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Yes, I think it is time to give this blog a sensible name, and I’m asking for your assistance in doing just that.

When I started this Cardinals blog, it was just meant to store a couple of stories that had been posted in a Google Wave in the event that they shut it down.   And they did, but then they didn’t.

There was no plan to continue writing, and certainly not as a contributor to I-70 Baseball, so there was no real need to come up with a cool blog name.  Now I wish I had.

Oh, there are some great blog names out there.  Viva El Birdos (great historical reference), Pitchers Hit 8th, PAH9 (Play a Hard 9, but I like it better as Pitchers Always Hit 9th), Bleed Cardinals Red With Me, Welcome to Baseball Heaven, RetroSimba (there’s that historical thing again).  Even Aaron Miles Fastball makes me laugh each time I read it, just by it’s name.

So I think it’s time for Throatwarber to be designated for assignment (DFA) and sent packing.   The name has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, the Cardinals – heck, it’s not even an American reference.

I’ve given this some thought.  OK, it was over a diet coke last night at dinner, but that’s not the point.   The names that I came up with all sound overly pretentious or stuffy and that’s why I’m asking for your help.   The only condition is that that the name needs to be available at WordPress.com.

My *yawn* initial thoughts were

  • Cardinal Tales
  • Redbird Tales (ok, so I’m not very creative)
  • And there he goes (I can’t tell you how many times I heard Harry Caray and Jack Buck say that – and That’s a Winner is way too pretentious)
  • Tony’s Doghouse (does that really need any explanation???)

This is where you all come in.  Please send some suggestions (or pick one of those four) and help me name this blog.   If you don’t want to put your ideas in the comments, feel free to send me a Twitter DM to @Throatwarbler (which will probably go next).

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Is it really the end of January ?  It seems that just a few days ago,  we were rushing around trying to finish up our Christmas shopping, and all of a sudden, another United Cardinal Bloggers project is due.   I guess the bright side is that we’re that much closer to when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

So the project this month is predicting the top 5 headlines of 2011.

#1 Albert Pujols signs record breaking contract

Is there anybody out there that doesn’t think this (a) this is the biggest news item in baseball and (b) that it’s really going to happen ?   Rest assured, it will happen, and when it does, it will make news for a few milliseconds and then the national media can turn their attention back to the Peyton Place that is the American League East.

At the risk of turning this into a long editorial, just consider

  • Albert Pujols *IS* the face of the franchise.  Not John Mozeliak, Bill De Witt Jr or III, or Tony La Russa.   It’s Albert.   He is this generation’s Stan Musial.
  • Players like Albert Pujols come along maybe once in a generation.   The last in St. Louis was Bob Gibson.
  • Albert’s trade value was the highest last July.  If he was to be dumped, it would have been then, when the Cardinals were in free fall.
  • It’s not like this is a surprise, ownership has known this day would come.  They have a plan (see above) and it’s just a matter of working out the details.
  • You don’t become a multi-billion business by being stupid and throwing your customers under the bus
  • Some highly paid players will be coming off their contracts (Carpenter, Lohse, Westbrook) in the next year or two, and that creates all sorts of financial options
  • While the experts might not value the Cardinals farm system, there is existing talent that can help fill out a competitive team

I’m satisfied.  Albert will be a Cardinal through the end of the decade.

#2 Adam Wainwright joins Joaquin Andujar and Bob Gibson with his second consecutive 20 win season

And he still may not win the Cy Young Award, which would be a shame.  If Adam Wainwright stays healthy, and there is little reason to think he wouldn’t, he will win 20 games.   If you consider that Bob Gibson didn’t really hit his stride until age 28, and that’s how old Wainwright was when he won 20 for the first time, there is a lot to be excited about.

#3 Jason Motte becomes the Cardinals closer

I don’t know if it will be a slider, a change-up or mixing seams on his fastball, but Jason Motte will develop a second go-to pitch before the start of the regular season, and he will be the next closer. It won’t take much because of the giddy-up on that heater, but a second pitch will transform him into the next Todd Worrell.

