Yogi Berra: Truly one of a kind

While he was a true character, Yogi Berra was also a great ballplayer.

On May 12th, in 1925, Yogi Berra was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Launched down into the world flat in the roaring 20’s and full of life, Berra made the most out of it. He played 19 years in the Major Leagues. He served his country in the Navy(something that may have kept him from being a Cardinal). He created the most unforgettable one liners that baseball figures would never forget. He did all of this with a smile and didn’t stop until he decided the world had enough. On Tuesday, at the tender old age of 90 years, Berra passed away.

One of the worst things in life is a waste of talent. We see all over the place. Berra did the opposite. He picked up his talent, his name and used it well. He was signed by the New York Yankees in 1943 and made his debut at the age of 21 a year later. Berra hit a home run and collected two hits on that fall day near the end of the season. It was the start of a career that few would forget but many in this modern world don’t know enough about. Berra played 19 seasons, 18 of them and all but 4 games in a Yankees uniform. Not bad for a guy who proclaimed baseball to be 90 percent mental and the other half physical.

Berra played in 18 All Star games and won 3 MVP awards. He averaged 27 home runs, 26 stolen bases and an .830 OPS over his career, according to Baseball Reference. Berra won 10 World Series titles with the Yankees, but people remember him more for saying “it ain’t over til it’s over” or “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” To many, he is the character instead of the great baseball player, but he was the latter in full.

He never shrunk from the massive spotlight that New York can shine on players and watch them melt. Berra was the Big Apple’s match for nearly two decades and in his last season with the Yankees, hit .293 and slugged .493 at the age of 38. He didn’t play too long. When it was time he stepped down but he did so with these unique labels at the end of his run.

Nobody has won more World Series titles than Berra. No catcher has won more MVP awards. He played with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, never got their spotlight but made his mark. No catcher made more All Star Games than Berra’s 18. If you include his time as a player, coach and manager, he appeared in 21 different World Series matchups.

Most teenagers know him as the cool guy in the barber shop in the Aflac commercial. You know, where the duck walks into the shop and talks about the insurance and Berra goes, “If you get hurt and miss work, it won’t hurt to miss work.”

He also loved life, his family and baseball. He once said that love is the greatest thing in life, but baseball is pretty good too. Unlike many of his famous quotes, which he claimed to never ever say, that quote and baseball and life rung more true than any of them.

Part of being a true baseball fan is remembering its heroes, both large and small. Unlike most of today’s giants of the game, Berra was 5 foot 7 inches tall and weighed 185 pounds. He didn’t need to stand taller than most when his game already did. He threw out baserunners, hit more bad balls than anybody and only struck out 414 times in 7,555 at bats.

Yogi Berra lived a full life, on and off the field. Every kid, teenager and adult living today should know who Yogi is because of his unique name and sense of humor, but please know that he was one of the best to ever play his position and he did it in the biggest city.

Everybody in life wishes to be special or unique. Rest in peace, Yogi. You were truly one of a kind.

2015 Cardinals are the most resilient team you’ve ever seen

The 2015 Cardinals are the league’s tough guys.

imageThere they were. Standing over their fallen teammate in the outfield. Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter and Peter Bourjos looked like a ton of bricks just fell on their shoulders. Stephen Piscotty was down and out, barely moving after a collision with Bourjos in the 7th inning of Monday’s hotly contested series opener. After being carted off the field on a stretcher and giving the proverbial “I’m okay” wave, Piscotty’s absence hung over a team that came into the game with a MLB best 98 wins but seemed bruised and removed from competition for the moment. An hour later, they had a piercing 3-0 win that trimmed the magic number to 2. The Cardinals are officially the toughest team in baseball. They take hits and seem to move faster and more efficiently than before.

There was Mark Reynolds pumping his fist after a two run home run that silenced PNC Park even more than the Piscotty collision did and even elicited some boos. His blast emptied the lower levels of the ballpark and stamped a expiration date on the chances of the Bucs catching the Cardinals. Monday night showed baseball fans why the game can be so frustrating and uplifting at the same time.

