Andrew Weaver joins Buffa for some blunt Cardinals baseball talk.
Another week and another random guest on the DOB podcast. This week, Andrew Weaver joined the pod to talk St. Louis Cardinals baseball. Weaver dished on how he came into the sport and fell in love with it. How his allegiance to the Texas Rangers switched after the 2011 World Series to the Cards and why he hasn’t turned back.
Among the topics discussed:
*Should fans really be worried about Adam Wainwright? He had another rough outing.
*Can fans trust the breakout of Aledmys Diaz?
*Should fans get the head of Mike Matheny and John Mabry on a stick?
*Are graham crackers really good?(Not kidding)
There’s more where that dialogue came from. Here’s a taste of what Weaver has to offer on Twitter:
It’s bad enough we have to watch west coast games that start at 1AM, but do we also have to look at terrible uniforms? #STLCards
What happens when a man and woman talk baseball? 30 minutes of blunt perspective.
Once again, I took to the DOB airwaves late at night to discuss the St. Louis Cardinals with a fierce woman. The lovely Maria from Washington D.C. who happens to adore Tommy Pham joined me for some pointed and rather blunt perspective on the Cards.
The Talking Points:
*What did we learn from the first series with the Cubs
*Can the Cardinals keep hitting for power?
*Should Cards fans be worried about Adam Wainwright?
*What is up with Kolten Wong?
*Can Aledmys Diaz last or will he hit a wall?
*Does Pham factor into the effectiveness of this team when he returns?
10 years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals stopped using the Manual Scoreboard, a place where baseball fans were paid to watch games, change scores and slowly become a close knit family.
“Mark McGwire just hit the scoreboard with another batting practice home run.”
True story, folks.
Few people in life get to work their dream job. For eight years on the Manual Scoreboard at the old Busch Stadium, I had the opportunity to watch the St. Louis Cardinals 81 games a year and get paid for it. It involved a lot of sweat and stress, but there was nothing like it.
As my colleague Jim Kleinschmidt repeatedly told us on the 100 degree August days up top the metal housing in a section of terrace reserved seating, “I can’t believe they pay us to do this.” The sentiment was shared by many. If you didn’t mind sweating through a couple shirts and working around scaffolding, the Cards paid you to watch and monitor baseball.
What did this job entail? I’d get to Busch around 4pm in the afternoon. I’d pick up the Dow Industrial numbers, notes on the Cards game and a printout of the night’s games. By 5pm, I was changing team names if needed, setting up leaderboards and getting all the starting pitcher numbers ready to rock and roll. By 6pm, it was time to head down to the Press Box. One of the perks was getting to eat there, drink all the pink lemonade the body could handle and maybe toss a few notes at Bernie Miklasz or the late Joe Strauss about a story idea I was writing up. Maybe greet an announcer or two. And then we were off.
When the Cards game was firing up, the rest of the board was brought up to speed. The East coast games needed 2-3 innings filled in and yes, the fear of dropping a number out of the board was constant. Like the players we watched, the scoreboard crew became a family. We’d scream at each other about a late risky Tony La Russa pitching change and use a bag of ice to engage in cross league ice throwing battles, but we became good friends. There isn’t a day that goes by without me pausing to think about the moments behind a board during the top of the ninth when the Birds were going to win and the building was going to go nuts.
The 2016 season marks 10 years since the Manual Scoreboard shut down. I worked the Scoreboard from 1998, when Big Mac reined, until 2005, when Roy Oswalt turned off the lights on old Busch and the Scoreboard. Here are the 10 things I’ll remember the most about working the scoreboard.
Getting a call from Tony La Russa
One night, the Cards destroyed the Cubs. Scored ten runs in one inning even. In order to rub it in, the crew left the 10 in the inning slot. The next day, La Russa called the board and believe me, I’d never seen my comical supervisor sound so stern and shocked. “Yes, Mr. La Russa, sure, you know it, yes, of course, right Tony.” Lesson: Don’t show up another team on Tony’s watch.
