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Bird Watching

Bird Watching: Ups and Downs…

The last 24 hours have been horrible. After waking up to my wife’s “Happy Opening Day, honey!” in bed…everything went downhill from there. I had such high hopes for Opening Day this year. A new 47″ TV, upgraded high-def signal, and my wife’s “Delexe HOTDOG grill/oven” complete with the roller rack on top and bun warmer/toaster oven on bottom…hell, I even sought out the official Hunter brand hot dogs with the St. Louis Cardinals logo on the package. Add a couple six packs of beer and my lucky Cardinals shirt…and we were set.

In retrospect, perhaps I should rethink my “lucky” shirt. After 3 straight losses and an Opening Day rain out, perhaps it’s time to give another shirt a shot…one of the younger, up and coming shirts. One with less experience but more flash. Of course, if I were to do that, I would be forced to get up every morning, walk into my closet, and acknowledge my former lucky shirt…the shirt with more appearances in the lucky position than any other shirt in the history of my closet…look it square in the “eyes”…and say, “No…not you…not today.” No, no…that would be too awkward. I couldn’t do that. Not after all it’s done for me.

Maybe I can donate it to a Rays fan.

Can you tell I’m depressed? I told myself all off-season that I wasn’t going to let the Cardinals do this to me this year. In years past, when the Cardinals lost, I couldn’t even listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning the next day for fear of reliving the loss through Sportscenter. It was horrible. Utter depression…and it would last all day until the Cardinals had a shot to redeem themselves. And God help me if they had an off day!

But, alas, despite all my promises to myself…this year is no different. I am the epitomy of despair. The Cardinals lost…on Opening Day, no less…and I find myself living the following 24 hours in anticipation for the next game, unable to fully engage anything else until that moment. If the Cardinals win, my elation will last the next 24 hours. I’ll be more productive, more aware, and more present in everything. My wife will no longer ask, “Why did I marry this sorry sack of sorrow, again?” But…if we lose…we start all over again.

Okay…enough of that…let’s get to the real meat-and-potatoes of Bird Watching with the first handful of Bird Seeds for the new season. Some are Ups and some are Downs…but both should be taken with a grain of salt. After all…it’s only one game. We’ve got 161 more to go.

BIRD SEEDS

Closer Down – Jason Motte made his first appearance in the closer role….and it finally hit me (with a little help from Al Hrabosky) – the reason I’ve been a bit uneasy with Motte in the ninth inning. I like Motte. Really. And I think he has a bright future in the bullpen of the Cards, but not in the closer role. His stuff is too “straight.” For Motte to be effective, he has to be nearly perfect…hitting his spots, mixing his pitches, etc. Otherwise, big league hitters can time big league fastballs. If he’s not…even by a little bit…hitters have very little problem driving the ball. His fastball simply has no movement. Perez’s fastball, however…movement. It’s nasty (when he can control it). But Motte…the kid’s got gumption and a lot of gas in his arm…but it ain’t enough at this level. On the plus side…despite the nerves and the situation, Motte’s appearance was impressive in that he didn’t walk the side. They had to hit to get it. But remember…he was a catcher. As a catcher, you try, try, and try some more to straighten out your throws to second base with that short-arm motion. Now, as a closer…it’s his achille’s heel.

Luddy Quiets the Skeptics – Ryan Ludwick had an awful Spring. At the end, he partially redeemed himself with a late surge…but not enough to quiet the cynics in the audience. Yesterday, with the score tied on Opening Day, Luddy shoved their cynicism down their throats with a bomb over the wall to give the Cards a short-lived lead. For me, his home run went a long way to answering the many questions surrounding his “repeat” attempt for 2009.

Da’ Dunc is Back – Chris Duncan didn’t hit a home run…but he did hit an aggressive double with authority (off a lefty!) and worked a walk later in the game. I strongly believe Chris Duncan will have a good year in 2009. I must say, I’m really pullin’ for the guy. After the ridicule he endured from fans last year, he’s due.

Whoo Hoo Schu – It had to be difficult for Skip to sit and watch Brendan Ryan start at 2B on Opening Day after putting in so much work this Spring…and just because it was a lefty on the mound. But how satisfying must it have been for Schu to come in late in the game, in a pinch hit situation, and hit a solid line drive up the middle…off a lefty?! Way to go, Schu.

Miller Time in Busch Stadium – That just doesn’t sound right, does it? Maybe that’s why Trever Miller entered in EXACTLY the situation the Cardinals are paying him for…and promptly gave up the tying runs. Miller may work out in the long run, but he did not have a good Spring…and his Opening Day was even worse. I’m concerned.

K-Mac Attack – Kyle McClellan looked good in his first outing. After much concern over his position on the rubber, lack of aggressiveness, and mystery ineffectiveness…K-Mac worked out just fine. Maybe we should have been a bit more concerned over our semi-injured lefty…?

Meet the New Bullpen…Same as the Old Bullpen – This bullpen configuration will not hold up. I believe Motte can get it done for a while, but long term…Chris Perez will be in the ninth inning slot. Where does Motte go? I say he begins to share the “put out fires” spot with Kinney (who was utterly ineffective against the pitcher…shameful). Who goes down? Either an infielder as TLR finally commits to Skip at 2B full time, or Thompson as the team gets through the April schedule and the pitchers actually stretch themselves beyond the 6th inning.

Starting Five – I’m a bit concerned about the conditioning of our starting five in the rotation. It seems Spring Training required so much focus on getting bullpen guys ready to go that the starters didn’t get adequately stretched out. I know Waino was all pumped up and exerting more effort than usual due to Opening Day, but he was flat wore-out after just 5 1/3 innings. This month is not the time to worry about unconditioned starters.

WRAP-UP

That’s all for now…but I’ll leave with a new nickname and an unveiled Twitter chant for 2009:

Nickname:  David “Deep” Freese or The Iceman…

Twitter Chant:  Whooo Hooo Goes the BIG. bad. Schuuuuuu!

Look for more chants and nicknames coming your way from Cards ‘N Stuff during the ’09 season…

Hey…doom and gloom aside…baseball is BACK Cards fans!

GO CARDS!!!!

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