It wasn’t pretty. The Cardinals tried to lose the game multiple times. They gave the Pirates ten walks, free passes to score. The Pirates loaded the bases four times and couldn’t score. This was the ugliest shutout in recent memory. Lance Lynn, the up and down rotation cheddar dispenser, gritted his teeth for five stout pressurized innings. He escaped jams with pop ups, strikeouts and amazing defense that included a Jason Heyward assist in the second inning. Heyward’s cannon shot from center field to nab the Pirates risky attempt at an early lead seemed to swing things back in the Cardinals direction. It’s just the following events didn’t play out that way.

Pirates starter J.A. Happ(owner of one of the best earned runs averages in baseball since coming over from Seattle) shut the Cards down for six innings. A maddening stretch that totaled 13 innings of shutout baseball over two starts from Happ on the Cards. When he left, it felt like Sandy Koufax was taking a holiday. Okay, maybe not, but the man was dealing.

The Pirates bullpen, one of two teams with a better ERA than the Cards’ backend arms, denied the Cards access for two more innings before the 9th inning. Mark Melancon, owner of 50 saves and a build that reminds me of Ken from Street Fighter, took the mound and quickly dispatched Greg Garcia on a strikeout. His cutter, which he picked up from Mariano Riveria in New York, was filthy and was causing roadblocks in the Cards lineup all season. He was the slightly less hopeless divisional rival behind Aroldis Chapman. Matt Carpenter poked a single to right center. Jon Jay followed with a seeing eye single that caused Gregory Polanco to fumble it and Andrew McCutchen to also mishandle it, allowing Carpenter to score from first base. Reynolds followed with the smoker and it was time for Rosenthal.

Following back to back outings of serving up heartbreaking losses, Rosenthal immediately lit fires around the hearts of Cardinal Nation in the 9th inning. He walked Cutch and then Starlin Marte got a single. Neil Walker came up and seemed to take a 20 minute at bat, which nearly ended with a groundout but Walker pleaded with the umps that he fouled it off his foot. Too bad he faked it by hobbling on the wrong foot. Rosenthal blew him away with a 98 mph heater tailing away to send him walking back to the dugout. Francisco Cervelli lined out to Heyward and then it was Aramis Rameriz, the famous Cardinal killer nicknamed the Sith Lord by my good friend Daniel Shoptaw. Rameriz lined out. It was over.

The Cardinals crossed Heartbreak Ridge again with a narrow victory that looked more like 3 to 2.5 plus blood, sweat and tears rather than a 3-0 shutout. Rosenthal picked up his 48th save, which gives him the single season record for a Cardinal. He did so in classic Jason Isringhausen fashion, putting runners on and playing with St. Louis fans blood pressures and nerve endings. Would we have it any other way? Don’t answer that.

With a win Tuesday, the Cardinals would collect win #100 and clinch the National League Central division. It’s that close, ladies and gentlemen. The worries of a long hard 162 season coming down to one last win. The mark seems more special this year due to the numerous injuries and setbacks.

The Cardinals have been dealing with loss since last October, when the team lost young phenom Oscar Taveras in a brutal drunk driving related car accident. The death rocked Taveras’ best friend, Carlos Martinez and the clubhouse. In March, Tommy Pham injured his quad in spring training. Jaime Garcia went down in March also with a leg injury, not returning until May 21st. In April, Adam Wainwright and Jordan Walden went down. In May, Matt Adams tore his quad. In June, Matt Holliday tore his quad. Jon Jay was injured for the majority of the season. Reliever Matt Belisle missed 2.5 months. Randal Grichuk injured his elbow in August. Now Piscotty goes down. The Cardinals just keep winning, making this 2015 group a truly special band of brothers.

Word on Piscotty is all tests for concussion and other head related injuries came back negative, meaning the kid will be sore today but otherwise escaped a more drastic setback. Finally, a bit of luck for the Birds.

Tonight, it’s Michael Wacha and Charlie Morton, a matchup heavily favoring the Cardinals, which is why you should expect a 1-1 game in the 9th inning. With this team, anything is possible. They take “You Never Know” to a whole new level.

As Joe Buck said in 2011, “What a team. What a ride.” I have a feeling this October will be even more memorable. Stay tuned for more roller coaster theatrics.

What Adam Wainwright can offer to Cardinals in return

Adam Wainwright is back. What needs to happen in order for him to make the postseason roster?