The Birth of #5
Albert Pujols arrived on the scene and the crew thought he was just another guy. The person who made the roster because Bobby Bonilla was hurt and McGwire liked a lot. By the end of the 2005 season, when Pujols hit the moon shot off the train against Brad Lidge, #5 was a legend. I got to see him play over 75 times a season from 2001-2005. He put together 8 straight seasons of 7 WAR or more. He averaged 42 HR, 120 RBI and 45 doubles for those 5 seasons. Pujols eventually left, but I’ll never see a better ballplayer in my lifetime come along like him.
Troy Siade and the Jim Edmonds and Art Holliday fascination
My late friend Troy and I had a fascination with Edmonds. Nothing left us speechless longer than a classic Edmonds catch or spin away from an up and in pitch. We were mesmerized by his baseball skills, but we also couldn’t help but count the seconds it took for him to rise off the ground after a great catch. He would milk that moment for as long as he could. Troy loved Edmonds more than any ballplayer, even Pujols. Why? He was lefthanded, played center field better than Flood and was cocky. That was my friend Troy. He also almost stole a framed picture of Art Holliday from a suite once. No one knows why. When Siade passed away to Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Disease before his 39th birthday in 2004, the Cards let us spread some of his ashes in center field. Finally, he got to lay where Edmonds laid out on so many breathtaking occasions. Rest in peace my friend.
Working the Scoreboard made you a Rock Star
All my friends wanted to come up on the board, and they didn’t just want pictures. They wanted to work. One time, my dentist came up on a night where the board was shorthanded. For two hours, Dr. Anderson and his friend helped take care of an entire league. That’s how you use a scoreboard allure to your advantage.
The Bittersweet Big Mac Roller Coaster
My first year on the board featured the dramatic and ultimately bittersweet epic tale of Big Mac and Sammy Sosa. Their Ali-Frazier like slugfest in the pursuit of Roger Maris’ single season home run record. On the National League side of the scoreboard, a slot was used for the individual battle. Using two pitching numbers, one of the crew would slide in a new number when McGwire or Sosa went deep. Later on, when Mac was racking up career HR highlights, supervisor Joe Gramen would post up near the exit door where the leaderboard was or the 60 year old would run down to it when Mac went deep. I’ve never seen an old man move that fast.
Years later, I don’t care what Mac said he did or didn’t do. Those were fun seasons.
Press Box Perks
Every time I’d walk into the press box and see Jack Buck sitting by himself in the red suit and calmly taking a few moments before the game, it was a pleasure I kept in my memory bank. I’d occasionally go over to him and say hello, and he would flash that 10,000 watt smile and make me feel like the most important man on the earth. When he died, it wasn’t fair to anyone. He was truly the best. Still is.
Non Press Box Perks
Having Al Hrakosky joke to one of the crew that they put a zero in upside down. True story.
Worst moment ever
Listening to a game I couldn’t work at home and hearing Joe Buck say on the air that a number on a game was put in upside down. Uncommon but forgivable mistake. When the person working that game is your best friend that you brought on, it was a problem.
Breaking the board down after a game
When the teams left the field and fans left the seats, Busch got empty and quiet. The lights would get shut off. On the nights I’d choose to clean the board and set it up for the next day, I’d come out afterwards, sit on the retired banners concourse and just take it in. One of the underrated perks of working at a stadium is seeing it when it sleeps. Looking down on the field where so much had happened and so much would happen, it was hard to not get nostalgic. I miss those midnight hangouts.
Talking to the sportswriters
Every chance I had, I’d walk over to Miklasz, Strauss or Bryan Burwell and just bounce stuff off their shields. They were the hot stuff beat writers and commentary artists, and I was the scrappy young blogger/aspiring journalist. I’d present a theory to them and see how much it weighed. Sometimes a good conversation broke out. Sometimes, I’d look like an idiot. They were always classy and gracious. I miss those days.
I don’t miss the hair I had, the buckets of sweat I shed or banging my head seventy times a season. The Manual Scoreboard will always be the best job I ever had. It combined baseball, friends, and some cash. I was disappointed the new stadium didn’t retain the board but was quietly happy to retire after 8 grueling yet special seasons.