#4 Kyle Lohse wins 15th game

Yes, I said it.  And I may be in the minority here, but I think Kyle Lohse will make a comeback in 2011.   He will go 15-10, and that 5 win differential will be the difference at the end of the season, propelling the Cardinals into post-season.

#5 Jaime Garcia throws a no-hitter

What can I say, I’m a fan of pitching.   I’m also a big Jaime Garcia fan.   I watched or listened to Larry Jaster, Steve Carlton and Al Jackson come close, and at this point in his career, Garcia’s pitches are better than all three.  The first time I saw Garcia throw a baseball in 2010, my first thought was “he is going to throw one – not if, but when”.

There were a few more that are worth mentioning, but didn’t make the top 5.

  • David Freese chokes on an olive and is out for 2 months because of broken ribs suffered when teammate performance Heimlich maneuver
  • The return of Aaron Miles
  • Albert Pujols actually stops at third when base Jose Oquendo gives him a stop sign
  • Colby Rasmus hits for the cycle (this started as a satirical comment about Yadier Molina, but heck, Rasmus could actually do it)
  • After hitting for the cycle, Colby Rasmus traded to the Kansas City Royals (they do have the farm system to support this kind of trade).

So those are my top 5 headlines for 2011.  You can find the complete list over at the United Cardinal Bloggers web site.  Now, what are some of yours ???

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And just when I thought I was done blogging for the year, another United Cardinal Bloggers project deadline is approaching.  This one is the Top 5 Cardinal Stories for 2010.

United Cardinal Bloggers Year in Review

Before I get to my selections, a quick note about a great piece of work some of the UCB contributors have put together.   Ten of our favorite writers have collaborated and put together a single documents titled “The Year in Cardinals Baseball.”    What I like about it is that each of the contributors looks at what happened from a different perspective and there is very little overlap, making it a thoroughly enjoying read.    You can read about the project (including the list of writers) at this United Cardinal Bloggers article, or just download the Year in Review.

Now for the stories.

#1 Yadi the Enforcer

 

Yadi the Enforcer

OK, this is really just another excuse to post my favorite picture from the 2010 season.   Looking at it still puts a smile on my face and makes me sit up just a bit taller.   What a great moment for Yadier Molina, and the rest of the Cardinals organization.   While they did not achieve their goal for the season, they did send a loud and unambiguous message on this particular occasion.

Instead of trying to describe this story (which all of you know so well by now), let’s just watch it.  Again and again and again.

It was one thing for Molina to get in Phillips’ face, after all he was wearing the armor.   It’s what he did after the brawl that makes this the top story for the year: calming down rookie starter Jaime Garcia and allowing the young man to get back into the game plus all of his offensive contributions (home run, game winning RBI, stolen base).

If you want to read more, here are a couple of articles from back in August

Yadi the Enforcer

The Day the Designated Hitter Died

 

#2 Bruised, Broken and then Ultimately Beaten

May 21 was the day that the Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central, it just took a few months for everybody to realize it.  That was the day that Brad Penny’s grand slam swing put the big right-hander on on the disabled list.   For the rest of the season.  Up to that point, everything in 2010 was going according to plan.   David Freese had shaken off his early season (and pre-season) troubles and was settling in as a productive third baseman.  Jaime Garcia was beginning to look like the big league pitcher that we had seen the previous fall in Memphis.  Until Penny did his best Mark McGwire impression and end his season with a pulled muscle.

The next day, another Cardinals starter went down to injury.  Kyle Lohse also left his game early due to arm troubles.  Unlike Penny, Lohse did return but to less than stellar results.

The final weight to drop (ok, that was a painful pun – ok, that was another – I’ll stop now) was on June 5 when David Freese had to be removed from a game against Milwaukee after sliding into second base awkwardly.   He would return to the lineup and struggle until running out an infield grounder in Kansas City on June 27.   His minor league rehab came to an abrupt end and he would soon have surgery to repair both ankles.   He has also managed to drop a weight on his foot, breaking his big toe and narrowly missed getting hit in the head with a puck while attending a St. Louis Blues hockey game.