UPI / Bill Greenblatt
UPI / Bill Greenblatt

I remember where I was when Adam Wainwright got hurt in Milwaukee in April. I was buying a couch and driving a Home Depot truck around Little Rock and afterwards I went to dinner. Throughout the game that the Cardinals eventually won, all I could think about was, how will this team win 80 games without their ace? With the news today that Wainwright has fully recovered from the ruptured Achilles heel and will be active for tomorrow’s game in Pittsburgh, it makes me think about this amazing 2015 Cardinals team. They have 99 wins with five games to go on the season. How did this happen? Sometimes pinching yourself just doesn’t work.

Adam Wainwright made four starts in April before going down and had a record of 2-1. Before the aborted Milwaukee start, Waino had just shut down Cincinnati for 8 innings at Busch. That night, the Cards hosted the bloggers in their suite and it was a great time. It was the second Blogger Night in a row where a huge pitching injury was around the corner. In 2014, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia were both announced as new disabled list shareholders the evening of Blogger Day at a June game. This year, it was the last start Wainwright would make this season at Busch Stadium or the last time he’d figure in a box score. Until now.

I haven’t been a huge fan of the Waino rehab renaissance, mostly out of fear. I worry about the Achilles reinjuring or something else going wrong. It’s the human body where nothing goes as planned for a pitcher in his 30’s. I wrote about it for KSDK and still agree with points made in that article with one exception that is pouring out me now. Adam Wainwright did everything by the book, medically, and cleared the hurdles without being rushed. This wasn’t a rush job, because there was simply no need. This is a guy who wanted to prove to himself he could get back and did. Remember when he climbed the mound at his daughter’s game a couple months ago and the net was set ablaze? Seems like a long time from today’s announcement that Wainwright will be coming out of the bullpen this week. His doctors in May said he could come back and they weren’t wrong. Buy them a drink.

Can we expect Waino to be good? Hard to answer that without seeing a pitch. He can pitch in a few simulated game against his teammates and do drills all he wants, but until he steps into a hot contested September ballgame, that answer remains a fill in the blank location. He needs to pitch Wednesday and should with the Tuesday postponement and pending doubleheader. He needs to get in there and go 1-2 innings. He then needs to recover and go back out there 1-2 times this weekend in Atlanta. He needs to get as much action as he can before the playoff start. With Carlos Martinez’s injury, there is a potential roster spot open for an arm and if Waino is even close to the efficient ace St. Louis knows well, he gets that spot.

First, Waino has to prove his worth this year. He can be Han Solo but we first need to see if he can fly the Millennium Falcon before we give him a mission. It’s common sense. Logistics of a comeback. The good thing is he is 100% and ready to pitch and for a team getting hit with injuries on a weekly basis, the addition of Adam Wainwright during crunch time is hard to deny. It’s actually quite exciting.

What do you think?

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is “Diet” Denis Leary

This Denis Leary joint came off like a punchless bland directionless misfire rather than a hit.

When I heard about Denis Leary writing, creating, directing and starring in a FX television about an old rock n’roll band getting a fresh coat of paint, I was excited. After all, Leary cemented his status as a TV genius with his heralded 9/11 series, Rescue Me. A show that blended comedy, drama and was a classy ode to fallen firefighters for many seasons. That bought him a do whatever you want license from FX, and he chose to sink his teeth into an old rock lion trying to make a comeback. The idea couldn’t miss, but it did. Here’s why.

Unlike Rescue Me, Leary never punched the audience in the gut with a vigorous speech or a moment that made you step back and go, “wow”. There were five of those during the first six episodes of Rescue Me. I know the shows are drastically different, but Leary doesn’t pull any punches in any genre so I was disappointed when the final episode of SDRR aired last week and fizzled. It came and went. It was mundane. Ordinary. Punchless. Weak. Those are words I don’t associate with Leary entertainment.

Leary’s Johnny Rock had some direction, and even a few juicy one liners and jokes about real bands. The supporting cast of John Corbett, Robert Kelly, Elizabeth Gilles, and Elaine Hendrix. The first few episodes set up a cool story line about Rock’s daughter(Gilles) coming back to enliven the separated band, The Heathens. Corbett’s Flash had some good moments with Leary but it was far too “networky”. By that, it reeked of network television drool, something FX has largely avoided with most of its series. With only 10 episodes to tell its season story, the show never locked down a tone. It went in dramatic directions and always tried to give everything a light touch. Sometimes, a little edge was needed and left out of scenes. This was Diet Leary. Something I hoped I’d never taste on television.

