What the world was like when Wainwright and Molina first teamed up

On Sept. 23, 2005, the world was a different place. George W. Bush was president, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers were cellar dwellers, and, perhaps most baffling of all, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina had never thrown to each other in a Major League Baseball game.

That would change that night, however, as Wainwright made his second career appearance. His first had come in a game where Molina had already been pulled. In the bottom of the 7th, with the Brewers leading the Cardinals 9-6 at Miller Park, Wainwright came in and put down the Brewers 1-2-3: Chad Moeller by flyball, Jeff Cirillo by pop-out, and Brady Clark with a flyball to center.

And Wainwright has seemingly been pitching to Yadier Molina ever since. They’ve had over 300 starts as a battery since Wainwright became a full-time starter in 2007. They’ll start again tonight in the Wild Card Game against the Dodgers. They’ll likely continue to serve as a battery next year, and presumably for however long the two of them stay with the Cardinals.

So how else was the world different back when Wainwright first threw to Molina? Here’s a sampling:

  • That weekend (Sept. 23-25), the number one movie would be Flightplan starring Jodie Foster.
  • The top song was “Gold Digger” by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx.
  • The Washington Nationals were in their first season since moving from Montreal.
  • Los Angeles’ pitcher tonight, Max Scherzer, was playing for the University of Missouri.
  • The Dodgers’ manager, Dave Roberts, was still an active ballplayer.
  • The City of Chicago had not seen a World Series title since 1917 (the White Sox would win it a month later).
  • Daniel Craig had not yet debuted as James Bond.
  • Tobey Maguire was still Spider-Man.
  • The Nintendo Wii was still a year away from release.
  • John Roberts was not yet confirmed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • Most of the child cast of Stranger Things were not even in grade school yet. One of them, Priah Ferguson (who plays Lucas’ little sister Erica), hadn’t even been born.
  • Saturday Night Live had yet to have a broadcast in High Definition. The Colbert Report was just under a month from debuting. The West Wing, Alias, Malcom in the Middle, and That ’70s Show were all still on the air.

And finally…

  • Every other member of the Cardinals’ Wild Card roster had not played a game of professional baseball. And on the Dodgers only Albert Pujols had. And on Sept. 23, 2005 he was… at first base for the Cardinals as Wainwright threw to Molina!

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): Will the Cardinals finally miss the playoffs?

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Cardinals’ entry.

In 2010, the St. Louis Cardinals went 86-76, and missed the playoffs.

They have made it every year since then. They are now the playoff constant that the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees once were. And yet, in the tough NL Central, it’s entirely possible that this season may see them finally miss the postseason for the first time since that 2010 team.

It’s not that the Cardinals will be bad, so much as that they are in the NL Central, with the Cubs and the Pirates. They also are, slowly, getting older. Matt Holliday is 36. Adam Wainwright is 34. Yadier Molina is 33 and those catching legs can’t be in the best shape. The Cubs and Pirates are younger, the Brewers are on their way up (although it’s doubtful they will be a threat this season). The window maybe, just maybe, could be closing.

On the other hand, these are the Cardinals. They excel at beating expectations. The “Devil Magic” may never stop.

Or will it?

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): So, are the Cardinals the “Best Fans in Baseball”?

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here.Today, we look at the evidence for and against the claim that St. Louis is home of the “Best Fans in Baseball”.

It is often said that St. Louis is the home of the “Best Fans in Baseball”. But how true is that claim? Let’s look at the evidence for and against such a claim:

FOR:

  • A Wall Street Journal article on what cities get the best TV ratings for each sport (and not just for their home teams, but for nationally televised games in general) had St. Louis as the top location for baseball.
  • The Cardinals were the top-rated (as far as percentage) team in baseball locally/regionally last season.
  • Former Commissioner Bud Selig said so, and no matter what you say about Selig, it can’t be argued that he probably had been to every stadium in the league, probably several times.
  • The Cardinals were second in attendance last season, behind only the Dodgers, who have a larger stadium and a much larger fanbase numerically. They have averaged over 40,000 fans every year except once since 2005 and been in the top four in NL attendance every year except once since 1996.
  • Anecdotal evidence online says that the team leads the league in number of fans who keep score, to the point where the old Busch Stadium apparently showed score-keeping marks for batters so that people who had missed something could fill it in (I’m not 100% sure about this, but I remember reading it somewhere).
  • The Cardinals haven’t been last in the league in attendance since 1916.
  • And, yes, they do show an appreciation for good baseball, even, at times, when it’s an opponent doing it.
  • They count Ellie Kemper and Jon Hamm as members, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is awesome. Not really relevant to this discussion, just sort of throwing it out there.

