I’m back! After a very chaotic, fast-paced, blurred weekend of wedding jitters and river rage, your faithful blogger-extraordinaire has returned from his hiatus to bring you the latest and greatest in St. Louis Cardinals blog-tastic commentary. I can’t say I’m recharged, but I can say I’m no longer alone…and in the end, “there can be only one.” But enough about me, let’s get to it with the much anticipated return of Bird Watching!
I just don’t get it. I really don’t. In an effort to keep up with the discussion and interest trends among Cardinals fans, I routinely surf the well-known forums and/or websites of Cardinals Nation. And it amazes me just how negative the so-called “best fans in baseball” can be when it comes to their team. Enough already. Seriously. It’s old, it’s been done, and you’re just flat-out pissin’ me off. It’s hard work constantly battling the tide of pessimism that surrounds this team.
The Cardinals were picked to finish dead last in a 90-loss season. Instead, this scrappy and lovable team has managed to piece together a 45-33 (.577 winning %) season up to this point. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s second in the National League, 12 games over five hundred, and good enough to lead the Wild Card race while playing in what has become possibly one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Enough already!
In one hour, I’ve waded through stories and discussions about Mulder’s ineffectiveness, Duncan’s inability at the plate, and even Ankiel’s inconsistent and lower-than-desired batting average (seriously?). Fans love to hop on Izzy when he’s struggling and Duncan when he’s breathing. For goodness sake, fans…it even took a call-out by Tony La Russa to hopefully wake-up St. Louis fans and “get them to the polls” to cast Cardinals all-star votes. Ridiculous. When a team’s manager has to remind the game’s so-called best fans to show up and be counted, it is simply ridiculous.
Even attendance is down. I almost couldn’t believe it when I heard that Busch Stadium had finally failed to sell-out a game. Why??!!! Because it’s a little cold? Because “Handsome” Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had left to join sub-par teams with unrealistic expectations? Because Eckstein and his 20 + errors “accidentally” followed? Hell, for a good part of last year Cardinals fans were screaming for a youth movement – “Call up Ankiel!” and “Play the young guys!” and “Jimmy should retire!” were all heard reverberating off the red brick walls of new Busch Stadium well into January.
All of that happens (in a manner of speaking), and what do Cardinals fans do? Do they approve, yell encouragement, or ecstatically show up for games giddy with anticipation? No. They stop buying tickets. They start blog entries bitching about how TLR didn’t pinch-hit for Ankiel against a lefty. They buy into the anti-hype of the national media and just flat out stop supporting their team.
Few and far between are the voices of optimism and support – I don’t mean blind optimism born of wishful thinking and a failure to accept reality – I mean realistic optimism grown from the recognition that this team may have holes, but it has a hell of a lot of potential as well, and the future is now.
I attended my first ever Opening Day this year. I paid just short of $100 per ticket to sit in the center field bleachers of Busch Stadium in the rain. You know why? Could you possibly understand what could make me do such a thing?
Anticipation. Giddy, ecstatic, wondrous anticipation.
I love this team. They play with fire; they play with heart; and they play with potential and hope for the future. Remember this time, Cardinals fans. It won’t last long. In a few short years, gone will be the Hall of Fame Manager who currently ranks third on the All-time wins list, one of only 2 MLB Managers to win a World Series in both the AL and NL. In a few short years, gone will be the invigorating hope for improvement and energy as our now-young players become once-young players; as our future stars become current stars mere seasons away from declining talent and ability.
Remember those seasons when Rolen and Edmonds were at the top of their game? We’ll get there…and then it will be over…and oh how we’ll long for what we have right here and now…the beginning of the future and yet another Cardinals youth movement. Soon, the acrobatic plays of Rick Ankiel and bull-headed toughness of Yadier Molina will be replaced by limping veterans and concussion-plagued former all-stars. When the next Chris Duncan emerges, will we saddle him with the burden of ridicule the same way we have with the Jr. Dunc? Will we ravenously jump on a young, promising career and beat it into submission until all that is left is a guilt-ridden, fan-fearing shell of a player desperate to simply contribute something to his team who still looks to him for strength – all because we are jealous – jealous that a guy like Dunc MIGHT have gotten a little edge by accidentally being the coach’s son?
Give it a rest, fans. Go to the games. Encourage the team. Appreciate this time we have right now…the dawn of the next Cardinals era populated by young stars and hungry players. Because with every dawn comes a horizon, and when we reach that horizon sometime in the next 5 or 6 years, all that’s left is the impending sunset and the end to a beautiful day.
Let us hope that the next day is half as exhilarating as the one we find ourselves waking up to right here and now.
AP-Less Cards Grow Into Their Own With Pujols on the DL and a series sweep by the – GAH! – Kansas City Royals, the Cards came back in style and won 3 of their last 4 in hostile, American League environments against intimidating lineups. Amazing. Our offense is finally starting to figure it out…just imagine what we can do when AP returns now that we’ve seemingly cut the Albert Pujols umbilical cord.
Looper Makes Me Loopy Braden Looper has been flat-out excellent. In a flurry of injuries, Looper has anchored the starting rotation and battled his way to his ninth win of the season. There are few pitchers I actually trust to take the mound, but Looper has now become one of them. Hopefully the All-Star break only serves as a rejuvenation period and not an unwelcome interruption.
Brendan Ryan Gettin’ it Done I think Ryan has finally traded in his Kool Aid for Gatorade. He’s playing with the big boys and swinging a solid stick. Ryan is going to be a key factor in the coming weeks with Izturis out and the inconsistent Kennedy getting more and more playing time. Let’s hope he can continue his energetic ways.
Rumor Mills Suck I just read a post by someone on the Post Dispatch forums asking if they thought it was possible for Oquendo to move to the Reds’ organization and become Walt’s new Manager. It got me thinking…isn’t Dave Duncan’s contract up this year? And didn’t Tony sign with St. Louis before knowing where and how Walt would land? Isn’t it possible that Tony could ask out of his contract after this season to take his winning road show (and Duncan Sr.) to Cincinnati with the Reds? *shudder*
Wedding Day Jubilation June 21st was a magical day for me…Kim Vines became Kim Reynolds in a wonderfully simple and chaotic ceremony. I couldn’t be happier. Just to show you all what kind of woman I married, she surprised me with a groom’s cake shaped like a baseball and sporting a Cardinals mini-helmet AND two St. Louis Cardinals garters! What a woman…and how did I repay her? By flipping her, cooler and all, into the river during a post-wedding float trip. Sorry, babe!