Cardinals Opening Day Preview

Now that the wait is over and the cover on the 2013 season for the St. Louis Cardinals is being thrown off, let me throw out some things about the team.  I am going to put this out there and if you want to take it, great and if not, go ahead and throw it right back.  

 
First, an opening rant about the whining crowd.

 
I am tired of dealing with people who scream “Don’t give these overpaid players too much credit”, as if I were standing at their doors worshiping their lives and the way they do it all.  Let me get something straight.  Every baseball player is overpaid in the logical scheme of life.  Every old fart thinks they get paid too much to play a game but forget that in the first place OWNERS and AGENTS started this game of greed.  If you are told you can make millions over lesser amounts of money, you WILL take it.  Please don’t tell me you are any different.  If you think they are all overpaid, DON’T watch the games.  Don’t watch and continue to watch the crooked game of college sports where kids drive BMW’s and cheat on their tests so they can keep playing their GOD given talents.  I am telling you its a waste of time to whine about the salaries of athletes.  In any sport, they make too much money for their own good but why not tip the cap instead of grow angry.  They made it and are paid for their own services.  They don’t have to work in a warehouse and push the dollar.  They had a talent and didn’t waste it, and when the owners and agents opened the door to being millionaires they took it with ease.  Why not?  Complain about Wainwright’s deal all you want but remember 20 other arms in baseball make that much money.  Tony Romo just got 6 years to play catch with receivers.  Offensive lineman get paid millions to block.   Chris Carpenter gets paid 12 million to be a cheerleader from his house in 2013.  Furcal is a glorified surgery patient for 7 million.  Complain about it all and you will be exhausted within 5 minutes.  I don’t waste my time with it.  I just enjoy the game.  There is plenty of injustice in the world and athletes making millions isn’t a big worry.  Focus on the money hungry politicians sucking from the biggest tit in the world to do nothing for 4 years and you have borderline criminals.  Look everywhere around you and there is a man or woman making a lot of money to do a job with the occasional exception(police, firefighter, doctor, etc.).  I love the game of baseball and don’t dwell on the salaries because that is out of my control and doesn’t even fall on the players for blame.  Anyone who complains about it is the biggest hypocrite of all time and will still watch the games and bleed at the result.   There are things you can’t control in life and things you can and this is where I just let the world run its course and I get my enjoyment out of a game that hasn’t changed that much to me.  The way it is played is the same and the goal is still the same.  If people want to complain about millions, leave the Cards alone.  They have consistently competed without raising their payroll too much and avoided the retarded splashes that other teams are guilty of. I can tell you I am proud of MLB for dialing down on cheaters.  They will be testing blood this season and that is a huge step in the direction staying clean. If the thought of baseball players making too much money is so bad, then once again, stop watching.  You know what?  You won’t.  It’s too hard to look away.  Trust me, I know.
 
On with the action.  10 Things About This Team to Look for As Opening Day Lands.
1.)Walking Wounded.   Before a pitch is thrown, the Cards will be without Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal for the long term and David Freese and Jason Motte for the short to slightly longer term.  This team has taken fire.  Carlos Beltran has a broken toe.  Matt Holliday’s back is already barking.  Jaime Garcia may wake up in a bad mood in SF this weekend and blow up.  Lance Lynn is lifeguard ready in his weight but may still be susceptible to long balls.  Shelby Miller is being thrown(rightfully) to the wolves.  Jon Jay has to learn how to hit away from home and avoid the outfield wall.  This team’s ER is full.  Hopefully, the pain can stop for at least a series.
2.)Let’s be Clear.  While listening to 101.1 Fast Lane today, a question was raised.  Who is the Cards MVP this year?  The answer is easy.  Yadi Molina.   He is integral to a young pitching staff, a clutch hitter and the best catcher in baseball.  He extremely limits or takes away entirely the running game from the other team and is one of the smartest hitter in the game.  When I think of true value, I think of the one player this team couldn’t afford to lose.  Allen Craig isn’t the guy.  He may be your offensive player of the year but that’s not the same.  MVP is your heart and soul.  The heart line.  Molina is that vessel.  He is important to the offense and vital to the defense.  As Randy Karraker pointed out, take Craig away and you insert Matt Adams. Take Yadi out and you are in trouble.  
3.)Matt Holliday is a consistent solid offensive producer and an average outfielder.  He isn’t Chris Duncan but he isn’t Jon Jay.  He makes the plays, throws and does his part in left field but could be confused with a white Ron Gant at times.  However, he is the hardest worker on the field and plays the game like a football player.  He’s tougher than most think.  Marco Scutaro wasn’t the first player to be run over at second by Holliday.  He is built like a linebacker, swings like a lumberjack and plays the game old school.  At 17 million, compared to Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, he is an above average dollars to performance ratio style of player.  However, I am still waiting on him to have that monstrous season.  When will he crank 35 HR, drive in 115 and hit .325 and steal 15-20?  He put together some big years in Colorado and hit well away from Denver.  Will he have one of those seasons or continue to bang out 25-100-.300 brand seasons? Just wondering.  An explosive Holliday makes this team extremely deadly.
 