Is it terrible? No. Some of the episodes worked but the story fizzled overall and does not leave me wanting more. FX let the final episodes air without announcing an end or a future. That only tells me their thoughts on the series don’t fall too far from mine.

I am sure Leary can fire another gem up for FX. He’s got a unique storytelling ability and can do most of the work himself. Would this show have worked on HBO or Showtime? No. A dirtier edgier network wouldn’t have given this show a touch of greatness.

In the end, SDRR just fell short of expectations, lacking the usual bite and punch one has come to expect with Leary entertainment.

Five ways to look at Carlos Martinez’s injury

While Carlos Martinez may be finished pitching in 2015, his season shouldn’t be forgotten.

Fox Sports
Fox Sports

The news is in. Carlos Martinez, the hot young phenom starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, is done for the season. The shoulder tightness that pulled him from Friday’s start has also cut his season short. When the 24 year old phenom left the field in tears, something bad was in the forecast. Something only an athlete knows right away. Your body flashing a check your engine light.

I don’t need General Manager John Mozeliak to use crayons and draw it out for me. Martinez is done not only for the regular season but postseason too. With ten days left in the season, the chances of Carlos coming back in early October are slim to¬†fuggedaboutit!

As we digest this unfortunate news, I’ll provide a few reactions.

*Adam Wainwright will not start now. He isn’t conditioned to start after not throwing to hitters until this afternoon. It’s just not possible. That opportunity is gone. Waino at best will be a reliever.

*The doubt is eliminated from Lance Lynn’s playoff rotation future. It was looking cloudy for the up and down starter. Same for Michael Wacha. Each starter had been rocked hard. The page is turned with Martinez’s injury. Both these have been there before, good and bad. They are ready. I think Lance Lynn starts game 4 on the road.

*Tyler Lyons will get another start and it could fall on the final day of the Pittsburgh series. A potential big day for the journeyman arm to solidify his playoff chances. They could let Waino grab a couple innings that day but I doubt it. It will most likely be Lyons and Carlos Villanueva.

*If this is the end of the line for Martinez, what an entry into the land of major league starters. A bright future lies ahead for this man and that’s part of the reason you shut him down today and cut short his 2015 contributions. He’s young, raw and has never approached this amount of innings. The innings load may have simply worn down his right arm and shoulder. The hope is nothing lingers. No surgery is needed so Carlos can just come into spring and go right at it. He threw 179.2 innings, compiled a 14-7 record and struck out 184 batters to 63 walks in 29 starts. He finished with a flurry in September before the injury.

*The Cards can handle this folks. The 2015 team are built for rough cracked roads and uncharted waters. They have won 97 games without starters all over the field. This setback won’t slow them down. Martinez’s fire will be missed but he will still be around, building cups and smiling. The team will be hindered yet trudge on. They’ve been doing it all year.

Feel sad about the loss of one of the most exciting pitchers in the game but also know the Redbirds have this covered. If this injury manages to cripple them, this display of resilience will be all for nothing. There are 8 games left in the regular season. Then, it’s the fight to 11 wins and a 12th championship. While he won’t see the end, Carlos Martinez helped team get there by blowing everybody’s expectations out of the water. From a maybe 5 inning guy to arguably the ace of this staff. What a season. It’s been cut short but that doesn’t mean the sweetness of his season loses any of its flavor. The future of Carlos Martinez is too valuable to risk for one postseason.

As they say, play ball. That’s all you can do in this game.

Stephen Piscotty: Silent but deadly

Stephen Piscotty has been quite the addition since his arrival on July 21st. How exactly is he enduring at the plate?

KSDK
KSDK

Stephen Piscotty is all business. He doesn’t talk much. The St. Louis Cardinal rookie outfielder doesn’t get too emotional, loud or particularly down on the baseball field. After all, this kid has discipline in spades. During this past offseason, he went back to Stanford and completed his degree in Engineering. Baseball just comes easy, and while the pressure is as prevalent as it is for any 24 year old, Piscotty doesn’t let it show on the field.