What are your greatest memories from the old Busch Stadium?
As the new season begins in a week, it’s time to follow a few new accounts. Cards fans, take a look at Bruno.
I know what you are thinking. What the fuck am I writing about the St. Louis Cardinals account known as @StlCardsCards, aka the account with Tom Brunansky as his profile pic?
He goes by Bruno now and his podcast is tentatively called the Jon Hamm podcast. He has been going back and forth with me on the validity of spring training for 24 hours now, including 87 tweets, two podcasts and one long extended pissing contest about who is right, wrong and how certain groups on Twitter are just dumb.
Let me explain.
When the Roo Court started up Cards Madness, I secretly wanted Bruno to win. I voted for him over @CardinalTales aka Bob the Barbecue Great. I even voted for Bruno over my writing idol, Bernie Miklasz. It was a Twitter account contest. Not a “best writer” contest. Bruno and I don’t belong anywhere near the latter event.
Why did I vote for Bruno? He brings something different and unique to the Twitterverse. You won’t find too many accounts on the social networking giant(started by a STL local named Jack) that can combine Joe Strauss worthy snark, a real knowledge of the game, and a willingness to be the heel in many conversations. Bruno likes to the the bastard and embraces it. He breaks down other accounts because they either can’t handle his level of attack or they just don’t understand what he brings. It’s not to be taken seriously. Then again, it’s not a joke either.
If Bruno tries to tell you it’s nothing personal, he is lying. It’s always personal and he means what he says. How is it not personal if it sincere? However, he isn’t getting on Twitter to combat you and drive you insane. He wants you to think and laugh. I remember early last season, Bruno and I didn’t follow each other but he led the “Account I Don’t Follow Yet See Retweeted A Shitload” standings. I liked what he brought to the table, even though we disagreed on many things. Disagreeing is okay people. It starts up conversations that scan many tweets, smacks, chats and long lasting feelings. It’s how you connect with other sports fans on Twitter. You can either handle it or you take it VERY personally and go away.
I liked what he brought and followed. You won’t find many Bruno’s on the net. I don’t think you will ever see another account with Tom Brunansky as their profile pic. Soon, he followed back, even though he constantly reminds how all his 101(or so) follow backs that he really shouldn’t follow them and they are nuts, dumb or something weird and harsh. We discussed Matt Adams(back when I defended the now low value pile of Buffalo Wild Wings junk). We came together on the tragedy of Oscar Taveras and shared our articles. We disagree on Mike Matheny’s baseball IQ. We disagree on how much stock should be given to spring training games. Do they matter? How much? Do player stats matter? Trends? Streaks?
While I disagreed with him these past 24 hours over and over again(I’ve never talked so long about exhibition games), I never lost respect for Bruno. Not at all. It may not seem that way when we zing each other and quote tweet the fuck out of each other’s accounts. As I told Bruno’s podcast partner John Rabe, that is what happens when passion, stubbornness, and a need to impose your will clash together on a social media network.
After all, like many of my favorite Cards follows, I have never met Bruno in person nor do I know his name. He’s basically Lucas Hood from Banshee. A man with no true identity. He may be called Gary, Connor, Calvin, Charlie, Devin, Brock, Scott, Steve, Dave, Fletcher, Barry or Ralph for all I know. I have a feeling I will never know his name and I am cool with that. Unlike several Twitter accounts without a real name, Bruno has never changed his profile pic(well there was that idiotic Cards Cyborg shit last year for a day or so) or his handle. Like my other favorite follows such as Art Lippo and Cardinals Farm, he has stuck to his nickname. I can respect that.
On the start of another Cardinals season, it’s always a good time to follow a few new accounts. Now, for all the follow back sweethearts, Bruno may not follow you back. He won’t until he hears you out, sees your tweeting style, and decides if he wants to drop a few 140 character hand grenades on your day. Don’t be discouraged.
