadier Molina
  • Brian Anderson

I still think Mike Matheny will take Anderson over Tony Cruz, but this is probably the closest battle left.

Infielders (6):

  • Lance Berkman
  • Tyler Greene
  • Rafael Furcal
  • David Freese
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter will fill a similar role to what Skip Schumaker would have provided had he not began the season on the disabled list.

Outfielders (5):

  • Matt Holliday
  • Jon Jay
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Allen Craig
  • Erik Komatsu

Komatsu has been the best of the three candidates for the last outfield spot and may see more outfield time early in the year with Craig possibly limited to pinch-hitting duties early in April.

Disabled List (2):

  • Chris Carpenter
  • Skip Schumaker

Hopefully this number does not increase.

 

This looks to be a formidable and versatile group to start the season with reinforcements on the DL rehabbing and waiting in the minors. Ready for the 2012 season to get started!

Second Roster Prediction

There’s just over two weeks to go before Opening Night in Miami on Wednesday, April 4. Here’s my latest prediction on what the Cardinals Opening Day 25-man roster might look like as well as some other thoughts.

Starting Pitchers (5):

  • Chris Carpenter
  • Adam Wainwright
  • Jaime Garcia
  • Kyle Lohse
  • Jake Westbrook

Despite Carpenter’s neck issue, I think he’s on the Opening Day roster, though I do not think he will start the first game of the season…more on that later.

Relief Pitchers (7):

  • Jason Motte
  • Mark Rzepczynski
  • J.C. Romero
  • Fernando Salas
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Mitchell Boggs
  • Lance Lynn

I think Carpenter’s recent injury will guarentee Lynn a spot on the roster, so I bumped Sanchez from my previous prediction. Despite how good his stuff is, I think he loses the numbers crunch to Mitchell Boggs, who has more service time and is probably in a make-or-break year as he’ll likely be arbitration-eligible next offseason.

Catchers (2):

  • Yadier Molina
  • Brian Anderson

I still stand by Anderson. I think he has the best bat of the three competing and has progressed enough defensively and in game-calling to be Major Leaguer. Spending the year around Molina and Matheny would do wonders for him, I think.

Infielders (7):

  • Lance Berkman
  • Tyler Greene
  • Rafael Furcal
  • David Freese
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Alex Cora
  • Matt Carpenter

I replace Skip Schumaker on the roster with Matt Carpenter based on Schumaker’s injury. Carpenter is another infielder getting work in the outfield and would serve as a backup in both capacities. He also is likely the player sent down when Allen Craig is ready to return.

Outfielders (4):

  • Matt Holliday
  • Jon Jay
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Erik Komatsu

I think Erik Komatsu is ahead of Robinson and Chambers now. He’s hit well enough, shown good speed, and great defensive skill and range. I think the club will want to get a longer look at him more than the other two as he can’t easily be optioned to the minors since he is a Rule 5 draft pick. If both Schumaker and Craig get healthy without other injuries, the Cardinals will have a tough choice to make with Komatsu.

Disabled List (2):

  • Allen Craig
  • Skip Schumaker

This list, unfortunately, got longer.

Other Notes:

  1. Assuming Chris Carpenter’s live BP goes well tomorrow, I’d like to see him start a game this Friday or Saturday, then another during the middle of next week, then either the final Spring Training game or the April 3 exhibition in Springfield. He could then make his first regular season start on Saturday or Sunday in Milwaukee which could line him up to start the home opener on Friday, April 13 against the Cubs.
  2. I still think Tyler Greene will be the regular second baseman, although I think Descalso is the better pick. I know the club wants to see what Greene can do, and I don’t think Spring Training will have been enough to make a decision. I expect Greene to play most days in April, and if he has continued to struggle after that, he may find himself on waivers when Schumaker and Craig are both healthy as Alex Cora provides coverage as a backup shortstop and Ryan Jackson looks like he may be the future regular there.
  3. It certainly would seem that if the Cardinals are in need of making a trade, the likely players to be dealt would be relief pitchers. McClellan and Boggs will both be arbitration-eligible after this season and the Cardinals have shown to be even deeper in young relief talent this Spring than was originally thought. Victor Marte, Trevor Rosenthal, and Sam Freeman have all had good camps and look like they’d be ready to contribute in the near future. This goes with the existing logjam that will likely force a Major League rightie from last year’s team to begin the year at AAA Memphis (Eduardo Sanchez is my guess).

First Roster Prediction

Spring Training games have just begun this week and I’m going to make my first projection as to what the Cardinals Opening Day 25-man roster might look like. Without further ado, here it is:

Starting Pitchers (5):

  • Chris Carpenter
  • Jaime Garcia
  • Adam Wainwright
  • Kyle Lohse
  • Jake Westbrook

I started with the easy one here. Assuming no spring injuries, this group shouldn’t change.

Relief Pitchers (7):

  • Jason Motte
  • Mark Rzepczynski
  • J.C. Romero
  • Fernando Salas
  • Kyle McClellan
  • Eduardo Sanchez
  • Mitchell Boggs

This is a pretty well established group, but making the final cuts were tough. I think not being on the 40-man roster hurts Scott Linebrink and the low amount of service time and possibility of starting gets Lynn sent to Memphis.