Against:

  • St. Louis, despite it’s passion for the Cardinals, obviously wasn’t baseball-crazy enough to keep the Browns from moving back in the 1950s. Although, to be fair, the Browns almost perpetually were crummy.
  • The racist, homophobic and generally disgusting people showcased on the “BestFansStLouis”, which I refuse to link to for consideration of human dignity. However, it should be noted that every sports team has plenty of fans who are horrible bigoted a-holes, it’s just that they don’t have Twitter accounts devoted to them.
  • It was Tywin Lannister of Game of Thrones fame that said: “Any man who must say ‘I am King’ is no true king.” With that in mind, one must wonder if any Cardinals fan who calls the Cardinal faithful the “Best Fans in Baseball'” is truly worthy of being called the Best Fans In Baseball.
  • Have overlooked the flaws of many of the team’s great players and managers, such as steroid use, drinking, etc. etc. Although, again, this is true for every single team’s fanbase.
  • It is nearly impossible to truly figure out who the best fans in anything are, since there are so many things to consider and ultimately it is a vague intangible title that can change based on definition, a team’s fortunes, and other factors.

So, the verdict is… Cardinals fans are likely, but not definitely, the Best Fans in Baseball. But as the last “against” proves… it really doesn’t matter.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW (PART 10): Predictions for the Season, without any further explanations (except one)

It’s time. Who will be the division winners? Who will win the World Series? Time to see my predictions… without further explanation (except for one).

 

AL East: Boston Red Sox

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

AL West: Texas Rangers

AL Wild Cards: Tampa Rays, Oakland Athletics

AL Champion: Detroit Tigers

NL East: Washington Nationals

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

NL West: LA Dodgers

NL Wild Cards: Reds and Giants

NL Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

 

And finally….
World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals

 

So why do I think the Cardinals are going to win it all this year? Well, it’s partly my gut, but there is also plenty of good logic behind it. While they have lost Carlos Beltran, the fact remains that their young players- and they have some good ones- will be one more year experienced. And, what’s more, many of those young players are pitchers (such as 2013’s postseason hero Michael Wacha and fire-balling reliever Trevor Rosenthal), and as always pitching is the way to October success. Mix that with their experienced players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday, and you have a team that should be one of the favorites to win the World Series in 2014.

Bizarre Baseball Culture: Ozzie Smith doesn’t need a plot, he just needs GRIT and TONY THE TIGER

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Today in Bizarre Baseball Culture, we are looking at Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger in “The Kid That Could”.

Yes, Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger. And I don’t mean Tiger as in “Detroit Tigers”. I mean… THIS:

OzzieTonyCoverYes, this is an actual thing. There was an actual comic book published by DC in 1992 in which Ozzie Smith and Tony the Tiger teamed up. Have your attention yet? Go below the jump for more:

Continue reading

Random Thing: Captain Marvel meets the 1944 Cardinals

Miss Bizarre Baseball Culture? Don’t worry, it’ll be back soon, but to hold you over, here’s a bit from Captain Marvel Adventures #36, from June 1944, in which Billy Batson (who transforms into Captain Marvel with one cry of SHAZAM!) meets some of movers-and-shakers at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, including Dizzy Dean (who was an announcer for the Browns at the time) and HOF Cardinals manager Billy Southworth.

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 2.36.21 PMIt’s not quite teaching baseball to Martians, but maybe it’ll hold some of you over.

Humor: The Laws of Game 7s

Tonight is one of the greatest events in any sport: a Game 7. While I messed up and assumed that Adam Wainwright was starting tonight, it does not change the fact that it’s a Game 7. Win or lose, do-or-die, victory means the World Series, defeat means an early tee-time or a day out hunting something other than hanging curveballs.