Injuries are a part of the game and championship teams are expected to overcome them, even if they happen to the star players.   Either the farm system is expected to replace them or the front office must find players by way of trades.   This is where the Cardinals season ended, because neither happened – at least immediately.   Maybe if the Jake Westbrook deal was done shortly after Lyle Lohse *OR* Brad Penny went on the disabled list, but it happened at the trade deadline when it was too late.  Instead of retooling with energetic minor league talent wanting to make a name for themselves in the big leagues, retreads that had been released by other clubs were signed and they filled the roster spots with little fanfare.

The impact of these injuries wasn’t obvious in the beginning.   Like Whitey Herzog’s managerial miracle in 1987, the 2010 Cardinals initially played well, even building a small lead in the NL Central.     At the same time, they were playing lots of hard innings, using up whatever reserves they had.    Unlike Herzog’s team, the injured players didn’t return and carry the team when the others ran out of gas.  The 2010 Cardinals all ran down together on a brutal road trip in August with one embarrassing loss after another.

#3 The Emergence of Jaime Garcia

Jaime Garcia was supposed to spend 2010 in AAA at Memphis, building up strength for his surgically repaired left elbow.   Somebody forgot to tell the rookie left-hander.

Just like Garcia was supposed to take it easy last fall when he returned from Tommy John surgery.   He was just there to throw a few innings to get his mechanics back into form.   What he did was pitch his team to the AAA World Series, throwing inning after inning of brilliant shutout baseball.   Anybody who followed him at the end of the the Memphis 2009 season already had him inked in as the 5th starter when the Cardinals would break camp in 2010, no matter what the coaches or sports writers said.

And he did not disappoint.   We hadn’t seen a rookie pitcher like this since Steve Carlton’s breakthrough season in 1967.    Consider the following three pitchers rookie seasons (ok, I threw in a 4th because it’s still an amazing story).

Age W L W-L% ERA GS CG SHO IP WHIP SO/BB
Pitcher A 22 11 5 .688 3.26 21 6 5 151 2/3 1.114 2.04
Pitcher B 22 14 9 .609 2.98 28 11 2 193 1.218 2.71
Pitcher C 23 13 8 .619 2.70 28 1 1 163 1/3 1.316 2.06
Pitcher D 29 16 7 .727 2.67 27 12 3 222 1/3 0.954 3.35

Here are the pitchers.

Larry Jaster in 1969

Pitcher A is Larry Jaster (1966).   He reminds me the most of Garcia with an upright stance and the ball disappearing behind his head, keeping his shoulders up and level.   When he was pitching well, he kept his front shoulder from flying open, and the result was four effective pitches to both right handers as well as lefties.

Pitcher B is Steve Carlton (1967).   Although he looked nothing like Garcia on the mound, “Lefty’s” rookie campaign was a lot like Garcia’s in 2010.   The two differences were in the number of complete games – more of a sign of the times and the number of strikeouts.   Carlton was still a work in progress at this point in his career, and had yet to master the slider which would serve him well in his Hall of Fame career, but even early in his career, he was a strikeout machine.

Pitcher C is Jaime Garcia (2010).   His line is still impressive some 3 months after his season ended.   As we marvel at his rookie record, a bit of praise should be given to Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa, neither of whom are generally associated with rookie success stories.    Not only did they keep him in the rotation, but they carefully managed his innings and made his outings as positive an experience as they could.

The mystery pitcher D is the only right-hander in the bunch.   It is Dick Hughes (1967).   I only included him in this discussion to point out how dominating he was – especially since he wasn’t even in the rotation at the start of the season.    Hughes had one of the nastiest sliders in the game and his sub-1 WHIP shows that he was relatively unhittable.

Let’s hope that Garcia builds on an amazing rookie season and has an even stronger sophomore year.   Jaster and Carlton both made improvements in their second year, and it took a torn rotator cuff to keep Hughes from being one of the best pitchers of his era.

#4 Aligning the Major and Minor League philosophy

Perhaps this will also be a top story for 2011, but the promotion of John Vuch to Director of the Farm System, overseeing all of the player development throughout the minor league program, should give Cardinals fans reason to be optimistic about the future.  Vuch is an old-school Cardinal with ties to George Kissell and Dave Ricketts, and this should bode well for a minor league system that will focus on development at least as much as they have the draft.   One of the first things that Vuch did in his new capacity was to reach out to the major league coaches to insure that both parts of the organization are working to a common goal.