There are some accounts I follow on Twitter that don’t follow back. Ten to be exact and if Bruno unfollowed me, I’d still follow him. Why? He brings something unique, doesn’t back down from a fight and keeps me honest. While I still disagree with him overall on the validity of spring training stats, he got me thinking and made me dig in deeper into my stance on the subject. He wasn’t mean, overly harsh, or an asshole. Well, maybe a little of the last one, but sometimes it is required to get a point across. Again, I can respect that.
Follow @StlCardsCards. If you aren’t on Twitter, get on Twitter and follow him. Follow him, Art, Rabe, Farm, and a few others. He is a funny man with a knowledge for the game.
He can even make spring training games seem interesting with his tweets.
I endorse Bruno for Twitter, even though he compared me to Donald Trump today.
Whether Jim Edmonds was a Hall of Famer is up for discussion. Getting tossed off the ballot after just one season is a voting injustice.
Jim Edmonds won’t get another shot at the Hall of Fame. After receiving a terribly low amount of votes(2.5 percent, needed 5 to stay on another year) in his first year of eligibility, Edmonds won’t get next year or the year after that. It’s a shame. Edmonds deserves a discussion or at least another chance to be considered.
I’ll admit I am bias. I watched all of Edmonds’ golden years at Busch Stadium from behind the Manual Scoreboard at old Busch. He was a unique and game changing player. He didn’t have the lofty 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or multiple World Series wins that voters covet or look for. Edmonds did plenty in his 17 year career.
He slugged .527 and compiled an average WAR(wins above replacement) of 3.5 over his career, which included six teams, mostly spent with the Angels and Cardinals. He won eight gold gloves and made four All Star game appearances. He changed the way center field could be played, hovering in shallow center and being able to cover a ton of ground by the time he dove into the grass making an unbelievable catch.
Edmonds was elite for an extended period of time with the Cardinals from 2000-2005, compiling an average WAR of 6.1 and winning six straight gold gloves while slugging 30 or more home runs in four of those seasons. With St. Louis, his OPS was .947 over 8 seasons and .856 over 7 seasons with Anaheim.
He wasn’t a playoff slouch. Edmonds hit 13 home runs and drove in 42 runs with 16 doubles while slugging .551 in 64 playoff games. He made the miraculous diving catch off a Brad Ausmus line drive and hit the game winning home run in Game 6 against Houston in the 2004 World Series. Edmonds had several historic moments and a swing that wasn’t as pretty as Ken Griffey Jr.’s but still effective and compact.
Edmonds is far from a Hall of Fame lock. He always has been a long shot. His 393 home runs won’t woo many. His 1199 RBI’s won’t gather a crowd. His 1,949 hits won’t make anybody’s jaw drop. He did deserve another couple of years of discussion and debate.
He made people stop and think. What makes a career Hall of Fame worthy? Is it a prolonged excellence? An overall solid piece of work, perhaps? Or, do you take a player who was excellent for two different periods of time with two different clubs in two different leagues? Edmonds was great from 1995-98 with the Angels but stellar from 2000-2005 with the Cardinals. Doesn’t that deserve more than a year of consideration?
Edmonds signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals after the 2010 season, but retired in February before spring training unfolded. He was 40 and his body was done. He wanted to give it one last go and try to reach 400 home runs, 2000 hits and add more polish to his career. While it may have added a few more long balls to his career, it could have showed an Edmonds that wasn’t as useful or fun to watch. It does make you think. If healthy, could Edmonds have done better than Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay in 2011? We will never know.
Know this. Edmonds had a HOF caliber career. Far from a lock but nearly as distant from a one and done, he was a signature player who left his mark. Years from now. Decades from now. Fathers and mothers will tell their kids about that lefty who cranked meaningful home runs, stole others from over the wall and created dazzling moments. Edmonds is a better ballplayer than at least 2 or 3 of the centerfielders currently in the Hall of Fame, right?
Edmonds deserved better from the voters. Better than 2.5 percent. He was a Hall of Famer in my book.