So, with all of that in mind, it’s time to go over the LAWS OF GAME 7.
(Note: This is humor, and not all of them are meant to be serious.)

Rule One: All Hands on Deck

This is a rule for the managers. During Game 7, all hands are on deck. And I do mean all. Everyone needs to be ready to pitch: starters, relievers, outfielders who were stud pitchers back in High School… remember, there is no tomorrow if you lose. If you have to teach your backup catcher a knuckleball on short notice in the 24th inning, you do it.

Rule Two: Nothing else is on television during a Game 7.

There’s a debate on tonight. The Bears and Lions are playing tonight. Neither will be seen on my television, unless there is a rain delay. Apologies to the President of the United States and the esteemed ex-governor of Massachusetts.

By the way, can you imagine if tonight was an ALCS game between the White Sox and whatever Mitt Romney’s favorite team is (I’m presuming either the Tigers or Red Sox)?

Presumably it would mean stuff like this:

“Mister President, I have a question on China, and, by the way, it’s tied at two in the fifth…”

Rule Three: Everything that has ever happened in a Game 7 is relevant.

Oh, sure, it may seem like past Game 7s are unimportant to this current situation, but they are not. Carlos Beltran, for example, struck out to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, when he was with the Mets. Matt Holliday may end up missing tonight’s game with an injury- he also missed Game 7 of last year’s World Series with an injury. Allen Craig hit a home run in last year’s World Series Game 7. The Giants have never won a best-of-7-series Game 7, falling in seven games to the Angels in 2002’s World Series, the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS, the Yankees in 1962 and the Senators in 1924! The ghosts of Octobers past will be remembered!

Rule Four: Rain doesn’t matter.

It could rain tonight. But, guess what, the World Series is starting Wednesday, and the Tigers need to know where to fly to. Therefore, as Jayson Stark says:

Rule Five: There are no rules.

And anything can happen. That’s the beauty of Game 7.

Which team could “take” the Tigers? It could depend on how the LCS ends.

Well, thanks to Barry Zito’s vintage performance last night, the Giants have forced the Cardinals back to San Francisco, where St. Louis and Chris Carpenter will have to beat Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, or, failing that, will have to hope that they and Adam Wainwright can outdo Matt Cain in a climactic Game 7. In other words, it’s a whole new series that could go either way.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Tigers, having already swept away the complacent Yankees, are going to stay sharp by scrimmaging their Instructional League team. The Instructional Leagues are semi-formal affairs to get low-level minor leaguers- generally those who played in the short-season leagues- some more experience. It’s a win-win: the Tigers will be able to remain sharp, and the minor leaguers will be able to test themselves against, well, some of the best players on the planet.

So, assuming nobody gets hurt, the Tigers will still be relatively fresh against whoever the National League sends out against them. So, who would have a better shot against Detroit?

I’m not sure, but I feel like it would be the Cardinals. Well, unless if they have to win in seven games, in which case I’d probably go with the Giants. Well, maybe.

Here’s what I mean:
Game 1 of the World Series will be Wednesday, weather permitting. The Tigers will be starting Justin Verlander, probably followed by Scherzer, Fister and then Anibal Sanchez. A formidable group for any team.

If the Cardinals win Game 6 on Sunday, their rotation would likely have Adam Wainwright leading off, followed by Kyle Lohse (or maybe Lance Lynn)  on Thursday and then Chris Carpenter for Game 3 on Saturday. Given the fact the Cardinals have a better bullpen than the Tigers seem to have (so, is Coke officially the closer now?), this would give them a decided series advantage if the Tigers’ starters were to stumble.  But if they have to go 7, they will be stuck with sending Lohse/Lynn in the first two games with their two aces having to be held back for games 3 and 4. Sure, they will still have the bullpen and their playoff-veteran defending-championship lineup, but going against Verlander and Scherzer with your third and fourth starters seems like a recipe for going down 0-2.

