Finally. All the workouts and the speculation and the endless chatter about getting so-and-so back and losing such-and-such…it almost doesn’t matter now. Actual baseball is actually being played…and not a moment too soon.
February has to be the toughest month of the year for me. The Superbowl is quickly over, most off-season moves – trades, signings, etc. – have been made, and it’s time to play baseball again. Except we have to wait until April for games to actually count.
And then the monotonous waiting game begins.
Perhaps it’s appropriate that the NASCAR season begins in February. Just when starving baseball fans are trudging through the final winter month of the season, waking up each morning to mark off another day until Spring Training games start…we get the Daytona 500…the Opening Day for a marathon sport of endless left turns and immeasurable monotony. It’s probably a sign of my desperation that I’ve become a NASCAR fan over the last few years (although, most of the blame has to go to my wife, Kim, for that one).
There are other sports, of course, to keep one occupied outside of baseball – hockey, basketball, etc. – but I’ve never been much of a fan of a Jordan-less NBA, I don’t have it in me to keep up with more than 65 teams in college basketball, and I just don’t have the knowledge or familiarity to enjoy hockey (no matter how much fun it looks like). So I’m left to suffer through what is, ironically, both the shortest and longest month of the year.
But no longer. Baseball is back…
And with it…BIRD WATCHING from Cards ‘N Stuff!!! Let’s get into it…
Raise your hand if you’re excited about watching Tyler Greene…(right here). We’ve seen flashes of power from Greene since he broke into the major league level, but he’s never been able to sustain any momentum under the watchful glare of Tony La Russa. Now, TLR is gone, and it’s time for T-Pop! to get his game on. Why “T-Pop!”? Because the ball just flies off this kid’s bat (he’s got “pop”). I didn’t get to see or hear yesterday’s ST game (thank you, Zimmer Radio Group in Joplin…*sigh*), but all accounts sounded impressed. The right-handed SS-turned-second-baseman “roped” a shot over the third baseman for a single against Josh Johnson. Add to that reports that his defense was smooth and efficient, and it’s time to get a little bit excited…but just a little bit. He’s got a long ways to go.
The Hit and Run in yesterday’s ST game made me giddy. Matheny has been suggesting all Spring and Winter long that the running game could play a larger part in the Cardinals’ offense this season. It’s been a while. Likely due to an aging and more…uh…”hefty” roster, St. Louis has all but abandoned the stolen base attempt and the concept of “pushing for third” from their offense. I don’t think I fully realized just how much it used to be a part of even Tony La Russa’s teams until I spent some time – for a completely unrelated reason – searching through stolen base statistics in 2004. It seemed like the Cardinals had at least one or two stolen base attempts every game (I would look up the actual numbers, but that goes against what Bird Watching is all about). Of course, I’m referring to the NL Champion, 105 game winning team we all know and love. A repeat offender? Tony Womack…the Cardinals’ speedy second baseman. Hmmmm…
Shifting trends seem to be the thing to watch in camp. Over the past 16 seasons, Cardinal fans have grown accustomed to the preferences and habits of Tony La Russa. High on Daniel Descalso, low on Bryan Anderson. Keep an extra pitcher, place a premium on a super-versatile utility guy who can cover the loss of the extra bench player. I think this season is going to be as much of a learning experience for us as fans as much as it is for Matheny as a manager. I’m just now beginning to realize all of my roster construction predictions are based off what I’ve come to expect from a TLR-managed team. That is no longer the case. Could Matt Carpenter win a spot as a more offensively potent back-up to David Freese? Will we see Bryan Anderson win himself – and his LH line-drive bat – a chance to catch a few games behind the $75 million dollar man? All bets are off…and changes are in the offing.
The Cardinals have to make a decision on Bryan Anderson’s future within the next few weeks. Anderson was once a highly-touted prospect in the Cardinals system. Now, after being buried in AAA as an oft-reported defensive liability, Anderson’s prospect – and subsequent trade – value is next to nothing. But Mike Matheny is the manager now, a coach known as an Anderson supporter, and the Cardinals are ready to include one of their AAA catchers in the competition for back-up backstop. It could be Anderson. Or it could be someone else. Now that the Cardinals have Yadier Molina locked up for the next six years (possibly seven), Anderson’s future becomes a bit clearer. He will either be a back-up or a trade chip. If the Cardinals see him as a long-term back-up, then he will likely win the job out of ST. If not, however…if they determine his greatest value is as a trade chip, then they may be best served to send him to AAA and let him play every day. The limited innings he would receive at the MLB level behind the man who routinely catches the most innings of any NL catcher would be minimal…and so would his opportunity to convince other teams they should trade anything of value to get him. They need to make a decision…but they need to make it sooner rather than later. Anderson’s not getting any younger, and Yadi ain’t goin’ anywhere.
That’ll do it for this edition of Bird Watching…make sure to check out the OUR SCHEDULE page of our site to see the exciting changes to Cards ‘N Stuff launching this week. Thanks for reading!