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Happy Opening Day: A Few Thoughts (and Info) on the Home Opener…

What a home coming for the St. Louis Cardinals. Opening Day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis is always special…but obviously this one has a few extra sprinkles on top. Let’s get into a few thoughts as you gear up for the parade of Hall of Famers on FSN-MW (or in person, if you’re lucky enough to be in STL for the game).

NOTE: At the end of the post, I’ll insert a link to today’s schedule info for Opening Day festivities.

How much sweeter is the home opener with a 5 – 2 team returning to Busch? This time last season (April 13th), the Cardinals started play with a 4 – 7 record after losing three of their first four and six of their first eight. The same could easily have happened this year. To start the season, the Cardinals have faced Josh Johnson, Zack Grienke, Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, and Randy Wolf. That’s four aces or co-aces and a wily lefty that has beguiled the Cardinals in recent seasons. To finish that stretch of games 5 – 2 is impressive, and a pleasent start to the season by new manager Mike Matheny.

That said…are the Cardinals who they appear to be? In that list of aces and arch-enemies, Josh Johnson also struggled in his next start – leaving many around baseball to wonder if something is wrong with the Marlins’ ace – and Gallardo is historically attrocious against the Redbirds. Even Grienke, the one pitcher who actually shut the Cardinals down with his best performance against St. Louis in recent memory, got beat around the diamond by the Cubs and their barrage of singles. Some may be asking the question, “Is the Cardinals’ record the result of a strong Cardinal team, or is it partially due to lack-luster pitching at the right/wrong time?” One good sign is the way the Cardinals defeated a pitcher who had driven them batty in the past – Randy Wolf. Another is the fact that it took a shutdown performance by one of the game’s best and a bottom of the ninth walk-off hit against a lineup of mostly back-ups to beat this team. But regardless, the Cards know they still have a long season ahead of them – and they know they have something to prove.

What a special day for Adam Wainwright. After missing all of last season, Waino was forced to watch from the sidelines while his team completed one of the most historic World Championship runs in history – in any sport. It must have been painful at times – despite how he portrays it – to not be able to lace up his spikes and toe the rubber during one of those dramatic seven games in October. But now, after making what many thought was an unrealistic promise of a return from TJ Surgery in 12 months, Adam is back. While many of us lampooned MLB’s scheduling system that spit out a week and a half of road games before the Champs even sniffed St. Louis soil, it did allow The Wagon Maker to get his wheels on and work out the kinks. His first start against the Brewers was a struggle. You could see the big right-hander fighting his delivery, trying to get comfortable while getting outs with clearly reduced velocity. That was not the start Adam wanted to have in Busch Stadium. Thankfully, he gets a do-over today. Expect great things from Wainwright as he faces the Cubs for his first game in Busch Stadium in well over a year.

Perhaps the fourth-biggest ovation during the Busch Stadium festivities will be for Yadier Molina. The biggest should always be reserved for Stan Musial…then, we could see an indistinguishable difference between ovations for David Freese and Adam Wainwright…but after that, expect some love and recognition for Yadi’s contract extension. Molina is that rare combination of transcendent player, perrenial All-Star, member of the identified “core”, and clear fan-favorite around town. This is the first chance St. Louis fans have had to show Yadi some appreciation and excitement over the catcher’s new 5/6 year commitment. Should be fun to watch.

Did we really have to start the season in St. Louis with a pitcher returning from TJ Surgery, an injury-prone lineup, against the clearly-cursed Cubs…on Friday the 13th?! Really? That just seems like a whole lot of converging concerns in one location. I’ll breathe easy when this game/series is over with no major issues. The Rally Squirrel better be out and in rare form today. We need the little furball’s mojo in the house of Champions.

With everything going on today, it’s almost a forgotten fact that the Cardinals are facing the rival Cubs in St. Louis. I’m honestly surprised that MLB and the Cardinals combined the Cubs series with the home opener in St. Louis. Cubs games have always ranked as premium games in the Cardinals’ ticketing system – even though the small bears have been largely irrelevant for some time now. I was shocked to see the schedule essentially erase a set of high-dollar ticket sales from the schedule by piggy-backing the first Cubs/Cards meeting of the season on Opening Weekend in St. Louis. I’m sure the Cardinals’ front office was not pleased with the lost income.

A final thought on the Cardinals’ Dynamic Pricing strategy for ticket sales: I wish I could get behind the concept whole-heartedly, but I just can’t. Yes, it’s exciting that mid-week games against the Reds in Busch this week are selling for as low as $12…but that doesn’t help me at all. Cardinal Nation stretches far and wide…and many fans like myself can’t make the long drive to St. Louis for mid-week games. That only leaves weekend games. The cost of a bleacher seat for Opening Day in St. Louis today? $80. Tomorrow? Around $100. That’s insane. I understand the team is trying to balance the cost on the other end by offering amazingly low deals – and that’s great – but they’ve essentially priced the averaged family (especially a traveling one from the other side of the state that requires gas and hotel money) out of experiences like Opening Day. Let’s hope the Cardinals find a way to address the issue (reserve a section of tickets at a lower price for fans of different zip codes?). I hate to think I won’t be able to take my kids to Opening Day in St. Louis simply because we can’t afford the tickets.

Wrap-Up!

That’ll do it from Cards ‘N Stuff today. Check out the info on today’s schedule from the St. Louis Cardinals by CLICKING HERE…and…

GO CARDS!!!

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