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Bird Watching

Bird Watching: “I didn’t know I got a ribbon!”

Ah, the innocence of inexperience. After yesterday’s win over the Phillies, Ryan Ludwick…first-time all-star outfielder for the Cardinals…was pulled aside for a quick post-game interview. When Jimmy “The Cat” Hayes asked Ludwick about getting a “ribbing” from manager Tony La Russa, the wily interviewer intentionally slurred the word to make it sound more like “ribbin” than it did “ribbing.” Ludwick’s response?

“Ribbon?! I didn’t know I got a ribbon!”

Ah, Luddy. That response has got to be number one on the David Letterman top 10 list entitled “You MIGHT be a first-time MLB All-Star if…” And the best part was the physical reaction…a quick snap of the head and a back and forth whipping motion that silently said, “Wow! Really?!”

Hehe…I love it when MLB players look like Little Leaguers..really…no sarcasm…I love it. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than watching a 30 year old man scream and jump and yell like a 12 year old. And when Ryan Ludwick was told he “got a ribbon,” you just knew he was having flashbacks from his Little League days when all the 12 year old all-star selections got to line up and receive a trophy for being named an all-star. The only thing missing for Ludwick last night? A giggling mother on one knee gleefully snapping pictures, determined not to miss a single moment of her Lil’ Luddy’s day.

That’s why I like to see players like Luddy make the All-Star team…because it means something to them. I know, I know…Albert Pujols is going to his seventh All-Star game, and he has been quoted in numerous articles saying he savors this one as much as the first…but come on…at some point, you know your reaction upon hearing you’ve made the All-Star team is naturally reduced to one word: “Cool.” And no, that’s nothing against El Hombre…I’m a huge fan of his, on and off the field…but it’s human nature. After the first few times, your experience will naturally deteriorate.

Ludwick’s experience? More than 60 text messages on his cell phone congratulating him. And, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, zero included requests for tickets. That’s impressive. And that’s the experience of a first-time all-star…dumbfounded elation. A dream realized.

You know those back-yard summer days as a 12 year old “all-star in the making” when you would swing a bat made of air and round invisible bases? You remember the crowd going wild and the announcers screaming “Kevin’s done it! Kevin’s done it! He’s won the game! Oh my goodness, he’s won the game!”?

Think back to those days for a moment…were you surrounded by sub-par players? Were you on a team made up of minor league call-ups and 40 year old has-beens? Of course not…what would be the fun in that? You were surrounded by the best of the best…Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith…or, if you didn’t grow up in Missouri…Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio…and the list goes on and on. You were surrounded by the best…because you were one of them. You belonged.

On July 15th, that experience will be Ryan Ludwick’s experience. He’s a National League All-Star. He’ll be playing in the last year of the storied Yankee Stadium. He will be joined by the best of the best: Lance Berkman, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Brandon Webb…and on and on. And Ryan Ludwick, for the first time, will be one of them…An All-Star…the best of the best.

And somewhere in Missouri, a 12 year old boy will be enjoying his back-yard summer as he swings a bat made of air and rounds invisible bases. The crowd’s going wild and the announcers are astounded that “Billy’s won the game! Billy’s won the game! Oh my goodness, Billy’s won the game!”…and when he plants his feet triumphantly on home plate, he will be met by the best of the best…Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Brandon Webb…and Ryan Ludwick.

I wonder if Luddy will remember to wear his ribbon?

BIRD SEEDS

Rick Ankiel Making History…?  The last time a Cardinals team finished a season with a Home Run leader OTHER than Albert Pujols was in 2000 (Jim Edmonds hit 42)…the year before Pujols made his major league debut. Rick Ankiel now sits on number 19, one more than Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick (both All-Star selections, by the way). I’ve heard multiple Cardinals “experts” mention that Ankiel, since being called up last August, has more HRs, RBIs, and game-winning RBIs than any other Cardinal. This kid is incredible…and he’s only getting better. Keep it up, Rick.

Brendan Ryan Pressing  Here we go again. Brendan Ryan was handed a golden opportunity to excel when Cesar Izturis went down…and he blew it. I like the kid. Really. But when you are a young player trying to show the organization you’re a viable option at SS for the foreseeable future, you HAVE to grab hold of those opportunities and squeeze the life out of them. Especially when the opportunity includes a home series against the Cubs. Ryan may very well be a middle infield option over the next few years, but he needs to show more than he’s shown the last few weeks, or he ain’t gonna’ cut it.

Jason Isringhausen has GOT to be Ready  Izzy has looked good. Not perfect, but good. Franklin is losing his edge in the closer’s role. Let’s take a quick look at the stats for the months of June and July for both pitchers. 

Franklin in June – 13 app., 13.0 IP, 6 ERs, 4.15 ERA – and in July – 3 app., 2.0 IP, 2 ERs, 9.00 ERA.
Izzy in June – 7 app., 10.1 IP, 2 ERs, 1.74 ERA – and in July – 2 app., 2.0 IP, 0 ERs, 0.00 ERA. 

Franklin has done an outstanding job as a fill-in, but he’s a better setup man. As long as this team has no permanent solution at closer, the bullpen will continue to flounder. Izzy is ready. He may not be the Izzy of old, but he is our best option in the ninth right now. Plug him in there, spell him a few times with Franklin or Perez, but plug him in there. It’s time Izzy returned to the closer’s role in St. Louis so the rest of our bullpen can regain some stability.

Mark Mulder Returns  Oh boy. I watched his start in Springfield (the last one), and he pitched very effectively. He clearly labored (physically) in the final two innings, so the 4th and 5th innings of his start tonight will be key. Honestly, I don’t think anyone, including Mark, really knows what to expect from him tonight. So, our final words this week are very simple. Good luck, Mark.

UPDATE!  Dude…this is hilarious:  http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/pictures/pictures/2008/06/cooler-on-wheels/

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