By contrast, the Giants, although they will, by necessity, be unable to use Cain and Vogelsong in games 1 and 2 if they advance, will still have some good pitchers who can fill the shoes. Barry Zito, for example, still can “have it” like he did last night, and he is a veteran. Few would argue about him starting a Game 1. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum both are covered with question marks, but I’d probably rather pick between those two guys than possibly having to send out Lance Lynn against Miguel Cabrera and friends, especially after the number that the Giants offense did against him last night (with significant aid of an errant throw off second base by Lynn).

Finally, although it was admittedly an extremely small sample size, various Giants were able to get to Justin Verlander during this year’s All-Star Game. Again, extremely small sample size (and Verlander admitted later he wasn’t pitching it like he would a regular season or playoff game), but you do have to wonder if that might give the Giants something of a psychological edge.

Or maybe Verlander and the other Tigers pitchers will just embarrass whatever team comes against them, just as they did their 1966 Orioles vs. 1966 Dodgers impression on the Yankees. Actually, that might be the most likely outcome, isn’t it?

How the series look right now

It is, as I have noted before, almost impossible to predict October. Who would have thought, for example, that Derek Jeter would get hurt, that Robinson Cano would enter a record-breaking slump, or that the Reds would lose three straight at home to the Giants to end their season.

However, already we are getting some indication of how the rest of the two series might go.

ALCS: The Yankees are in big trouble. Very, very, big trouble. They can’t hit to save their lives, the one guy they had who was hitting (Jeter) is down for the count, they lost the first two games of the series at home. No team has ever come back from an 0-2 deficit in the Best-of-7 LCS when those two losses came at home. And, what’s more, there odds of winning game 3 must be considered perilously low, as they will be facing Justin Verlander. Perhaps they would have a good chance in Game 3 had they been able to run out C.C. Sabathia against him, but instead they will be sending out Phil Hughes. Hughes is hardly a scrub, but no sane man would say they’d want him on the mound instead of Verlander, especially in Comerica Park, which favors the pitcher.

With that in mind, one would probably want to say that the Tigers are in the driver’s seat. However, that would probably be overestimating things. You see, although it looks like the Tigers have this series in the bag, that isn’t necessarily true. If Verlander has a bad day (or Hughes has an unusually great day), they could very well lose tomorrow’s Game 3. They would then be facing C.C. Sabathia. Admittedly, the Tigers would be sending out Max Scherzer, who, while no Sabathia, would definitely have good odds of being able to meet and defeat the Yankees than Phil Hughes is to do the same against Verlander and the Tigers.

Even if the Yankees were to somehow win the next two games though, I would have to say the advantage still would preside with the Tigers. The reason, much like the reason they should be considered heavily favored tomorrow, lies with Verlander. Verlander would be pitching any Game 7… and Sabathia wouldn’t (at least, not on normal rest).

Advantage: Tigers

NLCS: This series has only gone one game, and given how nuts last night’s game was, as well as the many twists and turns the NLDSes (NLDSii?) were, it may seem folly to predict what may still lie in store. One thing is for certain though: the Giants would be greatly helped if they win tonight. As I said earlier, losing the first two games at home in a LCS series is almost a death sentence, although admittedly the Giants were able to survive a similar situation in the NLDS. The result tonight is extremely up in the air: on paper, one would think having Ryan Vogelsong on the mound would put one in a better position than Chris Carpenter, who although the better pitcher only had limited playing time this year due to injury (it is a bit of a miracle that he is playing at all right now).  Carpenter, though, has done very well in the postseason so far, throwing 5.2 in his NLDS start without giving up a earned-run. Still,

Past tonight and Game 3 (when Matt Cain will presumably start), though, the Giants are facing a somewhat chaotic pitching situation. Madison Bumgarner has been dreadful this October so far, Barry Zito struggled greatly in his NLDS start, and Tim Lincecum was so dreadful during the later parts of this season (after seemingly recovering from first-half struggles) that he’s been used from the bullpen in the postseason. Although, admittedly, Lincecum has done very well out of the bullpen, so maybe he deserves another shot at starting this year. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a relatively stable starting pitching staff, and they have Carlos Beltran and David Freese, players who have always (and are) stepped up in October.

So, come to think of it, maybe it’s more clear that I thought that it’s ADVANTAGE: CARDINALS.