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10 Doses of Preventative Optimism…

It’s March 2nd and time to check in on the Cardinals’ Spring Training efforts thus far. It’s been a rocky road the last few weeks, from the Cardinals’ “failure” to sign Albert to a contract extension to Adam Wainwright’s “sudden” injury and Carp/Boggs’ “minor” injuries, Cards fans are being truly challenged to maintain some semblance of optimism.

NOTE: I hereby submit a request to strike the term “minor” from the vocabulary of the Cardinals medical staff unless specifically referring to the level of skill/play/status of a baseball player.

It’s going to be a tough season…that much seems clear. In the beginning, I had hoped a few bumps in the road early would lead to smooth driving the rest of the way. Alas, it now appears my ulcers will likely return in 2011. It would seem the only responsible course of action would be to begin preventative treatment immediately. So…through no small amount of effort on my part (that’s a lie)…I give you 10 reasons to feel better about the 2011 MLB season:

1. Joe Thurston is so NOT a Cardinal. I can’t tell you how much I agonized over this man’s inclusion on our team that year. But maybe I don’t need to…you were there…you know. From missing first base to hyperventilating in the field, Joltin’ Joe was a one-man, anxiety-inducing catalyst for back pain, neck pain, and just regular ‘ol pain in the ass. In fact, I think even my joints were in pain. There were days…oh, say around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, that I swear my knee started hurtin’…much like it does when a good ‘ol Missouri thunderstorm is just over the horizon. Now that I think about it…wouldn’t that be around the time TLR would be putting the finishing touches on that evening’s lineup…?

2. Kip Wells is also so NOT a Cardinal…or anything. In 2008, I took my family to Opening Day. The game was promptly rained out. So, we stayed until the next day to see the makeup game. Kip Wells was the starting pitcher for the Rockies. “WHOOO HOOOO!!!” I thought to myself. And then he promptly beat the tar out of us. At least…it felt that way. The guy can’t pitch his way out of a wet paper bag as a Cardinal…but he comes back to Busch in 2008 and proceeds to ruin my only Opening Day trip EVER!!! Jerk. I tell you…I am really looking forward to the possibility of a season without an appearance by Kip Wells.

3. Carlos Zambrano is STILL a Cub. This dude is just a head case in a blue cap. Getting assurances from him about his anger control and personality improvements is like getting a Libyan “State of the Union” address from Moammar Gadhafi. Don’t take it to the bank. Everyone is daisies and unicorns in Spring Training. Let’s see what happens when the Cubs give up three runs in Wrigley on two fielding errors. THEN the real “Big Z” will certainly stand up. I just can’t wait to see Zambrano versus Grienke in Wrigley with Charlie Sheen singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

4. Prince Fielder’s NL Central Farewell Tour. Yeah, I’m not looking forward to watching him mash like a madman in a contract year…but at least I can say it’s more than a little likely I won’t have to see it happen in our division anymore. I would be shocked if the Brewers re-up with Fielder, and I would be equally shocked if Fielder lowers himself to the cellars of Wrigley Field. And let’s just say, the Cardinals brass would be drop-dead stupid to sign this guy to replace a departing Pujols. I think I might throw up a bit in my mouth if Prince comes to Busch with the birds on the bat. That leaves Houston, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. The Reds are set at 1B, and I don’t see the Astros or Pirates dishin’ out the dough to sign a guy of Prince’s “stature.” So…DING DONG, THE PRINCE IS GONE!

5. NL Central “Action Packed with Issues!” Zack Grienke. Carlos Zambrano. Prince Fielder. Brandon Phillips. Johnny Gomes. Johnny Cueto. Walt Jocketty. Dusty Baker. Tony La Russa. Chris Carpenter. Yadier Molina. The Reds. The Cubs. The Brewers. The Cardinals. This division suddenly looks like the MLB version of “Survivor!” Every other week is gonna’ be like must-see-TV on a baseball field. Despite all of our injury concerns, I gotta’ see the Cardinals as the most emotionally stable of the bunch (among contenders). Admit it…come on…admit it…you can’t wait to see a meltdown at Wrigley Field and/or Miller Park…right? I know, I know…I don’t wish that on anyone…but come on…if it happens…I gotta’ watch, right?

6. Jim Edmonds is NOT a Brewer…or a Cub…or a Red. The betrayal of Jimmy Edmonds was heart-breaking. I’ll let you in on a little secret…the REAL reason Edmonds retired was because the Pirates and Astros suck this year, and they were the only stops left on the tour. I mean, the man DOES have standards (Wrigley Field not withstanding). For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to root against Jimmy Ballgame. That’s gotta’ be worth somethin’. I just hope he looks to 2012 as a guest instructor. If that happens, don’t panic when my wife calls you asking about my whereabouts…I’ll be in Jupiter…hangin’ with Jimmy. That’s right…even if she tries to ground me for sneakin’ out the bathroom window.

7. Exclusive FOX Sports Midwest TV contract. I’m sorry for those of you who live in the KSDK viewing area, and I’m certainly sympathetic for Jay Randolph…but for those of us in Cardinal Nation that DON’T live in the KSDK viewing area…Sundays were a living hell!!! Every Sunday, I had 1 or 2 options…Steal/borrow someone’s MLB TV ID and Password (thanks to those of you who knowingly cooperated…and to those of you who unknowingly cooperated)…or…Listen to the game on the radio on the porch while my family watched reruns on TLC. DISH Network disputes aside, I am REALLY looking forward to getting nearly every game of the season on TV this year.

8. An “All In” mentality. With Pujols on the clock, TLR on a year-to-year basis, and both Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina in a contract year…the Cardinals appear to be gearing up for an “all in to win” season in 2011. I’m HOPING this means the club will not display payroll paralysis at the trade deadline if this team has a need. We could be witness to a never-before-seen effort by the front office to give this team whatever it needs to win right FREAKING now. Sure, this front office has demonstrated a willingness to get the deals done that need doing (Holliday, Westbrook, etc.), but it seems like it only happens after a couple of months of agonizing and fretting by Cardinal Nation. This year could be different…maybe.

9. Grab Bag of players so NOT Cardinals. Jason Marquis. Felipe Lopez. Todd Wellemeyer. Khalil Greene. Randy Winn. Pedro Feliz. Dennys Reyes. Okay…most of these guys I don’t have anything against…and there are a few that probably should be on this list but didn’t make it simply because I just can’t make myself put them on it. But doesn’t it just feel like we’ve turned a corner? For whatever reason, it feels like we’ve been able to put a few things/players behind us and move on. Maybe it’s the renewed focus on an improved farm system…maybe it’s the end of the 2006 WS Reunion Tour. I don’t know, but it just feels like this season is more of a fresh start than we’ve had in a long time.

10. Another season with Stan “The Man” Musial. Stan is not in good health. I know we don’t like to think about it, but Stan doesn’t have long left. As Bernie once put it, every day, every season, every year with Stan Musial is a gift and a treasure. Every season the St. Louis Cardinals can look to the jumbo tron and see Stan’s iconic stance in a red jacket is truly a good year. Congrats on the Medal of Freedom, Stan. We love you.

UPDATE: I wrote this post before hearing about the Carlos Silva/Cubs meltdown…already…in Spring Training…with his own team. Sheesh. Maybe he shoulda’ made the list…?

GO CARDS!!!

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