Catchers (2):

  • Yadier Molina
  • Brian Anderson

I’m picking Anderson over Tony Cruz and Koyie Hill because I don’t see Hill getting added to the 40-man roster with capable backups already on it and I think the fact that Anderson has been in the organization longer and that Mike Matheny has talked about how much Anderson has improved his game calling and communication with pitchers is the deciding factor.

Infielders (6):

  • Lance Berkman
  • Tyler Greene
  • Rafael Furcal
  • David Freese
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Alex Cora

Berkman, Furcal, and Freese are easy choices. I think Tyler Greene is probably going to win the regular second base job, although I would expect others to get playing time there during the season. Descalso proved his value as a defender and solid utility/bench player last year and should again fill that role. I think Cora will get the open spot on the 40-man roster and will serve as a veteran presence, bat off the bench, and utility player.

Outfielders (5):

  • Matt Holliday
  • Jon Jay
  • Carlos Beltran
  • Skip Schumaker
  • Shane Robinson

The first four are easy selections. I listed Schumaker here as I think he may end up playing more outfield than infield this year and early in the season will likely be the first outfield bat off the bench as I’m expecting Allen Craig to start the year on the disabled list. I’m going with Shane Robinson over Adron Chambers because he’s a solid defender, can play all three outfield spots, and is a right handed batter which the bench would be lacking without him. I like the potential of Rule 5 pick Erik Komatsu, but making the jump straight from AA after an injury-plagued year will be tough and I don’t see them having room for him on the 25-man roster all season.

Disabled List (1):

  • Allen Craig

See above; He likely will play in extended Spring Training games and have a rehab assignment returning to the team by the end of April. If he is healthy for Opening Day, I would have him replacing Shane Robinson.

Spring Training begins

Spring is in the air…at least in Florida and Arizona. As the Spring Training camps opened last weekend, baseball excitement is stirring and early predictions/projections are being discussed. Here’s my take on some NL Central projections:

  1. I agree with MLB Network’s Mitch Williams that if Ryan Braun’s 50 game suspension is upheld, the Brewers season is essentially done. Without him and Prince Fielder, how will the Brewers score enough runs to win? Those two drove in 32% of the Brewers runs last season.
  2. I’m not sure why so many people are talking about how well the Reds re-tooled this offseason. From what I can see, their major changes are rookies taking over at catcher and shortstop, Ryan Ludwick in left, Ryan Madson replacing Francisco Cordero as the closer and Mat Latos added to the rotation. Latos is being billed as the ace, but he’s coming off three solid years in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park and entering the home run haven Great American Small Park.
  3. The Cubs, Pirates, and Astros are rebuilding. I agree.

The Cardinals should certainly be the preseason favorites to win the division. Despite the big name departures of Tony La Russa, Dave Duncan, and Albert Pujols, the team may well win more regular season games in 2012 than it did in 2011.

  • Carlos Beltran should be a great addition to the lineup as will full seasons for David Freese, Allen Craig, and Rafael Furcal.
  • Adam Wainwright’s return to the rotation should, at a very minimum, provide the same production his replacements did last season, but more likely will improve the rotation.
  • The bullpen which returns mostly intact from the end of last season should be stronger over a full season than the 2011 bullpen which struggled for much of the first half before a trade deadline overhaul.

A lot can happen between now and Opening Day, but it looks like this should be the start of another promising Cardinals season!

Inaugural Post

I’m a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. With the recent relative success of the Milwaukee Brewers, I decided to start this blog as a place to post my thoughts, feelings, interactions, and ideas regarding Major League Baseball, and specifically, my situation being a Redbird fan in enemy land.

People often assume that just because you live somewhere, you need to be a fan of the local sports teams. I’m not a Brewers fan. I’m not a Packers fan. I don’t care about the Bucks (or the NBA for that matter). I’m indifferent about the Badgers. I often encounter people who ask me where I’m from when they learn I’m a Cardinals fan, because I couldn’t possibly be from Wisconsin.

I often interact with Brewers fans, as many of my friends and co-workers are, and I’ve had mixed experiences. There are fans that have been fans for several years that understand where the Brewers have come from to be competitive and there are fans of recent vintage, that seem to think the Brewers are better than they actually are.

In contrast, as a Cardinal fan, I’ve grown up following a successful team that expects to be and usually is competitive every year. I’ve been watching Cardinal baseball be led by one of the all-time great managers, Tony La Russa, for as long as I’ve been a fan. I’ve watched the greatest player of this generation, Albert Pujols, throughout his entire 11 year career. I’ve seen two World Champion teams come together at the right time and achieve their ultimate goal.

As awesome as it’s been to watch the Cardinals succeed, it sometimes is overshadowed by the fact that their success is not enjoyed by many others around me. This was especially true with the 2011 NLCS and the Cardinals eliminating the Brewers from the playoffs. That couldn’t have been a better finish for me as I had some people attempting to rub the Brewers regular season success in my face, and while I didn’t retaliate, the postseason proved that the Cardinals were the superior team.

This coming season looks to be a good one. The Cardinals have had major changes this offseason with the retirement of La Russa and departure of Pujols via free agency, but still look to have a solid club and be the front runners in the NL Central. The Brewers will have a tough time repeating their 2011 success without Prince Fielder and with the pending suspension of Ryan Braun, and the Reds have not done much to improve (despite several analysts referring to them having retooled). The Pirates, Cubs, and Astros are likely second-class teams in the division.

Overall, I look forward to sharing my opinions and enjoying the 2012 MLB season!

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