While General Manager John Mozeliak’s deadline acquisition of Brandon Moss brought out the critics(including myself), Piscotty has been the real key acquisition in 2015. Where would the offense be without this kid? Since he showed up on July 21st, Piscotty has collected 71 hits in 227 at bats(.313) and put together an OPS(on base+slugging percentage) of .872. After a white hot start, Piscotty slumped a bit but he has endured at the plate while providing steady defense all over the field.

First, he’s a smart hitter. He takes a good at bat and has an easy going fluid swing at the plate. He doesn’t get cheated but he also doesn’t swing at everything. For a team with three strikeout kings(Mark Reynolds, Randal Grichuk, Moss), Piscotty is a breath of fresh air. His bat is the logical professor to the other windmill type sticks. He only has 54 strikeouts(23 %) in 2015.

Second, Piscotty can hit anywhere in this lineup. He can hit #2 and be a good jumpstarter for offense or he can supply power(as seen by his 7 home runs and 26 total extra base hits). He can also be a middle of the order bat due to his ability to not only drive in runs, but do what is necessary to get an important run home. In a game against Atlanta last weekend, Piscotty didn’t over swing or try to do too much. He simply lifted a ball deep enough to right field to score the winning run. He doesn’t swing at the first pitch and will make a pitcher earn his stripes.

Third, Piscotty is flexible in the field. He can play left field, right field and also take reps at first base if Reynolds and Moss start to whiff like golf balls are being thrown at them. He played the infield in college and played at first the week before he was called up, so Piscotty isn’t secluded to the outfield. Part of the reason he found himself in St. Louis was his ability to move around. He’s stayed in the lineup because of his steady bat. Unlike Xavier Scruggs, Piscotty’s bat doesn’t seem to be slowing down or powering up. It’s just getting smarter with each trip.

Fourth, the Cards need him right now. Moss has pop, but his bat can go silent at times. Part of the reason Mo didn’t have to go big at the deadline was the promise of Piscotty and wanting him to play every day. A bigger bat comes in here(especially a rental) and the kid may sit more than the team wants him to. With Matt Holliday and Jon Jay out for a significant period of time and other Memphis outfield options pursued or tapped out, Piscotty is the last known quality prospect that was ready to roll up I-55. He will get his shot.

Piscotty is the perfect foil for Grichuk’s power. Here you have a pair of young gun renegades who are getting full time slots to help a championship caliber team bulldoze through the tireless months of the season. Another farm system assisted tool on display. The latest example of The Cardinals working in house to solve major leaks and issues. If people want a #1 reason for Mo not seeking a bigger bat at the deadline, remember guys like Piscotty and Grichuk. They aren’t doing that bad filling in the holes in offense.

As quiet as he is and choice with his words, Piscotty’s bat has done more than enough talking thus far.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s final fight: What We Learned

Floyd Mayweather Jr. put a pillow over boxing fans’ heads on September 12th, in his snooze fest of a finale.

There’s nothing in life that leaves a worse taste in your mouth than being swindled out of your hard earned cash. Of course, if you were dumb enough to hand it over to something so mildly promising, the joke is on you.

The promo reel for Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Berto fighting in Las Vegas Saturday night promised something special. What paying customers got was a snoozefest. Same as it ever was with a Mayweather fight.

Here are five things we learned about Mayweather Jr.’s supposed “final” ride-

  1. Mayweather Jr. picked an easy final ride. For his 49th win, Floyd picked a guy who had lost 3 of his last 6 fights. Embarrassing for a so called pound for pound champ.
  2. The clinic for getting beat by Floyd isn’t rocket science. Berto leans his head in and Mayweather Jr. pounds him with jabs. Berto isn’t fast enough. When Berto tries to land something heavy, he misses and Floyd lands 3-4 counter shots. Snooze.
  3. Boxing is greedy. 65 dollars for that. Hold up. One can only hope the sport follows the UFC and gives back some of its earnings to the sport and its younger generation and development systems.
  4. The chances of Floyd fighting again are very good but not so good for a rematch against Manny Pacquiao.
  5. A lot of boxing fans were lost this weekend because they paid for this fight.

Sometimes you spend money on that shiny toy that looks good in the packaging only to find it fall apart when the bands are cut and the wrapping is thrown in the trash. Boxing didn’t die Saturday night. It just didn’t grow.

The best thing about it. The sport’s big villain may finally be done. That’s also the worst thing. Boxing may have lost its most interesting “must beat” participant.