#5 Pardon Me, There’s a New Ace in Town

Adam Wainwright’s continued development into a bona fide ace is one of the best stories in 2010, to be filed right next to Garcia’s rookie season.   Since the first time he took the mound as a September callup in 2005, we knew he was going to be something special.   Interestingly, his major league debut came in relief of the last apprentice to become a staff ace, Matt Morris.

I remember flying into St. Louis on business, just before the 2005 season, and listening to a radio show where they were introducing the team.  One of those youngsters was Adam Wainwright, and even then, he was being praised as a future top of the rotation type pitcher.

If there was still any doubt about Wainwright, that should have come to an end on September 24, when he earned his 20th win of the season.   As if scripted, that victory was against the Chicago Cubs.

Wainwright became just the 11th Cardinals pitcher since 1960 to win 20 or more games.   Barring injury, there is no reason to suspect that he will not repeat that in 2011 or 2012, making him the only Cardinals pitcher to do that since Joaquin Andujar in 1984 and 1985.   Considering that Bob Gibson was 29 when he had the first of his five 20 win seasons, maybe even that record will be in jeopardy before Wainwright’s career is over.

Rather than go on more about Wainwright, feel free to take a peek at these articles in the archive to get more perspective on just how unique the young right-hander’s career has been.

Move over, there’s a new ACE in town

Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are among the elite pitchers in the game

Passing the Baton

There were many other great stories, but the rules say I have to stop at five.   I thank you for taking the time to read mine, now tell me some of yours.

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As a new member of the United Cardinal Bloggers, I have the privilege of casting a vote in one of my favorite awards on the web.   Here are my votes.

1. Player of the Year:  Matt Holliday.

Sure, Albert Pujols is the greatest Cardinal since Bob Gibson.   That’s not even up for discussion.  But it was Holliday that came to Albert’s team mid-season in 2009 and was rewarded with a gargantuan contract for 2010 that lasts until the next ice age.  Mighty high expectations, and Big Matt delivered against them.   Not that any player is worth what Holliday is being paid, among those at that salary level, Holliday is the most deserving.  He was a rock in left field, hit (except early on with RISP, but that was big contract yips).  He hustled.  He did everything you want a player who wears the Cardinals uniform to do.

2. Pitcher of the Year: Adam Wainwright.

I’m guessing that writing in Kyle Lohse might get my shiny new membership rescinded, so I’ll go for humor points elsewhere.  It’s a shame that there was a pitcher marginally better than Wainwright this season because I would have loved for the obscenity from last year to have been corrected.   The young man is a stud at the top of the order (and that is not a chick comment) and it is a joy to watch him pitch every fifth day.

3. Game of the Year: August 10 at Cincinnati–Brawl, home run from Molina

Need I say any more ?   I didn’t think so.   I bet Brandon Phillips wish he hadn’t said as much as he did.

4. Surprise Player of the Year: Jon Jay

A good case can be made for Jaime Garcia, but if you followed him last year when he returned from Tommy John surgery, you had a good idea of what to expect.  My surprise was Jay because so many of the Memphis outfielders had failed in the same situation (excelled at Memphis, failed in St. Louis). 

5. Disappointing Player of the Year:  Brendan Ryan and Brad &$#*(&(%*&#$()#$&()# Penny (split vote).

Brendan Ryan gets the nod because he failed to play defense consistently.  His defenders will say that he took his hitting frustrations into the field, and I reply BullGarbage.  That might be true in some cases, but it was a general lack of discipline.  Slinging the ball across the infield to a gold glove first baseman is a way to get that valuable asset killed, and then we’d have to come up with a new category.

To be clear, I have no problem with a shortstop hitting .220 – heck, I grew up in the Dal Maxvill era.   But I do have a problem with a player that can’t focus on his position for a full game, week, month or season.   The having fun with Joe Mather bit wore unbearably thin as the season wore on.