4.)If I get 125 games from Carlos Beltran, I consider his contract and time here a success.  If he is at least 85 percent healthy, he will produce.  Keeping him on the field is a premium.  If not…
 
5.)The Oscar Taveras Watch gets rolling.  The kid isn’t just a Colby Rasmus like talent.  People from around the league and around this team think this kid is going to blast NL pitching and be a star for a long time.  I am joining this bus.  He has a unique talent and a hit it anywhere around the plate ability that reminds me of Vlad Guerrero.  He doesn’t strike out a lot and will grow in the field.  He will make the departure of Beltran easier to handle if Carlos performs decently in 2013.  The team is only getting younger and Oscar leads that pack.
 
6.)Jason Motte is talking about elbow surgery and I am a little worried.  All that torque and pressure he puts on his arm during his stride and follow through is showing now.  This always happens after the player signs an extension!  Surgery isn’t a real option yet but I am hearing whispers that I don’t fucking like.  At all.  Motte was a huge part of our World Series run in 2011 and our near WS appearance in 2012.  If he is down for a long time, I REALLY think the Cards need to insert Trevor Rosenthal into the closer role and return Mitchell Boggs to the 8th inning.  This is not a smack to Boggs.  He is a good setup man and my gut feeling tells me he will falter in a closing role.  Just a thought.  I am worried about Motte’s elbow.  Cards reports aren’t saying much which means he could be scheduling a stay at Barnes sooner than we think.  I hope I am wrong.
 
7.)The Cards are golden at first base.  Allen Craig is primed for a breakout MVP caliber season and Adams is the perfect lefthanded big bat foil for when Craig goes to right or takes a trip to the DL.  Sooner or later Craig’s 60 year old legs will speak up and knock him down.  Adams will be ready or Matt Carpenter slides from his 2B/3B platoon into the other corner.  Lots of options here.  Fuck you Pujols!  Sorry, that just slipped.
 
8.)The Bullpen is the talk of the sports writing house but I am not as worried.  Sure, the loss of Motte hurts the group but when you can slide in guys like Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, the sting lessens.  Until we know the extent of Motte’s injury and how long he will be out, the need to panic is less.  Randy Choate and Scrabble hold down the left side.  Boggs, Edward Mujica, Rosenthal, Kelly, and Fernando Salas(help me!) round out the group.  As long as the rotation doesn’t make this group bend over backwards in April and May, the long term strength of the relief corps will be fine.  But then again…
 
9.)The main reason local scribes worry about the bullpen is the youth of the rotation.   Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are horses to a certain extent, but what about Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller?   That is where the intrigue lies.  Will those three have a Kyle McClellan like quick start and fade fast and hard after hitting an innings wall or can they make it through 6 months?  That is the question.  There is no real way to tell here but let’s just say the rotation blows a gasket and the bullpen bends over backward to fix it and breaks leading to mass panic.  You have to think worst case scenario with the Cards in order to survive a whole season.  Trust me there.  Want to feel better?  Check out the opening day lineup.  
Jay, Carpenter, Holliday, Craig, Beltran, Molina, Descalso, Kozma, Waino.   
Sure it gets weaker toward the end but those little middle infielders may surprise you.  When Freese returns it gets a lot stronger.  
 
10.)Mike Matheny had a very strong freshman season.  He is a true tough guy and a leader.   Players look up to him, trust him and listen to him.   He is young only in manager years because of his years as a player and assistant to Mo.  He answers questions bluntly and doesn’t mess around.  He is the opposite of La Russa with some of the same idiosyncrasies.  I will take it.  His sophomore season will only be a bigger test due to the injuries but since 2012 was no picnic I am sure he will roll with the punches and keep moving forward.  
 
Bottom Line-I like this team and think they can easily hang with the Reds.   Look, if Aromis Chapman blows up and doesn’t work as a starter and they don’t make the change fast enough, the Reds will have to hit their way to another NL Central title and I think the Cards are deeper in the pitching department and can hang with them offensively.  The NL Central is essentially a two team race unless the Pirates and Brewers surprise everyone.  The Cards can easily challenge for a wild card spot but I think they are NL Central Division contenders.   If Mo makes a trade or two to balance the injuries and the rotation doesn’t suck it up, The Cards can go a long way in 2013.  Look at what happened in last fall when we all thought they were toast.  This team never fails to compete and remember the season is a long epic endurance testing 162 game journey.  Run, don’t sprint to conclusions my friends.  
 
The best part of sports is…you never know what may happen.  It’s the rock of the appeal of this madness.  We watch and hope at Halloween we are celebrating another World Championship or at least glad to be one of the final two teams.  That is the gamble we all play and the reward we seek.  A chance at winning it all.  
 
I won’t chant 12 in 13 just yet but I like our chances against the rest of the league. I don’t see one team that just wins it all in this league easily, even on paper.  It’s open and that is what makes this game great.  The kid kind of mellowed me last year with his presence and my upside down flipped world, but I am still a manic-obsessive Cards nut and always will be.  This team now owns me until November.  The marriage is complete.  Ring is on the finger.  Medicine is in reach.  Whiskey in the freezer.  Hands ready to fire.  
 
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s fucking showtime!  The St. Louis Cardinals are back!!!!
 
Settle in and prepare yourselves and have a good night,
 
Buffa

 

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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