I had a problem during Sunday’s game. Kevin Siegrist was in to pitch the 8th inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cardinals had a 4-3 lead. He allowed a hit, got the next hitter out on a sacrifice, and then Mike Matheny pulled Siegrist for Jonathan Broxton before Khris Davis took his swing. This infuriated me. One reason? Kevin Siegrist shuts righthanded hitters down, better than anyone on the team, including Broxton. Why was Matheny doing this?
The tale didn’t end well. Brox threw a first pitch fastball and Davis planted it in center field. Brewers win. Questioning the move got me some heat because it’s apparently illegal in the Midwest to question a 71-40 team. It just didn’t sit well with me. It also showed something that some mainstream writers have been missing. The brilliant comeback season of Siegrist.
Remember 2013? Siegrist couldn’t be touched. He struck out 50 in 39.1 innings. His WHIP(average walks/hits allowed per inning) was a scintillating 0.88. Siegrist was the bridge of chaos before hitters the ring of fire in the 9th. He was another reason that the Cardinals were revered. Along with Trevor Rosenthal, the bullpen was stacked. After a decent 2013 postseason where Siegrist seemed to finally wear down a bit and the roller coaster started to slip off the rails, it fell off in 2014.
The lefty was stricken with a forearm injury that never went away and sucked up months of his season. He was out of action from May 23rd to July 25th and when he came the results weren’t pretty. Siegrist allowed 15 earned runs in 10.1 innings the rest of the season, striking out 10 but walking 8. His fastball was flat and his breaking pitches sat on a tee. He had lost it and going into the 2015 season, nobody knew if he had it back. He was healthy but was the sizzle from his fastball forever lost.
Siegrist answered quickly. He was firing heat past wooden bats again. The contact was gone. Hitters had no clue, having studied that 2014 tape too much and forgetting what the kid could do. In May and June, Siegrist struck out 17 batters in 12 and 12.1 innings. His walks were down. He wasn’t allowed much. He held games in check for Rosenthal, and also took a few rounds in the 9th inning himself. Siegrist was the everyman for this brutally stout Cards pen. When the rotation needed help, Siegrist helped lead the charge to pick up innings. His 53.2 innings are tied with Rosenthal for the bullpen lead. With Jordan Walden out since late April, Siegrist has forged his role into a multi-faceted attack. He’s done so on the strength of a recovered four seam fastball, a circle changeup and a slider(per Brooks Baseball).
Not too bad for the 1,235th pick in the 41st round in the 2008 draft making 518,000 dollars. Siegrist didn’t disappoint in his June 6th, 2013 debut against Arizona. In 1.2 innings, he struck out 4 batters. Two years later, fans expect that dominance out of the 6 foot 5 215 pound Buffalo, New York native. After a stormy 2013 season, Siegrist is back in a big way.
Sunday, here’s why I wanted Siegrist to stay in there, just so I am clear. In 133 at bats against righthanded hitters this season, the lefty has held them to a .150 average(20 hits and 1 home run) while striking out 51 and only walking 8. Against lefties, Siegrist is much more human, allowing a .316 average and walking 11 in less than 60 at bats. The decision to bring in Brox to face Davis was dumbfounding due to Siegrist’s ability to get the job done.
Wednesday night, Siegrist recorded more than 4 outs for the 7th time this season, pitching the 7th and 8th innings to hold the Pittsburgh Pirates at bay for a 4-2 victory that pushed the challenging Bucs team 7 games out of first place. Just the latest example of the man doing his job in a big spot against a great team. The latest appearance in a season that rivals, if not shines brighter, than Rosenthal’s work.
How good is Kevin Siegrist? He has 65 strikeouts in just 53.2 innings, an average of 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. You may point to his 11.0 strikeouts per 9 last year, but unlike in 2014, Siegrist isn’t getting clubbed along with the whiffs. His fielding independent ERA(take away his defense) is 2.58. It isn’t the greatest statistic for a reliever, but shows how dominant he has been.
Siegrist isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017 and isn’t a free agent until 2020. He’ll keep doing his thing, deadly style, for another season on the cheap. While he isn’t exactly an unsung hero of this pitching staff, Kevin Siegrist doesn’t get enough credit for the transformation he’s shown this season.