And my “I can’t use these words in public” vote goes to the most disappointing Cardinal since Kip &*$()#*()$*#*@ Wells.   I’m glad that Penny has the knockout girlfriend/fiancee/whatever because he was sure a complete and total failure for the Cardinals in 2010.  I can’t say anything else or I will lose my ESRB rating of E for Everyone.

6. Rookie of the Year: Jaime Garcia

While he was not a surprise, he was very very very ….. very good.  He did not look like a rookie most of the season.  A good deal of credit should be given to Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan for managing his innings after surgery, but when the other two pitchers went down with injury, Garcia showed what he was made of.   And it’s pure Cardinal Win.   This kid is going to throw a no-hitter before long.

7. Acquisition of the Year: None of the above (write in).

How sad is your season when the best choice is a non-waiver deadline deal that brings in a pitcher who goes 4-4 ?  I think the fact that all of the acquisitions pretty much laid an egg tells me all about the 2010 season I need to know.

8. Biggest Off-Field Story: Stand for Stan (write-in)

Watching all of the photos of people holding up their Stand-for-Stan cut-outs plus the amazing ovation from the fans on Stand for Stan day made me proud to be a member of Cardinals Nation.  To see that much love and respect being shown to a player that most people never saw play the game was just incredible.

McGwire, Rasmus stories ???  Much waaaaah waaaaah about nothing.  Just like the Dave Duncan mad about the way Chris Duncan was handled in 2009.

9. Most Anticipated Cardinal: Adron Chambers (write-in)

After Darryl Jones and Pete Kozma get stalled at Springfield (AA), here’s a low level prospect that is beginning to look like a real player.  He has a bit of Lonnie Smith in him, and that might be just what the Cardinals need if they return to a more aggressive running offense.  He’s also closer to being ready than Cox, Miller and Carpenter.   If history repeats itself, Colby Rasmus will go down with an injury in June 2011 and Chambers will come up, and never go back.

10. Best Individual Cardinal Blog: RetroSimba

Had I known about  Mark Tomasik’s blog earlier, I wouldn’t have started mine.  He does a great job keeping the history of this great franchise alive, and I respect how he goes about it.   Great work that everybody should read.

11. Best Team Cardinal Blog: i-70 baseball

As a minor contributor, this could be a touch of a conflict of interest, but the content put up by the cast of writers Bill Ivie has assembled is outstanding.

12. Best Media Blog: Bird Land

Derrick Goold gets the nod above his other professional peers because of the way he interacts with his readers.  It feels much more like a conversation than most of the other one-way blogs.  I also like that his sense of humor doesn’t come at the expense of others, so bravo for that too !

13. Best UCB Project: Roundtables

As a new member, this is the first project I’m participating in, but as a reader I thoroughly enjoy the perspectives of all of the other members in the roundtable.  Sometimes they may me think differently, sometimes I just read them and utter WTF.  But I always enjoy reading the responses and appreciate the time the contributors put in them.

14. Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog: Cardinal Diamond Diaries.

In the ancient Iroquois language, the words that meant Cardinal Diamond Diaries also mean Smile Every Day.  OK, that’s not true, but it should be.  I love the prespective that each of the ladies give.   Their love of the team comes through, even when they are trying to be critical.   If you are having a bad day, go read their blog and things will start looking a lot brighter.

15. Funniest Cardinal Blog: Cards Diaspora

I never quite knew what to do with Aaron Hooks and the CD until I heard him interviewed on a blog talk radio segment earlier this year.  Totally blew the guy’s cover.  Underneath all of the edginess of his blog lurks a person that I would love to spend an afternoon with, talking baseball.  Somehow that makes CD all the more brilliant.

16. Rookie Cardinal Blog of the Year: Cardinal Diamond Diaries.

There are blogs where I can get more stats than my pocket calculator can process,and I respect them without necessarily appreciating them.   There are gobs of great opinion oriented blogs, and I especially like the ones from the youngsters, because I know that means Cardinals Nation will be in great hands when I’m no longer around.  The thing I can’t do myself is have the perspective from the female side of the diamond.   I love the enthusiam, unique perspective, and ability to put out a consistent product.  And I love what each one of the individual voices bring to the party.
I think that’s it.  Now time to read what the other UCB members have to say.

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