Every home opener at Busch reminds me of a fallen friend.
When the Cardinals home opener rolls around, one thing instantly comes to my mind. My good friend Troy Siade. Troy and I met while working the Manual Scoreboard around 2002 and instantly hit it off. If hitting it off meant giving each other as much shit and trouble as we could. Two peas in a pod on a versatile group of scoreboard degenerates getting paid to watch baseball games, Troy and I were alike in many ways. We were loud, blunt, dirty and diehard Cardinal fans. When we weren’t scaring scoreboard visitors with our vicious ice cube battles or firing insults in each other’s direction, we were hanging shoulder to shoulder watching the game talking about the action. Troy was a joker on the surface, but deep down he was one of the best guys I have ever come to know on this earth. He was caring, devoted and modest behind all the loud talking exterior. The reason I think about Troy so much on opening day here in St. Louis is because 10 years ago, on April 23rd, Troy passed away at the age of 38 to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The last time I saw him was on opening day earlier that month.
Troy was a good looking guy. Full head of dark hair, huge smile, big laugh and a walk that even the proudest gangster would fail to imitate. When Troy lived, he was on top of the world. We were living inside his movie set. He called the shots, told the jokes and made us laugh all night long. When the Cards blew a game late, he would shout and pace the scoreboard like a mad professor looking for the new theory of relativity. I remember a car drive with him that involved a massive thunderstorm and Troy slamming on the steering wheel extremely hard because he wanted to get back to his house so he could show off his home to another scoreboard friend and myself. Troy was an entertainer at all times. Part of the reason I miss him to this day has everything to do with need and less to do with baseball. Troy had an energy. A will to pull a smile out of a dark corner or take the mood of a room and toss it through the ceiling. When you work 70-75 games of a 82 game home schedule, there can be some dull nights. If Troy was there, the forecast called for a good time no matter what the score turned out to be.
Being the outgoing personality that he was, Troy was able to keep certain things private. Many of the scoreboard guys didn’t even know he had an illness or disease until a year before he passed. He didn’t want us to know. The comedian doesn’t let the curtain fall to show it all. Troy only let us know when he was getting very seriously ill. Cancer can be a deadly quick moving disease. It can come in and smash everything within months. Troy was here, alive and well, towards the winter and end of a rather forgettable 2003 season that saw no playoffs and a horrible September series in Wrigley that had Troy and I ranting for an entire homestand. Troy was okay then. By the beginning of the 2004 season, he was nearly gone.
There are two moments I will never forget with Troy. Okay, three. I will warn you they start happy and end sadder than shit.
The first was that stormy night back in the summer of 2003 he invited me and a friend back to his home to play pool, sit in his Busch Stadium terrace reserved seats he had installed in his basement and listened to rock n’ roll while drinking like fishes. The Cards beat the Orioles 8-5 with an Albert Pujols three run bomb. We crashed at Troy’s and went to the ballpark the next day. It was perfectly Vegas behavior. It was a night I will never forget.
The second was a random day where Troy showed up at my apartment and asked my wife and I to dinner spur of the moment. He had just left work, suit and tie on, and wanted to take us out. He cared like that. He hung out with people he liked and loved. My wife got a kick out of him and we really wanted to go. In a decision I will regret to the day I die, I turned Troy down. We had plans with my parents to go to dinner. Plans I should have broke. Plans I should have shredded. I will never forget the look in his face when I said we couldn’t. Whether they admit it or not, a light does flicker out in someone’s eyes when they are let down. He reached out and I said no. I hate that move to this day. My first back in time fix job.
The third was seeing him for the last time. It was opening day, 2004, about three weeks before he passed. He didn’t want ANYONE coming to see him. Especially the ones he knew and liked. He didn’t want us to see him in a weakened state. I didn’t follow those orders. I went down to the field box level and saw him. His flock of hair was gone. His smile was flexing yet fading. He was slowly leaving. I shook his hand and gave him a brief hug. I don’t remember how I departed or if I shed a tear. Maybe I don’t want to remember all of it. It was tough.